Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Cut Above

Robin cuts our kids hair and has done so for all most their lives while they were growing up, except for a rare exception here and there. I can’t count how many times I've heard them instructed to sit still. And occasionally there has even been a comment about not being responsible for the outcome if they didn't. But I think it very safe to say that they got their best and quickest haircuts when they sat in full compliance and didn't fight it.

I also remember a time when she got a phone call to clean up a haircut that another parent had started on their own child. By the time Robin got to this little boy the task was a bit challenging. Needless to say, no matter how good or bad the hair cut—it grows back.

In so many ways this might compare with our relationship with God. God is very capable of cutting the hair of the wiggliest of His children, and He is faithful to grow them when after their self-defiance and disobedience, they then choose to listen and obey.

Speaking for our kids, they have learned that their mom really does know how to cut their hair, and additionally, they are rightly convinced that I don’t without having had to experience the reality of what I might do (though it is fun to think about it). But it wasn't always that way, there have been those seasons when they thought their mom might mess up or not do it the way they wanted. But over the years they really have learned to trust, obey, and sit still. They have also learned that their mom does listen to their desires and works to cut their hair in line with those desires.

Today Sarah writes about us becoming more the person that God created us to be, and this happens best when we yield to Him. In order to do this it requires that we sit still and stop fighting. Fighting just makes it a bit more difficult for us and causes it to take longer.

Psalm 111:7-10 “The works of His hands are truth and justice; all His precepts are sure. They are upheld forever and ever; they are performed in truth and uprightness. He has sent redemption to His people; He has ordained His covenant forever; Holy and awesome is His name. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments; His praise endures forever.”

Ephesians 2:8-10 "For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.”

Ephesians 4:15 "but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ,”

Jesus said in Matthew 10:30-31, “But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear….”

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/30)

I am the truth: the One who came to set you free. As the Holy Spirit controls your mind and actions more fully, you become free in Me. You are increasingly released to become the one I created you to be. This is a work that I do in you as you yield to My Spirit. I can do My best handiwork when you sit in the stillness of My Presence, focusing your entire being on Me.

Let My thoughts burst freely upon your consciousness, stimulating abundant Life. I am the Way and the Truth and the Life. As you follow Me, I lead you along paths of newness: ways you have never imagined. Don’t worry about what is on the road up ahead. I want you to find your security in knowing Me, the One who died to set you free.

“Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32

For it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose. Philippians 2:13

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” John 14:6

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Quiet With God

Early morning rising,
Getting out of bed;
Sun brightly shining,
Stinging to my head.

Waking in the morning,
Several minutes past;
Cold water running,
Awakened now—at last.

Sitting down with Jesus,
Learning from His Word;
Starting off with Jesus,
Sharing with my Lord.

How I like my quiet time
Each and every day;
How I like my quiet time,
It gets me on our way.
(JEB 3/28/77)

One of the disciplines I learned while involved with Campus Crusade for Christ in college was the importance of having a set apart time with God, where I could quietly spend time in prayer, reading, thinking and listening with God. I must admit that at that time my mornings were not that structured and that getting up well in advance of classes in order to spend this time with God was a real challenge. And as I’ve moved through the years I have continued to struggle with the same early morning discipline.

But regardless of how early (or not) this time might occur, I’ve learned the importance of maintaining a set aside time to spend with God at the beginning of my day. And I’ve also found on the negative side that when I don’t do this on a consistent basis for a season it shows in other areas of my life. My sit down times may occur a little later, but I rarely get out of bed without spending some time in prayer, and I rarely take a shower without spending some time seeking God. And when I do finally sit down, I’ve continued to grow in my appreciation of these times with God, and then enjoy those bonus times that crop up in various ways throughout my day.

When I first wrote the above poem having a quiet time was something new, and in writing it, the last line first ended with, “It gets me on my way.” But as I thought about it, and before I recorded it in a small book I still keep, I changed the last line. I realized then, and it has proven so over the years that the Christian life is a life of living in the Presence of God, and that the walk I walk is one that is intended to be walked with God—making it truly an “our” journey.

I still don’t like the brightness of the sun as it still stings my eyes, but I have known and continue to appreciate getting up in the presence of the Son and walking in His Spirit.

John 8:12 Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, “I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.”

Colossians 2:6-7  Therefore as you have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith, just as you were instructed, and overflowing with gratitude.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/29)

As you get out of bed in the morning, be aware My Presence with you. You may not be thinking clearly yet, but I am. Your early morning thoughts tend to be anxious ones until you get connected with Me. Invite Me into your thoughts by whispering My Name. Suddenly your day brightens and feels more user-friendly. You cannot dread a day that is vibrant with My Presence.

You gain confidence through knowing that I am with you – that you face nothing alone. Anxiety stems from asking the wrong question: “If such and such happens, can I handle it?” The true question is not whether you can cope with whatever happens, but whether you and I together can handle anything that occurs. It is this you-and-I-together factor that gives you confidence to face the day cheerfully.

In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my request before you and wait in expectation. Psalm 5:3

O God, You are my God; early will I seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water. Psalm 63:1 (NKJV)

I can do everything through him who gives me strength. Philippians 4:13

Friday, June 28, 2013

Taste And See

For many people there is something about sitting down with a cup of coffee and a good book. I think it is more than the caffeine keeping them awake to read an otherwise boring book, though many college students may agree with the later. Rather, as they enjoy the story of the book they can also enjoy the aroma, the flavor, and the warmth of the coffee. All of these combine in their senses and in their hearts for a thoroughly enjoyable and relaxing experience. It is a time to be still and enjoy the rest.

Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him.”

As we take time to get away and get quiet with God, to sit with His Word and to reflect on not only the truths of His Word but also His faithfulness and His goodness and His mercifulness and graciousness in our lives—on His love for us—we in a similar way (even without the coffee) can fill our senses with joy as our hearts are reassured of His hands surrounding us and our minds are put to rest from our various struggles.  Though I enjoy the coffee because I physically get to enjoy the flavor and the warmth, it is not the coffee that makes the time profitable, but rather it is God. He has given us His Spirit to indwell us and to be our Helper and our Counselor, even taking our very burdens to our Heavenly Father through the access granted us by our greatest Advocate—Jesus Christ. When we spend time with God we have the privilege of spending time with a God who is One yet manifest in three persons—all equally God—Who loves us deeply and Who walks with us closely. As we spend time with God in His Word we have the privilege of seeing His story and the history of His people unite with ours and it becomes more than just a book written by someone else that we are just an observer looking in (whether that be fact or fiction). When we spend time with Him we spend time with a timeless God in whom all fullness dwells giving us His full attention.

Psalm 16:7-11 I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Psalms 34 ends with the words of verse 22, “The Lord redeems the soul of His servants, and none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned.”

Oops. I forgot to drink my coffee.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/28)

Taste and see that I am good. This command contains an invitation to experience My living Presence. It also contains a promise. The more you experience Me, the more convinced you become of My goodness. This knowledge is essential to your to your faith-walk. When adversities strike, the human instinct is to doubt My goodness. My ways are mysterious, even to those who know Me intimately. As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways and thoughts higher than your ways and thoughts. Do not try to fathom My ways. Instead, spend time enjoying Me and experiencing My goodness.

Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the man who takes refuge in him. Psalm 34:8

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Time To Take A Breath

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.” (Psalm 121)

One year ago today I walked out of a place where I had been a part of the staff for a long time for the last time as a staff member. While I knew I was doing the right thing, I also felt a particular sense of heaviness that day about leaving what I had been such a part of as well as not knowing what was to lie ahead. You might even say that I felt lost, and I didn’t know what to do with my time that day.

The months leading up to this day were quite difficult, and I had spent a lot of time with Robin searching God’s leading for us, and having followed His leading in this step I was ready for what He had next. Or at least I thought I was ready. But God, He knew the process he had for leading me to this next place, and that it was going to be longer than I had anticipated. He also knew that I would need to rest in Him to find strength and wisdom during the search.

I think most of us can relate to situations such as this to some degree by changing up the variables in some way. Moving from a place of security to a place of uncertainty requires trust, and with God we know we have someone imminently trustworthy who will direct our steps. We also know that despite what we might think best, He knows what the real best is and how He will bring it about. It is during these times where we find the reality of Scripture passages such as Psalm 121.

I can daily praise God not because He has shown me an answer to our journey, but because I know that He is the One who prepares and sustains me to trust Him through it while waiting on His outcomes. Today Sarah writes about those times when we have to traverse rugged territories, and how we need to find our rest in God. And as the psalmist wrote, our God neither slumbers nor sleeps. He is our protector and our keeper, and He is the one who guards everywhere we go. My God is working and He is not slack in His efforts. His plans and the timing of those plans are perfect. And because of that I know that I can trust Him to direct my steps and do what is best. And in those moments when I feel otherwise, when the clouds roll in, when I feel lost, it is then that I need to take those thoughts captive and honestly lay them at His feet and find my reassurance and my rest in Him.

Psalm 63:6-8 When I remember You on my bed, I meditate on You in the night watches, for You have been my help, and in the shadow of Your wings I sing for joy. My soul clings to You; Your right hand upholds me.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/27)

Rest with Me a while. You have journeyed up a steep, rugged path in recent days. The way ahead is shrouded in uncertainty. Look neither behind you nor before you. Instead, focus your attention on Me, your constant Companion. Trust that I will equip you fully for whatever awaits you on your journey.

I designed time to be a protection for you. You couldn’t bear to see all your life at once. Though I am unlimited by time, it is in the present moment that I meet you. Refresh yourself in My company, breathing deep draughts of my My Presence. The highest level of trust is to enjoy Me moment by moment. I am with you, watching over you wherever you go.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I lift up my soul. Psalm 143:8

“I am with you and will watch over you wherever you go, and I will bring you back to this land. I will not leave you until I have done what I have promised you.” Genesis 28:15

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Better Is One Day In His Courts

The news out of the Supreme Court today surely has stirred many hearts. This follows a significant change to membership policy in the Boy Scouts of America and other such significant events. We should not be surprised that the courts and other major social organizations have taken such stands. After all, our country has been normalizing sexual orientation variations for several decades. Even some churches have bent in this direction.

As I was thinking on today’s Court rulings and the response I saw in social media and on the news sources, I was mindful of the need that we have as Christians to let God’s Word direct our beliefs and our behaviors and not that of government, even if that government has historically been favorable to those same beliefs. The harsh reality is that many leaders in our country, many judges on our courts, much of the media and entertainment industry, and many directors of business and non-religious organizations do not seek after God and do not submit themselves to His ways. Though we can be sorely disappointed, we should not be surprised at what they do.

A couple of years ago our church’s leadership worked together on a consideration of biblical truth as it pertains to marriage, divorce, and remarriage. This is the leading paragraph of the resulting document resulting from this study: “In a culture where politicians have taken it upon themselves to define marriage and courts have broadened the reasons for divorce such that there be nothing more than one person simply stating that he or she no longer wishes to be married, we felt it important … to diligently study the Bible and present a biblical perspective of marriage, divorce, and remarriage. In so doing we hope to reaffirm a solidly biblical standard to serve as a benchmark and guide to all who enter its arena.”

The key was to diligently study the Bible and then let the Bible shape our direction. Once having done this we are to trust God to guide us, praying that He would help us guard our hearts and minds as we engage in a world where the rules it goes by are different that those we follow.

We need to continue to pray for those in government, in our courts, and in our organizations and businesses that do honor God that they would be granted wisdom and be richly blessed as they seek to do what they do fully for Him.

And know that no matter what a human court does….

Psalm 84 “How lovely are Your dwelling places, O Lord of hosts! My soul longed and even yearned for the courts of the Lord; my heart and my flesh sing for joy to the living God. The bird also has found a house, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, even Your altars, O Lord of hosts, My King and my God. How blessed are those who dwell in Your house! They are ever praising You.”

“How blessed is the man whose strength is in You, in whose heart are the highways to Zion! Passing through the valley of Baca they make it a spring; The early rain also covers it with blessings. They go from strength to strength, every one of them appears before God in Zion. O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob!”

“Behold our shield, O God, and look upon the face of Your anointed. For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand outside. I would rather stand at the threshold of the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness. For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You!”

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/26)

Stay calmly conscience of Me today, no matter what. Remember that I go before you as well as with you into the day. Nothing takes Me by surprise. I will not allow circumstances overwhelm you so long as you look to Me. I will help you cope with whatever the moment presents. Collaborating with He brings blessings that far outweigh all your troubles. Awareness of My Presence contains Joy that can endure all eventualities.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me to lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul; He leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for You are with me; your rod and Your staff, they comfort me. Psalm 23:1-4 (NKJV)

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. 2 Corinthians 4:16-17

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Psalms and Hymns and Spiritual Songs

Sometimes the best thing we can do when seeing things a bit gloomy is to sing a song of praise or put on a favorite piece of God-centered music. Twice the apostle Paul encourages those to whom he is writing to sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.

Ephesians 5:18-20 “…be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father;”

Colossians 3:15-17 “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful. Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.”

Songs are interesting things in that they remain hidden in our hearts until prompted, and then amazingly we remember them whether for good or otherwise. I remember far more songs than I do lectures, and I’m sure it is because of their musicality but maybe even more because of how I entered into them during the times that I sang them in the past. And when I sing them in the present, the emotions of the past come along in support. Oftentimes, however, it is not the whole song that I remember best but the chorus, for it is the choruses that often bring out the greatest emotion. Yet it is in the rest of the song that we often find the solid content that leads to our emotional response.

In Deuteronomy 31 the Lord spoke to Moses and told him that his time to die is near (verses 14 and following), and he was to commission Joshua to follow after him. The Lord also told Moses that the people would turn and follow after other gods, and spurn God and break His covenants. In preparation for this the Lord told Moses to write a song. We read this in Deuteronomy 31:19-22,

“Now therefore, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the sons of Israel; put it on their lips, so that this song may be a witness for Me against the sons of Israel. For when I bring them into the land flowing with milk and honey, which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and are satisfied and become prosperous, then they will turn to other gods and serve them, and spurn Me and break My covenant. Then it shall come about, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify before them as a witness (for it shall not be forgotten from the lips of their descendants); for I know their intent which they are developing today, before I have brought them into the land which I swore.” So Moses wrote this song the same day, and taught it to the sons of Israel.

God knows the power of song and the ability of a song to hang in the closet of our hearts while other things are discarded. And God knows that in times of trouble just what a song can do to draw us back to Him and restore or refresh our hearts. As we move into the period of the Judges and the continued rebellion of the people, we find chapter 5 beginning with Deborah and Barak singing a song. In verse 12 we even read, “Awake, awake, Deborah; Awake, awake, sing a song!...” Throughout the Old Testament we see that singing a song was something that was both instructed and exampled, and most commonly when they sang it was a song of praise.

Psalm 33:1-5 Sing for joy in the Lord, O you righteous ones; praise is becoming to the upright. Give thanks to the Lord with the lyre; sing praises to Him with a harp of ten strings. Sing to Him a new song; play skillfully with a shout of joy. For the word of the Lord is upright, and all His work is done in faithfulness. He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.

Even Jesus, our Lord, just before leaving the room on the night He was betrayed, Scripture records that He with His disciples sang a hymn (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26).

I imagine that each of us has a song or two of praise that speak loudly to us about God’s glory, majesty and faithfulness. Sarah encourages us today to begin our days singing these songs to our God.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/25)

Open your hands and your heart to receive this day as a precious gift from Me. I begin each day with a sunrise, announcing My radiant Presence. By the time you rise from your bed, I have already prepared the way before you. I eagerly await your first conscious thought. I rejoice when you glance My way.

Bring Me the gift of thanksgiving, which opens your heart to rich communion with Me. Because I am God, from whom all blessings flow, thankfulness is the best way to draw near Me. Sing praise songs to Me; tell of My wondrous works. Remember that I take great delight in you; I rejoice over you with singing.

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

Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. Psalm 95:2

“the Lord your God is with you, he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.” Zephaniah 3:17

Monday, June 24, 2013

Hand In Hand With God

I love that stage with little children when they are learning to walk. I jokingly refer to it as the orangutan phase, you know when their arms are flailing off to the sides in order for them to keep their balance as they have the hugest smiles on their faces. It is during this time that them grabbing just one finger on your hand greatly increases their stability, and from then on for a few years when you go out in public you insist that they be holding your hand or the hand of someone older. In them grasping your hand they find that they can trust you to keep them from falling, or at least falling and getting seriously hurt. It is also then that in holding their hand you are providing security and protection.

As we grow older and choose to walk hand in hand with someone be it our children, our boy-friend or girl-friend, our fiancé or fiancée, our spouse, or even our parents we do so out of affection and oneness. One of the first passages in the Bible that spoke to me about both the protection and the affection of our God had to do with His hands on me, and it is found in Psalm 139 where we read,

Psalm 139:5-10 You have enclosed me behind and before, and laid Your hand upon me. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; it is too high, I cannot attain to it. 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.

Upon hearing this I knew that God loved me in a way that I wanted to love Him back. He loved me in a way that showed He wanted to have an intimate relationship with me, and this was huge. I had already been familiar with this concept of a God who would hold my hand from an Anne Murray song that I had learned titled “Put Your Hand in the Hand,” but upon seeing this passage of Scripture for the first time I think I really began to understand just how much it meant for me to go with my hand in His hand through life with God. And from that time on when I heard this song it had a whole new meaning.

Anne sang about putting her hand in the hand of the one who stilled the water and calmed the sea; putting her hand in the hand of the man from Galilee. In John 10:27-30 we read, “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.”

When we placed our trust in Jesus Christ for our salvation we were forever placed in the firm hands of God, and He has called us to walk with Him, clinging to Him knowing that He will not let go of us and that it is impossible for Him to ever stumble or fall, and knowing that when we do stumble that He picks us up fully accepted and forgiven.

Psalm 121 A Song of Ascents. “I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; from where shall my help come? My help comes from the Lord, Who made heaven and earth. He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand. The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul. The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever.”

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/24)

Hold My hand – and trust. So long as you are conscious of My Presence with you, all is well. It is virtually impossible to stumble while walking in the Light with Me. I designed you to enjoy Me above all else. You find the deepest fulfillment of your heart in Me alone.

Fearful, anxious thoughts melt away in the Light of My Presence. When you turn away from Me, you are vulnerable to the darkness that is always at work in the world. Don’t be surprised by how easily you tend to forget to cling to My hand. In the world, dependency is seen as immaturity. But in My kingdom, dependence on Me is a prime measure of maturity.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” Isaiah 41:10

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. Psalm 62:5-6

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Living Above The Lines

Starting your devotional time with someone else’s thoughts is always an experience in the unknown or unexpected. Either what the individual has to share might hit a home run with you or it might strike out. These thoughts might be a line drive right to your heart, or they might even wind up outside the base lines. I could say they went afoul, but that would not be true. It is with those ones that wind up outside the base lines where I wind up asking what do I do with this, often leading to a richer time with God on my new rabbit trail (switching metaphors – oops). Devotionals are a tool which God can and often richly uses in aiding us in a regular time with Him, and the goal of the writers of the most legitimate ones is that they would do exactly that.

I have really enjoyed using one particular devotional over the past year, but in doing that I have striven not to let the words of one individual be the sole shaper of my understanding of God, to replace the leading of His Spirit, or even to replace His Word.

All of my older boys have been given a particular study Bible, as well as have some other young people I’ve had the privilege of working with. In the cover of the study Bibles I wrote a word of encouragement to each of them about studying God’s Word and hiding it in their hearts and letting it shape their lives as they sought after God with their whole hearts. Along with those words I included some passages of Scripture that I felt most appropriate, but in most of them, if not all, I included Proverbs 3:5-6 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17. And along with the encouragement and the meaningful passages from God’s Word, I also included a warning, and that warning is knowing the difference between what lies above the lines in a study Bible which is the very Word of God, and what lies below the lines which are the thoughts of individuals who have tried to accurately understand the Word and share it with others. This is the same approach I have striven to use with devotional writings.

And I must say, that in using this particular devotional, “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young, I have found the author to speak honestly and accurately as she brought her own struggles before God and His Word to print in order to encourage others from what she has learned. And as I have used her devotional I have purposed to take the extra time before God and ask Him what He would have me learn, and in particular if there were any thoughts outside the lines of the devotional which were more appropriate or important for me and my time with Him, what I know of Him, and how I follow Him. It is my hope that even as I have shared some of these thoughts with you through my blogging that you would also do likewise.

Today Sarah writes about letting God’s love stream through us. I can honestly say that I have seen God’s love shine through her writings, and I also know that I have benefitted from sharing in her love for God. Today as I read from “Jesus Calling” the ball went outside the lines, and I started a study of what Scripture has to say about being “strong and courageous.” This was sparked in part by a verse she cites today (Deuteronomy 31:6) and my own reading from yesterday in John, and in particular John 16:33 where Jesus says, “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.”

Then when I arrived at church today a friend of mine gave me a copy of a chapter in a book by David Roper. There is a lot in this chapter that I want to reflect on, but the leading thought I took away is being content with the Giver [God] alone. And in the preliminary work on my side study, the overriding principle behind our being able to be strong and courageous is not because of any innate ability we might have or any overwhelming sense of optimism in our own skills, but because of who our God is and His faithfulness. David wrote,

“God’s gifts are of no value to us or to anyone else until we lose them. When we come to the place that God means more to us than anything else, when we love Him with all our strength and soul and mind and spirit and heart, when we give up the very gift God has given us, then in resurrection power that gift will bring blessing to everyone it touches.

As the Spirit ties these things together in my heart I find the strength to wait and trust.

Psalm 27:14 Wait for the Lord; be strong and let your heart take courage; yes, wait for the Lord.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/23)

Let My love stream through you, washing away fear and distrust. A trusting response includes Me in your thoughts as you consider strategies to deal with a situation. My continual Presence is a promise, guaranteeing that you never have to face anything alone. My children teethe on the truth that I am always with them, yet they stumble around in a stupor, unaware of My loving Presence all around them. How that grieves Me!

When you walk through a day in trusting dependence on Me, My aching heart is soothed. Gently bring your attention back to Me whenever it wanders away. I look for persistence – rather than perfection – in your walk with Me.

But I am like an olive tree flourishing in the house of God; I trust in God’s unfailing love for ever and ever. Psalm 52:8

“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

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Ephesians 4:30

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Shall I Not Drink It?

It’s always hard when someone asks how you are doing, and due to either the setting, the person asking, or even your own emotional state at the moment you don’t want to answer and wind up giving some form of surface or pat response instead. These pat answers can even include things that you know to be true, but are struggling with the reality of them at the moment, such as “God is good.” That happened today, and the person who asked knows me well enough to have seen right through it and then took the extra time to be an encouragement.

BUT GOD, when it comes to Him knowing our hearts and our struggles there is no guessing and no reason to hold back. Even the biggest thing that might be bothering us is something that God is easily able to handle. And knowing that He loves us and that He is working on our behalf, even when we don’t see it, we can also thank Him. And thanking Him for our troubles is a very important thing for us to do, as it puts us in the place of trusting Him and it keeps us from turning elsewhere.

We might never understand why certain things happen or why we have to struggle in ways that others don’t. What we do know is that struggles are not unique to us, nor do we deserve to be exempt from them. If fact, we are told very honestly by God that in this world we will have troubles, but we are also told that we are to be strengthened in those struggles by the truth that Jesus has overcome the world.

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.”

Then Jesus goes on to pray out loud to the Father in the presence of His disciples. In this prayer, knowing what was lying ahead for Him during the next twenty-four hours, the Son spoke to the Father about their relationship with each other and the oneness they enjoyed and the joy of being returned to that oneness. He also prayed, in full earshot, that those left behind would be protected and know the same kind of oneness and even that they might know His glory. Then Jesus finished the prayer with,

John 17:20-26 “I do not ask on behalf of these alone, but for those also who believe in Me through their word; that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me.
Father, I desire that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am, so that they may see My glory which You have given Me, for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, although the world has not known You, yet I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me; and I have made Your name known to them, and will make it known, so that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

I find it very encouraging in approaching God during times of trouble to reflect on not only the love that God has for us, but on the relationship that the Son has with the Father, and to know that they with the Spirit are One and as One they are caring for me with the love that the Father has for the Son.

Following this prayer Jesus went out into the garden where He was betrayed, but betrayed as Scripture says in John 18:11, “Put the sword into the sheath [to Peter]; the cup which the Father has given Me, shall I not drink it?”

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/22)

Thank Me for the very things that are troubling you. You are on the brink of rebellion, precariously close to shaking your fist in My Face. You are tempted to indulge in just a little complaining about My treatment of you. But once you step over that line, torrents of rage and self-pity can sweep you away. The best protection against this indulgence is thanksgiving. It is impossible to thank Me and curse Me at the same time.

Thanking Me for trials will feel awkward and contrived at first. But if you persist, you thankful words, prayed in faith, will eventually make a difference in your heart. Thankfulness awakens you to My Presence, which overshadows all your problems.

I will offer to You the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the Lord. Psalm 116:17 (NKJV)

Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your request to God. Philippians 4:4-6

Friday, June 21, 2013

Spending Time In His Presence

Psalm 92:1-2  It is good to give thanks to the Lord and to sing praises to Your name, O Most High; to declare Your lovingkindness in the morning and Your faithfulness by night,

Waiting is something I’ve had a lifelong process of learning to do. One of the ways I’ve learned to be patient is to measure time and to allocate it more appropriately. When I have a realistic understanding of what I expect to accomplish and how long it will take, I can then figure out how all of the pieces will fit into my day. This can both be a strength and a weakness. For years I wore a watch with hands on it (analog) because I could look at its face and see my day in it. Switching to a digital clock, like is on my phone, was a difficult thing to do. With the dial I saw more of the fullness of the day, and with the digital display I merely saw what time it was right then. As a strength I could see that there was more time than just the present, and many things could be adjusted based upon priorities and urgency. As a weakness, I had very real picture of how much less of it there was as specific deadlines approached, and this sometimes resulted in a pressure to either drop or squeeze.

On the other side of the coin, spending a long season of searching what God would have me do next in service for Him has been an even more difficult thing to do as there is more time available than I tend to fill. And when there is too much time for me, then I am tempted to not make the best use of it and in a real sense – waste it.

In both life cases there is the question of how I go about having an un-pressed time with God. When I was very busy the temptation was to struggle with blocking out the things pressing in. And the way I found of doing this was to remind myself that those things have their own time, but this was my time with God. And in having more unstructured time the temptation is to push it off as there is open time later. Even here, I have found it important to change my location and to persist in a set aside time where other things are blocked out.

The bottom line for me, as I suspect it is for most of us, is that there are many excuses we can use for not spending time quietly with God, reading through His Word, talking to Him and waiting on Him to speak to us. Today Sarah encourages us to wait patiently with God while He blesses us. And the blessing she is speaking of is knowing that He exists, that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, and that He will truly strengthen us no matter what we are facing outside of that time. Like a quiet place in a storm, is our time with God as He prepares us to step out into whatever lies ahead of us for the rest of our day. When we do this in the morning we can move forward in a prepared confidence throughout our day, and when we do this in the evening we can lie down knowing His peace. When we give Him the small moments during the day we find ourselves continually renewed.

Psalm 16:7-11 I will bless the Lord who has counseled me; indeed, my mind instructs me in the night. I have set the Lord continually before me; because He is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my glory rejoices; my flesh also will dwell securely. For You will not abandon my soul to Sheol; nor will You allow Your Holy One to undergo decay. You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/21)

Wait patiently with Me while I bless you. Don’t rush into My Presence with time-consciousness gnawing at your mind. I dwell in timelessness: I am, I was, I will always be. For you, time is a protection; you’re a frail creature who can handle only twenty-four-hour segments of life. Time can also be a tyrant, ticking away relentlessly in your mind. Learn to master time, or it will be your master.

Though you are a time-bound creature, seek to meet Me in timelessness. As you focus on My Presence, the demands of time and tasks will diminish. I will bless you and keep you, making My Face shine upon you graciously, giving you Peace.

But as for me, I watch in hope for the Lord, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Revelation 1:8

“The Lord bless you and keep you; the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; the Lord turn his face toward you and give you peace.” Number 6:24-26

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Our Father Knows Best

There are some times in our lives that our need to search out God’s leading are more obvious than others, maybe because they seem more time pressing. For young people decisions like college and even college majors or work direction are huge. And frequently majors are pursued with real questions about how they might work toward the best of the individual down the road. For those a year or two or more down the road there are the questions of finishing school and what to do next, marriage, and even the beginning of a family. The last of these (children) “sometimes” even comes about when we feel least ready. These are all big things, and the list of big things continues as we go through life to include houses, jobs and career moves, unemployment, accidents and disease, struggles in relationships, and more. And there is not one of us who approaches these questions with certainty as to the right direction to take or even more, the exact outcome.

And then there are the everyday decisions that we all must deal with. Some of them seem smaller than others, and we might make them as a matter of general course without much thought, while others cause us to pause and give deeper consideration. But I think it pretty safe to say for most of us in our decisions that we want to make the right choice and come out in a more positive place than before, yet we realize that with every decision there is an element of risk and uncertainty. As a result many people start to engage in a process of balancing risks and rewards, personal desires against deference to others, and the grades of good, better and best.

Sarah Young cites the following verses, from so many others dealing with God’s direction for our lives, in her “Jesus Calling” devotional for today:

… Just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love. Ephesians 1:4 (NKJV)

In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps. Proverbs 16:9

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” Jeremiah 29:11

And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. Ephesians 1:13-14

While I don’t want to discount the realities of “risk,” “desire,” or “good and better,” I do want to emphasize “reward,” “deference,” and “best.” Everything we do has an element of risk, and we do have desires with many of them being very good and right, and seeking good and even better are worthy things to do. But when we stop to wait on God and show deference for His leading and Him maybe even granting us the freedom to choose between multiple options, then we also put ourselves in a position to experience His best and to receive His eventual rewards. It also puts us in a position to stand firm before Him and not bail out on the hard choices. This is because it is God who moderates our risk, making us more than adequate for all that He intends of His children (2 Timothy 3:17). And it is God who has all our days in His plan and who works that plan to good, and God’s good is so much better than we could even imagine.

Romans 8:26-28 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. 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.

Hebrews 11:6 And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.

Romans 8:18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Scripture is full of the promises of God and descriptions and pictures of His character and love. It is overflowing with assurances of His love and His faithfulness, and it is also honest about the struggles that we will encounter in this world. Because of this, there is no better place to run for advice as we study and meditate on His Word and talk with Him about all that we face and all that He wants for us which is His very best. For me, I cannot come back to Proverbs 3:5-6 too much because of how it reminds me of my God being present and directive in everything I do.

Proverbs 3:5-6 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.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/18)

You are My beloved child. I chose you before the foundation of the world, to walk with Me along paths designed uniquely for you. Concentrate on keeping in step with Me, instead of trying to anticipate My plans for you. If you trust that My plans are to prosper you and not to harm you, you can relax and enjoy the present moment.

Your hope and your future are rooted in heaven, where eternal ecstasy awaits you. Nothing can rob you of your inheritance of unimaginable riches and well-being. Sometimes I grant you glimpses of your glorious future, to encourage you and spur you on. Your main focus should be staying close to Me. I set the pace in keeping with your needs and My purposes.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Laughter From A Cheerful Heart

Talking about laughter can be a difficult thing, especially when that laughter is directed toward a person including ourselves. We find in Scripture that the majority of references to laughter are pointing to one as either being foolish, prideful, or lacking understanding. The fool is often laughed at and he, himself, often laughs or scoffs at things that are in conflict his worldly mindset. The prideful person generally laughs from his position at those who struggle and might not have the same perceived benefits. Then there are the ones who laugh because of disbelief or a lack of understanding. In Proverbs 29:9 says, “When a wise man has a controversy with a foolish man, the foolish man either rages or laughs, and there is no rest.”

But laughter in itself is not wrong. We read in Ecclesiastes 3:1 and 4, “There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven … “A time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.”

In Psalm 126:1-3, which is one of the psalms of assent, we read, “When the Lord brought back the captive ones of Zion, we were like those who dream. Then our mouth was filled with laughter and our tongue with joyful shouting; then they said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.” The Lord has done great things for us; we are glad.” Here we find that from their glad hearts they burst forth in laughter – in joyful appreciation of what God had done for them.

Abraham’s wife, Sarah, stands as an example of one in Scripture who laughs both negatively and positively. In Genesis 18:9-15 we read:

Then they [three men including the Lord as identified in verse 14] said to him, “Where is Sarah your wife?” And he said, “There, in the tent.” He said, “I will surely return to you at this time next year; and behold, Sarah your wife will have a son.” And Sarah was listening at the tent door, which was behind him. Now Abraham and Sarah were old, advanced in age; Sarah was past childbearing. Sarah laughed to herself, saying, “After I have become old, shall I have pleasure, my lord being old also?” And the Lord said to Abraham, “Why did Sarah laugh, saying, ‘Shall I indeed bear a child, when I am so old?’ “Is anything too difficult for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, at this time next year, and Sarah will have a son.” Sarah denied it however, saying, “I did not laugh”; for she was afraid. And He said, “No, but you did laugh.”

In these verses Sarah laughed out of disbelief. Something was told in her hearing that she knew not to be humanly possible and she laughed at it, and when she was called on her laughing she denied she had done it. But in verse 14 we have who appears to be Christ Himself speaking to them and questioning them if anything was too difficult for Him. Then He restated the promise. And as we know when that year passed Sarah had given birth to that promised son. This brings us to her next recorded instance of laughter.

Genesis 21:1-7 Then the Lord took note of Sarah as He had said, and the Lord did for Sarah as He had promised. So Sarah conceived and bore a son to Abraham in his old age, at the appointed time of which God had spoken to him. Abraham called the name of his son who was born to him, whom Sarah bore to him, Isaac. Then Abraham circumcised his son Isaac when he was eight days old, as God had commanded him. Now Abraham was one hundred years old when his son Isaac was born to him. Sarah said, “God has made laughter for me; everyone who hears will laugh with me.” And she said, “Who would have said to Abraham that Sarah would nurse children? Yet I have borne him a son in his old age.”

Sarah found laughter in her old age, both in holding her son and in knowing that God had done this for her. And Abraham named that son Isaac as the Lord had instructed him in a previous visit (Genesis 17:19), and Isaac means “he laughs” – the name God chose.

Our God of the impossible does that which we think cannot be done, and He delights in doing so. And when we realize this we can walk with Him in merry laughter, knowing His joy. And like Sarah, even when we doubt Him at first, we can stop and possibly even laugh at our unbelief in the face of His faithfulness. We can also find great laughter as we enjoy one another sharing special and even hilarious or spontaneous moments with each other.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/17)

Learn to laugh at yourself more freely. Don’t take yourself or your circumstances so seriously. Relax and know that I am God with you. When you desire My will above all else, life becomes much less threatening. Stop trying to monitor My responsibilities – things that are beyond your control. Find freedom by accepting the boundaries of your domain.

Laughter lightens your load and lifts your heart into heavenly places. Your laughter rises to heaven and blends with angelic melodies of praise. Just as parents delight in the laughter of their children, so I delight in hearing My children laugh. I rejoice when you trust Me enough to enjoy your life lightheartedly.

Do not miss the Joy of My Presence by carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders. Rather, take My yoke upon you and learn from Me. My yoke is comfortable and pleasant; My burden is light and easily borne.

A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones. Proverbs 17:22

She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. Proverbs 31:25

“The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” – which means, “God with us.” Matthew 1:23

Matthew 11:28-30 “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.”

Sunday, June 16, 2013

What Fathers Do

Last week I was listening to some interviews of people who were impacted by the Colorado fire. A father was one of those interviewed, and they asked him how he was able to handle the things that had happened the way he was. His response (and I wish I could quote it) was that it was because he was a father and that’s what father’s do.

Today is Father’s Day, a day when people remember those special men who gave in so many ways to love, guide, shape and provide for and even protect their families. Most people have wonderful fathers, though it is not true for all, and I think it is a pretty safe guess that all of them had times when “they did what fathers do.”

Today Sarah writes about staying on the high road and not letting the many voices clamoring for our attention divert us from the path. As a father this is a difficult thing to do as the most important voices we hear are those of family, and trying to hear and attend to them often leads to prioritizing, juggling, balancing and sometimes even to great frustration when faced with demands that are beyond your present ability or understanding.

The apostle Paul puts this in a nutshell in 1 Corinthians 7:32-34 where he says, “One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, and his interests are divided.” He goes on to say that this goes both ways, “…but one who [woman] is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband.”

God recognizes the added responsibilities that come with marriage and family, and yet he didn’t come up with a separate set of rules for the married/parent Christian to live by as opposed to the single Christian. And as a matter of practical fact, the married/parent Christian is more likely driven more to God than possibly the single Christian in that not only is he (or she) carrying for the responsibilities of one, but for a spouse and a family. Then times when you don’t know what to do may become multiplied to cover the others who are under your charge.

As such, it is even more critical that we bring our divided interests before the God who is One and who knows every intricacy of our circumstances and our needs. In our triune God we have a Heavenly Father who loves us beyond anything we could ever imagine, and a Father who is concerned about our welfare and is able to do what is necessary in respone to tend to that welfare. In God we have the Son, our savior and Lord, who understands our humanity and the pressures of this world, and who is our greatest Advocate. It is through Jesus that God spoke and it is Him who gives us the ability to approach the Father and speak with Him. And in God we have the Holy Spirit who indwells all believers as a comforter, counselor, and enabler. It is Him that brings even those prayers that we can’t put into words to our Father who listens. And it is from God that we learn to be husbands and fathers and wives and mothers.

So, when those pressures bear down on you, remember who it is that makes it so that you can stand and draw close to your Heavenly Father and lay your burdens in His more than adequate hands, seeking His wisdom for what you should do and how you should walk. Every single one of us has different sets of circumstances, and there is no cookie cutter path, yet God knows the path He intends for each of us.

Psalm 69:32-33 “…You who seek God, let your heart revive. For the Lord hears the needy….”

Psalm 37:23-24 The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong, because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (6/16)

Stay on the high road with Me. Many voices clamor for your attention, trying to divert you to another path. But I have called you to walk ever so closely with Me, soaking in My Presence, living in My Peace. This is My unique design for you, planned before the world began.

I have called each of My children to different path, distinctly designed for that one. Do not let anyone convince you that his path is the only right way. And be careful not to extol your path as superior to another’s way. But I require of you is to act justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with Me – wherever I lead.

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. Ephesians 2:10

He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8