Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Week Forty-Eight - Our Achy-Breaky Hearts

Sometimes because we are hurting, we fail to understand or see that others are also hurting. Or that they struggle just as we do. We tend to think they have it all together, are nigh on perfect, and have found the secret to living without problems. 

It's easy to read the works of others and feel inadequate or unworthy. Some writers are more open about their weaknesses, but nearly always tell us how they conquered their issues and are now using their experience to build a ministry. We might grow envious or judgmental because we haven't come to peace and victory with our problems yet. 

Our achy-breaky heart tries to tell us we must get everything right, or we are failures, or if we still have problems, we aren't good enough or smart enough. It leaves us feeling hopeless and sad.

I don't know about you, but I don't have everything figured out yet. And the older I get, the less I understand. And, I'm finding that the less it matters in some ways. Where would I find a need for faith or hope if I could figure everything out? If I had all the answers, why would I seek God? But I don't have all the answers, and neither do you. As a matter of fact, you won't find God requiring that of us anywhere! Instead, He calls us to trust Him, believe His Word, and walk by faith.

I think that is what Paul was saying in Philippians 3:12 - He hadn't apprehended everything. To apprehend is to capture, imprison, or gain mastery over. 

Paul hadn't understood everything. But what excites me is that it didn't seem to bother him. Instead, his heart motivation meant he didn't let the unknown deter him from what he had already learned. Instead, he reached forward and pressed on. 

Philippians continues with precious instructions on how to do that.

Be of the same mind - the mind of Christ.


Live in moderation.

Don't fret and worry.

Pray, and let God calm your heart.

Think about the right things - good things.

And then, do. Do what you know the Bible teaches, and there is the promise of God's peace in your life.

Philippians is full of more instructions on dealing with our achy-breaky hearts. And in every case, you will never find a command to figure things out, to be superficial or pretentious in how you live. Instead, there is an openness about our human frailty, the fickleness of our puny hearts, and a solid admonition to recognize God at work.

1:6 - He began the work; He will complete it.

2:13 - He works according to His will and for His pleasure in our life.

4:13 - He will strengthen and aid us to do all things.

4:19 - And He will supply all our needs.

Trying to figure everything out is a waste of effort; acting like we have it all together or are above human frailty reveals the pride in our hearts. I've found it best to bring my achy-breaky heart to the throne of grace and accept the balm of His love and forgiveness. And that is true for each of us.

Maybe those who look like they have it all together have already learned this secret? Perhaps we should too?

Tuesday, November 22, 2022

Week Forty- Seven - Thank God for Pie

It's Thanksgiving week! Time for turkey, pie, and all the trimmings. As I write, my turkeys are cooked, and today I will spend baking in anticipation of a big potluck meal with colleagues tomorrow. So what is it about getting ready for a special celebration that fills the heart with such joy?

I look forward to the smells of dishes coming together, warm fellowship, and loads of laughter as we express our thanks for all God has given. 

Like most all my Thanksgivings for the past many years, the only blood relatives around the table will be those washed by the blood of the Lamb as my children and extended family are across the ocean. But that doesn't detract from the beauty of the day or the thankfulness in my heart. One taste of the pumpkin pie, and I am transported back to memories of years of family gatherings and the warmth of grandma's kitchen.

I don't know what your Thanksgiving day will entail, but I pray you make time to stop and praise the Lord for the beautiful things He places in your life. Don't let the struggles around you remove the joy of God's blessings or cause you to fail to take count. 

Here's a recipe for the day - 

Romans 13:15, "Now the God of hope fill you will all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost." Fill your pie with joy, peace, hope, and faith, and make sure it is deep dish!

Then, 2 Corinthians 4:15 says, "that the abundant grace might through the thanksgiving of many redound to the glory of God." Let your pie be generous in grace, full of flavor, and thanksgiving so God gets the glory.

Then, as you tuck into a slice of pumpkin pie or a slither of pecan, pause to thank God for pie! It holds a flavor like no other.

Tuesday, November 15, 2022

Week Forty-Six - Chasing Your Problems Around

My friend, Charlotte, shared a devotion on prayer with me, and I want to share a portion with you. It has some amazing thoughts! The devotion is from The Gift of Self by Heather Ward.

She writes, "Prayer is primarily something God does in me, it is allowing God to flow through me. My part is to make myself available for this, to become consciously with, and in, the God who is always with and in, me. Consequently, however much I may feel myself to be the initiator I am, in fact, always responding to a pressure, a hint, an invitation from him. 

Her wording might seem a bit heavy, but I hope you saw some of the thoughts I noticed. I was caught by her idea that we are not the initiators of prayer; God is. Our desire or motivation to pray is a calling of God, a wooing of the Spirit, and an invitation for heavenly fellowship. Isn't that beautiful?

Our ego may desire us to be on equal terms with the Lord, determining the time and place for the meeting, but it is not so. The dethronement of ego begins with this recognition, and continues when we grasp its corollary, that prayer is to make us available to God and not the other way round. 

This idea of the dethronement of ego captured my attention. Do I come to God trying to call Him into my life instead of making myself available to Him? Are my prayers egotistical? Am I bossing God around instead of humbly seeking His favor? Good questions.

Prayer easily becomes need-centred, consolation-centred, experience-centred: we pray for what God does for us, for the strength he gives us, for the satisfaction of feeling with him. 

These thoughts give us a way to evaluate our prayers. Are they extra heavy on the needy part, always looking for personal comfort, or looking for an emotional experience? Am I a taker? Or a giver coming with a heart of gratitude and praise?

All too often we feel that our prayer is totally for God because we have brought all our trouble to him, acknowledging our need, but then praying from within our distress becomes immersion in it. We do not leave our problems with him but continue to chase them round in his presence. Gradually attention has been diverted from God in himself towards our ego, with God as its helper."

And the last section made me laugh when she spoke of failing to leave our problems with the Lord and chasing them around in His presence. I have to hold my hand up in guilt there. I know there are times when my prayers are exactly like that. I chase my problems around looking for solutions while I tell God what I want to happen, what I fear, and what I think He should do. Thankfully, He still listens and speaks directly to my heart, even when my prayers aren't all they should be.

I hope these thoughts challenge you as much as they challenged me. Maybe next time we come to prayer we will come in recognition of His calling and lay ourselves before Him iinstead of chasing our problems around in His presence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2022

Week Forty-Five - God's Giants

Nope, I'm not thinking of Goliath. Instead, I'm thinking of a quote by Hudson Taylor, who said, "All God's giants have been weak men who did great things because they reckoned on God's power and presence to be with them." 

When I think about his statement, I question. God's giants? Is that what we're after? To be head and shoulders above everyone else? And great things? Is that why we serve? To see the big stuff?

I know the pressure of these ideas. Who is the best? Who does the most? Who is most influential? But honestly, that is not wise. If we serve the Lord with this goal or make this the estimation of our life, we have missed God's ideal.

Granted, God has used some people in more extraordinary ways or with more notoriety, but that doesn't detract from the value of the individual who stays at their post with no recognition or recorded exploit. You won't find God saying that only His most prestigious servants matter or that we should strive to become some self-made spiritual giant to prove our worth.

No. God makes it plain in Micah 6:8 that God is looking for those who do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him.

There's a great book by J.R. Vassar called Glory Hunger. His premise is that man constantly searches for the glory he lost in the garden. Sin took man's glory away. Pride, power, and prestige make him feel better, but underneath he is constantly searching to regain what was lost.

How sad when this search enters the realm of ministry. Christians vying for positions or trying to be heard above others does not bring glory to God. It doesn't make us spiritual giants. Instead, it shows how genuinely selfish and sinful we are.

Why do I say that? Because throughout the Word, we are reminded that we are laborers together, brothers and sisters, and the body of Christ with every part having value. When we stand before God, none of the stuff we strive for will matter. He will cast all our works into the fire to be tried, and only the ones of genuine worth will remain. That will be true whether we are the Apostle Paul or Naaman's wife's maid.

I don't want to detract from Hudson Taylor's thought, but maybe it might read better this way, "All God's servants have been weak individuals who obeyed by faith and saw God work because they reckoned on His power and presence to be with them." To me, this puts the glory back on God. It reminds me that God gives the increase. My part is to keep myself in the love of God (Jude 24), remain faithful, and point others to Christ. God will do the rest.

Tuesday, November 1, 2022

Week Forty-Four - Frustration

Do you ever grow so frustrated that you want to give up on people? I've been there. They ask for advice, and then ignore it. They have the same repeated problem and fail to initiate change, then wonder why things don't work out. They seem to enjoy their misery and look for someone else to blame instead of taking personal responsibility. It can be very wearying.

Malachi 2:17 reads, "Ye have wearied the Lord with your words." So even God grows weary with disobedience, obstinacy, and half-hearted cries for help.

And that's not all. Moses grew weary of the children of Israel, and God did too! Samuel grew tired of the sin of Israel and the inconsistency of Saul. He had warned them of the dangers of appointing a king. But they wanted to be like everyone else and insisted they were willing to pay the price. And when it didn't work out as they had hoped, they turned back to Samuel, wanting him to continue ministering to them. Samuel answered, "As for me, God forbid that I should sin against the Lord in ceasing to pray for you: but I will teach you the good and the right way" (1 Samuel 12:23).

Samuel knew, as Jesus knew, that God sends his servants to the sick, not the healthy. (Matthew 9:12). He did not take the people's response as a rejection of him but as an indication of their walk with God. Samuel was serving God, not the Israelites. He could do nothing else when God commanded him to minister to them, despite their resistance to his message.

I learned this truth years ago. I am to keep my eyes on the Lord. My job is to obey Him with my life. I serve Him. I do not serve people except as God directs. And even then, my service is to be done as unto the Lord. When I get my eyes on the people, I grow discouraged. I get frustrated. But when I serve with my eyes on the Lord, He gives the blessing. He gives the increase, and I find peace in that truth. It gives me the motivation to continue serving.

Remember people sometimes will not respond to the message God sends through you. Don't become discouraged; it reflects their relationship with God. You are God's servant. If Jesus spent His time with the spiritually needy, you can expect Him to ask you to do the same. Don't lose your patience with God's people. Use a measure of grace and keep in mind that God loves them as much as He loves you.

Adapted from Blackaby, Experiencing God

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Week Forty-Three - Revenge

Sometimes I read things that I feel I must share with you just as they come. Henry Blackaby's devotion on revenge is one of those things. 

He says,

"One of the hardest areas in which to trust God is in the matter of justice. When we perceive an injustice, we want to see the guilty party punished. We want justice to prevail, especially if we are the victim. We become impatient if we are not avenged quickly. Yet God warns us that vengeance is not our prerogative. We are to desire justice, but we are not to seek vengeance (Micah 6:8). When someone offends us, our responsibility is to respond to the offense with forgiveness (Matthew 5:44). God takes the responsibility to see that justice is done. God loves people too much to allow sin to go unchecked."

This sense of demanding justice when offended seems totally out of control today. People push and push using cancel culture and intimidation to get a sense of justice. But when we remember that this is God's call, His job, we must recognize that only He can get the right level and attitude toward justice. He is just. We are not. We are always influenced by our prejudices.

"Peter claimed that God is not slow about His promises to us, but He is patent and long-suffering before He brings about judgment (2 Peter 3:9). Yet ultimately, God has prepared for absolute justice. There will be no sin committed that He will leave unpunished. Either the punishment will fall on His Son, or it will be charged against the sinner, but everyone will ultimately give an account for everything they have done (2 Corinthians 5:10)."

When my husband and I read this devotion together, it prompted many conversations about one sentence in particular. "Either the punishment will fall on His Son, or it will be charged against the sinner, but everyone will ultimately give an account for everything they have done." How true and how beautiful!

Our sin demands an account. It must be taken care of. Either our sin will be forgiven by the death of Christ on the cross, or we will face God without the covering of Christ's forgiveness - we will answer for ourselves. Friend, you cannot answer for your sin except by death. You cannot pay for your sin though you spend an eternity in hell. But there is always the option of accepting the price already paid - the death of God's Son for your sin.

"God is absolutely just, and only He can ensure that justice is fully carried out. If we are impatient and seek revenge, we presume that we are wiser than God, and we reveal a blatant lack of trust that God will do the right thing. Only by trusting God's sovereign wisdom will we be free from our anger and preoccupation toward those who have committed evil. If we refuse to trust God's justice, we become enslaved to bitterness and anger. We must guard our hearts and trust God to exercise His judgment against those who oppose Him."

Dear friend, be careful how much you allow the injustices of life to push you deeper into bitterness or anger. Instead, guard your heart and trust Him. Vengeance is His, and He promises to make all things right in the end. There will be perfect justice for all.

So, let's follow Jesus' example. Forgive. Wait on God. Seek peace and pursue it. And commit the keeping of our souls to him in well doing, as unto a faithful Creator. (1 Peter 4:19)

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

Week Forty-Two - Are You Ready?

Are you ready? That's a good question.
Ready for what? That's another good question.

In my devotion today, Henry Blackaby stated, "There is no substitute for spiritual preparation." If we are going to be equipped for unforeseen crises or opportunities, we need to be prepared. We will be vulnerable to life's unexpected events if we are unprepared.

The parable of the Ten Virgins is a perfect example. All ten were waiting for the bridegroom's arrival, but only five came prepared for the wait to be longer than anticipated. They had extra oil. But the other five were ill-prepared. So when their oil ran out, they had to go get more. And while they were away, the bridegroom came, and they missed out on the celebration.

Blackaby writes, "If you are spiritually prepared when a crisis comes, you will not have to try to develop instantly the quality of relationship with Christ that can sustain you. If you suddenly have an opportunity to share your faith with an unbeliever, you will be equipped to do so. If you enter a time of worship spiritually prepared you will not miss an encounter with God. If you are spiritually filled when you meet a person in sorrow, you will have much to offer. If you have established safeguards in your life in advance, you will not give in to temptation. Christians lose many opportunities to experience God's activity because they have not devoted enough time to their relationship with God."

It has been my experience that God often prepares my heart and mind long before a crisis arrives, and when it comes, I already have the peace of God and the comfort of His Spirit assuring me of His hand. Some might call it intuition, but I know it is God's work preparing me for what I am about to face. 

But this preparation doesn't come by wishing or hoping, it is the fruit of time with God, time in His Word, and a heart yielded to His will in all things, come what may. So are you ready? I hope so.

But there is another event for which we need all be ready, and that is the imminent calling away of the saints of God - the rapture. Dear friend, the Bible teaches that the trumpet of God will sound, and those who know Christ will be called away from this earth in a split second and ushered into the celebrations at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Preparation for this event must be done today. After that, there will not be a second chance, no time to go get more oil or make an appeal. "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye," the Bible says, "at the last trump...we shall be changed" (1 Corinthians 15:52). Changed into what? Into our immortal bodies, ready to live in heaven. Are you ready?

Spiritual preparation is imperative both for living on this earth and for living in heaven. So I hope you have your lamp all trimmed and bright. I’m ready. Are you?