Some verses in the Bible have so much packed into them that you just have to stop and chew on them for a while. Zephaniah 3:17 is one of those verses. It says, “For the Lord your God is living among you. He is a mighty savior. He will take delight in you with gladness. With his love, he will calm all your fears. He will rejoice over you with joyful songs” (NLT). Think about that verse for a minute. Some versions say, “God is present with you” (MSG) or “God is with you” (GNT). No matter what version, it’s important to know that wherever you go, whatever you do, God is there, present with you in each situation. We just need to learn to be more aware of His presence in our day.
From John 3:16, we know that God loves us. We’re taught that as a kid, but do you ever stop to think that more than that, God likes you too? He really does. He takes delight in us with gladness it says. He sees the deep, dark places of our heart that we keep hidden, and He still likes us and wants to be around us. So many of us keep those parts hidden from others because we think, “If they knew this about me, they wouldn’t like me.” God knows you and I are broken and have sin nature lurking inside. He wants to bring healing to those places, and calm our fears about them. Fear does not come from Him. It comes from not understanding who we are in Him and who He wants to be in our lives.
This verse then ends with a bang! God rejoices over you and sings joyful songs over you. Psalm 32:7 says that the songs God sings are to deliver us and to bring us victory. Just like a parent sings songs to their kids, God sings to us. He knows that wherever we go or whatever we do, we need His comfort, His protection and His victory. Today, God is present with you, He is might enough to save you from whatever you’re facing, He wants to be around you, He will calm your fears and be singing over you. To me, that means today, and every day has the potential to be a great day. We just need to keep this verse in mind so we can understand how God sees us and know who we are to Him.
Photo by Austin Schmid on Unsplash
Have you been through a barren season? It’s those seasons where you have planted seeds and watered them, but nothing is growing or producing. It’s a little frustrating and a lot scary. To have followed God’s principles in the Bible and to not see Him move on your behalf can be worrisome. In those times, I’ve prayed, “God, where are you? Why haven’t you responded yet? I thought by now you would have shown up,” only to be answered by silence. Barren seasons show up out of no where and can last a while. They put your faith to the test, but what you can’t see, and what you have to remind yourself, is what God is doing with those planted seeds underground.
Habakkuk 3:17-18 gives us the prescription for these times. It says, “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” (NLT) We must continue to praise God anyway and choose to honor Him. Our hope is not in the fruits of our labor, but in the Lord. We cannot allow what we see in our circumstances to dictate our relationship with God. Circumstances are fickle, but God remains the same yesterday, today and forever.
In those barren seasons, I recount the character of God. I look back on who He has always been, not on how I perceive Him in my current situation. Relationships dictated by emotions fail because emotions can be manipulated. They must be built on something deeper. You must choose to love, to rejoice in the Lord and to be joyful even in the dry seasons. God has not changed who He is, nor has He stopped working on your behalf. Choose to rejoice no matter what the fields of your life look like right now. Trust in Him to be who He always has been. He is Jehovah Jireh, your provider and source even in the barren seasons. Your trust needs to be in Him rather than in the fruit of your labor.
Photo by Dikaseva on Unsplash
How many times do we come to crossroads in our lives? When they come up, I imagine the ending scene of “Castaway” where Tom Hanks character is sitting at one. He gets out of the car with his map and looks at all directions in front of him when a lady pulls up and says, “You look lost. Where are you headed?” He replies, “I do? I was just about to figure that out.” She then tells him where each road heads, gets back in her truck and drives off. We can get advice on which path to take at the crossroads, but ultimately, it’s our decision to make, so we must choose wisely. It’s not wise to stay there long, but it is good to seek God for the right decision before you choose.
Jeremiah 6:16 says, “This is what the Lord says: ‘Stop at the crossroads and look around. Ask for the old, godly way, and walk in it. Travel its path, and you will find rest for your souls.’” (NLT) Being at a crossroads is an unsettling and stressful place. It has the potential to be a moment of great change in your life and you want to make the right decision. That’s why the Lord says in this verse that we are to ask others for godly advice. Which is the old, godly way? Which way does God want me to take? When I ask and can’t find an answer to those questions, it’s good to fast and to seek God for peace in the path He wants you to take. Peace doesn’t mean there won’t be a difficult road ahead. It means that you will have the assurance that no matter what happens, you’re on the road God told you to take.
It would be nice if the roads were marked and the choice were easy, but that’s rarely the case. If you happen to make the wrong choice, and you don’t have peace, fail fast. Don’t let pride keep you on the wrong road. Turn around and go down the one that gives rest to your soul and peace in your heart. God has a plan for your life, and Psalm 37:23 says that the Lord orders our steps and He delights in the details of our life. Don’t be afraid to seek His will asking Him to show you or to seek godly counsel from others who have been there or who can pray with you. God has a peace that passes understanding in these times and will use it to lead you down the right road.
Photo by Pablo García Saldaña on Unsplash
It was in the desert that God first made the promise to be our healer. The Israelites had left Egypt, crossed the Red Sea and had traveled three days. No matter where they looked, they couldn’t find water. The people started complaining to Moses about it. Then suddenly, there it was. A body of water was before them in the town of Marah. They went to drink it, but it was bitter. After praying, God directed Moses to a piece of wood and told him to put it in the water. When he threw it in, the water became sweet. At that moment, God spoke in Exodus 15:26 and said, “If you will listen carefully to the voice of The Lord your God and do what is right in His sight, obeying His commands and keeping all His decrees, then I will not make you suffer any of the diseases I sent on the Egyptians; for I am The Lord who heals you (Jehovah Rapha).”
How fitting that they were in the desert when He made that promise. When we are in need of healing, we often feel like we’re in a desert. We feel alone. There seems to be no life. No hope. No place to get what we need to sustain life. The outlook is often dim. That’s usually where we need to be for us to fully trust God. It’s when we’ve reached the end of our strength, that we learn to trust His ability. Remember, it’s through our weakness that He is made strong. We must go to Him in prayer seeking the healing we need.
I’m not here to tell you that every time I’ve prayed for healing for someone that they’ve received it. In fact, I’ve lost loved ones whom I prayed and believed for God to heal. Does that change who God is or His ability to heal? Absolutely not. I can choose to let something like that poison the water of my soul and make me bitter like the waters of Marah or I can choose to let God put the wood of the cross in my soul and bring healing to me to remove the bitterness. Through the cross, Jesus is able to bring both physical and spiritual healing. It was by His stripes, given at the cross, that we are healed physically, and by His death that we are healed spiritually. His offer to you is to allow Him to apply that wood to your life how He sees fit. He will be your Jehovah Rapha.
Photo by Jussara Romão on Unsplash
Throwback Thursday is a feature I’m using to help build some margin into my schedule to pursue other writing ventures. Each Thursday I’ll be bringing you a previously written devotional that still speaks encouragement to us from God’s Word.
One of the things I remember being taught at an early age is that Jesus was tempted in all areas of His life just like we are. It’s always been a comfort to know that because He can relate to us as we go through our daily lives and are tempted to say or do things that wouldn’t bring God glory. The temptations He faced in the wilderness weren’t the only temptations He faced, though they are the only ones recorded. Just like us, I’m sure He was under a constant barrage of temptations trying to trip Him up so that His ministry could be discredited. When He didn’t fall prey to those temptations, He showed that we don’t have to give into our flesh and that He could empathize with us in those moments of weakness.
It wasn’t just temptations He faced as a person. He understood what it was like to be betrayed by a close friend. He felt the sorrow of a close friend passing away. He felt the sting of being rejected by people who should have respected Him. In His greatest time of need, His closest friends didn’t stand up for Him and one publicly denied even knowing Him. It was more than temptations He faced in order to be able to empathize with us. He felt pain and sorrow like we do. He understands what it feels like to be hurt by those you love and to feel great sorrow. In fact, He even knows what it feels like to feel abandoned by God. He went through all those emotions so that He could empathize with us in our pain.
Isaiah 53:3-4 says, “He was despised and rejected— a man of sorrows, acquainted with deepest grief. We turned our backs on him and looked the other way. He was despised, and we did not care. Yet it was our weaknesses he carried; it was our sorrows that weighed him down. And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God, a punishment for his own sins!” (NLT) It wasn’t just His pain He felt. On the cross, He took on our pain, our sorrow and our grief. Take the deepest hurt and pain you’ve felt in your life and multiply that by billions. He carried that pain. He did that for us. For you. He understands the pain you feel because He felt it before you at the cross. He took stripes for your emotional healing as well, and endured the harshest punishment known to man out of love for you. Don’t believe the lie that you are the only one who feels the way you do. He carried your pain and sorrow first and endured so that you can too.
Photo by Ricky Turner on Unsplash
If you’ve ever been around a two or three year old, you know how independent they can be. I wonder if we call them “terrible two’s” because they are trying to do things on their own and act like they no longer need our help. It’s the start of a lifetime of trying to be self sufficient. The problem is that they lack wisdom in doing the things they’re trying to be independent at, and as adults, we’re constantly trying to make sure their independence doesn’t get them hurt or allow them to break expensive things. They’re constantly saying, “I can do it!” While they can do many things, they often need help and an occasional rescue whether they believe it or not.
As we grow up, we carry that independent spirit with us. We feel accomplished when we do things on our own like get a job, make a major purchase or graduate. As our hair turns gray, we seem to have to prove we are competent and still able to do things on our own. The independence God placed in us is strong, but so is our dependence on Him. We were given this independent streak and a desire to do things greater than our abilities. The latter was designed to create a dependence on God for help, but our selfish pride often prevents us from seeking Him when we need help.
Isaiah 46:4 says, “I am your God and will take care of you until you are old and your hair is gray. I made you and will care for you; I will give you help and rescue you” (GNT). It doesn’t matter how old you get, God still has great things for you to do. He’s also right there with you through life’s accomplishments helping you along the way. Like a watchful parent, He stands by us, encouraging us and rescuing us when we need it. There’s no shame in asking for His help when we’ve bitten off more than we can chew. God takes pride in helping us out all throughout our lives, and He loves it when we reach out to Him and say, “I can’t do it. Can you help?” We need to drop the independent pride we’ve been carrying since our terrible two’s and let God help us. When we do, we will accomplish infinitely more than we thought possible.
Photo by Casey Horner on Unsplash