He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth: there is nothing false about him. John 7:18 the words of Jesus
Abimelech and Isaac were two leaders of tribal families meeting to settle squabbles over wells of life-supporting water, a precious commodity. When Abimelech approached Isaac about making a peace treaty between them, one of his comments was, “We clearly saw that the Lord was with you” (Genesis 26:28).
Abimelech and his advisors saw how God blessed Isaac with a large inheritance, a wife, twin sons, many servants, livestock, and great wealth. Abimelech’s words remind me of a longtime friend and mentor many lovingly called “Nannie.” As newlyweds, my husband and I first met this silver-haired widow while we were looking for a church home. She quickly became my friend who, with her pattern of good works, taught me many things. Two particular life-lessons came from her example.
When she spoke to women’s class about the death of her husband, many of us younger women clearly saw that the Lord was with her. “Nannie” and her husband were on vacation in Hawaii when he died in his sleep. Before summoning for help, she knelt by their bed and gave thanks to God for their marriage. Far from home and relatives, prayer came before she reached out to others for comfort.
A second strong impression of her devotedness to God was a phrase she used in praying at a women’s luncheon meeting. In her prayer, “Nannie” included a profession of faith. I remember her words, “And, Lord, I confess to you that I believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” Her refreshing verbal affirmation of Christ as Lord serves even today as a reminder to revere Christ with words and actions.
Abimelech’s words “[w]e clearly saw . . .” also made me think about weather forecasting. When my children were at home and Mama wasn’t happy, they sometimes forecasted a warning, an “emergency broadcast” to seek shelter before the storm. Blustery outbursts and stormy households can change, and should. For Christ-followers they need to change to clear and sunny where observers can clearly see lives yielding to the Holy Spirit.
As I grow older, I often wonder what my family and others observe in my life. Do they see me honoring the Lord? Do my friends expect to hear stories of God’s intervention in my life? Do they hear whining about what went awry in my schedule?
I am still on the playing field. People are watching my actions, and I’m wondering what the view is from the bleachers.
Lord Jesus, you know that honoring the Father minute by minute is full time work, and you esteemed God perfectly. Aid me in doing the same because many “clearly saw the Lord was with you.” Amen.
Fits Any Niche
by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com
Your word is a lamp to my feet And a light to my path.- Psalm 119:105
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17
As the editor responsible for all devotional content here at Crosswalk, one of the questions I’m asked most frequently by our beloved users goes something like this:
“Your devotional offerings are great, but could you please include one for cousins of divorcees with sleeping disorders who have befriended agnostic vegetarians? Because that would be really great.”
Okay, that’s an exaggeration (but only barely). And it’s not like we dislike filling niches. We have devotionals for women, the workplace, weight loss and the list goes on. We’re continually adding to the selection and have plans for more. To an extent, we’re at the mercy of what’s well-written, theologically sound, recognizable, and most of all, available.
But when I’m asked a question like, “My fiance and I are interested in a devotional for yet-to-be-married couples living in the mid-Atlantic from different church backgrounds who are both post-millennialists. What do you recommend for us?” my answer is always the same:
Just study the Word, man.
Whether you find it here or somewhere else, locate a ministry, author, preacher, or regular old Joe/JoAnn whom God has gifted with insight into his holy scriptures, and read their take regularly. Follow that with your own deeper individual study. Take that into praying with a spouse, accountability partner, disciple, or mentor. Join a group Bible Study. And take notes during sermons.
It’s not much more complicated than that. We sometimes make it so. We pigeonhole ourselves or our current life situation or level of belief, and so risk hindering the effective wholeness of the Word.
Besides, if there’s one thing I’ve noticed through almost a biblical generation of life, it’s that our specific situations are many times made more complex by our non-stop obsession with them, and are often made more simple by backing off and getting at them indirectly through solid study that may not at first seem related to what we are going through.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting to hear which verses were blessings to folks who have gone through heartbreaks or challenges similar to what you are now experiencing. What I’m suggesting is that the Word of the Lord never returns void. And that there have been several topics I’ve tried to understand (and been disappointed in the lack of direct guidance the Bible appears to give on the subject), or several life situations I’ve wanted to study (and not known where to start or how to find others who have biblical wisdom to offer in the form of a devotional) that have been solved when I stepped away and just studied sound teaching with prayer.
One example is when, as a young man, I wanted to find everything the Bible said about the “big sins” our youth ministers were so concerned with keeping us from — sex and drinking. I shortly exhausted all the verses that dealt directly with these topics. But it wasn’t until I backed away from a focus on these issues and began more comprehensive studies of what God had to say about all things that the picture grew bigger and the reasons for abstinence, purity, sobriety, and not causing others to stumble became clear in the light of grace, righteousness, sacrifice, real love and ministry.
Another example is the time I was battling a crippling depression. I found few answers and little comfort in attacking the problem directly — even if there didn’t seem to be a lack of correlative verses or devos, which only would have reminded me double of the state I was in. What did help was reading other topics from the Bible, and books from established Christian authors and preachers about the Bible itself, about faith, about truth. A pathway out of anxiety was lit, to my surprise, by Brennan Manning’s Furious Longing of God. I could not have guessed that a meditation on God’s intense love for me would have lit the way. Eventually the clouds lifted, and I was stronger for having gone through the darkness and for the overarching principles that brought me home.
And even today, when I travel again through old and familiar verses, passages and chapters, I see them under new lights, different words stick out, related to my current trials, temptations and tribulations. It’s quite a thing to see happen on the page.
Let me encourage you today not to wall yourself off from the full richness of the Word, but to seek out sound doctrine and study on general principles regularly that I promise will apply to your specifics, whether directly or indirectly, immediately or eventually.
A desperate case—how to meet it
By: Charles Spurgeon
‘Then came the disciples to Jesus apart, and said, Why could not we cast him out? And Jesus said unto them, Because of your unbelief: for verily I say unto you, If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove: and nothing shall be impossible unto you. Howbeit this kind goeth not out but by prayer and fasting.’ Matthew 17:19–21
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 6:16–18
There are those who watch unto prayer, wait before the Lord, seek his face, and exercise patience till they get an audience. Such disciples continue in their retirement until they have that experience of access for which they crave. And what is fasting for? That seems the difficult point. It is evidently accessory to the peculiar continuance in prayer, practised often by our Lord, and advised by him to his disciples. Not a kind of religious observance, in itself meritorious, but a habit, when associated with the exercise of prayer, unquestionably helpful. I am not sure whether we have not lost a very great blessing in the Christian church by giving up fasting. It was said there was superstition in it; but, as an old divine says, we had better have a spoonful of superstition than a basin full of gluttony. Martin Luther, whose body, like some others, was of a gross tendency, felt as some of us do, that in our flesh there dwelleth no good thing, in another sense than the apostle meant it; and he used to fast frequently. He says his flesh was wont to grumble dreadfully at abstinence, but fast he would, for he found that when he was fasting, it quickened his praying. There is a treatise by an old Puritan, called, ‘The soul-fattening institution of fasting.’ and he gives us his own experience that during a fast he has felt more intense eagerness of soul in prayer than he had ever done at any other time. Some of you, dear friends, may get to the boiling-point in prayer without fasting. I am sure that others cannot.
For meditation: Jesus said ‘when’ not ‘if you fast’ (Matthew 6:16). In Scripture, fasting seems to have been reserved for special times: disaster (Judges 20:26; 2 Samuel 1:12); danger (Ezra 8:23; Esther 4:3,16); disease (2 Samuel 12:21–23; Psalm 35:13) and decision (Acts 13:2–3; 14:23). Are we missing out on something?