Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Week Four - The Appropriate Response


Have you ever over-reacted to a situation? You know, when you got angry too quickly or spoke too harshly, or let fear and frustration take over. 

I heard the funniest story this past weekend about a family member who totally freaked out when stopped by the cops. Instead of remaining calm, she tore into a rant, threatened them with bodily harm, and turned into a screaming banshee. We all laughed as she admitted her behavior was so awful and embarrassing, she was sure the video of her response would wind up in a police training seminar.

Then, there are times when overwhelming feelings of sadness and despair color our every response. We see no light, no hope, no faith, just doom and gloom. I must admit watching the news evokes these responses from my soul. I have chosen to limit watching the news and turned myself to prayer instead.

I used to tell my teenagers, “Your reaction is your choice.” I was trying to remind them of their responsibility for their actions and help them learn to calculate the outcome. Today, I find myself repeating those same words to my heart. What is the appropriate response to the upheaval, the anger, the hate, and the fear in our world today? My reaction is my choice.

Chris Tiegreen put it succinctly, “Faith is the appropriate response. As critical as things appear, God is still on the throne, Jesus is still Lord over all, and your situation is much larger to you than it is to Him.”

I had to agree. Our situation seems so large, but it is minuscule when compared to the whole of creation, the vastness of space, and the utter endlessness of God Himself.

Billy Graham said, “Anxiety is the natural result when our hopes are centered in anything short of God and His will for us.” I find that so true. When I notice anxious thoughts and emotions, I can most usually trace them back to a lack of faith in God, a fear, or a belief in hopelessness. Thankfully, God’s Spirit is always there to help me come back to reason, to rest in faith, and to carry on.

If our reaction is our choice, what choice are we making? What is the appropriate response today? Let me share with you a few scriptures from the Psalms that aid our responses.

Psalm 57:7 “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.”

Psalm 56:3 “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.”

Psalm 60:11, 12 “Give us help from trouble: for vain is the help of man. Through God we shall do valiantly: for he it is that shall tread down our enemies.”

Psalm 61:2, 3 “When my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. For thou hast been a shelter for me, a strong tower from the enemy.”

Psalm 34:19 “Many are the afflictions of the righteous; but the Lord delivereth him out of them all.”

Psalm 27:13, 14 “I had fainted, unless I had believed to see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait on the Lord: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen thine heart: wait, I say, on the Lord.”

You see, our response is calculated by God’s word, measured by our faith, and rewarded according to our obedience. Faith is the appropriate response.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Week Three - Let it Shine

Today, America inaugurates their 46th president. With thousands of troops surrounding the Capital, it makes me wonder.  Do they always call out this level of security?  Is the new president so fearful for his life that he needs such a show of force?  Is the old president thinking of calling marshall law?  The press would have you believe any of these are possible.  

As I prayed for our country, God kept whispering in my heart, “Love not the world.” It was a good reminder for me to stay focused, to keep trusting, and to acknowledge God’s sovereignty in every purpose and act of man. Then, I turned to my 2021 devotion book. If you have never tried this one, I recommend it – At His Feet, by Chris Tiegreen.  It is published through Walk Thru the Bible/Tyndale.

Anyway, after thoughts on light and truth, he wrote, “Do not dabble in the wisdom of the world. Its interpretations of life are but shadows; its knowledge is untouched by the light of truth.” I had to agree. This world does not seek light, it does not exude light, it does not know The Light. But we do.

All through the centuries, the world has tried to make its own way, but it is still groping in darkness.  Tiegreen writes, “We live in a dark kingdom (Colossians 1:13). Our understanding was darkened (Ephesians 4:18); we are surrounded by powers of darkness (Ephesians 6:12); we ourselves have done deeds of darkness (Romans 13:12); our motives are dark (1 Corinthians 4:5); and even when we see God, we see Him very dimly (1 Corinthians 13:12). In fact, Paul goes so far as to say that we were darkness (Ephesians 5:8).

As I thought about the bleakness of this image, the penny dropped and my heart began to rejoice. We were darkness, but Ephesian 5:8 continues by saying, “now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light.”

C.S. Lewis wrote, “I believe in Christianity as I believe the sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything.” Praise the Lord for the glorious light of the Gospel that has shined into our heart, for the Word that is a light and lamp to our path, for the glory of God that dispels darkness and illuminates truth helping us to see with the brightness of spiritual eyes.

Then, the Spirit brought Philippians 2:15, 16 to my memory. “That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; Holding forth the word of life.”

Oh, how this dark world needs to see the beauty and the brightness of the Gospel exhibited by the godly behavior and unwavering faith of the children of God.

My heart began singing, "This little light of mine. I’m gonna let it shine!"  How? By keeping my eyes on the light of His love, by seeking guidance from His Word, and recognizing the brightness of His presence because in Him, there is no darkness at all (1 John 1:5).

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

Week One - Locusts

Joel 2:25 reads, God will "restore to you the years the locust hath eaten." That truth has kept my heart and mind occupied these past few weeks.

Then, as I began collecting my end-of-year tax information, it became obvious that we had not driven as far as last year or spent nearly as much. Sitting at home in lockdown had a generous effect on our finances. But it couldn't make up for the fact that we felt more had been taken away than gained. 

What has been eaten up by 2020? Time with friends, hugs, handshakes, fellowship, the economy, jobs, health, trust, etc, you could probably name more. The locust of this pandemic has definitely ravaged the life we knew and left its mark. And we aren't finished. 2021 will also be scarred by the blight. And then there will be the added years of financial recovery. But I don't want to be that bleak. I want to plant the same hope in your heart as God's word planted in mine as I studied this verse out a bit.

You see, God calls the locusts, "my great army which I sent among you." God sent the locust. Just as the plagues of Egypt, God uses nature to reveal His power and correct His children. And not only locust, but verse 25 also mentions several other annoying and destructive critters. All nature is under His control.

Here's what I thought. God brought the locust. He allowed the devastation, but He also knows how to set things right again, to restore what was lost. Verse 26 says, "And ye shall eat in plenty, and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord your God, that hath dealt wondrously with you; and my people shall never be ashamed."

God will restore. I hold great hope in that promise. Right now, it all looks so miserable and disheartening. It's hard to see the end of the tunnel and it makes you dread even looking, but there is light and hope because God is already in tomorrow. He knows what the locusts destroy, and He will put us back into the place of plenty, satisfaction, and praise. We aren't there now, but we will be.

My heart starts to rise with praise and hope when I think about that promise. God is able to restore. Where our hearts are broken, He mends and binds up our wounds. Where we stand confused and bewildered, He gives direction. Where we feel hopeless, He lifts us up. He is the Excellent Restorer who wonderfully strengthens the heart of His children.

Dear friend, 2021 is not where you place your hope - God is. A New Year changes nothing, but trust in God changes everything. You might feel all is hopeless or you have suffered too much loss, but God says He will restore what the locusts have eaten. Let's give Him some time and see what He does!