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.

Do Not Worry

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As I prepared the lesson for our Ladies Bible study group this week, I knew there was a lot of fear in a lot of hearts and minds because of this virus. So I asked God what message He wanted to bring to the group. He led me to Luke 12 and the Parable of the Rich Fool. A parable about greed. Thanks God, that’s gonna be real helpful.

But one key of studying the Bible is to look at the surrounding passages and as I did I began to see what God was up to. Let me set the stage. Jesus tells the story of a rich man who, after a bountiful harvest, decided to hoard up all he had, even though he had more than he needed. Sound familiar? The man would not enjoy his harvest though, for that night he would die. That’s pretty straight forward. Don’t be greedy. But look at the bigger picture. Before and after this parable, Jesus says over and over: “do not be afraid,” and “do not worry.” (Check out John 12:7, 11, 22, 25, 26, 29, 32.) He followed the parable with the famous discourse of the Father providing for the birds and the flowers – “how much more valuable are you than they?” (v. 24).

Worry and fear cause us to “run after” the things the world chases (v. 29-30) or to hoard up what we have in fear of not having enough (v. 16-19). Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve been living out the illustration of this message as stores are stripped of basic necessities and people are stockpiling toilet paper. Jesus told us not to worry. Why? Because “your Father knows that you need [these things].” And because it delights the Father to provide for His children.

God knows all about this pandemic and the ripples it’s causing. He knows that these are scary times. He knows what you need. And He says, “Child, do not be afraid.” Beloved, your Father is the King of Heaven and Earth – what could you possibly have to worry about?

And Who Is My Neighbor?

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This week our Ladies studied the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). I ran across this modern adaptation of the parable and it spoke volumes to us. (Disclaimer: This has been edited for space and application.)

[Jesus is speaking to a group of Southern Baptists:]
An elderly couple was mugged and robbed by a group of thieves outside a restaurant. As the couple lay dazed and bleeding on the sidewalk, a Methodist preacher walked toward them on his way to Bible study, but instead of stopping to render aid, he crossed to the other side of the road and continued on his way. A short while later, a couple of Baptist preachers came along, but since they were running late to their prayer meeting, they also crossed over and hurried on their way.
Finally, an atheist came along and felt compassion for the couple. He rendered whatever medical aide he could, then helped them into his van and drove them to the nearest hospital. He paid the deductible cost of their insurance and made arrangements to further pay any amount not covered by their policy
[Jesus then asked], “Which of the people who came upon the couple acted as a neighbor to them?” The Baptist replied, “The one who had mercy on them”. [Jesus then commanded] “Go and do likewise”.

The man who asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” wanted to know whom he was required to “love” according to the Law. Jesus said the point is not the limit of the Law, it is being the one who goes above and beyond in compassion. Beloved, who needs you to be a neighbor today?

In the Hard Places

“There you will be rescued. There the Lord will redeem you.” Micah 4:11

“How did I get here Lord? This is not where I’m supposed to be!”

Sometime we find ourselves where we don’t want to be. It may be in a physical place or a season of life, but it is unexpected, uncomfortable and, at times, even unbearable.   I have been in physical places that were so discouraging and depressing that I felt hopeless. I have been in seasons of my life that were hard, frightening, and lonely; I felt like Paul who said, “We were under great pressure, far beyond our ability to endure, so that we despaired even of life” (2 Cor.. 1:8b). I am sure that you have too. These places and seasons come to all of us.

Perhaps, like me, you’ve wondered, “Lord, how did I get here?” The Word of God gives us the answers. The Old Testament prophet Micah preached to the people of Israel and Judah some seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus. He proclaimed the judgment of God against the sinfulness of the people, and told them of coming disaster from the hand of the Lord. He identified some key issues that brought them to this place.

He rebukes them for their sin, proclaiming “All this is because of Jacob’s transgression, because of the sin of the house of Israel” (Micah 1:5). Sin separates man from God, and also separates us from God’s best for our lives. It has been rightly said that sin will take you farther than you meant to go, keep you longer than you meant to stay, and cost you more than you meant to pay.

Another reason for the places we find ourselves is deception. The people in the ancient world were dependent on the religious leaders, who often distorted the words and laws of God, leading many astray.   But we have Truth written for us in the Bible, and the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and apply those truths to our lives. If we are not studying the Word of God, if we let others define truth for us, we will always be led astray.

Micah also recognizes the problems we face when we forget who God is and what He has done. In Micah 6, God asks through the prophet, “My people, what have I done to you? How have I burdened you?”(6:3), and then reminds them of His redemption, faithfulness and love. God is full of grace, mercy, compassion, tenderness and love so vast that we cannot fully comprehend it. When we forget that, when we doubt His love and care, we wander off in search of the things He longs to give us. We find ourselves in difficult places and seasons.

Stepping out of the book of Micah, we find another reason for the places and seasons of our lives Joseph was sold by his jealous brothers into a life of slavery, but God was always with him, and He used Joseph to save countless lives, including the lives of those same brothers, from a seven-year famine. Joseph recognized God’s hand, telling his brothers, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good, to…[save] many lives” (Genesis 50:20). Sometimes God allows difficult season and places to accomplish a much greater purpose that we can’t see in the moment.

But God is faithful to His children, and when we are lost, He seeks us out and brings us back home. That is the heart of our key verse. And that is the heart of our Heavenly Father, as Jesus demonstrated in a parable He told in Luke 15: 3-7. He tells of a shepherd who leaves his ninety-nine safe sheep to go after the one sheep who has wandered away. “And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home” (15:6). The shepherd had ninety-nine other sheep, but his heart would not let him abandon the one who was lost.

Your Heavenly Father has the same heart for you. Whether you are in a place you never expected nor wanted to be, or you are in a season of life that is hard, painful and seemingly unending, God has promised He will find you there and bring you safely home. In truth, He doesn’t have to look very hard, for He never left you, even when you wandered away. His promise is and always has been: “I will never leave you nor forsake you. Your God will be with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:5, 9). Wherever you and I go, if we are God’s children, He is with us. Even if we are lost because of rebellion. Even if we are so far away from His fold that it seems impossible to get back. No matter where we roam, in physical places or seasons of life, God’s heart never leaves us. He never forgets about His children.

Are you in a difficult place? Are you in a hard season? Whether it was your own wandering or the providential hand of God, trust in His faithful love for you. Turn to Him and call His Name, then watch for His rescue. There is no place that His love will not reach.

Faithful Lord, my Good Shepherd, You have promised to always be with me. Even when I am in hard places and seasons, You are there. Father, help me trust in Your love and know that wherever I am, I am never far from Your heart. Amen.