Power to Prevail

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.  The prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.
(James 5:16)

Have you ever served in ministry without being there?  I have.  I didn’t help set up.  I didn’t help with crafts or drama or meals.  I didn’t even attend the event; I was actually not even in the area.  But I served. I served in a powerful way.  I served in prayer.  Yes, prayer.  I may not have been physically present at the outreach, but my prayers were heard by the One in control of it.  And I know He honored them as well.

Oftentimes we don’t give prayer enough credit; we know we should pray (and we do pray over meals, at bedtime, and during “important” times), but we don’t always believe our prayers have much of an impact. We think of prayer as passive—as something we offer up when things go awry or  when “there’s nothing else I can do.”

But prayer is powerful–very powerful.  Prayer has great power to prevail.  Do you know what “prevail” means?  It means more powerful than the opposing forces.  This means whatever opposes us–fear, doubt, sickness, uncertainty, failure–no matter how seemingly impossible a situation looms before us this very moment–the prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.  Not just power; great power. The prayer of righteous man is more powerful than whatever or whoever is opposing him.

Now before you allow the enemy to whisper in your ear, “Well, you’re not righteous, so your prayer has no power,” let me remind you of something very important: we can come boldly before the throne of grace because of what Jesus did for us on the cross.  By tearing in two that wall of separation and by clothing us in His righteousness, Jesus also equipped us with the ultimate defensive and offensive weapon:  prayer.  We can talk with God, cry out to God, worship God, and ask God anything and everything in prayer. And we can do so knowing God hears and God answers, for according to 1 John 5:14-15, “This is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

Although in essence prayer is simply talking to God, there is nothing “simple” about it. Prayer is active, prayer is effective, and prayer is powerful.  It is also a privilege.  We must never lose sight of the honor it is to have access to the One who rules the universe.  The God of all creation–the very One who created each of us–the holy, righteous, omniscient, omnipotent God of all–has granted us access to Him through prayer.  And not only does He provide access; He answers!

Read with me what James reminds his readers right after telling them about the power of prayer: Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit (James 5:17-18).  This means, in the same way Elijah as a child of God (which you are in Christ Jesus) asked of God, expected God, and saw God move through prayer, so too you can approach God in prayer expecting mighty things–expecting to prevail

No, I’m not saying God is the great vending machine in the sky.  You can’t put your prayers in like money, press your selection, and wait for Him to deliver.  But I am saying that when you seek Him in prayer with a heart that longs to hear His voice and see His will, you can expect Him to move.  You can know the prayer of a righteous man has great power to prevail.

Therefore, let me encourage you today in a few ways.  First of all, don’t limit prayer.  Pray to God daily.  Talk with Him about everything; He’s always listening.  He wants to hear from you.  There is great power in His presence; and when you pray, you are in His presence.  Second, don’t be afraid to pray.  Pray for people you know. Pray for people you don’t.  Pray as you’re walking, driving, riding–in whatever you are doing, pray.  Pray without ceasing (1 Thessalonians 5:17).  God hears every prayer you pray; and He answers as well.  And finally, if you are facing a struggle today, pray with confidence.  Pray knowing you are accessing God–the God of all who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above anything you could ever ask or think. Pray for that person you long to come to know the Lord.  Pray for that job you so desperately need.  Pray for the child who has gone astray or the husband who needs healing.  Pray.  And as you pray, know.  Know that the prayer of a righteous man (which you are) has great power to prevail.  Yes. Great. Power. To. Prevail.

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Patiently Waiting

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. But the day of the Lord will come like a thief…
2 Peter 3:9‭-‬10 ESV

Motivation. It’s the driving force behind everything we say and do as well as everything we do not say and do not do. Great motivation can can propel a person into marvelous feats of strength, endurance, and success. Lack of motivation will stunt the growth of its owner. The right motivation will often guide us into good, while the wrong motivation will often cause harm to us or to others.

No one acts without a motive, even if it is as simple as eating because we’re hungry. Furthermore, the how and the why behind everything we say and do, although it may be hidden from those around us most of the time, is always in view of our omniscient God. Yes, God knows the thoughts and intents of our hearts. Nothing is hidden from Him.

Nevertheless, we do not always know God’s thoughts and intents. As finite beings, our view of the events of this life is limited. We are not privy to the thoughts and intentions of those around us, and we are definitely unable to grasp the infinite wisdom of our God and our Lord. This is what makes passages like the one above so special, for it gives us a glimpse into God’s intentions.

Typically, when someone is slow in doing something, it is either because he is unmotivated, unable, or unskilled. My kids are slow in picking up their toys. A student will be slow in completing work he does not understand.  A new employee will be slow as he learns all the new procedures.

Yet human slow and God slow are not the same. God is not slow because He’s unable or unwilling; He’s slow because He’s patient. Yes, God is patiently waiting. He’s providing the time and opportunity necessary for all to have the chance to choose Him, for what God doesn’t want is that anyone should go to Hell. God is not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. So He’s waiting. That’s His motive. It’s not that he can’t move but that he won’t move until it’s time. Yet when the time comes, it will come as a thief–purposeful, surprising, and efficient.

God is the great promise keeper. This means Christ is returning. He will come back. He is just not doing it on our timetable–because His love longs for all to choose Him. Yes, all.

Therefore, let this encourage you today. First, be reminded that God always keeps His promises. Always. What God has promised will come to pass, so no matter what your current life situation may look like, you never have to wonder if God will do what He says He will do. You may just have to patiently wait for the when. Second, be ready for His return. He is coming. There is no doubt about that.  So be ready and redeem the time. Speak the truth. Share the truth. Be a willing vessel God can use to reach those He’s patiently waiting to call His own.

God is not slow, my friend; He’s patient. And He’s always on time. So run to Him today. Run to Him and then be still. Be still and know He is God. He will be exalted. He will come back. He will come through. He’s just waiting—patiently waiting because He loves you.

 

Put It Away

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you too once walked, when you were living in them. But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator Colossians 3:1‭-‬10 ESV

If you have kids, then you have toys. Lots of toys. You have trains, you have blocks, you have dolls, art supplies, puzzles, games, and a variety of gadgets. And if you have all of the above, you’ve also probably tripped over and stepped on them multiple times because, well, not many kids naturally clean up their things on their own. They must be told to do so. This is why “Put it all away,” is a common direction in my household.  “Put the Legos back on the Lego table.” “Put the markers back in the marker drawer.” “Put those dirty clothes in the laundry basket.” “Put the toys back in the appropriate bins.” “Put it all away!”

And it is this daily reminder to put it all away that came to mind as I read the above passage from Colossians 3. In the passage Paul reminds us we must put away what we no longer need: we must put away the old self with all of its sinful desires.

If you are in Christ, you are a new creation. The old has gone; the new has come. Yet even though the new has come, we as believers often forget to or neglect to put the old away. We no longer want those sinful qualities, but we also don’t take the time to put them all away either. And what happens when the unused and unwanted things are left out?  We trip over them, others get hurt by them, or we become stressed at the sight of the clutter.

So like Paul, I exhort you today to put away the old you–put away the person you were before knowing Jesus. You are not the same person anymore. You are now hidden with Christ in God. You no longer need those worldly traits, for those behaviors and attitudes no longer fit who you are.

Who you are is a child of the King. So get rid of the rags you once wore. Let them go. Put them all away. Stop holding on to what you will never and should never wear again.

Jesus paid the ultimate sacrifice so you could be clean. He purchased you a whole new wardrobe–He clothed you with righteousness. Therefore, as Paul encourages us all, set your mind on what’s above, where Christ is, today. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God (Colossians 3:2-3). For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit (Romans 8:5). Therefore today and every day, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16).

Do It Afraid

as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening.
1 Peter 3:6 ESV

Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord.
Ephesians 5:22 ESV

And Abraham said of Sarah his wife, “She is my sister.” And Abimelech king of Gerar sent and took Sarah.
Genesis 20:2

I couldn’t imagine being in Sarah’s position as she walked out the events we read about in Genesis 20.  I wonder if she was thinking back to the events in Egypt.  They had been traveling because of a famine.  As they had entered Egypt, Abraham, afraid of the people, had Sarah tell everyone she was his sister, not his wife. Talk about a backhanded compliment!  “Honey, you are the most beautiful woman on earth–so beautiful my life is in danger because of you!  Now lie for me so that they don’t kill me.”  Not sure we could find that one on a Hallmark card.

Yet regardless how that conversation may have sounded at the time, Abraham’s plan had eventually backfired.  And now in Genesis 20, Sarah is again faced with a similar situation.   As they enter Gerar, Abraham proclaims Sarah as his sister, and Sarah goes along with it.  She doesn’t contradict him in front of Abimelech.  She doesn’t cry out, “Oh no you don’t, Abe!  I’m not going through this again!  No way am I going to let everyone believe I’m not your wife!  I may be physically beautiful, but in no way am I going to submit to your foolish schemes!”  If she had been thinking it (which I doubt she was), she didn’t speak it. Genesis 20:5 states she specifically responded with “He is my brother.”

Yes, Sarah was willing to be subject to Abraham’s authority, even if the outcome was filled with uncertainty.

And it is this situation that came to mind as I read 1 Peter 3 the other day.  In the section regarding how wives must behave, Peter explains we are to be submissive like Sarah: we are to be submissive even when it is frightening. Yes, even when it is frightening.

Now I must insert here that I am in no way implying we are to submit to abuse.  God does not call us to abuse.  If you are in an abusive situation, please remove yourself from it and get help.

What I am talking about is fear of the unknown, fear of what may happen, and fear of what others may think.  We are not to be afraid of the possible outcomes of submitting to our husbands.  Instead we must trust God’s ability to guide and to protect us with every step.  I am sure Sarah was a bit fearful as King Abimelech brought her into his home as his wife.  The what ifs had to be overwhelming.  Nevertheless, amidst the memories of the past and the uncertainty of the future, Sarah trusted that God knew her heart and God would protect her.  And God did.  God spoke to Abimelech in a dream and prevented the unspeakable from happening.

I am sure you know God calls us to scary places sometimes.  When He does, it is not our responsibility to know how it will all turn out; it is our responsibility to obey His call while trusting in His sovereignty.  In the same way,  we as wives are called to submit to our husbands as to the Lord, even when doing so is frightening.   No, we don’t have to be door mats, but we must be willing to be subject to their authority.  We must be willing to honor our husband’s God-given authority.  We must be willing to follow our husband’s lead knowing God has our backs.  We must go forth each day knowing our protection doesn’t depend upon our ability to call the shots; it resides in our willingness to submit.  As Proverbs 3:25-26 encourages us, “Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.”  In other words, we must trust in God’s sovereignty and protection as we follow God’s command to submit to our husbands as to Him.

I’m not sure what situation you may be faced with today.  Maybe your husband, in your opinion, isn’t making wise choices.  Maybe your husband wants to take a risk you believe unwise.  Maybe your husband feels called to something that requires you to walk way outside of your comfort zone.  Is a move in your future?  Are finances being stretched? Or is there something you desire to do that your husband does not want you to do? Whatever it is that may have you afraid or asking why this morning, I encourage you to go before God and surrender.  Surrender your fears.  Surrender your misgivings.  And then obey what God calls you to do.  Obey God’s voice.  And when God calls you to submit, then submit.  Submit to your husband as to God, even if doing so his scary.  For as you do, you can know that God sees your heart.  God sees your faithfulness.  And the God who sees in secret will one day reward you openly.

Keep on keeping on my friend.  Keep believing. Keep trusting.  Keep obeying.  Keep running the race that it set before you with diligence.  Keep serving our Savior in everything you say and do, even in submission, knowing that one day it will all be worth it as you hear your Savior say, “Well done, good and faithful servant…Come and share your master’s happiness!” (Matthew 5:23).

His Mind

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
Philippians 2:5‭-‬8 ESV

Yesterday was Mother’s Day–the day set aside to honor those who are the moms in our lives.  If you’re on Facebook, I’m sure you read post after post thanking moms for all they have done and continue to do for their children. Moms all over the world received texts, cards, phone calls and visits from those grateful for their presence in their lives.

But what about those moms who received nothing yesterday—no notes, no visit, no ounce of appreciation? How should they feel? Is the role of mom diminished when appreciation ceases?

Not in the least!

Our value doesn’t rest in the opinion of man. The praises, or lack thereof, of man do not indicate the level of our success. God does. God determines our worth. God determines our value. God is the one we must live to please.

Therefore, whether you wake up today still smiling from the joys of yesterday or you wake up to the same old busy, thankless routine–or even as the accolades of yesterday begin to fade–you must remember this: God not only calls you to but also provides you with the mind of Christ.  Really! Read the first verse in the above passage: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus… This means regardless what man says or doesn’t say, you can go through life with confidence and assurance that you are God’s child, chosen “for such a time as this.” You can have a mind like His.

What was the mind of Jesus like? We see it in the above passage. He was humble and obedient to the point of death, but even in death He knew who He was.

When Jesus went to the Cross, no one made a day of it to cheer Him on. No one encouraged Him,”Hey Jesus, You’ve got this. Keep your eyes on the prize. I appreciate you.” Nope. Jesus was despised, rejected, and abandoned. Yet even though man didn’t recognize nor encourage Him, Jesus knew who He was and what He was supposed to do.  The opinions of the men and women at the time of His death did not dissuade Jesus from doing what He was on earth to do. He humbled Himself to the point of death because He knew who He was. He knew the success of His mission was not related to the opinions of the people present to witness it.

What was the result? Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9‭-‬11 ESV).

By choosing God’s plan over the praises of man, Jesus allowed God to do the praising. In the same way, when we live our lives with the mind of Christ, we open the door for God to be glorified. When we walk in humility the way God leads, what man thinks will pale in comparison to knowing God sees everything and what God sees in secret, He will one day reward before all.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m all for days of celebration on this Earth. I thoroughly enjoyed the lunch and the ice cream cake and the time with the family yesterday. Nevertheless, even if that had not happened, and even if it never happens again, I can go forth each day in confidence and with joy knowing that I am where I am because God has called me to it. I can be at peace with where I am because I do it for the One who placed me there.

Therefore I encourage you today: take hold of the mind of Christ He’s given you. Walk through this day with the assurance that God sees it all. Know God has called you to walk this life in obedience to Him–even when obedience is mundane. Even when obedience comes without praise. Even when obedience comes with ridicule and rejection.

Christ may have lived on Earth but He lived for Heaven. Join me in having this same mind today. Let’s together commit to take hold of what is ours through Christ Jesus.  Let’s humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord so that He may lift us up. Let’s do all for the glory of God, not for the praises of man.  Let’s “have this mindwhich is yours in Christ Jesus.” Let’s have the mind of Christ.

 

Be the One

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 ESV

Life’s not fair. This is a principle we learn early and often. Someone will always do more work and get less credit. Someone will always do a poor job and get away with it. Yet regardless of the fairness of this life, God calls each of us to do our part for His glory. For God is not partial. Both the one who on earth seemed to get away with everything and the one who faithfully served without recognition will one day face the God who sees and knows all.

The key to living well is not found in the accolades of man. The key to success comes from the heart–it is birthed in our motives and in our attitude.

The above verses do not say we are to do things for man; rather, we are to do all for God. Nevertheless, when we do all things for the glory of God, we must remember, the glory of God does not equate with the recognition of man. I’ve come across people who do very little when the potential for greatness is well within their reach. They are placed in a position of influence and yet squander the opportunity with mediocrity and indifference. Now I confess, this often bothers me immensely.  I often find myself frustrated and even angry that they, in my opinion, are wasting a great opportunity and responsibility to do unto God’s glory.  And although many times I want to scream at the top of my lungs, “Do the right thing!” or “Stop being lazy!”–although I want to put on a judge’s robe and judge away–I am often confined by God to silence–to keeping my mouth shut for God’s glory–to trusting that God sees all and will hold all accountable. NOT an easy thing to do! And honestly, in recent weeks I have failed at keeping my mouth shut many times.

Yet each time I have caught myself complaining about the choices of others, God has reminded me of the advice I gave my fifth graders the other day after I heard complaints about certain kids not contributing in group work: You do the work. You be the one. If in a group and only one out of four is willing to work, be the one who works. If in a situation where people aren’t following the rules, be the one who does. In a job, when others appear to not put in an honest day’s work, be the one who does. In a world where many consider a commitment something negotiable and where work ethic is almost non-existent, be the one who works well even when no one else is looking. Let each of us do all to the glory of God. Let each of us work as unto God, not unto men. Whether we eat, drink, speak, or keep silent, let each of us be the one who is working for God’s glory and not for man’s. Let each of us glorify God, even when it doesn’t seem fair to do so

As I look back over my life there have been definite times when the opportunity for greatness was within my reach–when the opportunity to be the one to do for God’s glory was within my grasp–but I chose a different way. I chose my way. I chose the easy way. I didn’t do my best but wish I had. And I know I’m not alone. It is not very often you hear people declare that they wish they had not put forth their best effort. Most regrets acompany those who wish they had. Who wish they had put forth the effort that they knew they  were capable of. Who wish they had chosen the way that glorified God.

Therefore, I encourage you today to be the one. Commit to being the one in all situations. Aspire to do all things for the glory of God. For whether you are the highly favored one or the unknown in this world, you are seen and known by God. So work like it today. Walk like it today. Live like it today.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.
Matthew 5:16 KJV

 

 

Let’s Live It

The best apology may not be one you speak but one you live.

God spoke this to my heart this morning as I again approached Him about something I said in a conversation the other day. I say again because in recent weeks I have found myself leaving conversation after conversation with that sinking feeling that I said too much. Sometimes I spoke too much because I was frustrated. Other times I spoke too much because my personality leans toward analyzing and problem solving–even if others do not ask me to analyze a problem solve.

No matter my motivation for saying too much, though, after each conversation I would wrestle with whether or not I should go apologize to the one who had to listen to my words. I would ask God for forgiveness first (because all sin is first and foremost sin against God) and then ask Him if I should go back and make it right. Seriously, it has been a vicious cycle. Speak. Sin. Apologize. Repeat.

Until this morning–when God spoke to me the above. Rather than go back again and again to apologize for saying too much, I should work on ceasing the behavior itself.  God’s Word declares, “When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent” (Proverbs 10:19). Therefore, instead of continuing to sin, I need to pray for the grace to change. I need to pray as David did: Set a guard, O Lord , over my mouth; keep watch over the door of my lips! (Psalms 141:3). For I must remember, “…out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks (Luke 6:45).

Now why do I share this with you this morning? Well, you you may be like me and find yourself apologizing for a repeated behavior. It could be speaking too much. It could be doing too much. It could be not doing enough. Whatever sin keeps creeping back day after day leading you to seek forgiveness again and again, I encourage you, instead of just seeking forgiveness, seek change as well. Ask God for the grace, wisdom, and strength to change your heart.

Proverbs 4:23 reminds us all to, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.”  So join me today in choosing change. Let’s allow God to change our hearts as we follow His. Let’s not fall victim to the cycle of sin. Rather, let’s renew our hearts, refresh our minds, and rebuild our lives. Let’s not just say we’re sorry; let’s live it.

Perspective Matters

As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
1 Peter 2:4‭-‬5 ESV

Perspective–the way we see things–matters. Two people can be watching the same event, but if the perspective from which each of them views it is different, then the descriptions they give about the event will differ as well. Think about those who referee NFL football games. There are times two well-qualified referees view the same play yet make opposing calls. Does this make one referee better than the other? Not in the least. It just demonstrates that different perspectives change what we see. One ref could have been looking at the backside of the play and thus did not see the ball touch the ground, so he called a catch. The other ref may have been on the front side of the play, so he viewed the ball hit the ground and thus called incomplete. Both made accurate calls from their individual perspectives, but their individual perspectives were not the same.

Now look at the verse above. Christ is called the Living Stone. Yet not everyone esteemed Him precious. He was despised and rejected by man. Yet He was loved by God. Throughout Jesus’s life people questioned Him, ridiculed Him, and accused Him of being a liar and a blasphemer.  They did not understand Him and did not like Him. The religious leaders of the day did not want Jesus to be the one in charge, for they assumed Jesus was there to take away what they had. From their perspective, Jesus was a threat, so they killed Him.

But Jesus did not come to take away; Jesus came to give–to give them what they so desperately needed. From God’s perspective, Jesus was chosen. Jesus was precious.

Yet Jesus was rejected by man. Same person. Same actions. Yet viewed from different perspectives.

Now look at verse five. Who else does the Bible say is like a living stone?

You.

Yes, you. As God’s child, you are a living stone–a living stone God is using to build His Kingdom. You are “a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” (1 Peter 2:9). You are precious in the sight of God.

Does this mean everyone you come across will love you? Not in the least. Actually, it may be the very opposite. Because you are precious in the sight of God, because you are God’s child, and because He is using you, many people may not like you. They may view you in the same way they viewed Jesus: a threat they must despise, reject, and attempt to remove.

Yet the rejection of man does not change who you are. Regardless of what man may say and what man may do, you are God’s beloved, and you are God’s instrument of righteousness on this Earth. God has designed you to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.

Acceptable to God, not man.

So walk like who you really are today: God’s child. Walk in the light. Be a light. Remember the words of Jesus:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14‭-‬16 ESV)

Remember also these words: “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18‭-‬19 ESV)

Keep the right perspective today: God’s perspective. And sees yourself as God sees you: chosen, precious, beloved, and called. Called by God to love Him and to love people, even (and especially) when people don’t don’t understand and don’t love you back.

Just Keep Singing

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord ; let us make a joyful noise to the rock of our salvation! Let us come into his presence with thanksgiving; let us make a joyful noise to him with songs of praise! For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land. Oh come, let us worship and bow down; let us kneel before the Lord , our Maker! For he is our God, and we are the people of his pasture…
Psalms 95:1‭-‬7 ESV

“Just keep swimming. Just keep swimming. What do we do? We swim!.” Ah, those words from that forgetful blue fish Dory in Finding Nemo often come to mind when I am facing unforeseen or unpleasant circumstances. They are not scripture, but they do point me to the truth in scripture they encapsulate.

What’s the truth? Just keep singing. Yes, regardless the circumstances of our lives, we must keep singing–singing praise to our God. Especially when we don’t feel like it. Actually, the very times we don’t feel like praising are the times we should be praising the most.

Why? Because God never changes. Circumstances change. People change. Everything in this life changes. Except God. God never changes.  He is steadfast, immovable, and the same yesterday,  today, and forever. He is our Rock. This means no matter how bad life gets, God is still good. No matter how uncertain our future appears, God is still in control.  No matter how shaky the ground feels beneath our feet, God remains a Firm Foundation.

God is sovereign over all creation. And nothing and no one has the power to take that from Him. This is why we, as the psalmist above declares, are to enter His Presence with singing. We are to sing, not because of what is going on around us, but because of who God is.

And who is God?

For the Lord is a great God, and a great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth; the heights of the mountains are his also. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land.

God is great. He is King. And everything–yes, everything–is His. You are His. Creation is His. And even the circumstances plaguing your life this very moment are His.  No, they are not His in that He caused them, for God is not the author of evil. But they are His in that they’re under His authority. If God didn’t want them then God would not have allowed them.

Life’s not easy. I get that. Sickness. Death. Loss. These and so much more blow into our lives like tornadoes, leaving us wondering what just happened as we stare at the debris of what once was. Yet regardless the storms that may rage in our lives (and there will be storms!), God holds us and our lives in the palm of His hands. Nothing surprises him. Nothing is too big for him. And nothing will ever snatch us from His hands.

So remember today, there is no temptation and no struggle that you will face that God does not have the power and ability to walk you through. And there is no struggle or temptation that you may face that will ever change who God is. Therefore, keep walking, and keep singing as you walk. Keep singing knowing that not only is God a great God, but also He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture.

 

 

Sought and Found

“What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the open country, and go after the one that is lost, until he finds it?
Luke 15:4 ESV

“Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it?
Luke 15:8 ESV

And he arose and came to his father. But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him.
Luke 15:20 ESV

Have you ever lost something? I have. Lots of times. And oh the joy that always comes when I find what I have been looking for!  Jesus talks about this joy in the above parables. He explains the joy that comes when the lost item is found. Yet today the Holy Spirit brought me to the other side of these “lost and found” parables: the perspective of the one searching.

In the first parable, the shepherd does not give up until he finds that one sheep. He searches high and low until he finds it, and then he brings it home. In the second parable, the woman turns the light on, cleans, and searches diligently for that lost coin. Like the shepherd, she does not give up until she finds it.  With the Prodigal Son, that father was always keeping an eye out for his little boy. He was always watching for any signs that his son was coming home. We can tell because on that day that his son did start coming home, the father noticed him while he was “still a long way off.” The dad did not then wait until his son was close. Rather, at the first sign that his son was coming home, the father ran out to meet him.

So here are two things God showed me through these passages this morning. First of all, God never gives up on us. He never stops seeking His children. God does not want anyone to suffer eternity in Hell. He is “not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 ESV). And since God longs for us to know Him intimately, He will continually provide opportunities for us to draw near to Him. He will send that friend, that stranger, that Pastor, pretty much anything He can think of (and He thinks up a lot!), to reach out and draw us into His presence. Like the shepherd, God searches actively for us. Like the woman with the lost coin, God never gives up. And like the father, He will immediately notice, even if we are still far off, when we take that first step.

Which brings me to the second point. God does not make us walk all the way to Him. As soon as we take that first step toward Him, He comes running. I must admit I got teary-eyed this morning as I pictured the following scene from The Prodigal Son: But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and felt compassion, and ran and embraced him and kissed him. Oh, my heart! I could just imagine what that father was thinking as he looked out the window as he did so many times every day, hoping and waiting and praying that his son would come home. I could just picture how he caught his breath, rubbed his eyes, and thought to himself, “Is that really my son?!” And then when reality sunk in that it truly was his little boy coming home, the joy that must have overwhelmed him as he ran full force to greet his little boy!

And now you know this: that’s how God looks at you! God is not going to sit there looking out the window, see you coming, and then wait for you to get all the way back on your own. No, He’s going to run out to greet, to embrace, and to kiss you as He expresses such joy that you’re coming home. For the moment you draw near to God, He immediately draws near to you (James 4:8).  God will never deny the broken and contrite heart (Psalm 51:17).

Therefore today, let me encourage you to take that first step back home. Take that first step knowing that God has never stopped seeking you. God has never given up on you. And He never will. At the first sign of you coming home–as soon as you turn around to focus on the right path, He will meet you right where you are. He will run up to you, put His arm around you, and rejoice exceedingly as He continues with you to walk you the rest of the way home.

God loves you, my friend. He not only longs for you to come home, but He has also been and will continue to search for you diligently until you make your way home. So seek your Savior today.  Don’t wait for “the right time,” for the right time is now. And know this: when  you seek, you will find. You will find  a Shepherd, a Father, and a Friend with arms open wide declaring with a smile on His face and joy in His heart, “Welcome home!”