Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Week Thirty-Five - Don't Believe Everything You Hear

It is hard to sort the lies from the truth these days. It seems to depend on who you choose to listen to and the motivation behind their information. Because I got to overthinking about the war in Ukraine, the raid on Trump's vault, the warnings about considerable increases in energy prices, and who in the world is going to be the next Prime Minister in the UK, I found myself growing concerned and started trying to figure this all out. Well, you know that was a waste of effort! I'm not in charge or responsible for any of those things. I have no power to change them, and my voice would make no difference. Neither would yours! We are just peons, victims of this world's actions. But are we?

I had to get my thinking re-aligned with Scripture. When it comes to war, God said we would experience battles throughout the centuries. Nothing new here. Trump's vault is his business, not mine. Increased energy prices are scary and unpredictable, but these things have always come and gone. God already knows about them. And the next Prime Minister will be by God's design.

Isaiah 40 popped up in my mind. It holds several promises and thoughts that help us when we hear the world's noise. First, verse 4 assures us God will make the crooked places straight and the rough places plain. He will make a path for us. And His word will stand forever (vs. 8).

Then, verses 13 and 14 put before us a serious question. "Who hath directed the Spirit of the Lord, or being his counseller that taught him? With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him, and taught him in the path of judgment, and taught him knowledge, and shewed to him the way of understanding?" In other words, who am I to think I could out-figure God or tell Him what to do? I needed to get back into my place.

Then, verses 15 and 17 really caught my attention. "Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance. The nations before him are as nothing." Wow! What a difference it makes when you get things back into God's perspective.

Chapter 40 finished with more great verses. Verses 28 and 31 read, "Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? there is no searching of his understanding. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint."

So, what are we listening to? Proverbs 14:15 gives us this admonition, "The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going." 

Do you believe everything you hear? Is it causing a cloud of despair to follow you around? Let's not listen more intently to the news and the world's voice than we do to the eternal, unchanging voice of God.

Tuesday, August 23, 2022

Week Thirty-Four - When Troubles Comes

We're going to do something a bit different today. I want us to see how the psalmist David dealt with trouble and hopefully learn a better way to do the same ourselves. So follow along with me in Psalm 77.

Psalm 77:1-4, "I cried unto God with my voice, even unto God with my voice; and he gave ear unto me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord: my sore ran in the night, and ceased not: my soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled: I complained and my spirit was overwhelmed. Selah. Thou holdest mine eyes waking: I am so trouble that I cannot speak."

Have you felt this way when trouble came to your door? Did your sore run in the night? That means you were drained of power and wept through the night. You refused to be comforted. No amount of words or prayers seemed to help. Can you see how the psalmist felt? Look at the other words in the verse, overwhelmed, complaining, and unable to speak. He was distraught. I've been there, have you?

Psalm 77:5-9, "I have considered the days of old, the years of the ancient times. I call to remembrance my song in the night: I commune with mine own heart: and my spirit made diligent search. Will the Lord cast off for ever? And will he be favourable no more? Is his mercy clean gone for ever? Doth his promise fail for evermore? Hath God forgotten to be gracious? Hath he in anger shut up his tender mercies? Selah."

The psalmist is trying to figure things out and searching for the answer to his trouble. But notice, he wasn't afraid to ask God hard questions. And, he gave himself a good talking to - he communed with his own heart and made a diligent search. You can look at the questions he posed to God in two ways. Either he is asking with a complaining tone of resignation, or he is declaring the truth and the answer to each question is a resounding"no." God has not forgotten. His promises do not fail. Which way would you be asking those questions? What questions do you put before God when trouble comes your way?

Psalm 77:10-12, "And I said, This is my infirmity but I will remember the years of the right and of the most High. I will remember the works of the Lord: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. I will meditate also of all thy work, and talk of thy doings."

He readily admits he has a problem, an infirmity. And the next word is critical: but. Even when trouble comes, he chooses a change of focus. Instead of looking at the situation, he turns his attention to God. He decides to remember better times, and places his hope and faith on their return. He chooses to talk about God. Notice he was so distraught in the first four verses that he could not speak, but now that faith has become a part of his thought, he opens up. Do you see the choice he made? Do you understand why?

Psalm 77:13-20, "Thy way, O God, is in the sanctuary: who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people. Thou hast with thine arm redeemed thy people, the sons of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. The waters saw thee, O God, the waters saw thee; they were afraid: the depths also were troubled. The clouds poured out water: the skies sent out a sound: thine arrows also went abroad. The voice of thy thunder was in the heaven: the lightnings lightened the world: the heart trembled and shook. Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known. Thou leddest thy people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron."

At the beginning of the psalm, the psalmist flays around in bed, cries, and refuses comfort. But now, he stands confidently in the greatness of God. Look at all the power displayed by his words. The waters are afraid of God. the lightning (arrow) and the thunder fill the sky, making the earth tremble and shake. He is a good, good Father who redeems and knows what is happening. God becomes the source of his encouragement.

When trouble comes, we need to get this right. Cry if you must, but then turn your hope back on God. Meditate, remember, sing, and follow on by faith.

Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Week Thirty-Three - Prone to Wander

Number 15:39 reads, "Remember all the commandments of the Lord, and do them; and that ye seek not after your own heart and your own eyes, after which ye use to go a whoring."

That's an awfully stark warning, isn't it? It makes me question, how many times must the Lord remind us not to "learn the way of the heathen" (Jeremiah 10:2) and that "the way of the transgressor is hard" (Proverbs 13:15)? How can we so easily forget the Lord's benefits and blessings? Why is the allure of the world so powerful? Why are we such forgetful learners and prone so easily to wander away?

In his book, Glory Hunger, J.R. Vassar wrote, "Man is looking for the glory he had in the garden. Thinking any glory will do, he fails to see the glory in Christ applied to his life." Is this why we drift? Because we are looking for our own glory instead of God's? Are we so easily duped into seeking our own hearts and chasing after everything we see that we fail to understand or consider the consequences? Do we discount God's commandments and replace them with our own?

Henry Blackaby broached a similar thought as he wrote of God's relentless love. Using Hosea and his wife, Gomer, as an example, he noted that though she was totally unfaithful, God sent Hosea to buy her back.

Blackaby says, "God's message is clear: when we reject Him and turn our devotion elsewhere, our rejection carries the same pain as an adulterous betrayal. But His love follows us to the depth of our sinfulness until He has reclaimed us. He continues to pursue us." We are His child, and He will not abandon us, even to ourselves.

And can't we be so thankful for that! Grateful that in all our ignorance and half-hearted devotion, we have a God who has not surrendered His beloved and still seeks to draw us back. He still calls, knocks, and waits, ready to forgive.

O Lord, I may not go out to purposely seek the world, but I know a bit about my own heart. It is prone to wander. Like the songwriter wrote, "Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it, Prone to leave the God I love. Here's my heart, oh, take and seal it. Seal it for thy courts above."

Thank you, Lord, for the reminders of your love, the promises of the Word, and Your unfailing love that pursues me still.

Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Week Thirty-Two - There's a Bad Wind Rising


Like as the wind fills the sails of a boat, whatever controls us directs our path.

So many Scriptures flood my mind as I read that little sentence encouraging me to consider carefully what wind is blowing through my life. Am I allowing anger to fill my sails? Do I think I have no power to control the wind or change course? Am I like a city without walls, and the wind is blowing everything of value away? Am I yielding to excuses or labels and failing to recognize my responsibility and God's power?

Years ago, God brought a little piece of Scripture to my heart and hammered it into my mind. 1 Corinthians 6:12 reads, "All things are lawful unto me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but I will not be brought under the power of any."

I can do whatever I want, but not everything is good for me. Not everything is a wise choice. What I choose becomes the wind in my sails. It powers my life and eventually brings me under its power. So, what wind do I want driving my life?

This is the idea of Ephesians 5:17-21. Whatever we are filled with controls us. In this passage, the Lord contrasts being filled with wine or His Spirit.

"Wherefore be ye not unwise, but understanding what the will of the Lord is. And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit; Speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord; Giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God."

Let me show you some other things the Bible says we can be filled with.

We can be filled with sorrow. "But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart" (John 14:6).

We can be filled with madness. "And they were filled with madness; and communed one with another what they might do to Jesus" (Luke 6:11).

We can be filled with wrath. "And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath" (Luke 4:28).

We can be filled with fear. "And they were all amazed, and they glorified God, and were filled with fear, saying, We have seen strange things to day" (Luke 5:26).

You see, many winds fill our sails, but God directs us to cooperate and submit to the wind of His Spirit and His Word. Why? Because allowing ill winds to have sway leads us to undesired havens. We won't find ourselves in a good place if we allow them to bring us into bondage or run us aground.

Romans 6:14 assures us that "sin shall not have dominion over you." We have power in Christ to shift the wind, change direction, and yield control to God instead of whatever ill wind blows across our path.

The thing is, these ill winds aren't satisfied only to affect you or mess up your day. They carry on to misdirecting your marriage, your parenting, your employment, and life decisions. So, choose wisely which winds you allow to blow through your life. Fill your sails with the Spirit of God. Allow Him to control you, and you will arrive at safe harbor!

Lord, fill my sails with Your Spirit and move my life according to Your course, for Your glory.

Monday, August 1, 2022

Week Thirty-One - Keep It Simple

Let's think a bit today about the idea of keeping things simple. Simple, instead of complicated. Simple, without contaminants. Simple, easy to see or understand, and not clouded by activity, rhetoric, or crafty designs.

What would your day look like if you made that your goal? Maybe you'd choose something simple to wear, have a nice little breakfast, and an uncomplicated schedule. You probably wouldn't be striving to compete and frustrated at every hindrance. Instead, you'd take things in your stride and end the day satisfied you had done your best. Then, after a nice little supper, you'd pillow your head in peace. No fuss. No complications. 

Our days rarely go like this, though, do they? Instead, we fret over what to wear because of who will be seeing us and the image we want to portray. We skip breakfast and rush out the door because we allow the demands of our lives to be more important than a good start to the day. We hustle and hassle all day long with people, ideas, and pressures arriving home too late to enjoy a good supper, so we grab whatever we can find, flop on the couch a while, and wake up the next morning to the same routine. 

Something needs to change! And it begins with re-evaluating our priorities and changing our habits. Lockdown should have helped us in this area, but instead, it looks like we all bolted to the door and re-entered at the same speed or even felt we were behind. We didn't change anything. We didn't take time to re-evaluate and simplify. No, we just kept going and added more stress. We would have been wiser to evaluate what to add back, what to amend, and what to leave behind. Then we could have come through less complicated, less contaminated, and more focused on God's glory.

I can't tell you how to simplify your life because each life is different. But I can encourage you to pare things down, chop down that to-do list, and give yourself some space. Life is not about how fast you get to the end. It's about enjoying the journey. 

Did you know simplicity and contentment are kin? It's hard to have one without the other. So I challenge you to look at your life. Is it simple? Are you content? What is making it complicated? Can you re-adjust some things? What is causing the insatiable drive? Is it pushing you too far? What would your life look like if it was uncomplicated, without contaminants, easy to look at, and unclouded? Why not choose a couple of areas where you can change things around? 

Let me share some suggestions from Adele Calhoun.

1) Simplify things and activities that keep life convoluted, complicated, and confusing.
2) Prioritize your love of God first.
3) Downsize your possessions.
4) Cut back on shopping and uncontrolled spending.
5) Eat simple foods.
6) Enjoy simple pleasures.
7) Remove distractions and preoccupation. 

What will this do for you?

1) You'll have a less cluttered life.
2) You will become a more precise, more distilled person.
3) You will have more space for loving and serving God and others.
4) You'll begin experiencing freedom from envy and entitlement.
5) You'll learn to stake your identity in God's love, not accumulation and possessions.

Those all sound fine, but the most beautiful thing I find about keeping life simple is time. Extra time to enjoy things God has given me and time to sit quietly with a thankful heart.

Ecclesiastes 5:18-19c is a great reminder - "It is good and comely for one to eat and to drink, and to enjoy the good of all his labour that he taketh under the sun all the days of his life, which God giveth him: for it is his portion...this is the gift of God."

So, dear friend, slow down. Take a breath. Let some things go and enjoy what God has already given you. Make life that simple!