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 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.

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Present and Eternal Promise of Blessing for Believers

Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him (NKJV). Blessed are all those who take refuge in Him (NIV). Psalm 2:12b

Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He has chosen as His heritage (Psalm 33:12 ESV).

Blessed is that man who makes the Lord his trust, and does not respect the proud, nor such as turn aside to lies (NKJV). Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn aside to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! (ESV). Psalm 40:4

The promise of blessing not only runs throughout scripture – the first promise of blessing to man is in Genesis 1:28 and the last promise of blessing is in Revelation 22:14 – but it is also a prominent theme in Psalms. The opposite of blessing is a curse. That reality is also a consistent theme of scripture. The curse began after Adam and Eve chose to listen to Satan instead of obeying God (Genesis 3). The promise of God is that in His timing, that curse will be removed (Revelation 22:3). Those who trust God can experience blessing now – even in the midst of a nation broken in two; a nation that has turned from God and is beginning to reap the consequences.

I am writing this post in the middle of January 2021. For many months, our nation has been in turmoil and strife – a pandemic that has yet to be controlled, businesses destroyed both by lockdown and by riots, unsafe cities, closed schools, a rise in mental disease and addictions, a deep division in our culture and our belief system, and an attempt to erase our Christian foundation. What three verses in the Bible could be more appropriate for us at this time? 

Satan is behind every act of discord and tries in times like these to ruin the faith and witness of God’s children. He knows he cannot take away their salvation, but if he can remove the blessing of prosperity (being fruitful and productive for God), others may be influenced in a way that will prevent their trust in God for eternal life. Those who are true believers know that an eternal perspective makes all the difference.

Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers (Galatians 6:7-10 NIV).

Trust (take refuge) in God, don’t give in to despair, do good as He directs you and you will be blessed – now and for eternity.

Claiming the Promises of the Psalms: The Promise of Blessing and Prosperity

Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers (Psalm 1:1-3 ESV)

This promise is directed to one who delights in the law of the Lord (1:2). God’s promises are built on a covenant relationship. The truth of God’s word is available to everyone – giving each person the chance to become a child of God. His promises are for those who love Him. 

The promise is blessing and prosperity. Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of mockers (Psalm 1:1 NIV).  Wicked, scornful people are not uninformed men who have never heard of the goodness of God and His offer of grace. They have chosen to be ungodly. God knows that keeping company with such people can lead to no good. 

This promise is very timely. In 2020, we observed what began as “peaceful protests” turn into riots, looting and destruction of businesses. One man who stole merchandise during a riot returned them to the business owner the next day. He never would have been in that situation had he not kept the company of those who initiated the looting. Perhaps he was ignorantly involved to begin with, but once their intentions were known, he could have left their company. He did not. So rare was this incident that when I searched for it online in 2021, I only found this single story. The repentant thief learned the hard way what keeping company with the ungodly can lead to. 

The person who delights in keeping company with God will prosper (Psalm 1:3). We often associate prosperity with material goods, but God describes a prosperous person as one who is fruitful. God allows us the stewardship of His goods to have and to share with others, but the ultimate blessing is that our lives have purpose and meaning. That is something that cannot be taken away, but will last for eternity.

The Psalm 1 man prefers companionship with God. Moses, “a friend of God”, said to Him, “Let me know Your ways that I may know You” (Exodus 33:13). This is the promise – that the Lord watches over the way of the righteous (Psalm 1:6 NIV). Friends spend time with each other. 

God promises to watch over you. The result is being fruitful – carrying out His purpose for you. There is no greater blessing than being a man who delights in the Lord’s company.

Claim God’s Promises in 2021

To those who trust God, He has promised His presence, protection, provision and personal guidance. Many believers search for God’s promises in His word. They are what we count on to get us through the tough times. There are hundreds of promises in God’s word for those who trust Him. 

The psalms contain many of those promises and throughout the year of 2021, I will be sharing the promises that I see in the psalms with you. 

David, a man after God’s own heart, wrote many of the psalms. The declarations that David made about God in his psalms were very personal to him. Although he wrote them down and God included them in His word, in real time, David shared with God the inner longings of his heart. Those recorded words were personal to David, but they are also personal to me and can be very personal to you. 

For example, in Psalm 30: 5-6, David says, For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life; weeping may endure for a night, but joy comes in the morning. How many of God’s children have counted on this promise to get them past the guilt of confessed sin to ponder upon the fact that it was covered for all time by the blood of Jesus? For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for life. How many of God’s children have had sorrows of all sorts, including lost loved ones and lost dreams? Our good God knew that we would weep during the night, but joy comes in the morning and as David said in that same psalm, God would turn our mourning into dancing; …put off {our} sackcloth, and {clothe us} with gladness (Psalm 30:11). When that happens to any of us, we can join with David and give thanks to {the Lord our God} forever  (Psalm 30:12).

In 2021, now more than ever, we need the reminder that God is with us. We celebrate that fact during the Christmas season because God gave prophets the promise that He would be sending Immanuel to us. He did indeed come. However, Immanuel has not left us. He is still here. In the heart of every believer, God lives. He is truly with us.

Join me through the year 2021 in looking at the promises in the Psalms. I pray that when you do, 

  • God’s presence will become more real to you
  • you will count on His protection
  • know practically His provision and
  • as David did, sense and experience His personal guidance.

With Jesus, the future is bright.

Our Father’s Perfect Timing

But when the time arrived that was set by God the Father, God sent His Son, born among us of a woman, born under the conditions of the law so that he might redeem those of us who have been kidnapped by the law. Thus, we have been set free to experience our rightful heritage. You can tell for sure that you are now fully adopted as his own children because God sent the Spirit of his Son into our lives crying out, “Papa! Father!” Doesn’t that privilege of intimate conversation with God make it plain that you are not a slave, but a child? And if you are a child, you’re also an heir, with complete access to the inheritance (Galatians 4:4-7 The Message).

If you are a Christian, you have probably experienced the perfect timing of God the Father in your life. Even the day of your salvation may have been an example  – you were in the right place at the right time to hear the words about Christ that spoke to your heart and His Spirit prompted you to say, “Yes, I believe.”

There are occasions when something happened at just the right time that can only be explained by God’s perfect timing. These could include near misses that could have resulted in a terrible accident, or something as simple as an encouraging phone call that came just when you needed it. 

I’m sure, like me, many things come to mind when you consider God’s perfect timing in your life.

The birth of our Savior happened when the fullness of the time had come, when (in God’s plan) the proper time had fully come, when the time came to completion, when the appointed time arrived, when the time was right, when the set time had fully come, when the appropriate time had come, when the chosen time came, when the right time arrived. Every biblical translator agreed that it was perfectly planned. Old Testament prophets looked forward to the fulfillment of the promise of the day when the Christ child would be born of a woman and provide salvation for us. We look back on the perfect fulfillment of that promise.

Knowing that the first coming of Jesus was perfectly timed by the Father, we also know that the Father has perfectly timed His coming again. 

And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven…However, no one knows the day or the hour when these things will happen, not even the angels in heaven or the Son himself. Only the Father knows (Matthew 24:30b-31, 36 NLT)

I look back upon the fulfilled promise of the first coming of Jesus and look forward with eager anticipation to His coming again. I am so grateful for our Father’s perfect timing.

The Heart of Christmas

 

This 44 page PDF ebook – “The Heart of Christmas” – is my gift to my friends.

It is compiled from Bible studies, devotionals and blog entries from http://www.onefocusministries.com and replaces “The Christmas Book” (offered a few years back) since it now includes the most recent posts about Christmas.

The first entry – Christmas 2020 – and the last entry – Our Father’s Perfect Timing – are the newest.

Feel free to download for yourself and for others. 

 Merry Christmas!

© Stephanie B. Blake

The Heart of Christmas