All posts by Darlene's Ponderings

Hello, I am Darlene. My sweet husband and I have been happily married for almost 43 years and counting as I write this. We have three wonderful children. Between them, we have 12 grandchildren, counting one step-grands. And we have three great-grands (one blood born). I have long been a writer and author for God. A Christian for over 50 years, I love the study of His word and love to write out what He teaches me in our times together and to share His ways with others. Though I have been published in magazines, I believe the new frontier is the WW Web, having potential to reach the world long past my days on earth. That is where I sense God's call for my publications. Thus begins Darlene's Ponderings, as I seek to share with you thoughts from Scripture and from life in the hope of helping other God-seekers through Jesus Christ to know and live for Him with greater strength of character, hope and faith.

Morning prayer: 6/25/22

Father, thank You for helping me learn how to better grow tomatoes and prune them with a focus on fruit bearing. A lot of limbs produce no fruit. They just grow, and their growth hinders and limits fruit production. I also learned that the plant’s purpose in fruit production is to make seed so it can make more plants that can produce fruit. Apparently, pruning causes the plant to think it is dying, so it must ramp up fruit production to be sure it has viable seed ready to go. Your creation is awesome. Thank You for understanding of how Your creation works so we can make wise use of all You give us. And Lord, thank You for pruning me so I can bear more good fruit with seed that You can use for Your glory. Please remove and cleanse me of anything that hinders and limits my fruit bearing, growth, and seed spreading. In Jesus…oh yeah. And thanks for the laugh at the look on hubby’s face when I snipped a bigger non-fruit bearing branch so a smaller one with fruit on could have supply for growth. It was priceless. Amen.

Morning Prayer: 6/24/22

Father, thank You that You are a warrior, caring for us watchfully and caring about us affectionately. Draw near to us as we draw near to You in humbled submission, seeking Your face. We need You to show Yourself strong on our behalf, leading us and these we love on Your paths of righteousness for Your Name’s sake. Avenge Yourself on every foe that stands between us, our beloveds, and You. The days are evil, Lord. We watch with earnest expectation and hope of Your soon return, praying nothing and no one of value is left behind. No. Not one. For it is Your desire that none perish, but all come to repentance, enter right relationship with You, and fulfill Your purpose in them. In Jesus, make it so. Amen.

BE a Disciple

‭‭Matthew‬ ‭28:16-20‬ ‬‬

We are called to make disciples: followers of Christ. As we faithfully do that, evangelism happens by accretion.

It is vital that we learn God and live Christ. As we live Christ, we become a light that draws others in from the dark.

Evangelism without discipleship is like making tons of babies and walking off, leaving them squalling to fend for themselves and be overtaken by the wolves of life. Evangelize, yes. But we, the church, must make sure to disciple the evangelized.

To try to disciple others without being a disciple is a façade that hurts the cause of Christ. We must continually draw near to God and learn of Him so God’s light in us is real and bright.

We never outgrow the need to be an actively growing disciple of Christ. And when we do that well, others will draw near to learn what we know, be evangelized, and become disciples that make disciples.

Come Quickly, Lord!

I look around at the trouble and turmoil in all the earth today, and I cry out, “Lord, come quickly! Surely Jesus is coming now, for it cannot possibly get worse on the earth. Surely evil has completed it’s appointed course.” But looking back at 200ish years ago, the time of the plagues and warring crusades; or a hundred years ago, with WWI, the Spanish flu, and WWII, we find the same cry of the heart that cannot fathom evil could possibly get worse.

Here’s the facts: evil has brought its trouble to the earth since Adam and Eve fell to it’s influence and were sent out of that glorious garden of God. Evil remained through the days of Christ, even as Jesus paid a price none of us could even begin to pay. Evil will remain and grow ever stronger until Jesus returns and ushers His own back into that garden of God. Each age watches for Him, calls for His “soon” return, and expects Him in our today, unable to fathom that evil will possibly get worse.

But only The Father knows the day or hour when He will say, “enough” to evil’s trouble, and send Christ to usher in the eternal Kingdom. Ours is not to know the day or the hour, but to live in such a way as to be ready, should His coming be our now. If, in a hundred years, some child of God looks back from their own trouble with thought of, “Surely today, Lord,” may they see faith and faithfulness in our life story to help them stand firm in the wait.

“Therefore be on the alert, for you do not know which day your Lord is coming. But be sure of this, that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭24:42-44‬ ‭‬‬

Choose Love and Grace

“…heal instead of becoming bitter so you can act from your heart, not your pain.”

From experience I have learned that, my being prone to feelings of rejection or a sense of being judged by others because of past hurts, if I am not careful, I will choose to be offended where no offense was intended. Then I become the one who is passing judgment based on my sense of offense rather than seeking God’s truth regarding the other person and their opinion. Doing so closes my ears and causes me to refuse to seek God’s opinion about the insights and concerns of others, and then to deal improperly with a person who may be His messenger to my need. When that happens, I too easily become the offender. The hurting heart tends to hurt hearts.

God continues to teach me to choose love (1 Corinthians 13) and trust God to reveal truth. I am learning that sometimes others see something I am missing or refusing to realize. I need to allow God to help me evaluate their concerns and show me if it is wisdom and instruction from Him. My course has been rightly corrected many times as I refuse offense and seek God’s evaluation.

And there have been times when God showed me the misjudgment of another’s opinion, firming up my resolve. In these times, God always leads me to forgive the other person any offense I may feel, to keep loving and praying for them, remaining in right relationship with them.

The devil uses our tendency to offense to divide and conquer. God directs through wise discernment and love to unite and strengthen. Always choose love and grace over hate and offense. Let God deal with offense (Romans 12:14-21).

PS: I speak my concerns to people I feel love and care for. When I speak, it is out of a sense of God’s leading to do so. Offense is never my intent. Loving and encouraging others in wisdom and righteousness is my intent. I do so with prayer, trusting that I am speaking His truth, not my opinion, and with faith that God will lead the other person to His truth and His way for their situation. And I do so knowing that words from Him will prove true. God’s truth is all that matters.

God has taught me, if I am speaking His truth out of His leading with a right heart attitude and motive, a person refusing my words is truly a rejection of Him, not me. So, if my words are rejected, I have no need to be offended. God will prove whether the words are mine or His.

The thing that hurts more than the rejection of a person is when God tells me to stop speaking His truth to them. When God says to knock the dust off our feet and stop casting the pearls of His truths before those who trample them under foot, that is heart breaking.

We must be careful about choosing offense. Our offense may offend God.

‭‭Lamentations‬ ‭3:37‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

‭‭Ezekiel‬ ‭33:33‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭28:9‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

5/10/22 Prayer

“Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
‭‭Isaiah‬ ‭41:10‬ ‭‬‬

Father, anxiety over the horrors going on in these days is a plague to our hearts. It is too easy to become anxious over so many evils and atrocities we see happening in our day. Your word wisely warns us to not anxiously look around at these things and be overcome by fear, but to remember that You are God. Through trusting belief that knows You are working for our good, even bringing good out of things Your enemy intends for evil, we enter Your rest and find peace that umpires our hearts in these days. Only in keeping our eyes on You can we walk through evil days in ways that honor and glorify You.

Thank You, Lord, that as we turn our hearts to focus on Your faithful truth, You bless us with strength to persevere as we experience Your trustworthy help. Thank You that You uphold us with Your righteous right hand of power, protection, and provision. In Jesus, I rest myself in You and find your peace that passes all comprehensive understanding. Let Umpire Peace lead me in paths of righteousness, uprightness, and right standing with You, not for my earning it, but for Your name’s sake. In Christ, Amen.

Love has Already Chosen You

You may not choose God, but He has chosen you. How do I know that?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.”
‭‭John‬ ‭3:16‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

He loves you so much that He gave His only begotten Son to pay a price you cannot pay, so you can choose a reward you cannot earn: eternity with Him as Father God. If you refuse Him, He will still love you, for He is Love and He cannot deny Himself. He will still love you even while you deny the gift of His Son and choose eternity separated from Him.

However, there will come a time when we all stand before Him. Those who accept His gift while there is still time will enter eternity in His Kingdom. Those who refused His gift will enter an eternity separated from Him. Will they know his hate as they go?

God is love. He does not hate those His Son died to save: all the people of the world. I believe those who refuse Him will know beyond a doubt the fullness of God’s love for them before they are removed from His presence forever, a love we all long for but cannot know except in Him. All who do not choose Him in Christ now will know exactly what they refused: love made full and complete.

Which are you? Are you one who has believed and received this gift of God and are now walking in His love to eternity with Him? Or are you one who has refused His love? It’s your God given choice. No one else can make that choice for you.

Don’t wait until it is too late. Don’t wait until you stand before Him, knowing for the first time the fulness of that love, only to be cast into outer darkness, never to be touched by pure love again. Don’t be one left with nothing but longing for a touch of His love through an eternal hell of knowing His love is out there, just beyond your reach forvermore.

The Heart of the Matter

In a group I am in, where we are working to help each other know how to recession proof our pantries and live lives where we are not dependent on government allotment and dwindling store supplies, the question posed is how are we to be self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency without inadvertently walking out from under reliance on God and His Lordship. Christine Hoover’s thoughts help address this concern in a devotional series titled “With All Your Heart”:

“Remember that you can’t understand your heart. 

“Remember that you can’t reach into your heart and change it. You can certainly alter behaviors and choose a different course of action, but the true work of sanctification happens only as you RESPOND TO THE LEADERSHIP OF THE HOLY SPIRIT. 

“Remember that this is good news, because you have a King who can and, more importantly, willingly does. You are not expected to rule and regulate yourself. WAIT ON HIM.”

In our practice of the wisdom of the ants, storing up in the season of plenty for the season of need, seek God and follow His instruction. We don’t do self-care apart from Him. We walk with Him to do what pleases Him in ways that acknowledge our need of Him and that works under His Lordship. It is a heart issue.

I plant a garden at His inspiration of the wisdom in it, trusting Him for its produce and for strength and ability to know how to store the plenty for the day of need. He is faithful to supply sufficient for me and mine and the wisdom to share with others responsibly. We put trust in God to bless the hunting, fishing, and foraging.

In all things, our faith is in Him who makes effort productive as we look to, follow, and trust Him.

With All Your Heart: Day 7 • Devotional

God’s Invitation

I shared the following in a YouVersion plan conversation, responding to the instruction, “Describe a time you have let fear or fatigue rather than God’s promises shape an experience.”

“I could share many times when God’s word has shaped my thoughts, actions, steps to trust Him and walk by faith, but I guess the area I struggle with most is my sense of security in group relationships. I do okay one on one with people, but I feel like an outsider in group situations. Getting a hold on God’s promises that overcome a spirit of rejection and insecurity is my biggest challenge.”

Thinking on this, I remember the experience of our neighbor inviting me to join her church ladies for fellowship time at her house. It was answered prayer for a season in life when I needed time with other ladies. So the invite was from God through Donna. I knew that, and by God’s grace, I was relaxed and peaceful, enjoying every minute of it.

Thinking on that, it dawns on me: believing the providence of God, that He directs my steps, isn’t every encounter an invite from God to relationship with those I meet along the way, whether one on one or in a group? Shouldn’t that welcome mat be sufficient for me to relax and be the me He invited to that moment in time?

When God calls us to a situation, it’s because He has placed in us qualities and characteristics, gifts and abilities, skills and experience necessary for the encounter. I can trust Him who is my sufficiency. No matter the response of others, if God steps me into it, I am not rejected, I am invited. He is my secure passage. Help me possess this truth, Father.

Molten Gold

Molten Gold in the Throne Room Dream

Years ago, after falling asleep while crying out to God for my children and grandchildren, I had this dream that God has greatly used to help me trust Him more fully with my children’s relationships with Him.

In the dream, I am sitting in a just-my-size throne at the right hand of Jesus, facing the side of His just-His-size throne, the armrest of which is a good foot above my head at standing height. It was a huge throne, holding His bigger than life frame.

So I’m sitting facing the side of His armrest, looking up at Jesus’ smiling face, looking down at me in my little throne – an exact match to His own. He very lovingly says, “You sit here. I’ve got this.” Then He faces forward, His great smile exuberant with joy.

Turning my gaze to see what has Him smiling so enormously, I see human figures of pure, molten gold, all shining so brightly that beams of light rose from each one up into the heavens. I instantly recognized that these before Him were my children, their mates, and grandchildren – many more than I currently have – generations standing before His throne: in the throne room of the Master Goldsmith that is working diligently, performing His transformational will in each one.

It’s hard to see our kids struggle: even harder still to realize that struggle as the fires of testing, used of God to remove the dross from the gold in them. We may not see what the Father is doing with full comprehensive understanding, but we can know that He is faithfully working in response to our prayers.

This dream led me to study the significance of being placed on the right hand or left hand side of God. The left hand side is totally protective. It is where we are when God tells us to be still and let Him do it all: it’s the side of His shield, covering us. The right hand side is a place of protection as well, but it is also the place of imputed authority. Jesus the King gives us authority as parents to participate in what He is doing. Taking the authority He gives and using it righteously keeps us under His protective cover.

In my dream, the authority seen there for me to practice is to pray, to trust, to watch with the earnest expectation of hope’s assurance, to await further instruction for opportune times to participate in what the Lord is doing (loving, helping, teaching, instructing, encouraging, etc.), and to obey Him.

My throne always faces Him, not the problems that concern me. I can only be ready to do my part as He gives opportunity when my focus in life is Him, His throne, His authority, His opinion, His purpose and plan. And I can only receive His clear instruction when my heart is tuned to His, in faith’s believing trust.

Matthew 28:18-20 AMPC

One, Unhindered

One may have to fight for the right of religion, but faith is a heart issue that cannot be dictated, hindered, or stopped.

One may have to fight for the right of assembly, but worship praise and prayer is a personal and private intimacy that cannot be dictated, hindered, or stopped.

One may have to fight for the right to speak what we believe, but belief is a personal choice that cannot be dictated hindered or stopped.

Faith in God is an intimate relationship, a personal choice and discipline with God that no worldly, fleshly, demonic force can dictate, hinder, or stop.

When individuals praise, worship and pray, they do so in the personal and real Presence of God, even in the quiet of our souls, where we are transported to the throne room of the Father, made one with Him and each other. Worship assembles us as one before God, inseparable for all eternity, now and forever, whether we stand under the same roof, or seemingly separated, but truly in one heart.

This deep, abiding, personal relationship cannot be dictated, hindered, or stopped. Not even death can separate us from this love life with God that makes us One. Stand Firm in Faith, and do not grow weary in well doing.

Morning Prayer 3/25/22

Father, You are my exceedingly great reward. Thank You for meeting my every need according to Your riches in glory as I focus myself on fully seeking You as my first, most vital need and necessity. My desire is for You. In finding You, all else is taken care of. I have no lack. Thank You, Lord, for meeting me at my greatest need. In Jesus, amen.

Pardoned and Redeemed

“Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits; Who pardons all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases; Who redeems your life from the pit, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and compassion; Who satisfies your years with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle.” Psalms‬ ‭103:2-5‬ ‭‬‬

This in verse 4 really struck me. Forgiveness 1: participates with Christ’s redemptive work toward the person we forgive. We accept Christ’s payment for the sin done against us. He bought it, so the sin done against us is no longer ours to punish or exact payment for through vengeance. It’s God’s to deal with. Let it go. And then…

2: He crowns us with lovingkindness and compassion, not only covering us with His, but crowning us with responsibility, authority and resource to give our love and compassion in His name to those we forgive. His mercy is new every morning. His compassions fail not. This is the reservoir – the River – of resource we work out of as we practice forgiveness toward others.

Father, thank You for empowering forgiveness in me through Your redemptive work toward those who sin against me. I accept the price You paid and relinquish their debt to You. Now pour forth through me Your lovingkindness and compassion to them. Make it new and fresh every morning, and may they see You in my eyes and feel You in my love actions. In Jesus, amen.

Get Up and Turn Again

“I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, WHEN ONCE YOU HAVE TURNED AGAIN, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:32

We turn away. God doesn’t. Jesus knew that Peter would fall. He also knew that Peter would get back up, dust off, and turn back to follow Jesus: looking to Him and walking with Him anew. And Jesus knew that during the process, Peter would learn valuable truth he would then be able to use to strengthen and encourage others.

We are perfect in Christ, our essence already seated with Him in the Kingdom of God, assured of our position with Christ for all eternity. When we leave this world to cross over the line at those pearly gates, all of this world and worldliness will be burned away, so only righteousness and godliness enters in those Heavenly walls. All of this world that is still attached to us will be no more, but in our flesh existence and fleshly battles here and now, we are continually being perfected.

Just as a child learns by trial and error, gaining strength and maturing, so are we to do in this journey. Get up, dust off, turn back to Jesus, continue walking with Him, take what we learn to heart, and strengthen others. The more we do that, the better we get at letting go of world and worldliness now, the less there will be to burn away when our earthly body gives way to eternal glory.

1 Corinthians 3:10-17

Morning prayer for 3/19/22

Two devotional’s this morning point out Your faithful, abundant supply for our NEEDS, Father. In scripture, when You say “truly, truly” or You repeat a thought, it signals a truth vital to our need to understand and receive it, so thank You for this reminder in these troubling days.

You don’t always give us what we want, but You ALWAYS give our need with abundance. Discerning the difference between want and need is the challenge at times. I pray for wisdom to know this difference.

Realizing that need is more than food, clothing, and shelter is as important as differentiating want from need. Trusting that when You call us to a position, You abundantly supply our need of wisdom, discernment, gifting, talent, skill and ability to fulfill the call is vital.

Realizing that You withholding a desire is provision for a need we aren’t seeing is critical to our faith in trusting You as well. And in these troubling days, trusting Your provision, protection, peace and power is a great need.

Thus I cry out with faith for You to meet our every need according to Your riches in glory, beginning with our need to trust Your faithfulness to fulfill this great promise to us. Fill me and these with me with faith to trust and believe Your faithful, abundant, supply. In Jesus, amen.

A Morning Prayer

Father, grant me to have a “God habit”: to habitually walk with You, seeking Your face as I trust You who are my first, most vital need and necessity to respond to my seeking heart. You, Lord, are my number one confidant, counselor, comfort, companion, champion, King. I trust You. Father, grant me greater depths of the knowledge and understanding of You and Your ways as I spend time with You day by day, breath by breath, and step by step. You are the greater One and You are faithful. This I know in Christ, amen.

God’s Weapon

“You caused sentence to be heard from heaven; the earth feared and was still– When God arose to [establish] judgment, to save all the meek and oppressed of the earth. Selah [pause, and calmly think of that]! Surely the wrath of man shall praise You; the remainder of wrath shall You restrain and gird and arm Yourself with it.”
‭‭Psalm‬ ‭76:8-10‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

To my understanding, this says that when we have righteous anger, anger fed by God’s anger over an evil, it is a praise to His ears. He restrains and dictates that anger for His purpose, arming Himself with it for His use.

Father, I’ve experienced righteous anger, restrained and used by You. Thank You for that experience. I surrender my anger to You and trust You to use me as You will, to deal with every evil. Make me Your victorious weapon against evil. In Jesus, amen.

Longing for Free Fish

“The rabble who were among them had greedy desires; and also the sons of Israel wept again and said, “Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic, but now our appetite is gone. There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”” Numbers 11:4-6 NASB1995

Oh how dangerous it is and can be to look back at the past and long for it. Here the people of God long for fish they “used to eat free”. They forget their slavery. They worked and died for those “free” fish. An old song I remember called it owing one’s soul to the company store.

The problem with longing for the past is we too readily forget the bad as we covet that which we see as a “good” lost. And we refuse the good of God we possess and are going toward when we long for old days. Longing for the old also robs of power, focus, and success in realizing the new God has for us. We cannot be all we desire to be in Christ while longing for old days and old ways.

Eyes up. Focus now. Press forward.

Numbers‬ ‭11:18-20‬ ‭‬‬

Set Your Hearts

“IF THEN you have been raised with Christ [to a new life, thus sharing His resurrection from the dead], aim at and seek the [rich, eternal treasures] that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. And set your minds and keep them set on what is above (the higher things), not on the things that are on the earth.” ‭‭Colossians‬ ‭3:1-2‬ ‭AMPC‬‬

The picture from YouVersion uses the word “heart” in place of mind. “Mind, thought, think, be mindful, understand,” is the more accurate translation, but I believe “heart” covers the intent of the passage. We are to set our heart’s desires on the things of God.

All we are is to want the things above where God is, not the things of this world. Beyond simply keeping God’s desire, design, and purpose in mind, we are to hold it as our greatest treasure, desiring alignment with it and achievement of it above all else.

Put your heart into it. Set your heart’s desire, with every thought, on things above where God is.

The anointing of the cleansed leper

Leviticus‬ ‭14:13-18‬ ‭‬‬

I don’t recall ever noticing the anointing of the cleansed leper’s right ear lobe, thumb, and big toe with blood as is done for the priest, and I especially do not recall the anointing oil applied in each spot over the blood: all done on the right side, the side of imputed power and authority from God. How powerful a picture of not only cleansing, but supply of power, authority, ability.

Then to look up the significance of each body part: the ear for empowered hearing, not only to hear one another, but more importantly, to hear God; the thumb representing authority in ministry and service; the big toe, empowering a stable, strong, straight walk. So powerful.

Father, thank You for cleansing me of the spiritual leprosy of sin that separates us from You. I praise You for the blood of Jesus that fully covers us, and pray the powerful anointing of your Spirit for hearing, service, and a powerful walk with You. In Jesus, amen.

DAY 40 — “I’m Limited”

“Today we are fasting from the thought that says, “I’m limited”.

“Perhaps you’ve felt limited by your past, your upbringing, or your pain. We all have something we think may limit us.”

As I read this today, I know this thought process has been in me all my days. My daddy was hard working and always did his best for us. But being from a moderate income family with momma’s health and mental issues, I have always felt lesser, limited, held back.

As I read this today, I realize I must transmute myself into the family of my Father. Lord, Chang me. Help me to realize I am only limited by thinking that fails to realize and walk in “The Lord God, my Father, is my Shepherd, to feed, guide, and shield me: I shall not lack.” No limits with You. What You call me to, You empower and supply. Thank You Lord.

Fast From Wrong Thinking: Day 40 • Devotional

Bless the Lord!

“I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. My soul will make its boast in the Lord; The humble will hear it and rejoice. O magnify the Lord with me, And let us exalt His name together.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭34:1-3‬ ‭NASB1995‬‬

BLESS – to make happy. To cause God’s heart to rejoice.

I thank You, Father, that You love us. Thank You that You are continually in our midst, a victorious warrior. Thank You that You exult over us with joy, quiet in Your love for us; yet You rejoice over us with shouts of joy. I pray to never quench or grieve You Spirit, but to know and resource Your heart’s rejoicing.
Zephaniah 3:17

He Makes Me

From the 23rd Psalm, AMPC

I have had Psalm 23 in the classic Amplified version of scripture as my focus for meditation since the 1st of this year. A friend asked me the other day to share any insights I have in it. Awakened by a noise this morning at about 3:30 AM, I started reciting the chapter in my attempt to get back to sleep. Suddenly, as I quoted one line, new understanding grabbed me, opening up this beautiful passage as never before.

“The Lord is my Shepherd to feed, guide, and shield me: I shall not lack.”

This is God’s “who”. He is the Good Shepherd, not because it’s what He does, but because it’s who He is. It is His nature to feed, guide and shield.

The shield is everything from the Warriors shield, including the armor of God, with its helmet of salvation; to the anointing oil with its protective cover and healing balm; to the shield of shelter that hides us under His wing from enemy attach and the worldly elements of heat, cold, rain, sleet, and snow; hate, menace, and torment.

This is His “Who”. From provision of every need, to guidance – wisdom, discernment, to shielding, whether shelter or protective cover: we have no lack of Him – The Shepherd of our soul.

“He makes me…” “He makes me to…”. This is not force over me. It is action and purpose in me.

“He makes me to lie down in fresh, tender, green pastures.” He made us as receptacles. We are created for Him to pour Himself into us. He gives His first and best to us, satisfying and satiating us so that we lie down full and ready to enter His rest, sensing that we are safe and secure in Him. I am awestruck by the assurance He gives that causes my entire being to rest itself in Him.

“He leads me beside the still and restful waters.” This is not rapidly moving waters that can sound wonderful and make you want to kick back and mellow in the peace of it. It’s another place of provision and protection.

Sheep’s wool gets heavy and is very absorbent. When they get wet in deeper water, the weight becomes too great for their legs. Falling over, unable to get up, they drown. The Good Shepherd finds shallow, still or gently flowing watering spots where sheep can drink without drowning.

He does not “leave” them beside still waters. He “leads” them, remaining nearby and watchful, ready to help them up should they fall. Whether we bear the weight of this world, the weight of our responsibilities, or whatever weight is weighing us down and drowning us, the Good Shepherd is our Lifeguard, standing at the ready to respond to our need.

In these places of provision, guidance, and protection, “He refreshes and restores my life: my self.” “My soul (NASB).” The essence of who I am. We learn who we are – who He created us to be, as we walk with Him, knowing His Who at work in us. Then, as we get good at that…

“He leads me in paths of righteousness, uprightness, and right standing with Him, NOT for my earning it, BUT for His name’s sake.”

He directs us into righteousness for His reputation. As we follow Him, we don’t have to fret our ups and downs; only trust that He will get us where we need to be for the glory of His name. Our reputation should express His effective work in our lives.

I think of Moses prayer in Exodus 33. “And Moses said to the Lord, ‘If Your Presence does not go with me, do not carry us up from here! For by what shall it be known that I and Your people have found favor in Your sight? Is it not in Your going with us so that we are distinguished, I and Your people, from all the other people upon the face of the earth?’” (Exodus 33:15-16)

“Yes! Though I walk through the deep, sunless {or Son-less} valley of the shadow of death, I will fear or dread no evil, for You are with me! Your rod to protect and Your staff to guide, they comfort me.”

No matter how bad things are in the world around us, God is and ALWAYS will be God – The Good Shepherd who feeds, guides, and shields us. I shall not lack! So there is no need for me to fear any evil or dread anything I might possibly find or have to face in the valley. In that valley…

“You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies.”

He still Shepherds us in desolate, wilderness places of dark shadows. When the enemy is raising a raucous all around us, we can lie down, satisfied, satiated, safe, secure, and rested in Him. Though we may be unable to clearly perceive Him in dark, sunless places, we can trust He is there, working on our behalf. That is His Who and He is always doing Himself. Trusting that will strengthen our stance in dark places, for as He is, so also are we. Keep doing yourself in Christ.

“You anoint my head with oil!” This is a mighty shield of protection, I would liken to the helmet of salvation.

Flies, gnats, and other pests swarm the head of sheep. They lay their eggs in the skin, eyes, and ears. These form itchy sores as the larva eat the flesh and begin to burst forth. It causes the sheep to go nuts. They will thrash around, hitting their heads on rocks, trying to get relief and kill the infestation, even killing themselves in the process. Oil protects from the insects being successful at laying their eggs, kills and heals infested, infected areas, and protects the head from injury in head butts – whether in the battle, in discord, or at play with other sheep.

As we experience God feeding us and protecting us even in the midst of a swarming enemy, “My brimming cup runs over.”

We are the cup. The living water of God gushes from us to role downhill to other sheep, some not of His fold, drawing them in, refreshing them, helping them know, “He makes me to lie down….”

“Surely or only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life!”

The original language’s first word, given here as “surely or only” can be translated to either surely or only: so take the “or” out.

“Surely only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life!”

Back in Exodus 33, in verse 18 Moses requests God to show him His glory. God replies, “I will make all My GOODNESS pass before you, and I will proclaim My name, THE Lord, before you; for I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show MERCY and LOVING-kindness on whom I will show MERCY and LOVING-kindness.” (Exodus 33:19 AMPC)

“Surely only goodness, mercy, and unfailing love shall follow me all the days of my life!” We are meant to know, recognize, and express the glory of God. He who feeds, guides, and shields us does so in ways that expresses His glory and makes His name known…for His name’s sake.

“And through the length of my days, the house of the Lord and His presence shall be my dwelling place.” The house of the Lord…the Temple of God: that is what you and I are, corporately and individually.

His presence is in the house, Beloved. My brimming cup runs over. This is what He makes the “me” I am. He makes me.

Draw Near to God

Looking out the kitchen window to the hill blocking view of the valley below, I recognize the need to top the hill if I want to know the valley layout. God is atop the hill of the deep, sunless valleys of life. Stick close to the Good Shepherd, and he will reveal the paths of life and point the way through the valley.

Deceptive Conscience

“I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you. …” John 14:16-17, 16:8-11

As a Christian who believes Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life, I don’t believe I’ve seen anything that makes me sadder than this ideology pictured below that says there is no such thing as sin.

It is true that, apart from God, our conscience does not recognize sin. Our conscience is dead to God, separated from Him, unable to know His righteousness so we can see sin’s contrast and the judgment of God against it. For that, we must have the work of the Spirit of God, drawing us to God and empowering our realization of how our lives fall short of God’s glory, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23)

To believe that sin does not separate us from God is to believe the lie of Satan, “…You surely will not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and YOU WILL BE LIKE GOD, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:1-5)

You see, they were already like God – we were created in His image, purely good, with no evil in them. Their conscience was pure, having no thought of sin, for they were like God in all His goodness, following Him in trusting purity. Then the devil led them to doubt the goodness of God and sin entered the heart of humankind, separating them from God and deadening the purity of our conscience.

Now, apart from the help of the Spirit of God, we cannot discern our sin or understand sin’s nature, because we cannot know God. The Devil will deceive us into thinking we know God, leading us to a type of god, a false god, if it will keep us from understanding our sin nature and our need of a Savior. Without God working to draw us to truth and His Spirit opening the eyes of our heart to discern sin in us, separating us from God, we cannot acknowledge need of the Savior when we refuse to believe sin exists and our conscience is deceived. We are lost forever, separated from God and doomed to an eternity without Him, never to know intimacy with the One True God.

“And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged.” John 16:8-11

“Let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Hebrews 10:22

Living God’s Priorities

Matthew 22:34-40 NASB1995

God’s priorities:

  1. Love God
  2. Love others
  3. Make disciples

Loving God follows Him at all cost, keeping all He deems right and true, knowing relationship with Him as great reward, holding Him as first, most vital need and necessity. Love of God desires to please and honor Him as of greatest importance.

Loving others sets an example of loving God that helps them know God and His ways, so they, too, grow to love Him above all.

Making disciples not only teaches others God’s priorities, but it lives a life that sets an example worth following, that helps them understand loving God above all and loving others as we love self.

Jesus is saving grace, and He is the perfect example of loving God first and foremost, loving others as we love self, and making disciples that follow the example of Jesus in keeping God first above all. Following Jesus’s example realizes the importance of righteous living according to God’s laws and directives. It also recognizes that “my” sin gives a false understanding of God that leaves others with the impression that sin is okay because God forgives. Loving God and others realizes that “my” sin sets a stumbling block before others that hinders their relationship with God and their understanding of loving God first and foremost, causing them to stumble in their following hard after Him.

Father, forgive me. Empower me to truly love You with all my heart, mind, soul, and strength; and to love others as myself. Make my life an example of discipleship in Christ that honors You as God and helps others know how to truly love You above all else. Empower my repentance in every area of my life that sets a stumbling block before others. In Jesus, I take up my cross of self denial daily and seek to follow hard after You in the example of Christ. Amen.

The Wisdom of Silence

“O that you would be completely silent, And that it would become your wisdom! Please hear my argument And listen to the contentions of my lips. …Your memorable sayings are proverbs of ashes, Your defenses are defenses of clay (fleshly thought and comprehension).” – Job‬ ‭13:5-6, 12‬

The wisdom of silence. Oh how difficult it is to learn: especially when we want so badly to help and to impact for good. I do believe this my greatest weakness. Knowing when to speak and when to just be silent with others is a challenge. (Resist that comment, please. 😂)

In the story of Job, we see two instances where silence is truly golden. One God has been working to grow me in for years! It is knowing when to stop speaking God’s truth to those who refuse to hear. It is extremely sad when God says, “Stop casting your pearls before swine.” When that happens, it is vital to practice the wisdom of silence and leave the wayward heart to God.

Job is very put out by his friends, who are judging his situation with eyes and hearts of clay. His ears are shut off to everything they are saying because he knows their judgment is wrong. And their ears are closed to him because they believe their understanding of the situation must be correct. Job’s words to them are pearls under their feet. Their words to him are proverbs of ash.

When we are speaking needed truth to someone who refuses it, God is the one they reject, and it is He, alone, who can deal with them. Stop casting the pearls of God’s truth and wisdom out for them to trample under foot. Turn, instead, to speaking to God for His mercy and grace to open their spiritual eyes and ears to receive Him-His truth.

Job keeps turning to God, pleading over his situation, knowing he’s done nothing to deserve his plight, and unable to understand it’s cause, but he fails to pray for his friends with understanding of their position.

“Be silent before me so that I may speak; Then let come on me what may. Why should I take my flesh in my teeth And put my life in my hands? Though He slay me, I will hope in Him. Nevertheless I will argue my ways before Him. This also will be my salvation, For a godless man may not come before His presence. Listen carefully to my speech, And let my declaration fill your ears.” – Job‬ ‭13:13-17‬ ‭‬‬

Too often we strive to make the other person understand instead of praying to Him who gives understanding.

The second situation in Job’s story where we see the need of wise silence is when our flesh-eyes are insufficient to see and know the whole story. We so want to help the hurting heart in seasons of extreme grief and turmoil, that the proverbial truths of God become ashes – burned up, insignificant truths to the hearer. Until there is greater understanding and the hurting heart is ready to hear, it is better to be silent, lest harsh, unrighteous judgment falls to us, as it did to Job and his friends. Job’s friends judged him guilty because of false understanding of God’s truths applied to him, and Job judged God with unrighteous harshness because of lack of understanding the purpose of God.

As I’ve shared before, God is always dealing with me before He has me share with you. This is an area He constantly works on with me. When I read Job, I’m always struck by the friends reactions to Job’s pain in chapter 2:

“Then they sat down on the ground with him for SEVEN DAYS AND seven nights WITH NO ONE SPEAKING A WORD to him, for they saw that his pain was very great.” – Job‬ ‭2:13‬ ‭‬‬

To slow down and just be with someone in their extreme grief, saying nothing, only listening. To practice the wisdom of silence and wait for God. It is a vital wisdom to develop. I’m working at it. These harsh, hard, and pressing days, when there is much grief and pain in the world, and when so many have hearts closed off to God and His truth, I find myself on constant training ground.

It was not until the end of Job’s journey of trial that he prayed for his friends, and then only at God’s instruction. With that I pray:

Father, bless me and those with me to have wisdom to understand and comprehend from Your viewpoint. May we have wisdom to know when and how to speak, and when to practice the wisdom of silence. May we have ears to hear clearly and discernment to understand fully. Let the words of our mouths and the meditation of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight, useful to You for building up and not tearing down O Lord, our Rock and our Redeemer. In Jesus, make it so. Amen

Declaration: By Your grace, O God, “My mouth will speak wisdom, And the meditation of my heart will be understanding.” – Psalms‬ ‭49:3‬ ‭

A Quick Word of Hope

“THE Lord is my Shepherd [to feed, guide, and shield me], I shall not lack. …You anoint my head with oil….” Psalm 23:1, 5 AMPC

Our good shepherd anoints His sheep because they are important to Him. In doing so, He honors them individually as the object of His great love and care, marking them as His own with His healing, life giving, anointing oil. That is exciting to me. Looking at the purpose of a shepherd oiling a sheep’s head and applying it to us as God’s spiritual sheep, we find:

1. Oil protects our heads as we butt against the opposition found in this world, and even against differing viewpoints and personality issues in the church.

2. Oiling protects against enemy attacks set to steal, kill, destroy, hinder, and irritate.

3. Oiling protects against sickness of body, soul, spirit, mind, and strength.

4. Oiling softens and heals cuts, scrapes, scabs, and scars.

The Good Shepherd loves us, therefore He tends our individual need, lovingly, watchfully, and carefully anointing our heads with the oil of His healing balm.

Cast “the whole of your care [all your anxieties, all your worries, all your concerns, once and for all] on Him, for He cares for you affectionately and cares about you watchfully.” 1 Peter 5:7 AMPC

Trust God’s Word

‭‭Genesis‬ ‭12:1-13‬:4 ‭NASB
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Genesis12:1-13:4&version=NASB1995

God made wonderful promises to Abram that led him to journey to the promised land. There God reaffirmed His promise and Abram built an alter of remembrance and worshipped the Lord.

Famine struck the land, moving Abram to Egypt, away from the physical reminder of God’s promise. Forgetting God’s Word to Him, Abram’s thoughts turned to fear and some bad decisions, but God was faithful to His Word, and Abram saw first hand the effects of God’s faithfulness.

When Abram returned to the place of the altar of remembrance, he worshipped the Lord anew, remembering God’s promise with the added benefit of experience.

Wayward thoughts of fear and doubt are dangerous to us, leading us to bad decisions. It is vital that we remember God’s promises to us wherever we are and treasure in our hearts every fulfillment of them.

This is the example of Christ to us. He kept God’s Word and the destiny of God’s promises, purpose, and plan ever before His Eyes. Knowing His time was in God’s hands, and that God’s plan was best and His faithfulness was sure kept Him safe and on course to destiny. The same is true for us as we Hide God’s Word in hearts of faith, trusting His faithfulness to complete it.

FATHER, BLESS US

Father, begin with me. Search my heart. Father, reveal yourself to me. Make me know Your ways. Reveal to me every place in my life where my ways do not align with Yours. Instruct me in righteousness and cleanse me. Adjust my course to walk in Your ways and have Your favor. May Your light shine through me to reveal my God to all around me.

Father, I pray You for me and for all I love and care for: from self, to family, friends, church, and work associates; to city, state, and nation; and, indeed, to all throughout the earth. Let us know Your ways that we may know You, so that we may find favor in Your sight. Consider Your people, Lord, and lead us in Your presence, for apart from Your presence, how can it be known that we have found favor in Your sight, and that we are Your people? Is it not by Your going with us, so that we, I and Your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?

Lord, I pray You, show us Your glory! Make all Your goodness pass before us. Proclaim Your Name before us. Be gracious to us and show us Your compassion. Grant us to seek Your face with wholehearted fervor and to find You watchfully and affectionately caring for us.

Be gracious, O God, according to Your lovingkindness; according to the greatness of Your compassion blot out our transgressions. Wash us thoroughly from all iniquity and cleanse us from all sin. Make us to know our transgressions, and that our sin is against You. You alone, we have insulted as we have willfully sinned and done what is evil in Your sight. Make Your people and the nations in which we reside know that You are justified when You speak and blameless when You judge. You, Lord, desire truth in our innermost being, and in the hidden part You will make us know wisdom so that we may repent, make amends, and turn to walk Your way.

I, alone, stand before You, with hope in Jesus, my Advocate, The propitiation for my sin. I cry out to You, trusting You through Christ, to purify me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow. Make me to hear joy and gladness. Let the bones which You have broken rejoice. Hide Your face from my sins and blot out all my iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence nor take Your Holy Spirit from me, but draw near to me as I draw near to You, and fill me to overflowing with the power of Your presence. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit of obedience. Then use me, O God, to teach transgressors Your ways, and turn sinners to You.

Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; that my tongue may joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it. You are not pleased with burnt offering, thus You gave my Jesus, once and for all; Your Son for me, because You love me. I stand amazed! And, OH, so grateful. Thus, the sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.

By Your favor do good to Your humbled people. Build the walls of our cities and the nation in which You make us to dwell in safety. Grant provision to our dwelling places, for in its provision of rains in due season and productive work for our hands, Your people live in welfare: possessing health, happiness, and good fortune; well-being. Delight Yourself in us as we humbly walk in the gift of our Jesus.

Father, fill Your people with peace that passes understanding and umpires life. Grant us to so greatly trust You as to remain in Your rest, despite the turmoil of evil in this world. Let us not fret because of evildoers, nor be envious toward wrongdoers. May they wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb, either surrendering to You in newness of Life, or falling to Your justice.

Grant us to trust in You, O God, and do good. May we dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. May we delight ourselves in You and be such a delight to Your heart that You may inspire and fulfill the desires of our hearts.

Father, I commit myself and all my ways to You, trusting with ever growing fervor in You, believing that You will accomplish all that concerns me. I ask You for all around me to have this full assurance and commitment to You, so they, too, may know You and experience Your faithful care. Bring forth our righteousness as the light and our judgment as the noonday. Increase us to rest in You and wait patiently for You. Rest us in You so we will not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes. Equip us to cease from anger and forsake wrath, refusing to fret, knowing that it leads only to evildoing.

Father, You promise that evildoers will be cut off, but those who wait for the Lord, will inherit the land. Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. We will look carefully for his place and he will not be there. The humble will inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant prosperity. Though the wicked plots against the righteous and gnashes at him with his teeth, You, O Lord, laugh at him, for You see his day is coming.

Lord, the wicked have drawn the sword and bent their bow to cast down the afflicted and the needy, to slay those who are upright in conduct. May their sword enter their own heart, and their bows be broken.

Thank You, Lord, for drawing us to Yourself and helping us to know that better is the little of the righteous than the abundance of many wicked. Thank You that we are the righteousness of God in Christ Jesus, made blameless in Him and by Him. For the arms of the wicked will be broken, but You, O Lord, sustain the righteous. You know the days of the blameless, and their inheritance will be forever, through Jesus Christ the Lord. May we trust in Your gracious Gift and not be ashamed in the time of evil. In the days of famine, be our abundance.

The wicked will perish; and the enemies of the Lord will be like the glory of the pastures, they vanish—like smoke they vanish away. The wicked borrows and does not pay back, but the righteous is gracious and gives. For those blessed by You will inherit the land, and those cursed by You will be cut off.

Lord God, I cry out for those in danger of being cut off. I pray You, open their eyes to see, their ears to hear, their minds to know, their hearts to understand, and grant them a spirit of repentance before it is too late to know Your gracious favor. Draw them to Yourself while there is still time.

We cry out for a great spiritual awakening to You in our land, and a great revival in Your Church. Deliver Your people from love grown cold and lukewarm commitment, to the heat of abundant fervor for You and Your ways. Empty us of self and ungodly, worldly, fleshly desire. Fill us up with the Power of Your Presence and spill us out to Your glory and crown: to the glory of Your great name.

Establish our steps, O God. May You delight Yourself in our way. When we fall, let us not be hurled headlong. Hold us by Your righteous right hand and do not forsake us nor let our descendants be found begging for bread. Grant us supply, including a heart that is gracious and lends, and make our descendants a blessing. May we depart from evil and do good, abiding forever in You.

You love justice and You never forsake Your godly ones; they are preserved forever. We cry out for the generations: draw our children to Yourself. May they be numbered among the righteous who inherit the land and dwell in it forever. May their mouths utter wisdom, and their tongues speaks justice. May Your law be in their hearts so their steps do not slip. Do not leave them in the hands of the wicked or let them be condemned when they are judged. May they faithfully wait for the Lord and keep Your way, that You may exalt them to inherit the land; and may our eyes see it.

Mark the blameless man, and behold the upright; that the man of peace may have a posterity. The salvation of the righteous is from You, O Lord; You are our strength in time of trouble. Lord, help us and delivers us. Delivers us from the wicked and save us, as we take refuge in You.

In the name of Jesus, I pray You, regard us as good and restore our land. Set Your eyes on us for good, and bring us back as a great nation of people who seek hard after You. Build us up and do not overthrow us. Plant us and do not pluck us up. Give to us a heart to know You, for You alone are the Lord. Make the US to be Your people, and You be our One and Only God. Only by Your grace will a whole nation turn to You with their whole heart. This is what we cry out for, knowing that NOTHING is too difficult for You, and that it is Your desire that none perish, but all come to repentance. Thus we pray with believing hearts in the blessed and holy and honored Name above all names, Jesus, the Christ, amen.

Psalms‬ ‭139:23-24‬ ‭NASB

Exodus‬ ‭33:12-23‬ ‭NASB

‭‭1 Peter‬ ‭5:7‬ ‭AMPC‬

Psalms‬ ‭51:1-19‬ ‭NASB

‭‭Jeremiah‬ ‭29:7‬ ‭NASB

‭‭Psalms‬ ‭37:1-40‬ ‭NASB

Jeremiah‬ ‭24:4-7‬ ‭NASB

‭‭2 Peter‬ ‭3:9‬ ‭NASB

‭‭Philippians‬ ‭2:9-11‬ ‭NASB