Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.”
Here, for me, is one of the most haunting and challenging verses in the bible. It challenges me and my day more as I see the reason for the question lived out in our world. Here's the verse that is challenging me today,
There is a man in the bible who stands out from his peers. He's one of two men who both left Egypt and entered the promised land. He and Joshua were the only men who "followed God fully" and his name was Caleb. As they conquered the promised land he came to Joshua with these words,
“Remember what the Lord said to Moses, the man of God, about you and me when we were at Kadesh-barnea.7 I was forty years old when Moses, the servant of the Lord, sent me from Kadesh-barnea to explore the land of Canaan. I returned and gave an honest report,8 but my brothers who went with me frightened the people from entering the Promised Land. For my part,I wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.9 So that day Moses solemnly promised me, ‘The land of Canaan on which you were just walking will be your grant of land and that of your descendants forever, because you wholeheartedly followed the Lord my God.’
10 “Now, as you can see, the Lord has kept me alive and well as he promised for all these forty-five years since Moses made this promise—even while Israel wandered in the wilderness. Today I am eighty-five years old.11 I am as strong now as I was when Moses sent me on that journey, and I can still travel and fight as well as I could then.12 So give me the hill country that the Lord promised me. You will remember that as scouts we found the descendants of Anak living there in great, walled towns. But if the Lord is with me, I will drive them out of the land, just as the Lord said.”
13 So Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave Hebron to him as his portion of land.14 Hebron still belongs to the descendants of Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite because he wholeheartedly followed the Lord, the God of Israel. (Joshua 14)
Caleb did something few have done. He walked by faith in God's word and didn't waver. He followed the Lord wholeheartedly. (I'm sure you noted the three times that was mentioned.) Caleb claimed those words as the commentary on his life and repeated them often.
One act of faith against a nation of doubters put him in a unique place of honor. Out of millions who died in the desert Caleb lived on and was one of two old men who entered Israel as they came into the promise land. How did he do it? He believed God.
I want to be like him! When God tells me something in his word I want to believe it, live as if it were true (because it is) and follow the Lord fully.
There are few like Caleb in our day. May we be like him and fully trust God as we live our lives in the midst of a world of doubt.
"After Jesus was born in Bethlehem in Judea, during the time of King Herod, Magifrom the east came to Jerusalemand asked, “Where is the one who has been born king of the Jews? We saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When King Herod heard this he was disturbed, and all Jerusalem with him.When he had called together all the people’s chief priests and teachers of the law, he asked them where the Messiah was to be born.“In Bethlehem in Judea,” they replied, “for this is what the prophet has written:
“‘But you, Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for out of you will come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.’"
As I read again the beginning of the book of Matthew I saw something I had missed before. That's not a surprise. The bible is far deeper than any of us realize and much more than we know.
But it hit me for the first time- In the middle of Israel, just miles from Jerusalem, the Messiah had been born and they missed it! They didn't even know it!
The realization that he had arrived was brought by foreigners!
How much of what God is doing do we completely miss because it happens in our midst and we don't even see it? I don't have any profound applications this morning just a realization that I could be in the midst of an amazing work of God and not even see what he is doing.
Lord, help me to see clearly what you are doing around me and let me be part of your work in some way.
This morning I'm reading Paul's description of his life with Christ and it doesn't sound safe at all!
"Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked. Once I spent a whole night and a day adrift at sea.I have traveled on many long journeys. I have faced danger from rivers and from robbers. I have faced danger from my own people, the Jews, as well as from the Gentiles. I have faced danger in the cities, in the deserts, and on the seas. And I have faced danger from men who claim to be believers but are not."
Danger was part of his life.
Near drowning, stoned, threats from men, hunger for food, and so much more.
Now here is a question that must be asked-
How could God choose a man like Paul, someone so important to the beginnings of the church, and allow him to go through such dangers?
How could he put his through so much, risk his life and cause him such pain? Wasn't this guy important to the beginnings of the church? Didn't God care about him? How could he treat him this way?
And yet, God allowed all of this to happen and from it he brought about an amazing new community that changed the world.
How can we expect to go through less because we are Christians? Being sons and daughters of God doesn't exempt us from danger. In fact, it's possible being a Christian makes our lives even more dangerous!
Why? So God can be glorified, so we would trust him, seek him, depend on him.
If your life in Christ causes you no risk, no pain, no discomfort maybe you're not doing it right.
We were made from dust. It's part of the story of creation. The only thing that gave dust a difference was the breath of God. It's his breath, his life that turns dust into something he loves. Apart from him I will always be just dust. It's his life that gives me distinction, physical life, and then eternal life. As I thought about this it is fascinating to realize that dust (alive only because of the creator) would deny the one that gave them life. Why it's a dusty revolt against the creator. But soon, in just a few years, each of us will face our terminal date, the date when we return to dust. We are only given life for a few years and in those years the creator invites us into a relationship with him. Imagine that, dust given life being loved by the one who created us. It's an amazing realization that this sovereign one is in love with me, with you. And what is surprising, as I think about it, is that we deny the one who gives us life and holds us together. And all the years he gives us we stumble around focused on issues of dust instead of really asking....who made me? There has to be a God! In our day that's considered a simple question, but it is still the primal and essential question every man of dust must ask.
"We believe that Christ died for all, we also believe that we have all died to our old life.He died for everyone so that those who receive his new life will no longer live for themselves. Instead, they will live for Christ, who died and was raised for them."
Honestly, I have to tell you, I see so little. I understand even less. In the midst of God's amazing creation I live like a little child playing with blocks. The things that worry me and make me stay up at night are nothing to the God of creation and yet, like that little child, I fret over nothing. I'm startled at the wind. It's sad really. It's sad because we all struggle to trust him. Even when we have known God for decades we still struggle. It seems to be part of our fallen nature...the battle to trust God in each moment, in each breath. I long for that, but often it is just a longing. One verse that many quote is Jeremiah 29:11. Here it is for our discussion this morning, "For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." I have heard this verse quoted often and almost always out of context, but that is for another time. This morning let me simply focus on just part of this verse, "...I know the plans I have for you," Solomon described this thought a different way in Proverbs, "Man makes his plans, but God directs his steps." It's as if we find ourselves on a grand cruise ship with all our needs met fretting over where we are going. Honestly, the bridge is off limits to us. Up there, in the bridge, the captain guides the ship to his desired goal. He is steering towards that goal even when I sleep, even when I worry, even when I wonder what is happening....God is fully and completely in charge. He knows the plans he has for me. He directs my steps. Once in a while I get a glimpse of his hand as he guides me, but most of the time I simply have to trust him and walk with him....even when I have no idea where we are going.
This morning I've been visiting with a pastor from India. He lives in a rural area and was about to head out on a two month mission trip to tribal people groups leaving his wife and family at home. He asked for my prayers for their provision. All he had was 500 rupees ($7.47) and planned to take $2.00 with him and leave the rest with his wife to care for them for two months! We visited for more than an hour. I still don't think he understood that his first ministry, his main ministry was his family. If he had not taken care of them he had no right to go do "mission work." How easy it is to miss the mission field right in front of you thinking that mission is "out there" somewhere. One thing I told him was this- Your family is your mission. If you miss that, if you don't take care of that then don't bother going out to preach the gospel somewhere else. As I look back on my life I see many times when I've done the same thing. Times when I missed the mission field in my own home for someone out there. It's sad, it's easy to do. But this morning I told my friend in India, "You can't go until you have taken care of your family first." Our first mission field as parents is our children. Our primary mission as men is our family. If we miss that we missed everything.
Once more today I find myself sitting at Jesus' feet near the sea of Galilee to listen to a message he gave over 2,000 years ago. It's profound. It's centering and it reminds me of two things- God loves me and he is taking care of me.
Today I need those reminders. I won't go into detail, but let me simply say, when things like this happen, it's time to pray! And so I find myself here,
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters. For you will hate one and love the other; you will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and be enslaved to money.
25 “That is why I tell you not to worry about everyday life—whether you have enough food and drink, or enough clothes to wear. Isn’t life more than food, and your body more than clothing?26 Look at the birds. They don’t plant or harvest or store food in barns, for your heavenly Father feeds them. And aren’t you far more valuable to him than they are?27 Can all your worries add a single moment to your life?
28 “And why worry about your clothing? Look at the lilies of the field and how they grow. They don’t work or make their clothing,29 yet Solomon in all his glory was not dressed as beautifully as they are.30 And if God cares so wonderfully for wildflowers that are here today and thrown into the fire tomorrow, he will certainly care for you. Why do you have so little faith?
31 “So don’t worry about these things, saying, ‘What will we eat? What will we drink? What will we wear?’32 These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs.33 Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.
34 “So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
So, don't worry. It's sad how often God has to remind me that he is King of everything.
Once in a while, like Peter, I take my eyes off of him and look at the wind. As I look at the wind I lose sight of his face, his hand, his care and I become afraid.
In his kindness he gives me birds and flowers to remind me he is there and cares.
Thank you, Father, for larks and lilies and your constant care for them. Thank you too for caring for us. You are wonderful!
"Those who worship worthless idols forfeit the mercy that could be theirs." Jonah 2:8 NET Bible
In the middle of Jonah's prayer from the belly of the fish he prays these words. They captivated me years ago and I reflect on them often.
One version said it this way, "Those who worship worthless idols forsake the grace that could have been theirs."
It's amazing how profound a man can get in the belly of a fish. It's as if Jonah finally got it. After three days of smelly, silent darkness he realizes that he was missing it!
When we worship (love, seek, pursue, care about, invest in) anything above God we miss it! We miss the grace that could have been ours in the midst of that moment.
Don't miss the grace that could be yours because of a fascination with this trinket or that relationship. Don't lose the most important thing of life because you're just too busy.
Once more I think of the words of Screwtape from C.S. Lewis' classic book, "The Screwtape letters" when he recounts to a lesser demon one man's realization upon arriving in hell, "I did neither what I ought nor what I wanted."
Last night I had my last session with a sweet couple preparing to get married. I think they will do well, but this morning I spent a moment reflecting on the key elements that make marriage work and decided on this simple statement,
A good marriage is made of two great forgivers.
These words, for me, distill love and marriage to its essence. It describes what love lived out looks like. I hope I communicated this well to my friends as they start their marriage. I know it has been vital for us. I don't think we would have made it if my wife wasn't a wonderful forgiver. I hope I've done as well in my love to her. So, if you're looking for a simple formula for a good marriage here is my advice- forgive well and often.
"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a huge crowd of witnesses to the life of faith, let us strip off every weight that slows us down, especially the sin that so easily trips us up. And let us run with endurance the race God has set before us.We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith."
I have to admit that I still struggle with sin. There are a few that plague me. It's as if they cling to my heels, like mud on a boot and I can't get free of them. Every once in a while I stumble, trip and fall because of the things I struggle to overcome.
The author of Hebrews challenges me to "strip off every weight that slows me down, especially the sin that so easily trips me up" and yet I find I still battle those things...after all these years. I know others struggle. I've read their stories. They describe their own battles with this sin or that fear. We all run much slower because of these things we have yet to vanquish.
I long to be done with mine! I can't tell you how frustrating it is to once more be dealing with the same things...over and over again. Wouldn't I have trusted God by now and gotten rid of that? How I possible still battle this? I know God and what's he's like so why does this still linger, still cling to me?
It makes me quite aware that if I had been part of the nation of Israel wandering in the desert I would have died during the 40 years in the wilderness and never made it to promise land. I would have seen giants and become afraid. I would have easily doubted God.
I'm embarrassed to say it, but it's true. Will I always battle these things? Perhaps. But each time I do, I have to face them and then turn and see God clearly to dispel them. The only solution for me is to see God clearly, to once more realize he is big and my problem is small.
Keep your eyes on Jesus. The author gives that as key to the race. It is! If I lose sight of him I always wander off course, lose my way or simply quit running. It happens easily.
So, this morning, I'm once more dealing with the basics. We all have to do that....deal with the weakness unique to us and once more focus our attention on Christ, the author and finisher of our faith. It gives me hope that I can finish my race as well. But this morning, I'm once more dealing with the things that trip me up.