Monday, August 3, 2015

God is our Refuge

My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
Trust in him at all times, O people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.
                           Psalm 62:7-8 NIV

     Life oozes craziness. What should be called evil is applauded by society as good. People who speak God’s truth are labeled bigots and haters. Those who falsely believe God does not exist try to wipe out any public reminder of our Risen Lord. Some days we desire to hide from the outside world; to take refuge from evil.

     Often our efforts for God appear thwarted by those working to discredit Christians. Once you make a public profession of faith in Christ, many expect you to be perfect. When you are not, others label you hypocrite, and you might feel the word flashing across your forehead like the scarlet letter around the neck of Hester Prynne in Nathaniel Hawthorn’s classic tale of sin, repentance and a struggle for dignity.

     Fortunately, we have a refuge. His name is Jehovah. He is I AM—a shelter we can run to, a rock we can stand on and a refuge in the time of small irritations and great difficulty.

     My salvation depends on God. My honor depends on God. My steadfast hope depends on God. Just as He cares for the lilies of the field and the beasts of the wild, He cares for you and me.

     So the next time the nightly news makes you want to duck and run or your act of godliness is proclaimed bigoted and hateful and you need a shelter from life’s storm, REMEMBER our God—Creator of heaven and earth—our Salvation—our Mighty Rock, and run to Him.

     Surely our God, who cares for the wild animals roaming free on our mountain tops and the microscopic plants dotting the hillsides, cares for His children. God is our refuge. Trust Him. Run to Him.

© Joyce Powell

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Out of the Scrap Heap

And we desire each one of you to show
the same earnestness to have the full
assurance of hope until the end, so that
you may not be sluggish, but imitators of
those who through faith and patience
inherit the promises.
                     Hebrews 6:11-12 (NASV)

      I recently read the following story from the Streams in the Desert devotional book.

        An old village blacksmith once said, “There is only one thing
        I fear: being thrown onto the scrap heap. You see, in order to
        strengthen a piece of steel, I must first temper it. I heat it,
        hammer it, and then quickly plunge it into a bucket of cold
        water. Very soon I know whether it will accept the tempering
        process or simply fall to pieces. If, after one or two tests, I
        see it will not allow itself to be tempered, I throw it onto the
        scrap heap, only to later sell it to the junkman for a few cents
        per pound.”

     I thought about the “fires” of the faithful who are listed in Hebrews 11. Noah, moved with fear, obeyed God. Abraham, lacking knowledge of his destination, followed God. Sarah, who judged God faithful to His promise, received strength from God. By faith the patriarchs, of whom we read in the Old Testament, blessed their children to the care of God. By faith Moses, placed in a basket, was saved by God. By faith Rahab gave refuge to the Hebrew spies and received her reward from God…

     These and many more faithful became “hall of famers” because of their willingness to walk through the fire, be hammered and tempered, and saved from the scrap heap. Their victorious faith changed the world for millennia—forever. As far as I can tell, they did not wake up one morning and announce to their world that they would be world changers. They simply went about their daily lives, duties, relationships and interactions with others and displayed their faith along the way.
     Although both our culture and times differ from those listed in Hebrews 11, our attitudes and actions should remain like theirs:
        When faced with fear, obey God
        When our destination is unclear, follow God
        When we are weak, receive strength from God
        To care for our descendants, bless our children in the Name of God
        When others come to us for help, teach them to hide themselves in God 

     When we allow God to turn us into tempered metal, we are made usable for Him. Then we, like Job, will be able to say, “…When He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold.” Out of the scrap heap and into the highways of life walking in victorious faith...  

© Joyce Powell

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Hang Onto Hope

“But the needy will not always be forgotten,
nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.”
Psalm 9:18 NIV

 Fierce thunderstorms, floods, and tornadoes have recently ravaged portions of our nation. Uprooted trees and air-born roofs appear as minor inconveniences when compared to those whose lives have been snuffed out by the power of the unrelenting wind and rain. In the aftermath, a deluge of news reports described the helplessness and hopelessness felt by the loved ones of those sacrificed to the tempest.

Locally our spiritual, emotional, and physical resources were tested as a forty foot wall of water raced down the Blanco River under cover of night and washed away homes as families slept; helpless against the powerful assault of the raging water.

How do we reconcile the hope promised in God’s Word with the cruelty of life’s circumstances? How does a father who loses the struggle to save his wife and two children from the raging floodwaters wait patiently or have expectation for his future? How does a young couple beginning their family look forward in hope-filled anticipation after all their belongings are washed away? When we face the reality of life’s worst, how do we believe for God’s best?

When we feel we are going to perish, when our heart has been destroyed, or when we have lost courage, how do we hang onto hope?

Trust God. Seek God. Believe God.

Psalm 9:9-10 reminds us that the LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, the hurting, crushed, dejected, humbled, contrite, broken; a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know His Name will trust in Him, and He will never forsake those who seek Him. He is our hope. We are also reminded that God does not ignore the cries of the afflicted—the helpless.

In verse 18 David reminds us “the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the afflicted ever perish.” Therefore, our hope is not found in our world system, our government, or other people. Although they may come to our aide in times of distress, our ultimate hope is found in God alone.

God’s resources are never depleted. His patience never runs out. He never grows tired of my trial. He will not forsake me when the journey to recovery is long. He will neither forget me nor desert me. He is the reason for my hope. He is my hope. I will—Trust God. Seek God. Believe God. I will hang onto hope.

©Joyce Powell

Monday, July 13, 2015

Life is Fragile

But we have this treasure in jars of clay
to show that this all-surpassing power
is from God and not from us.
                  2 Corinthians 4:7 NIV 

     Life is fragile. The flesh and blood body that wraps our spirit and our soul is prone to illness, disease and decay. We are, the Apostle Paul says, jars of clay—scooped from the dust of the ground by the hand of the Almighty. We can be broken, stepped on and crushed by this world.

     But, when through the Holy Spirit of the Living God, Christ dwells in us, God’s all-surpassing power can be demonstrated through us in the midst of every turmoil and crisis. When we think we are at the end of our rope, hope lives in us.

     Paul continues by saying, “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.” (vs 8-9)

     God is the source of our power, and it is our responsibility to remain plugged in, charged and recharged.

     When life is hard and we are tempted to sequester ourselves from the world, when tragedy strikes and we are tempted to blame God, when we grow weary in well doing or are just tired of the rat race of life, God is our strength; Jesus is the treasure we hold in our clay jar. That it is God’s strength and power and not ours alone motivates us to put one foot in front of the other to make it through the day.
     And in the doing of that…in the “making it through” in the not giving in or giving up, in the “staying plugged into the power” of the Almighty, we allow the light of the world to shine through the cracks in our clay jar.

     So never forget, with Christ living in you and me, when the storms of life sweep over our clay jar and appear to be aimlessly tossing us about, when we are hard pressed, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, and when the cracks in our clay seem to be widening, we hold this treasure of the “all-surpassing” power of the Living God who assures that we will not be destroyed.

     In the end, the fragility of life allows us the privilege of proclaiming the power and glory of our Great God to the world. So don’t give in to despair and hopelessness when they come pounding against your jar. Plug into the power within you and remember the words of Paul, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day.” (v 16) 

© Joyce Powell  

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Are You Having A Heart Attack

Man looks at the outward appearance,
but the LORD looks at the heart.
                    1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

     Medical research tells us that our body’s system of blood vessels, arteries, veins and capillaries is over sixty thousand miles long—enough to wrap the earth more than twice. Every minute, our heart pumps approximately five quarts of blood—two thousand gallons each day. If our heart stops, we die.

     The Bible tells us that our heart is the seat of our emotions from which we can devise good or evil; filled with love or hate. Our heart can be deceitful (Hosea 10:2) Ezekiel talks about having a heart of stone (Ezekiel 11:19) and in Psalm 86:11, David asks God for an undivided heart.

     Then in Proverbs 4:23, Solomon gives a warning about the heart when he writes, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” (NIV)

     Guard, watch, protect, preserve, keep your heart in good working order. It is the “wellspring”—meaning it is the end, the limit, the starting point, the producer of who we are and what we do. Guard it!

     Over a lifetime, many things may attack your heart. Desire can attack your heart and force a decision for right or wrong. Dreams for your future may attack your heart requiring you to choose between God’s path or your own. Emotional pain may attack your heart calling to you to sequester yourself from a world of heartache.

     Heart attacks are satan’s specialty. But God, who formed you in your mother’s womb, who saw your yet unformed body, who ordained the days of your life (Psalm 139) is the same God who causes the heart to pump two thousand gallons of blood each day. He is the same God who connected sixty thousand miles of arteries, vessels, and veins to an organ weighing a few ounces.

     He is the same God who gives us the prescription for surviving and thriving during an emotional or spiritual heart attack: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30 NIV)

     Are you having a heart attack? Trust God! He is the same God who formed your heart, knows your heart and can heal your heart.

© Joyce Powell

Monday, July 6, 2015

Rollercoaster Living

Record my lament;
list my tears on your scroll—
are they not in your record?
          Psalm 56:8 NIV

My heart is steadfast, O God,
My heart is steadfast;
I will sing and make music.
          Psalm 57:7 NIV

     While a young boy, David was chosen by God and anointed by Samuel to be King. However, it would be about fifteen years before David ruled over Judah and a couple of decades before David actually sat on the throne as King over all Israel. During many of those years, he would live as a man on the run with no political power and only a rag tag group of followers willing to obey his commands. Yet David believed God!

     Bible scholars tell us that both Psalm 56 and 57 were written while David was on the run from King Saul. In Psalm 56 we can feel David’s distress as bloodshot eyes overflowed and tears washed his beard. His heart hurt! But in Psalm 57 we feel David’s surge of confidence in God’s willingness to deliver his anointed one through every situation.

     David understood rollercoaster living to the extreme; from tending sheep to killing a giant to playing the harp for the king to being anointed king and then on the run for his life before taking his seat on the royal throne of Israel. David also understood that the same God who helped him shepherd the sheep of his father’s pasture is the same God who anointed and protected him during the good and the bad in his life.

     Like David, you and I also face life’s ups and downs. Life can be an emotional rollercoaster. Some days we are atop the mountain. But! One phone call can quickly plunge us into the depths of the valley. However, while human emotions can change in the blink of an eye, God never changes. He is steadfast in His promises, His love and His care for those who know Him as Father.

     If you feel as though life has trapped you in rollercoaster living, never forget that Jehovah God is the God of the highs and the God of the lows. He sees your tears. You are never alone. Even in the worst of times you can praise Him! Sing and make music! Let God be exalted in your life that His glory may be seen over all the earth! 

© Joyce Powell

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

When You Pray

But when you pray, go into your room,
close the door and pray to your Father,
who is unseen. Then your Father, who
who sees what is done in secret, will
reward you.
                         Matthew 6:6 NIV

     When you pray! When you pray! When you pray! For some reason, prayer—the most powerful tool in the Christian arsenal, is often our weapon of last resort. Be honest!

     When you realize that the month is longer than your money—do you first wring your hands…or pray? When you hear a doctor’s dire prognosis for a loved one—do you first panic in fear…or pray? When you have choices to make that could change the course of your life—do you try to logically decide the answer…or pray?

The suddenly moments in life, those moments that surprise, overtake and overwhelm us are often the moments when we least feel like praying. Yet, those moments, like all the common, mundane and everyday moments of life are important “pray first” opportunities.

Prayer is a matter of the heart. Perhaps that is why Jesus taught the disciples to go into a room and close the door—get alone with God. Prayer is about the privilege of emptying yourself before God and allowing Him to speak, uninterrupted by ringing phones and televisions. Prayer is a time set aside to “Be still and know that I Am God!” (Psalm 46:10)  

I wish I could say that I get it right every time. I do not! I wish I could say that prayer is always my first thought. I cannot! I wish I could say that in every dire circumstance of life, I have rushed directly to the throne room of my Heavenly Father. I have not!

     Like you, there are times that I wring my hands, walk the floor and shed my tears before I run to my Father. But, through the years, those times have become fewer and fewer. The longer I have walked with God, the more I have found Him faithful and constant and so close that when I turn to run to Him, He is already there—waiting.

     Prayer is about an intimate relationship with our loving Heavenly Father. He should be our first thought when we are in need. Rather than running for the phone to call a friend, we should run to our prayer closet to call on Our Father Who Art In Heaven. We will never get a busy signal. His number will never be disconnected, and we will never be put on hold while he answers another line.

     Have you prayed today—just to say, “Good morning, Lord. I love you. I don’t need anything—just wanted to say hello.” I wonder if that might be the prayer He enjoys the most.

     Whatever your day holds, don’t forget that God is ready and waiting to hear you when you pray.

© Joyce Powell