I don’t know how it works where you live, but when I have to call for a repair for one of my appliances, the company says something like, “The repairman will be there between 1:00 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.” Since I don’t know when the repair person will arrive, all I can do is wait.
Jesus told His followers that He would soon be leaving them and they would need to wait for His return in “a little while” (John 16:16). After His resurrection, they saw Him again and they hoped He would be establishing His kingdom on earth at that time. But He told them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority” (Acts 1:7). They would have to wait even longer.
But they were to do more than wait. Jesus told His followers that they were to “be witnesses to [Him] in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (v.8). And He gave them the Holy Spirit to empower them to do this.
We still wait for Jesus’ return. And while we do, it’s our delight, in the Holy Spirit’s power, to tell and show others who He is, what He has done for all of us through His death and resurrection, and that He has promised to return.
our words and our lives to be a witness
of Your goodness and grace. Please use
us in ways we never thought possible.
|Goodbye Shame and Regret; Hello Freedom and Purpose
“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 (NIV)
We had been warned to pack lightly, but learned that was easier said than done.
Departure day for our much-anticipated family vacation finally arrived, and we packed everything we needed, plus some. Over-packing resulted in a few pieces of luggage surpassing the weight limit.
We opened our suitcases, repositioned some items and discarded others. After a lot of shuffling, all the bags met the maximum-allowed weight and we completed our check-in.
After a great vacation, we lugged all our heavy bags back to the airport. I found myself once again wishing I had packed lighter. Most of what we had brought was unnecessary weight. The load was burdensome and prevented us from being able to freely move around and enjoy the remaining hours of togetherness.
As I sat at the gate waiting to board, resting from all the heavy bag toting, I remembered an earlier time in my life. Extra baggage in my heart from shame and regret paralyzed me with its weight. Mistakes and sins of my past kept me from experiencing the freedom to live joyfully as God intended.
My fondest memory is the day I unpacked all that emotional baggage and surrendered it to God, embracing for the very first time the life of joy and purpose God had for me.
In today’s key verse, Paul expresses a similar joy in knowing there is no condemnation in Christ. Before choosing to follow Jesus, Paul had persecuted and killed Christians. That’s a lot of heavy baggage to carry. So it’s even more compelling to read why he is passionate about God not condemning us.
In the chapter right before our key verse, Romans chapter 7, Paul acknowledges he is unspiritual, that he’d broken God’s laws and was a slave to sin. He also mentions he behaved in ways he despised, and didn’t do the things he knew he should. Paul was fully aware he was a sinner who had made wrong choices. He was also fully aware that Jesus loved him, died for him and had a purpose for him, nonetheless.
Paul intentionally chose not to allow shame or regret to keep him from knowing Christ, or from fulfilling his life’s purpose to share the gospel out of his weakest places.
So many people are stuck in memories of the past that fill them with shame and regret, either from their own sin or sins someone committed against them. These memories prevent them from believing they can be loved and used by God. But not one of us has to stay stuck. Paul didn’t allow his shame and regret to keep him from glorifying God, and we don’t have to either. What a privilege to know that the same God who saw value and purpose in Paul sees those things in us as well.
Just like Paul, no matter how much baggage we have in our past, Jesus calls us to surrender it all to Him. When we do, we can live in freedom, and our restoration and redemption can serve as a shining light to a world of broken people. People need to know they, too, can be forgiven, restored and used for holy purposes God destined just for them — not despite their past, but because of it.
Dear Jesus, circumstances of my past have caused me to be filled with shame and regret. I long to be free of that emotional and spiritual baggage. Please cleanse me, and fill me with peace. Help me discover how You can turn what the devil meant for evil into good, and how You can turn my past into my purpose. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.
The Excellent Way of Faith
Shut up to faith (Gal. 3:23).
God, in olden time suffered man to be kept in ward by the law that he might learn the more excellent way of faith. For by the law he would see God’s holy standard and by the law he would see his own utter helplessness; then he would be glad to learn God’s way of faith.
God still shuts us up to faith. Our natures, our circumstances, trials, disappointments, all serve to shut us up and keep us in ward till we see that the only way out is God’s way of faith. Moses tried by self-effort, by personal influence, even by violence, to bring about the deliverance of his people. God had to shut him up forty years in the wilderness before he was prepared for God’s work.
Paul and Silas were bidden of God to preach the Gospel in Europe. They landed and proceeded to Philippi. They were flogged, they were shut up in prison, their feet were put fast in the stocks. They were shut up to faith. They trusted God. They sang praises to Him in the darkest hour, and God wrought deliverance and salvation.
John was banished to the Isle of Patmos. He was shut up to faith. Had he not been so shut up, he would never have seen such glorious visions of God.
Dear reader, are you in some great trouble? Have you had some great disappointment, have you met some sorrow, some unspeakable loss? Are you in a hard place? Cheer up! You are shut up to faith. Take your trouble the right way. Commit it to God. Praise Him that He maketh “all things work together for good,” and that “God worketh for him that waiteth for him.” There will be blessings, help and revelations of God that will come to you that never could otherwise have come; and many besides yourself will receive great light and blessing because you were shut up to faith.
–C. H. P
Great things are done when men and mountains meet,
These are not done by jostling in the street.
2 Chronicles 36:15-16, 21 (NIV) 15The LORD, the God of their fathers, sent word to them through his messengers again and again, because he had pity on his people and on his dwelling place. 16But they mocked God’s messengers, despised his words and scoffed at his prophets until the wrath of the LORD was aroused against his people and there was no remedy.
21The land enjoyed its sabbath rests; all the time of its desolation it rested, until the seventy years were completed in fulfillment of the word of the LORD spoken by Jeremiah.
The LORD kept sending the prophets with warnings, because He had pity on His people. Judgment would come, but their receptivity to the word of God would have made a world of difference in their transition to captivity. Because they were so hard hearted, despising God’s word and scoffing at His prophets, the conquest by Babylon was brutal. Young and old were slaughtered, and everything of value was taken. The Temple was burned.
The harder we make our hearts, the more devastating the circumstances must be to wake us up and turn us back. They had faced humiliating defeats during the reign of the last four kings, but none of those defeats caused them to humble themselves before God and turn to Him. There was no remedy. God looked for another way, but there was none. Often people ask how God could have allowed a disaster to happen. In many cases, it is because there was no other remedy. Nothing less would turn people from the hardness of their heart.
Israel had ignored the law of Sabbath rest for many centuries. Every seventh year they were not supposed to plant, but just let what came up on its own be sufficient for them. If they had ignored this law for 490 years, then the land was due for 70 years of Sabbath rests. That is exactly what happened. The land had its rest, and the people had their humiliation and change of heart. Those who returned would be intolerant of idol worship and possess a fear of disobeying God. The following devotions now move into the period of restoration, when the people were allowed to return and build the temple again. God was preparing them for a great redemption, the coming of the Messiah.
Prayer: Lord, help our country to turn to You before it is too late.
1 Corinthians 3:5-7 (NIV) 5What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe–as the Lord has assigned to each his task. 6I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. 7So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.
Paul returns to one of the main reasons for writing this letter, quarrels and divisions. He told the Corinthians that when they take sides on issues and set themselves against one another that they are acting like the world and not like Christians. Jesus’ command was that we love one another. That does not mean that we never correct or instruct, in fact, that may be the hardest expression of love.
This church had formed a number of factions based on who they admired most as a teacher. It is not an evil thing to admire one teacher over another, but they had taken it another step and formed opposing groups that quarreled over which speaker was best. We have the same thing today with denominations. The fact that one group prefers Wesley’s teaching over Calvin’s or Luther’s is not bad. It is when we divide up the church into arguing factions that we are acting like the world. It can happen within an individual church. One group starts preferring one teacher over the preacher, or the preacher over an old timer who has kept the church going though tough times in the past.
Paul brings them back to the central issue. The leaders are merely servants. We all play a part, but it is God that makes things happen. We are nothing in and of ourselves. Any good you see in man is the presence of the Savior. Let us all focus on Him and His command to love one another. Without Him, the teacher, the preacher, the old faithful deacon and elder are nothing. Refuse quarreling and insist on loving. Give and receive correction in love. We can all learn from one another. Consider others better than yourself. Politics and factions have no place in the church of Jesus Christ. Leave that treachery to the world.
Remember: If we cannot love one another, we need to examine our relationship with Jesus Christ.