Is God your refuge and strength?

March 31, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.
(Psalms 46:1 (NIV))

Today’s world seems to be spiraling ever downward away from God’s Will. The events of the last several years seem to be leading us into the wars and rumors of wars that are written of in Matthew 24:6.

You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.
(Matthew 24:6-8 (NIV))

I may be naive, but I don’t remember a period in my lifetime that seemed so much on edge. I know that all throughout history, there have been periods where all seemed to be turmoil. I originally wrote and sent this out almost ten years ago based on what was happening in the world at that point. With what is happening in the world now, it seems very appropriate to be reminded about where our refuge and strength come from. It is not time to sit on the fence. It is not time to be indecisive. It is time to proclaim a faith in the Lord. Then we can truly claim that no matter what the world may have in store for us, God is truly our refuge. He is Creator. He is Lord of all. He is our Father. He is our hope.

What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?
(Romans 8:31 (NIV))

God is our refuge. He longs to have us draw close to Him. If we will only turn away from our sin and turn toward Him, He is our strength. He is an ever-present help in trouble. No matter what the world may send our way, we have the faith and assurance that God is there.

Is God your refuge and strength?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Have you made your move?

March 30, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

Come near to God and he will come near to you.
(James 4:8a (NIV))

I am sure that you have heard that God is everywhere and that He will never leave you, so how do you understand and comprehend this passage? If He is everywhere, isn’t He already near us?

God is everywhere, but sadly, too few people realize that He will not force Himself on anyone. We have to turn to Him out of a choice that we make, especially since we, as humanity, chose to turn away from Him as a result of the fall from grace in the Garden of Eden. We thought that we had been given knowledge, but instead, we lost all hope. Until God sent His Son, Jesus, into the world to pay the penalty for sin and death, we only knew the wages of our sin even if we chose good. Thankfully, God had a plan that would bring an end to this.

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God.
(John 3:16-21 (NIV))

Each of us must make a decision to come near to God. This is only accomplished by believing in Jesus as God’s one and only Son. Through the gift of grace freely given on the cross, the veil that separated God from humanity has been torn in two. God had set in motion a plan to bring us back to Him and the veil symbolized that completion of that plan. Jesus declared this culmination of God’s redemptive plan with His final words.

When he had received the drink, Jesus said, “It is finished.” With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.
(John 19:30 (NIV))

God used these events to unfold His perfect plan to draw each of us near to Him. God may use circumstances to get our attention, but He cannot make the decision for us. Our families and friends cannot make the decision for us. We have to be willing to put aside our pride and move closer to God. When we make that move, we will find that He is already closer than we could ever imagine.

Have you made your move?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Are you prepared?

March 19, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

The days of punishment are coming,
      the days of reckoning are at hand.
      Let Israel know this.
Because your sins are so many
      and your hostility so great,
the prophet is considered a fool,
      the inspired person a maniac.
(Hosea 9:7 (NIV))

These words were written to and about Israel long ago, but do you see anything in them that is true today?

Let me rephrase that general question into a few distinct questions.

When you look at the things that are going on in this country and in the world, are you overcome with the vast number of ways that humanity has found to sin against God? We take innocent life and call it choice. We take all the things that God has called a sin and an abomination and call it good. Anyone who points out that the world is going against God is ridiculed, chastised and labeled an old-fashioned fool. Anyone who speaks about Jesus as the only begotten Son of God and the only way to get to the Father is labeled a bigot and a lunatic. Do I need to go any further? Do you see these things happening more frequently or are you looking at the world through blinded eyes?

If Israel was warned of days of punishment coming for doing these things, where does that leave today’s society and world?

You may call me a fool and a maniac, but I need to ask more questions. I will say that many people are thinking about the world in its current state, for I am seeing many people who are posting Bible verses, ideas on how to love our neighbors, and even very strongly worded instructions to pray for God to protect His people. With this in mind, I want you to seriously think about your answers to the questions that are probably already lingering in your thoughts and hopefully your prayers.

Are you following God’s Word and have you accepted Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior?

Does it break your heart to see the things that go against God’s Word?

Is it possible that everything is coming to pass just as God has foretold?

Is it possible that we are too blinded by the world to truly recognize what is in front of our eyes?

Would you recognize unfolding events as part of God’s plan?

Do you believe that God will punish His creation for their sinful nature?

Do you believe that the world is becoming more engrossed in sin?

Sadly, most of us go about our daily lives with no thought about what is going on around us. We need to open our eyes. We need to be aware of the times and our surroundings. We need to wrap ourselves in God’s Word. We need to wrap ourselves in God’s love by accepting Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. We need to embrace the truth that God has a timeline and it is drawing close to His fulfillment of that timeline. We must be prepared to be called a fool for Jesus and a maniac for God.

Are you prepared?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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What controls your spirit?

March 18, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.
(2 Timothy 1:7 (NKJV))

How are you holding up in the midst of all that is happening in the world?

Be honest with yourself. Are you falling into the panic and fear that the world insists on spreading? Have you focused only on the world to the point that you have ignored or completely forgotten the promises that we have been given by our Lord? If you are fearful because of the events occurring in the world, it is time to step back and take a serious look at all that has been promised by God.

He sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, to redeem us and restore us to Himself. This restoration saves us from sin and death. Why would He save us from such a fate and then abandon us? Fear is rooted in uncertainty and a sense of danger. We have already been told our destiny lies with Jesus. That is certain. We have also been told to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. Does this sound like something we need to fear? We have nothing to fear because Jesus bore all of our sin. He willingly paid the consequences of our sins and gave us His righteousness and grace. We have been told that Jesus will return for us. If He is returning, what do we have to fear in this world?

When we accepted Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, all fear has been defeated. It has been replaced with His power and His love. When we embrace the Holy Spirit, He gives us a sound mind. He gives us His mind to guide us.

No matter what may come our way while we are in this world, we have nothing to fear, for we are His and He is ours!

What controls your spirit?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Have you returned to God with your heart?

March 10, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

“Even now,” declares the LORD,
    “return to me with all your heart,
    with fasting and weeping and mourning.”
Rend your heart
    and not your garments.
  Return to the LORD your God,
    for he is gracious and compassionate,
  slow to anger and abounding in love,
    and he relents from sending calamity.
(Joel 2:12-13 (NIV))

The words written long ago in the book of Joel still hold true to this very day. I imagine that they will be true until Jesus returns in triumph to the Mount of Olives. Only then, will it be too late for those who have made the wrong decision.

God wants us to turn from our sin and return to Him.

All too often, we do things that are extravagant in nature because we feel that we must do something of great magnitude, or great outward appearance, so that God will know that we mean it this time. Perhaps these acts are more for ourselves and our neighbors than they are for God, after all, God sees our hearts. He doesn’t need to see the flamboyant antics of someone who will break the promises that were just made. This is why we are told to “rend your heart,” for God sees the heart and He knows when it is truth. We can forever rend externally to ourselves and it will never have a lasting impact. When we rend our heart, it is the very center of our existence. We have made the decision to change from the inside out. Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke about what makes a man unclean.

He went on: “What comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean.’ For from within, out of men’s hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean.’ “
(Mark 7:20-23 (NIV))

Have you taken that ultimate commitment to God? Have you internalized the change by changing your heart? Have you returned to God with your heart?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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When you look at yourself, what do you find?

March 5, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people.
(Ephesians 5:3 (NIV))

Did this hit a little too close to home?

If not, when was the last time that you took a very serious and in-depth look at yourself?

If you examine yourself with God’s Word as the benchmark, you will always come up short. If you aren’t finding anything, then you aren’t looking!

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?
(2 Corinthians 13:5 (NIV))

We have been given other things to look for beside sexual immorality, impurity and greed. We have also been told the consequences if we do not take action to correct these traits.

Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person—such a person is an idolater—has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
(Ephesians 5:4-5 (NIV))

If we have professed a faith in Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior, then we are called to do the things that Jesus did. I have not found a single passage that says that He possessed any of these traits that we are told are improper. If we truly desire to follow Jesus, then we are to follow Him in all aspects of our lives. Jesus never embraced sin. He rebuked sin. He told people to leave their life of sin and follow Him.

With that said, I want to ask you one more time to take an in-depth look at yourself. Examine your life through the eyes of Jesus.

When you look at yourself, what do you find?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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Why are we drawn to return to our sin and slavery?

March 2, 2020

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Be Still . . .
Devotionals for Daily Living
©

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.
(Galatians 5:1 (NIV))

What is it about human nature that makes us return to something that we know we should leave behind? We have all been guilty of doing this very thing, and probably much more often than we care to admit. Apparently, human nature since the fall from grace has always had us doing what can only be called self destructive behavior. We know that we shouldn’t, but yet we do. This type of behavior has been pointed out many times, but probably the most accurate and disgusting is the following.

As a dog returns to its vomit,
so fools repeat their folly.
(Proverbs 26:11 (NIV))

As I stated previously, we all do it. Even the man who is credited with bringing the Gospel to the Gentiles fought this aspect in his own walk of faith. Paul was a very intelligent person, but yet he didn’t understand the self destructive nature that he fought against.

I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing. Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
(Romans 7:15-20 (NIV))

This struggle that all of us face makes it clear why each of us are called to take up our cross daily. We are to deny that part of our human nature. We are to struggle with this sinful nature each and every time that it raises its ugly head in our lives. We are called to repent. Far too many people believe that this is a one-time occurrence, but it should be a daily attitude and activity. Do I even venture to say that, on some days, we may have to humble ourselves continually before the Lord and repent of our actions and our thoughts?

I know that we are a fallen creation, but I wish I had the magic answer as to why we return to our sin when we don’t want to. I wish I knew how to turn off that part of my life so that I never take my eyes off of Jesus. Just like Paul, I find myself doing the very things that I hate! I don’t know why! I long to do only what is good and righteous, yet on my own, this is not possible. I just know that we must be ready to fall on our knees whenever and wherever we may find yourself returning to our sin.

I want to leave you with one question that I hope you will take to heart.

Why are we drawn to return to our sin and slavery?

Copyright 1998 – 2020 Dennis J. Smock
Daily Living Ministries, Inc.
http://www.dailylivingministries.org
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