Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our Need For Dependence

Some struggles seem to endure, and it is very easy then to grow weary as we focus on what is lacking, on what barriers we might be up against, or what the prognosis might be for change in the struggle or situation. It is even tempting to consider giving up. Then we realize that we can’t, and we make an effort for a period of time in order to try to make some new headway. And when even this renewed effort proves to be unproductive or only temporarily productive before reverting to the previous condition, it is then that maybe we even feel like an old workhorse who has lost his value.

So often weariness goes hand in hand with losing heart, and with losing heart there is a losing of hope, and in losing hope there is a distancing of ourselves even from those we love. The church in Ephesus was praised in some ways for its perseverance and even it’s not growing weary in their deeds (Revelation 2). Yet in Revelation 2:4 we read, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.”

In Matthew 11:28-30 we read the invitation of Jesus to find our rest in Him, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.”

In Hebrews 12:1-3 we find the example of Christ and those who, in faith, have gone before us as we ourselves are encouraged to run with endurance. “Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

And the strength for this comes from God as we read in passages like 2 Thessalonians 3:3-5. “But the Lord is faithful, and He will strengthen and protect you from the evil one. We have confidence in the Lord concerning you, that you are doing and will continue to do what we command. May the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the steadfastness of Christ.”

It is God who is able to take our inabilities and make us able. He has called us to trust Him in this as with all things, to lean on Him fully, and to depend on Him to direct our steps and meet our needs. Today Sarah writes about how when a need is lacking it is then a prime opportunity to trust God and to be blessed as we see Him take care of us.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/30)

When some basic need is lacking – time, energy, money – consider yourself blessed. Your very lack is an opportunity to latch onto Me in unashamed dependence. When you begin a day with inadequate resources, you must concentrate your efforts on the present moment. This is where you are meant to live – in the present; it is the place where I always await you. Awareness of your inadequacy is a rich blessing, training you to rely wholeheartedly on Me.

The truth is that self-sufficiency is a myth perpetuated by pride and temporary success. Health and wealth can disappear instantly, as can life itself. Rejoice in your insufficiency, knowing that My Power is made perfect in weakness.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds. James 1:2

And he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NKJV)

Monday, April 29, 2013

Learning To Be Thankful Again

Today was a day to rejoice in a group of believers finding direction for their future while continuing to seek God for His leading in mine.  It is very easy to thank God for the things you want. It is more difficult to thank Him for things that come that you don’t want or for others getting what you may have wanted. The reality of life is that it does rain on everyone. Sometimes that rain is a gentle welcome one while at other times it is a destructive deluge. But it is our loving God who superintends the rain and He knows every bit of it that He allows to fall on us or even not to fall. Our God is also a loving God who works in all of His children to accomplish His purposes and He even does this for our good as we seek Him and follow His direction for our lives. This even means that when you wanted some rain on your direction and it rained somewhere else that our loving God had is strong hand in it. Just as it means the opposite.

We need to be constantly mindful that our God is sovereign over absolutely everything, and that all that we have really belongs to Him and He is free to use it as He chooses. This includes our lives. But it is also incredibly encouraging to know that our God does this with a great love for us. Today Sarah writes about our learning thankfulness from Him.  Being thankful is an informed choice.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/29)

Let Me teach you thankfulness. Begin by acknowledging that everything – all your possessions and all that you are – belongs to Me. The dawning of each new day is a gift from Me, not to be taken for granted. The earth is vibrantly alive with My blessings, giving vivid testimony to My Presence. If you slow down your pace of life, you can find Me anywhere.

Some of My most precious children have been laid aside in sick beds or shut away in prisons. Others have voluntarily learned the discipline of spending time alone with Me. The secret of being thankful is learning to see everything from My perspective. My world is your classroom. By Word is a lamp to your feet and a light for your path.

Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, let us be thankful, and so worship God acceptably with reverence and awe, for our “God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:28-29

Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path. Psalm 119:105

Friday, April 26, 2013

Perspective-Lifter Problems

Do you find some kinds of problems easier to trust God with than others? I do, and I can know just by looking at those types of problems where my greater weaknesses may be and where I struggle the most in trusting God. This does not mean that it is an all-the-time struggle, but when I struggle it most frequently falls into that area. And the crazy thing is that it is in this same area where, as I look back, I have seen God to be so attentive and gracious. His patience with me is amazing, especially when I put myself in a hole because I have not seen my hope in Him.

But it is also in these times of emotional darkness that I also find my way out not by eating a “happy pill” but by choosing to focus on who my God is. Psalm 139 is the passage God used to draw me to Him in 1974 and there is so much in it, and it is in these times of struggle that Psalm 139 is one of the first places I run. Just think on this:

Psalm 139:7-12 Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me. If I say, “Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,” even the darkness is not dark to You, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike to You.

“Darkness and light are alike to You.” This is an amazing truth. No matter how dark things might look from our side, for God there is no difference. He knows everything and has known everything from the beginning. He is powerful over everything, and it is Him who spoke all that was created into existence. Before even He created the sun, moon, and stars to rule over the day and night in our physical realm, He first created light as we see in Genesis 1:3.

Then we have Jesus’ statement about Himself in John 8:12, John 8:12 “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.” And in 1 John 1:5 we read, “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

So, when the darkness overwhelms us, we need to look outside the darkness to God and commit to trust Him to be the light by which we live, to set our paths straight, and to truly provide for that which we need. Today Sarah encourages us to look to our problems as perspective-lifters as they cause us to lift our eyes to our God and place our trust fully in Him.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/26)

Welcome problems as perspective-lifters. My children tend to sleepwalk through their days until they bump into an obstacle that stymies them. If you encounter a problem with no immediate solution, your response to that situation will take you either up or down. You can lash out at the difficulty, resenting it and feeling sorry for yourself. This will take you down into a pit of self-pity. Alternatively, the problem can be a ladder, enabling you to climb up and see your life from My perspective. Viewed from above, the obstacle that frustrated you is only a light and momentary trouble. Once your perspective has been heightened, you can look away from the problem altogether. Turn toward Me, and see the Light of My Presence shining upon you.

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord. Psalm 89:15

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Where Is Your Focus?

Today I spent an hour and a half talking with a local executive for a national organization which is considering making a significant policy change which would greatly affect its participant partner organizations if approved. On one side I am engaged in being active trying encourage the organization to not make the change and warning about the potential range of consequences, and on the other side I am hoping that the change is not made and the point then becomes a non-issue for the time being. This same proposed change has people throughout the country greatly concerned and considering what action or actions they might need to take both the head it off or to respond if it is done. And the potential consequences are huge. This can be a real head spinner, leaving many to throw their arms up in the air and either walk away without making the effort or to resign and accept a change which would not be acceptable. There are even those who simply say, “What does it matter.”

This is only one of many things going on around us that can capture not only our attention but also our hearts, and when our hearts are captured we often do things without fully stopping to considering our proper response. Our challenge is not to get swallowed up, even in “good” causes without stopping first to spend time with God and seek His desire for our response and even our involvement. Things, events, and even causes are not to be our focal point. God is, and then all we do is a response to the direction we receive from Him.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/25)

Make Me your focal point as you move through this day. Just as a spinning ballerina must keep returning her eyes to a given point to maintain her balance, so you must keep returning your focus to Me. Circumstances are in flux, and the world seems to be whirling around you. The only way to keep your balance is to fix your eyes on Me, the One who never changes. If you gaze too long at your circumstances, you will become dizzy and confused. Look to Me, refreshing yourself in My Presence, and your steps will be steady and sure.

Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Hebrews 12:2

But you remain the same, and your years will never end. Psalm 102:27

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spending Time Together Makes All The Difference

Today I sat with a friend for nearly three hours as we caught up with each other and talked about the joys and struggles of the past year. There was a sense of really hearing and being heard from the heart as we talked with each other. Though we no longer live close to each other, our years of friendship and of knowing each other paid rich dividends as we spent time openly sharing. I hope he went away as encouraged today as I did, not because any problems were solved or questions were answered, but because we knew we could trust each other and we that we share a common walk with our Lord both in times like today and in our times of prayer.

Sarah writes today about our being still in the presence of God as He prepares us for our days. I am mindful about how after leaving lunch today I was encouraged by spending time with my friend, and then thinking how we have a friend in Christ who is so much closer. In Him we have someone who knows our every thought, who knows what lies ahead, and even has a plan for it which is not self-serving but includes our growth and our spiritual good. In talking today with my friend I had some new insights on how to better pray for him, but also some thoughts on how I might better walk through the struggles that lie ahead for me. This was not because he shared any shatteringly new stuff with me, but because he reminded me of what I already (for the most part) knew to be true and encouraged me in the continuing in them.

So it is with our time with God. Our time with God is so critical to our walk with Him. It is in these times when we really find our preparation and our direction for life. Like my friend, I can know without any doubt that He has what is best in mind (and not just good), and God is actively engaged in directing me toward it. But more than that, it is a time when I can just enjoy knowing Him and being close. The knowing and the being is so much more meaningful than the how and the why. Knowing Him as my God  who is all-the-time-everywhere-present means I am never alone whether I know how I will get through something or why it is happening the way it is.  Being secure in Christ as a fully-forgiven and accepted child of the Living God means that there is now no condemnation and that absolutely nothing can shake me from His hands, and that I truly do have a meaningful relationship with Him.

Tonight I am finishing the teaching of Romans 8 beginning with verse 31 and ending with verses 38 and 39, which read, “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? … For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” This is so incredible and incredibly encouraging to know this about my God and His hand on me. It gives me courage to step out and trust Him for what He has in store, and when I am frustrated with the waiting to know that His plans and their timing are perfect.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/24)

Rest in the stillness of My Presence while I prepare you for this day. Let the radiance of My Glory shine upon you, as you wait on Me in confident trust. Be still and know that I am God. There is both a passive and an active side to trusting Me. As you rest in My Presence, focusing on Me, I quietly build bonds of trust between us. When you respond to the circumstances of your life with affirmations of trust, you actively participate in this process.

I am always with you, so you have no reason to be afraid. Your fear often manifests itself in excessive planning. Your mind is so accustomed to this pattern of thinking that you are only now becoming aware of how pervasive it is and how much it hinders your intimacy with Me. Repent of this tendency and resist it, whenever you realize you are wandering down this well-worn path. Return to My Presence, which always awaits you in the present moment. I accept you back with no condemnation.

“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Psalm 46:10

Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. Romans 8:1

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

If The Lord Wills

"Not too many people dream of being average. Take a look at your fantasies, and you will probably find a quest to be noticed." --Ed Welch (Christian Counseling and Education Foundation, CCEF)

Why do we do the things we do? If you are like me the answer is really not that simple. It is often a mixture of a number of things like obligations and responsibilities, needs for provision and needs of the moment, desire and joy, seeking to be noticed or approved, fear of others or fear of loss, or …. But how much does your answer include what God’s desire for you might be in a particular situation?

In the Bible we see exhortations to things like diligence, perseverance, running as if to win, serving one another, and so much more. We also see a recognition that for those who are married, for instance, that we have divided interests such as to please our spouses.

In James 4:13-15 we read, Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

“If the Lord wills.” This is the key. And to know what the Lord wills means that we really do need to spend time before Him laying everything that faces us at His feet. We do this in the longer times when we spend time in prayer, reading, studying, meditation, and being still and listening. And we do this in those momentary ones when a situation quickly arises in the midst of walking. Sometimes for those who are used to saying “No” without thinking, you will need to say “Yes.” And, hard as it may seem, sometimes for those who are used to saying “Yes” you might actually need to say “No.”

Coming back to Proverbs 3:5-6, which truly is a guiding verse for me that I have grown in listening to but still nowhere near where I would desire, we read, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.”

And Scripture tells us that it is God who makes us adequate for the tasks He intends (2 Timothy 3:17). This applies to being the best husband or wife in Christ, or the best employee in Christ, or the best church worker in Christ, or the best neighbor in Christ. Regardless of the place in life or the situation ahead, we are told to do all things in Christ with the power that God supplies.

1 Peter 4:11 Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God; whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/23)

Keep your eyes on Me, not only for direction but also for empowerment. I never lead you to do something without equipping you for the task. That is why it’s so critical to seek My will in everything you do. There are many burned-out Christians who think more is always better, who deem it unspiritual to say no.

In order to know My will, you must spend time with Me – enjoying My Presence. This is not an onerous task but a delightful privilege. I will show you the path of Life; in My Presence is fullness of Joy; at My right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

But my eyes are fixed on you, O Sovereign Lord; in you I take refuge – do not give me over to death. Psalm 141:8

You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore. Psalm 16:11 (NKJV)

Monday, April 22, 2013

My Sheep Listen To My Voice

A friend posted today that she was a bit short on birdhouses for the growing population in her yard. She asked if anyone knew where to get some inexpensively. I read hear post and thought, “Gee, I’ve got several kits left over from working with our Cub Scouts. I could make her a couple and do it for free.” The price had already been paid (for the materials), as a friend has frequently said. So I let her know she could have them and then I went to work.

Do you feel at times that God isn’t listening to you or you sense that maybe you can’t hear from Him. There is so much information flying around today, especially in the electronic media and in forums like Facebook where I miss so much of what is said. I miss because I only check in infrequently and I don’t scan backwards for the hundreds of things that may have been said. I miss a lot there simply because I don’t take the time to listen (okay, read).

We have a God that wants us to bring our prayers of all sorts to Him and to entrust Him with them. We have a God who has promised to hear the prayers of those who seek Him. And we have been given, if you have trusted Christ for your salvation, the Holy Spirit to work inside us and even to bring our prayers to our Heavenly Father especially in those times when we don’t even know what to say.

Romans 8:26-27 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words;  and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

We also know from Scripture that one way to hear from God is to get quiet before Him and to spend time in His Word. Today Sarah writes about our need to listen to our God.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/22)

Listen to Me continually. I have much to communicate to you, so many people and situations in need of prayer. I am training you to set your mind on Me more and more, tuning out distractions through the help of My Spirit.

Walk with Me in holy trust, responding to My initiatives rather than trying to make things fit your plans. I died to set you free, and that includes freedom from compulsive planning. When your mind spins with a multitude of thoughts, you cannot hear My voice. A mind preoccupied with planning pays homage to the idol of control. Turn from this idolatry back to Me. Listen to Me and live abundantly!

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed. John 8:36

Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails. Proverbs 19:21

“My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me.” John 10:27

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Fear Not

Today’s devotional by Sarah Young was not written this week, but it definitely could have been.  For the most part it could have been written any week because whether there is a large scale national or world tragedy or a personal one, there are always distressing events. We live in a world of distressing events, and we don’t have to look far to find them. The question is, how much are you going to let them occupy your heart and mind?

It’s not, however, like our mind is a whiteboard where we can wipe away any reference or thought of things we don’t want to dwell on, and then live in the denial of them. That’s not the answer.  In this world we have to walk through them and with people who have to do so also. But what are we going to let these situations do to our hearts and minds? Are we going to live in the fear of tragedies of all sorts? Or, are we going to walk through these events in the strength that Christ supplies with the peace that can only come from being at peace with God and subsequently knowing the peace of God?

God’s answer is to find our rest in Him and to know that He has us wrapped firmly in His hands fully aware of every detail and going before us (and behind) through them. We have no reason to fear, because the God who created and sustains everything is in control. As we are encouraged by Sarah today, take a break from the constant flow of news and tune in to the Word of God with His Spirit adjusting the volume. He can bring calm in the midst of the biggest of storms.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/20)

Do not be afraid, for I am with you. Hear Me saying Peace, be still to your restless heart. No matter what happens, I will never leave you or forsake you. Let this assurance soak into your mind and heart, until you overflow with Joy. Though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, you need not fear!

The media relentlessly proclaim bad news: for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. A steady diet of their fare will sicken you. Instead of focusing on fickle, ever-changing news broadcasts, tune into the living Word – the One who is always the same. Let Scripture saturate your mind and heart, and you will walk steadily along the path of Life. Even though you don’t know what will happen tomorrow, you can be absolutely sure of your ultimate destination. I hold you by your right hand, and afterward I will take you into Glory.

Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was great calm. Mark 4:39 (NK JV)

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6

Therefore we will not fear, though the Earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea. Psalm 46:2

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Psalm 73:23-24

Friday, April 19, 2013

Approved And Not Disappointed

Being disappointed with an outcome and God being disappointed with us are two totally different things. There are so many things in our lives that don’t turn out as we hope, and it is very easy to feel let down when this happens especially when it comes to how we may or may not have performed in that situation. We can look at them as failures or rejections, and then we can put this on how God views us.

But this is not how God views us. 2 Timothy 3:17 says that God makes us adequate for the things which He sets before us. 1 Corinthains 10:13 tells us that God is faithful to make it so that we can endure our trials and the struggle with those trials, framing them up with limitations. Romans 8: 28 tells us that God works all things together for good for those who love Him and who are called according to His purposes. 

Even when we sin and do things opposed to what we know to be right and honoring to God, we know that we have a God who has already fully forgiven and declared righteous those who have placed their trust in Christ and received His free gift of salvation.  So, whether it is our stumbling when trying hard or our stumbling when rebelling, we know that we have a God who does not give up on us, who has a purpose for our lives, and who will fulfill that purpose.

Sarah writes today about our feeling of worthiness, and the reality is that in ourselves there is not one of us who is worthy. But we have been made worthy because of the Lamb who was slain on our behalf and who reigns forever putting on us His glory as a done deal inheritance.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/19)

I love you regardless of how well you are performing. Sometimes you feel uneasy, wondering if you are doing enough to be worthy of My Love. No matter how exemplary your behavior, the answer to that question will always be no. Your performance and My Love are totally different issues, which you need to sort out. I love you with an everlasting Love that flows out from eternity without limits or conditions. I have clothed you in My robe of righteousness, and this is an eternal transaction: Nothing and no one can reverse it. Therefore, your accomplishment as a Christian has no bearing on My Love for you. Even your ability to assess how well you are doing on a given day is flawed. Your limited human perspective and the condition of your body, with its mercurial variations, distort your evaluations.

Bring your performance anxiety Me, and receive in its place My unfailing Love. Try to stay conscious of My loving Presence with you in all that you do, and I will direct your steps.

The Lord appeared to us in the past, saying: “I have loved you with an everlasting love; I have drawn you with loving-kindness.” Jeremiah 31:3

I delete delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. Isaiah 61:10

Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love. Psalm 31:16

Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men, Psalm 107:8

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Peace In The Midst Of Terror

As I sit here rereading this devotional for the day I am also listening to the memorial service at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. I am mindful in listening while reading that there are some at this service who are rallying to keep going because that is all they know, and there are some who deeply recognize that even in the greatest of human tragedies that there is a God who is sovereign and loving and good, a God who gives peace to those who know Him and hope to those who look to His protection.

Peace is truly a gift from God, and Scripture tells us that He is that only source of true peace. This world has nothing to offer in regards to this true peace. Scripture tells us in John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.” The law, law enforcement, and judicial systems are given to protect us from those who don’t abide by the law, and our law enforcement officials will do their best to bring to justice those who perpetrate crimes on others such as happened Monday. But the law cannot change the heart, and it cannot prevent evil.

But for those who have placed their trust in Jesus Christ and received His free gift of salvation there is the promise that God will change and conform their hearts, and that they can truly know His Peace even when everything else seems to be upside down.

Last night I had the privilege of teaching Romans 8:26-30 which includes the powerful encouragement that when stuff like happened this week happens and we might not even know how to pray, that God’s Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf and takes our burdens and concerns directly to Him. And even in this, we know from Scripture that God is One, and that God the Father already knows these things and, according to Psalm 139, He is intimately acquainted with all of our ways.

We also read in this section of Scripture the assurance that our God works all of this ugliness and everything else together for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. We read that from before we were born that God knew and planned for our eventual glorification in Christ and all that He accomplishes in between

And then there is verse 31 which we will start with next week. “What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?” Yes, I am hopeful that those who were responsible for the bombing will be brought to justice. But more than that, I am hopeful that as believers reach out to others that these others might also come to know that there is a God who loves them and who wants to give them a fullness of forgiveness and an eternity of glory and full and complete victory.
Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/18)

Peace is my continual gift to you. It flows abundantly from My throne of grace. Just as the Israelites could not store up manna for the future but had to gather it daily, so it is with My Peace. The day-by-day collecting of manna kept My people aware of their dependence on Me. Similarly, I give you sufficient Peace for the present, when you come to me by prayer and petition with thanksgiving. If I gave you permanent Peace, independent of My Presence, you might fall into the trap of self-sufficiency. May that never be!

I have designed you to need Me moment by moment. As your awareness of your neediness increases, so does your realization of My abundant sufficiency. I can meet every one of your needs without draining My resources at all. Approach My throne of grace with bold confidence, receiving My Peace with a thankful heart.

Moses said to them, “It is the bread the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Each one is to gather as much is he needs. Take an omer for each person you have in your tent.’” The Israelites did as they were told; some gathered much, some little….Each one gathered as much as he needed. Then Moses said to them, “No one is to keep any of it until morning.” However, some of them paid no attention to Moses; they kept part of it until morning, but it was full of maggots and began to smell. So Moses was angry with them. Exodus 16:15-20

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guide your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus….And my God will meet all your needs according to his glorious riches in Christ Jesus. Philippians 4:6-7, 19

Let us then approached the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Stop and Listen

James 1:19 reads, “This you know, my beloved brethren. But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;” It is one of many of my favorite verses. Its truth applies on so many levels of our lives. Most of us would immediately think of how it applies in our relationships with other people, especially when we consider the number of times we respond inappropriately to something said by someone else and one or the other and often both wind up getting angry.

But stop and think about this verse in terms of our relationship with God. James tells us to be quick to hear, and slow to speak. In this case something happens, whether it involves others or not, and our immediate urge is to respond with our emotions and without carefully considering what we say or do. This is so true in particular with those issues we’ve been through over and over again. We just react, and often that reaction is in some way regrettable. If we were to apply James 1:19 here and STOP before God, and seek His wisdom for the situation and His words and/or response, just imagine how things might change as a result. This does not have to be a long STOP. It may only be a split second, but in other cases it might be much longer. And sometimes, if the situation is pretty intense, it might be repeated stops. But if we find the stops to be regularly repeated in quick succession it might give us cause to ask if we really stopped in the first place to listen to God, or if we only coasted through the stop sign and we haven’t really listened.

The verse also tells us to be slow to speak. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” In being slow to speak we are to consider how God might have us respond, placing our trust in Him for both the process and the outcome.

Later on James tells us that our tongues are a restless evil, something seemingly untamable. This is true apart from the power of God to control it. When we practice stopping before God and seeking His response it often results in a calming to the situation, but not necessarily always on the part of the other person(s). The one thing it does do for us for sure is to bring us His peace and guard our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus (Philippians 4:7).

James 1:19, as well as Proverbs 3:5-6 and Philippians 4:7 (all favorites) are reminders to me that I need to be aware of God in all things and rely on Him even for my responses and reactions. When I do this, whether it is a simple conflict or something severely wrong that may be happening, I remember that my God is in control and He has me firmly in His hands. This is very steadying.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/17)

I am training you in steadfastness. Too many things interrupt your awareness of Me. I know that you live in a world of sight and sound, but you must not be a slave to those stimuli. Awareness of Me can continue in all circumstances, no matter what happens. This is the steadiness I desire for you.

Don’t let unexpected events throw you off course. Rather, respond calmly and confidently, remembering that I am with you. As soon as something grabs your attention, talk with Me about it. Thus I share your joys and your problems; I help you cope with whatever is before you. This is how I live in you and work through you. This is the way of Peace.

He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord. Psalm 112:7

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10 (NKJV)

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

A Peak Behind the Curtain

“Don’t look at the man behind the curtain.” The temptation of Satan for Eve was that she would be like God, knowing as God knows. Or at least that might have been what she thought, but what he really said was that she might know “good and evil.” Before that time she knew only good, yet in a moment her eyes were opened to evil as she and Adam ate and knew sin for the very first time. The consequence of this meant that they were removed from the Garden and their intimate daily relationship with God and His Spirit was severed. They realized real quick that eating would not make them as God, but would put them under the judgment of God.

There are none who know like God, who are all-powerful and sovereign over all of creation, who hold time in their hands as He does. There are none and that is all there is to it. As such He has called us to trust Him in all things even those things in which we might otherwise tend to be critical, setting our criticisms aside as ones who really don’t know what is going on in deference to the One who does.

I remember watching the Wizard of Oz a couple of hundred times (or so) and always enjoyed the part when the wizard was trying to control Oz from behind the curtain. The problem was that he truly was inept at his task and really could at best only put on an appearance of control.

Today Sarah writes about how amazed we would be if we were really to get a glimpse behind God’s curtain. The reality is that we do get such glimpses. We get glimpses when we look into the history of His Word and see how He has worked in the lives of those who have gone before us. We get glimpses as we see how from the beginning He had everything under control, even with our sin and rebellion and our redemption, justification, and even glorification. We get glimpses as we look at the prophecies of the Old Testament and the fulfillment of so many of them. We get glimpses as we read the descriptions of our God as Father, Son, and Spirit throughout Scripture. And we get glimpses as we see Him work in and through our lives and those around us. There are so many ways in which He lets us peak behind the curtain, yet even with the peaks what we know and can know is so limited. So, the next time you are tempted to try to run things, remember your peaks behind the curtain and that you are privileged greatly to have a God who loves you so much and who has control over all creation.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/16)

I am calling you to a life of thankfulness. I want all your moments to be punctuated with thanksgiving. The basis for your gratitude is My sovereignty. I am the Creator and Controller of the universe. Heaven and earth are filled with My glorious Presence.

When you criticize or complain, you are acting as if you think you could run the world better than I do. From your limited human perspective, it may look as if I’m mismanaging things. But you don’t know what I know or see what I see. If I pulled back the curtain to allow you to view heavenly realms, you would understand much more. However, I have designed you to live by faith, not by sight. I lovingly shield you from knowing the future or seeing into the spirit world. Acknowledge my sovereignty by giving thanks and all circumstances.

And they were calling to one another: “holy, holy, holy is the Lord Almighty; the whole earth is full of his glory.” Isaiah 6:3

We live by faith, not by sight. 2 Corinthians 5:7

Give thanks and all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 5:18

Monday, April 15, 2013

When Things Get Taxing

Some days are more taxing than others, especially if you wait to the last minute or don’t plan properly.  But some are taxing regardless of what you do and how you may prepare yourself. What you thought would happen didn’t and a gazillion (that’s a whole lot) of other things pop up yelling for your attention. And these don’t even have to be bad things, just unplanned ones. How do you respond when this happens?

I am getting much better at stopping, taking a breath while looking to God, and then considering how to proceed. But there are definitely times when I kick into an action gear without engaging my spirit with God’s Spirit. In these times it is like a heavy truck running downhill without a brake or maybe even a steering wheel. When this happens I am trying to deal with the situation in my own strength. While I know this is not what I am supposed to do, it does happen and I struggle with it at times. It is in these times when I am so thankful not only for stop signs but for a supernatural brakeman and driver.

This morning I enjoyed a quiet time of working through my prayer sheet and laying those people and things which were on my heart and mind before God. Also, it was a time of laying my hopes and dreams before Him again, asking His continued direction and thanking Him for His plans and His promises to fulfill those plans. This is so much better and restful than trying to control a runaway truck. God may not level the steep slopes or even shine a bright light on the path ahead, but He has promised to give me the power to go up and down those steps and to give me the light I need for my path. I may not have super-duper highbeams, but I have something better -- beams from on high.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/15)

Trust Me, and don’t be afraid. Many things feel out of control. Your routines are not running smoothly. You tend to feel more secure when your life is predictable. Let Me lead you to the rock that is higher than you and your circumstances. Take refuge in the shelter My wings, where you are absolutely secure.

When you are shaken out of your comfortable routines, grip My hand tightly and look for growth opportunities. Instead of bemoaning the loss of your comfort, accept the challenge of something new. I lead you on from glory to glory, making you fit for My kingdom. Say yes to the ways I work in your life. Trust me, and don’t be afraid.

“Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The Lord, the Lord, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation.” Isaiah 12:2

From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe. I long to dwell in your tent forever and take refuge in the shelter of your wings. Psalm 61:2-4

But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. 2 Corinthians 3:18 (NKJV)

Sunday, April 14, 2013

On The Path To Glory

Last week in the Romans study I have the privilege of teaching we looked at chapter 8, verses 14-25. In this passage we looked at several of the assurances that we are a child of God when we have placed our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation. In looking at these verses we considered several things we can know as a result of the various ways that the Holy Spirit works in our lives here and now. This includes the inseparability of the link between suffering and glory. As crazy as it seems this is an intended relationship that reminds us both of how temporary things are now and how wonderful things will be for all eternity. With the now comes struggle and suffering along with strengthening and victory as God demonstrates His constant love and watch care leading to times of joy, assurance, and hope. All of these point us to a time when the struggling will cease and glory will be fulfilled.

This afternoon I was working on Jonny’s career arrow (an actual arrow with painted markings reflecting the things he has accomplished while as a Cub Scout). As I worked on the arrow it also gave me an opportunity to reflect on my career arrow, or maybe more accurately God’s career arrow in my life. There have been so many times when I had to set forth on something new, desired or not, and have wondered and even fretted about how they would turn out. Over the years, as I have seen God demonstrate His watch care in my life and that of my family and as I have seen Him accomplish so much, I have grown in the ability to look back and reflect with appreciation and then look forward with anticipation. Today Sarah writes about heaven being both present and future. It is present because of His presence that is shown us in so many ways and because of the joy we can experience as a result. And it is definitely future because one day this will pale in comparison to what awaits. Being a Christian is not about grinning and bearing it until my ship comes in. No, it is about living a life in dependence on a God who loves me and who has a plan for my life.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/14)

Heaven is both present and future. As you walk along your life-path holding My hand, you are already in touch with the essence of heaven: nearness to Me. You can also find many hints of heaven along your pathway, because the earth is radiantly alive with My Presence. Shimmering sunshine awakens your heart, gently reminding you of My brilliant Light. Birds and flowers, trees and skies evoke praises to My holy Name. Keep your eyes and ears fully open as you journey with Me.

At the end of your life-path is an entrance to heaven. Only I know when you will reach that destination, but I am preparing you for it each step of the way. The absolute certainty of your heavenly home gives you Peace and Joy, to help you along your journey. You know that you will reach your home in My perfect timing: not one moment too soon or too late. Let the hope of heaven encourage you, as you walk along the path of Life with Me.

But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. But each in his own turn: Christ, the firstfruits; then, when he comes, those who belong to him. 1 Corinthians 15:20-23

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure. It enters the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. Hebrews 6:19

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Staying Put When You Want To Go

When you are anticipating change or waiting on an answer, staying put and keeping on doing what you have been doing with all your heart can be a difficult thing to do. Oftentimes when we start to think ahead to something new we start to distance ourselves from those things present which we hope to replace. 

Then there are those quiet days when maybe you haven’t quiet settled into quietness or are uneasy because you wish something were happening. How do you occupy yourself with emptiness? Realize that whether the winds are blowing or not, that God is present and He desires our attention. Even in the routine God is routinely with us. Don’t let anticipation or boredom or anything in between separate you from keeping your eyes on Him because nothing can separate us from Him

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/13)

When I give you no special guidance, stay where you are. Concentrate on doing your everyday tasks in awareness of My Presence with you. The Joy of My Presence will shine on you, as you do everything for Me. Thus you invite Me into every aspect of your life. Through collaborating with Me in all things, you allow My Life to merge with yours. This is the secret not only of joyful living but also of victorious living. I designed you to depend on Me moment by moment, recognizing that apart from Me you can do nothing.

Be thankful for quiet days, when nothing special seems to be happening. Instead of being bored by the lack of action, use times a routine to seek My Face. Although this is an invisible transaction, it speaks volumes in spiritual realms. Moreover, you are richly blessed when you walk trustingly with Me through the routines of your day.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men. Colossians 3:23

“I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5

Look to the Lord and his strength; seek his face always. Psalm 105:4

Thursday, April 11, 2013

This Is The Day

Tonight is our Cub Scout Pack’s Pinewood Derby. Our kids have been preparing for it as have the other kids in our Pack. Between 5:30 and 6:00 the kids will check in their cars and the racing will then start. Some cars will run well and some generally not so well. Some cars will look like their parents did every detail and some it will be obvious that the kids had the strongest hand. Some will rejoice in their performance and, from experience, there will even be some who are very disappointed.

As I thought about this upcoming event and all of the preparation to get ready for it, I thought how much this is a micro-picture of our lives. Each of us have days we look forward to with great excitement and days that are not so much. Each of us has days that turn out meeting our expectations and even exceeding them and days that go totally sideways or even worse.

I particularly watch at events like tonight how parents rejoice with their kids successes, how they encourage them in their struggles, and even comfort them in their disappointments. Today Sarah writes about today (as with every day), but today as the day before us, is the day the Lord has made. He has given it to us and He will sustain us through it with its bright spots and its dark ones. He is the author of our days and He is sovereign over every aspect. As such we are encouraged to trust Him to do His good work regardless of how it might look to us. Win or lose the heat, Scripture declares that we win the race. Therefore, we are to race to win the prize and find our joy in our God who holds that prize which is our glory for all eternity.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/11)

This is the day that I have made. Rejoice and be glad in it. Begin the day with open hands of faith, ready to receive all that I am pouring into this brief portion of your life. Be careful not to complain about anything, even the weather, since I am the Author of your circumstances. The best way to handle unwanted situations is to thank Me for them. This act of faith frees you from the resentment and frees Me to work My ways into the situation, so that good emerges from it.

To find Joy in this day, you must live within its boundaries. I knew what I was doing when I divided time into twenty-four-hour segments. I understand human frailty, and I know that you can bear the weight of only one day at a time. Do not worry about tomorrow or get stuck in the past. There is abundant Life in My Presence today.

This is the day the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. Psalm 118:24

Brothers, 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 3:13-14

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Free To Ask

This morning I debated sending an email inquiring about the status of the search process at one church. Prior to sending the email I had to sit back and ask if this was being done trying to move things in my timing or if this was something I was free to do and still be trusting God. After working through this with God and searching my motives I felt free to inquire. Living in a sense of “darkness” is difficult for most of us. By “darkness” I mean living in the unknown. Living in the unknown means that we have to trust, and when we struggle with trust we then typically worry.

Our God is all about shining light on the unknown. He does this most frequently not by making the unknown known, but by revealing Himself as the One who is sovereign over that very unknown. When there are things that are facing us there are frequently things that God expects us to act on but there are also things over which we have no control. In all of these things, whether we can act or not, He expects us to rest in full dependence on Him either as the One who will provide either apart from our effort or through our effort. The key, which Sarah writes about today, is trusting God with thanksgiving.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/10)

Trust Me in every detail of your life. Nothing is random in My kingdom. Everything that happens fits into a pattern for good, to those who love Me. Instead of trying to analyze the intricacies of the pattern, focus your energy on trusting Me and thanking Me at all times. Nothing is wasted when you walk close to Me. Even your mistakes and sins can be recycled into something good, through My transforming grace.

While you were still living in darkness, I began to shine the Light of My Presence into your sin-stained life. Finally, I lifted you up out of the mire into My marvelous Light. Having sacrificed My very Life for you, I can be trusted in every facet of your life.

“But blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, whose confidence is in him.” Jeremiah 17:7

We are assured and know that [God being a partner in their labor] all things work together and are [fitting into a plan] for good to and for those who love God and are called according to [His] design and purpose. Romans 8:28 (AMP)

He drew me up out of a horrible pit [a pit of tumult and destruction], out of the miry clay (froth and slime), and set my feet upon a rock, steadying my steps in establishing my goings. Psalm 40:2

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of him who called you up out of darkness into His marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 (NKJV)

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Nothing Means Nothing

Just what does it mean to you to actively know that nothing can separate you from God’s love? Love is powerful word in that it is not static. It is an active word and it is shown not just once, but repeatedly by our words, intentions, and actions. Scripture tells us that while we were yet sinners that Christ died for us. Why? Because He loves us. And after we place our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation God’s love actions do not cease. Scripture also calls us His beloved children. 1 John 4 tells us repeatedly that God is love and Scripture declares over and over again how His love is continually shown to us.

This love even extends to our hardships or our being disciplined. God’s discipline is not a punishment for wrong doing, but a training in right doing and endurance. We see this in 2 Timothy 3:16-17 where we read, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” Here we read about the training combination that goes beyond just pointing out any wrongs. We see that Scripture is so much more that “teaching.” It is living and active (Hebrews 4:12) and profitable (for our good) in showing us not only how we have gotten off track (reproof), but showing us how to get back on track (correction), and then how to stay on track (training in righteousness). And the why is so that we might be made adequate by God for His good works. Hebrews 12 declares that God does this because He loves us, and this is exactly what any loving father should do.

But His discipline does not pertain only to correcting our actions. God also shows His love and faithfulness toward us in bringing us through hardships. In Romans 8:28 and 31 we read, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. … What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us?”

In John 10, when Jesus was being questioned as to whether or not He truly was the Christ, this is how He responded in verses 25-30, Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me. But you do not believe because you are not of My sheep. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.”

We are truly His, and this is a forever truth. Sarah writes today about how this truth should impact the moments of our days.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (4/9)

You are Mine for all time; nothing can separate you from My Love. Since I have invested My very Life in you, be well assured that I will also take care of you. When your mind goes into neutral and your thoughts flow freely, you tend to feel anxious and alone. Your focus becomes problem solving. To get your mind back into gear, just turned toward Me, bringing yourself and your problems into My Presence.

Many problems vanish instantly in the Light of My Love, because you realize you are never alone. Other problems may remain, but to become secondary to knowing Me and rejoicing in the relationship I so freely offer you. Each moment you can choose to practice My Presence or to practice the presence of problems.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38-39

The Lord replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Exodus 33:14