Archive for August 4, 2012
Tags: David, Dr. Seuss, God, Israel, Lord, Psalm, Samuel, Saul
“How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever?” Psalm 13:1
He’s right of course. Life can be going along smoothly, but eventually, to some degree or another, trouble happens. So what do you do when life takes a turn for the worse? When your dreams explode in your face? What do you do when deep disappointment dangles you over the abyss of despair by a fine thread? When it seems as though there is no movement from heaven on your behalf—that maybe God has abandoned you?
Maybe you can relate to how David felt when he poured out his heart to God in Psalm 13:1-6. Although Samuel had anointed him to be the next king of Israel, David found himself running for his life and hiding out in caves as King Saul chased him month after month, year after year. No doubt David was tired of living like a fugitive. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. And so, he finally filed a complaint: “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?”
I’m so thankful that David introduces us to the freedom to be honest with God about how we feel. My guess is that most of us can probably identify with the insecurity and instability David felt. We may not be running like fugitives, but we know what it feels like to have people against us, or to feel like the odds are stacked against us. This may surprise you, but God doesn’t expect us to approach Him with a 24-hour smile. In fact, I like to think that He has a complaint department in heaven with a big “Welcome” sign over the door. The problem is, we are so quick to complain to all the wrong people, when really, God is the only One who can do something about it. As Dr. Seuss admits, “Un-slumping yourself is not easily done,” but perhaps a good place to start might be approaching God honestly with how we feel about our circumstances.
I find it interesting that after David started talking to God about his feelings, suddenly his complaint turned to more of a plea, begging for God’s help. “Look on me and answer, O Lord my God. Give light to my eyes, or I will sleep in death” (Psalm 13:3). What began as a complaint quickly turned to compliant confidence in God’s character, as David acknowledged God’s power to save him. You can almost see his confidence building as he finally declared, “But I trust in your unfailing love; my heart rejoices in your salvation” (Psalm 13:5).
It’s a reminder that in the midst of crisis we can find great confidence in the power of God to rescue us and turn the situation into something good. When we are in the presence of God—even if it’s in His “Complaint Department”—we are reminded of His steadfast love and faithfulness. So go ahead, file your complaint, and wait for God to surround you with the confidence-inspiring security of His presence.
- Have you ever been in a situation where you felt insecure and unstable in your circumstances? What did you do about it?
- Do you think it’s okay to complain to God? Why, or why not?
- What aspects of God’s character inspire confidence in times of crisis?
Tags: Christ, Christian, Christianity, First Epistle to the Corinthians, God, Jerusalem, Jesu, Luke
He took the twelve aside . . . —Luke 18:31
We tend to say that because a person has natural ability, he will make a good Christian. It is not a matter of our equipment, but a matter of our poverty; not of what we bring with us, but of what God puts into us; not a matter of natural virtues, of strength of character, of knowledge, or of experience— all of that is of no avail in this concern. The only thing of value is being taken into the compelling purpose of God and being made His friends (see 1 Corinthians 1:26-31). God’s friendship is with people who know their poverty. He can accomplish nothing with the person who thinks that he is of use to God. As Christians we are not here for our own purpose at all— we are here for the purpose of God, and the two are not the same. We do not know what God’s compelling purpose is, but whatever happens, we must maintain our relationship with Him. We must never allow anything to damage our relationship with God, but if something does damage it, we must take the time to make it right again. The most important aspect of Christianity is not the work we do, but the relationship we maintain and the surrounding influence and qualities produced by that relationship. That is all God asks us to give our attention to, and it is the one thing that is continually under attack.
Tags: Bethany, Galilee, God, Jesu, Jews, Last Supper, Mount Olives, Passover
Jesus Praises A Woman Who Gave Her Best
While Jesus was at dinner at Bethany in the house of Simon, the jar-maker, a woman came in with an alabaster jar of pure perfume, which was very costly. Breaking the jar she poured the perfume over his head. Some said to each other in indignation, “Why this waste of perfume? It might have been sold for more than three hundred silver pieces and the money given to the poor.”
But because they found fault with her, Jesus said, “Let her alone, why do you trouble her? She has done me a beautiful service. The poor are with you always; to them you can do good whenever you wish, but me you will not always have. She has done what she could; she has poured oil on my body beforehand for burial. I tell you, wherever through all the world the good news is told, this deed of hers will be told in memory of her.”
Jesus Eats The Last Supper With His Disciples
Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve disciples, went to the high priests with the intention of betraying Jesus. And when they heard, they rejoiced, promising to give him money; and he began to look for an opportunity to betray him.
On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when the Jews kill the lambs that are sacrificed at the Passover Feast, Jesus’ disciples said to him, “Where do you wish us to make ready for your passover meal?”
So Jesus sent two of his disciples, saying to them, “Go into the city, where you will meet a man carrying a jar of water. Follow him and say to the owner of whatever house he enters, ‘The Master says, Where is my room in which I may eat the passover meal with my disciples?’ He will show you a large upper room already furnished. There make ready for us.” So the disciples went into the city and found things as he had said they would; and they prepared for the Passover.
When it was evening Jesus came with his twelve disciples; and while they were eating at the table, he said, “I know surely that one of you now eating with me will betray me.” In deep sorrow the disciples said to him, one after the other, “Surely it is not I?” He said to them, “It is one of the twelve, one who is dipping his fingers into the dish with me. The Son of Man will depart as it has been foretold of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would be better for that man if he had never been born!”
Then Jesus took the bread and, when he had given thanks to God, he broke it and said, “This is my body which is broken for you; do this in remembrance of me.”
In the same way, after he had eaten, Jesus took the cup, and when he had given thanks to God, he gave it to his disciples and they drank of it. Then he said, “This is the new covenant made by my blood which is shed for many. As often as you drink this cup, do it in remembrance of me.” Then after singing a hymn they went out to the Mount of Olives.
There Jesus said to them, “You will all desert me, for it is written in the scriptures: ‘I will smite the shepherd and the sheep will be scattered.’ But after I have risen, I will go before you into Galilee.” Peter said to him, “Though all others should desert you, I will not.” Jesus said to him, “Indeed I tell you, this very night before the cock crows you will deny three times that you know me.” But Peter said more emphatically, “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you.” And all of them said the same.
Tags: Christ, Ear, Galilee, God, Hearing, Jesu, Lord, Word
Ye cannot hear my word–Joh 8:43
No One Could Complain That They Could Not Hear
I should think that when these words were spoken they must have caused a great deal of perplexity. They seemed a contradiction of the facts. There are speakers whom one cannot hear well. It is a common complaint against the clergy. But I do not imagine for one moment that this complaint was ever made of Jesus. He could be heard in the confines of the crowd. Every word He spoke was audible in the clear, still air of Galilee. Even the officers had to bear their testimony that never man spake like this man. And one can easily picture the perplexity of those who that day were round about Him when our Lord said, “Why do ye not understand my speech? even because ye cannot hear my word.”
Hearing Depends on Character
So one comes to feel that for our Lord, hearing was not a physical activity. It was rather the reaction of the soul on the syllables which fall upon the ear. Just as two men may look at the same scene, yet see in it very different things, so may they listen to the same set of words, yet hear the most dissimilar suggestions. It was of such hearing, such spiritual receptivity, that our Lord was thinking when He said, “Ye cannot hear my word.” For it is not with the ear we hear; it is with the character and spirit. It is by all that we have set our hearts upon, by everything that we have struggled for. Every temptation we have ever met, every sin we have ever fought and mastered, determines the kind of thing that we shall hear as we take our journey through the world. Live meanly and you hear meanly, though you be listening to the Lord Himself. Live nobly and you hear nobly, though all that the ear catches is but commonplace. There is a great responsibility in speaking if for every word we are to give account; but our Lord was equally aware of the tremendous responsibility of hearing.
The Selective Power of Personality
One finds that selective power of personality in one of the best known of the Gospel narratives. For we read in St. John that when the Father’s voice was heard, “some said it thundered, and others that an angel spoke to him.” It was the same voice that broke on every ear, and yet to one it sounded like the angels, and to another there was nothing in it save the roll of the thunder in the hills. Had the ear been the one instrument of hearing, that diverse record would have been impossible. But these men were not hearing with the ear; they were hearing by what they were. All their past, their habit and their trend, their way of taking the common things of life, leapt to the light, unconsciously, in the interpretation of the Lord’s voice. That is what is happening constantly. Our verdict on others is our own verdict. Often our judgment of minister or sermon is really the judgment of ourselves. We are listening, not with the bodily ear, but with our loves and hates, our grudges and dislikes. We are listening with the hidden heart. That is why the Master said so sternly, “Ye cannot hear my word.” There was no physical impossibility. The impossibility was spiritual. Prejudices, jealousies, and antagonisms made the real Christ inaudible to them though His every syllable fell upon their ear.
What We Hear Is an Unconscious Revelation of Ourselves
Then one remembers how, in the Gospel of St. Mark, our Lord says, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mar 4:24). That is a very different thing from saying, “Take heed therefore how ye hear” (Luk 8:18). There is a sense, of course, familiar to everybody, in which we cannot help the things we hear. No one can escape the city’s uproar when walking in the city streets. But our Lord knew that many things we hear really depend upon our character and would never reach us if we were only different. There are those to whom we would never dream of gossiping; they do not hear it because of what they are. Nobody brings them nasty or lewd tales, and that, just because of their known character. So very often the sort of thing we hear depends on the sort of character we bear, and therefore for what we hear we are responsible. That is why our Lord says, “Take heed what ye hear.” The kind of thing we hear is an unconscious revelation of ourselves. And that is why, too, looking across His audience, to whom His every syllable was clear, He said, “Ye cannot hear my word.” “My sheep hear my voice”–they hear it because they love the Shepherd. They hear it because, through faith and love, they are attuned to the message and the meaning. So does our Lord clearly recognize the tremendous responsibility of hearing. It is those who are of the truth that hear His voice (Joh 18:37).
Tags: 1924 Summer Olympics, Chariots of Fire, China, Christ, Eric Liddell, God, Liddell, Lord's Day
A more agonizing dilemma had come a year earlier when Eric was asked to speak about his faith in Christ to a group of coal miners. Liddell said of his struggle: “My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction, and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ—after all if He called me to do it, then He would have to supply the necessary power. In going forward the power was given me.”
The day after agreeing to publicly share his faith, Eric received a letter from his sister, Jenny, in China. Written weeks before, it ended with this verse of Scripture: “Fear not for I am with you; be not dismayed for I am your God; I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you; yes, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isa. 41:10).
Every call from God is an opportunity for us to say “Yes,” trusting His strength and not our own.
Tags: Bible, Christ, Christian, God, God Father, Jesu, John, Lord
Tests of Love
The Christian cannot be certain of the reality and depth of his love until he comes face-to-face with the commandments of Christ and is forced to decide what to do about them. Then he will know. ?He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings? (John 14:24), said our Lord. ?He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me” (John 14:21). So the final test of love is obedience. Not sweet emotions, not willingness to sacrifice, not zeal, but obedience to the commandments of Christ. Our Lord drew a line plain and tight for everyone to see. On one side He placed those who keep His commandments and said, ?These love Me.? On the other side He put those who keep not His sayings, and said, ?These love Me not.?
Tags: Christ, Divine grace, Epistle to the Ephesians, God, Good works, grace, Jesu, Jesus Christ
Throughout Romans, Paul has been dealing with the question of how we are made right with God. Is it through our own efforts? Our own good works? Or is it through God’s grace offered in Jesus Christ? Paul’s answer is that we are made right with God only by the grace given in Christ, whose death brought us new life. This is true even for the Jews, who received God’s law and were to live in faithfulness by keeping the law. Yet the foundation for their relationship with God was not their own efforts, but God’s grace, that which is free and undeserved.
Sometimes Protestant Christians, of which I am one, have, in our correct emphasis on grace, neglected the value of good works. Yes, we are saved only by grace through faith. But that’s not the end of the story. In Ephesians 2, the fact that we are saved by grace provides the foundation for a new life of good works: “For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago” (Eph. 2:10).
Because we are saved by God’s unmerited kindness and favor, we do not have to worry about trying to earn God’s salvation through what we do. But, in response to the amazing gift of grace, we offer our lives to God, seeking to do the good works that he has planned for us. Our works are, therefore, a form of worship, through which we honor God in every facet of our lives.
QUESTIONS FOR REFLECTION: Are you ever tempted to think that you can and should earn God’s favor through your works? What helps you to rely confidently on God’s grace? How does grace lead to good works in your life?
PRAYER: Gracious and merciful God, how utterly thankful I am that I belong to you because of your grace. I know that I am saved “by grace alone,” and for this glorious truth I am eternally grateful.
Yet, strangely enough, I am sometimes tempted to minimize your grace, and to think that I must earn your favor by what I do. Forgive me, Lord, for such foolishness. Help me to live each day in utter reliance upon your grace. As I do, may I indeed walk in the good works you have planned for me. May your grace within me grow into works that glorify you and extend your kingdom in this world. In the name of Jesus, I pray, Amen.
Tags: Bible, Christianity, Dark Tranquillity, God, Israel, Lord, NLT, Religion & Spirituality
“I will be faithful to you and make you mine.” Hos 2:20 NLT
You can be loved by many, but deep down you’ll feel needy and insecure until you understand how God feels about you. The Bible says:
(1) God wants you to be happy. “I have loved you, my people, with an everlasting love. With unfailing love I have drawn you to myself. I will rebuild you…You will again be happy” (Jer 31:3-4 NLT). (2) God will never walk out on you. “He Himself has said, ‘I will never leave you nor forsake you’” (Heb 13:5 NKJV). You say, “But what about my failures and shortcomings?” Nothing about you surprises God or changes His mind about you. He’s totally committed to you. “If we are unfaithful, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny who he is” (2Ti 2:13 NLT). (3) God thinks you are valuable. “Do not be afraid, for I have ransomed you. I have called you by name; you are mine. When you go through deep waters …I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown. When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you. For I am the Lord, your God…you are precious to me. You are honored, and I love you. Do not be afraid, for I am with you” (Isa 43:1-5 NLT). (4) God never takes His eye off you. “There is no one like the God of Israel. He rides across the heavens to help you… The eternal God is your refuge, and his everlasting arms are under you. He drives out the enemy before you” (Dt 33:26-27 NLT). So live in God’s love. It’s the most secure place on earth!