Refuge in You

S (Scripture) – Psalm 5:11-12 “But let all who take refuge in You be glad, let them ever sing for joy; and may You shelter them, that those who love Your name may exult in You.  For it is You who blesses the righteous man, O Lord, You surround him with favor as with a shield.”

O (Observation) – Lord, I had quite the emotional roller coaster today.  When all was said and done, this was my psalm for today…one that reminds me that You are my refuge, my “shelter or protection from danger or distress.”  You are the one who shelters me, who keeps me in “a position or state of being covered and protected.”  I love Your name, and I freely exult in You – to exult means “to be extremely joyful.”  I am extremely joyful because I realize it is You who blesses the righteous and surrounds him or her with favor that can only come from heaven.  The kind of favor that we cannot manufacture with our own worldly methods and contacts.  Your favor is so far above anything we can imagine…it literally wraps itself around us as a shield, “a protective cover or barrier.”

A (Application) – There is nowhere else I would rather be than right in the middle of Your will for my life, enveloped in Your favor, joyful in Your protection, and at peace at all times.  Thank You, Lord, for this reminder that no matter what we are going through, Your presence is where we rest our head at night.  Your heart is where our heart belongs.  Your face is what we should be seeking.  May we not get so wrapped up in our circumstances that we forget how much different it all could be if we were facing them with your favor as our shield.

P (Prayer) – Guide me, Jesus.  Grant me wisdom on my journey.  Open doors that You want opened and close doors You want closed.  In the midst of it all, guard me with Your favor as I exult in You.  Thank You that You go before me to make a way as my shield, follow after me to pick up any broken pieces I’ve made, and surround me on all sides with Your love, in everything.

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Gladness in My Heart

S (Scripture) – Psalm 4:7-8 “You have put gladness in my heart, more than when their grain and new wine abound.  In peace I will both lie down and sleep, for You alone, O Lord, make me to dwell in safety.” NASB

I have God’s more-than-enough, more joy in one ordinary day than they get in all their shopping sprees.  At day’s end I’m ready for sound sleep, for You, God, have put my life back together.” The Message

O (Observation) – Lord, You have “set eternity in the heart of man” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).  There is an intrinsic longing for meaning in this life – for purpose, to understand why any of us our here, make sense of our suffering, feel connected to the hereafter…it is indisputable that mankind longs to answer the questions that only You can.  Merriam-Webster’s definition of “gladness” is “a feeling or state of well-being and contentment” or “the feeling experienced when one’s wishes are met.”  When David wrote this psalm and penned that You have put gladness in his heart, he was clearly conveying the truth that contentment can only come from knowing You.  All of our wishes – even if they are unknown to us – that have to do with answering life’s deepest questions can only be understood in terms of an eternal perspective.  Because of the gladness in our hearts, we are able to experience a peace that this world cannot offer; a security that is unknown otherwise.

A (Application) – When we have our lives put back together by the One Who created it in the first place, the world makes a lot more sense.  Our perspective shifts to a higher level.  We no longer see the day-to-day issues of life at eye level; rather, we see the complexities and interconnectedness of life from a heavenly vantage point.  There is comfort in knowing the whole story and how it all ends while we are forced to live in the confines of time and space.  No matter what is going on all around us, the peace experienced by our foundation in Christ is unshakeable and more than capable of allowing us to rest peacefully.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, thank You for meeting our deepest needs and being the answer to all that we seek in this life.  So many people are trying everything this world has to offer in search of meaning and purpose.  Help us to look no further than Your Son, Jesus.  He proclaimed these words many years ago that still ring true today, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  Help us to find rest in You alone when we are weary, and to point others to You along the way.

The One Who Lifts My Head

S (Scripture) – Psalm 3:1-4 “O Lord, how my adversaries have increased!  Many are rising up against me.  Many are saying of my soul, ‘There is no deliverance for him in God.’  But You, O Lord, are a shield about me.  My glory, and the One who lifts my head.  I was crying to the Lord with my voice, and He answered me from His holy mountain.”

O (Observation) – Lord, there will be many in this life who scoff at the mention of Your Name.  There will be many who intentionally seek to destroy the righteous and cannot tolerate someone who genuinely follows after You.  But none of what they say ultimately matters.  Only what You say counts.  You surround me with Your love and grace that no one can take away from me.  Romans 8:38-39 reminds us, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  

A (Application) – When we do stumble in this life and find ourselves looking down at our own situation and shortcomings, You are there to reach gently for our chin and guide our eyes upward to You.  When our head is lifted from our fear and dismay, we can see clearly all that matters.  When we cry to You, we are are exposing the rawness of our emotions with You.  We can be sure that You will not only hear us but will indeed answer us.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, I’m so thankful that I can be real with You.  I don’t have to try and pretend to have it all together spiritually.  There are times in life when I feel like the walls are just closing in on me…but You are my shield.  You are the One who lifts my head.  You are the One who answers my cry for help.  Thank You for always being faithful to me and for never giving up on me.

Take Warning

S (Scripture) – Psalm 2:10-11 “Now therefore, O kings, show discernment; take warning, O judges of the earth.  Worship the Lord with reverence and rejoice with trembling.”

O (Observation) – Lord, You inhabit the praises of Your people (Psalm 22:3).  Your heart is softened toward those who exalt Your Name above all else.  This psalmist was writing to the kings that were the judges of the earth at the time, and was imploring them to think wisely about their actions (with discernment) and to heed his warning to worship You and rejoice.  Some may wonder why his instruction begins with “take warning.”  I believe it is that if we do not proclaim with our lips Your greatness, we are more at risk of assuming our own.  When we declare that You are Lord, that You are in control, and that You are the only One worthy of praise, then it is only natural to humble ourselves in Your presence.  If we fail to grant You the praise You are due, then we will slowly begin to elevate ourselves and make You smaller in our minds.  That is a very dangerous thing to do.

A (Application) – There are times when deep study of the word is what we are called to do.  We should be careful to not make our entire experience with the word based only on study.  Quiet times of adoration, reflection, meditation, and simply dwelling in Your presence is what allows us to become more and more intimate with You.  You are not an academic experience to be checked off of our list.  In addition to this devotional time and study time, let us not forget the importance of time set aside exclusively for worship.  There are times when we just need to sing to You and declare Your promises over our own lives.  A balance of all of these forms of spending time with You is essential for us to grow and mature.  When we are constantly reminding ourselves of how big You are, we are also keeping ourselves in proper perspective.

P (Prayer) – Heavenly Father, praise Your holy name!  You are indescribable and there are no words sufficient in our limited human knowledge capable of fully describing Your glory.  We can sing songs to You, but help us to remember that true worshippers worship in spirit and in truth at all times.  It is a lifestyle that we must be dependent on Your Holy Spirit for us to walk out each day.  Free us from the inconsequential distractions of this life so that we can focus on You more and more.

Like a Tree

S (Scripture) – Psalm 1:1-3 “How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, nor stand in the path of sinners, nor sit in the seat of scoffers!  But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.  He will be like a tree firmly planted by steams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”

O (Observation) – Lord, when we meditate on Your law, we are transformed by it.  It’s impossible to truly seek Your face, search for truth, and come up empty.  You have promised us that if we seek You with all of our heart then we are sure to find You.  When we are not preoccupied in this life with trying to figure out its meaning, what is really real, why all of these issues arise in our circumstances, what is coming next, etc. then we can see the world around us more clearly for what it really is in light of eternity.  This confidence that can only come from our reliance on You results in a firm foundation from which to operate in our day-to-day lives.  We will not be moved.  Our roots have grown deep into the soil of Your provision and we do not question Your ability.  The streams of water nearby are Your continual times of refreshing that we cannot escape.  It is reassuring to know that even the most healthy of trees do not continuously bear fruit…yielding fruit in its season really means that there is a time for fruit to be yielded and there is a time that the fruit is to be growing.  No matter what, this leaf will not wither – despite the weather going on around us, we will continue to thrive.  Whatever this person who is dependent on You does, according to Your will, he or she will prosper.  You honor those who humble themselves and honor You.  There will be times when tragedy, illness, or adversity pummel even the most faithful of Your children.  The promise we have from You is that, through all of it, You will be with us and will ensure that ultimately, we will prosper and Your name will be made great as a result.

A (Application) – Just like we have to continuously eat food in order to remain physically healthy in our bodies, we must also feed our mind, soul, and spirit with the word of God in order to remain healthy spiritually.  We cannot just gorge ourselves one day a week with food and then starve ourselves for the rest of the week and expect our bodies to function normally.  The same is true with our spiritual appetites.  In order to experience the benefits of the psalmist’s description of a true believer living a life of peace and confidence in You, we must understand where it comes from – from being continually transformed by the renewing of our minds (Romans 12:2).  As we take in more and more of the word and hide it in our hearts (Psalm 119:11), we are building up a storehouse so that in our time of need, the Holy Spirit is able to retrieve that promise and we can declare it over our families, our circumstances, and our adversary.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, for the confidence of knowing that every season is determined by You.  Help me to walk in peace knowing that my part is to seek after You with my whole heart, be obedient to what You have asked me to do, and leave the results up to You.  It is easy to fall into the trap of trying to make things happen in my own strength while inadvertently leaving You out, or to just ask You to bless my plan.  No way.  I want all that You have for me and do not want to miss out on anything You have planned.  Guide my heart, Lord.  Lead my steps.  Your word is a lamp unto my feet.

Turn Away

S (Scripture) – Romans 16:17-18 “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.  For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting.”

O (Observation) – Lord, the choice of words in the NASB are rich in complexity.  According to Merriam-Webster’s dictionary, dissensions are defined as “partisan and contentious quarreling, a state marked by a lack of agreement or harmony, and implies strife or discord while stressing a division into factions.”  Hindrances are things that “interfere or slow down the progress of someone.”  The fact is that there are people within the church that are used by the enemy to intentionally cause disruption and attempt to cripple a community of faith under the weight of disunity.  In John 17:21, one of the final prayers of Jesus was that His church would be one, even as He and You are one.  Instead of following after You and Your kingdom, these people are driven by their own desires, or appetites – the worldly and fleshly passions that can only fester when one has fallen in love with this world and forgotten who You are.  Flattering is defined as “encouraging or gratifying especially with the assurance that something is right.”  Oftentimes, the people causing dissension firmly believe that they know more about a matter than You, and in so knowing, apparently have the ability to change what is true and what is false; what is right, and what is wrong.  Isaiah heeds the warning, “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  Lastly, these people will ultimately deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting; in other words, those “unaware of any danger or threat.”

A (Application) – We need to be aware that there is a very real danger and threat at work.  The word of God is inerrant, perfect, complete, and one of the primary ways that the Holy Spirit communicates with us.  As such, it is constantly under attack by those trying to undermine its authenticity and authority.  These same people will at the very least attempt to make it seem irrelevant to living in today’s society.  The Christian worldview should be firmly rooted in the word of God.  We cannot be “cafeteria Christians,” only picking the parts of the word that we feel are true and applicable to our lives while ignoring the rest.  If something seems like it does not make sense while we are reading, make a note of it and dive deeper.  Research it.  Study it.  Pray for wisdom and the Holy Spirit will lead you to answers and explanations.  Don’t just dismiss something in the word because it seems difficult to understand.  That is how we grow and mature in the Lord – through intentionally seeking His face, wanting to know anything and everything He has to say, and trusting Him to provide the knowledge and wisdom we seek.  If someone around you attempts to cause dissension and has no interest in really knowing the truth of the word, it is best not to argue with that person.  Respectfully have a conversation and pray for them.  It is imperative to be relentless in our pursuit of truth and never lacking in grace for others; however, there is a time to discuss and a time to turn away.

P (Prayer) – Holy Spirit, come now.  Flood our hearts with truth, knowledge, wisdom, discernment, and guard our hearts from those with smooth and flattering speech that contradict Your word.  Help us to grow and mature in our confidence of the word so that whenever we hear someone proclaim “truth,” we can immediately know for sure whether or not it is.  Thank You for never leaving us and for being our wonderful Counselor on this journey of life.

Edification

S (Scripture) – Romans 15:1-6 “Now we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.  Each of us is to please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.  For even Christ did not please Himself; but as it is written, ‘The reproaches of those who reproached you fell on Me.’  For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.  Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, so that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of your Lord Jesus Christ.”

O (Observation) – Lord, we are not in this alone.  You never designed us to live in isolation – physically nor spiritually.  We each have spiritual gifts that You have given us and we are to use them for the benefit of the body of Christ.  Each one of us has the ability to speak life into another if we are paying attention and choose to participate in the work You are doing.  To edify another is to speak encouragement and instruction out of a heart of love for that person.  You have spoken life over us and we receive it with joy.  There are times when You have placed us in the path of another so that we can be Your mouthpiece of hope and encouragement to that person.

A (Application) – Let us open our eyes to all of the people placed in our paths.  Our own family members that we take for granted, our co-workers that we spend more time with than our own family, our neighbors who we do life together with, or even the stranger that is only in our presence for a few moments…each one of them is a son or a daughter that is either lost or found, but in need of edification none the less.  We all need to hear words of truth and life spoken over us.  Let us not be so wrapped up in ourselves that we miss the opportunity to speak words of edification and gratitude to each other.

P (Prayer) – Thank You, Lord, that you are our source of hope and encouragement.  It is because of You and Your promises that we even have the ability to speak life over others.  Thank You for modeling what it means to bear the burdens of those around us and help us to follow after You.  Life can be so complicated at times.  Relationships can be marred by past mistakes or judgemental spirits.  Let us have Your eyes as we gaze upon our neighbors and give us words of edification to speak in that moment.