My Fortress

 “The Lord is my light and my salvation – whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 27:1 NIV

I can’t think of a better prayer to pray in anticipation of a New Year:

God, You are my strength and my refuge.  You are my ever present help in any trouble in my life. I will not fear even when all those natural things around me are collapsing or roaring with noise.  I will look for Your River that brings gladness and joy to the Holy City – Your City, God.  Your Words are a river.  You never fail.  You who dwell on the Most High; You will not let me fall.  You will be there at break of day to help me. At Your voice it melts away. Thank you.

Psalm 46:1, Psalm 118:6, Psalm 5:11, John 6:63

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Praise And Worship


“All the earth will worship You, and will sing praises to You; they will sing praises to Your name.” Selah. Psalm 66:4 NASB

I had always used the words praise and worship together, almost synonymously.  I really didn’t even think about it. It became a habitual way to refer to how our church services begin.  I was also familiar with how praise is a component of prayer as well.  But I had really never thought about how praise and worship are different and distinct from one another…until one day in prayer.

I felt the nudge to go down a bunny trail to explore the two concepts a little more deeply. I started by reading Psalm 148. What a powerful psalm of praise! It calls for every living breathing thing, and each and every part of God’s creation to all sing in praise! From the sky to the sea, from the trees to the earth itself, from  animals on earth to creatures of the deep.  Nothing is missed in this declaration of praise. It is magnificent.

So praise is the offering of homage in word or song. It glorifies, exalts and honors God.

Bear with me as I take you down the bunny trail with me.

Glorify is to treat something as being more splendid and excellent.  Glory, the root word of glorify, is resplendent beauty or magnificence. It exceeds any other.  None compares.

To exalt is to elevate in speech or writing in praise in the honor of another. Honor is to hold in high respect. To revere.  Revere is to regard with respect tinged with awe; venerate. And awe is an overwhelming feeling of reverence, admiration, and fear produced by that which is grand, sublime, or extremely powerful.

As I ventured down this trail, I began to feel the weight of the words.  Praising God is nothing to take lightly.  It is an expression of all these attributes toward Him. It is our means of communicating, in word or song, we acknowledge how truly awesome He is.  Awesome in every way possible. It is the recognition of His position in the universe.  Not just my little miniscule life.  The BIG universe.  Larger than science understands.  Larger than our minds, hearts or souls can fathom. Yet small enough to be deposited inside each one of us to keep us connected to His power source.

So if these words or song equal praise and praise is only a component of worship, what is worship? Following the bunny trail, I began to realize that worship is so much more.

Worship is an attitude of reverence and adoration toward God.  We already discovered that reverence is deep respect tinged with awe. Honor is high respect. To adore is to regard with the utmost esteem, love and respect.

When I began to ponder “utmost esteem, love and respect” it became clear to me that this attitude is also accompanied by a lifestyle.  If we truly hold God this way in our heart, then obedience is there too. And faith! When we listen to the Holy Spirit and step out in faith, it is an act of worship.  Peter stepping out of the boat was an act of worship.  He had faith and acted in obedience out of an attitude of utmost esteem, love and respect for Christ. This high regard filled Peter with enough trust to attempt the impossible.  It bridged the gap from the natural to the supernatural and the miraculous.

Father, I repent for trying to “shrink” You into a relatable size to wrap my head around.  Help me to embrace everything that You are in worshipful awe. Help me to walk in worship of You each and every day.

Psalm 148, Matthew 2:1-2, Luke 2:25-33, John 4:22-24

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Losing Heart


“Now He was telling them a parable to show that at all times they ought to pray and not to lose heart,” Luke 18:1 NASB

The Bible talks about surrendering to God’s will, seeking God’s kingdom first, and that if two agree on earth concerning anything that they ask God for, it will be done.  Let’s say that we believe that we are doing all those things and still do not see a result? How long can you wait? As you wait, how do you stay in surrender and not lose heart?

Maybe we see others around us and it seems like their every prayer is answered; every dream comes true.  It’s easy to get into a shame spiral and pick yourself apart.  But don’t. Never compare. It will always get you into trouble.  We do not know the crosses that others bear.  They generally do not know ours either.  I truly believe that God really does only give us what we can bear.  I also truly believe that every test, every “growth opportunity,” is designed to move us down a very intricately designed path to accomplish a specific purpose for our lives.

When I catch myself comparing myself or my situation to others, I squelch it as quickly as I can.  When I feel shame begin to creep in or discouragement or disappointment, I try to acknowledge it and move on. Those are indicators that I am losing heart.

It is only through prayer, a direct and personal connection to God, that my heart can stay right.  It is in that place that I find the tender care I need.  That is where I find an incredible love that permeates those negative feelings.  It shines light in the darkness of negativity and obliterates it.  The fruit of that connection is reassurance, joy, peace, faith, and trust. It is all led by a wave of love that washes over me.  It assures me that I am not lost or forgotten. I am simply in a narrow place that requires sharp listening skills and an open heart. That is surrender.

If I can give a prescription for anyone losing heart, it is a healthy dose of prayer – as often as needed!

I may feel like a mess at that moment, but in the quite place in my heart I hear, “That’s not true.” It is in that place I come to understand that I am ok. I have to trust God. I know that He has my best in mind and that His best is worth waiting for.  Sometimes it is in the waiting that I discover how to find the joy and peace that passes understanding. I learn to accept and appreciate every blessing along the way.  I begin to see God in places I may not have even noticed before.  It is in that place that I see more and more of Him in others, as well as watch Him produce a transformation in me. It is often during the wait that I finally let go of my agenda and become more open to God’s plan.

It is amazing to get a glimpse of just how big God truly is. Each glimpse stretches my view and perspective of Him. It grows my faith.

Father, thank you for being trustworthy and never changing. I have to trust You. There is no one else like You. And I’m learning.

Luke 18:1-8, 2 Kings 6:17, Isaiah 40:31, Psalm 40:1

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Regret


“Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;” Matthew 3:8 NASB

In prayer I often ask God to search my heart. The Holy Spirit shows me when its off and I feel a nudge to explore it further in prayer and scripture. That often leads to repentance.  Regret is a component of repentance.  It is a feeling of sorrow or remorse; a sense of loss, disappointment, dissatisfaction.

When I look at how regret is a component of repentance, I have to reflect on what is lost when we operate in ourselves. Those things that can lead to regret. I see four primary things:

  • Relationship
  • Acknowledgement
  • Abundance
  • Fruit

Relationship. When we choose not to operate with God’s guidance, everything becomes stilted in a worldly way. It affects our lens/filter in how we interpret things.

When our hearts act out of selfish desires, the fountain of God’s love within us is shut off. We begin to stifle the character of God that has been deposited inside of us that was designed to be expressed. We are to be a light in the darkness.

Acknowledgement. When we are operating in ourselves we are not acknowledging that we have been bought with a price. We are acting as if we own our destiny and purpose. The reality is we are not equipped to operate in this world in our own strength. We are disconnecting from the power source that allows us to fulfill our purpose and destiny.

Abundance. An abundance mindset relies on our Father. It celebrates who He is, all He does, and our relationship and reliance on His goodness, grace, and mercy. When our mindset shifts away from God, we begin to strive. We fight to be recognized and seen as valuable in other ways. The sense of loss we are experiencing relates to our lost identity in Christ. We struggle. We toil. We labor under the burden of a heavy yoke that we choose instead of the yoke that Christ offers.

Fruit. Our vine begins to shrivel because we are not being fed with nutritious food and water. When we are focused on self-reliance we are not receiving God’s Word and the wisdom, comfort, and peace of the Holy Spirit in our lives. It is the Holy Spirit that releases all the beautiful fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

Father, I pray I bear fruit in keeping with repentance. Thank you for continuing to make and transform me.

Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9, 1 John 3:23, Matthew 3:7, 12:34. 23:23

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Abundance


“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction.” Exodus 16:4 NASB

There have been times when I have gone through tests, different types: relationships, financial, career, integrity. Some I have endured better than others.  Some I have had to repeat.  The best are the ones where I tuck into God, trusting Him and looking to Him for direction.  It’s still hard. This verse in Exodus really sums it up for me.  Am I truly able to accept God’s provision daily and walk in His instruction? Am I able to live one day at a time? Can I rest in it? Peacefully? Joyfully? Abundance is not always about material things.  What is a life of abundant faith?

It is a day to day journey.  Wisdom Hunters “Soul Food” devotional (October 23, 2014) stated “Abundant life is for the faith-hearted.” Not the faint-hearted.  Not the well-organized. Not the wealthy. Not the poor. Not the intellectually superior.  Faith unlocks miracles of the spiritual realm.  It is the same today as it was for Jesus.  He walked away from communities of little faith. He flourished in the lives of those willing to take even one step in faith.

That gives me hope.  If I can just take that one step of faith…

It’s a day to day journey, one step at a time, in faith.

Father, I stand in faith. Faith in Your power, Your promises, Your plan. In You I have hope. In You I am strong.  Thank you for Your undying love! In You I find abundance. Help me be more faith-hearted every day!

Hebrews 11, Matthew 8:26, Matthew 6:30; Mark 10:52, Matthew 12:13-21

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The Lord Delivers


17” The righteous cry out, and the Lord hears them; he delivers them from all their troubles.18 The Lord is close to the brokenhearted  and saves those who are crushed in spirit. 19 The righteous person may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all;” Psalm 34:17-19 NIV

Have you ever been brokenhearted?  I have.  Sometimes by people, sometimes by circumstances, or both.  I have reacted several different ways:

  • called up friends to demonize the other person
  • called up friends to simply cry and complain
  • called up friends to ask for help
  • try to bury the hurt in activities and ignore the hurt; to “move on” and pretend that it didn’t hurt at all

Then I had an occasion where I tried something different.  I simply cried out to the Lord.  After tears and a nap I decided to go into His Word.  I began to hear His voice speak to me, give me comfort and direction.  There was no doubt He heard my cry.

Father, thank you for hearing my cries, drying my tears, and never leaving my side. Thank you for delivering me!

Romans 10:13, Deuteronomy 28:7-10

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Counselor


“For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”  Isaiah 9:6 AMP

Counselor is one of the roles of a king or other highly placed official.  It is the task of being wise and judicious in the most difficult questions, the most complicated negotiations, and the most intractable problems.  Jesus was the only infallible counselor.

Wonderful means out of the ordinary, clearly different, beyond human explanation.  God knows when we sit and rise, our goings and comings. He perceives our every thought. He is intimately familiar with us.  His knowledge is too wonderful for us to imagine.  We have access through His Holy Spirit to His wonderful counsel daily.

Father, thank you for Your Son Jesus.  Thank you for creating a way for us.  You know us so intimately and love us so much that You created an infallible path.  I pray we shine a light on Your path with every opportunity we are given. I love You Almighty Jehovah!

Psalm 139:1-6, John 14:16-17, 2 Corinthians 4:16, Romans 12:2

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