Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Week Thirteen - Be On the Lookout!

Jesus entered Jerusalem to the people's praise and then went to Bethany for the night. He returned to the city the next morning, ready to teach the people more about God and prepare the disciples for the upcoming events. 

You can read this account in Matthew, chapters 21-25. It contains familiar verses and phrases like "all things whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer believing ye shall receive." "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind." "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away," but there is one phrase Jesus repeated. In Matthew 24:42 and 25:13, we read, "Watch, therefore."  

Be on the lookout! And what for? For His return. 

Over 2,000 years have now passed, and Christians are still looking. Does that mean He isn't coming? Does that mean His word is false or has failed? Hardly. It simply means His return is closer today than it was when He first promised. 

Throughout the centuries, the instruction has remained, "Watch." And not just idly but actively. Jesus' instruction through the parables, woes, and other topics throughout Matthew 21-25 gives us insight into the activity of watching. 

In Matthew 25:1-12 Jesus gives the parable of the Ten Virgins. Five were ready and watching; five were not. In Luke 12:40, Jesus puts it this way, "Be ye therefore ready also: for the Son of man cometh at an hour when ye think not."

The wise, faithful servant stays prepared, active, and on the lookout. His stance is not one of slumbering or laziness but effective care, service, and due diligence to be ready for the Master's return. Matthew 24:37-41 tells us that life will go on as normal, but one day, there will be a snatching away - the rapture of the believers. 

This week, as we prepare to celebrate our Lord's resurrection, is a good time to be on the lookout and on the look-in! Are we ready? Are we prepared? Are we watching? In a moment when you think not, as He said, He will return. 

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Week Twelve - But I Have Prayed For You

Jesus tells Simon Peter, "But I have prayed for thee." Just think about that statement! Jesus, the Redeemer, God incarnate, prayed for Peter. And not only that, He pleads for us. He is our advocate before the throne of God.

What prompted this comment by Jesus was the threat upon Peter's life from Satan himself.  "Simon, Simon," Jesus says, "behold Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat." Jesus didn't say, "Go and pray for yourself." That might be good advice, but that's not what Jesus said. He doesn't say, "I will keep you watchful so you can fight him off." Instead, Jesus assures Peter of His personal intervention through intercessory prayer. The full comment reads, "But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren."

Spurgeon says, "Little do we know of what we owe to our Saviour's prayers." I find it totally precious and personal that Jesus prayed for Peter, and I find it humbling and amazing to think He would be praying for me. How wonderful to think that Jesus' prayers held back any mischief Satan could have done in our lives.

Spurgeon again writes, "How we shall thank Him because He never held His peace, but day and night pointed to the wounds upon His hands, and carried our names upon His breastplate!"

Notice this. Even before Satan began to tempt Peter, Jesus had already entered a plea in heaven. "Mercy outruns malice." Jesus checked Satan even in his very desire and nipped it in the bud. He entered a counterplea to the heavenly court even before an accusation was made.

"O Jesus, what a comfort it is that You have pleaded our cause against our unseen enemies; countermined their mines, and unmasked their ambushes." (Spurgeon)

That brings me to the idea of intercessory prayer. We aren't omniscient like Jesus, but we can pray ahead of time, too. Satan comes to steal and destroy, but the prayers of God's people thwart his plans. Are you praying for your grandchildren? Not just for them as they are today, but for their future spouse and career? Are you pleading with the Lord for their salvation and sanctification? Are you praying for safety over those loved ones who are traveling or commuting? Are you praying for a hedge of protection around your pastor and your church? Satan desires to sift us all, but through intercessory prayer, we call God into future situations.

"I have prayed for you." Can you say that? Are you an intercessor for others?

Wednesday, March 13, 2024

Week Eleven - The Comparison Trap

Don't you find conversations annoying that are marked by trying to outdo the other person? Where the next story grows grander than the previous, and emphasis is placed on who is better or bigger. It's like playing King of the Mountain with words. 

Here's the thing about comparison: No one ever truly wins. Why? Comparison is a trap of pride; it hinders God's work in your life.

Let's consider a few thoughts.

1) Comparison creates obstacles in relationships. When we participate in comparison, people begin to avoid us. No one wants to be constantly judged and weighed by the words of a prideful person.

2) Comparison hinders our growth. We cripple our development when we play the comparison game because the lack of wisdom heard in our words and seen in our actions overshadows our potential, good qualities, and abilities.

3) Comparison fosters fear and misunderstanding. Verbal bullying and intimidation of others cause them to avoid us and make people fearful that association with us might damage their reputation. We are viewed as power-hungry and insensitive. 

4) It limits our faith and spiritual growth when we are constantly trying to make ourselves look better than someone else. It also blocks fellowship and taints ministry. That must be why God says, "For we dare not make ourselves of the number, or compare ourselves with some that commend themselves: but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise." 2 Corinthians 10:12

So what should we do? Let's remember that God is not a respector of persons. He views us all equally with love and accountability. We must examine our hearts and see if we are guilty of this comparison trap. 

Do we brag? Do we try to make others look smaller and ourselves look grander? Do we feel the urge to compete or feel we must be seen? If so, these are signs of immature and prideful thoughts.

It would be best to entrust ourselves to God and refrain from bragging and showboating. When we stand before Him, there will be no place for comparison. We will stand alone and answer solely for ourselves. How much sweeter and wiser would it be not to be found guilty of comparison?

Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Week Ten - The Hand of God

As morning broke, my prayers began, and my heart brimmed with praise for God's greatness and the majesty of His creation. His sovereign dealing with men and ultimate rule over all humbled me and brought rejoicing as I praised Him for His hand upon my life.

Then, I went to my little study to do my morning devotions, and God, through the writings of Spurgeon from over a hundred years ago, met me there.

"The hand of God," Spurgeon wrote, "strengthens my soul and lifts the spirit upward toward eternal things." And that is what I had already experienced in my early morning prayers. God's hand heals, "cooling the heat of my burning brow and staying the tumult of my palpitating heart." Unwearied, the hand of God bears "the earth's huge pillars up and sustains my spirit." Loving me and all the saints, in majesty, "breaking the enemy into pieces to subdue my sins."

The hand of God upon my life gives me confidence, assurance, pleasure, comfort, and peace. I am always humbled and blessed when I meditate on God's loving hand involved in every area with love, power, and faithfulness.

A quick look through the Word reveals more about God's hand.

In 2 Samuel 24:14, David fell into God's hand for blessing.

In 1 Kings 18:46, Elijah was strengthened by the hand of God, and in Ezra 7:6 & 28, Ezra's was strengthened by the same.

Psalms 118:1 and 16 tell us God's hand does valiantly, and in Proverbs 21:1, we read that the king's heart is in God's hand.

If you have ever read the book of Ezekiel, you will find the mention of God's hand throughout the book. This prophet knew God's power, and His hand was upon Ezekiel's life and ministry.

When we turn to the New Testament, we read that the hand of God was upon Jesus in Luke 1:66, on the disciples in Acts 11:21, and on the apostle Paul in Acts 13:11.

And, it is upon us, His children, for blessing, direction, protection, and all we might need.

So, when we come to John 10:29, we can humble and thankfully receive the promise of security. Nothing, no one can pluck us out of the hand of God, our Father, or our Saviour's hand. We are doubly secure.

Dear friend, do you know assuredly that God's hand of blessing is upon your life? I hope so because the flip side isn't as beautiful.

God's hand is also known as a hand of judgment against those who stand against Him. And His is the final judgment. None of us escape the hand of God. So today, make sure you are on the right side of this truth.