Count It All Joy!

It is a good thing to rejoice in the Lord.
 
Even when one cannot feel any joy, comfort, or encouragement, still rejoice, and count it all joy. 
 
When surrounded by divers temptations, rejoice. 
 
Two very familiar scriptures are, “And again I say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4) and “Be filled with the Spirit, . . . singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:18, 19).
 
Note the stimulus for rejoicing is not through the flesh, but through the Spirit. 
 
It is the Holy Ghost that fills the heart with gladness and praise. 
 
At midnight, Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them (Acts 16:25). 
 
Paul bore in his body the marks of stoning, the beating with rods, the stripes that drew blood; nevertheless, grace enabled him to sing praises under such suffering.
 
So, rejoice even when you don’t feel like it. 
 
Rejoicing can turn your weariness into strength.


When Faith Begins ~ Blessing Begins

A great deal is said in scripture about waiting for God.
 
We easily grow impatient and much of our troubles come out of our restless, sometimes reckless, haste. 
 
We cannot wait for the fruit to ripen and often pluck it while it is green. 
 
We often cannot wait for the answers to our prayers and fail to receive the blessing.
 
However, there are also many promises that are conditioned upon the beginning of some action on our part. 
 
When we begin to obey, God begins to bless. 
 
Consider the promises to Abraham. 
 
Not one of the promises could be obtained by waiting in Chaldea. 
 
He had to obey and leave home, friends, and country, and journey into unknown paths. 
 
The ten lepers were told to show themselves to the priest, and “as they went they were cleansed.” 
 
If they had waited on the cleansing, they may never have seen it. 
 
Let’s state it like this: the moment faith begins, the blessing begins.
 
When Israel was shut in by a pursuing army at the Red Sea, their duty was no longer one of waiting, but of going forward. 
 
The same also occurred at the Jordan. 
 
The key was their faith. 
 
If one waits in fear, there is an over-waiting of unbelief. 
 
Understand that God does bless those who press forward with bold confidence. 
 
The scripture in Deuteronomy 2:31 states it well: “I have begun to give; . . . begin to possess”.


Exercise Faith

Often the enemy seems to triumph for a little; but then God comes in and upsets all the work of the enemy and as the Bible says, “turns the way of the wicked upside down.” 
 
Consider the three Hebrew children being cast into the fiery furnace. 
 
It seemed as an apparent victory for the enemy and defeat for the three Hebrew children. 
 
They were cast into the flames and their enemies watched to see them burn, but were greatly astonished to see them walking around in the fire.
 
Now, suppose that these men had lost their faith and courage. 
 
They might have burned, and God would not have been glorified. 
 
Therefore, when great trials enter our life, do not own it as a defeat but continue in faith claiming the victory through Him who is able to make you more than a conqueror. 
 
When God allows us to enter hard places, opportunities are made for us to exercise faith that brings glory to His name!


God Is In Every Tomorrow!

John 10:4 states, “And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him; for they know his voice.”
 
The portion that states he goeth before them captured my attention assuring me that whatever awaits us is encountered first by Him! 
 
Also, He would not ask us to pass through some experiences unless He was sure that they were not too difficult for us.
 
Certainly, the comfort is in knowing that “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).
 
The blessed life may be characterized like this – not anxious to see too far in front, nor careful about the next step, nor eager to choose the path, nor weighted with the heavy responsibilities of the future, but quietly following behind the Shepherd, one step at a time.
 
In a study of the Oriental shepherd, he was always ahead of his sheep. 
 
He was down in front. 
 
Any attack upon them had to take him into account. 
 
Now God is in front. 
 
He is in the tomorrows. 
 
It is tomorrow that fills men with dread. 
 
God is there already. 
 
This poem states it well:

God is in every tomorrow,

Therefore I live for today.

Certain of finding at sunrise

Guidance and strength for the way;

Power for each moment of weakness,

Hope for each moment of pain,

Comfort for every sorrow,

Sunshine and joy after rain.



The Power of Prayer

The power of prayer is clearly seen in the deliverance of Peter who was in prison awaiting his execution.
 
The Church had neither human power nor influence to save him.  
 
There was no earthly help, but there was help to be obtained through prayer. 
 
They gave themselves to fervent, importunate prayer and God sent the angel who led Peter through the gates and out of prison, and Peter was free.
 
If you’ve ever felt like a caged bird with iron bars and gates surrounding your life, the secret of escape is prayer. 
 
What earthly energy cannot open, prayer can. 
 
If we can pray as they prayed in the upper room, insurmountable difficulties will disappear; adverse circumstances will prove favorable. 
 
Souls in the prison of sin are waiting for gates to open that they might be set free. This calls for intense prayer.
 
When Elijah prayed on Carmel, he was in touch with God and God answered prayer with fire showing that He was against the powers of evil. 
 
As C. H. Spurgeon once said, “Groanings which cannot be uttered are often prayers which cannot be refused.” 
 
Allow me to encourage someone that the gates and bars of your life cannot withstand such praying. 
 
“Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you.” 


Arise!

The privilege of possessing is shown in Israel’s moments prior to crossing into Canaan.
 
Judges 18:9-10 states, “Arise, that we may go up against them: for we have seen the land, and, behold, it is very good: and are ye still? Be not slothful to go, and to enter to possess the land. When ye go, ye shall come unto a people secure, and to a large land: for God hath given it into your hands; a place where there is no want of any thing that is in the earth.”
 
I am impressed with the command to “Arise”. 
 
There is something definite for us to do and to have. 
 
“The children of Joseph, Manasseh and Ephraim, took their inheritance.” (Joshua 16:4)
 
“The house of Jacob shall possess their possessions.” (Obadiah 17)
 
Surely, we should make God’s word and God’s promises our possession. 
 
The Holy Ghost is our promise to be received and possess.
 
Allow me to challenge you by asking how many promises can you say, “Fulfilled to me”? 
 
Don’t let the promises, the inheritance, and all that God is pass you by. 
 
Arise!
 
Be not slothful to go! 
 
God hath given you a promise and in Him there is no want of anything!


Where He Leads He Is There!

Jacob’s leading of his family and herds typify the leading of the Lord upon us.
 
Genesis 33:14 declares the character of Jacob’s leading with these word: “. . . I will lead on softly, according as the cattle that goeth before me and the children be able to endure”. 
 
There was thoughtfulness. 
 
Jacob knew the roughness, the heat and the journey by personal experience and he knew exactly what they could endure.
 
Joshua 3:4 declared to Israel concerning their journey to Canaan as one they had “not passed this way heretofore”. 
 
Although there are journeys ahead of each of us that are unknown and untrodden, the Lord knows it all. 
 
Jesus has gone through all before us.  He is a perfect leader and “He knoweth our frame; He remembereth that we are dust.” 
 
Not one step will He make us take beyond what we are able to endure. 
 
He will either strengthen our step so that we are able, or He will stop the journey so one does not have to take the step at all. 
 
Remember that He knows best and wherever the journey takes us, He is there!


He Leads Us On!

Deuteronomy 11:11 states, “But the land, whither ye go to possess it, is a land of hills and valleys, and drinketh water of the rain of heaven:”
 
The land is not all down hill nor of one level.
 
Life is not all down hill nor of the same level either. 
 
Life is made of hills and valleys and it is the hills of difficulty that drive us to the throne of grace for the showers of blessings. 
 
The Psalmist declared, “I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help” (Psalm 121:1).
 
All our needs can be met by the Lord. 
 
His source of mercy never fails. 
 
It is the hills that collect the water that there might be a fruitful valley. 
 
N. L. Zinzendorf penned the following poem:
 
He leads us on by paths we did not know;

Upward He leads us, though our steps be slow,

Though oft we faint and falter on the way,

Though storms and darkness oft obscure the day;

Yet when the clouds are gone,

We know He leads us on.

 

He leads us on through all the unquiet years;

Past all our dreamland hopes, and doubts and fears,

He guides our steps, through all the tangled maze

Of losses, sorrows, and o’erclouded days;

We know His will is done;

And still He leads us on.



“From the Pen of the Prodigal”

Often it is good to declare the power of God through testimony.
 
The words below are not my own; they are the words of one who recently came to Hope Center UPC and whose life has been reconciled by the power of God. 
 
I give to you “From the Pen of the Prodigal”:
 
“If I were to tell you that I spent the last four years of my life as an atheist, would you believe that just prior to that period I’d served as a youth pastor for two years? 
 
It was quite a drastic change, but I allowed myself to be deceived, and how subtle was that deception! 
 
It started small, with a murmur of discontent. 
 
I was instructed not to use mind-altering substances, not to play certain types of games, or to keep company with certain types of people. 
 
The devil was quick to lean down and whisper that I was being controlled and manipulated, that they had no right to pick my friends for me, or to tell me how to spend my leisure time.
 
It was this that ultimately led to me stepping down from my position within the ministry and then leaving the church.
 
During this period, I began writing pornographic fiction on the internet and making friends with the people who enjoyed the things I was writing. 
 
Through our conversations, we reached the conclusion that love was love and that there was more evidence proving that God DIDN’T exist than there was to the contrary. 
 
How willingly and eagerly I threw aside everything I’d ever known to embrace what I wanted to do, to have the freedom to live my life without conviction or concern for eternity.
 
Years went by. 
 
The friends I’d made who drew me into atheism and sexual immorality took different paths, but I pursued it. 
 
How deep did I go? 
 
Deep enough to see things I wish I had never seen. 
 
I saw people taking “the Holy Ghost Challenge”, which was meant to prove one’s dedication to atheism. 
 
After all, if one blasphemes the Holy Spirit, there’s no going back, but if you truly don’t believe, what difference does that make? 
 
It was one of the most repulsive things I’d ever seen. 
 
God in His infinite mercy never let me become so debased as to do something so stupid. 
 
He continued to work on me, to send people to call me back, to whisper into my spirit that He is as real as eternity. 
 
How great are the deceptions of the devil, yet how much greater are the mercies of our God! 
 
He brought me back into the fold, brought me out of sexual immorality, and took away my need to smoke cigarettes. 
 
He has blessed me again and again, far beyond what I deserve, and has continued to prove His faithfulness.”

 

Praise God!


“How do I know God will forgive?”  

The story of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37 depicts one of the greatest stories about forgiveness.
 
Such a spirit of forgiveness was found because Genesis 39:21 states that the Lord was with Joseph and showed him mercy.
 
In Matthew 18, Jesus taught in a parable the spirit of forgiveness and that if we expect to receive forgiveness then we must forgive as well lest the King resurrect forgiven debt because of our lack of mercy or forgiveness toward another.
 
Space does not allow me to expound upon this needed subject. 
 
Yet, I do know the question may be asked, “How do I know God will forgive?”  
 
Consider this. 
 
He commandeth all men everywhere to repent. 
 
He taught us to pray for forgiveness. 
 
His gospel proclaims it. 
 
Calvary makes it possible. 
 
Many have been forgiven. 
 
Heaven will consist of an uncountable number of those who have been forgiven and their robes made white by the blood of the Lamb. 
 
Surely, these thoughts alone declare Him as the great forgiver! 
 
Who is a God like our God who pardons iniquity, transgression and sin?
 
Our sin may be great; however, Jesus is greater and has proven to be the great forgiver. 
 
The Jews took up stones to stone Him. 
 
He was accused, despised and rejected. 
 
Yet He forgave! 
 
Our sin may be like crimson, but He is able to say, “Neither do I condemn thee, go and sin no more”.