Saturday, June 29, 2013

The Message

"To what then can I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? 
They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling out to each other:
'We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;
we sang a dirge, and you did not cry.'" Luke 7:31-32

Jesus, speaking to a crowd in the marketplace after performing signs and wonders, admonishes them for refusing to be pleased by either His ministry or John the Baptist's. Those who had repented and been baptized found it easy to believe the things that Jesus said. But those with hardened hearts were hypocritical. "This is the ruin of multitudes, they can never persuade themselves to be serious in the concerns of their souls." (Henry)  "If the message is unwelcome, nothing the messenger can say or do will be right." (Macleren)

So, shall we just stop trying? By all means, no! We have been called to be like Jesus, to preach the good news to the poor. Only God knows the condition of one's heart. Whether to one or one thousand, rich or poor, open-minded or hard hearted - regardless of the response I get - we are given the same instruction, preach the gospel. My words, my actions, my life, should point to the One I live for...Jesus.

Father God, help my thoughts and actions line up with Your will and Your ways, for out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks. I want my life to be a reflection of You; an accurate display of the gospel. In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Foiled Plans

"The LORD foils the plans of the nations; He thwarts the purposes of His peoples. But the plans of the LORD stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations." Psalm 33:10-11

God's plan always wins out. The craftiest, most thoughtful, carefully calculated plans, as good intentioned as they may be, will be foiled by the LORD if they do not fit into His grand plan. Kings and rulers have been baffled and frustrated when their efforts proved in vain. The LORD is clear in His Word when He says, "The heart of the man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" in Proverbs 16:9. Instead we are instructed in Proverbs 16:3, "commit your work to the LORD, and your plans will be established." (Some versions say, "your plans will succeed".) If God orders it to be, then it will be. If God says it shall not stand, then regardless of how hard we may try, it will not come to pass - not as we thought anyway!

When I submit my plans to the LORD in prayer and seek His divine direction, I have a choice to make when the answer is received: obey and do things His way, or disobey and rely on my own strength and risk my plans being thwarted. The latter never works out. I am living out such consequences even now over something that would seem silly to the average person. The difference is, I know that I know my plans were foiled because I did not heed the Lord's direction. I pressed on with all my good intentions of being a blessing, but God has seen to it that my plans have not worked out, and I've been left "holding the bag" so to speak. He's teaching me up close and personal that even when my heart is good and my plans are good, if He says "no" I must concede because HIS ways are always best. If I really believe that, then I will choose to obey!

Help me Jesus to remember to commit my plans to You, and be willing to adjust when You choose to redirect me. I only want Your best for me! In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Blessings Forfeited

"Say you are my sister, so that I will be treated well for your sake and my life will be spared because of you." Genesis 12:13

In this passage (Genesis 12:10-20), Abram and Sarai sojourn to Egypt during a severe famine in the land of Canaan. Afraid of being killed, fear consumes Abram and he falls into sin when he asks his wife to lie (v. 13). He instructs her to say she is his sister so he will be protected, instead of trusting God for protection and provision. Upon further study, it is made mention that Sarai really is Abram's half sister, so there was partial truth, but his intent was deceptive. In following through with the request, Abram and Sarai fail under trial and forsake the Lord's blessing.

Matthew Henry's Commentary on the passage summarizes it this way, "for we tempt God, and do not trust Him, if, in the time of distress, we use not the means He has graciously provided for our preservation." To Abram's credit, they did not return to their native land when the famine got too hard to bear. He chose to go to Egypt instead so they would not so much as look back to the place from which they'd come. Though most known for his faith in the scriptures, Abram's fear in this case, caused him to fall into unbelief, and he stopped trusting in God's promises and abilities long enough to give way to sin.

Where have I failed in the same way? When have I forgotten God's faithfulness and let fear take root, causing my mind to doubt those things I know full well to be true? Has my unbelief led me to sin? Do I realize the blessings I forfeit when I do not trust God, in spite of how dismal my circumstances may seem at the time?

Father God, You alone are my Provider and Protector and You are trustworthy. Even when my circumstances tell me to fear, help me as I trust in You! In Jesus' name I pray, amen.

Monday, June 24, 2013

I Stand in Awe

"They were all filled with awe and praised God. 'A great prophet has appeared among us,' they said. 'God has come to help His people.' This news about Jesus spread throughout Judea and the surrounding country." Luke 17:16-17 (NIV)

The immediate reaction of the widow and onlookers after Jesus brought her son back to life was a holy fear. Fear that produced awe, followed spontaneously with praise to the Father. Once they wrapped their minds around what had taken place they realized this 'Jesus' among them was a man of great power - a prophet as far as they knew - and through Him, God had come to help His people. They could not contain their awe and praise - it just flowed out of them and they spread the word throughout Judea and the surrounding countries.

The Lord in His goodness and His greatness should be feared. His redeeming power should leave me in awe. My awe should lead me to glorify my Father through words of praise on my lips. My dead soul was rescued and brought back to life, and my God redeemed me. Let me forever be pointing people to Him!

Father God, I stand in awe of all the things You have done for me. I am in awe of Your power to rescue, redeem and restore. Thank You for the opportunities You give me to speak of Your faithfulness. May there always be praise on my lips and a holy fear in my heart. I ask this in Jesus' name, amen.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Find Rest, O My Soul

"Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven, whose sins are covered." Psalm 32:1

I have come to realize that my personal happiness and well being is very much dependent upon how "clean" I am before Holy God, on a moment by moment basis. My sin affects the flow of my relationship with God, my relationship with others, and the weight of my spirit (because sin creates baggage).

My God calls me to confession. In order to walk free and have clean hands and a pure heart before Him, I must know His Word so I can quickly recognize my transgressions, and repent of my sins. When my sins are forgiven, they are lifted up and carried away by Christ; consequences may remain, but my due punishment is cancelled. The pardon of my sin then eases my burden...the "heavy burden, like a load on the back, that makes [me] stoop, or a load in the stomach, that makes [me] sick, or a load on the spirit, that makes [me] sink." (Matthew Henry)  Sin lays me low in the Father's presence, and when my conscience is awakened, makes me loathe myself, too. Only when I have recognized my sin and repented of it to the Father am I reconciled with Him. In repenting I must turn away with no plans to sin in that way again, for sin is the curse that obstructs the blessings of the Lord, renders me unfit before the Father, ineffective in ministry, and weighs my spirit down. Forgiveness is the method God has appointed to give rest to our souls. And in forgiveness, freedom is of found.

Father God, My greatest desire is to walk freely in Your presence with clean hands and a pure heart. I want to daily abide in You. I want the overflow of Jesus in me to be a blessing to those around me. I confess that I have not been filling up on You to that point for the better part of two years. I ask for Your forgiveness and am grieved over all the instruction and nuggets of wisdom I have missed out on because of my limited time in Your Word. In my busyness, in brokenheartedness, and in putting sleep in place of You, I am truly the one who has missed out - and my obedience to write fell to the wayside. Thank You Jesus for Your forgiveness. In my disobedience my soul has been unsettled. Help me now to find my rest in You. In Jesus' trustworthy name I pray, amen.