A Snack and a Nap Does a Body Good

I am a firm believer in never giving up. I’ve written about it many times. I take my cue from Eleazar who was one of David’s “three mighty men.” He fought at David’s side in the fiercest battles the king faced. The Scripture highlighted one in particular – the battle at Pas Dammim. The men of Israel were confronted with the dreaded Philistines and they were terrified, so much so that they retreated. But not Eleazar. “He stood his ground and struck down the Philistines till his hand grew tired and froze to the sword” (2 Sam 23:10). That’s some perseverance!

I told my best friend yesterday that I have hit that wall of being so overwhelmed that I am exhausted. Her advice: you need some rest. And she’s right. I’ve been caught up in a long, intense season of warfare and it’s wearing me down. I told her I don’t know how to rest anymore because my hand has frozen to the sword. Maybe you can relate. Some battles seem to never end. And some of us are very tired.

Later, while listening to the radio, the DJ relayed the story of Elijah who, after an intense showdown with the prophets of Baal, went on the run from the evil queen Jezebel. He was afraid for his life and he was exhausted. He just wanted God to take him out. He finally did the only sensible thing a body can do: “he lay down under the tree and fell asleep.”  And God sent angels to minister to the weary prophet. “An angel touched him and said, ‘Get up and eat,” and he found bread and water. He ate and rested again. Then the angel returned and encouraged him to eat some more “for the journey is too much for you” (1 Ki 19:5-7).

Sometimes, fellow weary soul, it’s all too much. Sometimes you just need a snack and a nap. You need to let the Lord refresh you. You need to lay down your weapons and your body and trust God to hold the world together while you rest. You need to peel your fingers from the hilt because it’s hard to rest with a sword in your hand. That doesn’t mean you’re giving up. It means you are recharging so you can keep going. After your nap. Remember, “The battle is the Lord’s” (1 Sam 17:47). Eat your snack, turn off the light, Beloved, and rest.

Acts: Saving Faith

After Stephen’s death, followers of The Way were scattered all around the region because of persecution and as they went, they proclaimed the gospel. One of those traveling preachers was Philip, who was among the first disciples chosen to minister to the church (Acts 6:1-6). This would be a good place to stop and read Acts 8:1-25.

Philip went to Samaria, preached Christ, and performed miracles of healing and casting out demons. His ministry brought the Samaritans “great Joy” – and a lot of attention (vv. 5-8). Cue a man named Simon who was a very popular sorcerer. He was called “the divine power known as the Great Power” (vv. 9-11). That is until Philip came along and they were introduced to the power of Lord Jesus Christ. The text says that Simon believed and was baptized and began to follow Philip, astonished by the miracles and signs he performed (vv. 12-13).

When word of Philip’s ministry got back to the apostles in Jerusalem Peter and John came to help. They prayed for the new believers to receive the Holy Spirit (v. 15). Simon wanted it – not the Holy Spirit, but the ability to impart the Holy Spirit to others. He saw it as another magic trick that would make him popular in the new community of faith. He offered the apostles money if they could give him this power (v. 18-19). Peter saw right through Simon and rebuked him, declaring that his “heart is not right,” and he was “full of bitterness and captive to sin” (vv. 21-23) and he should repent. We never know if he did.

If everything in the Bible is meant to instruct us (Rom 15:4), what are we to learn from Simon? I believe we are looking at the difference between intellectual faith and saving faith. There is a “faith” that acknowledges the existence of God without trusting in God. James said, “You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that – and shudder” (Jas 2:19). Satan knows all too well that God exists, but he still rebels against Him. So do people. Hebrews 4:2 says that people hear the gospel, but it is “of no value to them, because [they] do not combine it with faith.” This faith is marked by obedience and utter dependence on Christ.

Christian service is not a means to popularity, although some super-pastors have made it their gravy train. Jesus said that those who belong to the world are loved by the world, but those who belong to Him are hated by the world (Jn 15:18-21). I believe Simon’s faith was not saving faith. Sadly, I believe the same could be said for many who claim to be Christians. This is too important to gloss over. Beloved, how’s your faith?

The Road is Long, But God is Faithful

Let’s be honest, life is hard. Sometimes it feels like we’re buried under burdens that threaten to crush us. Sorrow, responsibilities, anxiety, family, pain, injustice, sickness, and more. It wears on you. I understand. Paul did too. He said, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up” (Gal 6:9).

But what if you just can’t keep going? What if it’s just too much? I understand that too. So did Jesus’ brother, James who said, “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love Him” (Jas 1:12). James led the Christian church in Jerusalem – a church under severe persecution. He saw their troubles as a means to an end and called for perseverance.

Another brother, Jude, added some advice and encouragement for persevering: “But you, dear friends, built yourselves up in your most holy faith and pray in the Holy Spirit. Keep yourselves in God’s love as you wait for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Chris to bring you to eternal life” (Jude 1:20-21).

Build up your faith by remembering God’s history of faithfulness, power, wisdom, and victory.  “Pray and don’t give up” (Luke 18:1) – that pretty well explains itself. Stand firm in the love of God – one of my favorite ways to do this is to consider 1 Corinthians 13 and how the Lord has manifested each expression of love.  And then wait. Augh! That’s the hardest part. How long? Until He says, “It is done” (Rev 21:6). And it will be done because God leaves nothing unfinished – “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).

The choice to persevere or give up is one we all face. Friend, I don’t know your burdens, just the weight of my own. And friend, they are very heavy. Every time I think I can’t keep going God sends me a reminder of what – and who – is at stake. I can’t give up. I won’t give up. And neither should you. Let’s commit today to persevere with God’s help. And each other’s. The Lord says, “As for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded” (2 Chron 15:7). Hang on Beloved, there’s Joy ahead for us.

The Wonderful Word of God

Charles Spurgeon said, “Nobody ever outgrows Scripture; the book widens and deepens with our years.” That is the truest non-biblical statement I’ve ever read. I started singing “Jesus loves me” to Joy when she was tiny – “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That’s deep theology for little minds and hearts. I want her to always know that Jesus loves her and that the Bible is trustworthy and true. That is a strong foundation for her life.

Michael W. Smith wrote, “Ancient Words,” a song that speaks to a more “grown-up” perspective of the Bible. I’ll post a link to the song in the comments, but the refrain goes:

Ancient words ever true

Changing me and changing you

We have come with open hearts

Oh, let the ancient words impart.

A child’s simple song. A stirring anthem. They both speak to the authority, power, truth, and wisdom of the holy and living Word of God. No other tool in my Christian toolbelt has helped me grow in my faith and love for the Lord like the Bible. It contains the very heart of God.

Isaiah said, “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever” (40:8). The Word of God will never be irrelevant or antiquated. No matter how much the culture changes, the Bible is the eternal authority for all creation. God also said that His word “will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it” (55:11). His word is effective and nothing and no one can stop it. Jesus declared, “Your word is truth” (Jn 17:17). You and I can trust the sacred writings of God.

I have studied the Bible for thirty years. I’m nearing the completion of my Master’s Degree in Christian Ministry with an emphasis on Biblical Studies. That doesn’t make me an expert by any stretch.  In fact, it has made me realize how much I don’t know.

Some days the Bible is my teacher, revealing the deep things of God. Some days it is my sword striking at the heart of the enemy of my soul. It is my mentor, pointing to my failures and showing me the better way. It is the “light for my path” (Ps 119:105) and the Joy of my heart (v. 111). Lately, it is my comfort and reminds me that “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” That’s two of the sweetest truths ever spoken. Beloved, God’s Word will hold you.

Great is His Faithfulness

I sat on the back porch in the wee hours of the morning and prayed, “God I want to know you.” And for the next three years, the Lord pulled me out of a deep depression by taking me on a study of His names in the Bible. I still go back to those notebooks and it never fails to refresh and encourage me. If you want to know who God is, look at what He says about Himself in His Word. His attributes are woven throughout the Scriptures – His great power, His mighty strength, His sovereignty, holiness, wisdom, love, grace, mercy, goodness, kindness, gentleness, sweetness . . . the list goes on and on.

But when I reflect on all He is, the attribute that I think I love the most is His faithfulness. When Moses asked the Lord to “show me your glory,” He revealed Himself as “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness . . .” (Ex 34:6).  David declared, “You love, O Lord reaches to the heavens, your faithfulness to the skies (Ps 36:5). Probably my favorite verse on the subject is Lamentations 3:22-23: “The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” And least I ever think God’s faithfulness is dependent on my faithfulness, Paul said, “If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself” (2 Tim 2:13).

That means He is too faithful to give up on me. And I have given Him ample reasons to do so. I have wandered often and far. I have drawn water from tainted cisterns. I have sought comfort and peace and love in all the wrong places. I have made more foolish decisions than wise ones. I have run away. I have given up and given in. I have failed Him over and over and over.

But He never once shook His head and said, “I can’t deal with your messes.” He never dusted His hands and said, “I am done with you.” He never glared at me and said, “You’ve gone too far this time.” He never said, “I can’t love you anymore.” He is my El Emunah – My Faithful God. And He is yours too Beloved. You can trust Him. He is faithful and true.

The Desire of Your Heart

Whenever we take Joy to a department store, she always convinces Poppy to head to the toy section. Up and down the aisles I hear “I want that, Poppy!” “I want that!” You and I are just like her. Our wants drive us to go places, make purchases, establish relationships, and yes, sin. It all starts with the desires of our hearts.

Go back to the garden with Adam and Eve. When the serpent tempted her, he didn’t say, “Look at this luscious fruit, Eve. It’s so tasty and pretty! Why, this fruit is full of wisdom. Don’t you want wisdom, Eve?” He let Eve tap into her own desires to make her decision. “The woman saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, [so] she took some and ate it” (Gen 3:6).

Was it wrong for her to desire tasty, pretty food? Was it wrong for her to want wisdom? Not at all. The garden was full of food she was welcome to (2:16) and God would surely have told her anything she needed or wanted to know (Jas 1:5). Instead, she went after the one thing God had forbidden.

That’s the same picture James painted when he wrote, “Each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed” (Jas 1:14). Remember Eve’s desire for food and wisdom were not wrong desires. But now with the introduction of sin, man’s desires are often laced with evil, and that evil desire – the original language called it “lust” – drives us all the harder to attain whatever it is we want.

Is there any hope for our wicked, evil hearts? Yes! David said, “Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart, (Ps 37:4). The answer is to desire God. Like Joy, whatever we want we will pursue. If we want toys, we’ll head to the toy aisle. If we want fruit, we’ll go to the tree (or the produce section of the grocery store). If we want immorality, we’ll search it out until we find it. And if we desire God – well, we don’t have to look far, because He promises we will find Him (Jer 29:13).

Because of our sinful natures desiring God is not our default. But you can ask Him for it. Here’s a prayer that God will honor: “Lord, cause me to want you above every other thing. Make Yourself the desire of my heart.” And He will.

Real Peace for Real Life

Yesterday I wrote about finding peace by looking to the Lord and trusting Him with all our concerns. It resonated with many of you, which means there are many of us dealing with a lot of stuff that threatens our peace. And that is true for believers and non-believers. You’ve heard the saying: “Know God, know peace. No God, no peace.” As a believer, we have the privilege of showing the world what peace looks like.

The Scriptures say, “The Lord blesses His people with peace (Ps 29:11). So how is that manifested in our lives? Let’s take a tour of the Bible and see how God’s peace shows up. David said, “I will lie down and sleep in peace, for You alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (4:8). Peace is a sense of safety and security. David is distressed at the beginning of this Psalm (v. 1), but He turns His thoughts to God’s faithfulness, light, and Joy (v. 3, 6, 7) and sleeps in peace.

Another Psalmist said “Righteousness and peace kiss each other” (85:10). You and I will not experience peace without the righteousness of God that comes through Jesus Christ. The person who does not know God lives in fear of His wrath – even if they don’t acknowledge it. A righteous man or woman has no fear because they have been covered in the blood of Jesus and their salvation is secure.

A person of peace is a person of the Word. “Great peace have they who love your law” (Ps 119:165). God’s holy Scriptures are a treasure trove of peace. Not only to speak peace into our hearts and minds but to guide us in the way of peace. Few things make me more anxious than getting lost. The Bible is our GPS (God Positioning System) for navigating this life so that we arrive at His intended destination – heaven.

And finally, the people of God speak peace into a world that desperately needs it. God lauded those whose “feet bring good news, who proclaim peace” (Is 52:7). Jesus said what lives in our hearts will come out of our mouths (Matt 12:34-35).  If you and I are filled with the peace of God, the peace of God will mark our words and will spill over onto those around us.

That’s just a small sampling of what the Bible says about peace. But it’s enough to make the world crave the peace we have in Christ. Beloved, will you be a conduit of His peace today?

Fixing My Eyes on Peace

Today’s devotional is for me, but you’re welcome to read along. I’m in a very hard season right now and my mind wants to chew on the problem constantly. I will drive myself crazy if I don’t find some peace soon. A verse has been coming to me repeatedly in recent days. “You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is stayed on You because he trusts in You.” (Is 26:3). What does that mean? Perfect peace comes from trusting God.

What does it mean to “trust God?” Do I just sit around and think ethereal thoughts about Him? Not exactly, but it does help to know who He is. That’s why I often rehearse the names and characteristics of God: He is faithful, He is mighty, He is good, He is my Fortress, my Defender, my Sword and Shield, and the God of my life.  And because I know these things about Him, I trust Him.

Trusting God means having confidence in Him. What does that look like in real life? “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). It looks like taking all my worries and heartaches and these things that are too big and heavy (even in small packages) for me to Him and believing that He can and will do what is right and good. It looks like thanking Him for His love and faithfulness – over and over and over until that peace fills me and stands guard over my heart and mind.

One more verse has come to mind just this morning. Hebrews 12:2 tells me to “fix your eyes on Jesus.” Why? With my eyes fixed on Jesus, I see promises not problems, I see provision not want, I see strength, not weakness. I see healing, not pain. I see hope, not despair; Joy, not sorrow; truth, not lies; love, not hate; peace, not turmoil; life, not death. With my eyes fixed on Jesus, I see – not an end, but eternity.

A dear friend sent me a good word this morning. If your heart is heavy and weary, I’ll share it with you, Beloved. It’s simple but powerful: “My heart is fixed, and the anchor holds.” Amen.

Acts: The Sovereignty of God

“In Him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of Him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of His will” (Ephesians 1:11)

I want to take you on a ride through history, but first, grab your Bible and read Acts 8:1-8. This is just after the death of Stephen, the Church’s first martyr (7:54-60). It begins the fulfillment of Jesus’ proclamation in Acts 1:8: “You will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

In 332 BC, the nation of Israel, along with much of the known world was conquered by Alexander the Great, a Greek warrior and king. Alexander’s conquests were not meant for destruction, but rather for assimilation into the Greek empire. All nations were educated in the Greek language for unification. Alexander ordered the ancient Hebrew Scriptures to be translated into Greek, a work that was accomplished in 70 days.

In 63 BC, the Roman Empire took Israel from the Greeks. Though known for their cruelty and harsh rule, they also established strong infrastructure wherever they went to enable swift transport for their military. Roads were laid by the Romans throughout the European and Asian continents.

Now, come back to the point of our key passage in Acts 8.  After the stoning of Stephen persecution drove Jesus’ followers from Jerusalem into Judea and Samaria and all throughout the region. As they went, they traveled along those Roman-built roads and shared the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the unified Greek language. The story of God’s mercy, grace, and love could be read and taught – and understood – everywhere because the language was the same wherever they went.

While all these events seemed to be unconnected, harsh circumstances, it’s clear that the God of heaven and earth was “working all things together” for the spread of the Gospel. Now, don’t you think this same sovereign God is able to manage the circumstances of your life? He is at work “perfecting that which concerns you” (Psalm 138:8). I’m clinging to this promise with all my heart right now. He’s got the whole world in His hands – and that includes you. Stand still, Beloved, and watch Him make a way as only He can.

It All Matters to God

The woman told her pastor, “I never bother God with the little things.” “Madam,” he replied, “He’s God. To Him, it’s all little.” I chuckle at that, but at the same time, I recognize the truth therein. God is bigger than all man’s problems. No trial or struggle will ever measure up to Him. Overflowing sea in front of you and the Egyptian army at your back? No problem. Massive wall around the city God has given you? No problem. Giant threatening your nation’s army? No problem. A royal edict to wipe out your people? No problem. God’s got it.

But what about the “little” problems? That headache you’ve got from your kids running through the house at top speed and volume all day? The pile of laundry sitting beside the broken-down washing machine? The stack of work on your desk that keeps growing no matter how much you do. The dog next door that barks. All. Night. Long. And what’s that weird clunking sound your car has been making all week? Does God care about those things? Why would He even notice your everyday stuff while He is busy keeping the universe spinning?

The God who took the Israelites through the sea on dry ground (Ex 14:22) and drowned the entire Egyptian army (vv. 26-28), pulled down the walls of Jericho (Jos 6:20), put a small stone in a giant’s head (1 Sam 17:48-50), and rescued the Jews from annihilation (Est 9:5) also gave His thirsty people water from a rock (Ex 17:5-6), provided a poor widow with overflowing oil to buy her sons out of slavery (2 Ki 4:1-7) and gave another an inexhaustible supply of flour and oil to sustain her family through a drought (1 Ki 17:12-16).

That’s why Paul said, “Pray in the Spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayer and requests” (Eph 6:18) – of every size and shape.

So I will leave my problems – the big ones and the small ones, and the big ones in a small body – in my Father’s hands. But I’m not going to walk away. I’m going to sit down at His feet and watch what He will do. And maybe crawl into His lap for hug. I encourage you to do the same. Beloved, If He has “numbered the very hairs of your head” (Mat 10:30) you can be sure that He is paying attention to you and everything that concerns your life. Big, little, and everything in between.