The Lord’s delight

“I make known the end from the beginning, from ancient times, what is still to come. I say: ‘My purpose will stand, and I will do all that I please.’”  Isaiah 46:10

God is sovereign – in control of all things – this is true. If there was any doubt in the minds of His people of this truth, God clears that up in Isaiah 46:10. To paraphrase, God says, “I am God. You are not. I know everything. You do not. I will do what I please.” If we aren’t careful, we could misunderstand what God is saying.

When God says, “I will do all that I please,” He is not minimizing man. He is not saying that He is the master puppeteer and we are just moving as He pulls our strings. While God’s purpose does prevail, He has chosen to involve us in His plans. This is messy work for God. We have not made it easy with our running and resisting and know-it-all attitudes. But still, He relentlessly pursues and corrects and loves, setting us back on His path and involving us in His plans.

The word please in Isaiah 46:10 means: “That in which one takes delight or pleasure.” In this verse, God is saying that He will do what brings Him pleasure. What pleases God, then? From Scripture, we know that God delights in humility. We know obedience pleases Him. So does worship, truth and faith. God takes pleasure in all of these.

If God does what pleases Him, does that mean God delights in our suffering and hardship? No! But He does delight in what suffering produces in us. Anything that God allows into our lives is for His pleasure, and therefore for our ultimate good. In every situation, we must choose to see with eternal perspective. In 2 Corinthians 4:18 Paul wrote that we must “fix our eyes, not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.”

No matter what you are facing today, choose to look to the unseen. How can this situation build my faith? How does it cause me to worship? What opportunity has it given me to obey? This perspective delights the Father…and what could be better than that?

Father, I know that You are in control of my life. You are aware of all of my circumstances, even when I don’t understand. Please help me to trust You more. Help me to see the unseen and not just the here and now. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Can I help?

“Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

The LORD’s purpose prevails. Always. No matter what. Despite our plans, mistakes, or even sin, God’s purpose will stand. This is both comforting and disconcerting, isn’t it? It is comforting because no matter how much we may mess up, or misunderstand, or fail, God’s will for our lives will be accomplished – one way or another. It is disconcerting because this truth forces the realization that God is indeed in complete control. He is big, and we are small.

God does not need us. Acts 17:25 says that God “is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.”  This is one of the great mysteries of God. He does not need our service, yet He chooses to accomplish His plans through our service. Ephesians 2:10 says that God has saved us for “good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

When put together, these truths paint a beautiful picture of what it means to have a personal relationship with the sovereign God of the universe. God’s purpose will prevail.  He does not need anyone or anything to bring about His plans. Yet, in grace and wisdom He has chosen to humble Himself and include His children in His work. Do you wonder why?

Have you ever allowed your young child to “help” you with a household chore? Clearly, you could do it better yourself. You do not need your child’s help. In fact, it would be easier and more efficient just to do it yourself. So why involve your child in your work?  It is because you love your child. You enjoy spending time with your children; and you delight in their willingness to help you. It is about the relationship, not the task.

So it is with God. He delights in hearts that long to serve Him. It brings Him joy to see His children “help” Him. He does not need our help, but He does want our hearts.

LORD, It is humbling to admit that You do not need me. And it is overwhelming to believe that You want me. Please use me today, Lord, to accomplish Your plans. I surrender my plans and ideas to You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

 

 

The LORD is there

“Where can I go from Your Spirit? Where can I flee from Your presence? If I go up to the heavens, You are there; if I make my bed in the depths, You are there. If I rise on the wings of the dawn, if I settle on the far side of the sea, even there Your hand will guide me, Your right hand will hold me fast.”  Psalm 139:7-10

Why couldn’t Jonah run from God? Why couldn’t Adam and Eve hide from God? The answers to these questions can be found in God’s name. The Bible gives God many different names. He is called Creator, LORD, Everlasting, Almighty, King, and Shepherd.  He is called Savior, Redeemer, and Father…just to name a few. In biblical times a name represented a person’s character. God’s name represents His very nature.

One of the names given to God is Jehovah-shammah, which means the LORD is there. A Scottish Christian named Geoffrey Bull (1921-1999) knew God by this name. Chinese Communists imprisoned Bull for three years. In his book God Holds the Key, Bull wrote:

“I had no Bible in my hand, no watch on my wrist, no pencil or paper in my pocket.  There was no real hope of release. There was no real hope of life. There was no real possibility of reunion with those I loved. The only reality was my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Divested of all, He was to become everything to me. He was to break my bars and enlarge my coasts in the narrow room. He was to be my fullest nourishment amidst the meager food. ‘My meat,’ which my captors ‘knew not of.’ He would make me glad with His countenance. He would let me hear His voice. As in the days of His nativity, Herod may reign and imagine slaughter against the innocent but let me see His star and I would come to worship Him.”

In that tiny Chinese prison cell, God was there with Geoffrey Bull. He comforted him in his darkest moments. In the belly of the big fish, God was there with Jonah. Deep among the covering of the trees in Eden, God was there with Adam and Eve. He sought them in their sin and shame.

God is there…Jehovah-shammah…wherever you are. Whether you are suffering because of your rebellion or because of your obedience…God is there. As the psalmist sings in Psalm 139, you cannot flee from God’s presence. He is in the heights and in the depths.  He is in the light and in the darkness. He is always with you.

LORD, Thank You for always being with me. Help me to know, believe, and live the truth that You are all I need. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

You Can’t Run

“The word of the LORD came to Jonah, son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before Me.’ But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.”  Jonah 1:1-4 

When I read the first chapter of Jonah, I can’t help but think of the classic children’s book, The Gingerbread Man. Do you know the story? The gingerbread man thinks he is so smart as he runs away, singing, “Run, run, as fast as you can. You can’t catch me, I’m the gingerbread man!” He manages to escape for a while, but then he meets a sly fox that tricks him, lures him close, and gobbles him up.

God had a clear plan for Jonah’s life. And Jonah had the amazing privilege of hearing that plan straight from God. There was no mystery…no wondering what God’s will was for his life. God told Jonah exactly where to go and what to do. There was only one problem. Jonah ran…just like the Gingerbread Man. Obviously Jonah’s plan and God’s plan were not the same. So, Jonah made the mistake that so many have made…he tried to run from God.

Jonah not only tried to run away from God…he tried to sail away from God. He boarded a ship headed in the opposite direction from Nineveh. But God would not let Jonah go.  Although Jonah obviously did not believe it, God knew His plans for Jonah were better than his own. He had created Jonah for a purpose, and He was not finished with him yet.  God proved to Jonah that he couldn’t outrun Him by sending a storm and a big fish to “redirect” his path. And finally, in the dark, smelly gut of that fish Jonah decided to cooperate.

In the end, many people turned and worshiped the LORD as a result of God’s work through Jonah’s life. The men on his getaway boat believed and worshiped God after they saw the winds still. The people of Nineveh, from the king all the way down, believed God and repented of their sins. May we learn from Jonah’s example not only that we cannot run from God’s plans, but also that we shouldn’t want to run. Not only for our own sake, but also for the sake of the people that God may be planning to reach through our lives.

LORD, Your plan for my life is clear in Your word. My purpose is to share Your love and Your gospel with others. I know there are times when I try to run from You. Please forgive me for doubting Your goodness. I surrender this day to Your plans for me. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

 

Free to Pray

“Pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”  Ephesians 6:18

Have you considered lately what an incredible honor it is to pray? Through faith in Jesus Christ, we can have a conversation with the God of the universe. The God who spoke the world into existence is willing to listen to us, and to respond. This should blow our minds!

In Ephesians 6, Paul encourages believers to pray, pray, pray. Not matter what, pray.  Don’t stop meeting with God.  There is a sense of urgency in this passage. “Wake up!” Paul says, “Pray!” And what are we to pray for? In a word: everything. Big and small, important or mundane, healthy or sick, rich or poor, easy or hard…pray…and then pray some more.

Maybe this is one reason that Paul’s life had such impact…prayer. Many times we can get so busy trying to “live for God” that we neglect to call on Him. We neglect to thank Him and praise Him. We forget to pray for our brothers and sisters. We take the freedom to pray for granted.

Did you know that there was a time when God’s people could not commune with God in prayer the way we can? Under the Old Covenant, God’s presence dwelled behind a curtain, with the people, but not in them. Only a select few spoke with God personally. But, as the Bride of Christ through New Covenant of grace, we have the freedom to pray in the Spirit all the time, with all kinds of requests.

Do you appreciate this freedom? Much like political freedom, it was not free. Just as many brave soldiers have died to give us freedom, Jesus died to give us the freedom to have a personal relationship with God. And prayer is one of the greatest benefits of this relationship.

Father, It is humbling to know that when I talk to You, You listen. I ask that You would align my will with Yours, so that my prayers are effective and in accordance with Your perfect plans. Remind me throughout the day to pray continually, not just for my own needs, but also for the burdens and needs of others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

You Can’t Hide

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as He was walking in the Garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the Garden. But the LORD God called to the man, ‘Where are you?’”  Genesis 3:8-9

It is futile to try to hide from God. But the first thing Adam and Eve did when they realized the consequences of their sin was to attempt the impossible. They ran and hid when they heard God approaching. They attempted to cover their sin and shame with flimsy fig leaves. But then God asked the ultimate rhetorical question: “Where are you?”  God is omniscient…so He knew exactly where they were and what they had done. Yet He still called out to them. He sought them out when they tried to hide.

God is the foremost seeker. We hide and He seeks. We tend to think of ourselves as seeking Him. But if we do seek God, it is because He first sought us. Our natural inclination, just like Adam and Eve’s, is to hide from God. Our gut reaction is to try to cover our sin. But as Adam and Eve learned that day in the Garden, our futile attempts to hide will never work.

Why can’t we hide from God? The reasons go beyond the obvious. Of course God is all knowing and all seeing. But it goes deeper than that. God is too gracious to allow it. He would have been completely just to never approach Adam and Eve after they hid from Him. After all, He had given them clear instructions and carefully explained the consequences of disobedience. If they ate from the forbidden tree, they would “surely die” (Genesis 2:17).

They heard God. They understood. But they chose to eat it anyway. They deserved death…and they knew it. Why else would they have hidden? That could have – and should have – been the end of Adam and Eve’s relationship with God. But their Creator wouldn’t have it. He went to them, fully aware of their rebellion. He called to them. He covered them. And yes, He disciplined them, but not without a promise.

For generations people continued to disobey God and to hide from Him. And God continued to call out to His rebellious creation. When the time came, God offered the ultimate invitation to come to Him. He offered His Son on the cross. In Christ sin is no longer covered over…it is taken away through faith in Him. There is no need to hide in guilt and shame. Our Creator is gracious, and He bids us to come and be forgiven.

Father, Thank You for seeking me when I was far from You. I deserved death for my sin, and yet you forgave me. Lord, help me to remember that I cannot hide anything from You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Free to Obey

“You are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”  Galatians 4:7

Christ-followers have gone from slaves to sons…from rebellious sinners to chosen children. And as God’s children, we are heirs of the Most-High God. A slave must obey…a son may choose to obey out of love and honor for his father. As children of God, it is our privilege to obey our Father. Because He has freed us from slavery and made us His very own children, we are co-heirs with Christ.

An heir is someone who is given a possession through the right of sonship. But what is it that Christians possess through sonship? We are heirs of God’s glory (Romans 8:17). We are heirs of God’s promise (Galatians 3:29). We are heirs of eternal life (Titus 3:7). We are heirs of the gracious gift of life (1 Peter 3:7). And we are heirs of the righteousness that comes by faith (Hebrews 11:7). God has graciously lavished on us His inheritance; and we are blessed beyond measure.

However, with great blessing comes great responsibility. “Free” does not mean lawless.  God has redeemed us from the curse of the law (death) because we were flawed, not the law. The law was good…man just could not fully keep it. And full obedience is what righteousness required. As sons and daughters, though, we are free to obey God through the power of His Spirit who lives in and through us…moving us to obey.

This does not mean we will always keep God’s commands perfectly – but it does mean that we will desire to try. It means that there is no condemnation when we fail. God has chosen to punish His perfect Son, a lamb without blemish, for our transgressions so that we can stand in His presence as righteous, holy children. Obedience now flows out of grace, not fear of punishment. We are sons, not slaves. We no longer have to strive to earn God’s favor through obedience, but are free to love God through obedience.  Now that’s what I call freedom!

Holy Father, All Your ways are good. Your Word is flawless. I know Your commands are for my good. I desire to obey You with a grateful heart. Thank You for Your Spirit, who gives me the power to obey You. Thank You for freeing me from slavery and making me Your child. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Free to Love Others

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you.”  John 15:12

Jesus commanded, not asked, His followers to love others as He had loved them. How did Jesus love? He loved in word and deed. He loved in the big and the small. He loved intentionally and eternally. He loved effectively. He loved by spending time with people.  He loved by meeting physical needs. He loved by forgiving. He loved by always revealing the Father. He loved boldly, truthfully, and humbly. He loved by serving. He loved through His sacrifice on the cross.

Who did Jesus love? He loved His parents. He loved His family. He loved His friends. He loved the twelve that He called. He loved the 3 that He drew closer. He loved the masses.  He loved the crowds. He loved the paralytic and the blind. He loved the prostitute, tax collector, and the leper. He loved His enemies. He loved children. He loved widows and orphans. He supremely loved His Father.

A Communist officer once told a Christian he was beating, “I am almighty, as you suppose your God to be.  I can kill you.” The Christian answered, “The power is all on my side. I can love you while you torture me to death.” As recipients of God’s love, Christians have the incredible capacity to love others. This capacity is not of the natural will…but from God’s power. Because He has loved us, saved us, and given us His Spirit in all His power, we are free to love.

We are compelled by His love to love others. We are equipped through His Word to love others. We are commanded by His Son to love others. And we are able, through His Spirit, to love – even as Christ has loved us.

So, the next time you find it hard to love someone, remember how Christ has loved you.  Let His love for you motivate you in your love for others.

Father, Thank You for freeing me to love others, even when it is hard. It is amazing to think that I have Your power to love…but I must choose to use it. Please don’t ever let me become arrogant. Help me to humbly remember the love and grace You have shown me when I did not deserve it. Teach me to rely on Your strength to love others just as You have loved me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Free to Love God

“This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins…We love because He first loved us.”  1 John 4:10, 19

 

In his book, Tortured for Christ, Richard Wurmbrand wrote: “Without fear we sang in prisons 30 feet beneath the earth.  We were terribly hungry, beaten and tortured.  The Communists were good at torturing us.  We would say to each other, ‘the Communists beat us very well – let us do our work well.  Let us sing well.’”

 

Wurmbrand, a man of Jewish decent, spent 14 years in Communist Romanian prisons for His faith in Christ.  He was physically tortured and placed in solitary confinement for several years because of his unwavering love for Jesus Christ.  He refused to stop spreading the Gospel, despite the cost.  He refused to stop worshiping his Lord…even in prison.

 

Richard Wurmbrand understood true freedom.  He knew firsthand the glorious freedom of loving God.  From behind steel bars and within the confines of chains, he was free.  Free to believe.  Free to hope.  Free to pray.  Free to sing.  Free to die for Christ.  Because God loved him, he was free to love God.

 

God is love; therefore, He is the initiator of all love.  Our love for God is always in response to His love for us.  And the ultimate demonstration of His love is seen in His Son, Jesus.  Whatever happens in life, if we look to the cross, we can know we are loved.  Our risen Savior, the Lord over all creation, is our invitation to love God.  And in loving Him, we are free to enjoy Him.  We are free to love Him because He is worthy…to seek His face and not only His hands.

 

Have you paused lately to consider the freedom you have in Christ if you believe in Him?  You are free to know and to love your Creator.  The God who counts the stars and knows them by name loves you and knows the number of hairs on your head.  You are free to talk to Him and ask Him questions.  You are free to worship Him, even in chains, like Richard Wurmbrand did.  You can love Him wholeheartedly, because He first loved you.  What glorious freedom!

 

 

Holy Father, Thank You for loving me.  Thank You for sending Jesus as the sacrifice for my sins so that I can love You, too.  Without forgiveness I could not have a relationship with You at all.  Lord, help me to be steadfast and firm in my faith.  I want others to know that You love them.  Use Me to accomplish Your plan.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Good News

“I am the LORD, the God of all mankind.  Is anything too hard for Me?”  Jeremiah 32:27

It is almost impossible to watch the news nowadays without hearing of some catastrophe or natural disaster.  Hurricanes, earthquakes, murders, war, famine, disease, kidnapping, tsunamis…the list goes on and on.  It’s enough to make you want to turn off the TV and never watch the news again.

However, even without broadcast news, there is no escape from the dark reality of suffering.  Since that day thousands of years ago when Adam and Eve took the first bite of forbidden fruit, choosing to rebel against God’s authority, creation has been suffering the consequences of sin.  And thousands of years later, Jesus died on the cross, defeating sin’s power.  But sin’s presence still exists.  And it will be present, along with its consequences, until Christ returns.

This sounds like a bleak picture, doesn’t it?  But we can’t stop here.  Jeremiah 32:27 offers hope.  It offers victory.  Nothing is too hard for our God!  He is the God of all mankind – the Lord over all creation.  The winds and waves obey His voice.  Yes, He allows disaster.  He is in control of all things – even the injustice that He hates.  But He always stands ready to save.  He longs to rescue…to deliver…to heal.  Nothing is too difficult for Him.

So, when the news seems hopeless.  When all you want to do is crawl back in bed and throw the covers over your head…remember, nothing is too hard for your God.  Look to Him for comfort.  Run to Him for refuge.  Trust in Him for everything you need.  Because not only is He able…He is graciously willing.  And this, my friend, is good news!

Holy Father, I praise You because nothing is too hard for You.  You are a mighty Savior, and a humble servant.  In You I find everything I need.  Even though Your ways do not always make sense to me…I choose this day to trust You.  Thank You for saving me.  Thank You for loving me.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Our Weapons

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.  The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world.  On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds.  We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”  2 Corinthians 10:3-5

Every day that we live on this earth, there is an unseen war raging.  It is an epic battle of good versus evil, and the hearts of mankind are at stake.  Sometimes we can sense the fighting, and sometimes we cannot…but either way, it is real and ongoing.  Throughout the New Testament Christians are exhorted to be ready, to stand firm, to be strong, to never stop praying, to abide in Christ, and to have on the full armor of God.

This passage makes a comparison between the weapons used by God’s people, and the weapons of the world.  We do not fight in the same way, or for the same things.  How are the weapons different?  Ours are not carnal – they are not of the flesh.  We do not depend on what worldly people do to advance the cause of Christ.  Our dependence is not on eloquence, or talent, or education, or wealth, or beauty, or anything else external.  While these things are not bad, they should not be the weapons in our hands.

The weapons we use have no inherent value or power in themselves.  Their strength is from God alone.  While Paul does not name these weapons specifically in this passage, he had written of them earlier in this letter to Corinth (2 Corinthians 6:6-7).  Our weapons are true and pure.  They come from God and they lead to Him as He accompanies them with His power to the hearts of those who hear the gospel.

How incredible, in this world that is literally deteriorating before our eyes and taking countless souls with it, that our ministry can be powerful and effective through the blessing of God and the influence of His grace and Spirit for the conversion of sinners, the building up of the Church, the defense of truth, and the enlargement of Christ’s kingdom, not to mention the destruction of Satan’s!

As a Christ follower, are you fighting faithfully for Christ’s glory?  If so, are you using the right weapons?  You don’t have to know all the answers and speak with eloquence and charm…you need only be willing and walking in God’s Spirit.

Gracious LORD, Thank You for equipping me for every good work.  Please help me to depend on You and fight using Your weapons and not anything of this world.  And above all, help me to love.  In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

God’s Answer for Anxiety

“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.”  Philippians 4:6-7

How am I going to pay all of my bills this month?  What if I lose my job?  What if the biopsy results say I have cancer?  What if something bad happens to my children or spouse?  Will this economy ever turn around?

Questions like these plague our minds, and can become overwhelming.  Anxiety and depression have reached an all-time high as the economy continues to be unstable and relationships continue to crumble.  Facing each day can seem like an insurmountable mountain if our focus is on circumstances, and not on our God.

There is a defense for anxiety.  Many would call it too simplistic…too idealistic for the problems of the world.  It is these two words:  thank you.  Many of us bring our requests to God, begging Him to help us in the midst of tough circumstances.  But, do we say “thank you?”  It is almost impossible to worry and give thanks at the same time.

If you are alive, reading this, you have much to be thankful for, regardless of circumstances.  Who gave you life this morning?  Who keeps your heart beating and lungs breathing throughout this day?  Who provided the clothes you wear, the food you will eat today or the clean water you will drink?  Who caused the sun to rise, giving life to the earth?  Who sends rain to water the plants so that life can flourish today?

Most importantly, Who has provided His Son as a sacrifice for our sins?  God’s extravagant grace is everywhere at all times.  But we must choose to see it.  God wants us to come to Him with our problems, but He also wants us to say thank you.  And when we do, an incredible transaction happens.  Anxiety is exchanged for peace…God’s peace.

This is a choice we have every day.  Will I continue to worry about things that may or may not happen, or will I choose to live in this moment and see all that God has given and to be grateful?

Lord Jesus, thank You for all of the good gifts that You give each day.  Please forgive me for being ungrateful for Your grace and mercy.  Please take away my anxiety and give me a spirit of thanksgiving as I go through this day.  Amen.