Do You Believe?

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But as for me, I watch in hope for the LORD, I wait for God my Savior; my God will hear me. Micah 7:7

Little children become lookouts on Christmas Eve. Their ears strain for the slightest whisper of sleigh bells and they stand attentive at the window, watching and waiting for Santa Claus. They have written their letters and made their pleas for toys and dolls and bikes. The cookies and milk are ready for him. Now they watch with confident hope and expectation that Santa will come. Oh sure, they heard the big kids laughing and saying that there is no Santa, but for them, the magic is real and they still believe. But we are grown-ups and we know that Santa is just a myth. We know who actually bought the dolls and the Legos and who has to put the bike together if the kids will ever go to sleep.

We live in a world that tries to tell us that God is not real, that he is a myth, a fool’s wishful thinking, an imaginary friend. They have lost their ability to believe in the Almighty God who created the heavens and the earth and you and me – and them. They tell us we are praying to the winds, there is no one there to hear us.

 But as for me . . . I will continue to believe. I will watch in hope for God to fulfill His promises – just as He did with a Baby in a manger. I will trust in Jesus as my Savior and Lord. I will wait for Him because I know with all my heart that He is real and He is coming. I will proclaim His great name in every place and in every way. I will stand under the banner of Christ, even if no one else stands with me. And I will continue to bow my head in prayer because my God hears me. I know He is true.

Friend, won’t you come and stand watch with me at the window—I believe I hear the sounds of angels in the distance.

Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men (Luke 2:14).

Praying for Rain

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I’ve been praying for something (someone) for a long time – at least 15 years. I’ll be honest and tell you that I gave up on those prayers for a time.  I saw no way that God could work in this hard-headed, hard-hearted person’s life.  But in reality,  I had not given up on them, I had given up on God. James said that “the fervent prayer of a righteous man (or woman) is powerful and effective” (James 5:16). Do you believe God will answer your prayers? Acts 2:5-17 illustrates how often we pray without faith in God to answer.

The apostle Peter was in prison. His fellow apostle James had been beheaded by the evil King Herod, and now Peter, under the careful guard of sixteen soldiers (v. 4), was set for the same fate. The situation was very grim. Verse 5 says, “Peter was kept in prison, but the church was earnestly praying to God for him.” Oh, the power of praying friends!

An angel of the Lord awakened the sleeping apostle, and hustled Peter out of the prison, miraculously passing all the guards and the iron gate, which opened by itself (v. 10). Peter quickly made his way to the house where his friends were gathered, praying for him. His knock was answered by a servant girl named Rhoda, who recognized his voice and ran to tell the group of prayer warriors. What was their response? “You’re out of your mind, they told her, It must be his angel.” (v. 15) But wait, for what had they been praying so fervently? God had answered their prayer and they didn’t believe it? They finally opened the door and were astonished. Jesus promised that God honors “faith as small as a mustard seed.” (Matt. 17:20)

Do you base your prayers on the person or situation for which you are praying? Or do you believe the One to whom you are praying? Beloved, the next time you pray for rain, don’t forget to grab your umbrella on the way out the door.

Do You Believe God or Just Believe in Him?

“In God’s kingdom, you get what you believe.”

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I love this quote by the great preacher and writer, T.W. Hunt.  It has challenged me over and over to believe God. Not just believe in God – the demons of hell believe in God. James said it this way: “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder” (2:19).  The writer of Hebrews said that faith – the kind of faith that pleases God – “must believe that he exists and that He rewards those who earnestly seek him” (11:6).  In other words, belief in God means lifting our needs to Him and watching with great expectation for Him to respond.

If you look at prayer in the Bible you’ll notice that people didn’t call to God and then walk away despondent because they assumed He wasn’t going to answer. They believed God heard and would act. How could they be so sure?  Because their prayer was based on God’s nature, and they trusted Him to respond out of that same nature.  That’s the “secret” to effective prayer.  It must be built on the foundation of God’s character: His holiness, love, mercy, faithfulness, trustworthiness, and sovereignty.  Bill Bright said, “Believing is at the heart of answered prayer. God does not require you to have great faith. You simply are to have faith in a great God.”

And, yes, I know, just this week I wrote about “unanswered prayers” and how God is not obligated to everything that we ask of Him.  This sounds like I’m contradicting myself.  But I think belief allows God to be God and still trusts Him to act in a way that is in line with His character and purposes.

If you pray to God yet do not believe He will care for your needs, you are saying you think God is not trustworthy. Isaiah declared: “You will call, and the Lord will answer; you will cry for help, and He will say: ‘Here am I.’” (Isaiah 58:9) If we truly knew the God to whom we pray, the God of the Bible, we would say with Andrew Murray: “I know what I have asked from my Father, and I expect Him to answer.”  I expect Him to be God.

He Can Still Part the Sea

“I just feel trapped.” “This situation is so unfair and so hard, but I don’t know how to untangle myself from it.” She looked at me with tears in her weary eyes. I knew her story, knew the mess that had sucked her in. She felt helpless. The conventional wisdom – which she’d heard plenty of times – was to stand up for herself but she had no peace from God to do so. All she heard from the Lord was, “Take care of the innocent ones.” But, Lord, she was tired and so overwhelmed.

Her words “I feel trapped” kept ringing in my mind. There are people in the Scriptures that she could relate to. Like the Israelites trapped in the desert. The sea blocked their way forward and Pharaoh and his army hemmed them in from behind. They couldn’t move. They faced either drowning or defeat. The Lord had called them out of Egypt, now, it seemed He had abandoned them right here where the going got tough. Did He even realize the situation they were in?  

Yes, He knew right where they were and exactly what was happening. In fact, He put them there. He purposefully led them “around by the desert road toward the Red Sea” (Exodus 13:18). Why on earth? Because there He could show Himself mighty – so the Israelites and the Egyptians would “know that I am the Lord” (14:4). The pillar of cloud that had been leading them from the front moved to the rear of the company, “coming between the armies of Egypt and Israel” (14:19). It brought light to the Israelites and darkness to the Egyptians. Then the mighty breath of God blew across the sea and made a clearing between walls of water – a path of “dry ground” (14:22). And you know the rest of the story.

Are you standing between the sea and the enemy? Does it feel like you’re trapped with no way out? Beloved, God sees and knows. He either brought you here or allowed you to run to this place so that He can rescue you. Trust Him. He can still part the sea. Others will think you’re confused and crazy, but God will make a way for you and the world will know that He is the Lord.

God Always Comes

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“I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I have put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord, more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning. Psalm 131:3

The watchman waits with expectation.  The morning came yesterday.  It came the day before that and the day before that and all the days before.  It will come today. It is dark through the night but the morning never fails to come.

You can hope in God because He will never fail to come. He has come every time you’ve had a need. It is dark in the moment but He will come.

He will come with new mercies (Lamentations 3:23).

He will come with glory (Exodus 16:7).

He will come with redemption (Ruth 3:13).

He will come with listening ears (Psalm 5:3).

He will come with healing (Luke 6:19).

He will come with power (Isaiah 40:10).

He will come with rejoicing (Psalm 30:5).

He will come with strength (Psalm 59:16).

He will come with salvation (Psalm 62:1).

He will come with wonders (Psalm 65:8).

He will come with unfailing love (Psalm 90:14).

He will come with a sustaining word (Isaiah 50:4).

He will come with justice (Zepheniah 3:5).

He will come with resurrection power (Luke 24:1-6).

He will come with daily provision (John 21:4).

He will come with His Spirit (Acts 2:1-4).

He will come with truth (John 16:13).

He will come with the Morning Star (Revelation 2:28).

He always comes.

He comes with peace.

He comes with Joy.

He comes with promise.

He comes with even more hope. He always comes Beloved. Will you watch and wait for Him?

Be Silent

When I was in first grade I was put in the corner multiple times for talking. I have not outgrown that need to express myself. But I am learning about the power of God in silence. And it’s a very challenging lesson.  There is someone dear in my life who is making some very poor decisions and I have a LOT I want to say to him. But God has urged me to silence.

The lesson is rooted in the story of Joshua and the battle of Jericho (admit it – you started singing in your head didn’t you?) When Moses died, Joshua took over the leadership of the nation of Israel. He was well-suited for the next phase in their journey for they were facing a lot of warfare to take over possession of the Promised Land. Joshua was leading the people in the direction of Jericho when the “Commander of the army of the Lord” came to him with the strangest battle plan in history. But he followed it to a T. For six days the entire nation walked silently outside the walls of the city as the priests blew the trumpets. I would have shaken my fist and shouted to the people on the other side of that wall, “You’re going down! God is going to give us the city! You don’t stand a chance!” But that was not the plan. Words were nowhere near as intimidating as the sound of trumpets and shuffling feet.

God is telling me, “I know how frustrated you are. I know you have wise words you think will straighten him out, but he will never hear me with you running your mouth at him. Be silent.” Argh!  But, of course, He’s right. So like Joshua and the people of Israel, I am going to Stand Still (that’s a great song by the Issacs) and pray and watch. You know the rest of Joshua’s story. On the seventh day, the people marched and then the command was given to SHOUT – and the walls came tumbling down. I suspect I’m not the only person dealing with a stubborn stone wall. All your advice and – let’s be honest – nagging have has fallen on deaf ears. So Beloved, be silent. Stand Still. Let God do the work. And the talking

Trust Me

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“Do not let your hearts be troubled.  Trust in God; trust also in Me.” John 14:1

The disciples were anxious because the Lord had told them, “My children, I will be with you only a little longer. Where I am going you cannot come.” (John 13:33).  Peter, speaking what everyone was thinking, wanted to know where He was going and why they could not accompany Him (John 13:36, 37).

Jesus understood their fears.  That is why He offered them words of comfort and assurance.  Notice, though, that He did not say, “Now don’t you worry, everything is going to turn out fine – just wait and see.”  He didn’t even tell them, “It’s okay – see this is all part of my plan.”  No, the answer Jesus gave them was:

“Trust in God.  Trust also in me” (John 14:1b).

He did not soothe their frazzled minds with the common words of assurance.  He was their assurance.  They just needed to remember . . .

They had walked with Him for three years.  They had heard His words, experienced His love, seen His power over the storm and in the storm, felt His hands pouring water on their dusty feet.  They knew that He was “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).  They knew He was their friend (John 15:15).

“Trust in me.”

Beloved, Jesus knows you are afraid and weary.  He knows that you can’t see past this moment – this grief, this shock, this heartache, this very hard season.  He knows you cannot envision the road ahead and you don’t know what will happen.  He knows your anxious heart and He says to you,

“Trust in me.”

Trust in the words He has said – “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).  “Do not fear, for I am with you, do not be dismayed, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you and help you” (Isaiah 41:10).  “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20).

Trust in His love.  Trust in His faithfulness.  Trust in His promise.  Trust in the One who gave His life to redeem you from your sins.  Trust in the One who rose from the dead to give you eternal life.

Trust in Jesus – there is no greater assurance.

Look Up!

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War. Poverty. Unrest. Disease. Hate. Violence. Shutdowns. Layoffs. Recession. Politics. Confusion. Facemasks. Distance. Disorder. Death. Sadness. Fear. Anger. And that’s just the first half of the year. It’s no wonder we are weary. I want so much to encourage you Beloved. There’s only one thing I know that will.

Jesus is coming again!

We’re not the only generation who needed encouragement. As the church took root and grew, the Roman government and the Jews began to persecute Christians. They oppressed, tormented, tortured, and put them to death.

How did they endure? With the promise of Christ’s return.

Listen to Paul: “The Lord Himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.  After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air.  And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thess. 4:16-17). This was great news to the weary and oppressed Christians.

How will you and I persevere?  The same way they did.  By reminding ourselves of Christ’s promised return.  Paul closed his passionate message by saying, “Therefore encourage each other with these words” (1 Thess. 1:18).

What words? Jesus is coming again!

The prophets of old foretold it, Jesus Himself proclaimed it, and for two thousand plus years, God’s people have kept their eye on the eastern sky, watching for His glorious return. I pray that the promise of His return fills you with hope and Joy and strength to persevere in life – and in this crazy year.

Beloved, Jesus is coming again!

Waiting for the Sunrise

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How we wait is as important, if not more so, as the act of waiting itself. And whether we wait patiently or impatiently has everything to do with our vision of God.

I love this verse from the Psalms: “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His Word, I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Psalm 130:6

It is a cry for the Lord to rescue and redeem His people Israel. The Psalmist says “my soul waits for the Lord,” and this is not just aimless waiting, it is from a Hebrew word that means “to hope in, to look for, to expect (emphasis added).” It’s the difference between waiting with doubt and waiting for something you are certain will come.   Notice that the Psalmist twice says he waits “more than watchman wait for the morning.” Have you ever gone outside before dawn, while the night was still black to see the sunrise? Would you have been out there if you didn’t think the sun would actually come up? We watch for the sunrise because we know it will come, and when it does it will be a glorious sight.

When we are in a position of waiting, whatever we may be waiting for, we must adopt the attitude of the watchman and trust that when the waiting is over, the sun will shine on our face.

So I ask you, do you trust God? Are you waiting with doubt or with expectation? Then find peace wherever God has placed you for the moment, and know that when the waiting is over and the promise comes, it will be more glorious than you ever imagined.

 

 

At the End of the Road

Every step Jesus took on earth, every day of His life brought Him closer to the cross. To pain. To beatings. To mocking and ridicule. To misery. To death. But the pain and misery and death brought Him closer to His resurrection. And to heaven. And to His Father. “But,” we say in our pain, “He is God and He has perfect wisdom of every situation He faced. He knew the outcome was glory.”
It’s not that simple for you and me, is it? We are often blindsided by life. By trials and struggles – disease, pain, fear, loss, broken relationships, financial crisis, rejection, unrest. How can we endure these things?. The same way Jesus did. Hebrews 12:2 says that Jesus, “the author and perfector of our faith” looked beyond the cross to “the Joy set before Him.” He endured the cross and its shame because He knew that on the other side of it He would be reunited with His Father.
Please understand that I’m not saying we can only expect misery in this life and the good stuff comes in the next. God is a good Father, and He loves to heal and restore and repair and surprise us with blessings. He knows that when the pressure is on, we want relief now, not in some mystical, ethereal, ever-after place. What I’m trying to say is that every heartache, every struggle, every trial and pain brings us one step closer to the glory of eternal life. We have His Word on it. “I am going to [My Father’s house] to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am” (John 14:2-3).
At the end of it all, there is glory. Beloved, can you hold on just a little longer?