God Forgives Us Of Our Sins

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all
unrighteousness.” “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” “Love
prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”  I John 1: 9
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For My Own Sake

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When I really need to hear the voice of God in my life, I find myself escaping into the words of Isaiah. I’m intrigued by God’s words, His active speaking through dialogue, which always strikes me.

One morning, as I read my Bible before class, I stumbled across what is now my favorite verse, Isaiah 43:25 (NIV),

“I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.”

I stared at this verse as my heart dove out of my chest and into these words, deeper and deeper, and swaddled itself in the insane amount of intentional love I found there.

I tend to fall into that category of folks who know they’re forgiven and receive it but still can’t shake the “wretch like me” attitude. As I stared at this verse, God took that attitude, turned it on its head, and shook it until understanding wove itself through every thread of my heart.

I pictured God saying these words to me. Like He was suddenly sitting in my tiny room with me, leaning over my Bible and saying, “For my sake. Forgiving you is about Me, not you. It’s that want you near me. want to be with you.”

This verse comes right after God is telling the Israelites how they haven’t brought Him offerings and didn’t call on Him. Rather they have “burdened” Him with sins and “wearied” Him. (Isaiah 43:24)

How many times had I done the same? How many times had I told God with my mouth that I loved him, but done something contrary to what a love for God looked like? I’d stopped counting, and I was left wanting to prove the love I thought had been overshadowed by my sins. I wanted to draw close to the God I loved.

It was never about me. It’s about God’s love for me. It’s the great story of … everything. It was never about us.

I took my Bible with me everywhere in the days following. I couldn’t part from the love that kept echoing in my heart, “For my own sake.”

We see this same principle echoed throughout everything — God forgiving our sins for His sake because He made us and desires us. Nearly a chapter later, in Isaiah 44:23 (NIV), Isaiah writes,

“Sing for joy, you heavens, for the Lord has done this; shout aloud, you earth beneath. Burst into song, you mountains, you forests and all your trees, for the Lord has redeemed Jacob, he displays his glory in Israel.”

Cast off that “wretch like me” attitude, because God has forgotten your sins, redeemed you, and loves you! He frees us to sing for joy and shout it out — we’re commanded to embrace this attitude of joy because we have such a strong foundation for it. If you’ve asked for forgiveness, He’s given it to you. So why not take hold of it?

Our redemption is something to be celebrated and enjoyed. Love the gift He’s given you!

Difficulty Is the Very Atmosphere of Miracle – Streams in the Desert – October 14

  • 202114 Oct

The angel of the Lord came upon him (Peter) and a light shined in the prison; and he smote Peter on the side, and raised him up, saying, Arise up quickly. And his chains fell off (Acts 12:7).

And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed and sang praises unto God… And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken; and immediately all the doors were opened and every one’s bands were loosed (Acts 16:25-26).

This is God’s way. In the darkest hours of the night, His tread draws near across the billows. As the day of execution is breaking, the angel comes to Peter’s cell. When the scaffold for Mordecai is complete, the royal sleeplessness leads to a reaction in favor of the favored race.

Ah, soul, it may have to come to the worst with thee ere thou art delivered; but thou wilt be delivered! God may keep thee waiting, but he will ever be mindful of His covenant, and will appear to fulfill His inviolable Word.
–F. B. Meyer

There’s a simplicity about God in working out His plans, yet a resourcefulness equal to any difficulty, and an unswerving faithfulness to His trusting child, and an unforgetting steadiness in holding to His purpose. Through a fellow-prisoner, then a dream, He lifts Joseph from a prison to a premiership. And the length of stay in the prison prevents dizziness in the premier. It’s safe to trust God’s methods and to go by His clock.
–S. D. Gordon

Providence hath a thousand keys to open a thousand sundry doors for the deliverance of His own, when it is even come to a desperate case. Let us be faithful; and care for our own part which is to suffer for Him, and lay Christ‘s part on Himself, and leave it there.
–George MacDonald

Difficulty is the very atmosphere of miracle — it is miracle in its first stage. If it is to be a great miracle, the condition is not difficulty but impossibility.

The clinging hand of His child makes a desperate situation a delight to Him.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 14

Psalms 55:12-14 12If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. 13But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend, 14with whom I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.

The deepest pain is from betrayal by those we have placed our trust in, those who are closest to us. It was after three years of Jesus pouring into Judas’ life, and immediately after washing his feet as an expression of love, that He was betrayed by him. We hurt so much because we have such love for that person. We expected just the opposite from him. We sowed love, and we expected love in return.

This is one reason churches have such internal conflict. We sacrifice for one another with one goal in mind. We experience special times together, and from that conclude that our hearts are one in our mission and purpose. Then someone becomes offended by something, intentional or unintentional. He begins to look for fault in the one who offended him. The offense may even have been an expression of love or a complete misunderstanding. Then the offended one offends. The wounds become deeper and the attitudes more bitter, until Satan has achieved his goal, division.

Once the cycle begins, there is only one way out. Unconditional forgiveness, expressed because of the supernatural love of God in our hearts. You can’t work it up or try hard to express it. It must come from God. Only His love can say of the ones driving nails into him, “Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.” We must see as he sees, that the battle is not against flesh and blood but against spiritual powers and principalities. It is never personal, no matter how personal it seems. Division in the body of Christ is satanically inspired in the weakest. We can’t dismiss sin and leave it buried, for leaven will permeate the whole. We can love and forgive the weak one and encourage repentance and restoration.

Remember: Has someone offended you? Don’t let the cycle begin. Refuse to play Satan’s game. Do everything possible to restore your relationship with the offender but begin by asking God for His love for that person.

Be Yourself

by Stephen Sanders , Crosswalk.com

Have you ever had someone tell you to, “Just be yourself and everything will work out”? It sounds so simple doesn’t it?  “Be Yourself.”  What does that even mean? After all, if we could simply “be ourselves,” then wouldn’t the world that surrounds us be a lot different?

I often wonder what friendships would be like if we could simply be who we are inside; to not feel so much pressure to be less or more of an individual than we think we are supposed to be. One thing I’ve begun to focus on in recent months is being the same person everywhere I am no matter who I’m around; but that’s a lot easier said that done.

Don’t get me wrong. I totally realize that none of us are exempt to sin. 1 John 1:8-10 says this: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

Can you see how not dealing with sin appropriately keeps us from being ourselves?  Behavior like this causes us to trick ourselves into thinking we are someone who we really aren’t. When we ignore or hide sin, it breeds all kinds of issues, not only in us, but also in the body of Christ.

So how should sin be handled?  How can you “be yourself?”  Well, here are 3 things that will certainly get us going in the right direction: Confession, confrontation and forgiveness.

We all know that we are supposed to confess our sins to God, but what about confessing our sins to one another?  Where does that fit into the picture?  The answer lies within James 5:16, which instructs us to, “…confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”  Why isn’t the confession of sins more of a focus in the church today?  Shouldn’t we be doing this every chance we get if it results in “healing and righteousness?”

Secondly, there is confrontation.  Jesus says in Matthew 18:15-17 that, “If another member of the church sins against you, go and point out the fault when the two of you are alone. If the member listens to you, you have regained that one.  But if you are not listened to, take one or two others along with you, so that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses.  If the member refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church…” Notice that this scenario starts with someone taking the initiative to point out the sin.  Also notice that this person risks not only putting his friend in an uncomfortable situation, but also being humiliated in front of others if he is wrong about his assessment. It’s easy to see why the church struggles with this; it’s not a simple solution.

Lastly, we have forgiveness.  After discussing confrontation and confession, doesn’t forgiveness make a lot more sense now?  There is a very good reason why Jesus instructed us to forgive, “seventy times seven times ” in Matthew 18:22.  Jesus knew we were going to be surrounded by sinful people because we live in a sinful world.  Rather than avoiding it, we need to be brave enough to be the one who chooses to forgive sin unconditionally and infinitely.  Our reaction to sin determines the impact it is able to have on us.  Who knows?  Our reaction may even be so powerful that it may stop that sin in its tracks before it affects others too!

The Fire Had No Power Other Them

Daniel Chapter 3      Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego
24 Then King Nebuchadnezzar was astonished and rose up in haste. He declared to his counselors, “Did we not cast three men bound into the fire?” They answered and said to the king, “True, O king.” 25 He answered and said, “But I see four men unbound, walking in the midst of the fire, and they are not hurt; and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods.”
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The Risk of Faith

Bible open to Gospel of John

 

Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den because he prayed three times a day to his God. But the Lord protected him, and the ferocious beasts lay down and purred.

Not far from there, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego were thrown into a blazing fire because they refused to bow down and worship a golden statue. Instead, they declared,

“Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the fiery furnace, and He will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up.” (Daniel 3:17-18 NKJV)

Their faith didn’t depend on whether they escaped. They were fully prepared to risk everything, which meant they didn’t serve the Lord only during the good times. They didn’t trust God only to get their way. There was nothing selfish about their prayer, their life, or their religion. Their faith in God was genuine, even when it resulted in persecution. Even when it meant risking their lives. Death was certain, and they knew it—unless God did a miracle. Either way, they were determined to be faithful.

The fire was so hot that the soldiers escorting them to the flames died on the spot. But for Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, not a hair on their head or their arms was singed, and not a thread of their clothing burned. They never even felt the heat. It was like they were taking a walk in the park on a cool, breezy day.

When the smoke cleared, King Nebuchadnezzar looked into the furnace, and to his amazement, there was a fourth man in the flames with them. The king couldn’t believe his eyes. Daniel 3:25 reports Nebuchadnezzar’s amazement.

“Look! I see four men walking around in the fire, unbound and unharmed, and the fourth looks like a son of the gods.” (Daniel 3:25 NIV)

Daniel understood the dangers of breaking the law and praying to his God. Hungry lions can easily tear a man apart. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego knew the risks when they decided not to bow to the king’s statue.

However, God intervened, and Daniel survived to tell the King once more about the goodness and reality of the true God. Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, encountered the Lord right there in the middle of the blazing heat.

The eleventh chapter of Hebrews makes it clear that not everyone who takes the risk of faith will escape pain or death. I would encourage you to read the entire chapter, but verses 32–38 show how the situations turned out for some of God’s people. And verse 39 adds,

“These were all commended for their faith…” (Hebrews 11:39 NIV)

Being a disciple of Jesus Christ always involves risk. Some will face ridicule. Others might lose their jobs. Some are abandoned by their family. Others experience physical torture. Some will survive. Others may die. What is God asking you to risk?

The bottom line is that your faith will cost you something. God is calling you to accept the challenge, count the cost, and take the risk.

Christians in many places around the world are experiencing persecution at this moment. In the same way, it might cost you something to follow Jesus. But like those men in the book of Daniel, you can be faithful regardless of the outcome, because the fourth man in the fire is going to be there with you.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 13

Psalms 51:16-17 16You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it; you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings. 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise.

This is from David’s prayer of repentance after his sin was exposed. During the time between his fall into sin and the confrontation by Nathan the prophet, David must have gone to sacrifice to the Lord. All the singers he assigned were in place, lifting praises to God. He would have brought a lamb or goat that was without blemish to the priest. As the sacrifice burned upon the altar, he would have ceremoniously lifted his hands to heaven in prayer. He may have even brought thank offerings and celebrated one of the feasts of the Lord, all the while knowing in his heart that he was a murderer and adulterer.

Once he finally faced how hard his heart had become, he realized that going through the motions was not what God was after. The motions and ritual did not ease his guilty conscience. What was God looking for? A broken heart! A contrite spirit! That was all that God would accept. The sacrifices were given but were not accepted, and David knew it. The lack of peace in his heart told him that God was after something else. Once he admitted his sin, his heart broke and he realized that brokenness was the real sacrifice. Now his future sacrifices would be accepted.

Have you felt that gnawing pain of your worship falling flat? Something in your heart is telling you that all is not well between you and God. You do everything you are supposed to but there is no intimacy between you and God. You don’t sense His acceptance. Check your heart. You don’t need a prophet to tell you. The Holy Spirit can point it out. Unforgiveness, bitterness, a complaining spirit, or some overt sin you hide from the world but justify in your mind may be the source of the broken relationship.

Action: Confess your faults one to another that you might be healed. To tell a trusted friend or advisor, to get it out of the darkness and into the light will help you forsake it and live.

Charles Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening

MORNING

“Godly sorrow worketh repentance.”
2 Corinthians 7:10

Genuine, spiritual mourning for sin is the work of the Spirit of God. Repentance is too choice a flower to grow in nature’s garden. Pearls grow naturally in oysters, but penitence never shows itself in sinners except divine grace works it in them. If thou hast one particle of real hatred for sin, God must have given it thee, for human nature’s thorns never produced a single fig. “That which is born of the flesh is flesh.”

True repentance has a distinct reference to the Saviour. When we repent of sin, we must have one eye upon sin and another upon the cross, or it will be better still if we fix both our eyes upon Christ and see our transgressions only, in the light of his love.

True sorrow for sin is eminently practical. No man may say he hates sin, if he lives in it. Repentance makes us see the evil of sin, not merely as a theory, but experimentally–as a burnt child dreads fire. We shall be as much afraid of it, as a man who has lately been stopped and robbed is afraid of the thief upon the highway; and we shall shun it–shun it in everything–not in great things only, but in little things, as men shun little vipers as well as great snakes. True mourning for sin will make us very jealous over our tongue, lest it should say a wrong word; we shall be very watchful over our daily actions, lest in anything we offend, and each night we shall close the day with painful confessions of shortcoming, and each morning awaken with anxious prayers, that this day God would hold us up that we may not sin against him.

Sincere repentance is continual. Believers repent until their dying day. This dropping well is not intermittent. Every other sorrow yields to time, but this dear sorrow grows with our growth, and it is so sweet a bitter, that we thank God we are permitted to enjoy and to suffer it until we enter our eternal rest.

EVENING

“Love is strong as death.”
Song of Solomon 8:6

Whose love can this be which is as mighty as the conqueror of monarchs, the destroyer of the human race? Would it not sound like satire if it were applied to my poor, weak, and scarcely living love to Jesus my Lord? I do love him, and perhaps by his grace, I could even die for him, but as for my love in itself, it can scarcely endure a scoffing jest, much less a cruel death. Surely it is my Beloved’s love which is here spoken of–the love of Jesus, the matchless lover of souls. His love was indeed stronger than the most terrible death, for it endured the trial of the cross triumphantly. It was a lingering death, but love survived the torment; a shameful death, but love despised the shame; a penal death, but love bore our iniquities; a forsaken, lonely death, from which the eternal Father hid his face, but love endured the curse, and gloried over all. Never such love, never such death. It was a desperate duel, but love bore the palm. What then, my heart? Hast thou no emotions excited within thee at the contemplation of such heavenly affection? Yes, my Lord, I long, I pant to feel thy love flaming like a furnace within me. Come thou thyself and excite the ardour of my spirit.

“For every drop of crimson blood

Thus shed to make me live,

O wherefore, wherefore have not I

A thousand lives to give?”

Why should I despair of loving Jesus with a love as strong as death? He deserves it: I desire it. The martyrs felt such love, and they were but flesh and blood, then why not I? They mourned their weakness, and yet out of weakness were made strong. Grace gave them all their unflinching constancy–there is the same grace for me. Jesus, lover of my soul, shed abroad such love, even thy love in my heart, this evening.

Childlike Trust In The Lord

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Childlike Trust in the Lord

by Shawn McEvoy, crosswalk.com

O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty;
Nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me.
Surely I have composed and quieted my soul;
Like a weaned child rests against his mother,
My soul is like a weaned child within me.
Psalm 131:1-2, NAS

This song, like many of the Psalms, was written by David – the man who would be Israel’s greatest king. Is David who comes to mind when you think of someone “not involved in great matters” (kingdom conflicts, maybe)? Or unbothered by “things too difficult” (slaying a giant, anyone)? No, to me, this doesn’t really sound like David. Doesn’t really sound like me most of the time either.

Let’s take a quick look at three things that stand out about this little Psalm:

1) Attitude. David’s “heart” – his inner being, his spirit, is not proud… of things he’s done, of where he’s been and where he’s going… but neither is he beating himself up. He is just… content.

2) Appetite. David’s “eyes” – his senses – are not haughty. He’s not seeking to please them. He doesn’t have the look of arrogance. He knows Whose he is, and that his needs are met not of himself. He is not restless to feed like an infant, he is not stalking around asking to eat out of boredom like my 2-year-old.

3) Aptitude. David places the responsibility for this peaceful state upon himself. Not circumstances, not achievements, not even on God. “Surely I have quieted my soul,” he says.

Taken all together, this shows us what trust looks like, and helps us understand why trusting God brings such soothing peace. Jesus said we must have faith like children to come to Him. Apparently, trust is also best exemplified in little ones.

David’s “talk” is of not being proud; his “walk” then backs it up by what he “involves” (or doesn’t involve) himself in. This doesn’t mean God hasn’t given him – or you – important stuff to get done, just that David has “declared himself free from excessive ambition” (Ryrie study notes).

To sing not of self, to seek not to fill the senses, to seek the will only to be quiet before God – that is trust. A “weaned child” knows instinctively where to find trust. By extension, and through the example of “the man after God’s own heart,” so do we.

Intersecting Faith & Life: “Involve” yourself in a small, humble matter today – perhaps a child’s squabble, creating a meal, or going for a walk – and see if you can compose your soul.

Streams in the Desert – October 12

  • 202112 Oct

Joseph’s master took him and threw him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined. So he was there in the prison. But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him kindness. He granted him favor in the sight of the prison warden. The warden put all the prisoners under Joseph’s care. He was in charge of whatever they were doing. The warden did not concern himself with anything that was in Joseph’s care because the Lord was with him and whatever he was doing the Lord was making successful. (Gen 39:20-23)

When God lets us go to prison because we have been serving Him, and goes there with us, prison is about the most blessed place in the world that we could be in. Joseph seems to have known that. He did not sulk and grow discouraged and rebellious because “everything was against him.” If he had, the prison-keeper would never have trusted him so. Joseph does not even seem to have pitied himself.

Let us remember that if self-pity is allowed to set in, that is the end of us—until it is cast utterly from us. Joseph just turned over everything in joyous trust to God, and so the keeper of the prison turned over everything to Joseph. Lord Jesus, when the prison doors close in on me, keep me trusting, and keep my joy full and abounding. Prosper Thy work through me in prison: even there, make me free indeed.
—Selected

A little bird I am,
Shut from the fields of air,
And in my cage I sit and sing
To Him who placed me there;
Well pleased a prisoner to be,
Because, my God, it pleaseth Thee.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 12

Psalms 51:4-6 4Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. 5Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me. 6Surely you desire truth in the inner parts; you teach me wisdom in the inmost place.

When the prophet Nathan exposed King David’s sin with a parable, David wrote this psalm of repentance. He realized that though he had sinned against Bathsheba’s husband and the people of Israel, ultimately his sin was against God who had trusted him with position and authority. All sin is ultimately a sin against God who alone is the standard of righteousness. We sin against His goodness and grace. We sin against His mercy and love. Whenever His sentence is against us, He is perfectly justified in pronouncing it.

David declared that he was sinful from the time he was born. Unlike modern philosophy, David knew sin was in his very nature, inherited from Adam. Even from conception, rebellion against God was the driving force of his character. We want to believe that children are born innocent, but you never have to teach them to be selfish and rebellious. It is in their nature, as it is in ours. We need a Redeemer. We need a Deliverer.

It is God who teaches us truth in our minds and spirits. He shows us what is evil and cuts through all our justifications. His Spirit is the One who imparts wisdom. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. To recognize that God is just and will deal with sin, the inherited sin nature, and the sinful acts we yield to, gives us a healthy fear of God. Wisdom teaches us to come to God for cleansing for our actions and for who we are by nature. We are sinful from birth. Only God can change our nature. Are you a new creation in Christ Jesus? Have you accepted His sacrifice for who you are and for what you do?

Remember: The only appropriate response to such generosity is to make Him your Lord and God.

Fulfillment of the Law

Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:17-20

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. . . .” — Matthew 5:17-20

Imagine that you were living in the first century and Jesus had just come to your village. If you heard Jesus claim to be “one with the Father,” or if you heard him challenge the religious leaders, how do you think you would have reacted?

Would you be interested—or perhaps even excited—by Jesus’ teachings? Would you be delighted to see the Pharisees (the religious leaders) put in their place?

Or would you have been skep­ti­cal of this stranger who claimed to speak for God?

As Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount, he understood that he was speaking to a mixed crowd. Many of the people in the crowd were Jewish, while some came from other cultures and traditions.

In this passage Jesus shows that he wanted everyone to understand his right to teach and to gather followers as the promised Messiah.

The entire Old Testament story, from Genesis to the Ten Commandments, and from the time of the kings to the exile and beyond, pointed to the Messiah who would come to restore God’s people and God’s world. Jesus had come to bring life as it was always meant to be lived in relationship with God.

Today we still have to decide if Jesus can be trusted to bring us the words of life. Has he come in fulfillment of the Law and the Prophets? Or does he merely speak for himself?

Prayer

Father, help me to trust in Jesus as your Son, the Messiah. Give me the courage to trust and obey, wherever he leads. Amen.

Look To The Lord and His Strength

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Feeding the Fire

by Ryan Duncan, Crosswalk.com

Look to the LORD and his strength; seek his face always. – 1 Chronicles 16:11

Earlier this year I went fishing with my family up in the boundary waters of Minnesota. Ironically, the first day we pushed out onto the lake in our canoes, the weather was ideal. The sun was shining, the sky was clear, and it was warm but with a nice breeze to take the edge off. Then, like something out of a Calvin and Hobbes cartoon, the weather made a sudden shift. The next morning we got up to find a cloud had descended over the lake.

It wasn’t raining per say, it was more like all the moisture in the area had gotten together and decided to smother our campsite. It was cold, it was damp, and all we could really do was huddle together for warmth. Finally I couldn’t stand it any longer, I was going to build a fire. We had all tried earlier that morning, but the damp wood was nearly impossible to burn. With no lighter fluid and only a couple of matches, I realized I was going to have to do this the hard way.

First I started off with small kindling, pine needles, leaves, twigs. Then I moved on to sticks and paper. It took a long time, but at last I got a decent sized flame that would burn the big logs despite the fact that they were damp. You can be sure, now that we finally had a roaring fire there was no way we were going to let it go out. I bring this up because I believe the concept of building a fire is similar to building a relationship with God.

When a friend of mine recently said he didn’t want to lose “the fire” God had given his spirit, I couldn’t help but remember that cold morning in Minnesota. The Holy Spirit will give us the passion and endurance to live Godly lives, but like a campfire, it will eventually burn down to embers if not supplemented by our own actions. It can be hard work at times. You’ll need to start with kindling like daily prayer and scripture reading, follow up with something bigger like volunteering at Church, and then maybe apply a large commitment like ministry. It won’t be easy, and there will be times when it all seems useless, but in the end the Holy Spirit will burn all brighter.

Remember the words of Matthew,

Eyes To See

OCTOBER 11, 2021

 you while you are with him. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will forsake you. For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, but when in their distress they turned to the LORD, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them.” 2 Chronicles 15:2-4 (ESV)
Pinterest ImageClose your eyes for a moment and envision a trick of the eyes — an abstract, patterned image that, when looked at just the right way, reveals a 3D image nestled amidst the pattern. An optical illusion. That’s a stereogram!

When I was a child, I remember being slightly frustrated by how much my best friend loved stereograms. I always struggled to see the obscured image, too fond of clarity to allow my eyes to soften, too impatient to wait for the hidden prize to pop off the page.

To this day, my eyes revolt when I look at a stereogram — my brain is loath to release the surface-level picture long enough for the hidden image to appear.

Over the past several years, my life has been like the repeating, plain and unremarkable surface pattern of the stereogram. Pregnancy, kids, chores, work, laundry, meals, church — lather, rinse, repeat. These were all things I was deeply thankful for but not daily thankful for. And in these years, I have gotten through desperate seasons where it seemed God was nowhere to be found.

Feeling utterly abandoned, I begged God to come in obvious ways — to make my babies sleep, to heal my body, to transform my children into the picture of obedience (or at least grant me superhuman patience), to magically resolve the conflict in my church, to make four broken hours of sleep somehow sustain me like 10 uninterrupted ones.

Instead, God came like the 3D image of the stereogram: obscured and unclear, despite how hard I looked. How was I to keep hoping, believing and trusting when I was blind to Him? And how was I to teach my children to look and see God when I couldn’t even see Him myself?

The open secret of Christianity is that, while God is accessible, God is not always obvious. Even when God walked the earth in the person of Jesus, God was not obvious. Jesus was so shockingly controversial in His claim to be God that He was crucified.

God is loving enough to allow us to choose Him. He does not force His presence upon us in a way that leaves us no alternative but to worship. If we consider the stories of Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Elijah and Daniel (to name a few), we learn that if God appeared to us like He appeared to these long-ago believers, we would have no choice but to fall on our faces before Him and worship. But God desires love and genuine relationship, not forced servitude.

God is also gracious enough to allow us to see Him if we look. He wants to be found. Second Chronicles 15:2b tells us, “If you seek him, he will be found by you …” And it’s true — once your eyes are accustomed to the search, God is everywhere.

When I could not see God in life’s monotony, God called me to seek Him, gently nudging me to soften my eyes, to see beyond the obvious, to ask what else might be revealed in the repetitive scene of my life.

As I took a closer look, God’s presence not only emerged from the midst of the messy scene; it completely popped off the page. Once I adjusted my perspective, I could not not see God.

He had been there all along, giving shape to the pattern of my world, guiding my steps, growing my character, faithfully answering my desperate prayers. These answers were not the magical fixes I asked for but rather the eternal, soul-strengthening experiences I needed. They were stories I collected to teach my children to see God in the everyday world around them.

Friend, if you seek God, He will be found by you. God sees you, knows you, desires relationship with you and calls you to come to Him. He is hidden in plain sight, just waiting for you to step back, soften your eyes and look again.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 11

Psalms 46:4-5, 10 4There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells. 5God is within her, she will not fall; God will help her at break of day.

10“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.”

Jerusalem is the city of God. It was the place God chose to dwell. His manifest presence was in the temple behind the veil. Jerusalem is a shadow of the reality, the true city of peace, the people of God. He dwells in the hearts of His people, behind the veil of their physical bodies.

In Jerusalem there is no river. There is a valley where the Kidron flows when there are rains. The water for the physical city comes from an ancient spring and from rain collected in cisterns. But in the real city of God there is a river. It springs up from the source. Isaiah foretold of this watering that would come from God and turn into an overflowing spring (Isaiah 58:11). He also foretold that when God’s people listen to the Word their peace would be like a river (Isaiah 48:18). Jesus stood in the temple during a feast and invited all who were thirsty to come and drink from Him and experience streams of living water flowing from within them (John 7:37,38).

The city with such an abundant source of water is safe against the siege of the enemy. It will not fall. We will find God to be our help when the enemy attacks. And where do we find this water that makes us glad? Where is this Living Water to be obtained? “Be still, and know that I am God.” Wait in His presence to hear the words of Life that He would speak to you. When you do, drink deeply, and accept the peace and comfort that they bring. Know He is God over all, and nothing escapes from His sight.

Remember: Our conditions and our hearts are completely visible to Him. He will deal with the enemy in His perfect time, at the break of day. Be still, and know that He is God!

Salt and Light

 By: A.J. Gretz 

Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:13-16

“You are the salt of the earth. . . .” — Matthew 5:13

OK, how many of us get really excited when we see a bag of chips or a box of crackers that says “reduced sodium”?

Well, probably none of us.

Because salt is delicious. It’s why chips and crackers and French fries and pizza and many other things taste good. Salt exists to make food better. That is one of its God-given purposes.

In this passage Jesus says we are “the salt of the earth” . . . and “the light of the world.” He doesn’t say we “can be” or “should be” these things. He says we already are, by way of our new identity in him. Jesus expects us to bless people, to build them up, and to do what we can to help meet their needs. He expects us to use our words and our actions to stick out in this dark world, pointing people to the kingdom of God.

This isn’t limited to formal ministry in the church. The ways we treat our spouses, talk to our coworkers, and use our resources or engage with social media are all examples of how we are called to be salt and light. Every sphere of life presents us with salt and light opportunities.

If we walk in step with Christ, putting his desires ahead of our own, we are like a welcome seasoning to enhance the taste of good food, or like a beacon of light shining in this dark world.

Prayer

Father, help me to be salt and light in my community, and to use my words and my actions to show the world what you are like. For Jesus’ sake, Amen.

 

God Is With His Servants

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Trail Tips for Troublesome Days

family-mountain-climbers_si.jpg

 

My leg muscles screamed in protest as I gasped for breath and pulled myself upward to the next rest bench on the mountain trail. I promised myself, Girlfriend, you WILL be in better shape next year! Can you identify?

For several years, our family of four participated in a volksmarch, a German term for “people’s walk.” Beginning at the southern terminus of the Appalachian Trail near Helen, Georgia, we walked only five kilometers, but with steep inclines, the distance seemed much further. At the finish line, with relief and perspiration, we accepted our medals as family tradition mementos.

Do you have days that feel like an arduous walk up a mountain and others that are more like a leisurely stroll? I do. On those troublesome days, challenges can feel like rocks in our backpack, slowing progress and discouraging us.

The verb walk in the Bible describes the daily life and behavior of one who has accepted Christ as Savior. Scripture teaches that Christians should align their actions with God’s Word.

“Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him.” Colossians 2:6 (ESV)

Paul prayed that believers would

“… walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him: bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God; …” Colossians 1:10 (ESV)

How can we live up to Paul’s description as we navigate the steep inclines of daily difficulties? Consider the following:

Look for markers in the Bible.

On the Appalachian Trail, arrowed signs pointed the way and prevented error when undergrowth obscured forks in the trail. The Bible is like a collection of markers, guiding us in God’s way. Bible study steadies and steers us when trials arise on those “mountain trail” days.

“Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” Psalm 119:105 (ESV)

Lean on the Lord in prayer. 

My walking stick worked like a lever to push me up the mountain when weak muscles faltered. Communication with God in prayer strengthens us when we meet roadblocks and encounter difficulties. Having an ongoing prayer conversation with God throughout the day not only helps us enjoy His presence but also yields His peace and wisdom to bolster us to the next level on the journey.

“… do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” Philippians 4:6 (ESV)

Listen to fellow Christ-followers.

Although I read the signs and used a walking stick, I also needed my family’s encouragement, and at some points, a literal push over the next ridge. Asking for help can be humbling, yet other Christians can remind us of biblical truth and the fact that God is always with us, even on hard days. Have you received encouragement from fellow believers?

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1 Thessalonians 5:11 (ESV)

How is your walk today? Perhaps printing the verses above on cards and keeping them handy will help in troublesome times. When a day’s journey feels like a steep mountain hike, turn the day into an adventure with God by searching for His direction in the Bible and in prayer as you seek encouragement from fellow hikers.

 

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 10

Psalms 45:6-8 6Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever; a scepter of justice will be the scepter of your kingdom. 7You love righteousness and hate wickedness; therefore God, your God, has set you above your companions by anointing you with the oil of joy. 8All your robes are fragrant with myrrh and aloes and cassia; from palaces adorned with ivory the music of the strings makes you glad.

This psalm is by the sons of Korah. Korah had challenged God’s decision to have Aaron and sons be the priests. The earth opened up and swallowed him. His descendants, however, were still given the privilege to be musicians for the house of God. Many of the psalms were written by them. What an expression of the mercy of God! This psalm was a wedding song, possibly for Solomon. Just as in the Song of Songs, the theme moves from Solomon and his wife to Jesus and the church. Since Jesus is of the lineage of David, He is often referred to as The Son of David, and Solomon is in some respect a shadow of The Son of David who was to come.

We especially see the overlap in verse 6. It is God who is being addressed. His Kingdom is the only just Kingdom. He is the One who truly loves righteousness and hates wickedness. God anointed Christ Jesus with the oil of joy (Hebrews 1:8-9). The Biblical picture of Jesus is of One who is more joyful than all His disciples. Joy is a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22). As you grow in Christ’s likeness, you will find an increasing measure of joy.

His robes are fragrant. As we carry His life into the world, people get a whiff of the fragrance of the Lord (2 Corinthians 2:14). The music of strings makes Him glad. The abundance of worship music today is bringing gladness to the heart of Jesus. Don’t you love that thought? I hope this prophetic picture of Christ has changed your impression of the One we serve. He does weep for the lost. He does grieve with you in your trials and feels your pain. Yet, He knows the future, and He is the most joyful One you will ever meet.

Consider: The psalm goes on to speak of the bride. That is you and I! This is our wedding song! Savor it!

Streams in the Desert – October 10

  • 202110 Oct

Do not fret when wicked men seem to succeed! Do not envy evildoers! —Ps 37:1 NET

This to me is a Divine command; the same as “Thou shalt not steal.” Now let us get to the definition of fretting. One good definition is, “Made rough on the surface.” “Rubbed, or worn away”; and a peevish, irrational, fault-finding person not only wears himself out, but is very wearing to others. To fret is to be in a state of vexation, and in this Psalm we are not only told not to fret because of evildoers, but to fret not “in anywise.” It is injurious, and God does not want us to hurt ourselves.

A physician will tell you that a fit of anger is more injurious to the system than a fever, and a fretful disposition is not conducive to a healthy body; and you know rules are apt to work both ways, and the next step down from fretting is crossness, and that amounts to anger. Let us settle this matter, and be obedient to the command, “Fret not.”—Margaret Bottome

OVERHEARD IN AN ORCHARD

Said the Robin to the Sparrow:
“I should really like to know
Why these anxious human beings
Rush about and worry so?”

Said the Sparrow to the Robin:
“Friend, I think that it must be
That they have no Heavenly Father
Such as cares for you and me.”
—Elizabeth Cheney

Persecuted

Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:10-12

“Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:10

It’s ironic that these verses come immediately after Christ’s call to be peacemakers. We are called to bring healing and hope to a world that desperately needs it. We are on God’s side, trying to serve in the best interests of others.

And yet, people sometimes choose to repay us with anger, hostility, or outright persecution. According to Jesus, it’s not a question of whether this will happen but of when and where it will happen.

Persecution may come in a ­variety of forms. A snarky comment. A broken relationship. Physical or emotional abuse. Some of you reading this know the pain and the cost of following Jesus. You have lived it, or you might be experiencing it now.

Jesus seeks to encourage us in these difficult moments. When the world fails to understand why we live the way we live, Jesus promises that the kingdom of heaven is ours. If we stand firm and hold to our hope in Christ, we can experience a measure of peace.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt when people reject us and mistreat us. But, deep down, we have comfort, knowing that God will provide for our every need. And in the end, we will share in his victory over sin. And death. And every enemy.

Prayer

Father, help me to stay faithful in the face of adversity and persecution. Help me to resist the temptation to compromise, and may I continue serving you in hope, trusting in your promise of victory. Amen.

God Has A Rich Store of Salvation

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Choose the Right Keys

key to the shed

 

He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure. Isaiah 33:6 (NIV)

With a new season making an appearance, I wanted to take inventory of lawn chairs and garden supplies. I fumbled with the lock on my shed, using a key I thought would work. Not so. I tried a second key. The lock didn’t open. I walked back to the house to look. Ten minutes later, I found a key on a ring marked “shed”.

Using the wrong key to unlock the shed provided more than frustration, wasted time, and exercise walking back to the house. It reminded me of the times I used wrong keys in life experiences.

In decision making, we often choose knowledge instead of the key of wisdom. We think we have all the facts—and we might–but reason and facts may not lead us to a wise decision. Wisdom asks, “How does that knowledge apply to me and what God wants me to do? James 1:5 (NLT) extends an invitation,

“If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

Sometimes we choose the keys of anxiety and impatience. We may work with a difficult person, wonder how to pay an unusual medical bill, or get held up in heavy traffic. The apostle Paul cautions us,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV).

The key of prayer leads to unlocking peace.

Or perhaps our vision for a project, a job, or a relationship didn’t turn out as we expected. We clutch the key of disappointment in our hand, even though it won’t change the situation. It’s time to walk back to the house and look for the key of contentment. Scripture points out the apostle Paul’s resolution in struggles,

“… for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. (Philippians 4:11 NIV)

Think about the keys you’ve tried to use, only to be met with a lock that won’t budge. There’s more waiting for us when we choose the right keys. Isaiah said knowing the fear of the Lord is the key that leads to a sure foundation, and the apostle Paul adds another outcome,

“a good foundation for the future so that they may experience true life.” (1 Timothy 6:19 NLT)

Stable foundation, security, peace, true life. Let’s find and use the right keys.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 9

Psalms 42:1-3 1As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, O God. 2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3My tears have been my food day and night, while men say to me all day long, “Where is your God?”

The words of the first verse became a popular chorus in the church. In the song it is used as an expression of desire to know God more intimately, but in the psalm it is a cry for deliverance from the psalmist’s situation. It is reminiscent of Job when he pleaded to present his case before God. We don’t know the cause of David’s distress. It may have been when he fled from Saul, or Absalom, or an illness. There are dark valleys, through which God takes us, that increase our desire for God. No one likes to go down them, but oh the maturing of our soul that comes from the pain. We long for the presence of God to be our hiding place from the troubles of life, but sometimes He even withholds that from us.

The dark night of the soul takes us from our apathetic level back up to climbing the heights of life in God. The pain draws us past our complacency and onward to heights of intimacy. The brokenhearted reading this can instantly relate to these words. Those who have not yet gone down this road, remember this, do not harden your heart in this place. If you do, you will come out bitter instead of better. The enemy of your soul will have won a double victory. He inflicted the pain, and it will have borne the results that he desired. Instead, defeat him by allowing yourself to be even more tender and allowing your heart to break. The LORD is near the brokenhearted. It is a place where all your trust is in the faithfulness of God, though you cannot see any evidence. Those you have shared Christ with, who know you as a Christian, will mock saying, “Where is your God?” He has promised to be near.

Remember: Weeping will endure for a season, but the joy will return. You will come out with a greater desire for God, for intimacy with Him.

Streams in the Desert – October 9

  • 20219 Oct

Therefore will the Lord wait, that he may be gracious unto you (Isa. 30:18).

Where showers fall most, there the grass is greenest. I suppose the fogs and mists of Ireland make it “the Emerald Isle”; and whenever you find great fogs of trouble, and mists of sorrow, you always find emerald green hearts; full of the beautiful verdure of the comfort and love of God.

O Christian, do not thou be saying, “Where are the swallows gone? They are gone; they are dead.” They are not dead; they have skimmed the purple sea, and gone to a far-off land; but they will be back again by and by.

Child of God, say not the flowers are dead; say not the winter has killed them, and they are gone. Ah, no! though winter hath coated them with the ermine of its snow; they will put up their heads again, and will be alive very soon.

Say not, child of God, that the sun is quenched, because the cloud hath hidden it. Ah, no; he is behind there, brewing summer for thee; for when he cometh out again, he will have made the clouds fit to drop in April showers, all of them mothers of the sweet May flowers.

And oh! above all, when thy God hides His face, say not that He hath forgotten thee. He is but tarrying a little while to make thee love Him better; and when He cometh, thou shalt have joy in the Lord, and shalt rejoice with joy unspeakable. Waiting exercises our grace; waiting tries our faith; therefore, wait on in hope; for though the promise tarry, it can never come too late.
–C. H. Spurgeon

“Oh, every year hath its winter,
And every year hath its rain–
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

“When new leaves swell in the forest,
And grass springs green on the plain,
And alders’ veins turn crimson–
And the birds go north again.

“Oh, every heart hath its sorrow,
And every heart hath its pain–
But a day is always coming
When the birds go north again.

“‘Tis the sweetest thing to remember,
If courage be on the wane,
When the cold, dark days are over–
Why, the birds go north again.”

Always Ready to Serve

by Inspiration Ministries

“David lived with Achish at Gath … Achish believed David, saying, ‘He has surely made himself odious among his people Israel; therefore he will become my servant forever.'” – 1 Samuel 27:3, 12 NASB

David spent a lifetime as a servant. He served his father, his country, his king, and God. Perhaps the ultimate test came when, escaping Saul’s relentless pursuit, he went to live among the Philistines. It was a great challenge. After all, David gained fame fighting against the Philistines. Yet, he needed their confidence to live in peace.

Amazingly, David succeeded. So completely was he trusted that the Philistine king believed David would be his “servant forever.” David seemed willing to go into battle against his own people and only was spared when other Philistine leaders objected.

It can be easy to serve people who are generous and kind with whom we agree. But God wants us to serve in every situation. We need to submit to our masters, “not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are harsh.” (1 Peter 2:18). This attitude demonstrates that we have been changed and are committed to serving.

Jesus said that those wanting to be first should be last and “servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Seek to serve in everything you do. Have the attitude of a servant all the time. Serve God in every situation. Commit your way to Him and know He will guide and bless you. He can cause you to receive favor with everyone, even those who have been enemies. Remember, He is looking at your heart.

 

Be Careful Of Clever Traps

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A Clever Trap

large spider web with spider in the center

He knew what he was doing. That sneaky spider.

I pulled back the curtains early one morning and looked out the window at the flower garden as I always do. I gasped as I leaned forward to get a better look. Overnight, a mid-sized spider had spun a web in my beloved butterfly bush. Any unsuspecting butterfly or moth drawn to the flowers, would become his breakfast. Clever, very clever.

Then I noticed his prize. He had caught himself a lightning bug, which looked to still be alive. I ran to the closet to get my shoes, rushed out of the garage with a broom, and hurried to the bush. A quick swipe of the broom freed the bush of the web, and a firm “splat” of my shoe freed the world of the spider.

Clever—that’s what Satan is. Our spiritual enemy likes to weave his own trap in the weekly workings of God’s family. In the church, we find joy and satisfaction in building relationships with other believers in Christ. We are drawn to the fellowship and often to the opportunity to serve others. But Satan doesn’t want us to get along. He can build a web of conflict that’s waiting for us to walk—or fly—into it. Unrest, division, grudges—these temptations lie in wait.

The apostle Paul urged the Philippian church to help two women reconcile. Had they been caught in a “clever” trap? Paul’s solution involved unifying their thinking and their focus.

“I implore Euodia and I implore Syntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord. And I urge you also, true companion, help these women who labored with me in the gospel.” (Philippians 4:2-3 NKJV*)

Jesus is our common ground. To be of the same mind in the Lord means that we adhere to Jesus’ way of thinking and to His purposes. We think like Him, and we focus on what He sets as a priority for His family—loving God and each other (Mark 12:30-31), knowing God (John 17:3), sharing the gospel (Matthew 28:18-20), and holding fast to sound words … in faith and love which are in Christ Jesus (2 Timothy 1:13).

When we’ve walked into a trap of conflict, we can free ourselves by seeking the Lord’s wisdom and by remembering His purposes for us. We can lay aside issues that don’t fit into that purpose and focus on what does. What would Jesus think about the current situation, and how would He handle it? With God’s truth, love, and gentleness.

Paul goes on to talk about the heart attitude we can have as we live among those who are in God’s family and outside of it. Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand (Philippians 4:5). Gentleness helps us to refuse a trap of conflict. Or to react to conflict with Jesus’ strength and forbearance.

Just as Jesus graciously forgave those who mistreated Him, we can depend on His help to put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering (Colossians 3:12) and love, which is the bond of perfection (Colossians 3:13). We can seek peace instead of anxiety and unrest. We can each seek the Lord’s way to handle something, so we guard our unity in Christ.

Let’s keep our eyes open for our spiritual enemy’s traps of conflict and handle them with the Lord’s wisdom and love. A firm swipe of the broom may be needed. But hopefully directed at the trap and not a fellow lightning bug.

*All Scripture verses are taken from the NKJV.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 8

Psalms 40:6-8 6Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not require. 7Then I said, “Here I am, I have come– it is written about me in the scroll. 8I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within my heart.”

The author of Hebrews quotes this passage and tells us it is about Jesus. He was reading the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the original Hebrew. There is a variation there, possibly a mistranslation in that Greek version. Instead of “but my ears you have pierced” it reads, “but a body you prepared for me” (Hebrews 10:5). Could it be a mistake? I believe every passage is inspired by God and that both expressions are true. The Son of God was given a human body through the womb of Mary. His ears were opened to God. In the tradition of a servant who chose to continue as a slave after his term of service was up, Jesus was a bondservant to the Father. The sign of the bondservant was the pierced ear (Exodus 21:6). Both versions are applicable to Jesus.

The sacrifices the Jews made at the altar every morning and evening were merely a shadow of The Lamb to come (John 1:29). They were never what God desired for a covering of sin. Then the Son said to the Father, “Here I am, I have come.” The Lamb of God came into the world to be the sacrifice God desired to take away the sins of the world. It was prophesied throughout the Old Testament. Jesus said He had come to do the will of God. That is the expression of a bondservant. He came to do the will of the Father in shedding His blood for our sins. The Law of God was in His heart. He knew His objective because the Law outlined it clearly, “Without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin.” God told the people of Israel He wanted to make them a nation of priests. There was only one way to do it. Jesus knew that He had to crush the head of the serpent but that in the process his heel would be wounded (Genesis 3:15). Thank God! The Son desired to do the will of the Father for our salvation.

Consider: You had a body prepared for you also. Is your ear open to God? Is it opened, the sign of a bondservant? Do you delight to do His will? Is His Law in your heart?

The Failure of History

by John UpChurch , crosswalk.com

For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (Romans 5:6)

To their credit, my two little girls sat patiently as the Cherokee peace chief explained his slit ears, metal breastplate, and high-heeled shoes. On the table in front of him sat a rifle, swan feathers, a clay mug, and other shards of the past. This is exactly what I love to do on a Saturday morning.

You see, I love the way history feels because I’m something of a nostalgia junky. The narratives that draw together people, locations, and wars latch onto me. The connections that run through mountains, rivers, and small towns dig under my skin. The history of grace absorbs me.

I have to be careful, though. Otherwise, I’d spend too much time living back there and not paying attention to grace here and now.

There’s something in history that we often overlook. Sure, learning about the past supposedly keeps people from repeating mistakes (though I’ve yet to see that be the case). And we need to see where we’ve come from, to understand the ebbs and cycles in the story of civilization. But it’s more than that.

History—much more than just a learning tool—is the story of human failure. If that sounds morbid, it is. The big picture of our history is how humans have failed to love, failed to live up to God’s standards. There are tiny currents that push back against the raging waters of failure (and those are some great stories to focus on), but the overall direction has been clear.

What we learn, if we care to glance back, is that humanity has no chance—that is, no chance apart from grace. Our history lays bare the need for a raw, relentless love. We’ve stumbled and scrambled, fought and exiled. And yet no amount of human effort has ever satisfied the searching, the wanderlust. We’ve pushed on, pressed on, killed on. And never reached our goal.

But always there is God. The history we have points to the sparks He created in the darkness, the fires He kindled in the tragedies. Always there is God, appearing where you least expect. Always there is God, breaking through.

I love history because God’s there in the midst of our failures. He never lets go; He never disappears.

Intersecting Faith & Life: One reason I always challenge others to keep a journal or a blog is because it gives us all a place to record our own histories. It’s a place where we can see the pursuing love of God as He picks us up from our failures and loves us anyway. It’s a place to learn from past mistakes. Take a moment today to capture your own story and keep at it. You’ll always be amazed at the grace that shimmers through.

Reaching the Hopeless

by Inspiration Ministries

“This is a trustworthy saying, and everyone should accept it: ‘Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners’ – and I am the worst of them all.” – 1 Timothy 1:15 NLT

It seemed Jerry McAuley was a lost cause. Born in Ireland in 1839, he was a troublemaker even as a boy. He was raised by his grandmother who sent him to live with relatives in New York, hoping for positive change. But Jerry ran away, making his living as a thief.

When still a teenager, he was sentenced to prison for robbery. The authorities reportedly were glad just to get him off the streets. In prison, he was impressed by a friend who became a Christian. He realized that, through Christ, he could become a new person.

He began praying and reading the Bible. Then one night he felt God’s presence and assurance that He could forgive his sins. It was the beginning of a new life. Eventually pardoned and released, he burned with a passion to share his testimony and help others.

In 1872, he opened the Water Street Mission in New York City as an outreach for those considered without hope. It was the first mission of its kind in the US. Through this outreach, hundreds gave their lives to Christ.

Today, millions have been given up as hopeless. But McAuley’s story reminds us God can do what seems impossible, even change men like Jerry and Paul, who called himself the “worst” sinner.

Do you know anyone who seems without hope? Pray for them. Believe in God for miracles. Remember, with Him all things are possible.

Christ Is Greater Than Worldly Things

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What’s Your Tennis Ball?

dog-fetch-ball

 

Don’t push. Get pulled.

Drew Houston, founder of Dropbox, said this:

“The happiest and most successful people I know don’t just love what they do, they’re obsessed with solving an important problem, something that matters to them. They remind me of a dog chasing a tennis ball: Their eyes go a little crazy, the leash snaps, and they go bounding off, plowing through whatever gets in the way. . . . It’s not about pushing yourself. It’s about finding your tennis ball, the thing that pulls you.”

We can live out our faith under obligation to all the things we ought to do. Or we can live out our faith in holy pursuit of the person God has created us to be.

Pushing versus pursuing.

The same goes for school: Who are the best students?

And jobs: Who are the best workers?

And family, and friends: Which people are the greatest blessings?

Anything: Pushing versus pursuing is universal.

In any area of life, your tennis ball might be a promise that attracts you, a moral wrong that makes you indignant enough to take action, or what you perceive as your destiny.

Pushing versus pursuing is much like the difference between bondage and freedom, drudgery and joy.

The difference is also like a dog passionately pursuing a tennis ball versus the fate of Sisyphus. In the ancient Greek myth, Sisyphus, king of Corinth, was punished in the afterlife for his pride and deceitfulness. He was condemned to push a huge boulder up a mountain, only to have it roll down the other side. And he had to repeat this futility for all eternity.

Wouldn’t you rather chase a ball than roll a boulder?

What is your tennis ball?

If you can’t think of one, what might it be? What in the world, or in your life, needs you to go after it? What pulls you?

If you’re up for it, I encourage you to consider two tennis balls:

  • One in your vocation—to pursue your highest calling of what God has called you to do on this earth.
  • One in your spiritual life—to pursue your highest calling of who God has made you to be.

Drew Houston could also have quoted the Apostle Paul. Since he didn’t, I will. Paul, who was at the top of his game as a young man, threw away his success, prestige, and power for the greater pursuit of knowing Jesus. He writes in Philippians 3:8 (NIV),

“I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ.”

Indeed Paul accomplished just that. He gained Christ. And as he writes this letter to the Philippian Church, he is late in his life. By this time he has started churches and Christian movements all over the Roman Empire. He has become arguably the greatest human tool God would ever use.

But still he says,

“I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:12–14 NIV)

That was Paul’s tennis ball.

What is yours?

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 7

Psalms 37:4-5, 7 4Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. 5Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:… 7Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.

In this psalm David is reflecting on the fact that the evil ones who threatened his life and plotted against him were ultimately unsuccessful. He is telling us the secret of his success and usefulness to God. If there are wicked people troubling your life, listen to David’s advice.

Delight yourself in the LORD. If your highest hopes and greatest joys are in the LORD, the LORD will give you your desires. There are two ways to look at that promise. One is that your desire for more of God and a closer relationship with Him will come to pass. If you are in Him, your enemies will find themselves fighting God. The other way to see this promise is that God will place His own desires in your heart so that your desires are God’s desires. I think both are true.

If you dedicate your actions to God, walking in His ways, desiring what He desires, then you can count on God bringing this to pass. That spells trouble for your enemies and turns you from fear and fretting to joy and trust. The commitment of the heart is met by the enabling power of the God that transforms you.

Instead of fretting and getting all worked up, wait patiently in stillness before God. Don’t act without acting in Him and at His direction, and you can know you will succeed. You will have the peace that guarantees the schemes of the wicked will ultimately be for your good. The final word will be a vindication of your righteous trust in God.

Consider: What should you do about the trouble facing you today? Delight yourself in the LORD, and commit your way to Him. Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for Him.

Wisdom from Above

by Debbie Holloway, crosswalk.com

Recently I participated in a small group discussion on Christ-like humility. Our discussion leader had pulled up several Scripture passages for us to reflect upon, and one of them has been racing around in my brain ever since:

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy (James 3:17).

Christ (such as in Mark 1:35) always sought wisdom from above before speaking and acting. Thus, as Christians (Christ-followers) we should be constantly seeking this godly wisdom and applying it to our lives and relationships. But that verse is a big verse. What does it look like to have this wisdom from above?

1. It is first of all pure. Our motives for doing anything should reflect a desire to live like Christ and be in right relationship with God. If our earthly “wisdom” tells us to approach a situation with impure motives such as greed, selfishness, or pride – that is not wisdom from above.

2. It is peaceable. Sometimes we get preoccupied with the imagery of Spiritual Armor and treat everyone we meet like an enemy solider. We must remember that Ephesians 6:10 says this battle is “not against flesh and blood.” Our Lord is a Prince of Peace, and we have a duty to act as citizens of peace.

3. It is gentle. Proverbs 15:1. If we speak gently, others are more likely to accept and understand God’s work and wisdom. But gentleness is not just about tone of voice. Remember the gentleness and patience with which Jesus dealt with children, sinners, and his apostles. Gentleness is a way of life.

4. It is reasonable. Another translation of this reads “willing to yield to others” – and both are absolutely crucial elements of wisdom. It may seem impossible to live a pure lifestyle while being reasonable and willing to yield, but the Bible says we must. We were given an astounding level of intellect and reason – let us use it! We mustn’t buy in to the lie that “reason is the enemy of faith.” It is necessary to yield to God daily with every decision we make. But it is also possible (and necessary, and wise) to yield to others. Whether it’s a matter of selfless giving or resisting the urge to have angry, theological debates, we are called to yield.

5. It is full of mercy. That parent who abused their authority? That government leader who makes you cringe? That blogger who sounds heretical? Wisdom from above tells us to look on them with mercy. After all, has not God shown us the greatest mercy of all?

6. It is full of good fruits. I’m sure many of us can list Galatians 5:22 of the Lord’s Spirit. When we use godly wisdom to discern what we should do, we will consider the fruits of our choices. Do we strive to make choices that result in the fruits of the Spirit manifested in our lives?

7. It is unwavering. Perhaps it might be strange to think that wisdom from above can be both “willing to yield” and “unwavering.” But don’t think of them as opposites. Perhaps think of it like a marriage or a friendship. Each person in the relationship must listen to reason and be willing to yield to the other. But the relationship itself must be unwavering. We must be bold enough to live unwaveringly as followers of Christ and good stewards of the earth, no matter the opposition.

8. It is without hypocrisy. If something seems like wisdom to you but causes you to be double-minded or deceitful, it cannot be wisdom from above. What we believe must match what we say. What we say must match how we behave. Otherwise, we misrepresent Jesus and the lifestyle we claim to live.

Mercy

A.J. Gretz, Author, Today Devotions

Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:7

“Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.” — Matthew 5:7

At first glance, it may seem that Jesus is saying we will be shown mercy because we have shown mercy to others. Then we might think we are racking up “mercy points” every time we respond patiently to a screaming toddler, or we choose not to make fun of our boss for sweating through his shirt. And when all is said and done, we think God will look at our tally and reward us with mercy for all the times we have been merciful to others.

In that view, God’s mercy depends entirely on how well we perform.

But if that’s the case, the gospel is bad news for many of us (myself included).

Thankfully, the gospel is the good news that God has freely shown us mercy although we don’t deserve it. Jesus came into the world to save sinners before they ever did something to earn it. God’s mercy flows out of his character. It’s part of who he is, and how deeply he loves his people.

We find that we are blessed when we show mercy, because it’s evidence that we belong to God. Mercy is proof that we have been changed by God’s mercy. It shows we ­realize that our own forgiveness does not rest on our ability to be merciful. Instead, our capacity for mercy is a sign that we understand God’s forgiveness, and that we want to show his deep and unconditional love.

Prayer

Father, help me to be merciful to everyone, as a way of showing your love in this world. Amen.

Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit

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Downsize Me

By: John UpChurch , crosswalk.com

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God.– Matthew 5:3ESV

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. – Matthew 5:3, MSG

Let’s try to regain the shock value in the way Jesus opened His Sermon on the Mount. We’re too familiar with the statements and too far removed from the time to hear it like the original listeners. Imagine going to a fast food restaurant, ordering an enormous value meal, and the cashier hitting you with this question: “Would you like to down-size your meal for a dollar less?” Or imagine a car salesperson pausing before you sign the papers and saying, “You know what? That extended warranty is overpriced. Let’s get rid of it.”

Now you have an idea how much impact Jesus had and why the audience was so astounded. Just like we expect people to push us to buy more, the Jews at the time expected their rabbis to tell them the things they needed to do, the rules they needed to abide by. They came expecting to learn the ten steps required to earn God’s favor, but Jesus crumpled up that idea and threw it out. Instead, He revealed that God’s favor and blessings come to those who are poor in spirit.

There’s more to it, however, than simply feeling beaten down or contrite. The poor in spirit—the ones at the end of their ropes—are those who realize they’ve gone as far as human effort can get them. In terms of salvation, that’s not very far. Here’s how John Gill puts it:

The greater part of mankind are insensible of this their condition; but think themselves rich, and increased with goods: there are some who are sensible of it, who see their poverty and want, freely acknowledge it, bewail it, and mourn over it; are humbled for it, and are broken under a sense of it; entertain low and mean thoughts of themselves; seek after the true riches, both of grace and glory; and frankly acknowledge, that all they have, or hope to have, is owing to the free grace of God. (John Gill, commentary on Matthew 5:3)

The poor in spirit don’t just feel bad; they feel bad because they realize how destitute their condition. When we truly understand that “karma points” and charitable acts amount to nothing more than drops of food coloring in the ocean, then we’ve gotten the point: We can’t even approach the kingdom of God, let alone enter it, through our own efforts.

But those who look down and see the filth (and pre-salvation, our spiritual appearance is just that) are those who realize the need for God. And with that realization comes the increase of God in our lives and the decrease of self.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 6

Psalms 32:1-2, 5 1Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered. 2Blessed is the man whose sin the LORD does not count against him and in whose spirit is no deceit.

5Then I acknowledged my sin to you and did not cover up my iniquity. I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the LORD”– and you forgave the guilt of my sin. Selah

In the Old Testament there were laws that governed the rituals of dealing with sin. The sacrifices and offerings that were prescribed were a picture of Christ who would become the sacrifice in our place. Though the people of Israel followed the instructions given, some of them knew that it was impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to wash away sin. They knew the sacrifice was important, but they also knew it didn’t change them.

In this psalm David tells of the blessing on the man whose sin is covered. Guilt is a heavy load. As he kept silent, trying to hide his sin, he said he felt the heavy hand of God upon him, causing his bones to feel old. Quite a description of guilt! How did David find relief? He ended his silence.

In the New Testament we find that we are to confess our faults one to another so that we can pray for each other (James 5:16). Our old nature tells us to keep silent, but that just makes it worse. Once it is out in the light, we can deal with it and truly forsake it. As long as we hide it, we entertain thoughts of continuing in that evil pattern. But when we decide it is destroying us and needs to be forsaken, we bring it out by confession. Then we can ask for forgiveness and find that wonderful blessing David was speaking of. Is there a secret sin you are hiding in the darkness? Hold it up and examine it in the light of the cross where God’s love is displayed for you. Ask yourself if that sin compares in value to His love. Bring it into the light, confess it to God, and if necessary, if it still haunts you, confess it to a mature saint you can confide in.

Remember: Sin loses power when it is brought into the light.

Bearing Misunderstandings – Streams in the Desert – October 6

  • 20216 Oct

He opened not his mouth (Isaiah 53:7).

How much grace it requires to bear a misunderstanding rightly, and to receive an unkind judgment in holy sweetness! Nothing tests the Christian character more than to have some evil thing said about him. This is the file that soon proves whether we are electro-plate or solid gold. If we could only know the blessings that lie hidden in our trials we would say like David, when Shimei cursed him, “Let him curse;… it may be… that the Lord will requite me good for his cursing this day.”

Some people get easily turned aside from the grandeur of their life-work by pursuing their own grievances and enemies, until their life gets turned into one little petty whirl of warfare. It is like a nest of hornets. You may disperse the hornets, but you will probably get terribly stung, and get nothing for your pains, for even their honey is not worth a search.

God give us more of His Spirit, “who, when he was reviled, reviled not again”; but “committed himself to him that judgeth righteously.” “Consider him that endureth such contradiction of sinners against himself.”
–A. B. Simpson

“Before you” He trod all the path of woe,
He took the sharp thrusts with His head bent low.

He knew deepest sorrow and pain and grief,
He knew long endurance without relief,

He took all the bitter from death’s deep cup,
He kept not a blood-drop but gave all up.

“Before you” and for you, He won the fight
To bring you to glory and realms of light.

–L.S.P.

Hunger

By: A.J. Gretz, author

Scripture Reading — Matthew 5:6

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” — Matthew 5:6

When was the last time you were hungry? Not just “I could eat something” hungry, but really, actually in need of something to eat? Maybe it happened while you were on a long trip. Or maybe you had just finished a long workday. Maybe you had no money left for food. Whatever the case, you know there is a big difference between wanting some food and really needing it because you are hungry.

Jesus says we are blessed when we hunger and thirst for righteousness, when our longing for God’s will is more than just an interest—it’s a consuming desire. Hungering and thirsting for righteousness means we are desperate to see sin uprooted, and we are longing for justice to win. It means we don’t excuse our wrongdoing or try to shrug off the world’s problems, but instead we give all we have to make the world more like the kingdom of God.

Then, says Jesus, we can look forward to being filled, because God will be faithful in making things right. He might not give us the house of our dreams or a big promotion, but he will bring justice and righteousness to every inch of his creation. If that’s what we truly care about, we can’t help being satisfied as we partner with God in his work in this world.

Prayer

Father, help me to make justice and righteousness the greatest priorities in my life, and empower me to be your partner in the work of renewing all things. Amen.

Humble and Selfless

by Inspiration Ministries

“When Abigail saw David, she … paid homage to David. She knelt at his feet and said, ‘The guilt is mine, my lord, but please let your servant speak to you directly … Please forgive your servant’s offense.’” – 1 Samuel 25:23, 28 CSB

Abigail had done nothing wrong. Her husband’s defiance led to a confrontation with David. Yet seeking to resolve the conflict, Abigail took the initiative. Going to David herself, she took the blame for Nabal’s offenses. She even brought David a gift and asked him to forgive Nabal.

David was moved by her example and willingness to humble herself. He recognized that she had been used by God: “Go home in peace. I have heard your words and granted your request” (v. 35).

Abigail could have remained concerned only about herself. But she demonstrated a spirit of humility and concern for others. She was willing to go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41) and take the initiative, so her husband might be spared.

Jesus demonstrated this same spirit of personal sacrifice. Although He never committed any sin, He was “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29). He “humbled himself by becoming obedient to death – even death on a cross!” (Philippians 2:8).

God looks for people willing to display humility and selflessness. The Bible promises that this kind of humility brings wisdom (Proverbs 11:2) and honor from God (Proverbs 18:12) and leads to His favor (1 Peter 5:5).

Don’t be concerned only about yourself. Humble yourself before God. Ask Him to help you become an example of selflessness and concern for others.

The Faithful Gardner

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The Faithful Gardener

woman wearing garden gloves weeding out a weed from the flowerbed

“This is never going to end.” As I scraped the dirt, I stopped to look at all of the grass roots sticking out of the ground. “How did they get there?” I thought.

In our new azalea and hydrangea garden, grass had crept back, finding tiny holes among the chips of cedar mulch to bury its roots. This particular area of the garden had so many stubborn grass roots that I panted and had to take a break from pulling them out. My garden hoe helped to expose the roots, but I had to pull each root out by hand.

Yet I was determined. I didn’t want the grass roots choking the roots of my baby hydrangea.

“Father, I’m so sorry. Please forgive me.”

The scenario hit me full force. How many times have I let a bad attitude or wrong way of thinking take root in my heart and mind? All it needed was a little room to grow, and it created stubborn roots, difficult to pull out.

My prayer for forgiveness turned into gratitude. “Thank You, Father, for being so patient with me.” God is so loving and faithful to work in the lives of His children, tending the garden of our hearts and minds.

“Being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6 NKJV)

He’ll complete that good work. He won’t stop. No matter how deep the roots go of a harmful way of thinking, feeling, or acting. If we have turned to fear instead of faith, God knows how to rescue us from it. If our default reaction to difficult people or circumstances is intense anger, He knows how to root that out. If the same old habit tries to creep back into our lives and choke out strength and joy, He knows how to guard us if we turn to Him for help.

God’s goal for us is to become more and more like Jesus, to be conformed to the image of His Son (Romans 8:29 NKJV). Righteousness is Jesus’ way of thinking, feeling, and acting. The roots of righteousness are tenacious fibers made out of love, strength, and victory. They are composed of perseverance and faithfulness. And they produce an eternal impact for God’s kingdom.

So God uproots fear and worry and plants seeds of faith in our hearts instead. He uncovers the twisted roots of anger and replaces it with understanding, patience, and His perspective. He shakes loose the creeping tendrils of a me-centered focus and instills within us an eternal focus—on things above, not on things on the earth (Colossians 3:2 NKJV).

God builds within us a garden of beauty and strength, of joy and peace. He makes it appealing so that those around us can see the difference that He makes in our lives and they want to know Him too. To know Him as the One who rescues their own hearts and minds.

If a particular struggle is choking out Jesus’ righteousness in your mind and heart, appeal to the faithful Gardener for help. I’ve cried out to Him so many times to uproot something harmful. His faithful heart moves Him to always work within us, but He needs our cooperation. Life with God is a partnership, and becoming more like Jesus is a lifelong process that produces beautiful results.

How is the faithful Gardener working in your life today? May we always cooperate with His liberating work.

Today’s Devotions

Morning

October 5

Psalms 30:5, 11-12 5For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may remain for a night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.

11You turned my wailing into dancing; you removed my sackcloth and clothed me with joy, 12that my heart may sing to you and not be silent. O LORD my God, I will give you thanks forever.

It is interesting to note that David wrote this psalm for the dedication of the temple, which he knew would happen after his death. He so longed for the completion of a house for God and a permanent place for people to worship Him, that he made every preparation he could before he died, even the songs to be sung. Do we have such a desire for the spiritual house of God?

In this song David reminds us that our God given afflictions are very brief, but God’s favor lasts all our life. We may cry through the night, but God brings us joy the next morning. Whatever trial we are facing, it helps to remember this truth. Some trials seem long, but in the light of eternity and the favor of God upon our lives, they are fleeting. The Apostle Paul had a thorn in his side for years. It caused him to depend upon the grace and strength of God. This is quite different from dealing with the consequences of our sin. It is the condition of living in a fallen world.

God turns our wailing into an exuberant dance of joy. He takes the sackcloth of mourning from us and gives us a robe of joy. Know that on the other side of every trial there will be times of joy again, not just happiness, but heart filled joy. Why does He do this for us? It is so that we may sing to Him for His goodness to us, and thank Him for the lessons learned. We thank Him for walking through that valley of the shadow of death with us.

Consider: We will give thanks to God forever for His favor upon us, for sharing His victory with us, and for filling us with His enduring joy.

Waiting on the Lord

by Sarah Jennings Phillips, crosswalk.com

I am still confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD; be strong and take heart and wait for the LORD. – Psalms 27:13-14

I read a book a few years ago for couples discerning marriage called The Exclamation. The author pointed out that God could answer the question “Should I marry him/her” in only three ways: Yes. No. Wait.

I think the toughest of the three is, “Wait.” It’s not just that we live in an impatient society (we do), and it’s not just that we can be selfish, demanding creatures (we can), and it’s not just that we tend to want life on our own terms (we do) — it’s that waiting requires surrender of one of man’s most precious commodities: time.

Our lives are finite. Each day is precious, each month, each year, because we only have but so many. So when the Infinite God whispers to His limited creatures, “Wait,” our responses often sound something like this:

“You see, you don’t get it, God. Sure, it’s easy for you to wait – you have all of eternity. But I really need some answers. You gave Amy answers, and Chuck answers, and Lori answers, so it’s only right and fair you give me answers. After all, you said ‘whoever seeks shall find’ and stuff, so now I’m seeking, and ‘wait’ just isn’t an acceptable response.”

I think it’s even tougher to wait when we have pain lingering in our pasts. We may wonder, “Why should I trust God? Last time everything ended in disaster.” I speak from experience here. I’ve had to wait on an answer to prayer for a long time now – even for someone of my youthful age. I know how tough it is to receive the umpteenth “not yet” from God. I know what it’s like to look back on painful deferments and feel like life is slipping by.

Yes, waiting isn’t for spiritual wimps, but for those strong of heart. Obeying a “not yet” from God requires true faith. It’s handing over our days and years and months to God, trusting that we won’t regret holding off. It’s believing God’s plan is truly the best plan even when several other enticing options tempt us. It’s deferring what is good for what is best.

And there’s the reward of waiting. Even in the midst of my own unanswered prayers, I still believe God isn’t out to get you or me. He doesn’t ask us to wait to torment us. In His infinitely perfect nature, He sees what we can’t and wants to give us more than we’re currently asking for. All the times I’ve ignored God’s “wait” and taken matters into my own hands, a lot of precious time was wasted. But those that wait on Him will experience joy that far surpasses any temporary pleasure that comes with forging ahead alone.

Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning. Psalm 30: 5 (NAS)

Streams in the Desert – October 5

  • 20215 Oct

After a while, the stream dried up because there had been no rain in the land. (1 Kings 17:7)

 

The education of our faith is incomplete if we have not learned that there is a providence of loss, a ministry of failing and of fading things, a gift of emptiness. The material insecurities of life make for its spiritual establishment. The dwindling stream by which Elijah sat and mused is a true picture of the life of each of us. “It came to pass … that the brook dried up”—that is the history of our yesterday, and a prophecy of our morrows.

 

In some way or other we will have to learn the difference between trusting in the gift and trusting in the Giver. The gift may be good for a while, but the Giver is the Eternal Love.

 

Cherith was a difficult problem to Elijah until he got to Zarephath, and then it was all as clear as daylight. God’s hard words are never His last words. The woe and the waste and the tears of life belong to the interlude and not to the finale.

 

Had Elijah been led straight to Zarephath he would have missed something that helped to make him a wiser prophet and a better man. He lived by faith at Cherith. And whensoever in your life and mine some spring of earthly and outward resource has dried up, it has been that we might learn that our hope and help are in God who made Heaven and earth.
—F. B. Meyer

 

Perchance thou, too, hast camped by such sweet waters, 

And quenched with joy thy weary, parched soul’s thirst; 

To find, as time goes on, thy streamlet alters 

From what it was at first.

 

Hearts that have cheered, or soothed, or blest, or strengthened; 

Loves that have lavished so unstintedly;

Joys, treasured joys—have passed, as time hath lengthened, 

Into obscurity.