I love it when God speaks in themes. Many times He has placed before me the same word or verse or song to sharpen my focus. I can almost hear the Spirit saying “Are you paying attention?” I’ve learned over the years to zero in on those repetitions and ask Him what He wants to reveal to me. Mind you, nothing God says is unimportant, every “jot and tittle” speaks profoundly and powerfully. But there are times where He has a specific, personal word for us that demands our notice. This morning is one of those times.
I don’t normally skim through the Bible. I prefer to settle down with a passage and chew on it thoroughly. But this morning I was thumbing through and landed on two verses at the end of Luke’s gospel. It is after Jesus’ resurrection and He appeared to two of His disciples walking on the road to Emmaus. He talked with them about Himself, but they didn’t recognize Him on the road. When they stopped for the night and sat down to a meal, Jesus broke the bread, gave thanks and gave the men a piece. “Then their eyes were opened and they recognized Him . . .” (v 31). Later He appeared to the gathered disciples and “He opened their minds so they could understand . . .” ( v 45). I underlined both of those and thought, “That’s really cool!” Then I had the urge to jump to Acts and found the story of Lydia’s conversion and this: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message” (16:14).
I’m sure you picked up on the theme: opened eyes, opened minds, opened hearts. The word is only used four times in the Bible; twice in the Emmaus passage. It speaks of revelation, of opening the eyes, mind, and heart to truth that is life-changing. And I also noticed is that it is not something the recipient does – it is a supernatural work initiated by God for His purpose.
What does it all mean for you and me? Jeremiah 33:3 says, “Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.” In the original Hebrew this means things we don’t even know to ask about. Beloved, there’s so much to learn. Let’s ask God to open our eyes and mind and heart to all the amazing and wonderful things He wants us to know. Starting with Himself.
My laptop did an automatic update last night. I know it’s necessary, but it is also annoying. Every time my laptop does an update and restarts, it returns to the factory settings and changes the changes I made to help me as I work. Like all laptops, mine has a touchpad on it which I don’t use because I have better control with a handheld mouse. This thing drives me crazy. I have rather large hands and the touchpad sits right where I rest my hands. When my hands brush it as I’m typing, it moves the pointer so that I am typing in the wrong place on my document. Argh! I have to stop what I’m doing, go to the settings, and deactivate the touchpad. Then try to go back and reclaim my train of thought. So this morning I was typing a verse of Scripture and looking at my Bible, not at my screen. When I lifted my head, I realized my verse what not where it was supposed to be. Then I remembered the restart and had to go back to turn the touchpad off again. I do wish there was a way to permanently deactivate it so it wouldn’t come back on with every restart.
It made me think of our human “factory setting,” of our sinful nature that came with us when we were born. My granddaughter is almost two, and we are dealing with temper tantrums and disobedience and “NO!” At this age, it’s not entirely intentional; she is reacting out of the sinful nature that bedevils every human being. How I wish for her sake and mine there were a way to turn that sin nature off completely.
Unfortunately, it isn’t an automatic adjustment when we are saved. Rather, it is our daily task to put aside our sinful nature and take up the righteous life of Christ Jesus. It is taking control of our thoughts (1 Cor. 10:5), renewing our minds (Rom. 12:2), “putting to death the misdeed of the body” (Rom 8:13), and “living in accordance with the Spirit” (Rom 8:5). And it’s a lifelong fine-tuning. But the end result will be a beautiful thing because we will become more and more like Jesus, which, by the way, is our original factory setting.
“Be wise about what is good and innocent about what is evil” (Romans 16:19). Turn on the television, open a newspaper, log onto the internet and you are face-to-face with evil. You don’t even have to look for it; it’s on roadside billboards, flashed in commercials, and reported daily in the news. Satan rules the world – for now. Yet believers are called to live godly lives in an ungodly world. How?
Jesus said, “Be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves” (Matthew 10:16). I love this verse and the two contrasting words. “Shrewd” means “wise, sensible” and comes from “thinking and understanding.” Simply put, we need to think, then make a wise determination. Let’s be honest – we can become mentally and spiritually lazy – accepting as truth whatever we are told. If you don’t believe me, spend a day on Facebook. We need to be discerning about everything our minds take in. Because we must live in this world, Jesus tells us to “think and come to a sensible conclusion.”
In contrast to being shrewd, Jesus commands us to be innocent which means pure, not mixed with evil. His command here is to not allow ourselves to be mixed up with the world’s philosophies and ideas; to not allow them to be poured into our minds and hearts. In the Old Testament, the people of Israel tried to compromise with the Lord and the world, believing that they could dabble in paganism as long as they continued to also follow the sacrificial Law of God. They “poured” paganism into with their worship of God Almighty, and in their dulled minds, believed they were still being obedient to the Lord. Despite what the bumper sticker claims, God’s people cannot “coexist” with ungodliness. It didn’t work for Israel and it won’t work for you and me.
We must let the Word of God be the determining factor in everything we do and say and think. The world will not tell you the truth. The Word will never tell you a lie. Beloved, be wise – consider everything through the lens of Scripture. It will never steer you wrong. Be innocent – keep your mind and heart pure from the world’s philosophies and attitudes. It might help to turn off the T.V., put down the newspaper, and log off of the internet. That’s how we live “in the world,” but not “of the world” (John 17:15-16).
My late brother, who was a published author, recommended Grammarly to me and it has been invaluable for helping me in my writing both for school and for ministry. It alerts me to misspelled words, incorrect syntax, better word options, poor grammar, incorrect punctuation, and – my most frequent error, too, many, commas. When I open it with my Word document, it sits on the right-hand side of my screen and constantly checks my work. When I make an error, it comes to life with colored lines and warnings about what I’ve done wrong. So far it has caught 13 mistakes in this devotional (*I’m updating this number as I’m writing). Yet for all its benefit and wise advice, it has one flaw – it won’t make the corrections for me. It finds my problems and makes suggestions but leaves the choice to make the changes up to me.
I think you know where I’m going with this. God has given us a powerful tool for our lives: His Word. The Bible can point to the problems in our lives and give us wise counsel for fixing the problem, but it is up to you and me to make the change. Two things can cause Grammarly not to do its job. I can neglect to turn it on and never see the issues in my document, or I can ignore it – which I do when I like the word I’ve chosen and don’t want to change it. Likewise, if we never bother to read God’s Word, we will never recognize what is wrong in our lives. Or, we just ignore what God said because – let’s be honest – we like the sinful choice we’ve made and we have no desire to change.
James said, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22). He compared the person who hears, then disregards the Word to someone who looks at his reflection in a mirror and then forgets what he saw when he walks away. All through his letter, James emphasized the hearing and the doing of the Word. Reading the Bible is really useless if you and I aren’t going to obey it. (Note: Grammarly suggested I take out the “really,” but I am ignoring that suggestion because I want the emphasis.)
Beloved, the Bible is the living Word of the living God and it has great power to transform your life – if you will read it and heed it. It’s a good thing to be a good writer, but it’s eternally better to be an obedient doer of the Word of God.
I was in the 5th grade and was doing my math homework one night (and anyone who knows me knows how much I hate math) and I kept asking my mom, “What’s so-and-so times so-and-so?”, over and over until she lost her patience with me and snapped, “Figure it out!” So I did. I added and added and added and . . . well you get the idea. I know for certain that 7×8=56 and you can bet it will remain with me for the rest of my life.
Why do you believe what you believe? Because your childhood Sunday School teacher told you a Bible story? Because your pastor preached about doctrine on Sunday? Because you read something profound in a book by a smiling author? What we believe is too often just what we’ve been told – but not what we know. And there is a difference. What you’ve heard just sits in your ears, but what you know takes deep root in your heart and, like your circulating blood, affects every part of you. If your faith is built on other’s thoughts and opinions, how can you be sure you are building on solid ground? When someone challenges your belief, you can’t make a good defense and it all starts to crumble. But if your belief is built on what you have mined from the Scriptures and chewed on and have wrestled your heart and mind into submission then your faith will stand up against the questions of the world. Like my math equation, what you invest in stays with you. Paul said, “I know whom I have believed and am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). As Christians come under fire in the coming days, it’s more important than ever that you know what you believe, and why you believe it. And it’s eternally important that what you believe is the truth. Beloved, you don’t just need to know about religious-sounding stuff. You need to know and be convinced of the truth.
He asked, “We’re New Testament Christians – why should we read the Old Testament?”
The first and most important reason is because the Old Testament consistently points to Jesus. The Lord told the Jewish religious leaders “the Scriptures [what we know as the Old Testament] testify about me . . .” (John 5:39). On the road to Emmaus, the resurrected Jesus started with Moses and all the Prophets [again, what we know as the OT] and “He explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27). The Old Testament adds depth and detail to our understanding of Jesus. It sets the foundation for the New Testament. “Jesus in the Old Testament” is a fascinating and enlightening study.
Secondly, because there is tremendous insight and encouragement in the Old Testament Scriptures. Paul declared, “For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” Romans 15:4
When I need understanding or reassurance I look in the Old Testament. When I am discouraged, I turn to the stories of God’s deliverance of His people in Exodus. When my life has fallen apart I turn to Nehemiah and remember how God enabled them to rebuild the walls. When I face frightening situations Esther is my go-to place as I remember how God rescued His people. And when the world looms dark and evil, I turn to Daniel and witness God’s sovereign control over human events.
The Old Testament is filled with evidence of God’s power, purpose, love, and faithfulness. The God who created the universe. delivered Israel, rebuilt Jerusalem, and rescued the Jews is the same God I call on in my season of difficulty. I know He is able to do for me today all that He did for them then. I put my name in those verses of rescue and promise and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob becomes the God of Dorcas Elizabeth. He hasn’t forgotten how to rescue and restore. His power hasn’t diminished one bit.
Beloved, if you need a closer, deeper look at Jesus, or if you just need some encouragement and hope, dig into the Old Testament Scriptures. The Word of God – Old and New – is light and life and nourishment for your soul.
Several years ago, during a deep, dark season, God asked me a question: “Child, who am I?” “You’re God,” I replied. “Who else could You be?” He answered, “Yes, I am God. Yet there is so much more to Me than you realize. I want you to know Me, then tell others about Me.” Know God? How can I know the Indescribable? God is far too big to fit into my finite little mind. But He had spoken to me, and His words were very clear. The purpose of my life is to know God and to make Him known.
Not many days later, I came across a Scripture that has become my life verse: Jeremiah 29:13, which says “You will seek Me and find Me when you seek Me with all your heart.” I knew that this would be a life-long search, and I knew it would not be truly complete until I stood before Him in heaven. But I had His promise in His own words – “I will be found by you…” (Jeremiah 29:14a). The beauty of this verse is that God promises that as we intentionally seek Him, He will make Himself available to us. Through the years I have come to know God in amazing and wonderful ways, yet I haven’t even scratched the surface of who He is.
Incredible, isn’t it? The God who created and rules the universe wants you and me to know Him. He has said so over and over in Scripture. But we won’t stumble over Him on our way to something else. To “seek” God means we actively invest in all the places and ways He reveals Himself. He gave us the Bible so we could know Him through His Words. Seeking God means reading and studying and meditating on and memorizing His Word. Oh, and obeying. Obedience opens the door to a greater revelation. He sent His Son Jesus to reveal Himself to us. You will not find God apart from Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Even the world that surrounds us was designed to draw us to Him (Romans 1:19-20).
Beloved God is not hiding from you. He wants you to know Him…so much so that He has invited you to pursue Him with the promise that you will find Him. I’m on that life-long journey – won’t you come with me?
I am very dependent on my glasses to see past the nose on my face. This morning as I was getting out of the shower, I saw something I couldn’t make out on the towel rack – and my glasses were on the counter several feet away. A lizard? Or a baby snake?! Maybe it was a piece of trash that missed the can below. As I got closer I realized it was a shadow from the fold of the towel. What I thought was ominous turned out to be something else entirely.
A lot of scary stuff has been happening lately. The pandemic has turned the whole world upside-down and inside-out. Violence is rampant. Jesus warned that “Nation will rise against nation” (Matt 24:7), but here in the U.S., our nation is rising against itself. He said that there would be famines and earthquakes marking the beginning of the end. The UN sounded an alarm about famine as a result of the COVID-19 crisis and major earthquakes are on the increase worldwide. But the most critical evidence of the nearing end is in the hearts of people. Paul prophesied that “People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God – having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Tim 3:2-5). If you don’t recognize all this in our world today, you’re living in a cave. It is very threatening.
I’m not about to say that the world’s problems and woes are simple, but for the believer in Christ they are not as frightening as they are promising. These are indeed signs of the end times, but looking closer we recognize them as signs of Christ’s return. Jesus warned that there would be an “increase of wickedness [and] the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24:12). But He also said, “When you see all these things know that [the Lord] is near, right at the door” (Matt. 24:33).
Speaking of the last days, the angel of the Lord told Daniel, “None of the wicked will understand, but those who are wise will understand” (Dan. 12:10). Beloved, now is not the time to be frightened – it is the time to be wise. It is time to keep one eye on the eastern skies with great anticipation. The King is on His way!
We live in a world filled with turmoil. If you need proof, just look to Washington D.C. There is unrest and violence in our nation and even our homes are rocked by discord and anger. Our hearts are filled with anxiety, hate, and fear. Yet, peace is possible in my heart and yours – and it might just cause a ripple of peace in our homes, workplaces, schools, communities, and nation.
Colossians 3:15 tells us to “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts.” The original terminology for “rules” means, to decide, to make the call – you could say we must “let the peace of Christ be the umpire.” My husband used to umpire for Little League baseball, and it was up to him to decide if a pitch was a ball or strike, a hit was fair or foul, or if a player was out or safe. Whatever he decided stood. Coaches argued his calls at times, but his decision was the final word. When the peace of Christ rules in our hearts, we take His determination, through His Word and His Spirit, as the final word on our situation.
He said “Do not worry . . . your Father knows what you need” (Matthew 6:25-34), so we rest our anxious hearts and trust in His faithfulness. He said, “Rejoice and be glad” when you face persecution Matthew 5:11-12), so we receive the suffering of Christ with Joy. He said “Love your neighbor” (Matthew 22:39), and your enemy (Matthew 5:44), so we let the love of God love through us (1 John 4:19). He said “Ask, seek, knock,” and then trust Him to give (Matthew 7:7-11) and so we present our petitions and wait for His answer. He said, “turn the other cheek, give more than is asked of you, and go the extra mile” (Matt. 5: 38-42), and so we set aside our “rights” and take up the humble nature of a servant (Phil 2:6-8). He said, “I will love you with an everlasting love” (Psalm 103:17), and so we take Him at His Word.
When the peace of Christ rules and reigns in your heart and mine, there is peace on the inside and peace on the outside that affects our homes, our nations, and our world. Beloved, will you let the peace of Christ be the rule in your heart?
Doubt and unbelief are part of human nature in the presence of the supernatural. In reading the Gospel accounts of the resurrection I discovered a lot of unbelief. Matthew 28:17 says that, when Jesus appeared to the eleven disciples, “they saw Him, they worshiped Him, but some doubted.” The word used here comes from a root that means to take a second look. Luke gives us better insight into their doubts. He reports that when they saw the resurrected Lord, “they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement” (Luke 24:41). They were overcome with the unexplainable truth standing before them: Jesus, who was dead just days ago, was alive!
Sometimes our doubts and questions can be a powerful tool of spiritual growth if we allow them to make us look again, look deeper, and look for truth. I know that has been the case many times in my life. When I have had questions, and I took them to the Scriptures and to the Lord, I came away with answers that were solid and sure. I nailed down some important points of my faith.
Beloved, if you have questions, if you have doubts, take them honestly to God and ask Him to show you the answers. Dig deeply into the truth of the Word and seek wisdom from the Holy Spirit. The Lord says, “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). God is not offended by your questions. He wants you to seek the truth. He wants you to seek Him. He promises: “I will be found by you” (v. 14). That’s a promise worth searching out.