Category: One Focus Blog

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.

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.

What Do You Do Now?

“Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men, but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil. So then do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is.” 

Ephesians 5:15-17

I wrote a devotional in March called “Time, a Precious Resource.” This blog post is a repeat of that idea, but I am writing this in September of 2020. For most of this year, much of the world has been on lockdown at some stage or another because of the COVID-19 pandemic. What was going to be a two week shutdown in the United States has grown into something that no one could have possibly predicted – closing of schools, churches and businesses for months. There still is no end in sight – for Americans and for many others worldwide.

Everyone was caught by surprise by this pandemic, but all of us have still had the same amount of time that we would have had even if the pandemic had not occurred. Along with some of my friends who commented that they wish they had used this time to…write, work on a project or learn a new skill, I know I could have used this time more wisely. Understandably, because the virus may have affected someone you know or you lost a job or a business, you may simply feel that time has frozen for you. All of us continue to look for an end to these unusual and dire circumstances.

God never encouraged us to put life on hold. Have no fear of sudden disaster…for the Lord will be your confidence… (Proverbs 3:25a, 26a).He who began a good work in you will complete it …(Philippians 1:6). As Christians, we know that 2020 has not been a surprise to God. He knew what was coming. He is with us in it and He will get us through it. He has not promised tomorrow but He has promised His presence, His guidance and His comfort for today.…casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you (1 Peter 5:7).

Each of us may be sure that if God sends us on stony paths He will provide us with strong shoes, and He will not send us out on any journey for which He does not equip us well.

Alexander Maclaren

Nothing enters your life accidentally – remember that. Behind our every experience is our loving, sovereign God.

Charles Swindoll

Work while it is called today, for you know not how much you may be hindered tomorrow. One today is worth two tomorrows; never leave that till tomorrow which you can do today.

Benjamin Franklin

Truly A Blessing

The memory of the righteous will be a blessing... Proverbs 10:7a

Last weekend, a dear friend of mine was able to do what she had been looking forward to for a long, long time. She was able to come face-to-face with her beloved Lord and Savior.

For the years that I have known her, she has truly been a blessing – in every sense of the word. When my husband and I (or just my husband) would get ready to leave on a mission trip, she prayed. Every time I visited her, she prayed. In the days before her convalescence, she walked the aisles of our church and she prayed. When I went to see her in the care facility and told her of a need or an upcoming trip, she would say, “Let’s pray right now.” She would take my hand and pray.

When. I asked her to consider reviewing my devotional book and suggesting corrections, she prayed about it and then she did it – giving many helpful suggestions that I implemented.

As I read Proverbs 10:7a – The memory of the righteous will be a blessing –  I know that until we see each other again in Heaven, it will be her memory that blesses me. And it will.

What a blessing it was to know her. What a blessing it is to have memories of her.

Her name is Mary Ann Boubel.

 

Never Alone

f720b5

Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— (John 1:12).

“I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” (John 10:28-30).

He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Hebrews 13:5).

Recently a friend told of an experience that tested his character, his intellect and his faith. It lasted for months and was somewhat of a David and Goliath story. The trial was so long and so hard that my friend often forgot to eat and was unable to sleep. It appeared that his coming out well on the other side was next to impossible. But he prayed. And we prayed. And other family and friends prayed. In the end, he did come out victorious with one conclusion: during the entire experience, he knew he was never alone. God was always with him – going ahead of him, providing for him and making up for his lack of experience and sleep that could have caused him to have a completely different outcome.

My friend is a Christian – a child of God – and he is so right. We are never alone.

Never

No one wants to be abandoned. Jesus promises He will always be there for you.

Everyone needs love and acceptance. Jesus loves you with an everlasting love.

Very small children need to know they will be cared for.  Jesus cares for us all.

Everyone needs companionship. Even in isolation, Jesus is our companion.

Reach out to someone to remind him he is not alone!

Alone

A kind word in a note, a text or a phone call is a reminder that your friend is not alone.

Love your neighbor as yourself is part of the great commandment. Love God, love others.

Owe no one anything except to love one another… (Romans 13:8).

Neighbors are anyone God puts on your heart.

Edify – build up – one another. Jesus is there for us. Let’s be there for each other.

And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46)

Jesus experienced the pain of abandonment so that you wouldn’t have to.

Veteran’s Day 2019

There are no adequate words to thank our veterans for the price they have paid for our freedom, but nonetheless, we must try. In their sacrifice, they reflect the heart of our Savior, who said, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). Those who have died in our wars and those who have been willing to die have demonstrated the love of a true friend. For all those friends in our nation who have put themselves in that position, we say with a heart of gratitude, “Thank you for your love and your sacrifice. May God richly bless you.”

Our freedoms always have been and always will be costly. It takes watchful diligence to keep those freedoms which have been fought for in the past and are needful for today and for tomorrow’s children.

Many of our leaders recognized this. In America’s God and Country Encyclopedia of Quotations, we find these quotes:

History failed to record a single precedent in which nations subject to moral decay have not passed into political and economic decline.

General Douglas MacArthur

But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious Hand which preserved us in peace, and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us; and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own.

President Abraham Lincoln

Our laws and our institutions must necessarily be based upon and embody the teachings of the Redeemer of mankind. It is impossible that it should be otherwise; and in this sense and to this extent our civilization and our institutions are emphatically Christian.

United States Supreme Court 1892, Church of the Holy Trinity v. United States

All must admit that the reception of the teachings of Christ results in the purest patriotism, in the most scrupulous fidelity to public trust, and in the best type of citizenship.

President Grover Cleveland

Not until I went into the churches of America and heard her pulpits flame with righteousness did I understand the secret of her genius and power. America is great because America is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, America will cease to be great.

Alexis de Tocqueville

Stephanie B. Blake

November 2019

Stewardship: Our Greatest Calling – The Owner of It All

…Everything under heaven is Mine (Job 41:11). 

The earth is the Lord’s and all of its fullness, the world and those who dwell therein (Psalm 24:1).  

For every beast of the forest is Mine, and the cattle on a thousand hills. I know all the birds of the mountains, and the wild beasts of the field are Mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell you; for the world is Mine, and all its fullness (Psalm 50:10-12).

The most important fact about stewardship or being a steward is that we are NOT the owners. We are not in charge. We do not have the whole picture of what is needed to keep things running. 

God is the owner. Everything originates with Him. He is the source of life and everything associated with it. He is in charge. He sees all – what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done and who He has assigned to do each task. It is for His glory that we live as stewards. That is where discipleship comes in. That is where prayer comes in. Unless we follow the Lord and unless we get His guidance, we accomplish nothing of eternal value.

Each of us is unique. Every one of us has specific talents, spiritual gifts, personality traits, temperaments, backgrounds, heritage, strengths and motivations that make us who we are. My assignment in God’s world is not exactly like your assignment and your assignment is different from anyone else’s. Even in marriage, our differences complement each other and complete the unity that God wants to demonstrate through the home. Your calling from God is yours alone and mine is also unique. 

What we do have in common is the administration of our callings – the stewardship of our lives. The principles of stewardship apply to every believer. How do we live our lives in order to give Him the greatest praise? 

Stewardship is the careful and responsible management of something entrusted to one’s care.  A good steward is careful to make the right choices about what God has entrusted him with. 

Good stewardship does not come naturally. Lazy people are not good stewards of God’s gifts. Right choices can only be made when we focus on God and ask for His wisdom to accomplish His plan for our lives. But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways (James 1:5-8). A double-minded person is unstable. He will not receive anything from the Lord and thus will not be able to DO anything for the Lord.

What can God trust you with? When God created you, He knew everything that would happen to you, also knowing whether He could trust you to trust Him during each day. He knows your thoughts which is why He can hear your silent prayers. He knows your heart. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart (1 Samuel 16:7). He knows the number of your days….In Thy book they were all written, the days that were ordained for me, when as yet there was not one of them (Psalm 139:16). 

We do have a Master that we are accountable to for our stewardship of His resources, but He is not a typical master. He is our Father and He loves us. Stewardship is a consciousness of being loved by the One who gives us everything we need and much more. Gratitude will lead you to be careful to give back to Him what He wants.

There is no greater joy than accomplishing the purpose for which God created you – the stewardship of your life. God is the One who will accomplish His purpose in you. …He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).