“It is not an enemy who taunts me— I could bear that. It is not my foes who so arrogantly insult me— I could have hidden from them. Instead, it is you—my equal, my companion and close friend. What good fellowship we once enjoyed as we walked together to the house of God.” Psalms 55:12-14 NLT
Have you ever experienced betrayal from a close friend and fellow church goer? I sure have! The sting is deep and the pain is almost unbearable. Attacks from an enemy are expected but an attack from a comrade is a blindside. After all, our friends are supposed to have our backs, not stab us in the back. Sure, a friend is someone who will speak the truth to us even if it hurts, but this doesn't mean that they turn on us.
“Wounds from a sincere friend are better than many kisses from an enemy.” Proverbs 27:6 NLT Sadly, this has happened many times over the course of history. Listen to the heart cry of the Apostle Paul when He was in his final days: “Timothy, please come as soon as you can. Demas has deserted me because he loves the things of this life and has gone to Thessalonica. Crescens has gone to Galatia, and Titus has gone to Dalmatia. Only Luke is with me. Bring Mark with you when you come, for he will be helpful to me in my ministry.” 2 Timothy 4:9-11 NLT “Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm, but the Lord will judge him for what he has done. Be careful of him, for he fought against everything we said. The first time I was brought before the judge, no one came with me. Everyone abandoned me. May it not be counted against them. But the Lord stood with me and gave me strength so that I might preach the Good News in its entirety for all the Gentiles to hear. And he rescued me from certain death. Yes, and the Lord will deliver me from every evil attack and will bring me safely into his heavenly Kingdom. All glory to God forever and ever! Amen.” 2 Timothy 4:14-18 NLT We cannot expect to live in this world without experiencing the fallen nature of humanity. I hate to say it this way, but it's par for the course. People will abandon us, disappoint us, slander us, attack us, and the list goes on. Let's face the facts: not everyone who runs this race will finish it. There will be those who lose their way and their lives will become a casualty. The pain and anguish that come our way is common to a fallen existence. We must remember our orders and stay the course, no matter what!! Listen to the great hall of faith chapter of Hebrews 11: “How much more do I need to say? It would take too long to recount the stories of the faith of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and all the prophets. By faith these people overthrew kingdoms, ruled with justice, and received what God had promised them. They shut the mouths of lions, quenched the flames of fire, and escaped death by the edge of the sword. Their weakness was turned to strength. They became strong in battle and put whole armies to flight. Women received their loved ones back again from death. But others were tortured, refusing to turn from God in order to be set free. They placed their hope in a better life after the resurrection. Some were jeered at, and their backs were cut open with whips. Others were chained in prisons. Some died by stoning, some were sawed in half, and others were killed with the sword. Some went about wearing skins of sheep and goats, destitute and oppressed and mistreated. They were too good for this world, wandering over deserts and mountains, hiding in caves and holes in the ground.” Hebrews 11:32-38 NLT Our eyes must be fixed on the Lord Jesus Christ!! “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in the place of honor beside God’s throne. Think of all the hostility he endured from sinful people; then you won’t become weary and give up. After all, you have not yet given your lives in your struggle against sin.” Hebrews 12:1-4 NLT
No matter what happens, we must keep our eyes on Jesus and finish the course He has laid out for us. “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead, I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us.” Philippians 3:13-14 NLT Heaven is waiting! The sidelines are lined with saints of the ages who are cheering us on. “As for me, my life has already been poured out as an offering to God. The time of my death is near. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, and I have remained faithful. And now the prize awaits me—the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give me on the day of his return. And the prize is not just for me but for all who eagerly look forward to his appearing.” 2 Timothy 4:6-8 NLT
“Confuse them, Lord, and frustrate their plans, for I see violence and conflict in the city. Its walls are patrolled day and night against invaders, but the real danger is wickedness within the city. Everything is falling apart; threats and cheating are rampant in the streets.”
Psalms 55:9-11 NLT
David prayed for God to confuse his enemies and disrupt their plans. David saw the actions of his fellow citizens as ungodly. There is certainly nothing wrong with praying for God to disrupt the plans of evil people. Evil must be fought against. Edmund Burke once said "Evil prevails because good people do nothing"! This is a true statement. When we sit idly by while evil runs our streets like open sewage, we can expect an implosion. An implosion is an inward and sudden collapse. Our nation has faced threats many times over the years. My fear is that the greatest threat is right here among us. A godless attitude among the culture, the ignoring of godly principles, and the outright wickedness that flaunts itself in our faces is bringing our nation to the point of collapse. The devil knows how to exploit our vulnerabilities and how to bring about our destruction. We live in affluence, financially and materially, yet we are poverty stricken in spirit. We have plenty in our purses and nothing in our person. We have PhD carrying intellectuals who are ignorant of the truth and arrogant in their achievements. We have pulpits that are more concerned about popularity and self preservation than the Word of God! We have succumbed to the rat race of a dog eat dog society. The media seeks to shred anyone who dares stand for Biblical truth and moral righteousness. Politicians play the role of puppets rather than displaying principle and conscience. Rather than pursuing righteousness, many of our governing officials are more concerned about cultural appeasement than serving the best interest of our nation. Drug use runs rampant over us like a tsunami. America consumes over 90 percent of the worlds opiates and yet only constitutes 4 percent of the worlds population. We are allowing children to be killed inside the mothers womb and even pay for their murderous act with tax dollars. We are normalizing what God calls an abomination. Our families are being ripped to shreds and we are pursuing personal agendas at break neck speed. The greatest enemy is right here among us. We must repent and turn to God if we expect to have a prospect of the future. It's time to get serious about all of this. Our nation and its future is hanging in the balance. We have a state of the art military and I am thankful for all who serve. However, the sheer reality is this: No matter how advanced we are, no matter what measures we put in place to protect our nation, we are left exposed and vulnerable without Jesus! He is our only true defense. Where are the men who once stood for righteousness? If we will take personal account of our lives and take a good look in the mirror, we will know who is responsible. Today, let us be broken before God because of our sins, repent and turn to Him for healing, and plead with God to spare our land. (See 2 Chronicles 7:14). Does your heart ache when you see the rampant ungodliness around you or have you become desensitized by exposure to the culture? We cannot sacrifice future generations on the altar of our selfish ungodliness. Will you be a Josiah, Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego, or a Timothy? We need men and women who fear God and seek to please Him. Will you be one of them?
“Listen to my prayer, O God. Do not ignore my cry for help! Please listen and answer me, for I am overwhelmed by my troubles. My enemies shout at me, making loud and wicked threats. They bring trouble on me and angrily hunt me down. My heart pounds in my chest. The terror of death assaults me. Fear and trembling overwhelm me, and I can’t stop shaking. Oh, that I had wings like a dove; then I would fly away and rest! I would fly far away to the quiet of the wilderness. How quickly I would escape— far from this wild storm of hatred.” Psalms 55:1-8 NLT
Do you ever feel overwhelmed with adverse circumstances? At times, life can be, seemingly, out of control. In those moments we experience varied emotions that sometimes take us to a place of despair. In response, we cry out to God for rescue. Everything else pales in comparison to that moment and we simply want to escape it. We long to find rest. Weary from the struggle, we yearn for peace. If only life would stop being so difficult. In those moments it is critical to remain steadfast and unmovable. There is no pit that He is not deeper. Cornelia Arnolda Johanna, better known as Corrie Ten Boom, was a Dutch woman who's family assisted Jews in escaping the Nazi's during the time of the Holocaust (WW II). She and her sister, Betsie, were sent to Ravensbrück concentration camp. There, she and her sister endured the horrors of such a place. Her sister died while there, but shortly afterward, Corrie was miraculously set free by some clerical error. She would later author a book titled "The Hiding Place". In 1975, a film was produced by James F. Collier about her story, with the same title.
Here are some of her quotes:
• "Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow; it empties today of its strength"
• "Never be afraid to trust an unknown future to a known God"
• "When a train goes through a tunnel and it gets dark, you don’t throw away the ticket and jump off. You sit still and trust the engineer"
• “If you look at the world, you’ll be distressed. If you look within, you’ll be depressed. But if you look at Christ, you’ll be at rest"
• "You can never learn that Christ is all you need, until Christ is all you have"
• "There is no pit so deep, that God’s love is not deeper still"
Today, let us take the time to remember the fallen. Our nation has been granted, by God, the freedoms we enjoy. Many have sacrificed their all to afford us the privileges we now enjoy. The very fact that I can freely send this message is testimony of that fact. I am thankful to come into your lives each weekday with the message of God's Word and Jesus Christ, His Only Son, our Lord!! Have a most blessed Memorial Day!
“Come with great power, O God, and rescue me! Defend me with your might. Listen to my prayer, O God. Pay attention to my plea. For strangers are attacking me; violent people are trying to kill me. They care nothing for God. Interlude But God is my helper. The Lord keeps me alive! May the evil plans of my enemies be turned against them. Do as you promised and put an end to them. I will sacrifice a voluntary offering to you; I will praise your name, O Lord, for it is good. For you have rescued me from my troubles and helped me to triumph over my enemies.” Psalms 54:1-7 NLT
David was hiding from Saul, who wanted to kill him. David cried out to God for refuge and protection. The saga is recorded in 1 Samuel Chapters 18-31. David knew his only true defense was the LORD!!
In our own struggles, we must learn to cry out to God and depend upon Him for our provision and protection. Being obedient to God is the only sure way to have victory in Jesus. An old hymn says" Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey"! ("Trust and Obey" John H. Sammis)
Who will come from Mount Zion to rescue Israel? When God restores his people, Jacob will shout with joy, and Israel will rejoice.” Psalms 53:6 NLT
God has always delivered His people Israel. Israel is a special people to God! This doesn't mean that someone who is born as a Jew is saved. In fact, those who are born again are true spiritual Jews. “For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by the Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.” Romans 2:28-29 NLT The same can be stated about Americans. You aren't a Christian just because you are an American. Salvation is a gift from God to those who receive Jesus Christ as Savior and Lord, not those who are born to a religious family heritage. One day, all born again believers from all over the world, and from all of history, will gather in the restored New Jerusalem as children of God Then, we will rejoice (see Isaiah chapter 65; 2 Peter 3:13; Revelation Chapters 21 and 22). “Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore. Be glad; rejoice forever in my creation! And look! I will create Jerusalem as a place of happiness. Her people will be a source of joy. I will rejoice over Jerusalem and delight in my people. And the sound of weeping and crying will be heard in it no more. “No longer will babies die when only a few days old. No longer will adults die before they have lived a full life. No longer will people be considered old at one hundred! Only the cursed will die that young! In those days people will live in the houses they build and eat the fruit of their own vineyards. Unlike the past, invaders will not take their houses and confiscate their vineyards. For my people will live as long as trees, and my chosen ones will have time to enjoy their hard-won gains. They will not work in vain, and their children will not be doomed to misfortune. For they are people blessed by the Lord, and their children, too, will be blessed. I will answer them before they even call to me. While they are still talking about their needs, I will go ahead and answer their prayers! The wolf and the lamb will feed together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. But the snakes will eat dust. In those days no one will be hurt or destroyed on my holy mountain. I, the Lord, have spoken!”” Isaiah 65:17-25 NLT
“Will those who do evil never learn? They eat up my people like bread and wouldn’t think of praying to God. Terror will grip them, terror like they have never known before. God will scatter the bones of your enemies. You will put them to shame, for God has rejected them.” Psalms 53:4-5 NLT
Evil men will always be upon the earth until the day of God's wrath. “Then everyone—the kings of the earth, the rulers, the generals, the wealthy, the powerful, and every slave and free person—all hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains. And they cried to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of the one who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb. For the great day of their wrath has come, and who is able to survive?”” Revelation 6:15-17 NLT “And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven. He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with eternal destruction, forever separated from the Lord and from his glorious power. When he comes on that day, he will receive glory from his holy people—praise from all who believe. And this includes you, for you believed what we told you about him.” 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10 NLT In this fallen world, evil will do its best to oppress even the godly. “Yes, and everyone who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. But evil people and impostors will flourish. They will deceive others and will themselves be deceived.” 2 Timothy 3:12-13 NLT The good news is this: God has always provided for, and protected, His people. If you are one of God's children, He will defend you against the evil as well. No matter what evil may attempt to accomplish, God is greater! In this current state of depraved culture, we can expect to be assaulted and even killed for Christ. The fact yet remains: We are more than conquerors through Jesus Christ the LORD! “No, despite all these things, overwhelming victory is ours through Christ, who loved us. And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Romans 8:37-39 NLT Righteousness always prevails!!
“God looks down from heaven on the entire human race; he looks to see if anyone is truly wise, if anyone seeks God. But no, all have turned away; all have become corrupt. No one does good, not a single one!”
Psalms 53:2-3 NLT
This chapter is almost identical to Psalm 14. Psalm 14 has 7 verses. Chapter 53 has 6. The first 4 verses are identical. Both are recognized as being authored by David. The only differences are verses 5 and beyond. The last verse is almost verbatim. The content of these chapters is very clear. David felt surrounded by wickedness and ungodliness. He felt alone in his convictions and his consecrations. The society seemed to be steeped in their sin. As he looked around to find godly people, he found none. Something that must be understood here is this: Synagogue attendance, alone, didn't equate godliness in David's time. Neither does church attendance in our own time. Let me be very clear here. Church attendance is a sound discipline and a God ordained structure that is vital to the health and operation of the body of Christ. I do not advocate churchless Christianity!! Anyone who properly understands the scriptures will have to conclude that the church is God's institution and God's design for His family. The church is the bride of Christ (see Ephesians 5:22-33). You can't say that you love God and then say you hate His church. Saying that would be like saying you think the Groom is handsome and His wife is ugly. Sure, the bride has crawled through beggars dust and wallowed in the muck and mire of sin, but Christ has redeemed her and she is now His!! Aren't you glad?? I sure am!! Now, getting back to the church attendance, alone, aspect. Affiliation alone doesn't equate salvation. Salvation equates acceptation, by God, into His church! Simply sitting on a pew, holding an office, or going through religious motions does not make someone righteous. You can sit on the pew, hold the office, go through the motions and still be ungodly. There are many people, within the church, and without the church that are ungodly. Their words are foul, their business affairs are shady, their actions are out of line with Scriptural principle, they have no conscientiousness of their sin, and no conviction. Corrupt is an operative word for them. Are you a true Bible believing, blood washed, born again, Spirit filled child of God? I didn't ask if you were Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, Baptist, Church of God, Wesleyan, Nazarene, Assembly of God, or any other denomination (or non-denomination). Are you a child of God? Are you truly His? If so, are you letting your life be lived under His Lordship? Your life should evidence the possession of your profession!! Get involved and engaged in a local, Bible believing, teaching, preaching, practicing church. Now, don't go looking for a perfect church because the moment you join it, it will be imperfect! I think you get the point on that one! We are called to tolerate the human imperfections of our brothers and sisters. “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love.” Ephesians 4:2 NLT “Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others.” Colossians 3:13 NLT There are no perfect churches, practically. However there are perfect churches, positionally. “Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes.” Ephesians 1:4 NLT In Christ, those who are truly His, are made perfect through the blood of the Lamb (see Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:22). That's why we should respond in submissive surrender to His will and way. Don't let the culture around you dictate your practices. Let Jesus dictate them! Live a godly life!! (see I John 2:6). If you were being tried in a court of law for being a Christian, would there be enough evidence to convict you?
Only fools say in their hearts, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and their actions are evil; not one of them does good!” Psalms 53:1 NLT
To deny the existence of God is the ultimate act of foolishness. Life without God is a paradox of words, because there is no life without God. This kind of thinking is like someone who thinks they have no father or mother. Every human being that has ever lived has originated from a predecessor. None of us got here on our own and none of us can live as though we have no one to whom we are accountable. If there is a book, there is an author and a publisher. If there is a song, there is a composer and a singer. If there is a product, there is an inventor and a manufacturer. If there is life, there is a creator and a created. You don't have to be a rocket scientist to simply understand the reasonable logic in that. Let me share a quick story:
A student in science class once debated the teacher about the existence of God. The student argued that God was the Creator. The science teacher argued that there was no God and that we all came from an amoeba through the process of evolution over millions of years. Frustrated, the student began to pray of a way to prove his point without saying a word. For the next several months, the student meticulously sculpted a model of the planet earth with extraordinary detail. When complete, the student decided to sneak the model into the classroom after school hours with the janitors permission. The next school day, the science teacher raved about the excellent detail of this model earth. The teacher exclaimed that it was the best project that he had ever seen. The teacher inquired to his classes who had made it. No one answered. Getting agitated, the teacher frustratingly said "I know someone made this, it didn't just make itself and crawl in here on its own". In response, the Christian student simply said "that's exactly what I've been trying to tell you"!
“Unseal my lips, O Lord, that my mouth may praise you. You do not desire a sacrifice, or I would offer one. You do not want a burnt offering. The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit. You will not reject a broken and repentant heart, O God.” Psalms 51:15-17 NLT
Sin will interrupt one's ability to praise God. Sin separates us from fellowship with Him. David knew that things were not where they once were with His Master. The only resolution was repentance. Ritual, liturgy, creeds, etc. cannot make us right with God! God doesn't want our forms and fashion. He wants our hearts!! Take a look at what Psalm 66:18 says: “If I had not confessed the sin in my heart, the Lord would not have listened.” Psalms 66:18 NLT Now read this: “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all wickedness.” 1 John 1:9 NLT Repentance of sin brings us back into close fellowship with God. Once we are reconciled, Praise is acceptable to Him! In Joshua chapter 7 we read about a man named Achan who took things that belonged to God when the children of Israel had conquered Jericho in chapter 6. His sin caused the whole army to be defeated by Ai, a much smaller foe. Sin in the camp had its affect. Only when the sin was identified, and dealt with, could Israel gain the victory. Sin must be dealt with in our lives as well. When we identify it, deal with it in truth, and repent, we can become victorious in our endeavors. In Jesus, we have an advocate. He pleads our case in the court of Heaven. “My dear children, I am writing this to you so that you will not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate who pleads our case before the Father. He is Jesus Christ, the one who is truly righteous. He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world.” 1 John 2:1-2 NLT When we enlist His help, we find pardon for our past, power for the present, and a bright prospect for our future! Mercy is extended and grace imparted!! Amen!! Praise God!!! David had committed gross sin, yet forgiveness was his when he turned to God in repentance. God restored the joy of his salvation! Do you need your joy restored?
Rev. Curtis Norris