Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Week Forty - Waiting Collectively

This past couple of weeks, I have studied, read, and meditated on the subject of waiting. Monday's video included some of what I learned, and we will talk about waiting again this coming week, but I wanted to share one thought with you here Beside the Well because it was something I had never considered, and it challenged my heart. I hope it challenges you, too.

Isaiah 25:9 reads, "And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us; this is the Lord; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation."

Precious thoughts come from this verse. The first one I noticed was the people were waiting on God. They believed He would save them.

While we are all in this holding pattern of a pandemic, are we waiting on God? Do we anticipate Him showing up? Do we see Him at work? Do we believe He can save us?

The children of Israel were waiting--waiting collectively. They were in a hard place, exiled from their homeland, but anticipation held them together as they waited for God to restore them to their land.

I think this element is missing today from our spiritual lives and in many of our churches. We are waiting, but are we waiting collectively? Are we expressing our anticipation of the Lord's return to our brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we preparing for His coming? Or are we keeping it to ourselves? Are we guilty of doubting that God will do anything about our situation? Do we feel stuck and alone wondering if He will really show up?

The other thought is that the fruit of waiting is God revealing Himself, so the people could joyfully express, "Lo, this is our God.  This is the Lord." There is power and blessing in united waiting!

We, as fellow Christians, are to unite in waiting for our God. We ought to draw together and lay aside all ideas of human hope or help, and with one heart, set ourselves to wait for God.

We wait for the sound of the trumpet - and we should be doing that. It is sooner than we think! But we can also wait for Him to meet with us, to answer prayer, to increase our fellowship, to forgive sin, and to heal our land.

2 Chronicles 7:14 reads, "If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land."

Can you see the plurality? The people are collectively repenting, collectively waiting, and God promises to show up!

I'm afraid we aren't expecting God to show up. We show up. We show up to "do" worship, to lead, to preach, to teach, and to serve, but sadly, we fail to show up to see God. And if we are looking for Him, we are not waiting collectively. We are looking for an individual blessing. We are waiting for our part of the pie.

Let me challenge you to not only wait for God yourself but express that hope to others. Create an atmosphere of encouragement and anticipation in your church, your family, our group, that looks for the moment when we all sing, as a confident chorus, "Lo, this is our God, this is our Lord. We have waited for Him!"

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Week Thirty-Nine - Washtub Prayers

As we come Beside the Well today, I simply want to share with you the devotion from Springs in the Valley, August 25, because it spoke such hope and joy to my heart.

"An old woman with an halo of silvered hair--the hot tears flowing down her furrowed cheeks--her worn hands busy over a washboard in a room of poverty--praying--for her son John--John who ran away from home in his teens to become a sailor--John, of whom it was now reported that he had become a very wicked man--praying, praying always, that her son might be of service to God.  What a marvellous subject for an artist's brush!

The mother believes in two things, the power of prayer and the reformation of her son.  So while she scrubbed, she continued to pray.  God answered the prayer by working a miracle in the heart of John Newton.  The black stains of sin were washed white in the blood of the Lamb. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow" (Isaiah 1:18).

The washtub prayers were heard as are all prayers when asked in His name.  John Newton, the drunken sailor, became John Newton, the sailor-preacher.  Among the thousands of men and women he brought to Christ was Thomas Scott, cultured, selfish, and self-satisfied.  Because of the washtub prayers, another miracle was worked, and Thomas Scott used both his pen and voice to lead thousands of unbelieving hearts to Christ--among them, a dyspeptic, melancholic young man, William Cowper by name.

He, too, was washed by the cleansing Blood and in a moment of inspiration wrote:

  There is a fountain filled with blood,
  Drawn from Immanuel's veins,
  And sinners plunged beneath that flood,
  Lose all their guilty stains.

And this song has brought countless thousands to the Man who died on Calvary.  Among the thousands was William Wilberforce, who became a great Christian statesman and unfastened the shackles from the feet of thousands of British slaves.  Among those whom he led to the Lord was Leigh Richmond, a clergyman of the Established Church in one of the Channel Islands.  He wrote a book, The Dairyman's Daughter, which was translated into forty languages and with the intensity of leaping flame burned the love of Christ into the hearts of thousands.

All this resulted because a mother took God at His Word and prayed that her son's heart might become as white as the soapsuds in the washtub."

Dear friend, if you have a wayward child or a lost loved one, never cease praying.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020

Week Thirty-Eight - Let It Go

It is said that the composer of the song, Let It Go, from the film, Frozen, felt he must apologize to parents because the song was heard, sung, and played so repeatedly.  I know my granddaughters loved it.  The younger of the two would begin singing it and running from the kitchen to the living room every evening.  We knew she was tired and ready for bed when this started happening.

The song holds an amazing truth we see taught in Scripture.  1 Corinthians 13:5 says, "Love...doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil."  Some translation read, 'keeps no record of wrongs."

We could say, "Love lets it go."

I know I've heard people say to me, and I have whispered to myself, "Let it rest, let it go."  And though my heart was on the brink of anxiety, that simple thought calmed me.

Maybe you, too, have experienced a similar thing.  Perhaps a friend or situation has wounded you by bad manners or lack of tact, and you said to yourself, "let it go.  We don't need to bring this up again."  And, your heart, by the choice of love, overlooked the sin.

Or maybe a harsh or unjust sentence has irritated you.  Let it rest.  Let it go.  Like windy words coming from a hidden source, whoever may have vented will be pleased to see you have forgotten, forgiven, you have let it go.

Perhaps a mishap is about to break a friendship; let it rest.  Let it go.  Perserve your love, friendship, and peace of mind.  Love covers a multitude of sins.  1 Peter 4:8

Or a suspicious look knocked your confidence.  Let it go.  There is probably something else behind that look than you!

We live too often in fear of being wounded, and "take pleasure in collecting and piercing our hearts with thorns that meet us in our daily intercourse with one another."

The enemy would love nothing better than for us to take every unkind word, every thoughtless comment or action, every misunderstanding, and every suspicious glance to heart.  When we do that, we are wearing our feelings on our sleeve, and we can be sure the enemy will not miss the opportunity to poke us in precisely the right spot.

But we can always choose to Let It Go- to not be offended, to overcome evil with good, to not keep a record of wrongs, and to think no evil.  This is the path of love.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Week Thirty-Seven - Mark My Words

Over the years, I have formed a habit of reading my Bible through yearly.  It’s a good habit, but not one without challenges.  I make it a goal to read five chapters each day.  Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I fail, but that is my goal.  When I get to the Old Testament prophets, I take a huge gulp because they no longer read like a story narrative or poetry; they are sermons!  Hard sermons!  But invariably, I find they open new treasure boxes of truth.

Another habit I enjoy is that of reading at least one chapter of a book each day.  Again, sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I fail.  Other times, I get so absorbed in the book that I finish it in a few days.  Lately, I have read two books by Glynn Harrison, The Big Ego Trip, and A Better Story.  I would highly recommend them both.

I make mention of them because, more often than not, God uses His word and my outside reading to help me understand principles and ideas.  Like the other day, after trying to digest what I had been reading in Glynn Harrison’s books, I read through five chapters in Jeremiah.  My eyes noticed a matching instruction in God’s Word.

Allow me to show you what I was seeing.

Jeremiah 20:12 reads, “But, O Lord of hosts, that triest the righteous, and seest the reins and the heart.”

Glynn Harrison was affirming that God knows and tries our hearts.  He sees right down to the thoughts and intents of our hearts, as we read in Hebrews 4:12.

Jeremiah 23:16, “Hearken not unto the words of the prophets (the false prophets) that prophesy unto you! They make you vain: (empty, void of knowledge) they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord.”

Harrison was saying that man is successfully sculpting a society void of richness and contrary to God’s design while calling it Christianity.

Jeremiah 23:17, “They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walketh after the imagination of his own heart, No evil shall come upon you.”

What? Do we not read this all the time and hear it in music lyrics and TV programs and movies?  “Be yourself.  Do what makes you happy. Follow your heart.  That old wives’ tales of the judgment of God is outdated.  Nothing bad will happen to you.” But Proverbs 28:26 says, “He that trusteth in his own heart of a fool.”

Jeremiah continues, “The burden of the Lord shall ye mention no more: (stop telling me what the Bible says) for every man’s word shall be his burden; (every man did that which was right in his own eyes.)  Result:  “for ye have perverted the words of the living God, of the Lord of hosts our God.” (Jeremiah 23:36)

And don’t think God doesn't know or see.

Jeremiah 23:23, 24, “Am I a God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? saith the Lord.  Do not I fill heaven and earth? saith the Lord.”

I began to wonder how many people swallow the preaching of the world.  Oprah, Joel Olsten, etc. they all preach the same gospel – their own.

Jeremiah 23:18  “For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? Who hath marked his word, and heard it?”

It is time to try the spirits and search our hearts!  Are we following the counsel of the world and the gospel of false prophets?  Are we following our own hearts to the disregard of God’s word?  Or, do we live in God’s presence, acknowledge His activity, and seek to stand in His counsel?  Do we mark His words?


Wednesday, September 2, 2020

Who is Resting in Your Boat?

Week Thirty-Six - Open House

Sometimes I think about the things I’d like to do, like go kayaking and float the river with my sister, or have enough money to buy a whole new wardrobe or even my little dream of building my own house.  They are all things that may or may not be possible.


I might get to take a trip with my sister someday.  I’d hope so!  I’ll probably never purchase a whole new wardrobe!  I don’t like much of what I see, and my taste is too expensive! And build a little house, well, that’s for the future, and only the Lord knows.


I’m sure you have bucket list things you’d like to do or see or places to go.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  But when our desire for things beyond our reach begins creating discontent or resentment, then we need to rope them in!


Contentment does not mean begrudgingly settling for the status quo.  It has its root in satisfaction.  It works from the knowledge that time is temporary, and the future is secure. 


Where I am today is not where I will be tomorrow, but where I am today, what I have today, and what I am doing right now is important and valuable in God’s economy and for my life. 


Contentment rests and generates thankfulness and hope, trusting in the truth found in Philippians 2:13, “For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.”


Taking time to measure my hopes and dreams against what God wills for my life helps bring things into focus.


I can choose to go kayaking with my sister.  There is no issue there. Except for the fact that I live on a different side of the planet from her.  If I let that fact needle me, it creates discontent.  However, if I lay that hope before the Lord, I live in anticipation of the day He might grant that wish.  It isn’t impossible; it just isn’t time for it right now.


If I pine for that new wardrobe, or any temporal, material item, to the point that I become unthankful for what I have, my heart gets distracted and complaining sets in.  I might run up the credit card!  My desire for material things potentially leads me to sin, bondage, and unhappiness. 


On the other hand, I can be thankful and do the best with what I have, shop wisely, and remember that I am rich compared to ninety percent of the world.  Others wish to have only a pair of shoes for their child, while my closet has multiple pairs strewn on the floor.


The same goes for my dream of building a little house.  It is a dream I’ve had for years. Who knows?  Maybe the Lord will allow me to do that someday.  But if I grapple and push to make my dream come true, I lose the beauty of what God is doing now.  He promised to give me the desires of my heart if I delight myself in Him. (Psalm 37:4) I’m excited to wait and see how He works that all out!


Friend, we all have hopes and desires.  There is nothing wrong with that.  But the most vital choice you can make today is to bring them in line with what God is doing.  If He has you at the bottom of the ladder, do what is required with a good spirit, learn all you can, and make choices that move you forward.  If you are at the top of that ladder and feeling lonely, reach down and pull others up. If you wish life were different, start being thankful for the joys around you, and let the Lord sort the messy parts.


You see, life is a matter of choices and the hand of God.  The two go together.  I challenge you to start where you are.  Settle your heart, knowing today is today, and tomorrow holds potential.  Live one day at a time, and lay your desires and choices before the Lord, and see what He can do!


By the way, you’re invited to my open house!