Divine Embrace

Lost in the moment in treasure’s embrace. The concerns that once flooded my mind vanish, without a trace.

My heart is overwhelmed by loves great call. How long has it been? I couldn’t recall.

Since the power of love had carried such force. What I felt was so beautiful, no fear or remorse.

It grasped my attention and broke down my walls. It was as the pure light which illuminates all it befalls.

My heart was so light yet my eyes filled with tears. For a few short moments, I had no problems, no fears.

I couldn’t escape, but why would I want to? I held on a little tighter, what else could I do?

As I stand in worship, life’s memories are before my eyes. Thankfulness in my heart continues to rise.

At times I am silent, I can’t muster my voice. And at times I can’t help but lift praise and rejoice.

The weight of this moment I couldn’t comprehend. But one thing I knew, I didn’t want it to end.

For the love of the Father has set me free. I may be holding my little girl, but God you’re holding me.

*A while back at church my daughter Anna and I were together for worship. She wanted to be held and I had no problem fulfilling that request. In the middle of worship, while I was holding my then five-year-old little girl, I was completely ambushed by God’s love. I’m not sure if that’s the right way to put it but that’s how I felt. It was out of nowhere. And extreme emotions overtook me. I was captivated all over again. God used my immense love for my daughter to remind me of His even greater love for me. It was a cherished moment that I’ll never forget. The words of this poem cannot fully express how I felt. But it’s at least a small glimpse. I hope you’ve all felt overwhelmed by His love for you. If not, that’s my prayer for you. God bless brothers and sisters.

The Messiah of Psalm 72

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The entire gospel message surrounding the life of the Messiah is presented in Psalm 72. From the birth of Jesus to His death, and ending with His exaltation and the impact on those who believe…it’s all there. Some of it is symbolism and other passages are quite clear. I’m going to divide up the three phases in a table below and put them with their New Testament counterparts. As always, I would encourage a full contextual reading of all of the passages below.

Theme Psalm 72 New Testament Meaning
The birth of the Messiah May the kings of Tarshish and of the coastlands render him tribute; may the kings of Sheba and Seba bring gifts! May all kings fall down before him, all nations serve him!

(verses 10-11)

Matthew 2:1-11 When Jesus was born, kings from all of the known world came to visit Him and bring Him gifts.
The death of the Messiah May there be abundance of grain in the land; on the tops of the mountains may it wave; may its fruit be like Lebanon; and may people blossom in the cities like the grass of the field!

(verse 16)

John 12:23-25

John 1:12-13

The grain in this passage is a symbol that Jesus used to reference Himself. When the “grain” dies or is harvested, it produces an abundance in the land. That abundance causes people to blossom or come to life.
The exaltation of the Messiah May his name endure forever, his fame continue as long as the sun! May people be blessed in him, all nations call him blessed!

(verse 17)

Galatians 3:8

John 12:13

Revelation 5:8-12

The name of Jesus lives on forever and those who live in and believe in Him are blessed in the best possible way. 

In addition to all of these passages, the Psalm opens up with an address to God about His Royal Son. He is declared to be one who brings justice and care for the needy. The Son will uphold the cause of the oppressed and declare the righteousness of God. Any reading of the New Testament shows the life of Jesus did just that. Praise God for His Royal Son!

The Messiah in Psalm 69

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So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

John 18:11 NASB

For those who love Jesus, Psalm 69 is a grim reminder of what the Messiah had to endure. This psalm reflects the anguish of the Messiah, from several angles. He would be hated without cause (verse 4), was a stranger among His own siblings, endured tremendous pain leading up to and during his crucifixion (verses 14-20), obviously sorrowful (verse 20), and thirsted while hanging on the cross (verse 21). Just look at how this psalm opens up:

I have sunk in deep mire, and there is no foothold;
I have come into deep waters, and a flood overflows me.

Psalm 69:2 NASB

It’s pretty apparent the distress that the Messiah would have to endure. When we parallel it with several New Testament passages we see how Jesus experienced precisely what Psalm 69 is talking about. In John chapters one and seven we’re told how Jesus was not received by his own. This refers to both the nation of Israel and His own siblings. Eventually many would come to recognize Him for who He was. But not initially. To be constantly mocked, criticized, and followed by mostly two-faced “friends” would be emotionally draining, to say the least. Matthew 26 describes Jesus’ experience in the Garden of Gethsemane in the early morning hours before His crucifixion. He is literally sweating blood and prays that His soul is exceedingly sorrowful.  He’s about to face the most excruciating death sentence. He lived a perfect and sinless life, was constantly misunderstood, and then put through a sham trial and tortured to death even though he was guiltless.

Reproach has broken my heart and I am so sick.
And I looked for sympathy, but there was none,
And for comforters, but I found none.
They also gave me gall for my food
And for my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink.

Psalm 69:20-21 NASB

Matthew 27 tells us that one of the soldiers gave him some vinegar wine to ease His thirst. But it could not ease His suffering. While hanging on the cross, Jesus faced jeers from the crowds. No one stepped in to provide Him comfort. How could they? His hands and feet had nails driven through them. His lungs were filling with blood. His shoulders were dislocated. His body was riddled with gashes from the whip. His forehead was pierced with a crown of thorns. If the pain weren’t enough, the crowds offered Him insult after insult.

But I am afflicted and in pain;
May Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.
I will praise the name of God with song
And magnify Him with thanksgiving.
And it will please the Lord better than an ox
Or a young bull with horns and hoofs.
The humble have seen it and are glad;
You who seek God, let your heart revive.
For the Lord hears the needy
And does not despise His who are prisoners.

Psalm 69:29-33 NASB

The Psalm closes in praise. The purpose of God was to work salvation through the Messiah. Three days after Jesus died on that cross, He rose from the dead. Salvation for all who believe was achieved. And when Jesus rose to heaven, He was placed at the right hand of God to be the name above all other names. The story of the Messiah is that which shows the heart of God in pursuit of His creation. Those in captivity can be freed. Those in sinful bondage can be loosed. Those in depression can have their hearts revived. All because our Messiah endured the heartbreaking hardship on our behalf. Praise Jesus! The next time you read Psalm 69, take the time to appreciate what our Messiah has done and what He had to walk through.

Toxic Fears

This is the third and final post in the series about certain toxins that humanity is plagued with. In the last two posts I shared my journey of mind games and poor word usage that have not been profitable whatsoever. But through my struggles in these areas, I’ve grown and become more aware of how to focus my thoughts and use my words as a life-giving agent. Today’s post is all about my fear.

I’ve been afraid of not being able to provide for my family. There’s no way around it. It has terrified me at times that my children and wife will not have all that they need. I’m not talking about wants or the menial pleasures of life. I mean their needs. I’ve been afraid of losing my loved ones, especially since I’ve lost two people extremely close to me in the last six years. One of the greatest fears I’ve had to tackle is the fear of something bad happening to my kids. Growing up I can’t remember being afraid of anything. Since having a family of my own, the fears have crept in. It’s like the more you have, the more room there is for fear. Being on my own I was care-free. Now with a wife and three kids…not so much.

I’m also a believer that it doesn’t have to be so. A family doesn’t have to open the door for fear to rule in my heart. To each of my fears above, God has spoken words of affirmation and promise. God has reminded me that Hs is ultimately the one who has been and always will be the one providing for my family. He’s also comforted me through my loss so that I can rest in the life to come, not this temporary existence. Me, and my loved ones, are living for that life to come, not for this one. Death is only the beginning and He has numbered all of our days. As far as my children go, God’s love for them far exceeds my own. He’s watching over them. He’ll give me wisdom and I can rest in that God is sovereign over my kids’ lives.

In the end, in what ever area we fear the most is where we value the most and trust God the least. I need to value Him above all things and people. His mission needs to be my mission. His kingdom and righteousness should be my aim and the rest will fall into place.

As always, here are some verses that have helped me along my journey. I hope they can be a help to you. Remember, these are paraphrases and what I felt God speaking to me through His word. I would encourage you to look up the passages yourself to read them in context and their entirety.:

Isaiah 26:3-4 tells me to keep my mind and focus on God and that’s when I will experience peace.

Isaiah 41:8-13 says that God has done great things on my behalf as He did for Israel and He is the one who upholds me. Because of that, there is nothing I should be afraid of.

Philippians 4:6-9 says that through prayer, giving thanks, and staying focused on good things God’s peace will be with me.

2 Timothy 1:7 tells me that God’s Spirit is within me so I already have power and love and sound mind.

John 14:27 is Jesus’ promise that His peace has been given to me.

Psalm 23 is a beautiful picture of being in harmony with God which brings peace in all circumstances.

Luke 12:22-34 treasure the kingdom, trust the King, and tend to others. That’s the mission of peace.

In the grand scheme of things, the only reason I fear is when my faith is lacking and my short term memory lost kicks in. God has a flawless track record in my life. There is no reason to not trust Him. It’s really the consequences of living in a fallen and broken world that we fear. And it’s hard to imagine that great of love that can overcome it on our behalf. But that’s exactly what we have in Jesus.

Brothers and sisters, if you battle with fear, draw closer to Him. He is the calm in your storm, just as He has been in mine.

Take it in

Life is good until it isn’t. A change that comes in a moment.

Hearts once leaping in exaltation now sunken in deep despair.

A smile now a lifeless expression.

Time unshaped by gratitude is lost for no one’s gain.

Unaware of how good it was, walking aimlessly.

What matters most is directly ahead, often missed for what lies beyond.

From now on it’ll be different.

The meaning of life comes more into view.

Prayers become more earnest as helplessness takes control.

A peace floods the soul like a warm embrace on a cold dark night.

How is there strength when the world is undone?

A Savior’s love overwhelms despair. Piercing the darkness, that glimmer of light.

Hope grows with each new day. I will make it after all.

From now on it’ll be different.

Time can slow to soak in each moment before they pass into memory.

Petty differences shall pass into oblivion.

Eyes look more longingly now upon those we love.

*This poem is dedicated to those who have experienced the earth-shattering moments. The sudden loss of a loved one. The diagnosis. Pain that turned everything upside down. I hope you too have experienced that amazing peace that our loving God provides, especially in the hardest moments. If not, that is my prayer for you. You are loved more than you know. This is a celebration of that love that has rescued so many from the depths. Peace in Christ loved ones.

How the satan will defeat you

 

The satan is the title reserved for the one who opposes God. By extension, he is also the one who opposes those who follow God. He is sometimes referred to as the devil, the prince of the power of the air, and the enemy of God. Jesus told us his mission in John chapter ten when He said, “the enemy comes to steal, kill, and destroy…” He is the leader of rebellions and the father of lies. And his sights are set on you and me.

Reading the title, you may think that I have a very cynical view of the fight for our spiritual survival. I assure you, it’s very much the opposite. In fact, I think it’s one of the most important struggles in every human’s story. It’s one in which the follower of Christ has every tool to win, yet every opportunity to still lose. I know many believers who are faithfully waging war every day and walking in victory. However, I see people every year fail to see the subtleties of their own crippling. Which, if left untreated, will lead to paralysis.

In any war, the most valuable information would be the enemies strategic plans. Fortunately, in this spiritual war, that’s exactly what we have. This enemy of ours doesn’t even change his strategy through the ages. It’s been the same since the very beginning. We already know that the satan wants to kill, steal, and destroy, but how? It’s simple, and very subtle. He wants to divide and cause doubt. Whenever and wherever you see those two things, you know who is behind it. That’s why Paul says in Romans 16 to stay away from people who cause divisions. And doubt is nothing short of the opposite of faith.

Jesus said in Matthew 12 that a house divided against itself cannot stand. On a personal level, that’s exactly what doubt does for a person’s mind. It tears it into opposing directions. And on a collective level, the illustration is obvious. I’ve seen several instances where certain people will come into a church and start causing rifts and divisions. My family and my wife’s family have fallen prey to the same thing. Friendships have been torn apart, teams collapse, business go under, all because of division. In terms of military strategy, the best way to defeat and enemy is to divide their forces and to cause confusion. In this war, I see the enemy’s fingerprints nearly every day.

It starts, often times, by being too busy. When we’re honest we have to admit that there is no such thing as too busy to spend time with God. We simply choose to use our time for other things. We make work, kid’s activities, and hobbies our priorities. Interject some entertainment in the mix and all of a sudden we are just too tired. Believe me. I get it. I have a full time job, I also own a business, and I have three kids. Life is full and it is hectic. And what the enemy of our souls wants us to believe is that we are just too busy for that bible study time, to get away to pray, to sing worship songs, or to serve others. But, we all know that’s deception at its best. The life that crowds out God is the life divided from God. There’s nothing more that the satan would want then for parents to not spiritually invest in their children because they’re too busy, or go to church because they made other plans, or leave the Bible at home while we race off to work. It’s not about being busy. The apostle Paul and all the other first century church planters were busy. It’s about losing sight of what matters. We’re prospering and are successful in life yet our souls are wasting away from starvation. That is how we lose. That is how the satan will defeat you. He will separate you from your source of life and from those in your life that can help nourish it.

I’ve done a few weeks without going to church and I feel it. Sure, I do my own study, devotionals, and podcasts. But there is no replacement for being in a group. We lose our rear guards, our accountability, and our encouragement. We drift into a life of self-centeredness. When separated from others, we shrink back into ourselves.

The more we get divided from God and His people, the more we begin interpreting the Bible on our own terms. Truth begins to lose its footing in our hearts. Compromise after compromise leads us further down the black hole of spiritual ineptitude. The further down we go the less God and His mission become a priority to us. We are losing. And we are withering away and don’t even know it. Oh, we can feel something is off. But the fall has been a gradual one. And the climb back up seems insurmountable. So why try? Well, because your life depends on it. And so does your family. And your friends. And every other relationship you have.

For the one who relates, and finds themselves in this story, don’t let him win. Reconnect with others and reunite with God. Sing more, pray more, read and study more. Make time to soak in His presence. There is nothing more valuable in life. There is no one too far from God to be restored. There is always hope for the wandering heart. Because our Good Shepherd is always looking for His sheep. If you know someone who has drifted away, stay close to them. Don’t lose hope. Keep praying. The darkness can be lifted any moment and they will see the light. For those in step, undivided, and devoted. Remain strong and vigilant. It only takes one choice to derail the train. Stay strong and stay faithful. Us weaker people need your example.

God bless brothers and sisters and remember the victory has already been won for us. We just have to walk in it day after day.

His no matter what

“Pray also for me, that whenever I speak, words may be given me so that I will fearlessly make known the mystery of the gospel,”. Ephesians‬ ‭6:19‬ ‭NIV‬‬

There have only been a few moments in my life when I’ve had to make the choice to stand for Jesus rather than stand with the crowd, and it actually cost me something big. And I use the word “big” loosely. I’ve lost friends and family members because of my faith. I’ve lost financial opportunities as well. I’ve faced my fair share of criticism. But I’ve never had to make a choice that would put my life at risk.

I read a story recently about a man named Sebastian. He was a follower of Jesus in the early days of the church. But his station in life made his faith something of a problem. Sebastian worked directly for the Emperor of Rome in a time Emperor wanted to be worshipped as a god and had no patience for a rival. Here’s a bit of the story.

Sebastian walked through the halls of the palace daily. He had worked hard to get to this position in the royal guard, but once he had gotten to Rome, he restrained himself from the idolatrous lifestyle of imperial Rome. He only wanted to serve Christ wholeheartedly. 

When Emperor Diocletian heard of his restraint, he had little interest in his service record. He confronted him and found out about his faith. At this, he ordered Sebastian taken outside the city and shot to death with arrows. The soldiers did their job and left his body to rot. Soon a group of Christians came to give his body a proper burial. As they lifted him, one of them exclaimed, “He moves!” “Shhh!” cautioned another. “Let us take him somewhere safe.” Sebastian was taken to one of their homes where he was treated and recovered from his injuries. As soon as he was well enough, he placed himself before the emperor again. Once he had tasted the hope of heaven, the pleasures of this world had even less appeal for him. The emperor was of course shocked to see Sebastian seemingly back from the dead. He ordered Sebastian seized and beaten to death and his body thrown into the sewer. His body was recovered again by Christians and buried in the catacombs. 

A time may come when we are all asked to choose between our allegiance to Christ and our allegiance to our physical life. Even if that day does not come, we are all asked to stand with Him no matter what. No matter the words spoken about us. No matter the judgement cast our way. If you are His, be His, no matter what. Pray for me that I will have the strength to answer that call.

“Now, Lord, consider their threats and enable your servants to speak your word with great boldness.” Acts‬ ‭4:29‬ ‭NIV‬‬