Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fear no Evil

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“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.” - Psalm 23:4

I’ve always found comfort, picturing the Savior as a shepherd with a small lamb flung over His shoulders walking up a hill.  The simple truth of knowing that He is there as my protector, my guide and my provider puts at ease the pressures of dealing with everyday problems in life.  Think about that for a moment.  A sheep has very limited defenses against the wolves, bears and lions of the wilderness.  They are slow and lack any true abilities to fend off an attack in the open wilderness.  The shepherd was their protector, and King David (author of the 23rd Psalm) had great experience as such.  With a watchful eye, he would fend off the invasion of any enemy on the prowl, ready to strike at any time in a possessive, loving manner.

What is your reaction when the path in life goes through a valley?  Perhaps the death of a loved one, a lost job, a divorce or fighting an addiction has cast a shadow over your horizon.  It is easy to fall prey to the evil one when we are in the valley’s of our own life, and yes there are valley’s even though you are walking in God’s path of righteousness.  We need only to look at the life of Job as an example of a man that was following God’s path of righteousness to every detail.  Yet, he became the center of a battle between God and Satan, good and evil.   Did Job ever fear the evil that encroached upon his life?  He lost his children, his wealth and his health to the very edge of dying, yet never lost hope or faith that God was with him.

Life will have valleys.  You need to be resound in your faith and strong in your walk with the Lord to know that He will never leave you.  “
Satan is alive and well on planet earth” was a book from the 1970’s written by Hal Lindsay, which clearly outlines the battle of God and Satan over the lives of mankind.  Satan is not a fable, he is very real and very jealous.  He wants control over the lives of man in order to spite our Lord, and in order to overthrow God’s will of righteousness, love and mercy.  It is a battle as old as time and will continue right up until the end of days.  You will face temptations, trials, disappointments and strife in your life all at the hands of the devil himself. 

The Lord reminds us countless times throughout the Old and New Testament that He will not leave our side.  We are mighty warriors of the one and only God of the Universe and we will overcome the evil one in life and in death.  Lean upon God’s righteousness and the Holy Spirit for strength in times of weakness.  David writes of the “rod and the staff”, we likewise find comfort in our Lord’s rod and staff.  The rod of the shepherd was used to keep the sheep in line and to hook them if they were to wander off.  The staff of the shepherd was used as a club to defend against the enemies of the wild.  The Lord has provided tools for you as well, we have the Holy Spirit within each of us as a rod to keep us in line when the temptations arise.  The Lord has provided His Word as a mighty sword to fend off any enemy.  The more you are in it, the stronger you become to use it in times of need.  Here are just a few scriptures to give you confidence in knowing that the Lord is with you always, even in the valley’s of life.

Psalm 18:2
The LORD is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer; my God, my strength, in whom I will trust; my buckler, and the horn of my salvation, and my high tower.
Psalm 18:32
It is God who arms me with strength and makes my way perfect.
Psalm 27:1
The LORD is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?
Psalm 121:1-2
I lift my eyes unto the hills, where does my help come from?  My help comes from the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth
Isaiah 40:29
He gives power to the faint; and to them that have no might he increases strength
Isaiah 41:10
Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness
Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.
2 Corinth. 12:9
And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me

Let these verses bring you comfort when you are struggling to find your way in the valleys of despair.  The Lord is our fortress and our comforter, in Him you can find peace.

Almighty Father,
We call upon your promises Lord.  Your promise to watch over us, keep us safe from the evil one and to give us the strength in the times of battle when we need it. Your Word is our sword and we will use it to defend Your honor and bring You glory.  You have provided for us in all of our needs and given us the grace to allow for us to seek righteousness in You.  Holy Spirit dwell within us and keep us in line with God’s plan for our life.  As shadows are cast across our path, protect us and give us wisdom to overcome the fear in our hearts.  We seek Your truth in all that we do. Amen

© Sondove Enterprises, 2013
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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

He Gave It All

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“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, so that you through His poverty might become rich.”      - 2 Corinthians 8:9

He was disfigured, and struggling to breath.  He walked an incredibly lonely journey through the cobbled streets, tripping over the weight he carried on his bruised and bloodied back.  His breath coming in gasps as his lungs filled with blood.  His eyes were solid red, the capillaries had all been exploded through the torment and anguish.  Where were his friends and family? Where were those that had praised his name only days before?  Now they were laughing at him and spitting upon him.  Some even kicked and threw stones as he made his way through the crowds.

As the leather whips came down once again on his back, his knees buckled and the weight came crashing down upon his shoulders, grinding his face into the stone pavement.  Another man stepped forward and helped him back up, supporting him and helping him make it the last few hundred feet up the hillside.  The stones cut into his bare, bruised feet.  He found a brief moment to catch his breath as his body fell to the limestone of the quarry hillside.  Lying on his back he opened his eyes, looking heavenward through the red blood.  He couldn’t help but be anxious for the time to pass quickly, for he knew what was to happen next as they picked up his body violently and laid him upon the wooden beam.

Driving nails (the size of railroad spikes) through his wrists, his screams of agony could not be contained.  The tearing of flesh and crunching of bone as the final of the three nails penetrated his feet, securing him to the vertical beam.  Hoisting his now limp body and the heavy cross of his burdens upward, they placed the post into a hole in the ground.  This action ricocheted through his torso and body with an extreme pain he screamed out, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.”  (excerpt from “Truly Amazing Grace”(available in e-book format) – Rich Palmer)

He was rich in life, joy, happiness and peace.  He was King of the Jews and destined for a throne.  People adored Him, flocked to him for healing when he came into a city.  They sang out praises to Him and laid down palms at His feet as if He were royalty.  He then gave it all up.  Everything – His peace, His comfort, His joy and happiness, His freedom, His royalty and His life – just so you could have eternal life.  

We don’t deserve it, we can’t pay Him back and we can’t undo what has been done.  God sent Jesus Christ for this event to take place.  The Son of God gave up His royal seat in heaven for 33 years so you could enter because of everything He gave away.  Come to grips with this, accept it at face value, it is a gift and the greatest part is it costs you nothing, with His riches He’s already paid for it. 

God Almighty,
You have given us the most incredible gift of grace through Your Son Jesus Christ.  We humble ourselves in Your presence and offer our lives for Your purpose.  Let us find comfort in knowing that our debts are paid and our sins are forgiven by the blood of the lamb.  We accept Your gift of grace with open arms and thanksgiving that our names are captured in Your book of life as a result.  For Your goodness and perfect plan in our life we are forever grateful.  In Your precious name we pray – Amen.

© Sondove Enterprises, 2013
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Monday, March 25, 2013

Learning from the Children

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“But Jesus called the children to him and said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” – Luke 18:16-17

The sun was bright on their faces as the young girl and her father came over the hill.  In the distance they could see the walls of the city, and the glorious temple rising above the horizon. Ever since her mother passed away she was allowed to come to the city with her father and her aunt.  There were so many people this time though.  It’s not like the last time they went to the market and traded their fish for some leather and pottery.  She held onto her father’s hand tightly as they merged into the swarm of people.  She carried in her other hand two small flowers that she had picked from a bush near the garden of Gethsemane when they had walked past earlier that morning. She knew they would make a great present for her daddy later when they stopped for something to eat.

Everywhere she looked people were carrying lambs and doves as they came for the Passover celebration.  All her father had this time was a bag over his shoulder, but she wasn’t sure what was inside.  She recalled her father’s conversation with her aunt yesterday as they left their home about not having a lamb this year.  Her father very seldom lost his temper, but several times during that discussion she recalls hearing him raise his voice.  The look on his face for this journey had not changed at all.  He was tight lipped, with a furrowed brow the whole way; unlike his normal laughing and playful composure.  She knew her father was worried and she hoped the flowers would make him smile.

They entered the city with all of the others, almost involuntarily being pushed through the small gate near the temple.  Roman guards were everywhere, perched high on top of the city walls and lined along the streets.  Each carried a long sword and a whip for taking care of those that got out of line.  She held hard to her father’s hand as they moved through the streets of the city toward the temple steps and courtyard.  As her father ascended the steps, she had to remain behind with her aunt.  He waited in a line near the traders.  She watched as his face showed the signs of disappointment and sorrow as he took the bag from his back.  Reaching into the bag he took out his small leather pouch and poured the coins into his hand.  She knew they didn’t have much money, and she watched as her father was giving most of it to the man at the table. The man handed her father the end of a rope to which was attached a very unhealthy lamb.  He picked up the lamb and carried it over his shoulders back down the steps.  When he reached the street level, her aunt laid into him again about being irresponsible and unworthy and incapable of fathering this child.  It was obvious on his own face how much those words hurt and oh how he missed his wife.  Softly he spoke, “Come, let’s go eat something in the shade by the olive trees.”

Then he grabbed his daughter’s hand and they made their way through the crowded streets with lamb and all.  He found a quiet place near a cluster of olive trees by a small pool of water in the Kidron Valley, just outside the wall.  They sat and splashed some water on their faces to cool the heat of the day.  Kneeling near the pool was a man talking excitedly about something, but it was hard to understand.  She watched her father lean in closer to hear what that man was talking about.  Something about “. . .blind and now I see.. . “  The man reached down and splashed water on his face, then laughed, and repeated it over and over again.  “I can see. . . I can see.”
Her father approached the man, “Sir – how is it that you now see?”  The man replied, “Jesus, the Son of God, healed my eyes as I was coming from Jericho.”  To which her father stepped back and whispered, “He’s lost his mind, poor man.”

The settled under an olive tree and her father brought out the bread and some grapes to eat for lunch.  She noticed that he gave her a large portion, and likewise her aunt, and he took a very small portion for himself.  She smiled and looked back at her father and took the two little flowers in her hand.  “Daddy, I picked these flowers for you.”  He pulled her close and kissed her upon the forehead, overwhelmed by the love of this child.  This coupled with the emotions of losing his wife, let loose, and the man sobbed terribly, while holding his little girl.  He straightened himself up, and looked around, embarrassed in front of all of these other grown men standing by the pools and trees.

One particular man sitting near the pool, just kept staring at him though.  The little girl took her bread and grapes, rising she walked toward the man.  She offered him a piece of her bread and grapes, at which point he smiled, and put his arm around her. “Your love is a precious gift dear child, one that only My Father in heaven could provide.”  He turned to the father, standing by watching, and said “Come to me with a child-like faith and I will restore your peace and joy.”

The man and His disciples rose and walked up through the valley to the Mount of Olives, as the girl, her father and aunt rose to head back into the city to begin preparations for the Passover celebration.

© Sondove Enterprises, 2013
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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Ultimate Winner

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“But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.” – Matthew 19:30

Try to teach this principle to a 4 year old.  Try to make them understand that they shouldn’t focus on themselves but those around them.  How do you teach a young child to serve others before having that cookie for themselves?  Inherently, from the womb, a baby is only interested in their own situation and resolving the problems that they are experiencing; hunger, dirty diaper, fear or pain.  Regardless of those around them, they want their problem solved now, and will only get more agitated with time, if their problem is left unresolved.  As this baby grows and begins to develop some independence, they must learn to share.  They learn to share toys, food and the attention of their parents; and in doing so, they begin to develop an understanding that it’s not all about me.  This philosophy catches on with some, while others can’t seem to grasp it and selfishness sets in.  By an early age they have adopted an understanding of serving others or serving themselves, and the delicate balance between the two.

We are a competitive soul by the very nature of survival in this world.  We compete at sports, school, music, cooking, work.  We compare our lives to the lives of others with an envious eye and the thought runs through our mind that it’s not fair.  We may not acknowledge it verbally, but the thoughts are definitely moving through our mind and heart.  In doing so, we are allowing our desires to be driven by the world and in the world.  Let’s be truthful for a moment. Every one of us is going to die at some point.  It may be tomorrow, it may be 20 years from now or even farther, but we all end up in the same place.  We all entered this world in the same manner, from the womb and we will all leave this world in the same way.  We are each made to long for God and a relationship with Him.  The emptiness we attempt to fulfill through material things and success at work or in school will never be satiated by worldly ideals or things.  It is by design that we are competitive, but it is by choice what we choose to compete for.

Compete for a stronger relationship with God almighty.  Strive to learn as much as you can about your Creator and allow yourself to fall in love with Him.  The desires of your flesh begin to fade and the desire for serving Him comes to the surface.  In serving Him we are filled with His love for others and the selflessness begins to take shape in your personality.  Sharing his love becomes the purpose, the desire and the reason for waking in the morning.  It may not make you rich or powerful in man’s eyes, but to your Creator and Redeemer you will achieve greatness.  It’s your choice to be first in this world by focusing strictly on yourself and your needs selfishly or to be first in the Kingdom of God by focusing on serving Him and others on His behalf.  So what will it be?    

© Sondove Enterprises, 2013
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