The Dangers of Deception – Proverbs 26:18-19

Satan Is The Father Of All Liars And Deceivers

18 Like a maniac shooting
flaming arrows of death
19 is one who deceives their neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”

Just Joking

Have you ever been angered at what someone did, and their response was, “I was only joking!”  The good news is that this isn’t a new phenomenon – this has been going on for millennia!  The phrase “I was only joking!” is born out of the inspiration of the one who instigated the situation in the first place.  It is born out of desperation to justify the actions in the mind of the person responsible, as well as an attempt to pacify the anger in the intended recipient of the actions.  It is little consolation for the pain, heartache, and anger that result from the damaging situation that has just occurred.

Dangerous Deception

No one likes to be deceived.  There is an inherent desire in each human being to know the truth, and be told the truth.  Even when society and culture places snares all around us with the false promise of “happiness”, the moment that people take the bait and compromise themselves, the very people who placed the snares are the very first to point the finger and impugn their victim’s character, applying labels to destroy their reputations.  The motivations for doing this are many, too many to discuss here.  Some of the more obvious and insidious motivations are that people are looking for salacious headlines, they are trying to destroy a political opponent, or possibly even are out for revenge in vengeance.

Deception is very dangerous.  When discovered, it breaks the bonds of trust that we share with each other.  It makes it harder to develop trust with others in the future.  It sets up a stage where the economic potential of people can be adversely affected.  Deception undermines the unwritten rules of societal interaction.  And the very act of deception is born from a self-serving desire to manipulate the circumstances of others in order to gain a more favorable advantage in those circumstances.

While there are some people who actually receive great pleasure from the ability to deceive and rejoice in the consequences that others find themselves when they believe the lie, most people in their core feel shame once they have deceived another.  The writer of this Proverb likens the person deceiving as a maniac who randomly shoots flaming arrows of death.  That is a powerful word picture!  Only a maniac would shoot arrows, let alone flaming arrows of death, randomly into a crowd.  Deception affects more than just the person or persons who are the intended target; it affects the lives of everyone around them, and potentially, the lives of people who the targets will interact with in the future.  Deception does not only change the circumstances of the victims, but also of the perpetrator.

Satanic Source

Do not be deceived: it is Satan who is the father of all who lie and deceive:

You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.

Deception is the application of the art of historical revisionism, i.e., lying.  There are many forms of deception:

  • The exclusion of facts necessary to make a good judgment concerning a situation and that falsely and adversely affect the true nature of the situation
  • The alteration of existing facts to fit a particular narrative so that it favors a particular person, entity, or cause
  • The fabrication of information that does not have any basis in fact whatsoever
  • The promotion of an alternative “truth” to salve our own conscience – the art justifying our actions

There are many more ways to deceive.  The Bible says that we are so evil, we invent new ways to sin.  And when the scholarly and lawyer-like ones among us look at a list, sometimes our very first inclination is to look for loopholes in the wording to see if there is a way we can get away with it and still adhere to the letter of law while murdering the spirit of the law.  And in even that, the Bible proves true when it states:

10 As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; 11 there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. 12 All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”

Eventual End

The eventual end of deception is that we obscure the truth, and in doing so, reap the rewards of what we have sown.  Jesus is The Way, The Truth, and The Life.  He is the embodiment of truth, and in truth, there is no deception.  Truth sheds light on all that is evil, wrong, wicked, and deceptive.  The continued practice of deception will eventually cause us to have a seared conscience – a state where we are no longer able to recognize that some action we are taking is evil.  Those who lie and deceive do not have the truth in them, and they will eventually face judgment before the white throne seat of God.

But thanks be to God in Jesus Christ!  For He has overcome, and in His very public death, burial, and resurrection, through a perfect life, died for our sins so that we could be reconciled to the Father.  If you are caught in deception or deceptive practices, turn to God, confess your sin, and seek the help of The Lord God Almighty who does not desire that anyone perish, for Jesus has been sent to pay our penalty for sin.  Turn to the One who can save you, forgive you, redeem you, and change you through His great and mighty Spirit.

While there is breath, there is hope.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I engaging in deceit in any of my dealings with others, or even myself?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are holy, and no sin will be permitted in Your presence.  Even now, we cannot look upon Your face, for we would surely perish if we did.  Thank You for Your love, grace, and mercy that You pour out into my life each and every day.  I know that I don’t deserve it, but I am grateful for it.  Show me, Father, where there is deception in my life.  Forgive me for my sin, and help me to do what is right in Your eyes.  Restore my conscience to a sensitive level, that I would know immediately when I am in danger of sinning against You.  Give me joy instead of sorrow, and help me to live in truth rather than the bondage of lies.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Called to Suffering – Acts 9:16

Can God Trust You With Suffering?

“I will show him how much he must suffer for my name.”

Carefully Called

We can rejoice that God does not do things at random:

Like an archer who wounds at random is one who hires a fool or any passer-by.

God, omniscient, knows all things, and has a plan that is coming to fruition.  He carefully selects people for what He wants them to do.  He said the following of King David:

“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.'”

Many people were called by God for different purposes.  Some were to lead God’s people as judges, prophets, or kings.  Others were called to be intercessors, such as Esther.  Still others were called to discipline the Israelites through conquering them and enslaving them.  In every case, it was God who called them for His specific purpose, in His specific timing, for His greater glory.

Providential Purpose

God has purpose in everything that He does.  God does not waste any opportunity.  What appears to us to be random sequences of events are actually the carefully placed trellis that leads those who climb up it to where God wants and needs them to be.  We are but a mist, here today, and gone tomorrow.  We do not have the luxury of divine perspective with regards to long periods of time, because the average life span of a human being is seventy years, eighty if God is gracious.  We are unable to see the intertwining connectivity of timing and events, and to see the tendrils of connectedness between seemingly unrelated events and how and where they will intersect with one another in a tsunami of repercussions.

In all things, God has specific purposes for what He has called us.  Each of us are to play a part in it.  Paul likens this to being parts in a body, each one with unique features but that are part of a greater whole, contributing to or inhibiting the growth and health of the whole.  In everything, there is purpose.  God places purpose in His creation to reveal to us that He is full of purpose, and that we are to play a part in the purposes of God.

Heavenly Hardship

One of the most difficult, yet needed, purposes for God’s plan is people who have been chosen to be examples.  Some have been chosen by God to be examples of what is good.  Others have been chosen to be examples of what is not good.

For example, Able, the son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should do because he made the right offering before God.  Conversely, Cain, another son of Adam and Eve, was chosen as an example of what we should not do because of his offering before God, and his subsequent actions in regards to his offering’s rejection by God.

We need to keep in mind that the student is not above the teacher.  And Jesus Christ, the very best example that the Lord God Almighty could have sent to us experienced divine hardship on a scale that none of us can even comprehend.  He suffered and experienced great hardship throughout His life, but always with the attitude that God the Father had purpose in His hardship, and that in being yielded to the Holy Spirit, His life would glorify God.

One of the most difficult hardships to be given by God is the hardship of suffering.

Severe Suffering

No one likes to suffer (unless they are mentally deranged).  Suffering produces pain in our lives, and makes our lives so difficult that we can barely function.  At times, suffering can be so severe that we are incapacitated by it, and truly cannot even function.  Ask a person who is recovering from ninety percent of their skin being burned off in a fire if they are able to function.  The answer is obvious – until they are healed, they cannot.

God called His One and Only Son, Jesus Christ, to ultimate suffering for us.  As payment for our sins, not only was the burden of our sins – every sin that every human being ever committed past, present, and future – laid upon his shoulders as He hung on the cross at Calvary, God withdrew His presence from Him, and He experienced complete and total separation from the presence, provision, and protection of God in complete and total isolation with that burden placed upon Him in ultimate pain and agony.  Let it never be said that our salvation is free; it is freely given to us, but the cost was unimaginable.

Sometimes people are called to severe emotional suffering.  They have survived rape, torture, abuse, war, and other unspeakable circumstances.  The scars of these events will affect them for ages to come.  But they have been called as witnesses to the power, grace and glory of God as He leads them out of the bondage that such devastation has caused.

Sometimes people are called to severe physical affliction.  Most people have experienced some type of physical affliction, whether it is sickness or a broken bone.  But God has called some to suffer, not for days, months, or even years, but DECADES of life with pain that would cause the average person to curl up into a fetal position in the corner and bemoan their life (take a look at the life of Job for better clarification on this).  Ask people who have trigeminal neuralgia what it is like to live where, possibly every few seconds, or every second, it feels like someone is striking your face with the full swing of a baseball bat.  This particular affliction is also called “the suicide disease” because people would rather take their own life than live with the consequences of it.

In some cases, such as Lyme’s disease, it can not only be a painful, life-sucking, energy-draining, body-wasting disease, it can cause great misery.  Pain can be medicated away, even with morphine drips.  But misery is in an entirely different category.  Being in a state of extreme misery for any extended period of time will have a person begging God to take their life.  And when the pain and the misery go on day after day, year after year, DECADE AFTER DECADE, and the person is a disciple of Jesus Christ, whom it appears God has forsaken in their disease and time of need, what are they to do?

Total Trust

God has called these particular people to suffering as example to others.  Suffering (and the hardship that comes with it) produces character, and character produces hope.  Hope, in the sense that the Bible uses the word, is not wishful thinking, but rather a reasoned and sound expectation that some future event will occur.  In this, disciples of Christ have hope that God will work all things to good for those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.  The purpose is to trust that Almighty God is sovereign, that He has a plan, that He has not forsaken those who suffer hardship, and be an example to others that in their pain and hardship, God is real and is able to get them through their trials as well.

When these great saints of God are called to severe suffering, and show complete and total trust through it, it is a powerful message to those who do not believe in God that there must be something that is helping those who are suffering to believe.  It is evident to most people who, in light of this type of suffering, there is no circumstance in the world that can force a person to believe that their suffering has purpose and is worth enduring apart from the sovereign grace and power of Almighty God.

Total trust in God yields great fruit, both in the life of the one suffering, and in the example provided to those who need an example to continue on in their own difficulties.  God loves it when we trust Him through these difficulties.  David spoke of this in Psalm 23:

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he refreshes my soul. He guides me along the right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the darkest valley,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

The trust goes two ways.  We are to trust God, because He and He alone is completely trustworthy.  But God also trusts us.  To those whom He has placed the terrible burden of suffering, He trusts them to properly display that trust right back at Him.  The more hardship God brings into your life – and that which is NOT caused by your own sin, actions, or as consequences of your life choices – the more that he is trusting you for something great.

There is a story that goes something like this:

A man was at a lumberyard watching the lumberjacks move mighty trees from the forest down the river to where they would be sawn for wood.  At a junction in the river, there was a lumberjack who, every now and then, would direct one of the large trees floating in the water down a smaller path of the river.  There appeared to be no difference in the appearance of the trees, so this seemed odd to the man.  The man then asked the lumberjack directing these trees down the river what he was doing.

The lumberjack told the man the trees he was directing down the smaller path were from the very top of the mountain.  They received the most abuse from the weather, and they were constantly buffeted by the wind, rain, and snow.  These mighty trees looked like the others, but because of the abuse they took, along with the fact that they had not broken in the process, were of exceptional quality.  The wood had a much finer grain, and when used by carpenters, made the very finest furniture and brought the highest price on the market.  They were destined to be used by the most skilled artisans in the land for the most sought after projects, and were to be displayed in the most coveted of places because of the beauty that grew in them due to the hardship of the weather.

And just as the trees in this story brought praise to the artisans that used them with their great skill, so will the hardship in our lives be used by God to bring Him the maximum amount of glory, and be useful for displaying His craftsmanship and character.

Glorifying God

The end result of everything that God has done in the past, is doing now, and will do in the future, is to bring glory to Himself.  He and He alone is worthy of all glory, honor, praise, power, dominion, and strength.  He alone is The Great I AM, providing for our every need, displaying His love and infinite power to all who would take notice.

When a person is willing to be used by God for this purpose, God will use them mightily in ministry and to display His glory.  There is no greater honor than to be used by God in this way, as Jesus Christ demonstrated to us on the cross at Calvary.  But are we willing to go through the difficulty and hardship that is required to bring about the changes necessary to properly display what God has planned in His heart for us to show the world?

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to allow God to bring hardship and suffering in my life to fulfill His plans and purposes for me?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your word is perfect, and Your will and character are perfect as well.  You have shown throughout Your word that You can be trusted with everything, for You are perfect in every way.  Father, help me to endure suffering and hardship as discipline.  Help me to gain Your perspective on my circumstances so that I may be willing to be used by You for the calling that You have placed upon my life.  Help me to be faithful to You throughout the process so that during the trials, and when I come out on the other side, You will be shown rightly to all who watch.  Guard my heart against bitterness through the process, and fill me with Your peace and power that all things You have planned would come to pass.  This I ask in the precious name of our Savior, Jesus Christ, Amen.

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

 

 

Redemption by Christ – 1 Peter 1:17-21

You Are Redeemed With The Precious Blood Of Christ

17 Since you call on a Father who judges each person’s work impartially, live out your time as foreigners here in reverent fear. 18 For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your ancestors, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect. 20 He was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake. 21 Through him you believe in God, who raised him from the dead and glorified him, and so your faith and hope are in God.

Reason for Redemption

God does nothing without purpose.  He is sovereign in all things, whether we can see and understand the purpose or not.  God had redeemed us to live a life of holiness in communion with Him, as He had originally intended the lives of Adam and Eve.  It is to gather us back to Him in holiness and righteousness that God allowed the sinless blood of His Son, Jesus Christ, to be spilled and offered as a final sacrifice for our sin.  We rejoice at the thought of our salvation and redemption.  Do we spend time reflecting upon the true price that was paid so that we could be free from the bondage of sin?

Worldly Wealth

Peter reminds us that we were not redeemed with the perishable wealth of this world.  Gold and silver has value among men, but God owns it all:

The silver is mine and the gold is mine,’ declares the Lord Almighty.

We have not been redeemed with the perishable, but with the imperishable.  The material wealth of this world will be consumed by fire and redeemed.  If we were redeemed with the perishable, our redemption would be perilous at best.  That which can change is not worthy of eternal praise or worth.

Precious Price

We are instead redeemed with the imperishable, perfect, sinless blood of the Son of God, shed by The Lord Jesus Christ Himself for our sins.  No other payment is worthy, for there is life in the blood:

11 For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life. 12 Therefore I say to the Israelites, “None of you may eat blood, nor may any foreigner residing among you eat blood.”

13 “Any Israelite or any foreigner residing among you who hunts any animal or bird that may be eaten must drain out the blood and cover it with earth, 14 because the life of every creature is its blood. That is why I have said to the Israelites, ‘You must not eat the blood of any creature, because the life of every creature is its blood; anyone who eats it must be cut off.'”

It is only the blood of Jesus, who is perfect and eternal, that can give us eternal life, for life is in the blood.  And what a terrible price was paid by God for our sins, that the lifeblood of the Son of God was shed for us.  He died that we might live.

Salvation and redemption are provided to us freely by God.  But let us never forget the steep price that was paid by God to secure and obtain that freedom that we have received.  Though we freely receive it, the cost was immeasurably high.  Since the cost was so high, we should honor the One who secured our freedom with gratitude.

Redeemed in Righteousness

God did not redeem us merely to set us free.  He redeemed us so that we could once again be reconciled to Him in righteousness.  Sin chains us in its prison, keeping us from the freedom that lies in holiness.  Let us not forget that His grace and mercy are to woo us back to Him, to a life of righteousness, in submission to The Lord God Almighty.  Our free-will has given us the false impression that we can do as we please.  We are created for the pleasure and purpose of God.

There is an old expression that rightly embodies this (attributed to multiple authors, summarized below):

If you love someone, set them free.  If they return, they are yours.  If they do not, they never were.

God has set us free with the priceless blood of Christ.  We now have a choice – will we return to God, and live in obedience, or will we go our own way?  We have been given the choice.  Let us choose wisely.

Flourishing Faith

Since we have been purchased with such a great price, let us place our hope in Him who has set us free.  Let us lay our foundation of hope upon the Son of God who has redeemed us.  Let us glorify in His goodness, mercy and grace.  Let us rejoice that He desires that all people come to Him.  Let our faith prosper and grow in God, for our foundation is secure, and no one can snatch us from our Father’s handNeither can anyone snatch us out of the hand of the Son of God.  For eternal life has been purchased for you through the blood of the eternal God, which cannot tarnish or be destroyed.  His blood will last through eternity with the surety that the Son of God is immortal, free from the effects decay, and that His blood will forever ensure our freedom.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question: For what purpose in His plan has God redeemed my life?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, please help me to understand and realize just how steep a price was required to secure my freedom from sin through the blood of Your One and Only Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me to always remember the price that was paid to liberate me from the bondage that I was born into, and provide the great freedom that I now enjoy.  Father, please call me to my purpose, then equip me so that I may fulfill Your desire.  Grant me grace and mercy as I fail on a daily basis to live up to Your perfect standard, and help me to remember my failings that I may continually lean upon You for the strength to live and do Your will.  Work Your will through my life, that You would bring honor and glory to yourself.  Keep me far from pride, for the world, the flesh, and the devil will try to constantly place the desire in my heart to think that what You are doing through me is of my own ability.  Grant me the wisdom to see with spiritual eyes, that I may not be easily fooled as I walk in this wicked world.  Come, Lord Jesus, and redeem what is rightfully Yours.  This I ask in Jesus’ Holy Name, Amen.

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

Love of God – 1 John 3:1-3

God Is Love And Lavishes It Upon Us

1 See what great love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. 3 All who have this hope in him purify themselves, just as he is pure.

Love Lavished

Have you seen the love lavished upon us by God Almighty?  Every breath we take is a gift from Him.  Every material possession that we have is given to us by Him.  The ability and opportunity to work with our hands to provide something for the poor is a blessing from Him.  And now, through the birth, life, death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, Jesus Christ, we have been given an even greater gift – to be called the children of God.

Called Children

It is no fun to be an orphan, or to live in a family where there is abuse, lies, deception, and derision.  But that is exactly what we had when we were children of our old father, the devil.  He lies to us, berates us, demeans us, and tries very hard to convince us that we are worthless.  He does everything in his power to keep us from properly bearing the image of God.

But God, through His Son, Jesus Christ, has not given us the greatest gift – adoption into His family.  God’s love for us was so powerful, that He sacrificed is One and only perfect Son, Jesus Christ, that we could become His sons and daughters.  It is said that identity is the strongest form of persuasion.  God has attempted to persuade us into coning back to Him through identity as His sons and daughters.  But not everyone will heed the  call.

Some will Spurn

The world does not know Him, nor even want to know Him.  Blinded by the efforts of our enemy, hindered by the inherited nature passed on by Adam, and enticed by our own evil desires, the world around us revels in sin even as they hate it.  Unable to break free of its grip, and unable to be relieved of the pain and suffering it produces, the world continues to spiral out of control and give in to the very nature that they hate.

The world, under control of the enemy, hates to have their deeds exposed to the light.  Darkness encompasses them, and they desire to stay there, fearful and loathing themselves.  It is only the power and blessing of God and His word that can change the attitude of spurning into yearning.

Unrestricted Unveiling

And given the opportunity to know the one and only true God, He has chosen to unveil his true nature when His One and Only Son returns in glory.  At that time, we will see Him as He truly is, for we will be transformed and will be like Him.  We will finally see Him fully and know Him fully, just as He fully knows us now.  At that time, nothing will be withheld.  The full beauty, power, majesty, glory, and nature of the Son of God will be revealed to His children, as well as those who are not His children.  Those who have spurned Him will cry and mourn, and seek to flee the perfect light that will shine and penetrate all of creation.

Preparation in Purity

And for those of us who have hope in Him, we are to purify ourselves, just as He is pure.  God has given us the gift of the residence of the Holy Spirit within us to guide us, guard us, teach us, reveal His word to us, and prepare us in purity as the day of the Lord approaches.  The time is drawing near, and the signs of His coming are at hand.  Take the time to know what to look for, and look up, for your salvation draweth nigh.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I prepared for the imminent return of my Savior?

A short prayer for preparation:

Father in Heaven, You never cease to draw me close to You.  Help me to embrace You in the times of difficulty as well as the times of ease.  Strengthen me for what is to come, and help me to purify myself that I may be found prepared when Your Son, Jesus Christ, returns.  Show me in Your word the sign of His coming, and give my heart the sense of urgency that it needs to yield to You in all things.  Thank You, Father, for the love that You shower down and lavish upon me in everything that You do and say.  Help me to remember Your love when emotional pain from my hardships tries to overwhelm me.  Guard my heart against bitterness and anger, and fill me with Your love.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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

Hope in God -2 Kings 4:11-17

Even When It Seems Most Bleak, God Can Find A Way

11 One day when Elisha came, he went up to his room and lay down there. 12 He said to his servant Gehazi, “Call the Shunammite.” So he called her, and she stood before him. 13 Elisha said to him, “Tell her, ‘You have gone to all this trouble for us. Now what can be done for you? Can we speak on your behalf to the king or the commander of the army?'”

She replied, “I have a home among my own people.”

14 “What can be done for her?” Elisha asked.

Gehazi said, “She has no son, and her husband is old.”

15 Then Elisha said, “Call her.” So he called her, and she stood in the doorway. 16 “About this time next year,” Elisha said, “you will hold a son in your arms.”

“No, my lord!” she objected. “Please, man of God, don’t mislead your servant!”

17 But the woman became pregnant, and the next year about that same time she gave birth to a son, just as Elisha had told her.

A Hospitable Host

The Shunammite woman was a hospitable host.  Every time Elijah the prophet and Gehazi  his servant stopped by, she encouraged them to eat at her house.  Hospitality was encouraged at that time, and she had the gift.  Eventually, she convinced her husband to build a room on her roof so that when Elijah and Gehazi stopped by, they would have a place to stay.  Elijah, after a period of time, summoned the Shunammite woman before him and asked her if there was something that could be done for her.  She was very humble, and indicated that she had a home among her people.  Although scripture doesn’t directly say so, it would appear that she was then dismissed.

A Particular Problem

Then Elisha probed further, and asked his servant Gehazi what could be done for her.  Gehazi indicated that she had no son.  Elijah would have known this, being a prophet of God.  With her husband being old, and with no son (a male heir to inherit the property of her husband), she would not have had any protection as a widow once her husband died.  This is a very serious issue for her in the culture during her life.

The Prophet Pronounces

Elijah then summoned the Shunammite woman back, and pronounced that she would, by this time next year, have a son in her arms.  Elijah’s walk with God was so close, that he was able to make this pronouncement, and be assured that it would come to pass.  What appears to be impossible to us is very possible to God.  He is able to do anything He desires to bring about His plans and bring glory to his name.

Distraught in Disbelief

One of the most difficult things to behold is a person, who has gone for so long without something that they desperately need, has given up hope on ever having that need fulfilled.  Whether it is healing from a sickness that has plagued us for decades, finding a spouse, being barren, or any other number of difficult circumstances, it is still hard to watch when the person who has given up hope is given that hope again.  They will often enter into denial.  They fear that if they allow this hope into their hearts, and for some reason it fails, it may finally break their spirit.  They have prepared themselves for their current circumstances, and are unwilling to change, because they are certain in their hearts that God has sovereignly appointed them to suffer with this continual need without the possibility of fulfillment.

The Shunammite woman was no exception.  When told she would have a son, she became distraught and reproved Elijah, a prophet of God, urging him passionately that it is wrong for him to mislead (LIE to) her about this.  She had already prepared herself for the coming trials of being an abandoned widow once her husband died.  She was also concerned for Elijah, for she certainly did not want to see him defile himself with what she believed to be something that was impossible in her own mind to occur – the opportunity to have a son and heir.

The Father is Faithful

But God is faithful.  And at the appointed time, just as Elijah predicted, the Shunammite woman gave birth to a son an heir.  For it is God who opens wombs and closes wombs.  No matter how difficult, God is able to make His will done.  The sun has stopped in its tracks; storms have arisen on the seasearthquakes have opened jails – Nothing is impossible with God.  And God, being perfect and complete in His nature, will ensure that everything He has purposed will come to pass.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I willing to have hope again after terrible loss or disappointment?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Thank You for the hope that You have given me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Help me, Father, to have my heart prepared for anything that You may be willing to do in my life.  Help me to be open to hope again where it has been dashed on the jagged rocks of life repeatedly and with great pain, loss, and sorrow.  Give me strength to trust again, and to allow myself to believe that You may want to bless me in that great pit of anger, despair, and pain.  Guard my heart against bitterness for shattered dreams and expectations, and place within me the seeds of hope and trust that You desire to heal these areas of my life.  Please, Lord God, do not ask me to have hope where You have no interest or desire to fulfill some desire that I may have.  Desire that is put off for too long grows into disappointment.  But when You tell me directly that You will do something, regardless of my past circumstances, give me to the courage to believe Your word and to endure all that is necessary to bring it about, for You cannot lie.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Suffering with God – Romans 5:1-5

Suffering Is Good For The Soul

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.

Peace made Possible

We give thanks to God, for He has made a way for us to have peace with Him through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ.  This is the milk of the word of God.  However, let us never forget these simple truths that help remind us of the grace and mercy of God.  For in our daily walk, Jesus said we would get our feet dirty, and we would need to wash them.

As we progress in our walk with God as disciples of Christ, we must keep in mind that He is faithful.  It is only through remembering even these basic truths that we correct ourselves and keep us averted from doing what is contrary to the word of God.  If we were thinking about the word of God every second of every day, how much less would we sin?

Grace of God

We also can never remember too often that it is by faith that we gained access to the grace of God.  When we are involved in ministry, even ministering to our own family, we can lose sight of the goal through the grinding day-to-day difficulties that wear us down.  The enemy will try to take advantage of us and plant thoughts in our head that we need to earn God’s love or grace or mercy through what we do.

Since God’s gift is based on faith rather than works, we need to keep everything in perspective as we are pulled in many directions, and the pressures of life are heaped upon our shoulders.  We must also remember that whatever God has called us to do, He will give us the strength, determination, resources, and time to complete.  The grace of God has been given to us through faith in the Son.  But that doesn’t mean we won’t suffer…

Honor in Hardship

In this next section, the author of Hebrews leads us through a progression that should help us to embrace our suffering.  The life of a disciple is not easy and care-free; rather it is filled with adventure, hardship, suffering, and difficulty.  It is through suffering that we grow in character.

As we are bound in the physical universe with these sin-disposed bodies, we are naturally impatient.  Enduring suffering produces perseverance.  Just as we train our bodies with exercise to run faster and farther, and to be able to life greater weight, we are trained by suffering to produce perseverance in our faith.

Creating Character

The training of perseverance leads to the development of character.  Most of us need patience.  Additionally, few have learned to be self-controlled with their tongues.  Our mouths get us into the most difficult of situations.  A lot of that would resolve itself if we were able to master what comes out of our mouths.

Character development is of great interest and importance to God, for He is character-driven, rather than emotion-driven.  We too should learn restraint and strength so that we can resist the urges that will lead to our downfall.  Additionally, as the image-bearers of God, we need to properly display the character of God.  How can we do that when our own character is lacking?  We can only fake it for so long before we reach our breaking points, and we have an epic failure of character.  However, as character is developed in us, we are provided an assurance that we would not otherwise obtain.

Head towards Hope

The perseverance of character leads to the assurance of hope.  The word hope is not used to mean the wishful desire of an outcome, but rather a steadfast knowledge that something will occur.  People don’t hope that the sun will rise in the sky the following morning; they know it will.  As long as we are here on Earth, we are assured that the sun will rise each and every day.  We have hope that this will occur.

In the same way, character leads us to the assurance of the hope that we have in God’s character and both in His ability and certainty that He will follow through on every promise He has ever made.  Nothing can stop Almighty God from fulfilling His promises to us, and fulfilling every prophecy that He has made, for God is not a liar, but the embodiment of truth.  And as we experience the character of God, we also are assured of the certainty that God is who He says He is, and we can find peace in our hope of our faith.

Shedding Shame

And we are not ashamed of our hope, for God’s love has been poured out into our hearts.  He has placed assurance of both His power and His grace in our hearts.  We see Him act, and are assured of His claims of truth, righteousness, and certainty of His character.  When we know these things in our hearts, we can shed all shame.  For the outcome is more than certain:  God CANNOT fail to deliver His promises.  So we can endure even more with the assurance of His will being done here on Earth as it is in Heaven.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I allowing God to train me through my suffering?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You discipline every child of yours.  Any child who does not receive discipline is not one of Yours.  Help me to not faint when You discipline me.  Give me the strength to endure it, and help me so that I will not despise it.  No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but I know that You seek to reap a harvest of righteousness in my character from it.  Give me the perspective that I need to endure all that You sovereignly allow into my life.  And if You should allow sickness to nearly destroy my body, give me the strength to hold onto You when there is no hope.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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Judgment by God – Isaiah 1:18-23

There Is Always Hope For The Wayward

18 “Come now, let us settle the matter,”
says the Lord.
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
they shall be as white as snow;
though they are red as crimson,
they shall be like wool.
19 If you are willing and obedient,
you will eat the good things of the land;
20 but if you resist and rebel,
you will be devoured by the sword.”
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.

21 See how the faithful city
has become a prostitute!
She once was full of justice;
righteousness used to dwell in her—
but now murderers!
22 Your silver has become dross,
your choice wine is diluted with water.
23 Your rulers are rebels,
partners with thieves;
they all love bribes
and chase after gifts.
They do not defend the cause of the fatherless;
the widow’s case does not come before them.

Right Reasoning

The Lord calls us to come to His point of view.  The ESV translates this part, “‘Come now, let us reason together’, says the Lord”.  God is calling us to see things from His perspective.  He is calling us to settle the matter in our minds.  We have warped views of all things because of our inherent limitations:

  • An inherited sin nature from Adam
  • A severe lack of knowledge of the state of the universe and its truths
  • Personal prejudices and the coloration of events filtered through our experiences.

We are unable to rightly see what is truly going on around us, or even within us.  The heart is deceitful above all.  Since we cannot rightly interpret our own true intents and motivations, how can we expect to rightly interpret those of others, especially a holy and perfect God?  Therefore, God calls us to come to His point of view.

Faithful to Forgive

God promises us forgiveness when we believe Him.  Believing God is always credited to us as righteousness.  God calls us to repentance and promises that our sins will be washed as white as snow, though they were as scarlet as the blood we shed every time we sin.  For the only proper payment for sin is the lifeblood of the sinner.  God is always faithful to forgive when we come to Him in repentance.  We can be assured of that.  And He goes on to show how He rewards.

Reward for Respect

When we are obedient, He will give us the good things of the land.  This is not to say that a single individual will receive it, but rather the people of the land as a whole.  When a land’s people are obedient to God, they desire to follow His law.  And when all of the people of the land follow the law, crime literally disappears.  Strife and hardship between neighbors vanish, as we love our neighbors as ourselves.  We are then able to work together for the benefit of all and reap the rewards of peace, for God will make even our enemies to be at peace with us when we are obedient to Him.

Reward for Rebellion

And when we refuse the blessing and offering of forgiveness of God, then a much more terrible reward is to be expected.  God has promised that He would devour the land with the sword.  The very enemies that He would have made to live in peace with us will overcome us in war.  Death, rather than life, will be the result of rebellion.  For God cannot tolerate sin unchecked.  And for any nation that claimed to be of God, that is particularly egregious to Him.

Israel was chosen by God to bring the Law to the people and to display the glory and character of God to the nations.  They failed in that.  And now, most recently, the failed experiment in self-governance that is/was the United States of America, is facing the very same judgment of God.

The Puritan Pilgrims’ Mayflower Compact was dedicated to God.  The USA as a nation was birthed in the belief that a righteous, self-governing people would be able to live in freedom and prosperity with a minimum of interference of governing authority, for in self-policing and self-governance, little oversight would be needed except to protect the innocent from those who refused to self-govern themselves in righteousness and holiness towards God.  For it is only through the restraint of  sin by fear and obedience to God that we are able to govern the terrible passions that sin has created within us.

When Rulers are Rebels

What follows is a tragic list of what happens when our leaders no longer follow the One True God in holiness and submission to His Spirit:

  • The leaders prostitute themselves to evil
  • Justice is replaced by murder
  • What was once valuable has become corroded and tarnished
  • Their strength and values have become diluted and worthless
  • Those who are charged with meting out justice become partners with thieves
  • They love bribes and seek to enrich themselves at the expense of the people entrusted to oversee them
  • The most vulnerable of society that have a special place in God’s heart – the widows and the orphans – are left without justice and help

This has happened in Israel, and is now happening in the United States of America.  It is never too late to repent.  As a nation, both Israel and the USA need to come to their knees, confess their sins, seek the face of God, turn from their wicked ways, and mourn over the sins of its people. Only then will God heal their land and begin to bless them has He once did.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask a question:  Am I living in such a way that my actions are in agreement with my stated profession that God’s ways are righteous and just?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, Your mercies renew every morning, and I thank and praise You for your patience and compassion that You show me every day.  Father, forgive me of my sins.  Grant me the strength and ability to walk in Your holy way, that I would turn from sin and turn towards you.  Forgive the leaders of my nation, Father, and I confess their sins to You.  We are an obstinate, stiff-necked people who are selfish and thing of no one and nothing but ourselves and our own pleasures.  Forgive us, Father, and help turn the hearts of those who claim to be Yours but live their lives completely independent of Your will back to humbleness and obedience to Your word.  And should they fail to hear Your call, and choose wickedness over righteousness, give me the strength to live by faith in You, for You and You alone have justified me through the blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ.  Amen.

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Waiting for God – Psalm 42:8-11

The Long Dark Night of the Soul Will Be Redeemed by God

8 By day the Lord directs his love,
at night his song is with me—
a prayer to the God of my life.
9 I say to God my Rock,
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why must I go about mourning,
oppressed by the enemy?”
10 My bones suffer mortal agony
as my foes taunt me,
saying to me all day long,
“Where is your God?”
11 Why, my soul, are you downcast?
Why so disturbed within me?
Put your hope in God,
for I will yet praise him,
my Savior and my God.

Lavished Love

God pours out his love to us all of the time.  By day we see His hand as He provides for our every need.  He is involved in every aspect of our lives as we struggle in our daily lives.  Even when we cannot feel His presence, He is there, just as a father is running behind a child learning to ride a bicycle without training wheels as the front wheel wobbles back and forth.

Solemn Song

By night we experience His comfort as our souls cry out to Him. God tests us even as we sleep, yet still we seek Him out in song and prayer.  This does not happen automatically.  We must make every effort during our waking hours to instill this desire in our hearts so that at night, it will reveal itself in our subconscious wanderings.

Oppressed by Opposition

An old nursery rhyme says, “sticks and stones will break my bones, but names will never hurt me.”  This is given to children to counter taunts and jeers, but it is not accurate.  Words CAN and DO hurt.  And the enemy knows this well.  Whether they try to attach a label to the focus of their wrath, or merely mock us as we go through our trials (many of which THEY have caused), the pain of enduring the trial is greatly amplified when God appears silent, and deliverance is not quickly forthcoming.  This is especially true when the trial is prolonged and filled with physical as well as emotional suffering.

Downcast with Despair

The authors of this Psalm challenge themselves and us to ask ourselves a very important question:  Why should our souls be downcast?  Why should we be in emotional and spiritual despair?   Is not our God YHWH, who exists eternally and is dynamically involved in our lives?  Is God even able to break His word when He said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you“?  What part of our despair is based in truth given the Word of the Living God who says that we are more than conquerors through Christ?  Or that we have been blessed with every spiritual blessing?  Or that He knows the plans He has for us to give us hope and a future?

Heavenly Hope

The sons of Korah encourage us to put our hope in God our Savior.  Let us not forget His benefits, His lavishing of love, grace, and mercy upon us.  Let us breathe strength into our weary bones and emotional pain by remembering the Character and Nature of God and what He has done for us.  Remember also that God has a tendency to come during the fourth watch of the night – at the very last second.  Our faith is stretched and we grow when we are able to endure through the trial, especially when the devil and his demonic minions are hurling their insults, accusations, doubts and ideas of fear at us while his earthly minions are doing their best to oppress us and make us feel even worse.

It is never easy to wait for God.  As we are standing and waiting to be delivered, God will often allow great difficulty into our lives.  Let us not forget that we may even be called upon to bear His witness through isolation, torture, and even gruesome death.  Yet Jesus has overcome death itself!  We can be assured that regardless of the outcome, our hope in God is not misplaced.  Patiently endure your trials so that God may be glorified.

A Qualifying Question

Let’s ask ourselves a question: Are we filling ourselves with God and hope in His promises as the devil and his minions are beating us up, having backed us into a corner, as we wait for God to deliver us?

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, blessed be Your name forever and ever!  It is always so difficult for me as I endure these trials.  Help me to overcome them, Lord God, and to do so with joy in my heart.  I know that You are never far from me, and that You are watching in expectation to see my faith grow.  Why must this always be so painful?  Remember me, Father, as my enemies lie about me to others, accuse me falsely, and seek to destroy my reputation and character.  May I find strength in Jesus, that He has provided me with His reputation and His character.  I know, Father, that my enemies don’t understand what they are doing.  They, like all truly evil people, lash out at the loved ones of their true target to cause the object of their fury the greatest amount of pain.  I pray, Father, that You would have mercy upon them and bring them to a saving knowledge of Your Son, Jesus Christ, that they would cease from bringing shame to You as Your image-bearers, and instead bring You the glory and honor that You so rightly deserve.  Strengthen me during these trials that regardless of the outcome, my faith would grow and when Your Son comes in glory, that All would glorify Your name.  This I ask in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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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.

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Walking with God – Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint.

This is a very famously quoted passage in scripture.  But there’s more here than meets the eye.  The NIV translates the first part of this as “But those who hope on the Lord…” from the Hebrew uqui, meaning “and ones being expectant of”.  However, the Septuagint indicates a different translation.  The words “wait upon” in the Greek is hupomenontes.  It means “to bear up under trial” and has the meaning of “being stretched (when enduring through a trial).”  When we are in the crucible of trials, God stretches us to our very limits, but doesn’t allow us to break.  When we are stretched, we can be extended, like a rubber band, but we spring back, and unlike the rubber band, we are stronger than when we started.  We renew our strength after the trial is over.  When we are enduring it, God gives us the strength to endure, for He will not allow us to be tempted without giving us the ability, or provide options, to overcome iteven if it means fleeing.

The other interest aspect of this is that when we walk, it is indicated that we might faint.  The Christian life is a very challenging one.  As we grow in Christ, we become more aware of His holiness, and the path seems straighter and narrower every day.  It takes great strength to continually walk in a manner pleasing to God.  But thanks be to God for sending Jesus, who in turn sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us and empower us!

Rejoice!  God gives you the ability to walk with Him, even when the day-to-day trials of life wear us down, sap our strength, and put us physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually in a place where we feel at any moment we will just pass out from exhaustion.  Cry out to the Lord, and receive new strength!

A short prayer of preparation:

Father in Heaven, You are Almighty God; may all honor, glory, strength, power, and dominion be Yours forever, Amen and Amen!  You give me hope when there is no reason to hope, and strength when my strength fails.  Father, I humbly come to you in brokenness.  Help me in my circumstances.  Provide a way for your servant to overcome.  Grant me success this day.  Bless my enemies, and may Your kindness in this draw them to You.  Open doors that I cannot open, and fight these battles, Lord.  I need You Lord God, and greatly desire Your fellowship.  Help me to overcome, in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

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