We have all been approached by salesmen who say you have to take advantage of this deal today because tomorrow it will be gone. Beware, these are very persuasive people! These were and are today the enemies we face. In Corinth there were those who sought to use these tactics to show Paul in the worst light possible. But God’s ways are not men’s. Truth will shine above the lies even though temporarily it may seem the other way around. As then it is true today, our true enemy is Satan and his goal is to dupe the unsuspecting, to deceive through any means possible. He targets those along the path of life who are seeking truth but often when the gospel is presented he comes and snatches it away lest they see the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ. Just as Paul, we too might be the target of the unscrupulous who seek to paint us in unflattering colors. This is not new for even the religious leaders tried this tactic with Christ. The truth of the matter is this: their temporal gain is their eternal loss.
So what do we do in situations like this? Take a lesson from Christ and Paul. Let your light shine through your earthen vessel for it is the light that dispels the darkness. If you are persecuted or knocked down remember this, Jesus will use this to present the gospel so that some will see and be converted while others will hear “you are without excuse.”
Precious One, do not despair, for your suffering is producing an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison. This is temporary but what cannot be seen is eternal.
Life seems so short. This week seeing the children I taught now with their own children growing up so fast was a wake – up call as to the fleeting life I now live in contrast to the permanence of God. I am just like a rose in God’s garden, I need tending but eventually the rose will fade and so will I. That is why I must redeem each day for Him as I was reminded recently when a young family’s life was cut short and all 5 entered eternity from the 2 mos. old infant to the 5 yr old child, the 3 yr old child along with their parents. We never know when God will call us home. Do I want to hear well done thou good and faithful servant? My answer is yes. .
Before God created the world as we know it, God was eternal and He still is so. A 24 hr day to us is like a thousand years in God’s sight. This is the true meaning of God being omniscient, omnipotent.
As God created me he placed eternity in my heart [Eccl 3] that I might know and seek the eternal significance of what I do. And like a beautifully crafted tapestry, each thread I weave creates a picture of my life from birth to death.
And so with these thoughts I turned to Psalm 90 where these thoughts were ever before me: Life is fleeting; enjoy now but invest wisely in that which will count for eternity. Vs 3 reminds us that God makes mankind return to dust. Only our tombstone will recall the life we have lived. James says we are frail and like grass, we grow and we wither with the heat of the sun. The woman who came to King David spoke of life and death in 2Sam 14. She gave King David a visual illustration of life: we shall surely die and be like water spilled out on the ground. But too she saw beyond the grave to see that God does not take away life as our eternal end but rather has made plans so that we may not be cast from Him. It is called salvation and the price has been paid by His Beloved Son so that we might live eternally with Him.
Dead men do not sin; Living Men Embrace Grace. [Romans 6 and 7]. As parents, we know the joy of our children’s obedience and the sadness when they step across the line into disobedience. It is not just our children but we too struggle. The psalmist reminds us that we are only truly happy when we obey and follow. Perhaps that is why he prayed “if only” I was focused on the eternal perspective. The psalmist said these are the ones who are blameless choosing to die to the Law and be alive “in” Christ.
That choice begins when we hunger and thirst for God and in return God blesses us with his marvelous gift of salvation and justification. And why does God choose to do this? It is so that He may get the glory. It is all about Him and not about us. The blessed observe His rules, and like a child wanting to mirror their father, step into his footsteps and follow Him. God has one demand: obey and keep my precepts; my mandates ordained in eternity past as my standard that I may bless you.
All of this comes with a price! The price was paid on Calvary while we were yet sinners Christ died for us. But, the psalmist reflected that he faced this dragon called the deadly d of distraction. As he did, so we lament “if I were only focused.” It is a choice to focus on His commands, statutes, precepts so that one day we will hear well done, thou good and faithful servant.
The psalmist beautifully records his thoughts about God in all of his glory as he exalts him in the descriptions as the true God, the God of the heavens who rides his chariots upon the clouds and across the desert sands. God’s perspective is from on high and from there He leads for He who goes before us is also blocking the way of the enemy who seeks to harm us. Chris Tomlin’s praise song “Whom Shall I Fear” captures some of these thoughts:
“I know who goes before me, I know who stands behind, the God of angel armies is always by my side”
Also, Paul visualizes this powerful majestic God when he writes: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul knew the truth that when our archenemy is on the prowl “God springs into action.” Thus, He alone is worthy of our praise whether he rides on the desert or in the heavens in his chariot. He is our victorious leader and we are to extol his virtues for he cares for the least and rescues them. His power is limitless and his compassion is revealed: “He is a father to the fatherless and an advocate for widows.”
In these challenging times continue to cling and trust him. God is performing his work in your life that his name might be glorified. There is a purpose and a plan that we may not see but this one thing we do know; 1Co 2:9 “Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.”
Peter said we are “living stones.” Even “living stones” experience insomnia; such as when the roar of the heavens and flashes of lightning blow across the landscape. What do you do in those hours as you wonder what the new morning will provide? Although the psalmist most likely was not lying awake in a thunderstorm, he was using his precious nighttime to listen to God and do some self-reflection. How about us?Do we spend time in the night hours reflecting and allowing the Illuminating Holy Spirit to do his work? If we listen we might hear well done OR we may hear him whisper you grieved me and quenched my work within you. It is at that time that we are to apply Peter’s wise counsel: “abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.” These are our natural appetites that appeal to our sinful nature and proving we are double-minded as James says.
Thus, we see why the psalmist said: “I have purposed that my mouth will not transgress.” Yes, we purpose and we did that yesterday and the day before and will do it again tomorrow. We are a fickle people who often need this time of self-reflection to see our conformity to this world and why we need the transforming power of the Word to renew our minds. And it must be a daily, moment by moment struggle but we can begin with that purpose as we submit to the Lord.
Beloved, like this living stone, let’s make conscious decisions to do some self-correction much like a sailor does out on the water.
Tumbleweeds are a strange phenomenon.These are plants that seem to have no root and just seem to have lost their anchor. In fact, it is true that once they have matured and dry, they detach from the mother plant and blow away. Throughout the Bible, we are forewarned to stay close to the source of life, God Himself. But, sometimes the tumbleweeds of life, the trials, come tumbling across our path. Which brings us to the question of the day. What kind of theology do you have when the tumbleweeds come floating across your path? Is it the armchair theology where you are comfortable with God as long as you are safely in your recliner letting the world go by? Or do you have an ivory-tower theology where you think of yourself in privileged seclusion from the real world?
A lot depends upon your answer.
The psalmist brings us into real life as he pens the 27th psalm. He seeks to remind us that without God we are like the whirling tumbleweeds, being tossed to and fro much as Paul reminded the Ephesians. Instead, trusting in God is what grounds him and should us. This is what anchors us to life: Our theology says God is the light of our life, God is our salvation and we are safely tethered to Him. Trials or tumbleweeds come that we might recall the words of Isaiah. Don’t be afraid, when you pass through the waters, I am (present tense) with you, nothing will overwhelm you if your focus is on Me.
The psalmist reminds us that God alone is our protector, He alone is our defense. The tumbleweeds are just a nuisance to reveal His glory as we depend upon Him.
A common saying goes like this: When one door closes another opens but in the meantime we just stand, wonder and ask what are you doing here God? At those times wonder no more but step out in faith knowing that God has a plan and all He asks is that we trust Him. Acts 16 is an example of a door slammed shut by the Holy Spirit. Dr. Luke does not tell us how or why, which is fitting since we too sometimes cannot explain the reasons behind God’s actions. But, this one thing we do know, God had a plan for Philippi and it entailed both a woman named Lydia and a Philippian jailer who needed to hear the words of the gospel message.
Both of these precious soon to be saints provide us with how the Spirit works in the hearts of men: “The Lord opened her heart to respond.” Both Lydia and the jailer’s hearts were pricked and they responded to the offer of salvation. But, it does not stop there. Lydia invited the missionaries: “If you consider me to be a believer in the Lord, come and stay in my house.” The rejoicing jailer took Paul and Silas, washed their wounds and fed them. In both cases we see the words of James: “faith was perfected by works.” Thus a principle: once saved we are to prove that faith in our works.
Beloved, open your eyes to see the doors God has opened and then walk through trusting Him.
King Herod, of Herod fame, inflicts harm on the early church to please the Jews. But, God is at work both in and behind the scenes as we read this chapter and see the fulfillment of the words of Jesus “Upon this rock I will build “MY” church and the gates of hell shall not prevail.” [Matt 16] Satan may seek to bring the church into disfavor but he fails to realize that what he seeks to disarm God will use to bring about good. [Rom 8:28]
But, just as then, we are often befuddled at God’s working. Why did God allow James to be executed but released Peter? This is one of those “secret things” that belongs to God alone and will be revealed in eternity. [Deut 29:29]
Dr. Luke refreshingly gives us some comedic relief of the persecution of the early church with his account of Peter’s release from jail. While Peter sleeps, King Herod gleefully waits for daybreak of the day after a solemn religious holiday to murder him. Sound familiar? We remember that was the plan for Jesus as well. Into this mix we find the church persistently praying for Peter. But after an angel miraculously releases him and he arrives in the middle of their prayer meeting they tell Rhoda “she has lost her mind.” Again, like the account of Jesus’ resurrection, it is called nonsense.
Dr. Luke gives us this chapter to show us that God not only hears the prayers of the church but opens the windows of heaven.
In the opening verses of Job, we find the villain Satan in the presence of God as the accuser of the brethren who has been on the prowl looking for someone to devour. [1Pe 5:8]
The adversary challenged God that Job’s trials would result in falling and cursing God. But God knew his servant Job, he is “a pure and upright man, [he] fears God” Just as God knew Job, Jesus knew Peter and Jesus knows us. Unlike Job Peter was given fair warning. “Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat;” The question is this: when tests come will we be like Job?
And how does the adversary work? Distraction. He distracted Job from his prayer walk. He distracted through the disciples’ mistrust of another’s motives and arguing as to who was the greatest. In the midst of this, Jesus revealed the test and a powerful truth: The test may not be removed but “I have prayed for you, that your faith not fail.”
We are to be like Job: he never cursed God. But, if like Peter we fall we must NOT say: I have fallen; I am of no use BUT rather I have fallen, I must get up and strengthen others as Jesus said. God will use the bad to bring about good. Beloved, cling to this: Jesus is interceding for us that our faith not fail. It is not “if” but “when” we fall we are to turn back and strengthen others with the lessons we have learned.
Psalm 130:4: “But you are willing to forgive so that you might be honored” reminds us of the words of Jesus regarding the blind man’s condition “It was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.”
Imagine being the blind man(John 9) as he experienced sight for the first time. His senses were acutely tuned to voices and sounds but now it is coupled with the faces of those he meets. Imagine as he hears and sees the neighbors protesting his sight; his parents and their befuddlement, but it is the last that he cannot understand. He is dismayed when he hears the religious leaders say “this man is not from God.” Yet this is often what we too hear from the unbelieving when God cleanses and us. Listen to the words of Peter: “they are astonished…they vilify you.” Yet this we know; without His forgiveness we could not stand in his presence but now like the blind man who has been healed we are healed of our sins and all because as the Psalmist said: “He IS willing.” And when we face the naysayers, like the blind man, we must rely upon the Lord and in fact “rely on him with [our] whole being.” We now yearn more and more to experience the depth of his lovingkindness and Jesus will not fail us.
Beloved, when the world abandons you recall that even if all abandon us God has not forgotten you because He was willing. We can rely upon Him.