Wednesday, October 30, 2013

From Death to Life

Today I went for a haircut, and in the barber’s shop there was a movie playing in a genre that I have chosen not to watch—a vampire movie. I debated getting up and walking out, and I also thought about saying something to him or asking if I could turn it off. At the time there was only myself, the barber, and another person who was in the chair. I chose to close my eyes and pray. As I prayed, I thanked God that no matter where I was or what was going on around me, that He was there and His hands were surrounding me.

Then my prayers were turned to thoughts about why this barber, and many younger people like him, is so focused on the dead living. And as I considered this I found myself talking with God about the fact that our world is full of people who really are the living dead. In fact, every single one of us was at one time a member of the living dead.

In Ephesians 2:1-5 we read about this transition, “And you were dead in your trespasses and sins, in which you formerly walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, of the spirit that is now working in the sons of disobedience. Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved),” (Ephesians 2:1–5, NASB95)

Because of our sin, we are all born spiritually dead and apart from placing our trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, we will remain that way without hope of ever seeing life. But, as it says in these verses, “God being rich in mercy, because of His great love …. made us alive together with Christ.” This forever moved us from the category of the living dead to the living forever.

Until my turn came I continued to pray. And while I was sitting in the chair our conversation came around to the movie. I wish I could say that the light bulb of comparison went on with him, but it didn’t. This was not our first talk about spiritual things. As with past ones, I continue to pray and I continue to look for those opportunities to build on times such as this. I also know that there are others who are doing the same.

Staying was a difficult decision today, and were I with one of my children I would have walked out and taken the opportunity to talk with my child about what we had seen. But knowing that we live in a world that spiritual battles are going on everywhere around us, I was thankful that God reminded me that He is the one who equips us for times like these, and that by standing firm in Him much can be accomplished.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm.

“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

“With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints, and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.” (Ephesians 6:10–20, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/30)

I am with you. I am with you. I am with you. Heaven’s bells continually peal with that promise of My Presence. Some people never hear those bells because their minds are earthbound and their hearts are closed to Me. Others hear the bells only once or twice in their lifetimes, in rare moments of seeking me above all else. My desire is that My “sheep” hear My voice continually, for I am the ever-present Shepherd.

Quietness is the classroom where you learn to hear My voice. Beginners need a quiet place in order to still their minds. As you advance in this discipline, you gradually learn to carry the stillness with you wherever you go. When you step back into the mainstream of life, strain to hear those glorious bells: I am with you. I am with you. I am with you.

“Then you will call upon Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:12–13, NASB95)

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, … 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.” (John 10:14, 27–28, NASB95)

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Waiting for the Gun

“O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days.” (Psalm 90:14, NASB95)

It’s been a very long time since I’ve stood on a starting block. But I still remember the words, “swimmers take you mark,” and then waiting until the gun fired. This was just a momentary period of time when everything else was tuned out awaiting one single sound. Occasionally, however, we would hear that sound twice, meaning that someone had jumped the gun. “Jumping the gun” is a phrase that has become commonly used for people starting before they should and getting ahead of where they should be.

It is so easy for us to jump the gun in our daily lives. So often things come up sooner than we anticipated them or we get started later than we thought, and we then begin without readying ourselves. While God is perfectly capable of catching us up when we get started that way, it is generally much better to spend the time with Him in advance preparing our minds and our hearts with His Word, His peace, and our awareness of His constant presence and His hand on us before we head out.

There are times when this time may mean just being quiet, allowing Him to guide my thoughts and then bringing them back to Him. Other times it is spent working through various issues of prayer, making sure to pause and listen. And then there are those most frequent times of reading a brief portion of His Word, and then meditating on it at various points during my day. Very often I find that what I looked at in His Word prior to heading out for my day, at some time during the day it becomes applicable. And frequently when I meditate on my morning time with Him, later in the day it provides for a time of meaningful summary.

“My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips. 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.” (Psalm 63:5–8, NASB95)

In the morning I can look ahead with Him in anticipation, and in the evening I can look back and so often see His faithfulness. When I head out with concerns, I can even look back later and see how He met those concerns or at least steadied my in the continued waiting.

I know I have had plenty of days of jumping the gun, and plenty of times of coming back to Him and admitting such. I’ve had those times when I jumped out anxiously or even in anger or frustration, only to see that my attitude proved more a problem than a step toward a solution. But even then, our God has met me and so, so many others with His compassionate arms and welcomed us back to trusting Him in all things.

Sarah writes today about lingering in His Presence. The importance of this can never be overstated.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/29)

Linger in My Presence a while. Rein in your impulses to plunge into the day’s activities. Beginning your day alone with me is essential preparation for success. A great athlete takes time to prepare himself mentally for the feat ahead of him before he moves a muscle. Similarly, your time of being still in My Presence equips you for the day ahead of you. Only I know what will happen to you this day. I have arranged the events you will encounter as you go along your way. If you are not adequately equipped for the journey, you will grow weary and lose heart. Relax with Me while I ready you for action.

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.” (Ephesians 2:10, NASB95)

“For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.” (Hebrews 12:3, NASB95)

Monday, October 28, 2013

That’s Not Fair

“…and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously;” (1 Peter 2:23, NASB95)

“That’s not fair.” There is probably not a single one of us who hasn’t said this at some time. Yet, there is only One who never did anything wrong and who rightly never deserved any ill treatment. But we also know that this one person was put to death because He threatened the status quo of the day. He never did a spiteful thing to anyone and He never gave anyone anything that they did not deserve. In the face of man searching out what was minimally acceptable He always challenged people to live to a higher internalized standard of the heart. Rather than hanging with the well-to-do, He chose to minister to those who were low and needy.

Jesus Christ lived a life of grace—the grace of God, and taught us to do likewise. This grace that He brought was one that was given without regard of merit, for if it were any other way then not a single person would qualify. He was gracious to those who knew they needed it most, and to those who felt big in themselves, He challenged them with their haughty attitudes.

When we find ourselves “not being treated fair,” we are encouraged to stop and consider Him who suffered unfairness for us. In 1 Peter we find a couple of passages which speak both to the response of our Lord and to our response as well.

“For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God. For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed.” (1 Peter 2:20–24, NASB95)

“Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation. If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you.” (1 Peter 4:12–14, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/28)

Do not expect to be treated fairly in this life. People will say and do hurtful things to you, things that you don’t deserve. When someone mistreats you, try to view it as an opportunity to grow in grace. See how quickly you can forgive the one who has wounded you. Don’t be concerned about setting the record straight. Instead of obsessing about other people’s opinions of you, keep your focus on Me. Ultimately, it is My view of you that counts.

As you concentrate on relating to Me, remember that I have clothed you in My righteousness and holiness. I see you attired in these radiant garments, which I bought for you with My blood. This also is not fair; it is pure gift. When others treat you unfairly, remember that My ways with you are much better than fair. My ways are Peace and Love, which I have poured out into your heart by My Spirit.

“bearing with one another, and forgiving each other, whoever has a complaint against anyone; just as the Lord forgave you, so also should you.” (Colossians 3:13, NASB95)

“I will rejoice greatly in the Lord, My soul will exult in my God; For He has clothed me with garments of salvation, He has wrapped me with a robe of righteousness, As a bridegroom decks himself with a garland, And as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.” (Isaiah 61:10, NASB95)

“In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of His grace which He lavished on us. In all wisdom and insight” (Ephesians 1:7–8, NASB95)

“and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Romans 5:5, NASB95)

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Becoming More One-ly

Have you ever met one of those couples who were able to complete each other’s thoughts, and who weren’t just replacing what the other might say with their own thoughts or desires. They know each other so well that they are in step with each other in their journey together. Sure, they still have their uniqueness, but they also have a oneness that is obvious to all who know them. This type of oneness relationship is something I think we all hope for, a relationship where you are so close that you “just know.”

In Genesis 2:24 we read God’s intention for marriage, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh.” As man and woman were created and united in marriage, the first couple were naked before each other and before God and were not ashamed. They had nothing to hide. They were truly one. Then came sin, blame, division, and all of the other stuff that came from spiritual death. Man and woman recognized that something had changed and they covered themselves. Yet even with this massive change, God’s plan for man, woman, and marriage did not change. But with the curse He also told them there would be struggles.

As we observe these mature couples and their oneness, we see couples who have found victory over these struggles; couples who with all of the challenges of life have grown in their oneness relationship with each other.

When we trust Christ for our salvation, we are united with Him for eternity.  Scripture says that He abides in us and that we are to abide in Him. It says that absolutely nothing can separate us from His presence. It says that we, collectively as the church, are His bride and His body. We read that as we mature in Him that we are being conformed to His image. There are countless images of this unique oneness that we have with Him, and as we grow and mature in Him we will resemble Him more and more in our lives. Like those mature couples, when people see us the see our Lord and they begin to know us as inseparable.

While everything changes positionally at the time of our salvation when our relationship for Him is set firmly in eternity, practically we are just getting to know Him. We have the remainder of our lives to get to know our God as Father, Son, and Spirit better and better. And the best way to do this is to continually hide His Word in our hearts, meditating on it day and night, bringing it before Him in prayer, waiting on Him as we listen even to His Spirit opening our eyes as His Word lights our way.

Then as we step out in responsive service, we see His power working through us to touch others. And as we do this over time people have a more and more difficult time seeing us apart from Him. Today was a second memorial service in as many days for incredible women of God whose friends and family knew them in exactly this way.

At the service today, it was a great privilege to hear four grown children stand and give powerful testimonies about their mom, her love for her Lord, her husband, each of them, and for others. As one of her daughters told me later, she was impressed to hear just how differently each of them chose to remember their mom; each painting a slightly different picture of her as a whole. And knowing her impact on her children, it was then impressive to see her grandchildren come down and place a single rose in a vase in honor of her.

When it came time for the message, our pastor had to regain his voice from the emotion. While he did this he invited us to stand and give an ovation before God in honor of this dearly loved friend. It was an incredible moment, knowing that our Lord had already greeted her with us being assured that these words had awaited her, “Well done, good and faithful servant. … Enter into the joy of your master.” (Matthew 25:21, ESV)

Knowing this we also await that day when with these two women, the others before them, and the rest of us to follow we are together with our Lord to celebrate.

“Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, saying, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns. Let us rejoice and be glad and give the glory to Him, for the marriage of the Lamb has come and His bride has made herself ready.””

“It was given to her to clothe herself in fine linen, bright and clean; for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints. Then he said to me, “Write, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.”” (Revelation 19:6–9, NASB95)

Until that time, both as individuals and as a body of believers Scripture says, “There is one body and one Spirit, just as also you were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all who is over all and through all and in all.” … “but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love. … for we are members one of another” (Ephesians 4:4-6, 15–16, 25b, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/27)

As you become increasingly aware of My Presence, you find it easier to discern the way you should go. This is one of the practical benefits of living close to Me. Instead of wondering about what is on the road ahead or worrying about what you should do if … or when …, you can concentrate on staying in communication with Me. When you actually arrive at a choice-point, I will show you which direction to go.

Many people are so preoccupied with future plans and decisions that they fail to see choices they need to make today. Without any conscious awareness, they make their habitual responses. People who live this way find a dullness creeping into their lives. They sleepwalk through their days, following well-worn paths of routine.

I, the Creator of the universe, am the most creative Being imaginable. I will not leave you circling in deeply rutted paths. Instead, I will lead you along fresh trails of adventure, revealing to you things you did not know. Stay in communication with me. Follow My guiding Presence.

“I will instruct you and teach you in the way which you should go; I will counsel you with My eye upon you.” (Psalm 32:8, NASB95)

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1, NASB95)

Today’s blog is written in honor of Janette Hosley, a woman of God through whom people knew our Lord to be the True and Compassionate God.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

In Joy and Sorrow

This afternoon we had the privilege of joining a very special family as they remembered their wife and mother. Like many of these events, when the person is a Christian the time of remembrance upon his or her death is mixed with both joy and sadness. The sadness comes from those left behind not having their beloved family member in their daily lives, and the joy comes in both the remembrances of their lives together and their hope of being reunited for eternity. As we later moved down to the river and watched her pastor and her son put on their waders and walk out into the middle of the river, where her son let her ashes flow into the current, you could see the sadness in the tears of the family members standing along the shore. As they came back to the shore, her (and our) pastor comforted the family with Scripture concerning this time in their lives where one person is away and the others are awaiting.

Just as they were able to stand with each other in joy and sadness, we know that our God is one who understands both far more than we could ever imagine. And because of His understanding we know that we can come to Him in all things and find Him understanding of us; sharing in our joy and comforting us in our sorrow.

Speaking of our Lord, Isaiah wrote, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief….” (Isaiah 53:3, ESV) And it is our Lord to who we are to look even in our own trials; “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.” (Hebrews 12:2–3, NASB95)

Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes, “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” Then he went on to list a variety of those matters under heaven including, “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;” (Ecclesiastes 3:1,4, ESV)

Every single thing we feel, whether it is the highest joy or the deepest sorrow, is something we experience under the watchful eye of God and surrounded by all that He is. And as such we can come to Him in everything knowing that He is there, that He understands, and He knows exactly how to respond.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/26)

Come to Me when you are hurting, and I will soothe your pain. Come to Me when you are joyful, and I will share your Joy, multiplying it many times over. I am All you need, just when you need it. Your deepest desires find fulfillment in Me alone.

This is the age of self-help. Bookstores abound with books about “taking care of number one,” making oneself the center of all things. The main goal of these methodologies is to become self-sufficient and confident. You, however, have been called to take a “road less traveled”: continual dependence on Me. True confidence comes from knowing you are complete in My Presence. Everything you need has its counterpart in Me.

“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NASB95)

“And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4, NASB95)

Today’s blog is written in honor of Cathy Lee, a woman of God through whom people knew the constant watch care and sacrificial giving of our Lord

Friday, October 25, 2013

God with Us—Always

Immanuel is a name of Hebrew origin and it was first used in Isaiah 7:14 to speak of son who was to be born of a virgin. This son is further identified when an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, and spoke saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” (Matthew 1:20-21, NASB) Then Scripture goes on to link the naming of this virgin born son to be named Jesus with the child spoken of by Isaiah who was to be called Immanuel. “”BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”” (Matthew 1:23, NASB95)

“Immanuel” and “Jesus”—one meaning “God with us” and the other “Jehovah is salvation.” Both are used to identify God who became man to bring salvation and union with Him. Our God is everywhere present all of the time, but there is a special everywhere present-ness that exists for those who believe in Him. The Bible tells us that it is by trusting that Jesus Christ died for our sins and rose from the dead that brings salvation and eternal life and His constant abiding presence. Even as in one sense Jesus has left and will return one day to take with Him those who are His, there is the other sense that He is and always has been our omnipresent God. Scripture speaks of Christ being in us as we in Him. “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5, NASB95) Clearly, our God abides in His children and He expects us to abide in Him.

Abiding is evidence of our salvation and it is shown through our fruit—our continuance in service and obedience. In Romans 12:2 we read, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” The proving is a showing of what already exists, what God has done. It is an evidence of the change that God has made in us.

In the hastiness of our days or maybe even in the routine and the mundane we might take our eyes off of God. In these times He has not gone anywhere. The problem rests in us not looking to and trusting Him for the crazy things or the things we think we can so easily handle on our own.

In Hebrews we find the answer for those times, those times when we get tangled up in the things of life and not looking to our Lord of life. “…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.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, NASB95)

Fixing our eyes on Jesus—knowing the truth of Christ’s continual presence, we are to take our eyes off of the things (big and small) and look to our Lord who is always present and sovereign over all of those things. And if we think to doubt what He is willing to do about our circumstances right now, we don’t have to look any further to be assured than remembering what He did for us to bring us into a relationship with Him in the first place.

Jesus told the disciples, “…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20, NASB95) And He really meant it!

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/25)

I am God with you, for all time and throughout eternity. Don’t let the familiarity of that concept numb its impact on your consciousness. My perpetual Presence with you can be a continual source of Joy, springing up and flowing out in streams of abundant Life. Let your mind reverberate with meanings of My names: Jesus—the Lord saves, and Emmanuel—God with us. Strive to remain conscious of My Presence even in your busiest moments. Talk with Me about whatever delights you, whatever upsets you, whatever is on your mind. These tiny steps of daily discipline, taken one after the other, will keep you close to Me on the path of Life.

“She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.”  … ““BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which translated means, “GOD WITH US.”” (Matthew 1:21, 23, NASB95)


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Basking in His Presence

The world says, “Eat, drink, and be merry for tomorrow you die.” 

But the Word of God gives a totally opposite response. “…for the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 14:17, NASB95)

The world has nothing to offer but the satisfaction we can find here, but God gives to us a joy which cannot be measured as we know His presence in our lives.

In Acts 13 the gospel was being shared and many were being saved, and the Gentiles were even begging to hear more. This was an exciting time, especially seeing the light go on in the Gentiles hearts knowing that the salvation of God was being offered to them. Of course, there were those Jews who were not happy about this. But the disciples knew why they were there, and they responded with, “For so the Lord has commanded us, ‘I have placed You as a light for the Gentiles, That You may bring salvation to the end of the earth.’” (Acts 13:47, NASB95)

“When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord; and as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed. And the word of the Lord was being spread through the whole region. But the Jews incited the devout women of prominence and the leading men of the city, and instigated a persecution against Paul and Barnabas, and drove them out of their district.” (Acts 13:48–50, NASB95)

You might think that it would have been very discouraging to see so many people responding to the good news of salvation in Jesus Christ and then being driven away from this incredible event, but this was not the case. Verses 51 and 52 give us their response, “But they [Paul and Barnabas] shook off the dust of their feet in protest against them [Jews and leaders of the city] and went to Iconium. And the disciples were continually filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit.”

We see linked here their joy and their being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is God’s Spirit in us that blossoms into joy even in trials. In Galatians 522-23 we read, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

The disciples were not shaken by their opposition, but saw it as an opportunity to move on and see what God had next in store for them. Acts 15:1 records what happened next. “In Iconium they entered the synagogue of the Jews together, and spoke in such a manner that a large number of people believed, both of Jews and of Greeks.” And of course resistance arose again, and again they moved on, and still again God brought more people to salvation through their words.

Their attention was not captured by their foes, but by their God and the leading of His Spirit, and knowing that their God was doing the work He intended they moved forward with joy knowing they were where God wanted them and doing what He wanted them to do. For Paul this would also include several imprisonments and many, many more people coming to know and grow in His Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/23)

As you turn your attention to Me, feel the Light My presence shining upon you. Open your mind and heart to receive My heavenly smile of approval. Let My gold-tinged Love wash over you and soak into the depths of your being. As you are increasingly filled with My Being, you experience joyous union with Me: I in you, and you in Me. Your joy-in-Me and My Joy-in-you become intertwined and inseparable. I suffuse your soul with Joy in my Presence; at My right hand there are pleasures forevermore.

“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.” (John 17:20–23, NASB95)

“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.” (Psalm 16:11, NASB95)

Monday, October 21, 2013

Not Playing the Actor

Sometimes we don’t want to do something, but we know we must do it because it is the right thing to do. There are some who might call this hypocritical, but in doing this they have a very twisted sense of what the word really means. The word hypocrite in Greek has the meaning of feigning, pretending, or acting. It speaks of the person who says he believes one way, yet in secret he does differently. It is someone who puts on a show in order to impress or gain favor or maybe even not lose that favor which he already has.

Jesus spoke about hypocrites several times, and probably one of the most memorable times to many of us is found in Mathew chapter 6, where we read,

"(5) “When you pray, you are not to be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on the street corners so that they may be seen by men. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (6) “But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.

(7) “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their many words. (8) “So do not be like them; for your Father knows what you need before you ask Him.

(9) “Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, hallowed be Your name. (10) Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. (11) Give us this day our daily bread. (12) and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (13) and do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.]’

(14) “For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (15) “But if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions.

(16) “Whenever you fast, do not put on a gloomy face as the hypocrites do, for they neglect their appearance so that they will be noticed by men when they are fasting. Truly I say to you, they have their reward in full. (17) “But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face (18) so that your fasting will not be noticed by men, but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you.” (Matthew 6:5–18, NASB95)

Clearly as you read the words of Jesus, the heart of the issue is the contrast between those who live and proclaim one thing in public and then maintain a totally different life at home or in secret. It has nothing to do with the struggle we sometimes have between aligning our will with the will of God, or even submitting our desires to the desires of others and particularly to those in authority over us or whom we are called before God to honor.

Depending on the translation you read, Romans 12:9 is both stated in a negative form and a positive form. In the negative we are told to let our love be without hypocrisy, and in the positive we are told to let our love be genuine or sincere. The Greek word used is a derivative of the word hypocrisy with a prefix giving the meaning of “un-” or un-hypocritical, and someone who is un-hypocritical, not being an actor or a pretender, is someone who is honest, genuine, or sincere.

“Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9, NASB95)

“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good.” (Romans 12:9, ESV)

Today Sarah wrote about our rebellious tendencies. These are the times when we might want to listen to our own desires and not those of God or others. In response to this conflict, we should be mindful that submitting to doing what we know is the right thing to do is not being hypocritical; it is being honorable and genuine even if our feelings at the time do not line up.

Hypocrisy is and always has been about being the actor, and our God knows our every thought and intention. He knows when we are playing the actor. We can’t fool Him, no matter what kind of a show we put on. Giving Him lip service about obedience when we have no intention of doing so—that is sin and it is playing the role of the hypocrite. Similarly, letting God know that we don’t want to do something, but we are willing and going to do it because it is His will and the right thing that is honoring to Him.

Peter, when he was brought before the governor for what he had been saying, included in his response, “In view of this, I also do my best to maintain always a blameless conscience both before God and before men.” (Acts 24:16, NASB95) Peter knew he was being watched by those who would trap him in a discrepancy, but more than that Peter sought to honor God in all that he said and did. Like Peter, we should seek not live a pretentious life before God or man.

And when we fail in this, admit it. Confess it before God and where need be, deal with it with others. That is genuine living.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/21)

To live in My Presence consistently, you must expose and expel your rebellious tendencies. When something interferes with your plans or desires, you tend to resent the interference. Try to become aware of each resentment, however petty it may seem. Don’t push those unpleasant feelings down; instead, let them come to the surface where you can deal with them. Ask My Spirit to increase your awareness of resentful feelings. Bring them boldly into the Light of My Presence, so that I can free you from them.

The ultimate solution to rebellious tendencies is submission to My authority over you. Intellectually you rejoice in My sovereignty, without which the world would be a terrifying place. But when My sovereign will encroaches on your little domain of control, you often react with telltale resentment.

The best response to losses or thwarted hopes is praise: The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Remember that all good things – your possessions, your family and friends, your health and abilities, your time – are gifts from Me. Instead of feeling entitled to all these blessings, respond to them with gratitude. Be prepared to let go of anything I take from you, but never let go of My hand!

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23–24, NASB95)

“Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,” (1 Peter 5:6, NASB95)

“He said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord.”” (Job 1:21, NASB95)

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our God Never Ages or Loses a Step

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Corinthians 13:11, NASB95)

There is a quotation I’ve heard in a variety of slightly altered ways over the years and even attributed to a variety of individuals. Several reasonable sources believe George Bernard Shaw (while others have suggested Oscar Wilde who Shaw often quoted or even Mark Twain) to have said, “Youth is a wonderful thing. What a crime to waste it on children.” It was meant in humor, but it has a serious side to it as well. Having children spread from twenty-nine to six, I can attest to being quite a bit wiser and more patient in many ways now than maybe twenty-some years ago, but also not having near the energy that I did then.

The simple truth is that as we grow in knowledge and understanding over the years we also seem to lose a step (or two or three or even more) in other areas. Hiking last weekend with the Scouts demonstrated quite remarkably for me just how may steps I had lost, though with some more regular exercise and better conditioning not necessarily all of them for good.

One thing that wisdom and weakness share is an awareness of our need for help and guidance.  And the ultimate source for that wisdom is our God who is perfect in His wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. It is He who promised to give it to us liberally if we would ask Him, and do so believing, knowing that if we waffled in our belief we would be also tossed to and fro by the winds of whatever thought might be pressing in. In James 1:5-8 we read,

“But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:5–8, NASB95)

While growing in knowledge and understanding is something God does in us, it is also not something which is restricted to those with miles on them. The apostle writing to Timothy, who Paul had taken under his wing years earlier after hearing of him as a young man trained in faith by his mother and grandmother, encouraged him in his assignment in Ephesus:

“In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following. But have nothing to do with worldly fables fit only for old women. On the other hand, discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers. Prescribe and teach these things. Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe. Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching. Do not neglect the spiritual gift within you, which was bestowed on you through prophetic utterance with the laying on of hands by the presbytery. Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress will be evident to all. Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:6–16, NASB95)

“For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:14–21, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/20)

I am your living God, far more abundantly alive than the most vivacious person you know. The human body is wonderfully crafted, but gravity and the inevitable effects of aging weigh it down. Even the most superb athlete cannot maintain his fitness over many decades. Lasting abundant life can be found in Me alone. Do not be anxious about the weakness of your body. Instead, view it as the prelude to My infusing energy to your being.

As you identify more and more fully with Me, My Life becomes increasingly intertwined with yours. Though the process of aging continues, inwardly you grow stronger with the passing years. Those who live close to Me develop an inner aliveness that makes them seem youthful in spite of their years. Let My Light shine through you, as you walk in the Light with Me.

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; wonderful are Your works, and my soul knows it very well.” (Psalm 139:14, NASB95)

“For this purpose also I labor, striving according to His power, which mightily works within me.” (Colossians 1:29, NASB95)

“but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1 John 1:7, NASB95)

Friday, October 18, 2013

Abiding Faith, Hope and Love

"For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:12–13, NASB95)

Frank and Cathy Lee (Newlyweds in 1954)
This afternoon another dear friend went home to be with the Lord, just days after her and her husband’s 59th wedding anniversary. They knew this day was coming with her cancer, but they didn’t know exactly which day it would be. And all of the days leading up to this one and even that very moment, were ones knowing the reality of living in bodies that were fading in face of the realization of glory to come. For her the wait is over, but for her dear husband the wait has become more intense as she is no longer walking by his side. In this, the grief for him and even the sense of aloneness are very real and pressing.

In 1 Corinthians, quoted above, Paul wrote about a day when we would be able to see clearly and face to face what we see only dimly at the present time. This is the stark distinction that the grave makes in our lives; the distinction between living by faith with hope and that of knowing fully. It likely for this reason that we read in 1 Corinthians 13:13 that for now there are faith, hope, and love present in our lives. But Paul went on to add that the greatest of these is love.

As we step back and think about the three (faith, hope, love), love is the only one of these that exists both sides of the grave. One day we won’t have to walk by faith, because we will be there and we will see. We won’t have to live in hope because our hope will be fully realized. It is the love of God that endures forever.  Our God loved us before He created us. He loved us in our rebellion. His Son loved us on the cross. His love has been shown repeatedly to all generations, and His steadfast love indeed endures forever as we see repeatedly declared in Psalm 136 and is the unwavering testimony of the entirety of Scripture.

A Psalm of David. The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even 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. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” (Psalm 23, ESV)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/18)

Go gently through this day, keeping your eyes on Me. I will open up the way before you, as you take steps of trust along your path. Sometimes the way before you appears to be blocked. If you focus on the obstacle or search for a way around it, you will probably go off course. Instead, focus on Me, the Shepherd who is leading you along your life-journey. Before you know it, the “obstacle” will be behind you and you hardly know how you passed through it.

That is the secret of success in My kingdom. Although you remain aware of the visible world around you, your primary awareness is of Me. When the road before you looks rocky, you can trust Me to get you through that rough patch. My presence enables you to face each day with confidence.

“I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me, even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.” (John 10:14–15, NASB95)

“The way of the righteous is smooth; O Upright One, make the path of the righteous level.” (Isaiah 26:7, NASB95)

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Alarmed by Anxiety

Sarah starts off her “Jesus Calling” post for today with the words, “Anxiety is a result of envisioning the future without Me.” The bristles went up on the back of my neck, or at least they might have if I really had them. I get anxious more regularly than I would like, and yet there is no way that I would say that I envision the future without God. So, what is the real issue here? Why do I get anxious when I know my God to be so faithful? The answer is most likely found in where we allow our eyes to focus and our mind to dwell.

We have an example of this in Peter. “And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!”” (Matthew 14:25–33, NASB95)

In another instance we find Jesus and the disciples on a boat during a storm. Jesus is asleep and the disciples grow more and more fearful as they see the storm build and the boat is tossed. When at last they wake Jesus and question Him about His concern for them, He responds, “”Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?” Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. The men were amazed, and said, “What kind of a man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?”” (Matthew 8:26–27, NASB95)

The disciples knew Jesus, they had seen His miracles, and they were amazed again when He stopped the wind and calmed the sea. Yet in the midst of the trial, they looked to the size of the trial and not to the size and faithfulness of their Lord. And for all of us this is the real issue that leads to anxiety. We see something as big and imposing and it begins to capture our mind and our emotions, and we become anxious and even fearful. Yet the answer for the disciples in the storm is the same answer for us, it is to set our eyes firmly on Christ.

We read in 2 Corinthians, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ,” (2 Corinthians 10:3–5, NASB95)

We have a tendency to see all of our challenges on a flesh level. The storm is big, so we need protection from the storm, and we become anxious when we cannot find that protection. The bills are due, and we need funds to pay them, yet there seems to be no answer. A child is sick, and we cannot do anything to make him or her better and we might even fear for the child’s life. These are all battles we fight on the flesh or real life level. Yet we have a God who is eternal in the heavens and who is absolutely powerful and sovereign over all of these earthly concerns, and who has promised to limit these trials to that which He is also faithful to enable us to victoriously endure (1 Corinthians 10:13). Sure the trials are often huge and as we look around we cannot see anything physically bigger to deal with them. But, while the Son of God took on the form of man and understands the struggles of man, even He has returned to the right hand of the Father, and we are called to worship our God in spirit and truth.

“You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews. But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:22–24, NASB95)

Paul wrote in Ephesians 6, “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and having shod your feet with the preparation of the gospel of peace; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints,” (Ephesians 6:10–18, NASB95)

In Philippians “…The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:5–7, NASB95)

The answer for our anxiety is consistently looking to Him who is not seen as our answer for that which is seen. So when we become anxious over something closing in around us, we are to look to Him who is our protector and defender, the One who encloses us before and behind and who has His hand on our shoulder.

“Even before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O Lord, You know it all. 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.” (Psalm 139:4–6, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/17)

Anxiety is a result of envisioning the future without Me. So the best defense against worry is staying in communication with Me. When you turn your thoughts toward Me, you can think much more positively. Remember to listen, as well as to speak, making your thoughts a dialogue with Me.

If you must consider upcoming events, follow these rules: 1) Do not linger in the future, because anxieties sprout up like mushrooms when you wander there. 2) Remember the promise of My continual Presence; include Me in any imagery that comes to mind. This mental discipline does not come easily, because you are accustomed to being god of your fantasies. However, the reality of My Presence with you, now and forevermore, outshines any fantasy you could ever imagine.

“And He said to His disciples, “For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on. “For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. “Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap; they have no storeroom nor barn, and yet God feeds them; how much more valuable you are than the birds! “And which of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life’s span? “If then you cannot do even a very little thing, why do you worry about other matters?” (Luke 12:22–26, NASB95)

“Now to Him who is able to do far more abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us, to Him be the glory in the church and in Christ Jesus to all generations forever and ever. Amen.” (Ephesians 3:20–21, NASB95)

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

At Any Time

I was thinking about my devotional reading from earlier today, and I had just opened it back up just as I received a text message from my wife. She texted me to ask me to pray for the daughter of a friend who had been in a car crash and was flown to Portland for help. Even as I am reading the text I have no idea of her condition and no idea of her parents’ emotional state. All I can do is pray and lift them to my God who knows them, has drawn them to Himself in salvation, has His hands totally around them, is perfectly able to bring full healing, and gives hope in the most trying of times.

This accident did not catch God by surprise. It did not happen while He was on vacation, and He now has to rush back to be by their side. He never lost sight and He never lost control, yet in His sovereign goodness He permitted this horrible event into their lives, and He is faithful to bring them through.

We are reminded in Scripture that even our Savior endured the harshest of affliction so that we might be given salvation. Our God understands pain and He also knows victory over that pain. He is the author of comfort and He can bring comfort, even enabling us to share that comfort we received from Him with others (2 Corinthians 1:3-4 quoted below).

In Psalm 139:1-10 we read, “O LORD, You have searched me and known me. You know when I sit down and when I rise up; You understand my thought from afar. You scrutinize my path and my lying down, and are intimately acquainted with all my ways. Even before there is a word on my tongue, behold, O LORD, You know it all. 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.” (Psalm 139:1–10, NASB95)

Lord, You know this family. You have known them from the beginning of time. You know your plans for each of them and the number of their days. I pray for their peace during this time of great trial. I pray for the strength to stand and withstand all that might be going on with them right now. And I pray for healing and the hope that comes only in knowing You as the good, faithful, loving, all-powerful and sovereign God.

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/16)

Look to Me continually for help, comfort, and companionship. Because I am always by your side, the briefest glance can connect you with Me. When you look to Me for help, it flows freely from My Presence. This recognition of your need for Me, in small matters as well as in large ones, keeps you spiritually alive.

When you need comfort, I love to enfold you in My arms. I enable you not only to feel comforted but also to be a channel through whom I comfort others. Thus you are doubly blessed, because a living channel absorbs some of whatever flows through it.

My constant companionship is the pièce de résistance: the summit of salvation blessings. No matter what losses you experience in your life, no one can take away this glorious gift.

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears. Those who look to him are radiant, and their faces shall never be ashamed. This poor man cried, and the Lord heard him and saved him out of all his troubles.” (Psalm 34:4–6, ESV)

“Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually!” (Psalm 105:4, ESV)

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3–4, ESV)

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Trusting God in Our Service

"We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father, knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you;” (1 Thessalonians 1:2–4, NASB95)

In my search for where God was leading Robin and me, I’ve had the opportunity to speak with and get to know in some way a number of individuals who have been charged by their church to seek out and select a person to recommend to their respective churches that they might vote on and then call. For most of them this is a long and difficult task as they first have to begin the lengthy process of evaluating the needs of the church, establishing a profile describing the desired traits of an acceptable applicant, and seeking and gaining approval for their search criteria. Then they can begin the process of searching, where frequently they have well over one hundred interested applicants respond. From these individuals they begin the process of putting long and frequent hours into filtering through packets and resumes, praying about their choices, and narrowing them down to a much smaller group that they read more fully and more in-depth. This process continues until they can trim the group down to a number that usually fits on one hand. Then they begin the process of interviewing, listening to or viewing sermons, checking backgrounds and speaking with references, and even traveling to hear the individual(s) speak in person, with the objective of arriving at one individual who they can invite to their home church as a formal candidate. This all seems pretty logical and a pattern that would be easy to follow, but in most cases it is not that simple. There might not be one clear choice, and then the person they decide upon may not even be available when they arrive at their decision, knowing that just as they are working through a number of individuals the individuals themselves may be speaking with a number of churches.

If there were any task that we might think of the need to bring every consideration before God and seek His wisdom and direction, this one as I have observed, is definitely near the top of the list. Though in reality, everything we face should be at the top of our list. Whether it is a relatively big thing, with the welfare of others looking to us, or a small thing in our comparison scale, our need to stay conscious of God and relying on Him is integral to how we should live our lives.

Apart from God, burdens like these are huge. We could look at being on such a committee as a monstrous task where ultimately we might even make the wrong choice. We could easily become overwhelmed and grow weary, even wanting to give up. We might get irritated at others on the committee when they don’t agree with our own preferences. There is so much that could go wrong, and we would be responsible for it. This would be something very easy for us to feel, if we thought as if the recommendation and/or decision really rested solely only on us. But thinking this way would be thinking a lie. And no matter how big the issue, any thinking along these lines is buying into the same lie.

We have a God who has a purpose for us and for His church, and He has promised to direct our steps. What He has told us to do is to bring everything to Him, weigh everything before Him, search His word for direction, and listen to the leading of His Spirit, and here is the big one—trust Him for the outcomes knowing even if we don’t get it quite right that He will still continue His work and accomplish His purposes. He is faithful and we are called to trust in His faithfulness, and the biggest thing we can do in relation to this is to bring everything before Him, as Sarah says in today’s “Jesus Calling,” step-by-step.

“Whatever you do, do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance. It is the Lord Christ whom you serve.” (Colossians 3:23–24, NASB95)
“for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.” (Philippians 2:13, NASB95)

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.” (1 Corinthians 15:58, NASB95)

“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.” (Proverbs 3:5–6, NASB95)

Today in “Jesus Calling” by Sarah Young (10/15)

Try to stay conscious of Me as you go step-by-step through this day. My Presence with you is both a promise and a protection. My final statement just before I ascended into heaven was: Surely I am with you always. That promise was for all of My followers, without exception.

The promise of My Presence is a powerful protection. As you journey through your life, there are numerous pitfalls along the way. Many voices clamor for your attention, enticing you to go their way. A few steps away from your true path are pits of self-pity and despair, plateaus of pride and self-will. If you take your eyes off Me and follow another’s way, you are in grave danger. Even well-meaning friends can lead you astray if you let them usurp My place in your life. The way to stay on the path of Life is to keep your focus on Me. Awareness of My Presence is your best protection.

“…and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:20, NASB95)

“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.” (Hebrews 12:1–2, NASB95)