Ever Patient God

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“Then the LORD passed by in front of him and proclaimed, “The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in lovingkindness and truth;” (Exodus 34:6)

My husband was replacing a knob on an exterior door in our house. He needed an extra hand, so I held one side of the knob while he placed the other side and screwed the two knobs together. That sounds easy, doesn’t it? Not so my friend. There is one tiny specific place for each screw to go and he was doing this blind. He had to poke and prod and changed the angle ever so slightly then pull the screw out and start over. And over. And over. It was a very tedious task and thankfully, my husband is a very patient man. Me? Not so much. After a few minutes, I would have thrown the screwdriver down and given up.

And a little voice inside my heart said, “Aren’t you glad I never give up on you?” Oh the sweet, sweet patience of God. I got frustrated with the doorknob project. God, in His longsuffering character, never gets frustrated with me. I got antsy because I had other things I wanted to do. God has one focus and one purpose, “to conform me into the likeness of His Son” (Romans 8:29). All the stopping and starting over and moving the screw by tiny degrees was a bit maddening to me. But how often has God has to stop and start over with me? Sometimes has He has to crush me like clay that resists the potter’s hands and start again (Jeremiah 18:4). And then sometimes He patiently adjusts my heart and life by tiny degrees here and there. But He never gives up. He never loses the vision He has for my life – the image of His Son.

Our lives are in the hands of a good and faithful God, a loving Father who carefully, tenderly, patiently works in us to bring about His good plan. Yes, He may have to stop and start again, but He does so gladly. And he does so with the end result always in mind: shaping and molding you to be like Jesus. Degree by degree, moment by moment, touch by touch, God is carefully working. Give Him your life Beloved, and watch what His patient love will do.

God is There

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I know many of you enjoy doing the Bible in a Year reading plan. I prefer a slower pace; reading through in about three years gives me time to really chew on the Scriptures.  As many times as I’ve read it, I always find something new. That’s because it is a living Word inhabited by the living Spirit of the living God. And that’s also because my life changes and new things stand out in light of circumstances and needs in different seasons.  It’s a great comfort to me to know that wherever I land in Scripture, God is there.

The first verse in the Bible says “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1). Pare that down to the most important words: “In the beginning, God . . .” In the beginning, God was there.

Here’s what occurred to me, at the very end of the Bible, we read, “He who testifies to these things says, ‘Yes, I am coming soon.’” (Revelation 22:20). In the beginning, God . . . at the end Jesus – who is God. Oh, the sweet consistency of our Creator and Redeemer. He has sovereign control of the universe from beginning to end. Nothing happens outside of Him.

That gives me tremendous hope and here’s why. When we look at the world we may think that everything is out of control. Afghanistan. Massive hurricanes. Riots. Inept and corrupt political leaders. But we can trace out God’s fingerprints throughout human history, and that includes today. They don’t always show up in the moment, but they are there. God has not lost control of the world. He was there at the beginning and He will be here at the end.

Do you know what else that tells me? He is also in sovereign control of my life. Not one single thing escapes His notice – nor His control. I often wonder what He’s up to, but I don’t doubt His presence and power. Even – especially – when it seems He’s stepped out. He never has. He never will. The same is true for you, Beloved. God has never let go of you. Your struggles and difficulties are part of bringing His good, pleasing, and perfect will to fruition. In the beginning God and in the end God and God all the way through.

Change Your Perspective

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“From the ends of the earth I call to You, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I” (Psalm 61:2).

Years ago a choir director told us altos that the best way to hit a high note was not to try to climb up to it – that almost always caused us to flatten the note – but to see ourselves gliding down onto to it from above. He was trying to get us to approach the difficult note from a different – higher – perspective.

Life is hard. But you don’t need me to tell you that. After a year and a half of a pandemic and social and political unrest, many of us are just worn out. And to add to the stress, many of us are carry some heavy personal burdens too. You may be dealing with a scary diagnosis or a financial crisis. You may be trying to work through grief or disappointment or a difficult relationship. Maybe there’s upheaval at your job. Or you’re just carrying more responsibility than your shoulders can bear.

So how do we deal with it all? We have two choices – either look at it from the pit of despair, or approach it from a higher perspective. We can choose to see it all as a hard blow or as God’s shaping and strengthening our faith. We have to choose whether we will roll around in hopelessness or stand in confident trust that God has a purpose and a plan in it all.

Believe me – I haven’t always been a shining example of faith in the hard times I’ve encountered. I’ve struggled. I’ve cried. I’ve worried and I’ve questioned God. But I’m learning that I can either drag myself into misery or climb up on the Rock that never fails.

Beloved, I don’t know your struggles – but I know that your perspective affects your faith and your ability to face it all with confidence and hope. And perspective has everything to do with how you see God – as faithful or fallible, as near and caring or as distant and unconcerned. Beloved, know this – God is with you and me in the hard stuff. He is faithful. We can trust Him. He will not fail us. He is our Rock – a high place on which you and I can stand. Climb up here with me and let’s watch Him work wonders.

Don’t Give Up on God

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I hope you’re not tired of hearing about my cat. Celina is a black-and-white Bible teacher with a tail. Every morning I stumble into the kitchen headed for the coffee maker. Celina runs ahead of me and parks herself in front of her food dish and begins her usual cries of lament. “Feed me. Feed me.  Feed me.” Never mind that the bowl still has food in it. As I’ve shared before, she demands a fresh scoop to start the day. This morning I was a little distracted and slower to respond than usual.  She continued to meow – but each one got softer and quieter. It was like she was slowly giving up – losing hope that I would take care of her.

Some of you, like me, have a prayer you have carried for a long time. And nothing is happening. God is silent. You are starting to losing hope that He cares and will answer you. You are slowly giving up. Don’t.

Jesus told two parables reminding us to be persistent in prayer. In Luke 18:1-8 He tells us about a persistent widow who kept coming to a judge seeking justice against her adversary. Luke introduces the story with this comment: “Jesus told His disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and never give up” (v. 1). Luke 11: 5-10 is the parable of the man who goes to his friend at midnight asking for bread. The friend is reluctant at first, but “because of the man’s boldness, he will get up and give him as much as he needs” (v. 8) The word “boldness” means shameless, barefaced persistence. Jesus completes this parable with the reminder to “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened” (v. 9). The original Greek used here literally reads: ask and keep on asking, seek and keep on seeking, knock and keep on knocking. The key to these two parables is that the pray-er was persistent because they knew that the one hearing their prayers would come through.

You and I can be persistent in prayer because we have faith in the one who hears our prayers. Don’t give up on God, Beloved. ASK – Ask, seek, knock – again.

Guest Blogging Today

I am guest blogging today on the website “All Mom Does.”  Check out my Thanksgiving devotional, “Giving Thanks in the Desert.”

https://www.allmomdoes.com/2018/11/21/giving-thanks-in-the-desert/

 

Lord, Save Me!

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“But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!”” (Matthew 14:30)

Brave, confident Peter stood up and stepped out of the safety of the boat and onto the liquid surface of the lake – and the water held him up! Like any curious person would do, Peter looked around to see if what he thought was happening really was. And that’s when the laws of nature took over and Peter began to sink.

Peter knew Jesus – he had heard His authoritative teaching and had witnessed and participated in His miracles.  In fact, this incident comes “immediately” on the heels of Jesus feeding more than five thousand people (Matthew 14:22).  But in a moment, all he knew about Jesus sank into the waves with him.  He was overcome with fear.  Can you relate? Sometimes we seem to be doing good – walking along in our faith with our heads held high.  Then something happens – a crisis hits, the bottom falls out, and suddenly we are sinking and crying out for help.

I have walked with Jesus for some 40+ years and there have been many ups and downs, some pretty awesome highs and some very deep lows.  I wish I could say that I’ve always been a model of unwavering faith – but that would be a lie.  What I can say is that every trial has built my faith by degrees.  You may be familiar with the hard season we’ve experienced these past several months.  We were rocked harder than we’d ever been.  It all looked very dire, and we were sinking fast.  All I could do was cry out, “Lord save us!”  And He did.

Here’s what I know – and what I want you to know.  God’s hand was behind that stormy sea.  He stirred up the wind and the waves that rocked our boat and tossed us into the water. Why would He do that?  Because His was the hand that would reach out to save us.  Because I needed to know the power of His saving grace and the depth of His everlasting love.  And so do you.  You need to know that when all seems lost, God will rescue you.  When you think you’re about to drown, God will pull you up.  Your storm is real – but so is God.  Start looking for His hand over the waves.

No Plan B

We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” 2 Chronicles 20:12

“OK, here’s my plan . . . and here’s my back-up plan.”  “If this doesn’t work out, this is what we’re going to do.”   It’s good to have a plan – even Jesus recommended it in certain situations (Luke 14:28).  We go on a trip and plan the route and stops along the way.  We make a plan to save for retirement.  Some people (not me!) actually plan their family’s meals and shopping lists for the whole week. I am getting better at making plans for tackling tasks for the day.  But there are times when plans get in the way of faith.

Let’s look at an Old Testament example.  Please read 2 Kings 13:14-19.  Joash (some translations say Jehoash) ruled over the northern kingdom of Israel, and the enemy was threatening.  He went to Jehovah’s prophet, Elisha, who told the king to shoot an arrow in the direction of the enemy, Aram.  This signified victory in the coming battle.  Next, the old prophet commanded Joash to “take the arrows and strike the ground.” And here’s where we find our application.

Elisha’s command to “strike the ground” (shooting the arrows into the ground), was as a sign of the king’s faith in God’s ability to give Israel victory over their enemy.  Elisha chastised him for only striking the ground three times saying, “You should have struck the ground five or six times, then you would have defeated Aram and completely destroyed it. But now you will defeat it only three times. Joash had five or six arrows, but only used three.   What difference does that make to you and me?  The arrows were symbolic – the real issue for Joash was, how much did he trust God?  By shooting three arrows and keeping back two or three, the kings was showing that he didn’t trust God completely.  He thought it best to hold back a few arrows – just in case God didn’t come through.  He was depending on his “Plan B” rather than trusting God’s “Plan A.”

God had a promise for Joash and Israel – complete victory over the enemy.  But God wanted the king to completely surrender and trust in His deliverance.  Joash demonstrated a lack of faith in God.  He thought it best to keep a back-up plan in his back pocket.  Contrast Joash with Jehoshaphat, king of the southern territory of Judah.  (Read 2 Chronicles 20:1-30 for the background.).  The Moabites and Ammonites were breathing down their necks, and the king came before the Lord in total surrender, and our key verse is the heart of his prayer.  The Lord’s answer was as unlikely a battle plan as Joshua and the battle of Jericho, but the king told his people, “Have faith in the Lord your God and you will be upheld” (v. 20). No plan B. No back-up strategy in his back pocket.  Just faith. God promised deliverance, and we’re going to stand here and watch it happen.

We live in a world that believes in a contingency plan for every occasion.  Getting married? Better sign a pre-nuptial agreement – just in case it doesn’t work out.  Signing a business contract?  Make sure the exit clause is in there in case it goes sour.  We approach every decision and situation with a doubtful attitude.  And we approach God in the same way.  When His Word says “Trust me,” we say, “Yes, but what if You don’t come through?”  When He says “Do this and I will be with you,” we step tentatively out on the ice with a rope tied around our waist, expecting the ice – expecting God – to fail us. Believe me when I say I understand doubts.  I know how scary it is to step out in faith with no net below me.  I am walking that tightrope now in seminary, not sure of what God has planned, but knowing that He has called me to this.  I have questioned myself, and wondered “what will I do if this fails?”  “What is my back-up plan?”  But I have decided that God is faithful, completely dependable and I don’t need a plan B, because God’s plan A never fails.  I am going to “Trust in the Lord with all [my] heart and lean not on [my] own understanding. I am going to “acknowledge Him in all [my] ways, believing that “He will make [my] path straight” (Proverbs 3:5-6).

My friend, you can count on God.  People may have failed you, but God never will.  His plans are perfect and as sure as His name – El Emunah – “God who is faithful.”  I have staked my life on His character and His Word. No plan B. Nothing but complete trust and confidence in my Sovereign God.  Step out onto the tightrope with God – you’ll be so glad you did when you reach the other side.

“Holy Father, I’m trusting You. I have no other plan but to follow where you lead, over thin ice and swaying tightropes, because I know that You are faithful. Amen.

From the Pit of My Sin

“If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself.  2 Timothy 2:13

I am so grateful to know that when I fail in my efforts to be faithful to God, He will still be faithful to me.

I had planned a bright, cheery devotional for today’s post, but a long-time sin reared its ugly head in me yesterday.  When I realized I had again failed in this stronghold, I went into that pit of hating myself.  And that is just where Satan wanted me to go.  The fiery darts started hitting me: “You failed again – you are so weak.  Look at you – a Bible teacher and writer – you should know better.  God is disgusted with you!” Even as I prayed in confession and repentance, the enemy taunted me –”You have no right to ask anything of God now.  And what about all those people you have been praying for – what will happen to them now that you’ve FAILED?”

That is when the sweet, sweet Spirit of Christ brought 2 Timothy 2:13 to my mind.  “God will remain faithful.” Oh surely I am not the only one who needs to hear that today.  In Paul’s letter to the Romans he offered us this assurance – “Will their lack of faith nullify God’s faithfulness? Not at all! (Romans 3:3)” That is good news to those of us who stumble and fall.  God’s faithfulness is based on who He is, as 2 Tim 2:13 says – it is not just one of His characteristics, it is His very nature.   You cannot be so perfect in your Christian walk to encourage His faithfulness, nor can you be so imperfect to cause Him to abandon you to your sin.

Psalm 103:14 says “He knows how we are formed, He remembers that we are dust.”  By definition, this means that God knows our “inclinations, motivations and desires.”  In other words, He knows what makes us do the things we do, even if we don’t; things that Paul attested “I hate I do. (Romans 7:15)” This is the beauty of His mercy.  He knows that we are dust, but He loves us and sent His Son to rescue and redeem us.    He did not wait until we “got our act together.”  Romans 5:8 tells us “God demonstrates His own love for us in this: while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” His mercy is the evidence of His love for us.

Satan would have us believe that God is ready to write us off because of our human failings or that we have to beg and grovel for His forgiveness, but that is far from the truth of God’s heart. He is more than willing to forgive us our sins and restore us to wholeness.  1 John 1:9 assures us that “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  Listen to His beautiful promise from Hebrews 8:12 – “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” Does that sound like He forgives begrudgingly?  Let your heart sing with the Psalmists who wrote: “He does not treat us as our sins deserve or repay us according to our iniquities (Psalm 103:10)” “If You, O Lord, kept a record of sins, O Lord, who could stand?  But with You there is forgiveness.( Psalm 130:3-4, emphasis mine)”

If He offered us so great a salvation at so great a cost, why would He keep us at arm’s length when we need Him the most?  He said to the children of Israel, “The Lord did not set His affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other people, for you were the fewest of all people.  But it was because he Lord loved you… (Deuteronomy 7:7” God did not choose you or me because we would always walk in perfection, never fail, never falter and never need to bother Him for forgiveness.  He is drawn to us because He loves us, “warts and all.”

I came up off my knees this morning with a deeper appreciation for His great mercy, love and faithfulness, even, and especially, in the face of my failures and unfaithfulness.  I have a richer understanding of 1 Peter 4:8 which says “Love covers over a multitude of sins.”  The love of God the Father has faithfully covered over all my sins with the precious blood of Jesus Christ.

El Emunah – Faithful God – I am blessed because my transgressions are forgiven and my sins are covered by the blood of my Savior.  You have redeemed my life from the pit and You crown me with love and compassion. (Psalm 32:1, 103:4)  Amen.