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Sifted & Strengthened

Father, thank You for understanding our weaknesses & loving us enough to expose them to us. Thank You for revealing the depths of our need for You & uncovering our insecurities. Your love for us is infinite & Your mercies are new every morning. Jesus, You have been our Advocate in a way that no one else ever could be. Our flesh is weak, but Holy Spirit, You bring strength to our bones & stamina to our hearts. Please embolden us for today & sustain us until tomorrow within Your peace. We lack nothing with You & remain impoverished without You. We praise You for Your great grace, O God. Carry us through our season of need & be glorified in the process. We are Yours.
This we acknowledge in Jesus’ Name, amen.

Luke 22:31-38
31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 Peter said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death.” 34 Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow this day, until you deny three times that you know me.”

35 And he said to them, “When I sent you out with no moneybag or knapsack or sandals, did you lack anything?” They said, “Nothing.” 36 He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. 37 For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” 38 And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.”

I think we all know what it feels like to be sifted. Shaken & tossed, who we are at the core is exposed & we feel like we have been left bare to the world. Any covering we may have had is removed & we are left open & we feel vulnerable. I’m sure Peter felt exposed when Jesus spoke about this, his own fears & weaknesses laid bare before his friends. It probably hurt, I guarantee it did. I imagine that Peter’s face went ashen when Jesus spoke to him about this & even when he tried to defend his love for Christ, Jesus revealed how quickly his denial would come.

We all have aspirations for ourselves within our faith.We have an image of our own devotion & strength for Jesus, & this ‘best case scenario’ of our faith-life is rarely reality when the pressure is one & it’s time to speak up or take steps of real faith. We tell ourselves stories, we are creative in justifying what we do & how we live. But when it comes down to it, we will deny, just like Peter did, that we have the capacity for such a quick falling away. But the proof is in the pudding, & belief is tested by pressure. We revert quickly to who we actually are when those moments come & Jesus wanted Peter to be prepared & to hear a word of grace before it came for him.

No one want to be left feeling inadequate, especially for the One who conquered death & sin & saved us from facing the wrath of God. But it wasn’t our strength that sent Jesus through His Passion & it wasn’t our righteousness that allowed Him to serve as our perfect sacrifice. We brought nothing to the table in this regard, we were continue to be inadequate when it comes to strength & saving ourselves. But Jesus is sufficient. Jesus is more than enough for us all. So when Peter was told about his coming failure & when you & I see our own moments of stumbling coming along, we can be reminded that it ids Jesus who brought grace & it is God’s Holy Spirit that fills us with the grace we need & provides us with strength for every obstacle.

Satan will always be our accuser, until the day he is defeated with a word & God’s judgment comes for all of us. He desires to ruin us & break God’s heart in the process. Jesus said it best, that he comes to steal, kill & destroy. But Jesus came so that we might have life & have it abundantly. When the enemy tries to attack or to remind us of past failures, we need to remember that Jesus has already opened the doorway to forgiveness with His own blood & that the devil holds no authority over us & his accusations fall flat. When we receive Jesus as Savior & Lord, our names are covered by His Name. Our identities are found in Him, not in our past, not in our mistakes & not in our weaknesses.

All glory & honor & praise go to Him for His great grace & love. He calls us to walk daily in those rhythms, not the old discord that used to define us, but in new rhythms of His grace & His love. We may still stumble, but He has already stooped to serve & help us stand again. May we be bold for Him & trust in the depths of His strength & His awesome forgiveness. He alone is worthy & makes us worthy in Himself. Thank God for that today.

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We shall not be moved

huge-boulder-at-sequoia-park
The LORD lives!
Blessed is my Rock!
Exalted is the God of my salvation!

28 For it is you who light my lamp;
    the Lord my God lightens my darkness.
29 For by you I can run against a troop,
    and by my God I can leap over a wall.
30 This God—his way is perfect;
    the word of the Lord proves true;
    he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

31 For who is God, but the Lord?
    And who is a rock, except our God?—
32 the God who equipped me with strength
    and made my way blameless.
Psalm 18:28-32

In the words of the Folk Spiritual song,

We shall not, we shall not be moved,
We shall not, we shall not be moved,
Just like a tree that’s standing by the water,
We shall not be moved.

When we stand with God, we will always find ourselves in a secure place. Encouraged by His presence, bolstered by His love, we are agents of grace in a hostile world. What a blessing to have this assurance in our faith. God is our lamp, the light for our path. No matter what shade may cross our path, no matter what obscuring lies may attempt to infiltrate our heart, the Wisdom & Truth from God the Father will always point us in the right direction. Trust in Him, even when the world screams its heresies and when it repeatedly whispers its soft, subtle lies, trust in the light of the Lord. When hard times come, when desperate times press us from all sides, rely on the strength of Christ and the power of His presence to see you through. Even when you cannot see the way, He will light the path for us.

With God, we can withstand anything, and overcome the obstacles in our path. He is the One who provides a pathway and the one who empowers His children. We are always in a good place when we stand with the Lord. be encouraged by His good promises, be lifted up by His grace. The onslaught of the enemy cannot stand against the Lord our God. He is our shield, He is faithful and true. He is our rock and our redeemer. Find your hope in Him. Find your strength in Him today. He is with you who have put on Christ.

His way is indeed perfect, He has shown us this time and again. His grace equips us for our encounters with others in need of grace. His steadfast love enables us to love those who are difficult to love. His boundless forgiveness reminds us of our own need to forgive others, echoing His great justice and mercy. His care & provision for us reminds us that we have been blessed to bless others, to reach out to those who suffer injustice, to provide for those in need.

He is everything we need.
In Him we stand secure.
In the face of all life’s struggles, we will not be moved.

35 You have given me the shield of your salvation,
    and your right hand supported me,
    and your gentleness made me great.
36 You gave a wide place for my steps under me,
    and my feet did not slip.
Psalm 18:35-36

The LORD lives!
Blessed is my Rock!
Exalted is the God of my salvation!
In Him may we find strength for the day’s trials & troubles.
In Him, may we find grace enough to share.
In Jesus’ precious & holy Name,
Amen.

Psalm 59 // God my strength

God will always vindicate His people in His timing and in His ways. We simply need to be faithful, honoring Him in our attitudes and hearts, understanding that His justice is not like man’s justice, and we should be very thankful for that. So, rather than following the sin-stained inclinations of man, He provides strength and a refuge for those who will follow Him in Christ.

God Our Stronghold

For the choir director: Do Not Destroy. A Davidic Miktam.
When Saul sent agents to watch the house and kill him.

“1 Deliver me from my enemies, my God;
protect me from those who rise up against me.
2 Deliver me from those who practice sin,
and save me from men of bloodshed.
3 Lord, look! They set an ambush for me.
Powerful men attack me,
but not because of any sin or rebellion of mine.
4 For no fault of mine,
they run and take up a position.
Awake to help me, and take notice.

5 Lord God of Hosts, You are the God of Israel,
rise up to punish all the nations;
do not show grace to any wicked traitors. Selah
6 They return at evening, snarling like dogs
and prowling around the city.
7 Look, they spew from their mouths —
sharp words from their lips.
For who, they say, will hear?

8 But You laugh at them, Lord;
You ridicule all the nations.
9 I will keep watch for You, my strength,
because God is my stronghold.
10 My faithful God will come to meet me;
God will let me look down on my adversaries.
11 Do not kill them; otherwise, my people will forget.
By Your power, make them homeless wanderers
and bring them down,
Lord, our shield.

12 For the sin of their mouths and the words of their lips,
let them be caught in their pride.
They utter curses and lies.
13 Consume them in rage;
consume them until they are gone.
Then people will know throughout the earth
that God rules over Jacob. Selah

14 And they return at evening, snarling like dogs
and prowling around the city.
15 They scavenge for food;
they growl if they are not satisfied.

16 But I will sing of Your strength
and will joyfully proclaim
Your faithful love in the morning.
For You have been a stronghold for me,
a refuge in my day of trouble.
17 To You, my strength, I sing praises,
because God is my stronghold —
my faithful God.”

Psalm 46 // God our Refuge

Peace comes from God & God alone.
His strength creates a hiding place for His children where we can truly be safe, not simply hidden from trouble. No matter what may be going on, God is capable of caring for us and will do whatever He has promise He will do. He is faithful, and the very definition of it. We lack nothing in His arms.

Praise Him! Lift up your voices all day long and glorify the One who brings peace in love, the One whose mercy covers us in grace. In Him, we truly can find refuge.

“1 God is our refuge and strength,
a helper who is always found
in times of trouble.
2 Therefore we will not be afraid,
though the earth trembles
and the mountains topple
into the depths of the seas,
3 though its waters roar and foam
and the mountains quake with its turmoil. Selah

4 There is a river —
its streams delight the city of God,
the holy dwelling place of the Most High.
5 God is within her; she will not be toppled.
God will help her when the morning dawns.
6 Nations rage, kingdoms topple;
the earth melts when He lifts His voice.
7 The Lord of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah

8 Come, see the works of the Lord,
who brings devastation on the earth.
9 He makes wars cease throughout the earth.
He shatters bows and cuts spears to pieces;
He burns up the chariots.
10 Stop your fighting — and know that I am God,
exalted among the nations, exalted on the earth.
11 Yahweh of Hosts is with us;
the God of Jacob is our stronghold. Selah”

Psalm 46:1-11

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