Shock and Awe by God – Matthew 27:44-54

God Announces Significant Events With Signs and Wonders

45 From noon until three in the afternoon darkness came over all the land. 46 About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”).

47 When some of those standing there heard this, they said, “He’s calling Elijah.”

48 Immediately one of them ran and got a sponge. He filled it with wine vinegar, put it on a staff, and offered it to Jesus to drink. 49 The rest said, “Now leave him alone. Let’s see if Elijah comes to save him.”

50 And when Jesus had cried out again in a loud voice, he gave up his spirit.

51 At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. The earth shook, the rocks split 52 and the tombs broke open. The bodies of many holy people who had died were raised to life. 53 They came out of the tombs after Jesus’ resurrection and went into the holy city and appeared to many people.

54 When the centurion and those with him who were guarding Jesus saw the earthquake and all that had happened, they were terrified, and exclaimed, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Drape Divided

At three o’clock local time in Israel, on April 3, 33 C.E.*, the temple veil was torn in two.  This is significant for several reasons.

First, the temple veil kept the innermost part of the temple, the Holy of Holies (in the Greek, the naos), separate from the rest of the temple.  It was holy – set apart for God and God alone.  Only the high priest could enter this area, and only once a year to perform the yearly sacrifice for sin for the Israelites.  When the veil was torn in two, it symbolically announced the arrival of the time that Jesus had foretold to the Samaritan woman at the well:

21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”

Indeed – the time had come when all true worshipers would worship in truth and spirit.

Secondly, the veil was torn from top to bottom.  This signified that it was God who tore the veil, and not man.  God was the one who now changed the relationship between man and Himself.  No longer would there be a separation between God and man, requiring that people come to the temple to worship.

Thirdly, God changed the location of the temple.  The naos** was the location where the presence of God dwelt.  Up until the time of the death of Jesus, this was the tent of meeting or the Holy of Holies in the temple.  Now, God dwells in each believer.  God has forsaken the vessels built by man and is now inhabiting the vessel built by God – the believer’s body.  The temple is no longer a building but the very bodies God has given us:

Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple** and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?

Enormous Earthquake

When God makes a statement, He generally tends to do it either softly (the still, small voice), or with a lot of panache.  On this day, God used a LOT of panache.  Not only did the veil hiding the Holy of Holies tear from top to bottom, but there was a great earthquake.  God wanted to make sure He got EVERYONE’S attention.  Signs in the Sun, Moon, and stars were going on, and if people weren’t paying attention, they would miss it.  God ensured that everyone in Israel would be stirred to attention to what had just happened.

Boulders Broken

Not only did the ground shake, the boulders shook as well.   They Bible says that the rocks were rent in two – the rocks had cried out and bore witness to the sorrow of the death of the Son of God.  Having no clothing to rent (tear apart), they tore themselves apart.

Death Defied

Not to be outdone, God wanted everyone to know that this was no ordinary day of events.  God raised the dead from their graves and sent them into Jerusalem.  The dead had risen – only The Lord God Almighty has the ability to raise the dead.  This day would not be soon forgotten by those who had witnessed it.  And just to make sure, God ensured that the centurion and others who were guarding Jesus on the cross bore witness when they cried out, “Surely he was the Son of God!”

Heavenly Hosts

And God, who does not change, made sure that this event had a heavenly sign as well.  When the Moon rose that night, it was a full blood Moon, as prophesied by Joel***.  But the most interesting part was that at exactly 3:00 PM Israel local time, when Jesus gave His last breath, the Moon went into eclipse.  The people of Israel would not have seen the Moon until about 6:00 PM.  And when they did, they would have seen that the Woman rose with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  But this time, she was not clothed with the sun.  She came in darkness, the most blackest darkness as befitted the death of the most Holy Son of God.  And the Moon, which first rose as a new, white-as-snow crescent Moon at the conception of Jesus by the Holy Spirit in Mary, a life just starting, now rose as full Moon, stained blood-red with Jesus’ death, a life fully lived.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I paying attention to the signs that God is placing in the sky with the Sun, the Moon, and the stars?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are faithful in all that You do.  You show us signs and wonders when You do significant things.  Help us to be a people who pay attention to Your word, and what You are doing.  Give me a sense of urgency in my heart for what troubles Yours, and help me to bring about Your plan that You have put into place to tell the world about You, Your Son, our sin, and Your desire to reconcile with us here on Earth rather than at the White Throne seat of judgment, where we will no longer have any chance to settle our debt with You.  Father, You are a holy and just God who cannot tolerate sin.  Thank You for the sacrifice of Your Son, Jesus Christ, for my sins.  Make my heart ache as I watch those who do not know you.  Give me a sense of purpose and boldness, that I too would testify about Jesus as Peter did at Pentecost and before the Sanhedrin.  And Father, help me to pay attention to the signs that You are giving that Jesus is coming soon.  For wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


Notes – This blog has been edited for clarity.

*Fred Larson has definitively identified April 3, 33 C.E. as the day of the death of Christ.  Using logic and clues from the Bible, he was able to accurately determine the date.  Using the software program Starry Night, Fred Larson was able to corroborate that this was the day by confirming that a blood Moon – a full lunar eclipse – occurred on this day as well.

**  The Greek word used here is naos, the same word that is used for the Temple’s innermost sanctum, the Holy of Holies.  God had Paul use this word because it was the only part of the temple that God could reside in.  It was declared holy – set apart for God’s plans and purposes.  In the same way, we are set apart as well.  Paul later reminds us of this in Romans 12:1-2:

1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. 2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.

*** The sun turned to darkness is interesting.  From the perspective of the Earth, the Moon turned to blood.  If you were able to stand on the Moon and look at the Sun (a REALLY COOL feature of the Starry Night software program!), you would see that the sun was now in full eclipse as well – it would appear as black as sackcloth.  When Jesus died on the cross, and He cried out, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?”, God the Father withdrew His presence, power, glory, and His holy light from His One and Only Son.  And indeed, from Jesus’ perspective (the Moon was blood-red, indicating that it was representative of Christ’s condition and position, so the Sun would represent God the Father’s position and condition in relation to the Son), the light had indeed turned to darkness. (Special thanks to Fred Larson for spelling this out in his movie, “The Star of Bethlehem“.)

Chronology and History – Luke 2:1-7

God’s Timing Is Perfect And Everything He Does Is Precise

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.) 3 And everyone went to their own town to register.

4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

Date Debate

Part of the difficulty in determining the dates of various ancient (2000 years ago is ancient relative to today) events is that records were destroyed through various battles in history.  We can now use what records are left, and rely upon archeology to fill in the gaps.  The problem with this approach is that there is some leeway in the Generally Accepted Date (GAD) for these events.  Because of this, we can only make approximations.  If, however, we can tie them to specific astronomical events, we may be able to get a better idea of when they occurred.

Here we find two important historical events that occurred at the time of Jesus’ birth:

  1. Quirinius was pro-Counsel in Syria when Jesus was born. (Luke 2:2)
  2. A census sent Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem. (Luke 2:3)

These events will help us to place, along with other clues in the Bible, the time of Jesus birth.

Census Called

The Roman census was a great tool for taxation.  It was called every fourteen years, and required that everyone return to their hometown to be registered and pay their tax.  There were two Roman censuses taken that can be dated around the time of the estimated birth of Christ – 8 B.C.E. and 6 C.E.  However, unlike today with television, email, and rapid transportation, it took time to spread the word to the ends of the dominion of Rome.

Additionally, the Israelites despised having to pay the Romans tax for the privilege of living in the very land that God have given them.  So they did everything in their power to delay paying their taxes until absolutely necessary (“…there is nothing new under the sun…”).  So finally, when the delays would be tolerated no longer by the Roman officials, the Israelites traveled back to the land of their ancestors to pay their taxes.

Governor Guided

Quirinius was the pro-Counsel in Syria when the Roman Census was called in 8 B.C.E.  This helps us to narrow down the time frame.  There have been some claims that the Roman Census of Quirinius took place at 6 C.E., but this may be due to a mistake by Josephus in his writings.

Baby Born

There were two signs in the heavens that date the birth of Jesus Christ.  The first was recorded by the Apostle John in the book of Revelation:

1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. 2 She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.

Fred Larson, the writer and producer of the film “The Star of Bethlehem”, using Starry Night software, confirmed that an astronomically rare event occurred on September 11, 3 B.C.E.  That morning, the star Virgo rose directly behind the Sun in the sky at sunrise, and the moon was at her feet – the feet of the constellation of Virgo. It is a small crescent moon, because it is the Jewish New Year – Rosh Hashanah. It is a representation of a life just starting. This may possibly be describing the sign of the Son of Man – the conception of Jesus – because conception is the birth of life according to the Jews and (many) Christians. The twelve stars upon her head were the constellation of Leo (for more information, please see the movie “Star of Bethlehem”, and Fred Larson’s website, www.bethlehemstar.com).

The second sign occurred nine months after Virgo was clothed with the Sun, with the Moon at her feet, and the twelve stars crowning her head.  On June 17th, 2 B.C.E., Venus and Jupiter came in close conjunction. They literally stacked upon each other like a snowman. This created the brightest star in the sky that ANYONE had ever seen at that time. And off rode the Magi of the East to Jerusalem.

If you don’t have access to the movie, here is a concise summary of the movie and its conclusions.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Which do I believe, the conclusions of man, or what is written in the Bible?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You continually show us signs and wonders as You work in us and among us.  Father, give me a heart of wisdom and discernment to know the truth, and to search Your scriptures for all things.  Help me to know and understand Your word.  Thank You, Father, for giving us the tools to verify what You have already stated to be fact.  And where there is conjecture, help us to rightly discern the truth of these matters.  Strengthen me in Your work and Your Spirit, that I may know the truth, and that the truth would set me free.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?


This blog has been edited for grammatical errors.

National Security and God – 2 Kings 6:13-23

When The Lord God Almighty Guards Your Country, No Harm Shall Befall It

13 “Go, find out where he is,” the king ordered, “so I can send men and capture him.” The report came back: “He is in Dothan.” 14 Then he sent horses and chariots and a strong force there. They went by night and surrounded the city.

15 When the servant of the man of God got up and went out early the next morning, an army with horses and chariots had surrounded the city. “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” the servant asked.

16 “Don’t be afraid,” the prophet answered. “Those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”

17 And Elisha prayed, “Open his eyes, Lord, so that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the servant’s eyes, and he looked and saw the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

18 As the enemy came down toward him, Elisha prayed to the Lord, “Strike this army with blindness.” So he struck them with blindness, as Elisha had asked.

19 Elisha told them, “This is not the road and this is not the city. Follow me, and I will lead you to the man you are looking for.” And he led them to Samaria.

20 After they entered the city, Elisha said, “Lord, open the eyes of these men so they can see.” Then the Lord opened their eyes and they looked, and there they were, inside Samaria.

21 When the king of Israel saw them, he asked Elisha, “Shall I kill them, my father? Shall I kill them?”

22 “Do not kill them,” he answered. “Would you kill those you have captured with your own sword or bow? Set food and water before them so that they may eat and drink and then go back to their master.” 23 So he prepared a great feast for them, and after they had finished eating and drinking, he sent them away, and they returned to their master. So the bands from Aram stopped raiding Israel’s territory.

Formidable Foes

When faced with an army of your enemy, many would be intimidated.  The prophet Elisha’s servant certainly was when he woke up one morning and saw the entire city surrounded with chariots of the nation that had declared war on Israel.  He was intimidated to the point where he began to experience great fear.

Fear Factor

When we are faced with what appears to be overwhelming odds, we also have a tendency to experience fear ourselves.  The Bible tells us over three hundred and sixty-five times – enough for one every day of the year – that we should not fear.   We have been told by God that there is nothing to fear, for He is sovereign.  Yet our physical eyes may try to deceive us, and Satan, the enemy of our souls, would try to instill fear and panic within us.

When we experience fear, we begin to act irrationally.  We see imaged threats that aren’t even real.  And we conflate the importance of the threats that are right in front of us.  In this case, the servant of Elisha the prophet saw no way out, and only saw himself and his master as being able to stand against this massive gathering of enemy troops.

Concealed Charioteers

But God protects His people.  Most of God’s people do not have the ability to peer into the spiritual realm.  If they did, they would see just how protected they are from the enemy.  Elisha, the prophet of God, prayed to God that his servant’s eyes would be opened to see what he could see, and God honored that prayer and did so.  When He opened the eyes of Elisha’s servant, he saw the most amazing sight – the hills were filled with chariots of fire being pulled by horses.  Immediately, this calmed down his heart, because his faith had become sight.

Supernaturally Subdued

…These aren’t the droids you are looking for…Ben Obi-Wan Kenobi

In what would seem to the world to be a stunning turn of events, Elisha the prophet prays and asks God to strike the enemy blind.  The Sovereign Lord God Almighty immediately answers his prayers, and the enemy is struck blind.  Although this in and of itself is amazing, but what happens next is even more amazing.

Remember that the enemy arrived at night.  They were camped out around the city.  They could clearly see the city, and the road that they came in on – the sun was out.  Scripture says that it was early in the morning (this began around 6:00 AM, as the fourth watch of the night was from 3:00 AM to 6:00 AM).  They were now struck blind.  That certainly would have unnerved them.  But it was what happened next that was most amazing and interesting.  Elisha tells the men that they are on the wrong road, and this is the wrong city.  He would lead them to the man that they were looking for.  They didn’t bat an eye!  Scripture doesn’t record that they even told Elisha why they were there!  Elisha appears to just walk up to them and tell them they are in the wrong place, and he’ll lead them to man.

In Elisha’s defense, he didn’t lie.  Elisha wanted to reveal himself to them in Samaria, so they technically were in the wrong city.  And Elisha did lead them to the right man – himself!  And, being blind (a rather incapacitating handicap at this point), they blindly followed Elisha to Samaria (no pun intended).

Manifest Mercy

Arriving in Samaria, in the land of the king of Israel, Elisha the prophet of God prayed that God would open the eyes of the men that were blinded.  Now, the group of chariots that were arriving would have been both seen and heard from at a great distance from the city of Samaria.  The king of Israel would surely have placed watchmen in distant areas to warn of any pending invasion by the king of Aram, as they were at war.  When news of the prophet of God leading an army of the king’s enemies towards Samaria, the king of Israel would have surely called all men to arms, and had them line up around the army as it approached.

Upon seeing the vast army in front of him, the king of Israel asked the prophet of God for permission to destroy it.  Elisha forbade the king from doing so, pointing out that it was improper for the king to kill those whom he had captured in war.  Elisha instead commands the king to feed them and provide them with drinks.  The prophet of God showed the love of God towards his enemies, and the king did more than what was required.  A great feast was thrown by the king for the army, and then they were sent back to Aram.

Providential Protection

When the king of Aram had heard what had happened, he realized that the land of the king of Israel was sovereignly protected by The Lord God Almighty.  And when the Lord God Almighty guards your nations’ borders, no enemy that comes against us will be able to  have any success in overtaking the land.

We would be well-advised by this historical record to seek the providential protection of the Lord God Almighty rather than trying to protect the land in our own strength with only our own intelligence, plans, weapons, and strategies:

Woe to those who go down to Egypt for help,
who rely on horses,
who trust in the multitude of their chariots
and in the great strength of their horsemen,
but do not look to the Holy One of Israel,
or seek help from the Lord.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When I am in trouble, where do I turn first?

A short prayer of preparation

Father in Heaven, You have said that You would never leave me nor forsake me.  Give me comfort in that promise when my enemies surround me and threaten me with death and torture.  Give me strength that day to know what to say, and to speak boldly about You in the day of threat.  Grant me peace in my spirit, and help me to remember the protection that You provide.  For all that is required to wipe out an entire city is just one angel given authority to do so.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Relics and God – 1 Kings 13:21

The True Power Is In God And Not The Item

Once while some Israelites were burying a man, suddenly they saw a band of raiders; so they threw the man’s body into Elisha’s tomb. When the body touched Elisha’s bones, the man came to life and stood up on his feet.

Powerful Position

Elisha was endowed with a double-portion of the spirit of God at his request.  He recognized the importance of God’s role in the life of Elijah, and as his protégé, desired to be even more effective in ministry than his mentor.  When Elisha saw Elijah taken away by the chariots of God, the sign that Elijah had given to him that his request would be granted, the miracles that began to occur in his life were evidence of the granting of his request by God.  Two other important people who had items of theirs (in these cases cloth they owned or worn) that were directly implicated in the act of a healing miracle were Paul (napkins and aprons were taken to the sick and their illnesses cured and demons fled) and Jesus Christ (a woman with a bleeding disorder touched His robe and she was made well).

Miracles Manifested

In each case, God confirmed their calling with power and might.  Elisha performed great and mighty miracles to men.  This was to glorify God, and to help strengthen the faith of others.  Paul was divinely protected through many shipwrecks, survived what would have been a fatal snake bite, and many acts of miracles.   Jesus Christ fed thousands from a simple lunch of fish and bread, raised the dead, calmed the seas, healed the sick, cast out demons, and many other mighty displays of glorious power as manifested by God for His glory.  The power of God was upon each of these people mightily.

Residual Radiance

In the case of Jesus Christ and Paul, it was the person’s faith that healed.  The true power of God being manifested is through faith and not the object.  God is the giver of all power and might, and He is the one who enables miracles to occur.  In the case of Jesus Christ, He would often say, “Your faith has made you well.”  In the case of Paul, the faith that they had in God, working miracles through him, would make them well when his napkins and aprons were provided to the sick.

In the case of Elisha, we see something a little different.  The Israelites who threw the dead body on the bones of Elisha in his grave were not looking for a miracle.  They were out to bury a body.  But God sovereignly resurrected the dead man when he came into contact with the bones of Elisha as a testament to the calling of Elisha and the mighty power of God.  God sovereignly restored the man’s life to bear witness to His grace, power, and glory.

Some have taken these references to show that God somehow imbued the articles and bones of the past saints of God with special powers, and now call them relics.  But the real reason is that God is manifesting His power and glory for the deepening of our faith.  The items that people touch are not necessarily somehow anointed with the power of God, but rather God uses them to display His glory and grace so that our faith would grow in Him.

Gideon was mightily used by God, and when asked by the people to rule over them, told them that neither he nor his sons would rule over them, but that the Lord would rule over them.  Gideon later made an ephod out of some of the gold plunder of their conquered enemies, and it became a snare to them:

22 The Israelites said to Gideon, “Rule over us—you, your son and your grandson-because you have saved us from the hand of Midian.”

23 But Gideon told them, “I will not rule over you, nor will my son rule over you. The Lord will rule over you.” 24 And he said, “I do have one request, that each of you give me an earring from your share of the plunder.” (It was the custom of the Ishmaelites to wear gold earrings.)

25 They answered, “We’ll be glad to give them.” So they spread out a garment, and each of them threw a ring from his plunder onto it. 26 The weight of the gold rings he asked for came to seventeen hundred shekels, not counting the ornaments, the pendants and the purple garments worn by the kings of Midian or the chains that were on their camels’ necks. 27 Gideon made the gold into an ephod, which he placed in Ophrah, his town. All Israel prostituted themselves by worshiping it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and his family.

When we worship created things, rather than the Creator, it becomes a snare to us.  We must understand that all power and authority in is God and God alone.  When we look at items that God has used by others and look to the item for help, rather than God, we will be ensnared ourselves.  Give thanks and praise to the one who cures all illness and reconciles the lost to Himself, for He and He alone is worthy of the glory and praise, and it is God and God alone who is responsible for curing our disease:

He said, “If you listen carefully to the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any of the diseases I brought on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, who heals you.”

Other Opinion

Another opinion in this is that when you take the scriptures that show that Moses’ face would glow from his presence in the glory of God, that the items worn, used, or physically part of the person were somehow infused with the glory of God.  In Act:19:11-12, it might be taken from the translation to indicate it was the power of God manifested in the miracles themselves that imbued the items with God’s power:

God did extraordinary miracles through Paul, so that even handkerchiefs and aprons that had touched him were taken to the sick, and their illnesses were cured and the evil spirits left them.

This would indicate that it was the belief that when God was working miracles, His power was still in the items.

Yet scripture must be taken as a whole.  And in every case, miracles could not happen without faith, and that in Almighty God.  When Jesus returned to His hometown, He could do very few miracles because of their lack of faith.  In every case, it is faith that enables God to work.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Where do I go first when I am in need of healing?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are the one who heals all of our diseases, gives us life and breath in our lungs.  Help us to look to You for all things.  Increase my faith, that I may always keep my eyes upon You.  And when miracles surround one of your disciples, help those watching to have faith in You and not in them or what they wear.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Perfect Plan of God – Isaiah 28:23-29

Use The Right Tools And Methods To Accomplish Any Purpose

23 Listen and hear my voice;
pay attention and hear what I say.
24 When a farmer plows for planting, does he plow continually?
Does he keep on breaking up and working the soil?
25 When he has leveled the surface,
does he not sow caraway and scatter cumin?
Does he not plant wheat in its place,
barley in its plot,
and spelt in its field?
26 His God instructs him
and teaches him the right way.

27 Caraway is not threshed with a sledge,
nor is the wheel of a cart rolled over cumin;
caraway is beaten out with a rod,
and cumin with a stick.
28 Grain must be ground to make bread;
so one does not go on threshing it forever.
The wheels of a threshing cart may be rolled over it,
but one does not use horses to grind grain.
29 All this also comes from the Lord Almighty,
whose plan is wonderful,
whose wisdom is magnificent.

Magnificent Methods

God shows us in these verses that there is a very discernible method to His ways.  He asks several rhetorical questions that would be been easily answered during the prophet’s time, as they were a primarily agricultural people.  Perhaps we could rephrase the question for today’s world and say, “When we prepare concrete for pouring, do we mix it forever?”  There is a time (chronos) and a season (kairos) for all things.  Just as a farmer doesn’t work the field all season (he must eventually plant seeds or nothing will grow), God shows us what we should be doing as well

Tremendous Teaching

God teaches us the way we should go.  Since everyone is a different part of the body, each of us must be instructed on what we are to do, where we are to do it, and when we are to do it.  It is God who provides the instruction for each of these steps.  We are to be submitted to the Holy Spirit, just as Jesus was, so that God can use us as His tools to accomplish His purposes.  It is God who teaches us all of these things, and in doing so, prepares a generation of people who can help instruct and guide the next generation through their sovereignly assigned duties and tasks

Process and Procedure

God uses some very interesting agricultural examples to show us the necessity for using the right tools in the right way to accomplish our goals.  Have you ever tried to insert a screw into wood with a hammer?  I do not recommend ever trying this method.  It is beyond frustrating, and will most likely damage whatever project you are working on.  Everything has its proper tool and process to use it correctly.  Though many of us, upon receiving brand new technology, just open it up and start using it, they come with instruction manuals to help guide us with their use, diagnose what is wrong when it doesn’t work right, and provide solutions to address any issues encountered.

When faced with difficulties as the plan of God unfolds, remember that God has given you an instruction manual – His holy word, the Bible.  And when you need tech support, feel free to call upon God for assistance in prayer.  Additionally, it never hurts to confirm what You have been shown with some of the experts in their field who have been down the path before you.

Expert Extraction

God uses the threshing of seeds as a prime example.  If you were to use a sledge-hammer to attempt to extract the seeds of caraway, you would completely destroy the valuable part of the seed.  Each seed requires its own method of extraction.  Some use the same methods as others, but each requires a specific method.  The people of that time would have recognized this, and understood the greater underlying spiritual truth that God is revealing to us – that God knows EXACTLY how to handle each and every situation that we encounter.

Perfect Plan

God has a perfect plan.  His plan was crafted before the first matter in the universe was created.  His plan was thought out and crafted before time was even a construct.  Each and every detail of His creation was laid out and examined, perfectly placed, and is being perfectly executed.  Nothing escaped His attention, and God accounted for every contingency.  Even the issue of sin was taken into account, and the remedy to bring that which would be lost to sin back in harmony with the Creator was carefully planned, and when implemented, was perfectly executed.

God shows us, through His creation and the fulfillment of all of the prophecies that He has provided to us, that we can trust Him implicitly.  God is incapable of failing, and His perfect plan is working exactly according to His plan and purpose.  What appears to us to be chaos, setbacks, and failure is merely a launching pad for circumstances that will bring about even greater glory to God.

Wonderful Wisdom

God reveals to us through His perfection – the perfect display of His character – that He has all wisdom.  We can trust in God, for God is omniscient – He knows all things.  Knowledge, however, is not wisdom.  God, however, is all-wise.  Seeing all things perfectly without the lens of sin to distort reality from His perfect gaze, God has perfect wisdom to match His perfect intellect and knowledge.  And when we look back over how our small part of His larger story plays out, we begin to see the magnificent wisdom of the Lord God Almighty, and how His perfect plan is being perfectly executed.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What lessons are God trying to teach me about His perfect plan and the part He has assigned for me to accomplish?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You reveal Your character in how You treat each and every one of us here on Earth.  Thank You for Your continued patience and prodding, and for revealing Yourself through Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Thank You for revealing Yourself through Your word.  And thank You for providing me an opportunity to play a part in Your perfect plan.  Show me, Father, what You would have me do.  Call me, equip me, and strengthen me to do all that You desire to accomplish.  Help me to remember that You are sovereign in all things, and that my perception of loss and difficulty in events and circumstances that are painful and difficult are all part of Your plan to bring about Your perfect will in all things.  Guard my heart against impatience, pride, and bitterness, as trials and tribulations abound in this life.  Give me peace and joy in knowing that You have everything under Your control.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Signs from God – John 2:18-22

God Gives Us Signs So We Can Draw Closer To See The Fuller Message

18 The Jews then responded to him, “What sign can you show us to prove your authority to do all this?”

19 Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.”

20 They replied, “It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?” 21 But the temple he had spoken of was his body. 22 After he was raised from the dead, his disciples recalled what he had said. Then they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.

Sign Shown

Signs in the Bible would precede great events, or validate what a prophet was saying.  Jesus had been performing great signs and wonders in front of the people’s eyes day in and day out.  He had cast out demons, healed people, brought people back from the dead, turned water into wine, fed thousands of people from a small boy’s lunch of fish and bread, and many other miracles.

But the people kept demanding signs.  They weren’t satisfied with what they were seeing with their very own eyes.  Like anyone who seeks after signs and wonders, they wanted to see more. Jesus had just fulfilled a prophecy about Himself by exhibiting zeal for His father’s house using a whip, driving out the market that was taking place on the Court of the Gentiles at the holy temple of God.  Jesus decided to use this opportunity to present us with an object lesson.  When asked what sign He would give to prove His authority, He gave a cryptic puzzle.

Esoteric Enigma

Jesus provided them with something that they could not possibly have understood at the time.  He gave them a cryptic puzzle indeed – How could a temple that took forty-six years to build be rebuilt in three days?  The Bible gives us clarification – Jesus was talking about His body.  And on April 5, 33 C.E.***, Jesus rose from the grave.  This sign confirmed that what Jesus said was true and accurate.  But they didn’t know or understand that until it happened.

Rightly Remembered

John records that it was only after Jesus had died and rose again that they remembered the words that He had spoke on that fateful day – a day they would not soon forget.  Their meek, compassionate teacher, in righteous anger and indignation, created a major scene at the temple, and did things that were shocking to everyone.  Many times, we will only remember the sign and understand its meaning and significance AFTER it has occurred:

In every sign ever given by God, we tend to recognize them only after they have occurred, and remember the prophecy of the sign later.

Forming Faith

John records that after they remembered Jesus’ words, they believed the scripture and the words that Jesus had spoken.  It was the fulfillment of the sign that had catalyzed their faith and made it solid as rock in their hearts and minds.  Signs are given to us to believe and to verify.  But every sign is designed to draw us closer so that we might see the fuller message:

  • When Moses saw the burning bush, what did he do?  He drew close to see the fuller message.
  • When the Magi from the East saw Venus and Jupiter in conjunction, what did they do?  They traveled from Babylon to Jerusalem to see the fuller message.
  • When we see a headline in a story about something important or sensational, what do we do?  We draw closer to see the fuller message.

People were created by God in His own image.  God must be very curious, for humans are very curious creatures.  When we see something, we draw close rather than run away.  And when we do, and we gain the greater understanding, we are rewarded with a firmer faith and trust in God.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  What will we do when we draw close and get the fuller message once we see the sign?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have created all things, and have given us signs and wonders to behold, as recorded in Your word.  Help me as I read Your word, and see the signs that You have provided, that I will draw closer to You and get the fuller message.  Strengthen my faith, and provide me with understanding, wisdom, and discernment as I read Your word that I would better understand what You are trying to tell me.  Help me to recognize the signs, and to be vigilant when I see them to draw close and learn.  Blessed be Your name forevermore!  Amen.

Want more? Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

*** This can be verified through clues that we have from the Bible.  Jesus was crucified on Preparation Day, the day before Passover started.  This is important, because the Bible tells us this was a Friday (the next day was to be a special Sabbath).  Passover starts on the Jewish day of Nisan 15, therefore Nisan 14 is Preparation Day.  Every year, dates appear on different days (for instance, January 1st is not always a Monday…).  By calculating when Nisan 14 would have been on a Friday in the known time frame for Jesus’ crucifixion, there was only one day in history that fit that profile – April 3, 33 C.E.  Therefore, Jesus rose from the grave on April 5, 33 C.E.

Trust in God – Matthew 1:18-25

Sometimes Trusting God Will Place You In Very Awkward Situations

18 This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. 19 Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

20 But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel” (which means “God with us”).

24 When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took Mary home as his wife. 25 But he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son. And he gave him the name Jesus.

Social Scandal

In the birth of our Lord Savior, we have (yet another) scandal.  The seed of Abraham preferred that their line be “pure” – that all of their family be of the line of Israel.  Jesus’ line has some interesting bumps in the road:

  • Rahab, a prostitute in the walled city of Jericho who helped the spies of Joshua, was the wife of Salmon.  Together, they had a famous son – Boaz
  • Ruth, the Moabitess, was the wife of Boaz.  They bore a son, Obed, who also bore a son, Jesse.  And his son was none other than King David – a man after God’s own heart.

In just two generation of the family tree of David, who was anointed by Samuel at God’s request to be the second king of Israel, we see intrigue and scandal.  Talk about your “skeletons in the closet”!   But these were Godly women who feared God, and to them it was credited as righteousness.  God is able to use anyone for His purposes as He sees fit.

And now for the latest scandal.  Even just a half a century ago, it would have been major scandal for a young woman to be found pregnant out-of-wedlock.  The shame of it drove many women to flee their homes and stay hidden until they could have the baby, often giving it up for adoption before returning to their family.

But in this case, God had appointed this very awkward event in prophecy.  And Mary did not hide, but rather endured the social maelstrom that ensued.  Gabriel had announced that she had been chosen, and she was fully submitted to the will of God.  Sometimes that means great personal sacrifice and loss.  In this case, public opinion must have been fiercely harsh towards Mary.  Yet she endured it all in wonder, for God had ordained it, and she believed God.

Honorable Husband

Now, place yourself in Joseph’s place.  Traditionally, after getting engaged, the husband-to-be would go off and build the home where the newlyweds would live in anticipation of the blessed union.  Imagine at that time coming home, and finding your wife-to-be pregnant.  What to do!  Joseph had options at his disposal.  He could have her stoned for this “alleged” misconduct.  By being pledged as Joseph’s wife, Mary was effectively classified as married for the purposes of adultery.  Joseph could very publicly end the marriage.  But Joseph, being a man of God, in his heart determined that rather than cause Mary any more difficulty, chose to divorce her quietly (end the engagement).

Imagine if you were in the military and sent off to a foreign land, ready to be married, and come home to find your wife-to-be pregnant.  How would you react?  Imagine how you would feel.  Imagine the character and self-restraint that it took for Joseph to even consider handling this quietly.  This took great courage and character.

Angelic Announcement

But God…  Those two words are the source of great amazement.  Just as it seemed that all would be ruined, God sent an angel down to counsel and command Joseph.  Notice how the angel greets him:

But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.”

In this, the angel invokes the royal line of David as the line of the Messiah.  Imagine his relief in finding out that what Mary has told him is true – this is of the Holy Spirit of God.  Imagine the relief in finding out that Mary has been faithful to him.  Imagine the dread of the social storm that is upon them.  Imagine his apprehension, being chosen by God to be the surrogate father to his Savior.  And imagine his joy and wonder, knowing that the time has come for God’s promise to be fulfilled, now in his very lifetime.  And imagine this happening all at once.

Faithful Father

And even in the midst of this, Joseph proved himself to be a man of God.  The angel commanded him to take Mary as his wife, for he was charged with naming his first son Jesus.  And as was the law, the firstborn son was to be dedicated to God.  How fitting that Jesus, the firstborn son of Joseph and Mary, the Son of God, be dedicated to the Father.  And Joseph, being the man of God that he was, fully embraced the responsibility that was placed upon his shoulders.  He passed the test with flying colors.

Now let’s take a look at a few of the events that transpired to make this blessed event come off at the appointed time and in the appointed way.  Imagine if Rahab had not protected the spies of Joshua.  Imagine if Ruth had gone back to Moab rather than stay with Naomi and later listen to the odd commands of Naomi (who now claimed the name Mara, which means bitter), as she carefully planned the circumstances of courtship between Ruth and Boaz.  Imagine if David had refused to be anointed by Samuel as the next king of Israel.  Imagine if Mary had said “this is too much for me to bear” to Gabriel instead of announcing herself as God’s servant.  Imagine if Joseph had succumbed to social pressure and left Mary as a stay-at-home, unwed mother.  In each and every case, these people were tested by their circumstances, and their character triumphed as they chose to honor God.   Regardless of the scandals in our lives, and the circumstances that we find ourselves in, we too must exhibit great character.  Who knows what interesting things will come about as we submit ourselves to the will of God!

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  How far am I be willing to go to endure great loss and scandal to be obedient to my Lord and Savior?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, with our lips we praise You, and with our lives we worship You.  Remember me that in every decision that I make, that You are always at the forefront.  May every word I speak, thought that I have and embrace, and action that I take reflect Your character, Your love, and Your sacrifice.  Help me when I feel pressure from anyone or any circumstance to deviate from Your express will.  Strengthen me, especially in my moments of weakness, that I would continue to honor and glorify your name, regardless of the pain, loss, or difficulty that I encounter.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Faith in God – 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3

Christ Will Not Come Again Until The Great Falling Away…

1 Concerning the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered to him, we ask you, brothers and sisters, 2 not to become easily unsettled or alarmed by the teaching allegedly from us—whether by a prophecy or by word of mouth or by letter—asserting that the day of the Lord has already come. 3 Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way, for that day will not come until the rebellion occurs and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction.

Separate Speculation

Paul warns the disciples of Christ to not be alarmed or unsettled by alleged teachings of the apostles that the second coming of Christ has already occurred.   There were people who were spreading false rumors that Jesus had already come, and that the faithful disciples had been left behind.  Paul was putting an end to these rumors, and sought to help any who had heard these rumors that they were not true, and to assure them that any such teaching did not come from them.

Remember the Rebellion

And here we see a very interesting sign that will precede the coming of our Lord – the great rebellion must first take place.  Paul is very care to remind us that before Jesus comes in the clouds, with a shout at the last trump of God, there will first be a great rebellion.  The people of God will abandon Him.

This seems to be odd, because once the Holy Spirit sets up residence in us, we would think that He would continue to witness to us about Jesus.  But for some reason, there will be a great number of people who will give up their faith.  Jesus warns about letting our love grow cold in the great Mount of Olives discourse in Matthew chapter 24:

9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Paul gives us a more in-depth look at what the rebellion will look like in 2 Timothy 3:1-9:

1 But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. 2 People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, 3 without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, 4 treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God- 9 5having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

6 They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over gullible women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, 7 always learning but never able to come to a knowledge of the truth. 8 Just as Jannes and Jambres opposed Moses, so also these teachers oppose the truth. They are men of depraved minds, who, as far as the faith is concerned, are rejected. 9 But they will not get very far because, as in the case of those men, their folly will be clear to everyone.

Paul is not talking about people who do not profess faith in Christ – these are people who claim to be believers – Christians!  But by their very actions, they demonstrate that they are not disciples of Christ, nor do they indicate that they love God.  If they did, they would obey His commands and submit to the Holy Spirit:

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.

Christ will not come until the rebellion first appears.  Love is the primary characteristic of God that is prized above all.  Remember to guard your heart, and grow in love, even when everyone else around you is abandoning their faith.  Remain faithful unto death.  And when the Son of man returns, let Him find faith on Earth.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I growing in love in the midst of the increase of lawlessness in the world?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You have given me the gift of eternal life in Your Son through His shed blood.  Help me to find peace in my heart as the world becomes increasingly filled with lawlessness and injustice.  Help me to cling to You and Your word through the most difficult of times.  See me through the valley of the shadow of death, and help me to be prepared that the lamp of my body, my eyes, would be filled with the oil of the Holy Spirit, fully prepared for the return of the groom, Jesus Christ, when we least expect Him.  Grow in me the love that You have for all of us, that I would properly bear Your image before men.  Guard my tongue and my heart that I would not sin against You.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Trust in God – Psalm 56:3-7

The Wicked Twist Our Words And Malign Our Motives

3 When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.
4 In God, whose word I praise-
in God I trust and am not afraid.
What can mere mortals do to me?

5 All day long they twist my words;
all their schemes are for my ruin.
6 They conspire, they lurk,
they watch my steps,
hoping to take my life.
7 Because of their wickedness do not let them escape;
in your anger, God, bring the nations down.

Fear is Folly

David recognizes that his heart fears certain outcomes.  Like a man trapped in a burning building with no place to go, the anticipation of the pain of his flesh being consumed by fire is not pleasant.  David recognizes that to fear man is folly.  After all, what can mere mortals do to him?

Train to Trust

Instead, David had trained his heart to trust in God.  God and God alone is the one who can save us, deliver us, provide for us, protect us, and vindicate us.  David lets us know that the first place that his heart went during his times of fear was to trust in the Lord God Almighty.  David made it a practice in his mind to direct his will to trust in God when his emotions were overwhelming him with fear.

When we place our trust in God rather than in men, riches, idols, or even ourselves, we can rest in the peace that God gives to us that defies understanding.  God greatly desires that we come to Him first with our problems and our difficulties.  He knows about all of them, but desires a greater dependence from us upon Him as well as a strengthening our relationship with Him.  It is in times of great distress and need that we see exactly who or what we trust in.  David chose to make God his first option, and he was rewarded for it with the praise of God:

After removing Saul, he made David their king. God testified concerning him: ‘I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.’

Warping Words

One of the tactics of the enemy is to twist the words of their opponents to misrepresent their position or their intent.  This enables them to attack the person by turning attention on their enemies.  This tactic is also used by those who practice the art of sleight of hand (magicians).  They intentionally misdirect your attention to where they want you to look so that you will not see what they are doing.  It provides them with cover to do all sorts of mischief.

For instance, let us say that two people disagree on something.  Person A believes that they are correct in believing that the sky is falling.  Person B says that the sky is not falling, that the droplets of water coming down are rain.  If person A wants to misdirect others concerning person B, they could characterize the words of the person B as disparaging them with regards to some aspect of their physical nature rather than with a philosophical or factual/observational disagreement.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that person A has greatly increased melanin in their skin, and person B does not.  Person A could then say it is because of their skin color and racial prejudice that person B disagrees with them.  This deflects from the true reason that the disagreement has taken place, and positions person A as a victim of racism and person B in the position of racist.  This type of posturing and twisting of words evokes an emotional response from both person B and anyone who hears the argument.  The mere re-characterization of the argument as one of race rather than fact/observation deflects the requirement for person A to defend their position and assassinates the character of person B.  In this scenario, it is a total win for person A:

  • Public trust in what person B is saying is now destroyed through the accusation or racism
  • Person B’s position is seen as the position of a racist, and since it is characterized as such, may be rejected on this basis rather than on any factual or scientific basis
  • Person A no longer has to defend their position in fact or science, and receives sympathy from the public, regardless of the validity of their position
  • Person A’s standing in the public as a victim of a hate crime bolsters the emotional support of the public for anything else person A has to say
  • Person B is unlikely to challenge person A’s positions any longer, knowing the societal cost that they will have to endure should person A falsely accuse them again.

Terrible Tactics

David lists some of the other tactics that his enemies have used against him:

  • Their every scheme is for David’s ruination
    • Their lives have become consumed with ways to discredit and ruin David.  This is the act of vengeful people.
  • They conspire against him
    • They use their collective resources to act in a way to entrap or otherwise cause David to fail.  A favorite tactic of the enemies of God, they look to the past to dredge up anything that their enemy may have done that can be used to embarrass him, disparage his character, or cause public opinion to be soured against him.
  • They lurk about
    • Imagine having someone follow you every second of your day, recording what you say and do, looking for anything they can use to take out of context to give you a bad name.  Welcome to David’s life.
  • They watch his very steps
    • If David breaks the law unknowingly, they will be there to witness it, accuse him of it, and see that justice is swift (usually with paid witnesses).

Judge with Justice

David consoles himself in the character and nature of God.  He remembers that God is a holy, righteous, and just judge.  David calls upon God to remember the wickedness of his enemies, and to judge the nations.  David’s enemies have failed to grasp the love of God as displayed in His mercy and grace towards them, seeking only the destruction of God’s chosen servant, David.  Rather than take matters into his own hands, David rightly gives his life into the hands of the living God – He who is righteous and will deliver him from all evil.  For those who have been justified by God, who can bring an accusation against him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  When faced with enemies, who or what do you turn to first?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is You who have redeemed me from the miry muck.  You have cleansed me of my sin through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Since You have removed my sin from me as far as the East is from the West, no one can lay a charge against me.  Give me shelter and sanctuary when my enemies seek to destroy me.  Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.  Protect me from those who seek my ruination, who conspire against me to assassinate my character.  For I am found in Christ Jesus, and it is His character and His name that I take, and it is His name that they smear and disparage.  Give me strength to endure, and may Your love be displayed in my thoughts, words, and deeds, as my enemies surround me to do me harm.  Blessed be Your name, Lord God.  Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

The Timing of God – Mark 6:46-52

God Arrives in the Fourth Watch of the Night

47 Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48 He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52 for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.

Training Through Trials

Everyone goes through trials.  Some trials seem longer and more difficult than others.  The worst ones are where you feel like you are fighting for your very life.  Your circumstances are pulling at the very fabric of your soul, and your strength has been depleted by non-stop battering.  You feel like just after a fresh gulp of air the waves come crashing over your head, and you get water for what you thought was your next breath.

The disciples were fighting for their very lives.  Life on the Sea of Galilee could be very dangerous.  Storms would often appear out of nowhere, and for a small fishing boat, capsizing in the water at night with high waves was a terrifying thought.  But we need not be terrified by our trials, for God is sovereign and has everything under control.

James has this to say about our trials:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Trial of Trust

When fighting for your life in a trial isn’t enough, it seems that God adds insult to injury by letting us struggle through it for a very L O N G time.  We cry out to God, but often He doesn’t seem to answer immediately.  We wait and wait (and wait some more), and no help comes.  This is the trial of trust.

God has this way of showing up in the fourth watch of the night.  The night back in the time of Jesus was set up in four – three hours segments:

  • First Watch: 7:00 – 9:00 pm
  • Second Watch: 10:00 – 12:00 pm
  • Third Watch: 1:00 – 3:00 am
  • Fourth Watch: 4:00 – 6:00 am

The fourth watch was the longest watch of all.  Most of the night had already passed, and through exhaustion and anticipation of daylight, it made the fourth watch go very slow.  Jesus had seen in the night that the disciples were struggling, but waited until just before dawn to go out to them.  This allows our faith to be tested, to see if we really believe that God is going to intervene and help us with our needs.  This is the secondary trial of trust – patience.

Strategic Support

Jesus has a tendency to wait until the very last minute to come and help us with our problems.  He is trying to show us where we are in our understanding of His sovereignty, character, and love for us.  By denying us immediate relief, we must decide whether we can trust God to act as our situation becomes more bleak second by second.

As you feel like you are trying to stop tumbling down a mountainside, you can see the cliff in front of you that drops thousands of feet.  Unable to stop, you fight for your life.  It is just before you go over the cliff, or sometimes after you start falling, that God will intervene.  He does not do this to cause us emotional harm, but to give us the opportunity to trust Him more.  If you have prayed that God would help you to trust him more, expect these types of trials to enter into your life.  This is about on the same level as praying for patience.

Regardless, it is the timing of the response that careful attention should be paid.  God has a plan much larger than our myopic short-term vision.  Each and every moment is moving towards an unstoppable event – the second coming of Christ, and the end to sin.  We need to remember as we are in the storm that God’s timetable isn’t always ours.  That is why “trust and obey” is our only way…

Stopping Storms

When God does calm the storm, we are often just as amazed as the disciples were when Jesus stepped into the boat and everything calmed down.  Jesus demonstrates that He is sovereign over all.  Sometimes, the storm doesn’t stop until we pass away into glory, but nonetheless, the storm stops.  We can be assured that whatever our problems are, God is working through His plan to bring glory to His name.  For there is no purpose of God that can be thwarted, and God works everything to good for those who love Him.

Regardless of the emotional, financial, and/or physical damage that the storm has wrought, we can confidently rest in the knowledge that when God does come, He will help us to pick up the pieces.  And we will have the scars to remember His help, and never forget what we went through to get there.  It is also important that we don’t allow our hearts to be hardened by our training through trials.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Are we trusting in God’s goodness, mercy, and grace as we are fighting for our lives in our trials?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are full of mercy and grace, and your mercies never cease, but renew every morning.  Grant me patience as I trust in You to deliver me through my trials.  Help me to overcome through perseverance, so that I may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.  Give me the strength to endure the trials I am facing, and guard my heart against the attacks of the enemy as they taunt me and tell lies about You.  Father, help me to remember Your word, that Your promises will never be far from my heart or my lips.  For You have promised to never leave me nor forsake me.  You have promised to work all things to good for those who love You.  You have promised that none can snatch me out of Your hand.  I will stand on Your promises, oh God, so that Your name may be glorified and magnified, regardless of the outcome of the trials.  This I ask in the precious Name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Can God Trust You? – Daniel 6:4

Can God Trust You to be Faithful?

At this, the administrators and the satraps tried to find grounds for charges against Daniel in his conduct of government affairs, but they were unable to do so. They could find no corruption in him, because he was trustworthy and neither corrupt nor negligent.

Capable Character

God seeks to inculcate within us great character – HIS character. Our trials are designed to challenge us to rise to the occasion, and to cast aside our way of doing things in favor of doing things God’s way.  The Holy Spirit not only guides us in the way we should go, but provides the very means to do it, whether it is strength, endurance, wisdom, words, or anything else that is needed for God to accomplish His goals through us.

God greatly desires and has planned to do just that – to use His people to showcase Himself, rather than just appear as a great tower or smoke or pillar of fire as He once did for Israel.  We are to be used as His hands and feet and mouths so that His work in our lives can be displayed, rather than just signs and wonders to behold and possibly be ignored.  He seeks to have a relationship with His creation, and particularly with us humans.  This is shown in the Garden of Eden with Adam and Eve, as well as the way that God has worked through people all throughout the Bible.

God doesn’t have a “Plan B”.  Christians are it.  If we fail to do what we are supposed to do, then God’s plans won’t be completed the way He desires them to be completed.  Even now, God must reveal Himself through dreams and visions to people who live in the Middle East under Sharia law, as the evil there is so bad that even mentioning Christ will get you beheaded.  It’s hard to get the message out when the messengers are murdered before the message is completely delivered!  Speaking of messengers, Proverbs 25:13 tells us something about the ones with good character:

Like a snow-cooled drink at harvest time
is a trustworthy messenger to the one who sends him;
he refreshes the spirit of his master.

Trustworthy Through Trials

God is seeking men and women who are willing to deny themselves, pick up their cross, and follow Jesus.  God needs people who are able to trust in Him to deliver them through the most difficult of trials.  Jesus experienced great hardship at the hands of men and His trials.  God appoints those who are trustworthy through trials to different positions depending on their ability and need.

God calls people to different many different responsibilities.  He who knows all things determines what and where His people should be called.  He selects them as He sees fit.

Administration Acumen

Many are selected to be leaders.  People should not seek a position of leadership without the calling of God.  The burden of leadership is great, and requires a specific personality and mentality to do it right.  Look at how many people are in leadership today that are causing so much grief to the ones that they have been placed over.  We should soberly look at this and give great consideration before accepting any position of leadership.  Remember – leaders will be judged more strictly than others because of the responsibility of their role.

Monetary Mindfulness

Some are selected to be the overseers of great wealth.  Although many (if not most) of us would say, “Sure – I’ll take that!”, it is most probable that they would fail miserably at the task.  The Bible says that if we can be trusted with little, we can be trusted with much.  Many Christians are living paycheck to paycheck.  It’s not that they don’t have enough money to live frugally and save, it is just that the call of culture and desire of our hearts is to spend the money provided to us by God on ourselves.  Many people are not fiscally prudent, nor even know how to be.  Self-control in this department sometimes seems absent, and the wisdom to know what to do with money, as well as what not to do with money, seems to be missing from many Christians’ lives.

It takes someone who have been trained by a knowledgeable mentor to understand these concepts and put them in practice.  For instance, in a perfect world, where the average rate of return on an investment is 12% per year (don’t laugh – we know times are tough and something like this is very unlikely at present), that a person that is eighteen years of age who puts $1000 U.S. into a Roth IRA investment every year for just 10 years, and leaves it alone, will have over one million U.S. dollars waiting for them at age 65 – TAX FREE.

How many people are willing to do that at that age, or consistently?  What if the return is only 8%, but they invest the maximum allowed per year every year (at this time, through two separate employers [you can be self-employed as well] a person can put in $5,500 U.S. dollars TOTAL) for just 20 years?  At age 65, they will have almost two and a half million U.S. dollars waiting for them.  Who knew?

In any case, it would be a terrible thing to have to give an accounting to God of how great wealth was lost through fiscal mismanagement or spent on personal enrichment.

Taken Through Trials

There is a reason that Jesus suggested that we pray, “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”  He Himself was led by the Spirit of God to be tested by Satan himself.  We are going to be taken through trials to purge the dross that we have within us.  We shouldn’t be surprised at the trials that we face.  Regardless of what we are selected to do, we will face trials of many kinds.  Sometimes, they can take decades before we are ready (it took God forty years to get the Egypt out of Moses before He called him to service…)  But there is one specific calling that no one wants to receive, and that God requires the greatest trust from His people .

Selected for Suffering

God trusts us with what we are able to do and won’t allow us to be tempted beyond our ability to endure without providing a way.  God DOES give us more than we can handle so that we can grow in faith and character as we overcome our deficiencies with HIS strength, power, and ability.

One of the most difficult callings, or selections, is to be called to suffering.  God will eventually remove all suffering and pain.  Sometimes these things happen because it is God’s will that they happen and are not a direct result of sin:

1 As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2 His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3 “Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 As long as it is day, we must do the works of him who sent me. Night is coming, when no one can work. 5 While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”

6 After saying this, he spit on the ground, made some mud with the saliva, and put it on the man’s eyes. 7 “Go,” he told him, “wash in the Pool of Siloam” (this word means “Sent”). So the man went and washed, and came home seeing.

It is very difficult for a person when God selects them for suffering.  Having to bear that tests a person’s faith down to its very core.  When the trial is prolonged (especially accompanied with excruciating pain) without help from others who support and encourage rather than assume and accuse, depression can set in, because the suffering is so great.

God greatly desires that Christians be patient and compassionate with people who have been called to this.  This does not include whiners who have a hangnail and act as though they have been skewered with a spear like a stuck pig.  These are people who have crippling diseases (like Lyme’s Disease, Multiple Sclerosis, Cerebral Palsy, and the like).  Not every disease manifests itself on the outside for all to see. And the mental and emotional abuse afflicted upon people is much harder to see than physical abuse.

Even though God’s people are called to suffering, God assures us that eventually all pain and suffering will end for those who believe in His Son, Jesus Christ.  Sometimes that will be addressed in this life (like the blind seeing, the lame walking, the sick cured, and the like), or in the next.  Either way, God will eventually provide an end to it.  But just as Jesus said concerning the blind man who was that way from birth, there is purpose to it – not only for character development, but so that the works of God can be put on display.

Special Service

There was once a story about a man who came into a logging camp.  He was shown the logging operations, and was given the grand tour.  When they came to the river where the logs were being floated down to the logging plant from where they were cut, a logger stood at the edge of the river.  Every now and then, he would use a pole that he was carrying and reroute a cut tree down a smaller fork in the river.

The man asked the logger who was directing the trees what he was doing.  The logger replied, “oh, those are special trees”.  The visitor asked, “What is so special about them, and how can you tell?”  The logger replied, “The trees I am selecting are very special.  They were harvested from the very tops of the mountains.  The winds are ferocious up there, and these trees are bent as the storms wail against them, but they stay strong and resilient.  Although all of the trees are profitable, these trees have endured the greatest of trials, and are greatly prized by furniture makers and artists, and are worth many times more than what the other trees are worth.  They will be used in ways that show their beauty, and when they are finally shaped, will endure for generations as priceless antiques and masterpieces.”

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, 2 through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; 4 perseverance, character; and character, hope. 5 And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

If you have been selected for great suffering, rejoice:  God plans to use you in the most beautiful of ways.  Once you have been tested, expect to be put on display.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Am I demonstrating to God that I can be trusted with whatever He is selecting me to do and be?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are good and gracious.  Help me to both find the area where I am called, and to do thrive in it so that You may be glorified.  Strengthen me so that I will be able to endure all the trials that I have been appointed to, and to overcome any difficulties that I encounter.  May Your character be put on display at all times, that as an image-bearer for You, I would be able to fulfill all that you have planned for me to do since before time began.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Trust in God – Psalm 62:5-8

Our Souls Can Rest in God When We Trust Him.

5 Yes, my soul, find rest in God;
my hope comes from him.
6 Truly he is my rock and my salvation;
he is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God;
he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, you people;
pour out your hearts to him,
for God is our refuge.

Reasoned Rest

David, the author of this Psalm, encourages himself, and us as well, to allow our souls to find rest in God.  He states he can do this because David, without a doubt in his heart, knows that his hope and salvation come from God.

When we truly take to heart that God is sovereign, and desires for us to be saved, and that He wants to protect us, we can find reassurance and peace in knowing that we are being well cared for by God.

Formidable Fortress

David refers to God as his Rock, Salvation, and Fortress.  God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  He does not change like shifting shadows.  He is perfect in all His ways.  David can depend upon the steadfastness of the character of God.

As a picture of this, David uses a rock to signify how strong, durable, and trustworthy God is to him.  He likens God to a fortress, a well designed structure that is still used today to keep out evil and protect what is inside (think Fort Knox).  In the case of God, He is an impregnable fortress – no one and nothing can penetrate the defenses to attack or corrupt God.  God is immutable, and is able to stay that way because:

  • God is all-powerful: omnipotent
  • God is all-knowing: omniscient
  • God is ever-present: omnipresent

We can depend upon God not only because He is sovereign, but also because it is impossible for Him to not be sovereign.

Sturdy Salvation

David reminds us here that our salvation and honor rest in God.  God and God alone is the only one who can rescue us from our sin.  Our identity is to be found in Jesus Christ.  He is the one who provides us with His righteousness.  He is the one who provides us His honor.

Since God is sovereign, David recognizes that any honor that he has been provided has been given to Him by God.  No one can claim honor, because anything that they have done or accomplished was provided by God.  God has given us our bodies, minds, and souls.  He has provided all of the physical universe.  Even the very breath we are taking right now is because God is gracious to us and is providing it.  Because of this, David is confident in his salvation, as God is the author of it and is able to sustain and protect him.

Treasured Trust

David implores us to place our trust in God and, by implication, not in ourselves, anyone, or anything else.  David can say this with great confidence, as his heart is firmly convinced in the strength, character, and ability of God to do all things needed to protect and provide for us.  David both reasons these things in his mind, and recounts from personal experience how God has been at work in his life.  We can look back on the life of David, and see how David was treated by God and through that, trust in the Living God as David did.

Prayerful Petition

David also exhorts us to pour out our hearts to God.  David implies that he has a two-way relationship with God.  God not only provides for our physical and spiritual needs, he also engages us in EVERY aspect of our lives.  The Lord God Almighty’s very name, YHWH, means “I am he who exists and is dynamically involved in your life.”

God seeks to have the very deepest level of relationship with us.  We can not only trust God with our protection and provision, but also with our innermost desires and concerns.  God waits with anticipation for us to really open up to Him and engage Him as we would our most intimate and best friend.  He delights in us pouring out our hearts to Him.  And while we can bring praises and petitions to Him, we can also share ourselves with Him – even though He already knows us!  It is for OUR benefit, not God’s, that we share ourselves at that deepest level.  God is a jealous God (in the good meaning of jealous) – there is no part of us that God does not declare – “You are MINE!”  Give yourself to Him totally and completely.  And God will satisfy the deepest, innermost part of your soul.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Are we trusting God not only with our protection and provision, but also with our deepest and most hidden inner being?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, it is a glorious thing to know how trustworthy and faithful You are.  You reveal Yourself to us through Your word and Your creation.  You constantly pour out Your love for us in all that You do.  You seek us as a shepherd seeks lost sheep, and care for us with an everlasting love.  Help me to give myself to You in every way, shape, and form, that even my innermost being would be shared with You.  You have earned my trust, and it is my honor to share myself as fully as I can with You.  Help me when I am in need.  Care and provide for me.  And help me to release the parts of myself that I hold on to, that I cling to, and never reveal to anyone.  Help me to bring all of them out into Your glorious and beautiful light, that they would be displayed as precious jewels.  Remove the dross from my life, and if anything in my innermost being is not desirable, help me to bring it out and leave it at the foot of the cross.  This I ask and pray in the precious and mighty name of Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

A Promise of God – Malachi 3:10-11

When We Are Obedient to God, He Blesses Us in Every Way

10 Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it. 11 I will prevent pests from devouring your crops, and the vines in your fields will not drop their fruit before it is ripe,” says the Lord Almighty.

Talking Tithes

What is a tithe?

  • The tithe was one tenth of the of the increase of the crops of the land, as well as the firstborn male among the cattle.  It was only given by the landowners.  It was a portion of the increase that God gave to them.  The farmers planted the seed, and cared for the land, but God gave the increase.
  • Since the cattle grazed off of the land, and God gave the increase (birth of new cattle), the firstborn male was to be tithed as well.
  • The tithe was not required of the day laborer.  He was properly remunerated for his labor – equal pay for equal work.  There was no increase in his pay by God.
  • The value of day’s wages in Jesus’ time was a denarius.

Who received the tithe?

What was the purpose of the tithe?

  • God provided the tithe so that the priests could eat since they didn’t inherit land to farm.  Priests could buy (rent) land if it was for sale.  But under God’s law, the land should have been returned to the proper owners (those whose family inherited it) during the year of Jubilee.  Since the Israelites did not honor or obey the Jubilee decree, the sale was more or less final, rather than a rental.
  • God also wanted the tithe to be used to feed the widows, the orphans, and the strangers among them.
  • God provided the tithe to the priests so that they could focus on their priestly duties.
  • God wanted to install in His people that God is first in everything.  That is why He wanted the first-fruits of the labor of the land:
    • It was to show absolute trust in God that he would continue to provide for the people.
    • It was the best that the plants had to offer.  God ALWAYS wants our best.  He rightly deserves it!
  • Even the priests were to tithe.  They didn’t earn it in wages – God gave them this increase, so they needed to tithe as well.

Does God need a tithe?

  • No.  God says that everything is His, and He doesn’t need anything from us (Psalm 50:10-12).

Other Offerings

What is an offering?

  • An offering is a free-will gift to God to show honor to God in something.  There were several types of offerings:
    • Burnt offerings
    • Drink offerings
    • Fellowship offerings
    • Food offerings
    • Grain offerings
    • Sin offerings
    • Wave offering
  • Offerings are prompted by God in your heart.
  • Offerings are used to help us to depend upon God for everything.
  • Offerings help pay for ministries.
  • Jesus Christ was the final, complete, and absolute offering for our sin.

Should we tithe, give offerings, or both?

  • God wants us to keep Him FIRST in our lives.  During the time when the laws were given to Moses, there wasn’t a building that needed to be maintained.  They had the tent of meeting, and that didn’t require very much maintenance.  The first temple was built by David’s son, Solomon.  Upkeep of the temple was provided through offerings.
  • Unless you are a crop farmer and/or own livestock, TITHING is inappropriate.  If you DO give a tithe, see to it that whoever receives it uses it for the appropriate purposes:
    • Feeding of the Pastor(s)
    • Feeding of the Widows
    • Feeding of the Orphans
    • Feeding of the strangers among you (Homeless?)
  • Give OFFERINGS for the following:
    • If you like meeting in a church building as opposed to an open field, person’s home, or other gathering venue, give offerings for them.
    • Give offerings to support church-directed ministries, anything OTHER than support of the widows, orphans, and the strangers among you.
    • A worker is worthy of his wages. Since the Pastor(s) has/have given his/their full-time to ministering to the people, provide offerings to support his/their efforts.
    • ANYTHING God lays upon your heart to give.  God will pour out His blessing upon you.  This is not always a financial blessing, but every blessing from God is precious!

A Qualifying Question

So let’s ask ourselves a question:  Am I showing that God is first in my life with the Time, Talent, and TREASURE that He has provided in the offerings that I give?

A short Prayer of Preparation

Father in Heaven, I give thanks You for You are so generous towards me.  Father, help me to trust You more in every aspect of my life.  Help me to go over my finances, and see if there is anything that you want to change.  Provide guidance for everything that I spend Your money on and help me to find ways to increase my offerings to You.  Father, out of Your goodness and mercy, You continue to provide for my every need.  Help me to realign my goals and directives so that they align with Yours.  And please, Lord God, use the offerings that I have given back to You to Your glory.  May many lives be brought into the kingdom of God because of them.  May they honor and glorify Your Most Holy Name.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

Faith in Christ – Hebrews 11:35-38

No Servant is Greater Than His Master

35 Women received back their dead, raised to life again. There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. 36 Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. 37 They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— 38 the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Faith Followed

Are you being persecuted for your faith in Christ?  Rejoice!  You are in good company!  You have been found worthy!  Most of us, when reading about faith the book of Hebrews, want to dwell on the earlier portion of Hebrews 11.  But since Christ suffered for His faith, we shall suffer also.  Following Christ in many nations is worthy of the death penalty.

Here in America, a country founded on Christian principles (Mayflower Compact, Declaration of Independence), we embarked on an experiment in liberty that afforded to its citizens great freedom (especially of religion, not just worship) through the idea that people who are able to self-govern themselves through the belief in accountability to God don’t require draconian authority over them to live civilly in society.  When this occurs, the founding fathers of the United States of America reasoned, it was possible that such a level of freedom was achievable.  It should be very evident now, that in light of the people of the United States of America throwing off the yoke of Christ for the lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life, that such a government is untenable, the citizens will (and do) selfishly seek to codify in law government favoritism towards their particular desires, passions, and industries at the expense of the liberty of others.  As such, Christians are now being persecuted for living out their Christian faith in accordance with the freedoms that they were promised in their founding document of law.  But rejoice!  Here is how we should respond:

You suffered along with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

Creating Character

Faith helps us to endure all of the trials of life.  And when we endure, we gain character:

1 Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Sometimes it is tough when we are going through trials that test our faith (especially at night while we sleep).  But you can be confident that God will never leave you or forsake you, for His character is perfect.  And since God will not allow you to be tempted (tested) beyond your ability without providing a way, there is always a glimmer of hope – even if that means your release from trouble is when you go to be with Him in glory.  God may place circumstances in your life that overwhelm you.  However, this usually happens when He is trying to get your attention.  But let’s not forget that many have been tortured and murdered for their faith.  And in those trials, God can give you peace beyond comprehension to help you through the difficulty.

Faith Fortified

When we are suffering for our faith, we are told to rejoice!   For as we surrender to God in our suffering, it strengthens our faith in Him to be able to get us through it.  Jesus said that only a little faith is needed to accomplish mighty things:

He replied, “Because you have so little faith. Truly I tell you, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.”

If only a little faith is required to move mountains, and that nothing will be impossible for us, what great and mighty things does God want to accomplish through us that would require the great faith and trust that comes through enduring our trials as we walk with Him?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question:  Do I merely endure my trials, or does my faith mature in reverential trust and fear of God with joyful expectancy of what God will do next in my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, my strength is failing as I wait expectantly for You to act in these dark and evil days.  Give me the strength to go on so that I will not faint as I wait for my character growth to be completed in the crucible of trials.  Help me to trust You as a young child trusts their parents, completely and without reservation, as these fleeting difficulties are worked out by You, for I know that You are sovereign, and nothing happens without your express prior knowledge and approval.  Help me to soar like an eagle, for I feel grounded, unable to even spread my wings.  Comfort me in my sorrows and difficulties, and guard my heart with Your peace, that no weapon formed against me shall prosper.  This I ask in the name of Your Most Beloved Son, Jesus Christ, Amen.

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?

 

Trusting in God – Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid, I put my trust in you.

Fear is an interesting emotion.  Just about everyone has experienced the heart wrenching, gut kicking, grip of fear in their lives.  When we experience that level of emotion, it has a tendency to so overpower us that we are unable to see things clearly – it effectively incapacitates us.  Fear is a natural response that God gave us to help us to survive.  Without fear, we would most probably do things that no level-headed person would ever consider doing.

The Bible indicates that fear has to do with punishment.  Yet we are told to fear God.  In the latter case, this is a reverent trust in God; not a gripping, emotional aversion.  How we respond in circumstances is a witness to the power and glory of God.  When we show fear, we are in effect saying that we cannot trust God to deliver us from our circumstances.  While this may seem odd, you may want to take a look at the life of King Hezekiah when Assyria was threatening the kingdom of Judah.

When we trust in the Lord, even when there seems to be no way to victory, it brings glory to God, and strengthens our faith.  The reason we trust is because God is faithful.  And in that, we are able to be faithful, regardless of the issues that plague us.  We trust in God for the big stuff – Salvation, Resurrection, Eternal Life, etc.  But we are told to have faith like little children.  They don’t question – they have complete, unwavering faith in their parents, especially when they don’t understand something.

So let’s ask the question:  Are we trusting God in the little stuff?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, in my times of need, please drive all fear out of my heart so that I may be able to trust you more.  My fear gets in the way of trusting that You are who You say You are.  Deepen my faith in these times, Lord God, and help me to respond in a way that glorifies Your name.  You have revealed Yourself as faithful so that others may see Your faithfulness and trust in You.  Do not let my emotions instruct my will to direct my intellect; rather, help my intellect to instruct my will so that it can direct my emotions.  You are able to do this and far more than we can ever imagine, Lord God.  Help me to be faithful to You in childlike faith and trust.  This I ask and pray in Jesus’ name, Amen

Want more?  Why not try A. B. Simpson or A. W. Tozer?