The scripture I have chosen to begin a New Year is Habakkuk 3:17-19. It is one I have turned to for hope and inspiration during hard times. I think 2020 would qualify as a hard year, so I wanted to begin this New Year of 2021 with a look back and a look forward with hope and joy in my heart because of who God is and what He has done in my life.
Though the fig tree does not bud and there are no grapes on the vines, though the olive crop fails and the fields produce no food, though there are no sheep in the pen and no cattle in the stalls, (This sure sounds like all the calamity of a year in 2020!) 18yet I will rejoice in the Lord, I will be joyful in God my Savior. (This is my resolve for 2021!) 19The Sovereign Lord is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. (This is what a know by faith.)
What is your resolve for this New Year? What do you know about God through your faith? Where is your hope and joy in this New Year? Is it in Jesus where it can never fail no matter what comes into your life? The prophet Habakkuk really nailed it when he looked around him and saw his world falling apart. And yet, he looked to the Lord as the ever present, never ending source of His joy. He had hope and joy because he knew that God had the situation under His control, He is Sovereign. He knew that his own strength would fail but God could and would lift him up and restore, renew, protect and keep him in His everlasting arms.
Do you have that kind of faith? If not, look to Jesus the founder and perfecter of our faith. He is the only one who can restore and keep you safe in Him. As Martin Luther proclaimed starting the Reformation, “In Christ Alone”.
May this be a year of restoration for you, me and the world. May many turn to Jesus for their restoration and hope. Happy New Year as we begin 2021 together.
Are you in a hard spot this Thanksgiving Day? The prophet Habakkuk gives us words for difficult circumstances that bring hope and thanksgiving to our lips, no matter what.
Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, 18 yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation! 19 The Sovereign Lord is my strength! He makes me as surefooted as a deer, able to tread upon the heights. Habakkuk 3:17-19
The situations that are described in verse 17 are about as bad as it could get for an ancient agrarian society. Famine, crop failure, animals dying, no oil for lamps or cooking or wine for pressing and barren fields would mean complete destruction of life as they knew it. What devastating circumstances are you experiencing- loss of job, illness, Covid-19, death of a loved one, aloneness this Thanksgiving? Then Habakkuk’s words of hope and resolve in verse 18 and 19 are meant for you today.
Realign your thinking and focus on the goodness and provision of God. He alone is to be the source of our joy and strength and He is eternal. No devastating circumstances can remove or diminish God’s love for us. We are saved through faith in Jesus and salvation is a permanent state of being. Through God we can have the strength to endure hardships both physical and emotional. By concentrating and relying upon His strength, we can and will endure. My go to verse is 2 Corinthians 12:9 ” “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” God gives me exactly what I need each day to endure with and in Him.
May we live each day dependent upon God’s Grace and be filled with Thanksgiving in our hearts.
Here are some verses to uplift, encourage and challenge you this 5th Sunday of Lent as our world struggles with the pandemic of Covid-19:
God is Sovereign: Psalm 103:19 “The Lord has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules over all.” 2 Chronicles 20:6 ““O Lord, God of our fathers, are you not God in heaven? You rule over all the kingdoms of the nations. In your hand are power and might, so that none is able to withstand you.” John 10:29 “My Father, who has given (my sheep- believers) to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” Acts 17:26 “And he made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined allotted periods and the boundaries of their dwelling place,” Each of these verses shows God’s Sovereign power. He is Creator God and there is none greater. Once we belong to Him, nothing and no one can take us away from Him. God is the determiner of mankind and those things He allows to come into our lives. Like the plagues of the Old Testament, pray, pray, pray for God’s mercy in these days of Covid-19. Humble yourselves and turn back to Him and seek Him and His forgiveness. “We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are. 23 For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:22-23 God promises restoration and forgiveness if: if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
Here are the truths we found in God’s Word from Ephesians 4:17-5:20this last week. They are rich and bring joy and challenge to the believer as we endeavor to walk with Him each day. Because Christ died on the cross and rose from the dead:
I can be a new creation in Jesus! Ephesians 4:17-24
We are made for righteous actions and thoughts towards ourselves and others which bring joy to God. Ephesians 4:25-32
We can be imitators of Jesus and have lives filled with love. Ephesians 5:1-2
I can choose light and life with Him. Ephesians 5:3-8
His light can be seen in me. Ephesians 5:9-14
How I live my life for Him matters. Ephesians 5:15-20
May you have a Sunday filled with His love and be able to spend time praying and mediating on His Sovereignty and His wonderful truths from Ephesians.
Lenten Sunday’s are a time apart to get recharged and worship our Savior. These last weeks I have been studying King David’s life and was brought to my knees by Psalm 51. David wrote this psalm after his great sin with Bathsheba and the ordering of the death of Uriah, her husband. David’s confession is real, heartfelt and gives us hope that God can indeed forgive all our sins and restore us. Be restored and seek God’s forgiveness as you meditate. Psalm 51: 1-4, 10-12, 17
Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love; according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions. 2 Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.
3 For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me. 4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.
David acknowledges his sin and knows God can forgive and wash him clean.
Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. 11 Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. 12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.
David knows God can restore, renew and bring joy where there was sorrow over sin.
My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.
David’s humbly offers God is his broken and sorrowful heart.
Prayer: May it be so with me too. Forgive my sins and create in me a new restored, resolved and committed heart to serve you. Amen.
Suggestion: attend a worship service really focusing on the praise and worship of God, so that you can soak in His restoring power.
Today’s blessing passage comes from Psalm 40. David leads up to verses 4 and 5 by describing the wonderful things God has done for him and can do for us. By the time we get to verse 4, we are ready to see how trusting the Lord can and does bring great blessing and to tell others of God’s greatness.
40 I waited patiently for the Lord; he inclined to me and heard my cry In life, David had learned to wait upon the Lord patiently even when it was hard. He experienced God’s hearing his pleas for help and His rescues personally as he waited 14 years to be king while running and hiding from Saul. Is God asking you to wait patiently today? 2 He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure. David had been rescued by God from Saul, the Philistines and from his own sinful mistakes multiple times, and he had experienced God’s restoration both physically and spiritually. Is this your story too? 3 He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and fear, and put their trust in the Lord. David praised God for keeping him and giving him a new song of praise to sing, and he is calling others to put their trust in his saving God. If you could name your new song from God, what would be the title?
4 Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust, who does not turn to the proud, to those who go astray after a lie! Here David reaches the conclusion that one who trusts in God and not worldly things or advice is and will be truly blessed. Trusting God leads to wholeness in life. 5 You have multiplied, O Lord my God, your wondrous deeds and your thoughts toward us; none can compare with you! I will proclaim and tell of them, yet they are more than can be told. Lastly, David praises God for His grace, mercy, blessings and acts towards us. Even if we started now and praised all day long we could never tell of all the wonderful things God has done on our behalf. We are truly blessed by Almighty God and no one or nothing can compare to Him!
The first 5 verses of this Psalm are all about blessings David experienced first hand and so can we. God listens and desires that we wait patiently for His perfect timing. God will lift us out of hard circumstances in life and set us upon solid ground if we will place our trust in Him. He will give us a new song to sing as we walk with Him day by day. We will be blessed by trusting in Him and not looking elsewhere for our direction and guidance. God has given and will give us abundant blessings for walking in trust and faith.
What a wonderful recipe for success in life– patience in listening, trusting God to rescue and provide, singing His song, looking to Him for guidance and advice and telling about His goodness. Will you make this your intent today? Look for blessings if you do!
In this next portion of scripture I envision the angels as they announce the arrival of our Savior to the shepherds, or Paul as he preaches about the ‘good news’ of the gospel. Like many prophecies it has already been fulfilled and yet there is one fulfillment still future to us.
Isaiah 52:7 “How beautiful on the mountains are the feet of those who bring good news, who proclaim peace, who bring good tidings, who proclaim salvation, who say to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
Scholars feel the first fulfillment of God’s return to Jerusalem (Zion) was when His people returned from captivity in Babylon. Nehemiah led the group back to Jerusalem with the blessing and provisions of King Artaxerxes. See the books of Nehemiah and Ezra for the full telling of their return, opposition, rebuilding of the walls and eventually the temple. The second fulfillment of this prophecy of good news being proclaimed in Zion comes through Jesus. He proclaimed the ‘good news’ of the kingdom. Jesus read the words in Isaiah as told in Luke 4:18 ““The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free,” He then in verses 20-21 Luke records, “Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him. He began by saying to them, “Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing.” Jesus knew the gospel or good news he preached was to bring salvation and deliverance for all who believed. The final fulfillment of this prophecy is still future to us. It will be when Christ returns triumphantly to Zion, proclaiming the good news of His return and reign over all the earth. Revelation 19:6 “Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting: “Hallelujah! For our Lord God Almighty reigns.” What a glorious time that will be!
The prophecy tells of good news- good tidings, that salvation is available to all who believe. Jesus’ coming brought hope of restoration in our relationship with God and freedom from the bondage of sin. Paul reasoned with the Jews in Antioch “Through him everyone who believes is set free from every sin, a justification you were not able to obtain under the law of Moses.” Acts 13:39 Again in Romans 6:-6-7 and 18 Paul explains this freedom and our new view of righteousness this freedom brings. “For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin—7 because anyone who has died has been set free from sin. “You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness.” The good news of the gospel brings restoration and hope, and that is good news indeed!
Who can you tell of the good news of Jesus this Christmas?
Messiah tells this scripture one way. The traditional Christmas carol proclaims the good news too. This one is just fun and makes me smile.
Part 1 of the Messiah ends with the following verses from Matthew 11. “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” The Messiah that Handel has been exclaiming about in song will bring hope, restoration, rest, comfort and wisdom for living our lives with Him. Following Him provides us with opportunity to bring our heaviest problems, cares, concerns or heartaches to Him. He promises rest for our weary souls and will teach us to bear up under the strains of living. Walking with Him will seem easy and it will lighten our burdens by sharing them with Him.
Does this life with Jesus describe you? Look at these verses in the Amplified Bible and see if it helps clarify what walking with Him will do in and through you. “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavily burdened [by religious rituals that provide no peace], and I will give you rest [refreshing your souls with salvation]. 29 Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me[following Me as My disciple], for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest (renewal, blessed quiet) for your souls.30 For My yoke is easy [to bear] and My burden is light.” Are you bogged down by religious rituals that seem meaningless? Have you experienced the refreshment of Salvation in Jesus? Do you consider yourself His disciple? Does walking with Him seem no burden at all as He is right there with you?
Look to Jesus today for hope, encouragement, rest and lightness in your burdens.
Here is a lovely song using these verses. Music from the Messiah was not available.