Job 35 to 37 The story of Custer’s last stand has always intrigued me. Custer’s pride was his undoing and in some ways, Elihu is like Custer. He is not ready to stand down until he has had his last word. Dissecting his words, we find both truths mixed with misunderstandings. Elihu is right about one thing: Storms come that we may seek the face of God but do we? Or does our pride keep us from that step?
Elihu is also right in his description of God: He is all of splendor and more. We cannot attain to Him. God is God, and man is man. God is under no obligation to react to people’s actions. He also doesn’t need to provide relief if their prayers are selfish and full of pride.
The truth is this: the time to seek God is early on when hearts are tender and humble. But days come and go with men leaving God out of the equation. God may be grieved and broken-hearted, yet He remains steadfast, allowing them to choose or reject him.
The saddest words I ever heard was: I never needed God in all of my life, and I don’t need him now. Tragically, the men in Noah’s time and the rich man in Luke 16:19-31 show us the results of that philosophy.
Torments await those who reject God. Where are you, my friend?
Are you facing a season of ups and downs? Beloved, know this, you can return to the faith of the authors of the Bible and be sustained. James reminds us that if we doubt God’s goodness or His plan, we are like the sea wave, which is blown and tossed by the wind. At times like this, we all need a refresher course in the hymns written in the past. Ruth Caye Jones faced challenging times during WWII, and as she stood in her kitchen, she penned these words: “In times like this, you need a Savior.”In times like these, you need an anchor, Be very sure, be very sure your anchor holds and grips the Solid Rock! This Rock is Jesus, Yes He’s the One.”
David’s anchor was the Lord and his words from Ps 34 remind us to seek God’s face. “I sought the Lord, and when I sought him, he answered and delivered me from all my fears.” This one thing we can know for certain: The Lord hears the cries of the godly. He is near to the brokenhearted; He hears, He saves, He is near. [Ps 34:17 paraphrase] Isaiah also knew, “You keep completely safe the people who maintain their faith…for they trust in you.” [Is 26:3]
The world would have us look everywhere but to the Lord. Have you tried other ways? Sit with a hymnal and sing or read the words to calm your soul.
When the month of March arrives, we say it came in like a lamb and will go out like a lion or the reverse. This year, due to the pandemic, we might use that same phrase. How will 2020 leave, and how will 2021 arrive? For me, I am ready for a new month and then a new year! In the meantime, as December arrives, I want to ask, are you and I ready to receive the Christ child? Or are we putting him on a shelf?
Many are facing a bleak Christmas and New Year because of illness or loss of a livelihood. Paul is a good example for us because he continued to boast of his relationship with God, even in hard circumstances. Not even a thorn in the flesh, which he asked the Lord to remove, could dampen his spirit. He said I am content with weakness, insults, trouble, and persecution. Also, Paul told the Corinthians, “I boast about you even in my suffering.” Can we say the same?
Advent is a perfect time to stop and reflect on God’s goodness in the midst of a hard time and give God praise. I have put together some Advent devotionals and will share them here each day to help you. It is hoped that with each day, you will join me in giving God praise!
2Cor 7 to 9 Our world is awash in the pandemic, leaving us without that face to face time with our closest companions. The government tells us to wear masks and quarantine; use zoom or email, but that special face to face time is limited or non-existent. So loneliness sets in and especially so for our elderly who are widows or widowers. Paul’s best friends were Titus and Timothy, and when he was separated from these two, Paul felt the loneliness our elderly and singles are facing today. Perhaps you can relate. Reading between the lines we see that Paul began by encouraging others with overflowing joy, even in the midst of separation. He notes that he is troubled, but God is his encourager and even more so when Titus arrived to cheer him on. Who is your cheerleader?
In separation we can turn on the TV, go to our email accounts, but it is the power of the Word that encourages the downhearted. Titus’ arrival with news of the Corinthians who had repented brought great joy to him. So it is that just a visit from others to us brings us great joy and lightens the heart.
But what if you can’t meet face to face? Do as the phone company said, “Reach out and touch someone” with a phone call, and then take today to read through this chapter underlining his words of encouragement.
2Cor 1 Teddy Bears are given to foster children and those facing surgery as a way of comforting them when the future is an unknown. God has given us others to comfort us as we face times of difficulty. Paul noted that God is the Father of mercies and the God of all comfort. Do you trust that He can comfort you in all of your troubles? Do you see your troubles as God’s open door for you to minister to others? Paul wanted the Corinthians and us to know that God “comforts us in all our troubles so that we may be able to comfort those experiencing any trouble with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.” [2Cor 1:5]
Are you confident and able to trust that God is involved in your circumstances? Paul’s testimony was that he was steadfast and immovable in whatever circumstance he found himself in because his hope was set on God alone.
Lastly, Paul reminded the Corinthians to pray without ceasing so that many people may give thanks to God. John Bunyan wrote: “In prayer, it is better to have a heart without words than words without a heart.”
What adversity are you facing today, and how may we pray for you in this time?
1Cor 13 Puzzles are challenging and time-consuming and there is nothing more frustrating than working on one only to note that one piece is missing. Our lives are like a puzzle and if we are missing the key piece of love we are like a cymbal that is off-key.
The word Paul uses is “AGAPE” and it means love without changing, self-giving without expecting something in return, even if rejected. It has little to do with emotion but much to do with self-denial for the sake of another. It is love in action and it is love that is virtuous.
Want to know what true love is; look at Christ. Jesus is patient, Jesus is kind, and Jesus was not nor will ever be envious. Jesus was humble; he was the epitome of humility (Phil 2). Love is what the world needs so they may see Christ.
Paul ends this chapter with these words: And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love for it never falls short. It never fails. You may have many gifts but without that great gift of the Holy Spirit’s Fruit, (Gal 5:22) you are a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. Today mirror Christ to the world! Ask Jesus to give you that quality so that you exhibit Him!
Romans 9 to 11: Temporal losses of a job are tough, but there is always hope to find another. You can lose a home and its contents, but you can build a new one. But you cannot bring back a loved one. Paul’s heart is broken 💔 for his people, but he also knows and understands the why; they who are lost are stubborn just as he was and Pharaoh along with countless others. Truth: “if we deliberately keep on sinning after receiving the knowledge of the truth, no further sacrifice for sins is left for us.” [Heb 10:26]
Men’s hearts are hard and stubborn. They think there is a tomorrow when they can call upon God for salvation but there may be no tomorrow; today is the day of salvation. They know God’s mercy is evident and they understand that He has stretched out His hands to them but they keep delaying. Is this you? Have you called upon the Lord who saves? If not, know this; God and others are grieving for your soul.
Paul is speaking, “I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart.” Is this your grief too for those who are lost?
Blessed One, we must earnestly contend for the faith. [Jude 1:3] We must “go and make disciples.” [Matt 28] We must pray for our loved ones who do not know Christ. Just as Moses, Paul was willing to forgo his eternal salvation so that the lost might be saved. Would we be so willing?
Acts 28 John Jacob Astor believed that the Titanic was unsinkable, yet he and his wealth are at the bottom of the ocean because of his stubborn pride and lack of foresight—the Titanic only carried enough lifeboats for half of the passengers—Astor was not saved. We hear the words of Paul “men, you should have listened to me.” [Acts 27:21]
On the Adriatic Sea God sent another storm tossing the ship Paul was on. Just like the Titanic, the ship’s captain did not heed the words of Paul to stay on the island of Crete. Yet, God can overrule men’s decisions so that they may come face to face with the God of the storms. In this case, He chose to preserve Roman soldiers, centurions, rowers, the captain and prisoners so they might hear Paul teach and preach the resurrection of Christ. Did they respond because of the storm? Only in eternity will we know. Yet this is true: “Consequently faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the preached word of Christ.” [Rom 10:17]
God does the same for us today; He uses ordinary people like you and me to carry out His divine appointed plans. We never know when we may experience a storm so men may hear the story of the resurrected Christ.
What storm are you facing?
Will you let God use you to share the resurrected Christ to others?
Acts 16 A common saying goes like this: When one door closes, another opens. In the meantime, more often than not, we are left wondering what God is up to. Dr. Luke does not tell the how or why; only that Paul and Silas’ journey to Philippi opened the door to suffering, false imprisonment and the beginnings of the Philippian church.
Through a series of circumstances, the Holy Spirit pierced the hearts of two Philippians and they responded to the offer of salvation. First, there is the seller of Purple, Lydia, who accepts Jesus and invites Paul and Silas to come and stay in [her] house. [Acts 16:15] Later their preaching causes an uproar in the city and the magistrates beat and falsely imprison Paul and Silas. But, God has another person on His list to hear the message of salvation. He sends an earthquake to awaken the heart of the jailer by opening the jail cells. The fearful jailer thinking that the prisoners were escaping was about to commit suicide until Paul and Silas assured him they were all accounted for. He took Paul and Silas, washed their wounds, fed them, and asked this all-important question “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” [Acts 16:30]
We may not know what God is doing but He will direct us to those who need to hear these words. “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” [Rom 10:9]
Acts 13 and 14 There is an old hymn that says there is ‘power, power, wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb.’ Jesus is the Lamb that takes away the sin of the world. He came, he lived, he died, and he rose again on the third day that we might know and experience that power. Do you believe this?
Barnabas and Paul are the first winningest duo who took that message to cities far beyond Jerusalem and Antioch. They trusted in that power and souls were saved, but along with the message, the truth that Jesus said would also be true. “If they persecuted Me, they willalsopersecuteyou; if they kept My word, they will keep yours also. “ [John 15:20]And so it is that these two faithful servants of God would be used to preach, teach, and suffer. The words of God to Ananias about Paul are coming true; “I will show him how much he must suffer for My name’s sake.”
We really have no idea about suffering. We read about it, but for the most part, we have not suffered like Paul and Barnabas or as the early Christians did. Our challenge is this:
If God called you to share the truth, would you be willing to suffer for His Name?
There is wonder-working power in the blood of the Lamb to change lives. Will you share that power with another even if it means suffering?