Author: StephanieBBlake

I love to help others focus on the one thing that's most important in life through my ministry, teaching and writing. As Vice President of Xtend Ministries International - www.xtendinternational.com, I travel extensively with my husband. I maintain two websites: www.onefocusministries.com and stretchmoney.wordpress.com. On the One Focus site, you can find free Bible studies, devotionals and information about my first book, "The Prayer Driven Life". My book, "Money: How to Be Rich Without It and How to Stretch It Using Ten Hints from the Past and the Technology of Today" was the inspiration for stretchmoney.wordpress.com. Money saving hints are contained throughout the book and this site was created to continue to give helpful hints on stretching money or having the proper view toward money.

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of Divine Companionship

I will fear no evil, for You are with me.

Psalm 23:4

One of the saddest lessons to come out of the 2020-21 pandemic is how important relationships are to every one of us. As lockdowns prevailed, depression, despair and loneliness took its toil. Families were not allowed to get together for normal celebrations. Children were not allowed to go to school “in person” and those of tender age declared, “I miss my friends.” Church doors were closed – viewing sermons online is NOT the same as worshiping together as a congregation. Some experts predicted the dire consequences of isolation and they were right.

Many who have a relationship with God got even closer to Him during this time. Believers came through with a refreshed appreciation for His presence because they realized that His companionship could not be removed because of man’s restrictions. Wherever we are, He is.

We are made for fellowship – with each other but most of all with God. He created us with a longing that can only be filled with His presence. God uses every source available to Him – and they are unlimited – to assure us of His desire to fellowship with us.

David knew the reality of God’s presence as a shepherd boy alone tending sheep. He spoke of the uniqueness of divine companionship when he was king because being in charge can be another very lonely experience. He, like the apostle Paul, knew that nothing could separate him from the love of God.

FOR

The reason that we can fear no evil is because God is with us. Whatever comes our way, God has promised to be by our side. Jesus promised He would never leave us or forsake us. In life and in death, we can make it through FOR God is with us.

YOU

There is nothing that can substitute for divine companionship. The One who knows us best has promised to always love us and be with us.

ARE

That divine relationship is eternal but we don’t need to wait for His companionship. We need Him NOW and we have His companionship NOW.

WITH

God manifests Himself in His Son and His created nature which surrounds us. He walks by our side, and His Spirit lives within us.

ME

God is a personal God. He is my friend, my comforter, my guide. If you belong to Him, He can be the same to you. As children of God, we are never alone.

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of the Good Shepherd

The Lord is my shepherd….I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep and am known by My own

Psalm 23:1; John 10:14

Maybe knowing the Lord as your shepherd calms your anxious thoughts as it does mine.

God has always promised to shepherd His people. Because He knows me, His care includes:

  • providing what I need – spiritually and physically (I shall not want)
  • refreshment and rest (He makes me lie down in green pastures)
  • calm in a world of turmoil (He leads me beside the still waters)
  • renewing my strength (He restores my soul)
  • guiding me along right paths (He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake)

At one time in America, the expression, “He is as good as his word,” meant one could be trusted to do what he said he would do. In those days, contracts were made “on a handshake” because a man’s name and reputation were more important to him than anything else. That is no longer the standard. But for God, who does not change, He still is as good as His Word. “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14a). For His name’s sake, my Shepherd committed Himself to care for me and all His sheep.

We do not know whether David wrote this psalm as a young shepherd or after he occupied his throne. One thing we do know. David was aware he needed a shepherd. The same shepherd who never left David’s side as a shepherd boy is the same shepherd who would lead David through the enormous responsibility of being king and ancestor to the Good Shepherd.

The Lord shepherds His own and assigns people – such as David – to glimpse how that is done. His ultimate example was His own Son – sent to live among His sheep, care for them, and prepare them for an eternal place of peace and security.

These will be his royal titles: Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. His ever expanding, peaceful government will never end. He will rule forever with fairness and justice from the throne of his ancestor David. The passionate commitment of the Lord Almighty will guarantee this!

Isaiah 9:6-7 NLT

God continues to fulfill His promises – for his name’s sake.

He has promised to lead – we just need to follow.

He leads me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.

Righteousness will go before Him, and shall make His footsteps our pathway.

Psalm 23:3,85:13

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of Salvation

It is particularly fitting that on this day – Good Friday – that my searching for the promises of God in the Psalms brought me to Psalm 22.

But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by men and despised by the people…I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint, my heart has turned to wax…My strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth…Dogs have surrounded me; a band of evil men has encircled me, they have pierced my hands and my feet, I can count all my bones; people stare and gloat over me, they divide my garments among them, and cast lots for my clothing….

Psalm 22:6, 14-18

This magnificent psalm finishes with the fact that the story of Christ’s sacrifice will be told down through the generations and we are the recipients of His willingness to bear unspeakable pain so that we could be saved.

Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord.They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn – for he has done it.

Psalm 22:30-31

Without the fulfillment of the promise revealed in this Psalm, all other promises would do us no good – for in order to receive the promises of God, we need to first receive His salvation.

Every Christian has their own testimony – their story of how they came to know Christ as Savior. The common denominator for all of us, though, is this – we became acutely aware of our sin nature and our own sins against God and we came to understand that God is a God of amazing love who sent His Son to pay for those sins. With that understanding, and a heart belief, we trusted in Jesus Christ, God with us, as the substitutionary sacrifice for our sin and asked for His forgiveness and for His Lordship in our lives.

With a sincere trust in God’s Son as our Savior, we KNOW that we know that we will spend eternity with Him. That eternal blessing began the day we received Him as Lord.

Now I know that the Lord saves his anointed

Psalm 20:6

We can be assured of eternal fellowship with God – for he has done it!

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of The Solid Rock

Edward Mote, pastor of Rehoboth Baptist Church in Horsham West Sussex in the United Kingdom, wrote the lyrics to “My Hope is Built on Nothing Less” in 1834. The song is best known by its refrain, “On Christ, the Solid Rock I Stand, All Other Ground is Sinking Sand”.

My hope is built on nothing less

than Jesus’ blood and righteousness;

I dare not trust the sweetest frame,

but wholly lean on Jesus’ name.

When darkness veils his lovely face

I rest on His unchanging grace.

In every high and stormy gale,

My anchor holds within the veil.

His oath, his covenant, his blood

support me in the whelming flood.

When all around my soul gives way,

He then is all my hope and stay.

When he shall come with trumpet sound,

O may I then in Him be found.

Dressed in His righteousness alone,

Faultless to stand before the throne.

Edward Mote, 1834, public domain

It is thought that Mote wrote these lyrics as he pondered Jesus’ parable of the wise and foolish builders, one who built his house on the sand and the other who built his house on solid rock. Whatever his inspiration, it also appears that Mote knew something of the need to call on God during times of “darkness”, ” a high and stormy gale”, “the whelming flood” and “when all around my soul gives way”. Although those lyrics were written so long ago, I think of many of my dear friends – who are going through some really, really tough times – who need this reminder that no matter the circumstances, the promise of God is that “He is all my hope and stay.”

David identified with this need as he called out to God, His Rock.

The Lord is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock in whom I take refuge…

For who is God but the Lord? And who is the Rock except our God?

The Lord lives! Praise be to my Rock! Exalted be God my Savior!

May the words of my mouth and the mediation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer

Psalm 18:2, 31, 46; 19:14

If you are a believer in Jesus, you have His promise of enduring stability. He will never leave you. He will fulfill every promise. He is your Solid Rock.

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of God’s Unique Reliability

“Help, O Lord, for the godly are fast disappearing! The faithful have vanished from the earth! Neighbors lie to each other, speaking with flattering lips and insincere hearts. May the Lord bring their flattery to an end and silence their proud tongues. They say,”We will lie to our hearts’ content. Our lips are our own – who can stop us?” The Lord replies, “I have seen violence done to the helpless, and I have heard the groans of the poor. Now I will rise up to rescue them, as they have longed for me to do.” The Lord’s promises are pure, like silver refined in a furnace, purified seven times over. Therefore, Lord, we know you will protect the oppressed, preserving them forever from this lying generation, even though the wicked strut about, and evil is praised throughout the land (Psalm 12 NLT).

2020 was a tough year and so far, 2021 is keeping pace. In times like these, we are often tempted to say, “Will God come through?” “Will He keep His promises?”

We are not the first to feel this way. We join the ranks of faithful believers when we do. Consider Jeremiah, who dared to say, “Righteous are You, O Lord, when I plead with You; Yet let me talk with You about Your judgments. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why are those happy who deal so treacherously?”(Jeremiah 12:1 NKJV). God answered that soulful question with an observation. “If you have run with the footmen, and they have wearied you, then how can you contend with horses? And if in the land of peace in which you trusted, they wearied you, then how will you do in the floodplain of the Jordan?”

Jeremiah and David had honest questions in hard times, but because they knew God was trustworthy, they came to the same conclusion – God’s promises are pure and true.

David wrote each Psalm quoted in this post. The highlights are mine, but the emphasis is David’s – unfailing, never and always are strong words. God can guarantee “promises made, promises kept” – His love is unfailing; He never abandons His own; He is always with us.

Return, O Lord, rescue me, Save me because of your unfailing loveBut I trust in your unfailing love,. I will rejoice because you have rescued me…. I know the Lord is always with me, I will not be shaken, for he is right beside me….Those who know Your name trust in you, for you, O Lord, have never abandoned anyone who searches for you (Psalm 6:4,13:5,16:8, 9:10 NLT)

Hang in there. Trust in God. In Jesus, all of God’s promises are “Yes and Amen” (2 Corinthians 1:20).

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of God’s Uplifting Hand

If the Lord delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; though he stumble, he will not fall, for the Lord upholds him with his hand…. The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand (Psalm 37:23-24 NIV, NKJV).

I have never had a good sense of balance. Years ago, I fell off my bicycle and broke my foot. Even after all this time, it is weak and because of that, I am very careful. I don’t want to fall again. I try to watch where I’m going and I walk carefully – especially when the ground is uneven. It helps when I have something to hold onto – my husband’s hand, walking sticks, etc. Maybe that is the reason I have noticed the numerous times God has reminded me that He is near and will lift me up spiritually when I need it.

  • You broaden the path beneath me, so that my ankles do not turn….You enlarged my path under me, so my feet did not slip (Psalm 18:36 NIV, NKJV)
  • For you have delivered me from death and my feet from stumbling, that I may walk before God in the light of life….For You have delivered my soul from death. Have You not kept my feet from falling, that I may walk before God in the light of the living? (Psalm 56:13 NIV, NKJV)
  • Praise our God, O peoples, let the sound of his praise be heard; he has preserved our lives and kept our feet from slipping (Psalm 66:9 NIV)
  • When I said, “My foot is slipping,” your love, O Lord, supported me….If I say, “My foot slips,” Your mercy, O Lord, will hold me up (Psalm 94:18 NIV, NKJV)
  • He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber (Psalm 121:3 NIV)
  • The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made. The Lord upholds all those who fall and lifts up all who are bowed down (Psalm 145:13b,14 NIV)
  • and many more…

We are human and subject to stumbling and even falling, but the promise of our Lord is that because He never leaves us or forsakes us, we can count on His uplifting hand to get us back on the path He has chosen for us.

The Biggest Issue We Face Is Control

At the base of every sin is control. No matter what the sin is, it can ruin a moment of your time or it can take over your life simply because you have released control to Satan. If you are a Christian, Satan wants a barrier between you and God and he will do anything to put it there. He somehow knows when you have taken your eyes off Jesus – when you are unfocused. In those moments, he grabs your attention with something – an injustice someone has committed against you, uncomfortable circumstances, or even leaving solutions to all problems to someone else – like your government. 

We have some wonderful biblical examples of people who were determined not to give Satan that advantage. 

Think of Nehemiah, who stayed on course while rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem despite all attempts of Sanballat and Tobiah to distract him. Nehemiah prayed and worked. Nehemiah recognized what Satan was trying to do. He trusted God and he finished his mission.

Or think of Esther who, as a young Jewish woman, could have been afraid to approach the king with a request for help for her people. She had no idea whether she would lose her life or he would grant her request, but she did not let that uncertainty keep her from trying. 

What about Joshua and Caleb who had to wait to cross into the land God had promised His people? Forty years is a long time. They not only had to wait, they had to endure the complaining of the Israelite people who had caused the delay. In all the waiting, Joshua and Caleb knew God was still in control. 

Satan actually approached God and obtained permission to do what he could to get Job to deny Him. Job never knew why tragedy struck him like it did, but he endured sorrow, pain and ridicule without blaming God. In all this Job did not sin nor charge God with wrong…He said (to his wife who tried to get him to curse God), “Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity? In all this Job did not sin with his lips (Job 1:22, 2:10).

Sometimes Satan did get the upper hand and accounts of people like King Saul, Judas and Demas had tragic endings. Those who trusted God and recognized His provident hand even in difficulties and delays gave us a positive example, knowing that God’s desire is always for our good. Jesus, especially, withstood all of Satan’s attempts, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 6:38). For in that He Himself suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:18).

There is a stark contrast today between those who either have refused to give control to God in the first place, or surrendered control to Satan at a later point and those who have continued to trust Him no matter the circumstances. Our legacies will tell the story.

© Stephanie B. Blake

March 2021

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of Justice and Judgment

In January’s devotional, Claim God’s Promises in 2021, I determined to examine the promises of God in the Psalms. The first four posts have reminded us of the caring, merciful, loving nature of our Father. This promise speaks of God’s justice and judgment. Mercy and justice are both part of God’s holiness.

When we preach the love of God there is the danger of forgetting that the Bible reveals not first the love of God but the intense, blazing holiness of God, with His love at the center of that holiness.

Oswald Chambers

The Lord shall judge the peoples…For the righteous God tests the hearts and minds. My defense is of God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a just judge, And God is angry with the wicked every day.

But the Lord shall endure forever; He has prepared His throne for judgment. He shall judge the world in righteousness, and He shall administer judgment for the peoples in righteousness.

The Lord is in his holy temple; the Lord’s throne is in heaven; his eyes see, his eyelids test the children of man. The Lord tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence…For the Lord is righteous; he loves righteous deeds; the upright shall behold his face.

Psalm 7:8a, 9b-11; 9:7b-8 (NKJV) 11:4,5,7 (NLT).

This promise, unlike the others, is for all people. We all deserve condemnation because of our sin. Justice and judgment are real. It is only through faith in God’s Son, who bore our sins on His cross, that anyone can escape God’s righteous judgment. Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1 ESV). Those who reject His offer of grace will experience His anger.

“The most violent expression of God’s wrath and justice is seen in the Cross. If ever a person had room to claim for injustice, it was Jesus. He was the only innocent man to be punished by God. If we stagger at the wrath of God, let us stagger at the Cross. Here is where our astonishment should be focused.” –

R. C. Sproul

This promise is perhaps the most important of all. Jesus, having paid for our sins, leads us to the Father who promises His forgiveness to those who believe. There is no other way to access the rest of the promises of God.

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of God’s Shield

Repetition in the Scriptures catch my attention. Last week’s post, “The Promise of God’s Presence” began with a verse from the 3rd Psalm, But You, O Lord, are a shield for me.

As I continue to examine the Psalms, the reminder that God is our shield cannot be ignored. As for God, His way is perfect; The word of the Lord is proven; He is a shield to all who trust in Him (18:30), He is our help and our shield (33:20), For the Lord God is a sun and shield; The Lord will give grace and glory; No good thing will He withhold from those who walk uprightly (84:11), You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Your word (119:114).

This theme is not only widespread in the Psalms, but it also runs throughout scripture. God told Abraham, “Do not be afraid, Abram. I am your shield, your exceedingly great reward.” (Genesis 15:1). Paul told us we have an active part in God’s shielding us, above all, taking the shield of faith with which you will be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one (Ephesians 6:16).

I am aware that God often shields me from personal injury. This last week, I was dragging two long pieces of fallen branches to place in a burn pile. Because of their size, I drug them backwards, looking back occasionally to make sure I was not running into anything. When I got close to the pile, I know with a certainty that God stopped me. I was just about to step into a rather deep hole. Instead of falling backwards, I said, “Thank You, Lord, for Your protection.” Now, understand, I have fallen backwards before and hit my head, jarring what brain I have left! This time, however, I was totally aware of God’s shielding presence.

I don’t carry a large piece of metal in front of me as I go about my daily life. I doubt you do either. As Christians, we have something much, much better. We have the protection and guidance of our Father. If there is danger in the way, God can warn us. He is as close as our thoughts and we just have to listen.

A physical shield only protects you from the front. Awareness of your surroundings is absolutely crucial so that you are not caught off guard from the back. The promise of God’s shield, however, is all encompassing.

For You, O Lord, will bless the righteous; with favor You will surround Him as with a shield (5:12).

If someone wants to harm us, he has to go through God first.

In these trying times, that fact gives me a peace that is beyond comprehension!

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of God’s Presence

But You, O Lord, are a shield for me….I cried to the Lord with my voice, and He heard me….I lay down and slept; I awoke, for the Lord sustained me….Your blessing is upon Your people….But know that the Lord has set apart for Himself him who is godly….The Lord will hear when I call to Him….I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety (from Psalm 3 and 4 NKJV).

I’ve had trouble sleeping lately. My brain won’t turn off – I lay in bed praying for family, a dear friend in the hospital in another country, the state of our nation, etc. Last night, I must have quoted my life verse over twenty times. As is always the case, that special passage helped calm my nerves – it does exactly what it says it will do – brings me the peace of God which surpasses all understanding.

When I began this series, I knew God was leading me to examine the Psalms for His promises. In reading David’s journaling of His own struggles with sleep and concerns, God made the promise of His presence abundantly clear. He heard me and He will hear when I call to Him. It is Him that gives me peace and sleep...and makes me dwell in safety.

In the middle of the night, I picked up the novel I had been reading. The new chapter began with Joshua 1:9, “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” Coincidence? No, it wasn’t because that was just another reminder of the promise of God’s presence.

The “man after God’s own heart” who wrote these two Psalms continually reminded himself through trials and sleepless nights that God was always with him. I often read David’s musings and think, “He had a history with God.” Written many centuries later, a hymn named “Count Your Blessings” helps us reflect on this history.

When upon life’s billows you are tempest tossed, When you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, Count your many blessings, name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord hath done.

David said, He heard me. At another time he said, The Lord will hear me when I call to Him. Because David knew that God had heard him before, he knew that God would hear him each time He called.

Like David, I have a history with God. He has heard me and I know He will continue to hear me. When I need to be reminded of His presence, He knows just how to do it.

Remember the blessing of His presence with you in your past and be assured of His presence with you now because He is with you wherever you go.