Focus on God                                                       

Commission of Obedience
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Paul Christian
 
The Past is a Platform for Joy
She sat there in her comfy oversized recliner chair facing the corner, knees pulled up close and Bible on her lap.  She sat close beside a small window with the blinds drawn for some bright morning light to shine on the pages of the small print.  She snuggled into her spot with a red lap blanket and a warm cup of coffee.  This was her war room.  She planned on fasting and opened her book to Nehemiah 1, which had some perfect scripture to wrap in prayer around her needs. 

God had other plans.

She was a good person.  She followed the rules and was never rebellious.  As a matter of fact, she strictly played by the book.  She went to church and was an active part of the congregation.  She lived a good Christian life and really seemed to have it all together. But, being human she was far from perfect.  She had a stubborn side.  That stubborn side was what got her into trouble.

Just like every single one of us, she had those times in her life that the past would come back to haunt her.  This particular morning, that she intended to start off in a fast, was one of those times.  In these quiet moments she recalled, by divine appointment, some of the things in her past that cut to her soul.  Some memories were due to choices she had made and some were at the hands of others, but all of it was smothered in a blanket of pain and shame.  In the very moment when the past crept into the present and she was overwhelmed, the love of the Holy Spirit sweep in and remind her, “You are forgiven.  This pain does not belong to you.”  In that same moment she felt forgiven and free.  These things had no hold on her and her identity in Christ was solidified.  Tears and silent weeping filled the corner where she sat.

Her thoughts turned to Nehemiah 8:10b, “This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”

The Israelites had done some things in their past that turned to consequences for them.  Now, was one of the times in their history that God was causing them to come out of the past and live for Him once again.  When Ezra, the priest in the book of Nehemiah, read God’s words to them they started to grieve realizing they had been doing it all wrong!  Their focus was on the sins of the past, which came back to haunt them in this moment.  Haven’t we all been there at some point in our journey?

 In this verse, Nehemiah and Ezra were instructing the Israelites to a better way.  We are also to take our focus off of ourselves, our past, and our sins. We are to put our focus on God and all that He is and all that He does for us!  Then rejoice!  Celebrate!  How can there be grieving when right at our door is the love of God who has called us to live with Him, removing our own burdens from us as far as the east is from the west? 

Sisters, we are forgiven and have forgiveness to give!  This is good news!  Celebrate God in your life today because His joy is ours.  Let Him have our haunting pasts and live with joy.  It is real.

Dear God, thank you.  Praise you for loving us right down to the dirty details of our past.  Thank you for freeing us from our shackles and replacing them with joy.  LORD, please make this miracle real in the hearts of those beautiful women who are reading it today.  Let us understand and live in such a way that we are witnesses to your powerful love, forgiveness, and joy!  For your glory, amen.

11.9.17
  
Nehemiah 8:10b
"This day is holy to our Lord.  Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.”
Follow the Leader
Follow the leader.  What a fun childhood game.  We all wanted to be the leader, didn’t we?  Getting to be the leader was for sure the ‘funnest’ spot in the whole game.  Both of my girls let me know every time they came home from preschool when it was their turn to be the line leader.  Truth be told, it was their favorite.  The caboose job, however, was always a little disappointing.  It was more of a drag to have to live through that day continuously being at the end of the line.  Both ends of the line come with good lessons, though.

I read somewhere a story about a shepherd and his sheep, so let me paraphrase what I read.  The shepherd led the sheep to a river with rushing waters.  Since the sheep naturally shy away from moving waters the shepherd had to find a way to get them to cross over.  The shepherd then grabbed a lamb, put him on his shoulders and walked the little guy to the other side.  As the mother of the lamb watched she decided to follow the shepherd and proceeded to lead the entire flock across the river safely.

Isn’t this a wonderful l picture of Jesus?  I sat in awe for a few minutes as I pondered this.  Jesus certainly is our leader.  Let me explain more fully….

We find in the book of Genesis how mankind fell from relationship with God when Adam and Eve had sinned.  While Jesus was on the cross, He took on all the sin of everyone who ever existed and will ever exist.  Through that action of love, He conquered sin and death.  Because of that, He is able to lead us out of the dangerous waters of sin and escape death.  He is able to take us safely to the other side, His side.  He led the way and we get to follow Him to safety.  Only this time, it’s not a game, it is called salvation.  We show we are saved through baptism, when we are symbolically buried (in the water) and come up out of the water.  This symbolizes new life because Jesus has conquered our sin, removed it from us and made us new.

This is what it means to be a Christian.  This is what it means to live.  This is why we pray and read our Bibles.  This is why we choose the high road.  This is why we love.  This is why we reach out to the lost.  This is why we lead.  This is why we are humble.  This is why we are strong.  This is why we have family prayer time.  This is why we go to church.  This is why we volunteer.  This is why we give to the poor.  This is why we serve.  We are following the example of Jesus in our lives.  

​When we were saved from our sins because Jesus died on the cross, we acquired His purpose and are to continue His work by becoming His hands and feet (1 Corinthians 12:27).  He came to seek and to save those that were lost (Luke 19:10), and we should do that, too.  You know, fish men out of the dangerous waters of sin and death.   How?  Tell people- that's our job.  Jesus does the rest.

This is what it means to follow the leader of Jesus.

Who is Jesus to you?  What does it mean to you to be a Christian?  Who are you telling and how are you telling them?

Dear Jesus, these are very convicting questions.  I pray that you would speak truth to each of us only as your gentel Holy Spirit can and accomplish your will.  Thank you for these jaw dropping realizations of who you are and who we are in you.  Make yourself known to us; we desperately need you in our everyday lives.  Praise your holy name, amen.


By Andrea Simmons 8.11.17
  


Mathew 4:19
"And he said to them, 'Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.'”
Soil of Goodness
Kelly had been pouring out in prayer for many days over something that bothered her on a deep and broken level.  I could watch her attitudes and behaviors slide down the slippery slope straight for a pool of depression.  Logically I thought she needed to exercise and eat right to help fight what was going on, but good ideas just could not motivate her to care.  Logic didn’t penetrate the emotions she felt. Have you been there?  I have.

One morning, she felt the Lord’s prompting to get out of bed earlier than she wanted so she could spend a longer time in prayer and devotions.  This particular morning, she felt God had something to speak into her.  After a few more minutes of wakeful rest, she got up.

She sat in the recliner by the front door in her housecoat looking out and listening to the birds under a blanket with pillow on her lap and Bible on the pillow.  Kelly’s Bible was still open to Mark 4, where she had been reading the day before.  This time she read with new insight.  Lately, she had been praying with a worried heart.  It was evident that she cared very much about what was going on in her world and the world closely around her.

Mark 4:18b-20, “And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

 These verses showed her that as she was praying these past few days, she was also letting her worries choke out His word in her life.  She focused on her troubles so much more than she focused on God.  The Holy Spirit prompted her to become like the good soil.  She knew in her heart she needed to engage in Bible study without the passing of one more day and let the power of God’s Word grab her attention.

The result was she focused on Him and He was able to use her time with Him and transition it into something fruitful, unlike before.  In the midst of her worries and pain, she found peace and rest.  The burden was less.  He was more.  She described the feelings of blessings inside her heart rather than depression- what a wonderful trade off!

She may still feel a little vulnerable from a fresh wound, but, she is on the right path to desiring the Lord.  She learned to desire Him more than to desire the worldly things around her to be made right.  She is learning to stop desiring earthly situations to become easier and grasp tightly to the blessing she already has in her Savior! 

I will not let the desires of this world rob me of His peace and fruitfulness.  I want to be like the good soil and have God’s Word grow deeply in who I am.  I want to hear His word, accept it, and apply it to my life.  I want His peace and fruitfulness to be evident in my walk with Him.  How about you?

Dear Lord, thank you for your Word that we may learn who we are in you and grasp your love for us.  Thank you for showing us that caring too much for the things in this world can rob of us you.  We are so thankful you have made a better way.  Make us good soil, fruitful for your kingdom’s sake and lead us in the paths of righteousness.  You are good to us and we have reason to praise your great name.  Amen.

By Andrea Simmons 6.15.17
  
Mark 4:18b-20
“And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”
Daily Dose of Health
Is your health important to you?  Many health professionals look at the things an individual can consistently and routinely do for them to help evaluate if they have any physical needs.  They use a person's activities of daily living to measure their ability to function in life.  If someone is unable to take care of themselves every single day then help is prescribed.

It makes sense that we should do things every day to be considered healthy; we were created to work in a daily cycle.  The sun rises and sets all in a twenty-four hour period.  If we could only feed ourselves once a week we would starve!  If we could only get out of bed once a month we would get stiff and sore.  When you think about it, it's very important that we take to daily living to stay healthy.

The word 'daily' really stands out to me.   Luke 9:23 says, "And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. '"  Take up his cross daily…
What does it mean for a follower of Christ to take up his or her cross daily?

In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed as we read in Matthew 26:39, "And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, 'My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me.'"   The cup Jesus was talking about was the cross.  I can't even begin to imagine the depth of the burden He was experiencing.  It's almost too much to think about.  But, His response to God is what it means to take up your cross daily.  The same verse goes on to tell us His response, "'Nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.'"   Jesus completely submitted Himself to the will of God, holding nothing back even when He hurt.  That is what it means to take up your cross daily, to submit yourself completely to the will of God.

How do we submit ourselves to God?  Well, we do it by our spiritual activities of daily living.  The most basic activity to take up your cross is the discipline of getting up and spending time with God.  For me, it starts after I take Annah to school before I go to work.  It's quiet.  I sing.  I read.  I pray.  I listen.  I often go to work with my hair looking less than stellar because I spend so much of my time in worship.  (Bad hair is a good trade off.)  It's a time of asking God to align myself with Him so the rest of the day I can live selflessly (the best I can) submitting myself to Him and be strengthened. 

Of course, there is a plethora of activities, including attitudes and things we think, throughout the day to submit to God.  We are to be selfless, putting God first, just like Jesus did.  There may even be some rejection from others for following Christ.  We can sometimes also have questions of why God didn't answer a needed prayer.  There could be some stark realities when following Him.  So, why is it so important that we do follow Him and do it daily, because it can sound like it's hard?

Jesus explains the answer to this question in Luke 9:24, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it." In other words, if you choose what pleases yourself without regard to the existence of God's love right now, you will lose eternal life never experiencing the best God has for you now or then.  If you give up your pleasures and ambitions in this physical life, you will gain spiritual life now and eternally and have Him to lovingly guide you through our time on earth.  To follow Christ is a win-win. 

Here's the question.  Are you healthy?  Are you spiritually healthy?  Look at your spiritual activities of daily living.  Are you submitting your will to His?  If you are a Christian, I humbly hope you are.

Dear Jesus, thank you for your truth.  I pray you will stir in each of the hearts of those who read this and make yourself known to her.  Help us to understand your ways are higher than our ways and we can push through the physical on earth with your strength, doing the things you teach us to do, then we will have an eternal reward.  Place a burden on our hearts with the importance of picking up our cross daily to follow you.  You are worth all of our efforts.  In your name I pray, amen.

By Andrea Simmons 12.7.2016




  

Luke 9:23
"And he said to all, 'If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. '"
It's a Trap!
​​Deuteronomy 7:25-26, "The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire.  You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.  And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it.  You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction."

For me, it took a long long time before I knew it was sin.  I saw.  I watched.  I formed many conclusions from my observations.  What I saw looked good and I wanted it, too.  I was in high school and the pretty girls were the ones having all the fun and I wished I could be just like them.  Just.  Like.  Them.  (Sigh.) My conclusions only brought me closer to the obvious, I was a shy girl with low self esteem and could never…  

My longings didn't go well with me.  It wasn't until I started studying God's word and discovered who I really am in Christ that I started to accept myself.  And, you know what?  I think it's more fun to be me now than it ever has been to wish to be like someone else.

Abraham followed God and made him a forever promise.  God promised Abrahem would be a father of many nations in a land He would give to them.  Generations later Abraham's descendents, the Israelites, are finally ready to take the land where these nations would flourish.  Finally, after being enslaved by the Egyptians for 430 years (Exodus 12:40) and wandering the desert for forty years (Joshua 5:6) they were going in!  But, the land promised to them did not come without some understanding.  This understanding, if obeyed, would go well with them!  They were to remember God, obey Him, and bring Him glory.  (Read Deuteronomy 8, it is a powerful chapter filled with what God needs His people to know before they can receive the promise.)

In Deuteronomy 7, God is giving instructions to the Israelites to go in and conquer the evil people in the land and to lay claim on it.  It was as good as theirs!  They were to take it like they owned it, because they did.

The word destruction appears twice in verse 26.  It means "set apart to be destroyed".  God is giving a warning that if they look at the evil things in the land and want it, that it is a trap.  Once trapped, they too will become like the culture and it will not go well with them.  (Romans 6:23, " For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.")  They are to abhor or loath the things of this evil culture.  My translation is, "Run, sister, run!"

In our day in and day out living there are many things that can lure us away from God.  Personally, there are many things that we can allow to ensnare us.  You fill in the blank, you know what they are.  But, be careful and be aware!  Do not give in to the ways that take you in an opposite direction of God, or it will not go well with you either.  What we are to do it hate the things that will pull us away from God's good plan for us and run towards God.

We were not created in such a way that we can serve two gods with a single heart.  We have one heart and can only serve one God with it.  A divided heart has made its choice.

God states in these verses that the things that trap us in sin are abominations to Him, and are set apart to be destroyed. 

You and I are not intended to be set apart to be destroyed, but to have a relationship with God (Genesis 1:26).  It was intended for us to have a fulfilling forever relationship where He has given us a hope and a future.  He keeps us in hard times and blesses us with His presence.  He has a plan and a future for us- a good one! (Jeremiah 29:11).  He protects us, loves us, and keeps us.  But, those things that are keeping us from our full potential in God need to be squashed!  Take it out like you take out the trash.  Run, Sister, run!

What I observed about these passages is that you and I are not the ones that take care of evil things or sins that pull us away.  We are to loath those things, but God is the one who destroys them.  What is it today that you need to take to God in order to let Him destroy it for you?  What is it today that you need to take care of so you can fully remember who God is, obey Him, and bring Him glory?  What is it today that you need to let Him take care of so you can enjoy the blessings of being in a relationship with Him?  Whatever it is, deal with it today.  Just get rid of it!  Give it to God in confession and prayer.  Lay claim to the promies He has for you in the fullness of life.  It will go well with you!
  

By Andrea Simmons 11.15.16
Deuteronomy 7:25-26, "The carved images of their gods you shall burn with fire.  You shall not covet the silver or the gold that is on them or take it for yourselves, lest you be ensnared by it, for it is an abomination to the LORD your God.  And you shall not bring an abominable thing into your house and become devoted to destruction like it.  You shall utterly detest and abhor it, for it is devoted to destruction."


Pray & Be Still
The paper that all has all of our prayer requests for other people is single spaced front and back.  Some prayer requests have already turned into praises.  Some of them are going to be on that paper for a long, long time.  Then I pray for the things in the life of my husband.  I pray for my two daughters.  I pray for my parents.  I pray for my siblings and their spouses and my nieces and nephews.  I even pray for people who are no longer part of our family due to divorce.  I pray for the people I work with and their families.  I pray for the relentless things in my own life. 

And I pray, and pray, and pray. 

James 5:13a says, "Is anyone of you suffering?  Let him pray."

Psalm 46:10a also says, "Be still and know that I am God."

In Psalm 46, the author is speaking to the church, God's people.  He is reminding them that while the storms of evil come in an overwhelming way, we have an unshakable God who will protect His church.  God's gentleness and provision are more than enough to balance out the noisy and threatening evil in the world. 

The Psalmist is talking to the church, and I am part of the church and love to apply this verse personally- especially during times of prayer.

In my experience, I come to God with burdens, worries, problems, and even grumbles.  I pour it all out.  Sometimes I do it with a lot of tears and sometimes with quick dry-eyed whispers at work.  While we are to do this, I sometimes neglect the be still part.  I tend to constantly be the one speaking and asking God to be the one listening, which is very one sided. 

Here is what I have learned.  I am sharing this with you in hope that you will gain something from it, too.  When we only speak and do not listen, we miss out.  It is a discipline to be still before God in prayer.  When we practice this and focus on Him and Him alone, putting all the prayer requests down at His feet so we can look up to Him, He will meet you there.  These moments of quiet are times God can speak into you.  These moments are times when God may choose to bless you.  These moments are gentle but life changing in the presence of our mighty God.  These moments are the time where His peace like a river can flow into us.  These moments are the time when we gain strength. 

The balance in perspective between the things of God and the things of earth, no matter how good the things of earth that demand our prayers are, are vividly divided and our focus will be clear on eternal things that truly matter. 

What feels threatening to you right now?  It may be many things that burden you, so do take it to God in prayer.  Then, remember to set it down and simply have your existence with him and be still.  Allow Him to speak into you and give you what gift He desires for you to have in that moment.  His gentleness is sufficient to balance your burdens.  Amen!

By Andrea Simmons 9.23.16
  

James 5:13a
"Is anyone of you suffering?  Let him pray."

Psalm 46:10a
"Be still and know that I am God."

Watch and Learn
 I read a snippet in college that said, "Nothing makes you feel busier than when the boss walks in."  Ha!  There's a little bit of truth to that in some situations isn't there?  There's something about a leader leading that when they come around you are all of a sudden feeling very led.  Do you know what I mean?

I'm doing a study of the book of Nehemiah, the leader, and it seems to be taking absolutely for-e-ver!  I keep getting side tracked by having to study other things for other reasons.  But, today, let's talk a little about Nehemiah chapter 3.  Now, if you sit down and pick up your bible, open it up to Nehemiah 3 and start reading you are going to find a bunch of men and women building a bunch of gates and walls.  That's it- that's what this chapter is all about.  At first glance we're tempted to think, "Oh, joy, what can I learn from this?"  Well, let me tell you that God doesn't waste words and if it is in there then there is something to learn and be blessed by.  I've made the mistake of actually thinking that before, I'm ashamed to admit.

First off the bat is the observation that men of all trades built.  We are talking mayors, perfumers, temple support staff, and goldsmiths.  All trades.  This goes right along with the fact that we are all given gifts to use for God (1 Corinthians 7:7) and all were created for good works (Ephesians 2:10).   The word "all" in the Greek is "pas" literally meaning all, everyone.  That means you and me.  We have good works to do according to God's commands and must use the gifts given to us.

The second observation I made is that Nehemiah, the leader God put in charge of this major feat, worked right alongside everyone else sweating and building.  (Verses to back this up are Nehemiah 2:20, 4:6, 18, 21, 23.)  Even Jesus came to serve and be a servant.  Matthew 20:28 tells us, "Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."  To me, this speaks of being humble.  I have never met a humble leader I didn't like and on the flip side, I have met some leaders that were far less than humble and hard to be around.  Case in point, leaders are to be servants, showing other servants how to serve.  This is how we are to live out our days. 

Another observation, and the last for today, is that the wall they were building was to keep out the enemy, give them security and strength, and establish them on the inside as a strong people of God.  This largely holds significant spiritual meaning, but we will dive into that more a little later.  If you look deeper into the book in chapter 8, you will discover the Israelites building booths to live in for the week long feast of the seventh month.  The booths are to remind the people how God protected them during their wandering years and how He protected them from the harshness of the environment, weather, and enemies.  God is like the booth and the wall meaning He is our protector.  No matter what, He's got us covered!  The reason for the wall and the booth is to serve as a reminder so we keep this knowledge at the forefront of our minds.  God wants us to remember who He is to us!

And now, I will do a more in depth study!  I'm breathing in deeply right now because the discipline of studying God's word always turns out huge blessings- we never walk away disappointed!

Dear God, thank you for your words to us; they are blessings through and through.  Let us not walk away forgetting, but help us to remember and put into practice what we've learned.  Let our life glorify you in big ways!  Thank you for how you reach us into our core and stay with us through thick and thin, you are a good, good God.  Amen.

by Andrea Simmons
  
Nehemiah 3

"Then Eliashib the high priest rose up with his brothers the priests, and they built the Sheep Gate. They consecrated it and set its doors. They consecrated it as far as the Tower of the Hundred, as far as the Tower of Hananel. And next to him the men of Jericho built. And next to them Zaccur the son of Imri built..."
Meek and Powerful
"Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth," Matthew 5:5.
 
What is meek?  It's not your common everyday kind of word, so I decided to satisfy this curiosity once and for all.  As I studied and read I remembered the story of King David when an unsuspecting man hurled insults, rocks, and dirt at him. 

Didn't this person know their actions were punishable by death? The king certainly has the authority to call it.  But, what I love was powerful King David's response.  Read the passage below in 2 Samuel:
 
As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera, and he cursed as he came out.  He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left.  As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel!  The Lord has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The Lord has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”
Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.”


But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the Lord said to him, ‘Curse David,’ who can ask, ‘Why do you do this?’ ”

David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh and blood, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the Lord has told him to.  It may be that the Lord will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today.”


So David and his men continued along the road while Shimei was going along the hillside opposite him, cursing as he went and throwing stones at him and showering him with dirt.  The king and all the people with him arrived at their destination exhausted. And there he refreshed himself.  (2 Samuel 16:5-14)
 
Wow.
 
Let's just stop there for a few moments and let that sink in…
 
David was meek.

Powerless, he was not.  He had all the power he could want, yet with great self control he submitted himself to God and allowed insults to publically taunt him.  His focus was on God and God alone so he allowed the bad to happen to him.  What did he do next but seek God by saying, "It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore to me his covenant blessing instead of his curse today."  He certainly was not deeply discouraged by his situation but remained faithful to God who holds truth.
 
The other thing I noticed was out of his great love and submission to God he was able to humbly deal with the taunting man rather than turning defensive and reminding him that he was speaking to the king!  That would have been so easy for him to do, but because of his relationship with God, he exhibited strength in withdrawing.

So, here is the question for you and me.  Do we acknowledge who God is, seek Him, and submit to Him?  Is there evidence in our life and dealings with those around us that we are focused on God so that others see a flow self control and easiness in us?
 
Meek.  Strength.  Self control.  Submissiveness to God.  Soothing to others.
 
Dear God, thank you for the example you gave us in King David.  We are to seek you and become more like your example.  Let your gentle encouragement help us when we fall short.  Thank you, El Roi (God who sees) for being personal, praise to your name!  Amen.
  
​by Andrea Simmons

Matthew 5:5
"Blessed are the meek for they will inherit the earth."
Is What You Want Really What You Want?
When I was sixteen I wanted a French style phone for my bedroom.  This was back in the olden days when cell phones were still a thing of the future.  The days and weeks rolled out to my birthday and guess what I got?  You bet I did!  I got a French style phone.  It was really cool for a couple of years then I packed up and went to college.  Whatever happened to that phone?  (Better yet, why did I want it in the first place?)  I just knew I had to have it and now I don't even miss it or care that's it's been gone for so long.  So this is the question, do we really want what we think we want?

I just love the beginning of the 23rd Psalm, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want…"  I love it because so many things about this world leave us wanting especially when we buy into its value system.  The world values popularity, riches, looks, success, intelligence, and all the things that go along with it.  What is it based on anyway?  I'll tell you, it's based on fleeting things that will one day go away and be no more.  After that, what's left?  Things that last are only found in the Christ.  If we value what is in the Good Book, we will not only have eternal things, but we will not be left wanting. 

For so long all I wanted was to perfectly fit in with my peers and not feel awkward, or nerdy, or shy, or weird, or stupid, or like I would never be good enough… I wanted to feel confident, complete, and carefree- just how I thought those people I watched surely must have felt.  I tell you, because I wanted this and did not have it, I was left wanting.  So, I have to wonder… Are you ever left wanting for any reason?

I wasted so many years.


I cried so many tears, and over what?
All of it was for a value system that just didn't add up to fulfillment or contentment.  Even people who do 'have it all' admit they are still left wanting.  Look at King Solomon.  In Ecclesiastes 2:4-11 he says this:

"I undertook great projects: I built houses for myself and planted vineyards. I made gardens and parks and planted all kinds of fruit trees in them. I made reservoirs to water groves of flourishing trees.  I bought male and female slaves and had other slaves who were born in my house. I also owned more herds and flocks than anyone in Jerusalem before me.  I amassed silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and provinces. I acquired male and female singers, and a harem as well—the delights of a man’s heart.  I became greater by far than anyone in Jerusalem before me. In all this my wisdom stayed with me.  I denied myself nothing my eyes desired; I refused my heart no pleasure. My heart took delight in all my labor, and this was the reward for all my toil. Yet when I surveyed all that my hands had done and what I had toiled to achieve, everything was meaningless, a chasing after the wind; nothing was gained under the sun."

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…
 
Let's look at Genesis 2:7, "Then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."  There are two separate things here.  The first is that we were created with dust, which is the physical, and the second is that we were given life with God's breath, which is the spiritual, and then we became alive. 
 
King Solomon tells us we will return to dust when we physically die (Ecclesiastes 3:20).  The Hebrew word for breath of life is neshamah and it means spirit.  When we die, our bodies return to dust and our spirits, our breath of life, returns to God, (Ecclesiastes 12:7). 
 
When the first man, Adam, sinned, his body was still walking and talking but he died spiritually creating a great imbalance for him and all people after him.  In John 20:22, we learn that Jesus gave the Holy Spirit to breathe life into the disciples and the same for all people who come to Jesus for forgiveness of their sins.  We can become spiritually alive! (And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit," John 20:22.)
 
Now, we can find, in Jesus, life makes sense once again.
 
We are always wanting, but what is the ache for?  What we truly need- what can fulfill all our wants can be found in relationship with Jesus, our good Shepherd.  When we come to know fulfillment in Him we can keep the perspective that the things of the world are but dust and we are eternal beings that do not have to want after the things of dust.
 
There is more than a certain amount of comfort in this when we feel beaten up by the world.  There is absolute truth we can be 100% sure of and live life by because it is real and it is true!
 
Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
 He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul.
He leads me in paths of righteousness
    for his name's sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
    I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
    your rod and your staff,
    they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
    in the presence of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
    my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
    all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
    forever.
 
Amen.
 
By Andrea Simmons
 
 
  
Psalm 23
"The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want." 
Super Powerful
I had a friend who was a police officer. He told a story one day of a time he was arresting someone who had committed a crime. As he spoke he made the point that he was able to do the act of arresting because the state of Kansas had given him the authority to do so. A non-officer does not have the authority to any such thing because the state has not given power to arrest someone. It was at this point he made the connection that through Jesus we have authority. We have the authority He gave us to do so many things, but only when He invests His authority in us, which is only after we confess our sins to Him, ask forgiveness, and for Him to come into our hearts.

One of my favorite verses is Romans 8:37, “…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.” Don’t you just love being ‘more than a conqueror’? Me too.

We cannot stop right there, you know, on the part that talks only about us being ‘more than conquerors’ because if you keep reading it says, “through Him…”

Jesus conquered death, “We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.” (Romans 6:9, ESV) What we can take from this is that it is only through the power Jesus gives us that we are more than conquerors. (The literal Greek translation is ‘we overwhelmingly conquer’. I love that so much! It is not simply to conquer but to overwhelmingly conquer, like a football score of 55-0 kind of conqueror. Yep, that’s you and me, conquerors like that!)

1 Corinthians 15:57, “But, thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I also love that we are victorious in Jesus! But, only because He is victorious are we victorious in Him. Separate from Him there is no victory.

We are holy temples, “Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the spirit of God dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16, NASB). We are holy temples because God dwells in us!

“Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1, NASB). We are not condemned by our sins, because we are in Christ Jesus! We live. We live and move and have our being in Him. Are you just soaking this all in with me? This is who we are in Christ and we are all good things! I will certainly trade any unworthy thoughts of myself for this- in a heartbeat.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13, NKJV). All things. I can’t get enough of that, either! Again, only in the power of Christ can we do all things. Any struggle and any hardship can be conquered because Christ gives us the strength to get through it. Oh, thank goodness. I can attest that it’s not always easy, but being on the other side of many hardships I am a witness that God has been my source of sanity and strength. I made it through. And, I’m sure there will be more hardships to get through. There is rest knowing that you are not alone and you will have the strength through Christ when we cling to Him through it all.

I love being a child of God and I can see how much He loves you and me. I love not being condemned and I love being more than a conqueror, victorious, a holy temple, and being able to do all things. We can do none of this for ourselves because it is all through God; don’t you love how God lavishes His love on us? On the flip side, God makes Himself so easy to love and He does it all through His dear Son, Jesus.

Keep true to who God said you are no matter what life throws at you or what evil entices you. What is in your life right now that you need to surrender to Jesus in order to have His power over it? Come to Him and let Him lavish His love on you. He may fix it the way you want or give you the ability to handle it like a conqueror, either way, let your loving Savior be powerful in you, in your circumstances, and in all things today. Amen!

By Andrea Simmons
Romans 8:37
“…in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”
Living Content
If it is God's will for us to live content, then I will not live being discontent. Oh, I would love it if I could say that was true all of the time, but really, it can be a struggle for many of us. It is so easy to lose sight of God's best for us when we start looking around us.

The bills pile higher and we want more money. Our children aren't perfect and we want them to be better. Our husband is not doing what we want. Our illness is not getting better. Our house is too small. My clothes are outdated. I'd like to change this one thing about myself. My house needs updating. I need to change this or tweak that. And on and on…

It is such a natural response for us to want to arrange things to make ourselves comfortable. Did you know if you are wearing a pair of shoes then you are in the top twenty-five percents of the world's wealthiest people? The other seventy-five percent of the people have no shoes. That really puts the world in perspective on our worldly longings. Let's take one more step back and look what scripture has to say about being content.

Matthew 6:25, "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?" If you continued reading the verses that follow, they will point out that God takes care of all of these things for us and we should be worry free from all of it. If we do worry rather than be content, it is proof of doubts about God's provision and a disbelief in what He is telling us. Ouch! Did that sting you like it did me?

Matthew 6:31-33, "Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or "What shall we wear?' for the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But, seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." These verses are packed full of things to study, but I'll hit on a few highlights.

To say that the Gentiles seek after these things really hits the ball out of the park; it is one strong statement. The Jews, who had God, viewed the Gentiles, who did not have God, as unclean much like dogs. There was such a great social divide that the Gentiles were shunned and the two cultures did not cross paths. Ever. The Gentiles were worldly and the Jews were not to act like the Gentiles. They had God who was their provider and did not need to seek the world, but only rely on God for everything. They were to first seek God and then to know that everything they needed would be given to them.
This, my friend, is what God wants us to know, too. God does know what we need, and we are to not seek for things but only seek Him who can provide everything we need.

Now, this does not mean we are never going to bring before God those things that we are concerned about. Philippians 4:6, "Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." We are to still, be content and not anxious when we pray. However, when we pray we should do it with thanksgiving.

If you are like me, it takes being both intentional and disciplined to refocus my natural tendencies from what I think I need to make it through my time on earth to God and God alone. Yet, God knows it is best for us to do just that and while doing that to be confident He will provide. And remember Matthew 6:33, "But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." Be obedient in seeking God first and all these things you need (not want) will be added to you, and that's a promise!  In relationship with God, we can live content in  a world driven by the love of things.
 
by Andrea Simmons
Matthew 6:25  "Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?"
What's in Your Heart?
Do you recall the commercial that asks, “What’s in your wallet?” It’s a catchy marketing tactic; kudos to those who came up with that one. On that note, I’d like to ask you a similar question. What’s in your heart? (I bet you can already guess where this devotional is going, and maybe you have, and so now the kudos go to you! But, please keep reading because there is more to read!)
 
Matthew 10:28, “And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.”
 
Fear of the LORD is always a little difficult to grasp because of the dichotomy between God being a loving God and a God to fear. Well, which is it? What should our response be to the command to ‘fear the LORD’? At this point, we need to clarify what ‘fear of the LORD’ is.
 
Proverbs 9:10 tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” So, basically, outside of God’s wisdom all other wisdom is earthly and worthless; wisdom and knowledge must be built on God, there are no exceptions. (After that statement, I can’t help but think of our world built on worthlessness. Christian ladies, we have our work cut out for us!)
 
The LORD gave us Matthew 10:28 which is under the command of the Great Commission. He knew when the disciples and all others went out for the sake of His name that they would suffer in the sufferings of Christ. It is in this verse that we are told as followers of Christ there will be trouble but not to fear men in all of our troubles because in all of our comfort we are to fear God, who’s got us! Evil does not have us, God has us. Thank goodness!
 
When we take a minute to consider God’s magnitude and majesty, first of all we will not leave disappointed, but secondly and mostly we will realize His place and our place. The two should never be confused yet we so often do confuse them in all of our humanness. Revelation 4;11, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created.” Job 42:1-2, “Then Job answered the LORD and said: ‘I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.’” God, in all His majesty, is immovable and is to be praised and feared because of who He is. Simple and unchangeable, it’s a big truth.
 
Reverence, respect, and fear are appropriate ways to approach the LORD. But, let’s not leave out love, thankfulness, worship, and praise. We should come to Him with all of it.
 
The opposite of being in the loving grasp of God is scary. “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of them, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,” Romans 1:18. As much as we can revel in the moments of realizing God’s glory, we could also think about His wrath for those who do not fear Him- I do not want to be found in such ugly territory.
 
There is so much more to say, but I will start to wrap up with James 3:17, “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy, and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Now, I ask, should we fear ‘the fear of the LORD’ when the results of fearing Him are so beautiful?
 
There is only room in our heart for one, it’s either fear of the LORD or the other. There is not room for both. If we do not learn to fear Him in our hearts we are left vulnerable to fear everything else, such as the things in the world that can harm us.
 
You choose.
 
Do you fear God who is omniscience, has majesty over everything, has the ability to control the world and your eternal life or do you fear the foolish?
 
There is only one question left, what’s in your heart?
 
bu A.S.
 
Proverbs 9:10
“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”