Front and Center

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. (Psalm 23:5 NIV)

God always rewards His servants in public, and I believe that He does it even more so for their enemies to see. By enemies, I mean people who do the devil’s bidding (News flash: yes, they exist!). In today’s passage, David gives us a glimpse of what it is that God wanted his enemies to see: David being the honored guest at God’s banquet where he is not only protected and provided for but also blessed! Imagine being invited to dine with the Queen of England! You would be the envy and the talk of the town. This is the picture I get when I think of Psalm 23:5. David is having a meal with Israel’s true King while his enemies look on with envy and jealousy.

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I don’t know who or what the devil has used against you, but let me just encourage you today that God always makes wrong things right. And He always does so in a way that everyone can see it, even the people who hurt you. God’s favor and blessing is on your life and it’s only a matter of time before others see it too. Just as God reminded David of his position in God’s kingdom, He wants to remind you of yours, “God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:6-7). And as someone who is seated with the King of kings, don’t you ever stoop low to the enemy who is trying to drag you down. After all, he always wanted that seat of honor. So keep calm and stay royal.

Back to Basics

Simon Peter, Thomas (also known as Didymus), Nathanael from Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two other disciples were together. “I’m going out to fish,” Simon Peter told them, and they said, “We’ll go with you.” So they went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing. (John 21:2-3 NIV)

There’s a reason why we don’t do basic in God’s kingdom. When Jesus chose Peter as His disciple, Jesus told him that instead of a fisherman, he would become a fisher of men (Matthew 4:19). When Peter chose to go back to the trade he had known all his life and failed, he was once again reminded of his real purpose. He had to fail again as a fisherman in order to be reinstated as a fisher of men. Peter was meant to be the “rock” on which Jesus would build His church (Matthew 16:18). Thankfully, he eventually understood his purpose and cast the fishing gear away.

There will always come a time when you’ll feel like going back to what you’ve known all your life because you’re not certain of Jesus’ calling on you life anymore. Peter did. After Jesus’ crucifixion, death and burial, Peter took the old road because it seemed safe and familiar. But like Peter, God has called us to something greater. Just because you don’t understand His plan, it doesn’t mean that you’re not serving your purpose. Don’t lose sight of your calling. Believe that you are where you’re meant to be and soon enough, you’ll be who you are meant to be.

Glory in Suffering

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. (Romans 5:3-4 NIV)

Some people don’t want to go through the difficult things you’ve had to go, but they do want the glory that is revealed in you through those sufferings, such as endurance, which in turn, produces character, which generates hope. It’s like trying to win an award you haven’t earned; to be recognized for something you haven’t accomplished. The Bible is clear that as Christians we will continue to face hardships as a result of living in a broken world. And while most Christians embrace their sufferings as part of their calling and allow God to bring good out of their unfortunate circumstances, others try to evade the suffering but still expect to have a great impact in the world. They want a share in your success, but not your struggles.

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One of my all-time favourite Bible stories is found in the book of Nehemiah. While the Jews were trying to rebuild their shattered city, they were mocked and threatened. Their enemies didn’t think that they could rebuild it. I love Nehemiah’s response, “The God of heaven will give us success. We his servants will start rebuilding, but as for you, you have no share in Jerusalem or any claim or historic right to it” (Nehemiah 2:20). Once those city walls started to go up, their enemies were afraid. But they had no share in the city’s success because they didn’t contribute to its growth. We simply can’t expect to get a crown when we refuse to carry a cross.

In God We Trust

In you, Lord my God, I put my trust. I trust in you; do not let me be put to shame, nor let my enemies triumph over me. (Psalm 25:1-2 NIV)

The more we get to know people, the more we begin to realize that they can’t be trusted. Even the best of people are going to disappoint us at some point in our lives because they’re human and therefore, imperfect. But while people are constantly changing, God remains constant. We can truly trust Him! The Psalmist in today’s passage sure did. Troubled by enemies, David knew that he could only turn to God who was worthy of his trust and who wouldn’t let him down. After all, only God could meet – and exceed – David’s expectations. The United States got their motto right: “In God We Trust.” Put your full trust in God alone. Because sooner or later, you will discover that He is the only one who can be trusted.

Oh Boy!

His daughter-in-law, the wife of Phinehas, was pregnant and near the time of delivery. When she heard the news that the ark of God had been captured and that her father-in-law and her husband were dead, she went into labor and gave birth, but was overcome by her labor pains. As she was dying, the women attending her said, “Don’t despair; you have given birth to a son.” But she did not respond or pay any attention. She named the boy Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel”—because of the capture of the ark of God and the deaths of her father-in-law and her husband. She said, “The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” (1 Samuel 4:19-22 NIV)

A few years ago, I wrote a devotional about the birth of Ichabod which was titled “Where is the Glory?” And a few days ago, my Bible reading plan took me back to this reading from First Samuel 4, but I noticed something different this time around. When Eli’s daughter-in-law was told that she had given birth to a boy, “she did not respond or pay any attention.” Instead, she went on naming her son, “Ichabod, saying, “The Glory has departed from Israel…The Glory has departed from Israel, for the ark of God has been captured.” As I have already noted in my previous devotional, this woman was the only one who seemed to understand the importance of God’s presence symbolized through the ark. That is why not even the news of giving birth to a boy – which, in and of itself, was a reason to rejoice – could keep her from despair. Phinehas’ wife was right. Nothing can replace God’s presence, not even the things in life that we think would bring us joy. Ichabod may not be a pleasant name, but it definitely serves as a good reminder to all of us that apart from God, there can be no joy.

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Beware of Scammers

A silversmith named Demetrius, who made silver shrines of Artemis, brought in a lot of business for the craftsmen there. He called them together, along with the workers in related trades, and said: “You know, my friends, that we receive a good income from this business. And you see and hear how this fellow Paul has convinced and led astray large numbers of people here in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia. He says that gods made by human hands are no gods at all. There is danger not only that our trade will lose its good name, but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis will be discredited; and the goddess herself, who is worshiped throughout the province of Asia and the world, will be robbed of her divine majesty.” (Acts 19:24-27 NIV)

There’s a story in the Book of Acts about a silversmith named Demetrius, who clearly loved money more than God (or goddess, in this case). When Paul came along “convinced and led astray large numbers of people…in Ephesus and in practically the whole province of Asia,by teaching “that gods made by human hands are no gods at all, Demetrius was obviously concerned. After all, his business depended on it. So he called together the craftsmen, “along with the workers in related trades,to gang up against Paul in the guise of religion. However, anyone reading the story can see that Demetrius wanted to stay in business. The Temple of Artemis which was once one of the Seven Wonders of the World, was eventually destroyed and this is all that remains of it.

Site of the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, Turkey.
Image: © Sergii Figurnyi/stock.adobe.com

Fast forward thousands of years later, we continue to read similar stories. There are people, like Demetrius, who use religion as an excuse for their own selfish ambitions. The gullible believe them, but the wise, know better. Beware of scammers who will try to sell you an idea so they can stay in business. Be bold enough to stand up for what you believe in even if others try to bring you down. Because if you keep standing strong, you will bring them down.

For Your Benefit

 “Father, glorify your name!” Then a voice came from heaven, “I have glorified it, and will glorify it again.” The crowd that was there and heard it said it had thundered; others said an angel had spoken to him. Jesus said, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” (John 12:28-30 NIV)

Jesus didn’t need to hear God’s audible voice in order to know that He was fulfilling His purpose on earth. He was content with just hearing God’s still, small voice because He was always in tune with His Father’s voice. But His hearers needed to hear it loud and clear and that is why He told them, “This voice was for your benefit, not mine.” They all heard it but what were they going to do with the proof of what they had seen and heard?

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There are still so many people today who don’t know God on a personal level that they need a sign of sorts to help them believe. God speaks louder to them to their benefit. That is why most people have more extraordinary encounters with Him than others. God’s voice can still be heard. But the question is, are we listening? To those of us who are willing to listen, His voice – be it quiet or loud – is for our benefit.

Look for the Light

You light a lamp for me. The LORD, my God, lights up my darkness. (Psalm 18:28 NLT)

There’s no denying that we’ve been living through some very dark times and are desperately yearning for the light. So did the psalmist in today’s passage. Read at length, Psalm 18 reveals one of David’s darkest moments. But he also found light at the end of the tunnel. He knew that there was no one else he could turn to than the Light. Several times in the psalm, we hear David crying out to God for deliverance and of being delivered. Instead of dwelling on his unfortunate circumstances, David chose to run to God who proved to be trustworthy. And isn’t that the only way to get through the darkness, by looking for the light? It’s been rightfully noted that “Darkness is the absence of light.” Maybe if we turned to God, we would see the light. Because nothing makes Him happier than to light up our darkness. He has kept a light on. Are you looking for it?

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Jesus replied, “My light will shine for you just a little longer. Walk in the light while you can, so the darkness will not overtake you. Those who walk in the darkness cannot see where they are going. Put your trust in the light while there is still time; then you will become children of the light.”

(John 12:35-36)

Speak the Language of Love

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. (1 Corinthians 13:1 NIV)

Today the church celebrates Pentecost, a profound time in its history when the Holy Spirit descended on the apostles 50 days after Jesus ascended to Heaven, allowing them to speak in tongues (languages they had never learned). While the gift of speaking in tongues remains controversial among Christians today, one thing remains certain: we should all be able to speak the language of love. The apostle Paul, who could speak in more tongues than the Corinthian church (1 Corinthians 14:18), had this to say to them, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal” (1 Corinthians 13:1). And what is love, but patient, kind, not envious, not boastful, not proud, not dishonoring others, not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeping no record of wrongs, not delighting in evil but rejoicing with the truth. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (13:4-8). Because “where there are tongues, they will be stilled,” but love will remain (v.8). So let us strive to speak the language of love.

Are You Zealous?

“I have been very zealous for the Lord God Almighty.” (1 Kings 19:10 NIV)

Elijah was so zealous for the Lord God Almighty that nothing could stop him from ridding the land from idolatry and false prophets. It was truly a mountain top experience. But once he was back on the valley, Elijah let a word from the enemy rob him of this victory. “Now Ahab told Jezebel everything Elijah had done and how he had killed all the prophets with the sword. So Jezebel sent a messenger to Elijah to say, “May the gods deal with me, be it ever so severely, if by this time tomorrow I do not make your life like that of one of them.” Elijah was afraid and ran for his life” (1 Kings 19:1-2).

Have you ever done something so great for God that victory felt certain only to feel defeat shortly after? That’s exactly how the enemy tries to make us feel in order to stop up from being zealous ever again. “Elijah was afraid and ran for his life.” In fact, he was so discouraged that he prayed that he might die (v.4). God didn’t answer that prayer, but He did choose someone else who was zealous and would continue the work:

The Lord said to him, “Go back the way you came, and go to the Desert of Damascus. When you get there, anoint Hazael king over Aram. Also, anoint Jehu son of Nimshi king over Israel, and anoint Elisha son of Shaphat from Abel Meholah to succeed you as prophet. Jehu will put to death any who escape the sword of Hazael, and Elisha will put to death any who escape the sword of Jehu. Yet I reserve seven thousand in Israel—all whose knees have not bowed down to Baal and whose mouths have not kissed him.” (vv.15-18)

True zeal doesn’t mean no fear. It means courage to keep going no matter what.

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