Divine Protector

If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm;
though he stumble, he will not fall,
for the Lord upholds him with his hand.
—Psalm 37:23-24

Divine Protector

By Patricia Knight

Following our son’s tonsil and adenoid surgery at age seven, one of his young friends presented him with a spider plant as a get-well gift. On the upper window frame above our son’s bed, a bracket was mounted from which to suspend the plant. It flourished in the sunshine and within months required transplanting into a larger pot.  

One night before his dad and I retired, we entered our son’s room to check on him. What a terrifying sight met us! Our son was sleeping peacefully on his back, buried in dirt. Wet, clumpy potting soil was scattered over his body. What dirty chaos!

It appeared our son sustained no bodily damage, but we awakened him to check his mental alertness. One of us gave him a midnight bath while the other vacuumed his bed and floor and changed his bed sheets. Piecing together the events, it was apparent the plant had grown too heavy for its support system. After pulling away from the wall, the heavy pot then dropped, careened off the upper shelf of the bookcase headboard, smashed the pot, and disgorged its contents directly onto our son. We gently brushed the clinging soil away from our child’s face and eyes, impressing upon us just how tragic the accident could have been. A concussion or a skull fracture may have resulted had the plant pot crashed into his head instead of the shelf, only inches away.

Once we determined our son was unhurt and alert, we viewed the scene with far less panic and much more gratitude. Decades later, whenever that memory flashes onto our mental screens, we are grateful for our son’s divine protection from injury. We thank God profusely for His miraculous deliverance.

Imagine how many times each day God oversees and protects our lives. There are instances when we are fully aware of God’s actions to shield us from catastrophes. But what of the times when we are oblivious to God’s interventions to protect us?  Often we are divinely deterred from potentially perilous scenarios before they impact our lives. “If the Lord delights in a man’s way he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand” (Psalm 37:23-24).

Pharaoh refused to emancipate the Israelite slaves. After Moses’ repeated negotiations failed, God inflicted all of Egypt with ten increasingly horrendous plagues, while safeguarding His own people from collateral damage. God then freed the Israelites to walk away from their captors. When Pharaoh realized the ramifications of losing his entire slave workforce, he and his army pursued them. “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians marching toward them. They were terrified and cried out to the Lord” (Exodus 14:10).The marchers were trapped between the expanse of the Red Sea in front and the Egyptian chariots behind. 

Only a few hours before, the Israelites had witnessed God’s mighty hand creating disaster among the Egyptians while preserving their own lives. In spite of their disbelief, God was faithful. A million or more people walked on a dry path as God divided the sea, forcing walls of water up each side of the walkway. The Egyptian army followed directly behind them on the dry Red Sea bed. Precisely when the last Hebrew reached the far shore, God returned the Red Sea to its normal configuration. The walls of water crashed down, sweeping Egyptian horses, chariots and their riders beneath the sea forever. “And when the Israelites saw the great power the Lord displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant” ( Exodus 14:31). They sang and praised God for His great love and mighty power, vowing to follow and fear Him in the future.

The Israelites were suddenly free of servitude for the first time in four hundred years. God had heard their cries of oppression and He responded with miraculous deliveries that only He could orchestrate. One month had passed since their exodus from Egypt and the nations’ walk through the Red Sea. Then, “In the desert the whole community grumbled against Moses and Aaron. The Israelites said to them, ‘If only we had died by the Lord’s hand in Egypt’” (Exodus 16:2-3). They reflected on the good food available in Egypt, accusing Moses of leading them into the desert to starve.

Although God had shielded and delivered His people, as soon as the immediate danger had passed, doubt and fear transformed their attitudes to bitterness. How quickly they forgot the miracles and blessings of God! Their faith was shallow; their motives selfish. How fickle we humans are! We are inclined to forsake God due to fear and complain to Him when faced with challenges. Yet, God is always faithful, protecting us and advocating for us.

Many of the trials the Israelites endured during their wilderness walk were tests God used to determine their faith. His purpose was to strengthen their trust and to draw them close to Him through unquestionable submission and obedience. But the Israelites usually opted for the path of least resistance. They found it easier to complain than obey; grumbling was effortless. Obedience requires energy and discipline. The Apostle Paul admonishes us, “Do everything without complaining or arguing” (Philippians 2:14). Being discontent with God’s will leads to unbelief.

We may resemble the ungrateful Israelites more than we care to admit. When was the last time we glorified God for specific and constant protection? When we narrowly avoid an accident, is one of our first responses to thank God for shielding us from danger? Let us praise Him for our lives of spiritual prosperity and protection!

“I will take refuge in the shadow of your wings until the disaster has passed” (Psalm 57:1). David sought safety in a cave when King Saul relentlessly pursued him. We know David wrote Psalm 57 while sequestered in a cave, but we don’t know if he viewed avian life in a nest tucked into the crevice of the rock. Perhaps as David observed a mother bird’s protective instincts shielding her offspring beneath her wings, he was inspired to write the metaphor of God’s great protection and power when He shelters us, unencumbered from the perils of this world. The bird and her hatchlings may have provided the object lesson, illustrating God’s protective character.

God grants strength during trials,
not immunity that spares them from happening,
so that His glory and splendor are exalted by our worship.
In His shielding sanctuary, our Lord is our refuge and fortress.
Snuggle beneath God’s protective wings in your time of need.
What a privilege, to be sheltered by the sovereign hand of God!

#Thankful for God’s #Forgiveness

This is another of my devotionals that was published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His forgiveness . . .

If we confess our sins,
He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins
and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
—1 John 1:9 NKJV

If You, LORD, should mark iniquities,
O Lord, who could stand?
But there is forgiveness with You.
—Psalm 130:3-4 NASB

You are forgiving and good, O Lord,
abounding in love to all who call to You.
—Psalm 86:5

All the prophets testify about him
that everyone who believes in him
receives forgiveness of sins through his name.
—Acts 10:43

. . . I will pray.

Benevolent Father,

It happened again. Just when I started feeling as if things were going well, I messed up. Instead of keeping my focus on You, I let myself be pulled into a bad situation—something that is not what You want for me and certainly does not glorify You. How does this keep happening? Never mind, I know. You try to warn me, but I always insist on going my own way.

Forgive me, Lord—again. Wash me clean and help me to be vigilant, listening carefully to Your Spirit inside my heart. My desire is to please You, but we both know that I can’t make that a reality without Your help. Let me live ever aware of Your presence. As I practice living in Your presence, I believe that sin will lose its power over me.

I know, Lord, that You are a kind, loving, and merciful God, and I know You desire only the best for me. I am so thankful for Your willingness to forgive me each and every time. I praise You above all others, for You are the one who has washed me clean.

Amen.

When God pardons, He consigns the offense
to everlasting forgetfulness.

—Merv Rosell


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC]

AnytimePrayersForEverydayPeople

Keep Our Eyes on God

Hear me, Lord, and answer me,
    for I am poor and needy.
Guard my life, for I am faithful to you;
    save your servant who trusts in you.
You are my God; have mercy on me, Lord,
    for I call to you all day long.
Bring joy to your servant, Lord,
    for I put my trust in you.

You, Lord, are forgiving and good,
    abounding in love to all who call to you.
Hear my prayer, Lord;
    listen to my cry for mercy.
When I am in distress, I call to you,
    because you answer me.

—Psalm 86:1-7

Storms of Life

Storms of Life

By Patricia Knight

Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked,
for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being snared.
—Proverbs 3:25-26

The sky was camouflaged by black blankets of menacing storm clouds, warning of impending turmoil over coastal waters. So defeated were the roiling, crashing ocean waves that even the raucous calls of the seabirds were subdued. The wind hushed. Shoreline trees stood at focused attention, awaiting a signal. Undeniable calm and quiet prevailed. Surely a gargantuan storm was threatening to eviscerate the tightly sutured clouds with scintillating bolts of lightning.

Then mysteriously, tiny holes of blue light peeped through the grotesque yellow-black storm clouds. The potential pandemonium lessened with every tiny slice of light. Without a crack of lightning or a drop of rain, fissures of blue sky opened among the disturbances. It took little time for the entire sky to transform. Soon puffy white clouds bounced around on a cerulean blue trampoline.

“Caw, Caw,” rejoiced avian life. Gradually all appearances and activities normalized as if no threats once loomed. The clouds rolled back as a scroll, quickly revealing the beautifully clear firmament beneath. The dark, menacing clouds would hover over the deep ocean waters again, but not today.

There are times when similar gloomy, black clouds stall over our lives, transforming our positive demeanor into negative attitudes. Fear and anxiety rule our decision-making. Frustration and anger take precedent. Like so many times when we’ve been inconvenienced by a situation beyond our control, the approaching storm paralyzes our mental reactions, convincing us of the worst possible outcome. When ineptness overwhelms us, failure often ensues, forcing us to merely hunker down until the threat has passed. We are assured, “Have no fear of sudden disaster or of the ruin that overtakes the wicked, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your feet from being snared” (Proverbs 3:25-26).

Joseph was born in Jacob’s old age and was greatly loved and favored over his other siblings. His brothers were insanely jealous of Joseph because of Jacob’s favoritism, accentuated by their father’s gift of a richly ornamental robe. When Joseph’s dreams revealed that his brothers would eventually bow down to worship him, animosity grew more extreme.

Joseph was seventeen years old when his brothers plotted to kill him (Genesis 37:19). Instead, they stripped him of his multi-colored coat and threw him into an empty well. When Midianite traders passed by, the brothers sold Joseph as a slave. Potiphar, the captain of the guard for the Egyptian king, purchased him for palace duty for twenty shekels of silver. “From the time he {Potiphar} put him in charge of his household and of all that he owned, the Lord blessed the household of the Egyptian because of Joseph” (Genesis 39:5).

One day Joseph was accused of a crime he didn’t commit. Into prison Joseph went for two long years, seemingly forgotten. Even while in prison, God protected His faithful servant, putting him in a position of leadership over his fellow prisoners.

Such tragedies as Joseph experienced in his young life might tend to destroy a weaker man’s faith, but Joseph’s strength grew as he learned to depend upon God for all of his needs. Jesus taught, “ ‘Even the very hairs of your head are all numbered’” (Matthew 10:30). Surely, if our Lord makes it a point to know such intimate details about His children, we are assured that He loves us, cares for us, and that He is constantly moving in our lives to accomplish His purpose. “‘Because he loves me’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me and I will answer him; I will be with him in times of trouble. I will deliver him and honor him. With long life will I satisfy him and show him my salvation’” (Psalms 91:14-15).

Joseph was put in charge of collecting grain supplies during the seven years of plenty when Egypt had carefully stockpiled their rich harvests. Joseph then approved the sale of grain to their starving neighbors as famine ravaged the known world during the following seven years, leading to a reunion and reconciliation with his siblings, who had planned his demise twenty years earlier. Though Joseph had suffered injustice and humiliation, he didn’t harbor bitterness toward his brothers. His faith was firmly planted in a God who guided his entire life.

“Shout for joy, O earth; burst into song, O mountain!
For the Lord comforts his people
and will have compassion on his afflicted ones” (Isaiah 49:13).

Joseph forgave his brothers when he revealed his identity to them through tears of joy. “ ‘I am your brother Joseph, the one you sold to Egypt! And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you. But God sent me here to preserve a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance’” (Genesis 45: 4-5, 7). God’s ultimate mission for sending Joseph to a foreign country was to establish the nation of Israel in Egypt and to use the famine to reunite Joseph’s family.

Does adversity create mental chaos and meltdowns in your life?  Suffering affliction can either turn our thoughts upward toward God or inward toward self-pity. We are assured by God, “ ‘I will never leave you or forsake you.’  So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”  (Hebrews 13: 5-6). Joseph’s life demonstrates God’s faithfulness.

Like Joseph, let us depend upon God, the faithful One, who has kept every promise from the beginning of time. Faith is not based on ragged emotions borne on desperation, but on trust and confidence. God loves us so unconditionally, He sent His only Son to die for our sins, granting forgiveness for our many temporary lapses in faith over a lifetime. Joseph forgave his brothers for an inhumane act that surely would have led to a slow, agonizing death until God converted the injustice to His sovereign purposes. 

The initial clamor of the atmospheric storm over the ocean initially created fear and havoc, but gradually the development of a full-fledged storm system was replaced with a tranquil sky. How many storms in our lives begin with boisterous, threatening circumstances, but as we pray and trust, God works out the details, calming our spirits.  When we give our fears to Jesus, we routinely experience blue skies of peace lingering on the horizon of our emotions. Our perspective is modified as we view life through the lens of Almighty God, who is “able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV).

Take Jesus on every excursion of life. He is the only one in whom to solidly place your trust for all of the big and little problems that assail. “He guards the paths of the just and protects those who are faithful to him” (Proverbs 2:8, NLT)

Hopeless or #Hopeful?

HopeChestertonQuote--AMP

As long as matters are really hopeful,
hope is a mere flattery or platitude;
it is only when everything is hopeless
that hope begins to be a strength.
Like all the Christian virtues,
it is as unreasonable as it is indispensable.

–G. K. Chesterton

Perfection and Deception

God placed Adam and Eve in a luxurious garden He planted in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East. The Garden of Eden was self-supporting; fruit-bearing trees were abundant, four rivers ran through it, and nourishing plants yielded plentiful food. Rain never fell; irrigation occurred by gentle mists rising out of the ground. No pests invaded green growth; everything was pristine and pure. Such exquisite beauty and flourishing abundance would overwhelm us with its magnificence, but to the first inhabitants, it was simply home, the only residence they had ever known.

The people who walked in the exquisite environment of the garden, who bathed in the clear, cool rivers, and who communicated constantly with their Creator, enjoyed freedom and protection in the fertile, life-sustaining garden. There were no flaws in their lives or surroundings. They were created in an untarnished, sin-free world.

Now, the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made” (Genesis 3:1). Satan questioned Eve about God’s authenticity and the accuracy of His specific directions regarding the one tree from which they were instructed they should not eat. Satan was baiting Eve. She informed him of what he already knew: God told them they must not eat from the tree in the middle of the garden or they would die (Genesis 3:2-3).

Satan temped Eve to gaze at the tree of knowledge of good and evil. The fruit may have suddenly acquired a tantalizing appeal to Eve. Neither person had been previously exposed to the tree, for it was forbidden to them. If any of us devote time where we do not belong, view or read that which is harmful, we too, begin to see beauty or advantage in the detrimental. We often defend our thoughts and actions by the world’s standard: the end justifies the means. God’s principles are defended by Jesus’ criteria: “Test everything. Hold onto the good. Avoid every kind of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:21-22).

Though temptation constantly swirls about, God commands us to watch and pray, to show discernment with our choices, and to use Jesus as our standard. “Be imitators of God, therefore, as dearly loved children” (Ephesians 5:1). For a moment Adam and Eve were overcome with opportunity and greed. Greed is not need; rather, it expresses selfish longing.

During Jesus’ forty-day temptation in the wilderness, the devil offered Him the opportunity to circumvent His original purpose for coming to earth in exchange for food, material riches, and power (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan’s ultimate goal was to convince Jesus to bow down to worship him instead of His heavenly Father, offering Jesus immediate gratification with physical, psychological, and spiritual rewards, tempting Him to by-pass death for mankind on the cross. Jesus is sinless, with characteristics of purity and holiness, so He couldn’t yield to Satan’s wily ways. Jesus refused all of Satan’s clever tricks, quoting Old Testament Scripture as a retort to each of Satan’s enticements.

It was imperative for Christ to experience temptation as a man to know how we feel, the amount of courage needed to resist, and the necessity of claiming God’s power to send Satan away in utter defeat. Jesus was tested during His weakest physical state of hunger and sleeplessness to prove that we serve a sinless Savior on whom we can depend when we are seduced by Satan and his cohorts. Jesus’ trials covered the entire spectrum of human temptations as He experienced personally the devastating damage Satan’s demonic powers wield over humanity. Now Jesus’ victory is the ideal example for all believers to follow. Human effort is inadequate, but God’s power is invincible.

Because Christ was successful in rejecting the temptation of the devil by immersing Himself in prayer, His example instructs us to become so familiar and intimate with our Lord that when we are enticed by demons, our reaction is to Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Come near to God and He will come near to you” (James 4:7-8, NASB). God then acts as our barrier for the destructive influence of Satan. Jesus is the pure, holy Son of God who teaches us by example that men live “on every word that comes from the mouth of God” (Deuteronomy 8:3b).

We are privileged that God desires to communicate and fellowship with us! The Word of God and prayer are powerful deterrents for evil. Ask “God to fill you with the knowledge of His will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding. Live a life worthy of the Lord and please Him in every way (Colossians 1:9-10a). Praying throughout each day prepares us with strength to resist temptation, answers to repeal Satan’s charm, and wisdom to claim God’s strength as our own. With such protection, we possess the ability to recognize and resist the demons who aim to separate us from God.

The professional tempter is intimately familiar with the tools of his deceptive trade. Demons major in confusion and chaos. As Christians, our emphasis is shining Christ’s light into darkness to reveal the tempter at his schemes. “For he {God} has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (Colossians 1:13-14). As we saturate our lives with prayer, we give glory to the Light of the World.

While Jesus prayed alone in Gethsemane prior to His crucifixion, He commanded His sleepy disciples to remain on guard with Him against evil forces. “ ‘Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak’ ” (Matthew 26:41). Because Jesus was tempted as we are and resisted, He is now our advocate in heaven, pleading continually to the Father for our benefit.

Christians are engaged in spiritual battles against Satan and his demons, but God has not left us defenseless. Our most dangerous enemies in this world are invisible, not to be fought with brute force, but with the unique spiritual equipment which God supplies: truth, faith, peace, and righteousness (Ephesians 6:4-16). Jesus, who crushed Satan on the cross, has provided us with prayer, our greatest military arsenal for life’s battles.

Though our trials are often intense, we are endowed with the spiritual weapons God designed. Be prepared with a life of determined conflict through prayer and knowledge of Scripture, equipped to deflect Satan’s fiery arrows, just as Jesus did.

Pain’s Absence vs Pain’s Potency

PainsAbsence-PainsPotency

Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.

—Paul Purvis, First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL