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We Perish!

We Perish!

It was a dark and stormy night.

Of course, it didn’t start out that way. The day had been stunning. They had seen and heard wonderful things that made their heads swim. They didn’t understand most of it, but knew it was amazing. So when they jumped in the boat to make the crossing they had made many times before, they expected a relaxing trip to give them opportunity to consider the events of the last hours.

But storms come up fast and without warning at night on Lake Gennesaret. This one was particularly frightening. The waves rolled over the railing, threatening to sink the boat. As these seasoned fishermen shook in their sandals, wondering what to do, they realized that the One who had taught in such an amazing way that day was sleeping in the stern of the boat!

The disciples had learned much of the kingdom of God that day. They heard how the kingdom would grow and increase as it filled the earth. Implied was the amazing truth that God, as the sovereign creator of the world, would irresistibly drawn his people to himself. His kingdom would stand, as the prophets foretold. Though Jesus had concealed much from the crowds through the parables, he made it clear that he was explaining those truths to his disciples in plain language.

It would seem that as they boarded the boat that evening, they would be meditating and considering the implications of such teaching. This God who had, in times past, seemed to focus His revelation on a tiny nation in a concentrated part of the world would now reveal Himself across the globe! He would cause the seed of His word to grow in hearts and transform the dead natures of men. What power would be shown!

But when the storm whipped up, those thoughts were gone. Maybe they didn’t forget, but it sure wasn’t their focus. All they could ponder was their certain death at the hand of the capricious wind.

Somewhere in the back of their minds, they remembered that Jesus was powerful. Maybe one of them recalled the paralytic who walked at His command, or the withered hand that was made whole at a word. But even as they looked around to see how He could help, they saw that He was asleep. How could He sleep at a time like this?

Incredulously, they ran to His berth. I love the accuracy of the ESV, but the incomparable words of the KJV ring in my ears at this point: “Master, carest thou not that we perish?!”  Don’t you realize that we are about to be destroyed in this tempest? Has it not crossed your mind that we are about to DIE?

It’s pretty easy for us to criticize the disciples. We’ve heard the story hundreds of times. We know that they had seen countless miracles already. Yet they still forgot who was in control.

I told a friend recently, “I will never criticize those disciples again!”

My family has been going through the storms. Financially, emotionally, spiritually, we feel the tossing of the boat. And it’s not just my immediate family. Other family members, dear friends – so many people I know are in the midst of circumstances that seem to leave no hope.

Perhaps you know how it feels. I’ll give you my personal experience as it stands right now: I know my Savior is there. But to be perfectly honest, I feel as though I’m crying out, “Don’t you know that I’m dying here?!” Yes, it feels like he’s asleep in the boat. He created it all, he controls it all, and I know intellectually that he has a purpose in it all, but it sure is hard to see right now.

Perhaps one day, we’ll be able to look back and see that the storms were good for us. That they strengthened us. But right now, it sure feels like it’s just going to kill us.

I can’t imagine how hard Paul must have had to swallow before he said, “I believe God, that he will save us all alive.” I wish I had that kind of faith! But for now, I must continue crying out, “Master, save us.” For it is he alone who can deliver. No matter how impossible it seems.

I say it to you, as I say it to myself every day. Through the tears, take heart. He has overcome.

 
 

When We Don’t Know How to Pray

praying_handsOne of my constant struggles in prayer is knowing how to pray. We are instructed to pray according to the will of God. But many times, we don’t know God’s ultimate purpose, so how can we truly pray? I believe that God has revealed his will to us in his Word. Sure, there are things that are within his secret counsel, but to simply relegate prayer to “mystery” is not biblical.

But what about those needs that are so overwhelming, so beyond our understanding and solutions, that we just don’t know where to even begin? I’m glad God has given us that answer as well.

Paul tells us, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8.15-16)

In this chapter, Paul is laying out the antidote to the struggle between spirit and flesh expressed in chapter 7. We are give great assurance that we belong to God by the ever present ministry of the Comforter within us. Because we belong to him, we have no reason to fear. But when fears begin to overtake—and the context seems to point to the fear being that of being enslaved to sin once again—we can simply cry out, “DADDY, I NEED YOU!”

Yes, we will suffer in this world. All the things James speaks of in the previous post are ever with us. The struggle of sin in our flesh remains until we are glorified. Yet we are assured of future glory. All creation is presently crying out for redemption, and the promise is sure that our bondage has been/is being/will be completely broken!

As we wait, we groan. But in our groaning we have hope. Cling to the hope of Christ! For we know that if he has truly begun his work in us, he will perfect it in his perfect day.

But we still groan. Life in Christ is a joy, yet there are still great burdens. And when all we know to do is to cry out to our Father,  we still have hope. Paul continues with these glorious words: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

What a promise! When we know not what to pray, how to pray, the Spirit of God is praying for us. Yes, Jesus meant what He said when he told us he would leave us an Advocate. If you are his, he is praying for you. And his words are powerful. They are infallible. They are greater than any request we could ever make. And they WILL come to pass!

Just read the end of this great chapter: “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God ‘s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died —more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

“As it is written,
For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I am overwhelmed just meditating on these things. This is my life. This passage has never been more real and relevant to me than it is right now. My family is going through a very trying time. Even as I type these words, my eyes are clouded with tears. (If you’ve actually read this far, please pray that God will give our family grace!) I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know how to pray. So many times, I’ve just sat sobbing, crying to my Father without words. And even though I don’t know the future, I know that it’s not in vain.

He holds it all in his hand. My Jesus knows tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…He has not forsaken. And he has promised his Comforter. In this hope we are saved.
 
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Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Commentary, Devotional

 

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Pray!

“Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working. Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed fervently that it might not rain, and for three years and six months it did not rain on the earth. Then he prayed again, and heaven gave rain, and the earth bore its fruit.” —James 5.13-18

This is an amazing passage on prayer! Jesus told us to pray and not “lose heart”. Paul told us to pray and “lift up holy hands”. James tells us to pray in all the circumstances of life. If we are suffering, and enduring hardship, we are to pray. Whether it’s because of another that we suffer, or because of our own actions, we have a Friend upon whom we can cast ALL of our cares! Even in times of joy, we are to pray through singing praise to our Sovereign. When we are sick, we are to pray, and seek the prayers of others. How often we fail in this area.

Prayer is a discipline that no amount of academic understanding will develop. So often, we want to understand doctrine and be able to argue all the “finer points”. But if we would understand prayer, we must pray. When asked by his disciples to teach them to pray, Jesus gave them a prayer to model after. And what a prayer it is! But note that his emphasis is not on a “system” of prayer, but on crying out to our FATHER for all our needs. We have not because we ask not, and so often, when we ask, we ask wrongly out of our own lusts. But may we submit to God that he may give us godly desires that will flow out in our prayer.

Do you have a great need? Pray. Are you burdened, whether by emotion, finances, sin, or other sorrow? Pray. We have a Father who cares.

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2015 in Devotional

 

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Leaning in TRUTH

It has been my intention to continue jotting down some notes from my meditations on Isaiah 10. As you can tell, I haven’t exactly done what I planned! Things are just busy, and when I get home, I’m worn out and ready to relax a little bit. Therefore I don’t have much time to spend in front of the computer screen. However, as I have time, I’ll write down a few thoughts.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”—Isaiah 10:20-21

As we continue to meditate on “leaning in truth”, we must recognize that the idea of truth relates to God’s revelation of himself. As God speaks through the prophet Isaiah, he bases his proclamations on what the nation of Israel already knows. They have received the oracles of God, and have been disobedient to them. In the covenant God made with them, he made clear the consequences for disobedience. Despite that clear Word, they have repeatedly rejected God’s truth. God now prophesies of the future. His people will return. They will obey. They will learn to depend absolutely on their gracious God. And they will do it because God has faithfully revealed himself repeatedly through their history.

But not only has God revealed himself to the nation of Israel, he has in these days spoken unto us by his Son! Peter tells us that we have a more sure word of prophecy. Jesus told his disciples is that they would do greater things than he had done following his ascension to the Father. It would not be through their skilled efforts, but because of the sure work of the Holy Spirit in them.

God does not expect us to depend on mere myths and fables. We do not rest on platitudes or clichés. Rather, we lean on him in truth—through his clear revelation of himself in the Scriptures that he has so graciously given us.

May we read, study, memorize, and meditate in what he has given so that we do not simply trust in a god of our own making, out of our imagination, but in the One who alone has the words of life. May God give us the grace to LEAN on him in TRUTH!
 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Perseverance in our Leaning

I haven’t been able to get away from Isaiah 10 – so much meat here! Of course, I have been reading more, but my meditation continues in these verses.

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”

Notice that the prophet proclaims that God’s remnant will lean “in truth”. This is a powerful description. In both the OT and the NT, this idea carries much weight. Over the next couple days, I’ll point out a few brief thoughts on what this statement includes.

“In truth” means that God’s people lean steadfastly – faithfully. This is the perseverance of God’s saints! As you read the book of Isaiah, and later the New Testament, I believe it is plain that these prophecies find their fulfillment in the time of the Messiah. Christ came as the suffering servant to provide redemption for His people. As he draws his remnant to himself, he is faithful to perform that which he has begun in us. That is, He causes us to lean on Him, and causes us to continue to lean.

All of life is for this purpose: that we might know the Father, and the Son He sent, through the continuing ministry of the Holy Spirit. That’s why God worked the way He did in the Old Testament, and He has not changed. He is bringing us to Him that we may lean on Him, and find our complete satisfaction in His goodness.
 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Leaning on our Rock

I’ve continued meditating on Isaiah 10.20-21. It’s really an astounding passage!

 

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.”

 

Who “struck” them? In context, the striker was their enemy, the Assyrian. Are we expected to believe that they actually leaned on their enemy? The history of the nation demonstrates that they did!

Just look at the fulfilled prophecy in their return from exile in Ezra and Nehemiah. We make much of the return, but often fail to remember that the majority of the nation actually stayed behind in the enemy land. If this should seem odd, it was a pattern. Don’t you remember how that, when things got tough, the Israelites in the wilderness longed to return to Egypt, where they had it so much better? Was it really better? Of course not. But when their eyes were not fixed on Yahweh, it was easy to confuse reality.

How the same is true even of us! So often, we “lean” on the very thing that will destroy us. We cling to our sin instead of our Savior. We lean on our enemy instead of on Ebenezer. We trust in the riches of this world instead of the reward of eternity.

May God, in His sovereign mercy, redirect our lean. Instead of finding support in those things that will fall away, bringing us with them, let us plead that we will lean on the rock which endures forever.
 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Bible Study, Devotional

 

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Learning to Lean

On my mildly stressful drive this morning, I was listening to the book of Isaiah. I was in chapter 10, listening to the section on God’s sovereignty even over evil emperors to accomplish his purpose, when I was struck by something a little later in the chapter:

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” (vs. 20-21)

So even in God’s purpose being accomplished by the sin of the nation of Assyria, his purpose is to draw his people to himself. It is a guarantee (election will be accomplished). I’ve focused much from this passage on God’s sovereignty even over sin. However, these verses jumped out at me declaring God’s purpose – it’s to glorify himself by surely drawing His people.

Be comforted: while you are absolutely responsible for your sin, it does not thwart God’s purposes! Nor is God scrambling to figure out how to “fix” it. He is always at work to make us lean on Him.

May we lean in truth, no matter the circumstances!

 
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Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Bible Study, Commentary, Devotional

 

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No Fault Found in Him

daniel-in-the-lions-denI’ve been thinking a lot lately about our relationship to the government. Early this year, there was a big brouhaha over gun control, which, thankfully, did not result in greater restrictions. Yet. No doubt that will happen at some point, but I’m grateful for our current liberty.

Most recently in my thought process was the New Mexico Supreme Court decision, in which it was stated that a photographer has no right to refuse services to a “commitment ceremony” involving two homosexual participants based on religious conviction. Justice Bosson stated in his opinion that religious compromise is “the price of citizenship.”

Certainly, numerous other examples could be stated which challenge every Christian. We have been commanded to be in subjection to the authorities God has placed over us. At the same time, we ought to obey God rather than man. This is a difficult topic for all believers. It is not one which should be approached lightly, and deserves much prayer, study, and prior determination.

Peter writes that governments are appointed for the punishment of evildoers. Throughout history, that has largely proven true. Even godless governments tend to enforce laws that uphold the Ten Commandments: do not murder, do not steal, etc. Granted, they do not uphold them for the right reason (glory of God), and they are selective by ignoring the First Table of the Law, but they do punish genuine evildoers. Paul also writes in Romans 13 that rulers are not a terror to those who do good works. Once again, that is generally true. Obedience to the law, as a whole, means that one has nothing to fear from his government (political considerations aside for the moment!).

Ultimately, what is the responsibility of Christians? I believe the basic principle is stated clearly in the book of Daniel. The young Hebrew had been given much authority and influence in the kingdom. By the reign of Darius, Daniel’s wisdom and spirit had been noted by many in positions of power, especially the king. Daniel 6 notes that Daniel was placed at the top of three presidents who were directly accountable only to the king. Yet he was hated by those under him. This was certainly because of his heritage as one of the exiles. As a foreigner, from a conquered country, how could he rise to such prominence above natives of the land?

Those other governors did their absolute best to trap Daniel. They watched his life, no doubt with the lawbook in hand, seeking to find him in violation. But they could find no fault in him. His lifestyle was blameless, both in moral character and in obedience to the laws of the land. Yes, he perfectly followed the legal system of a pagan culture. And we complain about our laws! He was found faithful, not by a group of peers, but by his enemies. What a testimony he had.

Since the princes could not find Daniel in violation of the law, they had to find another way to snare him. Daniel 6:5 tells us of their plan:

We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God.

Ultimately, the only fault they could find in Daniel was by manufacturing a law that would punish Daniel’s faithfulness. They recognized his absolute conviction by recognizing that a law in contradiction to God’s would force Daniel’s disobedience. They went to Darius and tricked him into signing a law against petition to any but the king. The law was signed, Daniel was found in violation, and he was cast into the den of lions. We know how God chose to deliver Daniel and glorify Himself.

That should cause us to consider our own lives. If we are honest, most of us would have to admit that one trying to find fault would probably not have to go to these lengths. That’s a convicting thought! On the other side of it, using the same tactics the princes used with Daniel may not work simply because we would obey the law rather than suffer the consequences.

May God grant us the wisdom and character of Daniel.

Then the presidents and princes sought to find occasion against Daniel concerning the kingdom; but they could find none occasion nor fault; forasmuch as he was faithful, neither was there any error or fault found in him. Then said these men, We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the law of his God. (Daniel 6:4-5)

 
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Posted by on September 7, 2013 in Bible Study, Daniel, Devotional