It’s still pretty dark outside as I sit here at my desk. My window is open and I hear the birds greeting the first light of the dawn. I’ve been rising early for many years. I often wake up before my 4:30 alarm these days. I love early mornings – everyone is still asleep and it’s my quiet time with Jesus. And coffee. These mornings set the tone for the rest of my day as I fill my mind and heart with truth and wisdom. I don’t know what the day will hold, but the Lord does and He guides me to a word that He knows I will need before I lay my head back down at the end of the day.
This morning His word speaks deep into my soul: “Let the morning bring me word of Your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in You” (Ps 142:8). On it’s own this is a sweet sentiment. In fact, it’s about to go up on the wall over my desk. But if you read the entire Psalm (and I encourage you to do so), you will notice that David is in a dark place. He is being pursued by his enemy and he says “My spirit grows faith within me; my heart within me is dismayed” (v. 4). He is running out of hope.
I get it, David. This Psalm resonates with my own aching heart. It would be so easy to slip into despair and hopelessness right now – and the truth is, I have over the past few weeks. Like Peter, I let my eyes drift from the One who called me to the waves that threaten me and I soon feel the waters start to overtake me. What hope do I have when I’m drowning? The same hope that David had: the unfailing love of God and His faithfulness. David wisely did two things: he cried out to God (vv. 1-2) and he meditated on what God has already done on his behalf (v. 5). And so must you and I.
David asked for direction (v. 8), rescue (v. 9), and to know God’s will (v. 10). That’s what I’m asking for today. As His child, you can too. Beloved, whatever comes today, God wants to remind you of His unfailing love and assure you that you can trust Him. His good Spirit will lead you on level ground (v. 10). You have His Word on it.
Yesterday I wrote about controlling our thoughts. I want to take you through how I apply exactly what I’ve been telling you. Whether it’s temptation or discouragement, the battleground for the believer is the mind. The enemy works on our thoughts, interjecting lies and accusations and enticement. You and I need to know how to fight this battle according to the Word of God.
I have been slogging my way through graduate school for the past four years. The last course I took has been a bear, not so much for the material or the assignments, but for my life. I have a lot of heavy responsibilities pulling on me every day and my schoolwork always gets pushed to the bottom of the priority list. I’m still trying to finish the last assignment from last semester. The enemy is planting thoughts such as: “What’s the point of going to school? You’re a woman in the Baptist denomination – they won’t let you do anything with all that education.” “You just need to quit and focus on being a grandmother.” “Wouldn’t you like to make pretty ruffled dresses instead of pounding out assignments?”
My weary mind takes the suggestions and starts to think, “Yeah, I’m tired of all this studying. What am I doing this for? It’ll never get me anywhere.” And then I realize, I’m playing right into the devil’s hands. I have to follow Paul’s directive and “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Cor 10:5). I reject these discouraging thoughts. Then I remember Philippians 4:8: “Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
The Spirit asked, “What is true here?”
What’s true is that God called me to this. Psalm 139:6 is marked with the date of my first day of college: 5/31/13. What’s true is that I can’t see God’s plan, but I know He has one (Jer. 29:11). What’s true is that God always finishes what He starts (Phil 1:6). What’s true is that He called me, is equipping me, and will use me (2 Tim 3:14). What’s true is that He turned my life upside down to get me to a place where I could get a Master’s degree for free as a staff member at BCF.
Satan can’t stand up under all that truth, and neither can my feelings of discouragement. The Bible is a practical book full of real-life wisdom. Beloved, grab onto the Word and use it.
I don’t usually do a “word for the year,” but in the last few days one word kept presenting itself to me over and over. I took that to mean God has chosen a word for me. “Gentle.”
Gentleness is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:23). The most common definitions from the Scriptures are kindness, meekness, humility, patience, and consideration. And it is Jesus’ own self-description: “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart . . . “ (Matt 11:29). If the goal of the Christian life is that I am “conformed to the likeness of [God’s] Son” (Rom 8:29), then gentleness must be part of my character. If there is anything the world needs now it is gentleness. It is completely counter to the culture of today. Gentleness doesn’t announce itself with a microphone. Gentleness doesn’t try to shout down others. Gentleness doesn’t overpower others and demand its rights. Gentleness considers others’ needs above its own wants. Gentleness speaks with soft and tender words. Gentleness takes the lesser seat, the smaller portion, the way of being second. Gentleness looks beyond a person’s actions to the wounded heart behind them. Gentleness chooses to serve rather than be served.
Several verses speak of gentleness, but the Scripture that God keeps speaking to me is Philippians 4:4-6: “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. 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.” All of these things are very needed in my life: Joy, Presence, prayer, gratitude, peace, and transcendence. But gentleness is the one that the Spirit keeps driving home. Probably because it is the one that is most needed in my home.
Real gentleness looks like Jesus and talks like Jesus and acts like Jesus – because it comes from Jesus. That’s the kind of gentleness that is evident to all. Beloved, will you show somebody Jesus today?
My favorite way to study the Bible is to slowly chew on small bites of Scripture to get every bit of flavor from it I can. But there is also great value in looking at the bigger picture. I was reminded of that when a memory popped up on my Facebook feed this morning. It said: Light + Truth = Life 1 John 1.
John made several proclamations in this first chapter. He proclaimed Jesus as “the Word of life” (1 John 1:1), much the same way He called Him “the Word” in his gospel (John 1:1). He was the “Word made flesh” (Jn 1:14). The walking, talking Scripture who came to deliver the message of the Father in person. What is that message? “God is light; in Him there is no darkness at all” (v. 5). Wherever God is, light exists; not just a lamp, but a floodlight. That’s why John said we can’t claim to be a Christian and walk around in the darkness. It’s impossible. That’s also why, when a light-filled believer enters a place where there is spiritual darkness, one of two things happens. Either the light changes everything it touches, or the darkness and the ones living in darkness flee. Light illuminates, it reveals, and it forces us to confront the things that were hidden or take them and slink farther into the dark recesses.
Because light shows us things – including ourselves – as they really are. That’s the “truth” part of our equation. Light says, “If you run from me it’s because you don’t want to know the truth.” I’ll admit, sometimes the truth is hard to take, but who wants to live by lies? I know I don’t. The truth is, I was born a sinner and lived like it. Then the Light came and I saw what I was. I saw the lies that said I was “good enough” and my wrongs were too petty to keep me out of heaven. I saw how the enemy and the culture said that my sins were just “lifestyle choices,” “addictions,” “illness,” “personality quirks,” and “errors in judgment.” And I saw the corollary to the 1 John equation. If Light+Truth=Life, then Darkenss+Lies=Death.
Beloved, I pray you will choose Life. I pray you will choose light and truth. I pray you will not run away from the sin you see in the light, but will put it all in Jesus’ hands. The darkness is no place for you.
This morning I very quickly typed in my laptop’s password – maybe a little too quickly because it was wrong. I tried again and still messed it up. I tried a third time, slowly, paying careful attention to the keys I was hitting. And I got it right that time. God has been impressing those two words on my heart a lot in the past several years. “Pay attention.” In so many areas of my life, I need to pay attention. In my job, at home, in my relationships, in my schoolwork, and in my ministry. And with my granddaughter. It’s not enough to sit in the same room with her and watch TV or scroll through my phone while she plays. No – she wants Nana’s full attention. And I give it to her gladly because building a block castle, rolling the ball across the floor, or helping her wrap up her baby doll is better than anything on TV or my phone.
My password debacle made me think of the discipline several of us are doing, writing out small portions of Scripture every day to eventually write through the entire Bible. We’ve all noted how much we’re discovering because writing forces us to pay attention to every word. For instance, as we’re writing through Job we’re seeing little glimpses – and a few bold declarations – about Jesus that we never noticed before. On the surface, Job is a depressing book and we tend to want to get through it as quickly as possible. But it looks so different at a slower pace.
Now I had a different direction in mind for this devotional and the Spirit just completely re-routed it. So here goes. He pointed out just now John’s proclamation that “the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1) We know that “the Word” was Jesus (v. 14). By paying attention to every word of the Word, I am paying attention to Jesus. I can’t think of anything better to give my attention to. Mind you, I’m not suggesting that you have to take pen to paper and write out every word in the Bible, (but if you want to, I’ll post a link to our group in the comments) – but I am saying that taking the Bible – taking the Word – at a slower pace allows you to see things you’ve never seen before.
Beloved, what are you missing? What do you want to see? How might it change your life if you paid attention to the Word – and the Word made flesh?
“In those days the word of the Lord was rare; there were not many visions” (1 Samuel 3:1).
To the ancient Hebrew people, silence from the Lord was like living in a world without sunshine. God spoke with power and purpose and if He were not actively speaking they groped in spiritual darkness. In Samuel’s early days the Lord had withdrawn His word and with it, His light. The prophet became the mouthpiece of God to the nation.
At the time of Jesus’ birth, the Lord had been silent for some 400 hundred years. It had been such a long drought that the people had grown accustomed to the silence. Oh they did all the right rituals and followed the letter of the Law, but they were just going through the motions. They failed to see how hollow their devotion was because they were living in darkness. They needed to hear from God and they needed His light to help them see the truth.
John opens his gospel declaring Jesus as the Word that brought Light (John 1:1,4-5). He came as the Logos of God – the living, breathing Word of truth who not only spoke God’s words but lived them before men. He came not only to bring light but to be Light – the Light of the world. Through that light He “has made God known” (John 1:18) – “He is the image of the invisible God” (Colossians 1:15) and the “exact representation of His being” (Hebrews 1:3). And through that Light He is the One who “rescued us from the dominion of darkness” (Colossians 1:13).
The world we live in is a very dark place filled with sin and hate and rebellion. Jesus is the Word and the Light of God for the world. He is mankind’s only hope. Maybe today your own little world is cloaked in darkness – grief, trials, uncertainty, health concerns, financial hardships, depression and despair. Dear one, Jesus is the Word and the Light of God for you today. He is your hope, your peace, your joy, your comfort.
As we start this Advent season, may you hear the Him speaking God’s love into your heart and see Him shining God’s grace into your life.