Tag Archives: trusting God

Every Day (I Kings 17)

Many Old Testament stories are familiar. If you grew up going to Sunday School, and if you are as old as me, you might remember flannel boards. Sunday School teachers would put up pictures of the Bible story, move the characters around on the board, as the account of that Old Testament man or woman would come alive. I loved flannel boards.

I thought of that today as I read about Elijah. I remember the flannel board story of the prophet lying beside a stream, hand stretched upward while ravens brought him dinner. I remember the same man standing before an altar, with fire coming down from heaven and burning up the sacrifice while terrified priests looked on. I remember seeing Elijah in the kitchen with a widowed mother.

And that’s the story that spoke to me this morning. The widow was starving. There was a serious famine in the land and the food supply was dwindling. When Elijah meets her, she tells him she is getting ready to fix dinner from the last of her resources. She was going to use the last of her flour and oil to make bread for her son and herself, knowing that would be their last meal before they starved to death.

Elijah, upon hearing their situation, said to the woman, “Feed me first.”

Really Elijah? You want this woman to use her last bit of food to take care of you before she takes care of her son? What are you thinking? I am sure none of us would condemn the woman had she turned the prophet down and fed her son.

But Elijah promised the woman that the flour and oil wouldn’t run out until God made it rain. What speaks to me is the woman’s reaction. She fed Elijah with her last bit of flour and oil. She fed Elijah instead of feeding her son.

When this dear widow went back to her kitchen she probably didn’t know what to expect. I don’t think she could prepare herself for what she saw. There was flour in the jar and oil in the jug. She fed her son! And she continued to feed her son. In fact, Scripture tells us:

“So there was food every day for Elijah and for the woman and her family. For the jar of flour was not used up and the jug of oil did not run dry, in keeping with the word of the Lord spoken by Elijah.” (17:15-16, emphasis mine)

If you are like me, you might be missing out on God’s provisions because you don’t give Him the first of your day or you’re finances. You might read your Bible when you find time, and give to your church after you pay your bills. You make sure you take care of yourself before you obey God’s command to take care of widows, or to go and make disciples, or to love your enemies and do good to those who mistreat you.

In fact, there is a popular lie out there, touted by some Christians, that say we need to take care of ourselves first. They will tell you you can’t love others until you love yourself. They say you can’t serve until you are satisfied, can’t be effective unless you are happy. That is totally opposite of what Scripture teaches us.

I’m pretty sure the widow didn’t feed Elijah because she felt good about herself. She fed Elijah while her own tummy was growling and while she feared the future. She fed Elijah, knowing her own son was starving.

And because she did, there was food every day.

Do you trust God? Really? Do you trust Him with your time and money, with your family and friends, with your job, your health, your future? Then give Him the first of what you have. Paul tells us to die to self, not build ourselves up. Jesus tells us to turn the other cheek, not get revenge. He tells us that the first will be last and the last first, that we who give up our lives find life.

God can, and wants to, bless us every day beyond what we ask or think. The only thing that is holding Him back is you and me. He promises that if we give Him all we have, if we surrender ourselves, if we don’t hold back, He will bless us…

every day!

Afraid? (Psalm 56)

In God, whose word I praise – in the Lord, whose word I praise – in God I trust; I will not be afraid. (56:10-11a)

I hear a lot of fear in the voices of people these days. Fear about the virus. Fear about the future. Fear about the economy. Fear about the government. We are living in a time in our history marked by fear.

But fear need not be a part of the Christian experience. Why? Because our trust is in our God, our future is held by God, our present is blessed by God.

Dear Christian, please rest in the fact that you are God’s beloved child. Listen to what God would say to us today through the prophet Isaiah:

Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. Yes, I will help you. I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10)

People who do not know God have reason to be afraid. They can’t have the same assurance that we who know the Lord have. Our relationship with God through the blood of Jesus, can (and should) block out all fear. After all, God often tells us in Scripture to “fear not.”

Here’s a suggestion: when you begin to feel afraid, praise God like the psalmist said. Do you trust that God is true to His Word? Praise Him! Do you have the Spirit of God living in you? Praise Him! Do you believe that God works all things for the good of we who love Him? Praise Him!

Even during this virus outbreak, we need not be afraid.

 

 

 

Real Hope (Psalm 59)

I had a conversation with someone recently who doesn’t have a relationship with the Lord. The fear in her voice was strong as she talked about the covid19 virus. That fear paralyzed her. She had no hope.

The hope she expressed was merely wishful thinking. She said things like, “I hope my family doesn’t get it,” “I hope this ends soon,” “I hope the government does something about this.” But the more she spoke, the more evident it became that she had no real hope at all.

David knew what it was like to live in fear. He lived amid a plague of jealousy and hate. Spears and arrows were aimed at his heart. In fact, we’ll find out he self-quarantined in a cave to protect himself from coming in contact with those spears and arrows.

Today, instead of weapons of war pointing at us, we have a virus, germs, disease taking aim. And, like David, we are hunkered down, removing ourselves from the danger of contact. But not all of us are experiencing the same thing.

Some are isolated in their homes, wringing their hands, stuck to the TV news channels, hoarding toilet paper. And some are joyfully spending time with family, playing games, singing praise songs, even reaching out to help neighbors.

I know not everyone is living one extreme or the other. But I think how we approach this virus depends on where we place our confidence.

Do I look to the government or medical researchers for protection? Or do I look to God? Do I trust social distancing, or God? Do I look for answers in the media? Or do I go to the Word of God for answers?

Listen to what David said during this frightening time in his life:

O, my Strength, I watch for you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (Psalm 59:9)

But I will sing of your strength, in the morning I will sing of your love; for you are my fortress, my refuge in times of trouble. O my Strength, I sing praises to you; you, O God, are my fortress, my loving God. (verses 16-17)

David repeatedly called God his fortress. To me a fortress is that sturdy, impenetrable place where no harm can come. David could rest in that fortress, and so can we.

Now, don’t misunderstand. I don’t believe that putting my hope in God will make me immune to this virus. But living in the fortress that is God gives me the assurance, the real hope, that if I stay healthy and don’t get this virus, I win. And if I get this virus and die, I win.

Am I worried about this virus? I can honestly say no. I’m following orders and staying in my home, washing my hands, etc. But I’m not losing sleep over the “what ifs.” I’ve given God those “what ifs,” and I pray you have, too.

I believe real hope isn’t a state of mind. I believe real hope is a constant relationship with the God of Creation, who does all things well. That’s not just wishful thinking.

My hope is built on nothing less than Jesus’ blood and His righteousness. It’s that solid rock, that fortress, that strength, that love.

My hope is real because God is real.

What Do You Do When You Lose? (Judges 19-21)

There is so much in these three chapters, some of which can get my blood boiling. I have to keep reminding myself that this was a time when Israel had no king, and everyone did as they wished.

But today I was encouraged as I read. Israel was going to war in order to purge the evil from among them. Yes, they were going to destroy their brothers the Benjamites because that tribe was evil.

Israel went to the Lord, and God told them to go to war against the tribe of Benjamin. Israel acted in obedience to the Lord. But the first battle saw 22,000 Israeli soldiers cut down. Did you notice 20:22? I love it!  After this devastating loss, the men of Israel encouraged each other!

They went to the Lord and wept, and asked Him what they should do. Again, God said, “Go to battle.” The next day Israel attacked Benjamin and this time 18,000 Israelites died. After this second defeat the Israelites did something that speaks to me.

They went back to the Lord. They wept, fasted and prayed. They offered burnt offerings and fellowship offerings. A third time God told them to go into battle, but this time He added:

tomorrow I will give them into your hands.

Sometimes we might think that if we are obeying God, if He is in our situation, that ought to guarantee a victory. And often it does. But what happens if we don’t get the results we are looking for? What if we fail miserably?

Do we quit? Do we wash our hands of God? Do we grumble and complain? I think we can learn something important from the example of the Jewish army here in Judges.

The Israelites encouraged each other after their defeat. Sometimes we need our brothers and sisters to be that encouragement for us. Sometimes we need to hear someone tell us to hang in there, to keep going, to not give up. Sometimes we get our strength when God uses the voices of His children on our behalf. And, friend, each of us can be that to a brother or sister who is experiencing defeat. Let’s not be quick to condemn. Let’s be quick to encourage that struggling saint to do what Israel did next:

The Israelites when to God. Not just once. Not twice. Three times. They went to God and kept going to God. They weren’t one and done. And God rewarded their faithfulness by giving them the final victory.

Dear ones, let me encourage you today. You may be fighting what seems to be a losing battle right now. We are all in a weird situation because of this virus, and some of you have lost your income, maybe your health, and maybe you have lost loved ones because of this disease. Others of you may be fighting a spiritual battle with sin. I don’t know.

But hear me say, hang in there. Go to God and keep going to Him. Storm the doors of heaven, barge into the throne room. Ask God to reveal sin in your life, and be quick to repent of it. Ask God for direction, then obey Him. Trust Him. Yield to Him. Don’t tell Him what you want done, be sensitive to what HE wants done. Then do it.

You might not get a victory after the first battle. Let each failure draw you closer to Him. Let each defeat cause you to trust Him more.

I know God will bless you as you obey Him. And, folks, the victory is the Lords! Don’t forget whose side we’re on. The truth is…

WE WIN!

You Don’t Have To Be Strong (Judges 6-7)

So many times you hear people say some situation is too hard for them to handle. The burden is too heavy to carry, the enemy too strong to defeat.

That’s what Gideon told God about the Midianites. But God, in 6:14 said:

“Go in the strength you have and save Israel out of Midian’s hand.”

I know! It sounds like God is saying He’s not giving Gideon anything more than he can handle in the strength he already has. People, even many Christians, hang on to this idea like it comes straight from the Bible. And this verse certainly seems to indicate that is true. But please don’t stop reading at verse 14.

Gideon cries, “NO! I am too weak. My whole family is weak. The enemy is too strong!”

Gideon recognized that the task at hand was beyond his capabilities. And, friend, sometimes… always… that is the first step to victory.

God says something in verse 16 I don’t want you to miss. The Lord answered:

I!

“I will be with you. I will defeat your enemy.” In other words, “Go, Gideon, in the strength you have… WHICH IS ME!

Gideon was right to say he didn’t have what it took to defeat his enemy, and so are you when faced with that daunting mountain you’re facing, that sin you know you need to turn away from, that illness you’re fighting, that loved one who is going in a wrong direction, that toxic relationship you’re in.

But the good news, the really good news contrary from modern day thinking is: YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE STRONG! So much harm is done when we tell each other we should be able to handle something, to conquer something. “Tell yourself you are strong.” “Tell yourself you are more than capable.” “Keep telling yourself.” “And when you find you really aren’t all that strong, feel guilty about it because you SHOULD be strong.”

“After all, God doesn’t give you more than you can handle.”

That is such a lie! That is Satan’s attempt to replace God with yourself. Here’s what the Bible says about that:

That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:10)

My grace us sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

He gives power to the weak and strength to the powerless. (Isaiah 40:29)

The Lord is my strength and my song; he has given me victory… (Exodus 15:2)

You are my hiding place; you will protect me from trouble and surround me with songs of deliverance. (Psalm 32:7-8)

Just Google “Bible verses about strength” and read what God wants you to know. Take the pressure of being some strong, capable, powerful person off your shoulders and run to the God of Strength. If you know God you don’t have to be strong, because…

HE IS!

And I promise, if you ask Him to be your strength, He will be your strength beyond what you can even imagine.

I’m going to leave you with something Paul said. Please notice what is missing in this verse. It doesn’t say be strong in your own power. It says:

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power. (Ephesians 6:10, emphasis mine)

 

 

 

Don’t Be Discouraged (Deuteronomy 30-31)

How are you fairing during this quarantine? I trust you are well, and making good choices for yourself and your family. Seriously, have your hands ever been this clean?

I know for most of you, this is not a vacation. Loss of wages is serious. Bills still need paid even if the money isn’t coming in. Your kids need you to guide their school work, AND to be creative about how they spend their days, after days, after days. It’s not exactly what you signed up for, is it?

Toilet paper? Yeah. There’s that.

For many, this virus epidemic is more than an inconvenience. Having the virus is serious, and some people are dying. Our entire world is feeling the effects of this thing, and it’s hard.

But as bad as it is right now, reading Deuteronomy 28 reminds me it’s not as bad as it could be. What God has recorded in this chapter is truly awful. He is warning His people what the consequences for disobedience looks like. And it’s ugly.

Some people are saying they don’t know why God would allow this virus to go unchecked. Personally, I don’t know why God didn’t remove His protection long ago. I mean, we haven’t been exactly obedient for quite some time, have we? Is this virus a judgment on sin? I don’t know. But I do know God said this:

Be strong and courageous…, The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. (31:7-8)

Now Moses was talking to the Jews about entering the Promised Land. There would be trouble ahead, but in 30:15 God told them that His children had a choice. They could choose life and prosperity, or death and destruction. Then He commanded them to…

love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commands, decrees and laws.”  (verse 16)

Obedience to that would mean choosing life. Disobedience would mean choosing death.

Remember God is talking to His children. And, friend, I believe He’s talking to His children – His Church – today. Let’s each of us who know Jesus as our Savior reevaluate our relationship with Him while we are practicing social distancing. Let’s spend time in His Word and let Him lay a heavy finger on sin in our lies, to point out inconsistencies in our walk, to reveal Truth.

Then may we confess, draw close to Him, love Him like He deserves and determine to walk in His ways. May we keep His commands and decrees and laws, resting in the fact that if we do, He will go before us and be with us, He will never leave or forsake us, and we need not be afraid or discouraged, because He is true to His Word.

It’s easy to be fearful during this time in our lives. Those who don’t know God probably have reason to fear. But we who are His children through the blood of His precious Son need not be discouraged or fearful. Do you believe God means what He says? Then hear Him say, choose life today. Obey Him. Trust Him. He goes before us and will never forsake us.

Don’t be discouraged.

 

 

Just Move On (Genesis 20)

Sometimes I read about Isaac and the feud with the Philistines over the wells, and think, “Why didn’t he fight for his rights? Why didn’t he stand up to the bullies and tell them he’d dug those wells, so they should just go and dig their own? Why should Isaac lose what he’d worked for?”

Instead, Isaac gave in, packed up and moved on to another location, dug another well. Then, when the Philistines came and claimed that well, too, Isaac reacted the way he’d reacted before. He packed up and moved on to yet another location, and dug yet another well. The Philistines took the second well right from under Isaac, and Isaac appears to not even have objected. He simply moved on.

That just isn’t done in 21st Century America. I mean, people have gotten into fist fights, even pulled guns on one another over parking spaces at the grocery. You don’t step on the  perceived rights of an American these days.

Was Isaac so weak, did he have so little faith that God would fight for him over the wells? What gives?

This is what I hear God say to me this morning: It wasn’t that Isaac didn’t trust God. It’s that Isaac trusted God a great deal. After digging the third well, and without any objection from the Philistines this time, Isaac said:

Now the Lord has given us room and we will flourish in the land. (26:22)

The truth is, sometimes battles present themselves that God does not want us fighting. Sometime we don’t need to respond if someone baits us with a political position, or a moral dilemma. Sometimes God wants us to back away, move on instead of taking up our battle position.

Yes, there are times God wants us to go to war. But sometimes war is not His will, even though Satan would love for us to jump into the fray. God may want us to move on instead.

Isaac was sensitive to God’s leading, and God led him to greener pastures where Isaac could flourish. I know you’ve heard it said, “Pick your battles,” and I think that is sound advice. Here might be the better advice, though:

Pick God’s battles.

Notice in the verse I quoted above Isaac said, “… the Lord has given…”

It wasn’t about winning a fight, it was about waiting for God’s best. And God always gives His best when we are in a position to receive it. Sometimes we just have to keep moving on until we are in that position where God can and will bless us.

Let’s determine to be in God’s Word every day, to pray without ceasing, and to be sensitive to God’s leading in every situation. Then let’s let God move in our hearts as to whether we fight or just move on. May He find us obedient however He leads.

 

Funeral Arrangements (Job 1-5)

I’ve never known anyone who suffered the same devastating losses Job did in one day. I certainly haven’t come close to that magnitude of loss. But I have experienced loss. And so have you. And there is something we can learn from Job’s example.

After hearing that his crops, livestock, and children were all suddenly gone, Job affirmed his trust in God. Most of us are familiar with Job’s response to this great loss. He said, “I came into this world with nothing, and I’ll leave here with nothing. Everything I’ve ever had was given to me by God, and it’s up to Him whether I keep them or not. May the name of the Lord be…

praised!”

Really? Not questioned? Not accused or discarded? Not shaken a fist at or maligned?

The Bible tells us that in all his losses, Job didn’t sin by charging God with doing anything wrong. Later, in 2:10, Job even says: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?” Job didn’t sin by anything he said, even when most of us would say we’d understand if he had.

Are you experiencing loss? Maybe not even a recent loss, but a loss from your past that has kept you at arms length from God? I pray you will read what God would say to you today through these chapters in His Word.

I think Job’s example tells us to go ahead and mourn. Tear your clothes, shave your head, or scrape your skin with broken pottery (figuratively, of course). But in that period of mourning don’t sin, don’t make matters worse by cursing God when all He wants is to be your comfort and strength. Job praised God in the depths of deep pain and suffering. We can praise God in the depths of ours.

I want to share something I heard yesterday at the funeral of a young woman whose life was cut short as suddenly as Job’s children’s lives were cut short that awful day. One of the pastors, this woman’s cousin, reminded us that her death came at no surprise to God. And he assured us that God welcomed that precious woman home the moment her spirit left her physical body. We can trust God even in our mourning and through the “what ifs.”

We mourn. She rejoices. We weep. She sings. We are paralyzed with grief. She is dancing before the Lord. And she wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.

One day, because this girl at the age of six made her funeral arrangements by accepting Jesus as her Savior, we will see her again if we have made the same confession, accepted the same forgiveness for our sin, and placed our funeral arrangements in the hands of God. Death has no power over those of us who know the Savior.

That’s not wishful thinking. That’s not some fairytale made up by weak people to get us through hard times. It’s a fact. You and I will both die one day. We came into this world with nothing, and we’ll leave here the same way.

Except for one thing. I’m leaving here with a robe of righteousness placed on me by Jesus. I’m leaving here with confidence that my sins are forgiven by the precious blood of my Savior. My funeral arrangements are made. And when I leave this life, I’m going to go live with Jesus. Forever.

I’d like you to come with me.

December 9; I Give Up

Acts 21:1-23:11

I had to chuckle as I read these chapters today. Not so much because what I read was funny, but because what I read was so me. (Sadly).

Paul was heading to Jerusalem. Along the way, all kinds of people told him not to go, that only trouble waited for him there. Agabus, a prophet, specifically told Paul that he would be arrested if he went to Jerusalem.

Well, that did it. When the people heard what the prophet said they pleaded with Paul to change his plans. They begged and wept trying to get him to give up this crazy idea of going to Jerusalem. But Paul was adamant. He was going to Jerusalem in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ whether they liked it or not.

Then this:

When he would not be dissuaded, we gave up and said, “The Lord’s will be done.” (21:14)

Maybe it’s the wording in the NIV, but that is where I chuckled at the foolishness. They did everything they could to convince Paul to do what they wanted him to do. Then, when they finally realized he was having none of it, THEY GAVE UP.

That is totally understandable. Eventually you quit beating a dead horse. But the sad thing is,  it was only when they had given up their own efforts did they say, “The Lord’s will be done.”

To me it sounds the equivalent of an adolescent trying to get his friends to do something he wants to do, then when the friends aren’t interested in giving in saying, “Fine. Have it your way.”

“Fine. Have it God’s way.”

I wish I could tell you I have never said that myself. After praying for something, trying to manipulate circumstances in my favor, thinking positive thoughts, and realizing I’m not any closer to getting my way than I was at the start, I then take a deep breath and pray, “Not my will but Thine be done.”

So foolish. God is reminding me today that having His will accomplished in my life needs to be my first thought, my first wish, my first prayer. Paul’s friends were right. Paul was arrested and beaten in Jerusalem just like they’d feared. But Paul had said he was willing to be bound, even killed for Jesus’ sake there in Jerusalem. He trusted God that much.

Friend, wanting God’s will in our lives should never be a last resort. I’m pretty sure those of us who know Him would say without hesitation we want God’s will in our lives. Then, from the start we need to learn to say:

I give up.

October 20; Worry

Luke 12:22-13:17, 13:22-14:24

Why do Christians worry? I mean, I think most of us do at some time or another. We worry about our children, our health, the state of the world. We might worry about tomorrow, or today.

Jesus reminds us that worry is a waste of time. Someone once said worry is like a rocking chair. It gives you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.

But I think worry is a bit more serious than that. Worry tells God I just don’t trust Him enough. That’s serious.

Look around. God takes care of His creation. And we who were created in His image are the apple of His eye. Why would we even consider that God can’t handle whatever we are facing?

Jesus tells us to seek first His kingdom. Everything else will fall into place. Are my eyes on God? Is my focus on my Savior? Am I praying God’s will be done, and meaning it?

Then there is no reason to worry. Verse 32 tells us, “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom.” Let that sink in.

Back in the day we used to sing a chorus, “Why worry when you can pray? Trust Jesus, He’ll lead the way…Why worry, worry, worry, worry, when you can pray?”

The answer to that musical question is, “I don’t know.” There is no good reason to worry when you can pray. Let’s pray.