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How Long, O Lord {Part 2}

Originally posted on TRC Magazine on July 31, 2014:

CHAPTER 2: GOD ANSWERS HABAKKUK

By Anna Popescu

Habakkuk is the prophet of faith. His name means “Embrace,” or “one who strongly enfolds.” Through all the mystery of sin and its apparent success, through the mystery of suffering and of God’s judgments, he lays hold of God’s promises, and clings to Him with faith triumphant. –A. M. Hodgkin

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I will stand on my guard post and station myself on the rampart; 
and I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me, 

and how I may reply when I am reproved. 

—Habakkuk 2:1

In chapter one, we considered Habakkuk’s confusion in a world filled with chaos. He felt that God saw and knew about all the injustice and corruption, but did not care enough about His people to do anything about it.

Habakkuk was understandably perplexed, but instead of internalizing his confusion, he let God know that he didn’t understand and asked Him to unravel the mystery. God now answers Habakkuk, who sees that, although God’s ways don’t seem to make sense, He is still in complete control.

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Recording the Vision

Having asked God for clarification, Habakkuk now declares that he will watch and wait for God’s answer. He was ready to wait patiently, believing God would answer his questions.

Waiting is never easy and in our current culture of fast food, video chatting, quick texting, and constant and instantaneous social media updates, waiting is harder than ever. We can’t even seem to take a walk without having our cell phones to keep us company.

God does sometimes delay in answering our prayers, not because He wants us to suffer, but because His timing is much different than ours.

222But do not forget this one thing, dear friends:
With the Lord a day is like a thousand years,
and a thousand years are like a day.
The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise,
as some understand slowness.
He is patient with you,
not wanting anyone to perish,

but everyone to come to repentance.
–2 Peter 3:8-9

 

Sometimes God wants us to learn something during the waiting. Other times, He is using the waiting time to orchestrate events according to His timetable. Mostly, He simply wants us to trust Him no matter what.

Habakkuk lived in a very different era than we do, but I’m sure he had been watching all the troubling events around him for some time. Even though he had been patient, he was probably wondering when God would finally provide him with some answers.

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Then the LORD answered me and said,
“Record the vision and inscribe it on tablets,
that the one who reads it may run.
For the vision is yet for the appointed time;
it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail.
Though it tarries, wait for it;
for it will certainly come, it will not delay.”
–Habakkuk 2:2-3

Habakkuk was the embodiment of Paul’s reminder to the Corinthians to, “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). He knew what he was seeing, but chose to wait on God to reveal the why of it.

Did you catch the phrase in verse 2 which says “that the one who reads it may run?” In this context, God is telling Habakkuk to record what He is about to reveal to him, and encouraging him to be well prepared to carry His message to his cohorts. To apply this verse to our current times, I believe God wants us to immerse ourselves in His Word so that we may be fully prepared to share the hope we have in Him.

Behold, as for the proud one,
his soul is not right within him;

but the righteous will live by his faith.
Furthermore, wine betrays the haughty man,
so that he does not stay at home.
He enlarges his appetite like Sheol, and he is like death, never satisfied.
He also gathers to himself all nations and collects to himself all peoples.

–Habakkuk 2:4-5

The phrases “proud one” and “haughty man” refer to the Babylonians and others like them—those who are arrogant, filled with their own importance, and never satisfied. Although they have much, they constantly want more, even if it means crushing people (figuratively and literally) in the process.

These people place themselves above the Lord and do not recognize or acknowledge God’s sovereign authority. They are their own lords, and more is never enough for them.

In verses 6 through 19 (below), God answers Habakkuk’s concerns with five woes directed at the conceited, self-important Babylonians. These five woes are significant because God is telling Habakkuk that these oppressors will themselves suffer the same kinds of horrors they are inflicting upon others.

“In this chapter the five woes of God to the Chaldeans are universal principles. The principle is that everything that is evil will be met with the judgment of God. Habakkuk learns that the Chaldeans would be in power for a while, but the limit of their power and prosperity was absolutely fixed by God. The wicked may triumph for a while, but it will not last. Their doom is sealed.” –Dr. Harold L. White

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Revealing the Reasons

Cheating

6 Will not all of these take up a taunt-song against him, even mockery and insinuations against him and say, ‘Woe to him who increases what is not his—for how long—and makes himself rich with loans?’

7 Will not your creditors rise up suddenly, and those who collect from you awaken? Indeed, you will become plunder for them.

8 Because you have looted many nations, all the remainder of the peoples will loot you—because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, to the town and all its inhabitants.

In verse 7, creditors, and those who collect from you, can be translated as, “those who bite you and violently shake you.” How many times have we read about loan sharks, people, and organizations who are more than happy to loan us money when we are desperate, but who also tack on high finance charges—sometimes more than the actual loan itself? People have been murdered when they cannot come up with the exorbitant amount demanded.

Covetousness

9 Woe to him who gets evil gain for his house to put his nest on high, to be delivered from the hand of calamity!

10 You have devised a shameful thing for your house by cutting off many peoples; so you are sinning against yourself.

11 Surely the stone will cry out from the wall, and the rafter will answer it from the framework.

For the Babylonians, more was never enough. They felt entitled to help themselves to whatever would satisfy them. If it took fighting and bloodshed to get what they wanted, so be it. They didn’t care.

How is this any different in today’s culture of robbery, murder and the like, simply to grab what you want merely because you covet it?

Corruption

12 Woe to him who builds a city with bloodshed and founds a town with violence!

13 Is it not indeed from the LORD of hosts that peoples toil for fire, and nations grow weary for nothing?

14 For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.

Babylon became rich by waging war with the surrounding nations. Bloodshed was second nature to them in their zeal to get what they wanted. But God also points out that, even though the Babylonians are slaughtering people to get what they want, they will be repaid in kind.

Verse 14 is a comfort to those of us who are awaiting the return of Jesus Christ, when he will rule the earth. This is a direct reference to Isaiah 11:9:

They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain,for the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord    as the waters cover the sea.

Carousal

15 Woe to you who make your neighbors drink, who mix in your venom even to make them drunk so as to look on their nakedness!

16 You will be filled with disgrace rather than honor. Now you yourself drink and expose your own nakedness. The cup in the LORD’S right hand will come around to you, and utter disgrace will come upon your glory.

17 For the violence done to Lebanon will overwhelm you, and the devastation of its beasts by which you terrified them, because of human bloodshed and violence done to the land, to the town and all its inhabitants.

The Babylonians fueled their desire to possess more with alcohol and regularly drank to excess. They did their best to cause others to carouse along with them so they could take even more advantage of them in their diminished capacity.

Don’t lose heart though. You don’t have to look far to see that they will reap what they dished out. Verse 17 is a promise that the Babylonians will be hunted down and destroyed with as much violence as they imparted to others, probably more so.

Cultism

18 What profit is the idol when its maker has carved it, or an image, a teacher of falsehood? For its maker trusts in his own handiwork when he fashions speechless idols.

19 Woe to him who says to a piece of wood, ‘Awake!’ To a mute stone, ‘Arise!’ And that is your teacher? Behold, it is overlaid with gold and silver, and there is no breath at all inside it.

Cultism is defined as, “obsessive, especially faddish, devotion to or veneration for a person, principle, or thing”—in other words, worshiping false gods or idols. We are also very good at worshiping things: money, fame, and more and better stuff. How about when we worship nature (creation), and forget to worship and thank the Creator for all the beauty we see around us?

That is what the Babylonians were doing, venerating themselves and their grandiose ideas of how to obtain even more to feed their huge egos. Their idols were themselves! The worst thing people can do is to turn their back on God and start worshiping themselves and the works of their hands.

The downfall of a nation begins in idolatry; it begins in turning away from the living and true God. –J. Vernon McGee

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Remembering His Holiness

Habakkuk, in spite of his questioning attitude toward God, finally gets it. God is God, and Habakkuk is not! He hears what God has to say and it soothes his heart, making him trust and praise God all the more.

20 “But the Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him.”

God longs for us to worship and adore Him for who He is; He is, among so many other things, the great I AM; that means He has always been and always will be God. Since He created all things, He also knows all things, thus He has a much bigger picture of events than our puny minds can understand.

Then Moses said to God, “Behold, I am going to the sons of Israel,
and I will say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you.’
Now they may say to me, ‘What is His name?’ What shall I say to them?”
God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM”;
and He said, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’”
God, furthermore, said to Moses, “Thus you shall say to the sons of Israel,
‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’

This is My name forever, and this is My memorial-name to all generations.
–Exodus 3:13-15

Habakkuk has questioned the Lord’s methods for dealing with the injustice he sees in his world, and the Lord replies by saying He is using the Babylonians for His purposes and will punish them for their sins in His timing. God reminds Habakkuk that no matter what he sees or feels, He is still on His throne taking care of business as He sees fit. Ultimately Habakkuk submits to God’s authority and continues to praise Him.

Beloved, what are you going through right now? Do you have faith that God knows what He’s doing, even if you can’t yet see the results of that trust? Do you truly believe He has your best interests at heart?

The word “believe” is defined as:

to have confidence or faith in the truth of,
to have faith in the reliability, honesty, benevolence of.

So, if we believe that God is the great I AM, do we also believe—in faith— that God wants the best for us? Do we choose to have faith and trust in what we know to be true rather than what we can or cannot see?

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Now faith is the substance of things hoped for,
the evidence of things not seen.
–Hebrews 11:1

On October 31, we’ll finish our study of Habakkuk, and see why Chapter three is considered a, “psalm of beauty,” according to J. Vernon McGee. I call it a song of praise and adoration to God.

For everything that was written in the past
was written to teach us,

so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures
and the encouragement they provide
we might have hope.
–Romans 15:4

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Our Selfless Savior (Part 4) [REPOST]

~This is the fourth part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

Last Thursday Donna left us with this:

Each time we fall short of God’s standard for us, all we need to do is confess those sins to Him and we are immediately washed clean.

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter.” — John 13:7

The disciples seemed obtuse to us, but they didn’t have the Holy Spirit yet. We do, and we still fall so short of understanding. It is sad how little I know of His Word.

Jesus told them not all of them were clean. This is true for us as well. Not all in our midst are saved. It is like the parable of the wheat and tares.

Tares Among Wheat

24 Jesus presented another parable to them, saying,

“The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field. 25 But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away. 26 But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.

27 The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’

28 And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’

29 But he said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them. 30 Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”’”

36 Then He left the crowds and went into the house. And His disciples came to Him and said, “Explain to us the parable of the tares of the field.”

37 And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man, 38 and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one; 39 and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.

40 So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.

41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness, 42 and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

43 Then the righteous will shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43

 Tares are a weed resembling wheat.

We are not called on to pull up the tares because we don’t know who they are…just like the apostles didn’t know that Judas was a devil in their midst.

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God?

Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

And that is what some of you were.

But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. —1 Corinthians 6:9-11

Here again we are told there are those among us who are not clean. The unlined verses say some of us were, but we are now washed clean.

How?

“…in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”

We are to serve others, we are to preach the Word, because it is the power of God unto salvation.

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. —Romans 1:16

Dr.J. Vernon McGee defines salvation as the all-inclusive term of the gospel, and it simply means “deliverance.”

It embraces everything from justification [the act of God whereby humankind is made or accounted just, or free from guilt or penalty of sin] to glorification [the future and final work of God upon Christians, where he transforms our mortal physical bodies to the eternal physical bodies in which we will dwell forever].

Dr. McGee describes salvation as both an act and a process, and goes on to say that it is equally true that “I have been saved, I am being saved, and I shall be saved.

I ask myself:

  • Am I teaching others His Word?
  • Am I modeling His Word as He did to His disciples?
  • Can my children and grandchildren look at my life and see the reflection of His Word at work in my life?
  • Or am I hiding in a corner shrinking back in fear or disappointment at how my life has unraveled?

Beloved, how about you?

 

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Filled with Joy

 

Psalm126_3

 

Psalm 126

A song of ascents.

When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
    we were like those who dreamed.
Our mouths were filled with laughter,
    our tongues with songs of joy.
Then it was said among the nations,
    “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
    and we are filled with joy.

Restore our fortunes, Lord,
    like streams in the Negev.
Those who sow with tears
    will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
    carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
    carrying sheaves with them.

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From my Bible study notes:

God’s ability to restore life is beyond our understanding. Forests burn down and are able to grow back. Broken bones heal. Even grief is not a permanent condition. Our tears can be seeds that will grow into a harvest of joy because God is able to bring good out of tragedy.

When burdened by sorrow, know that your times of grief will end and that you will again find joy. We must be patient as we wait. God’s great harvest of joy is coming!

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Our Selfless Savior (Part 3) [REPOST]

~This is the third part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

Last Thursday we learned that we can be equally vulnerable whether we are in the valley or on the mountain top.

The key is to be like Jesus and keep focused on our mission.

Jesus was facing unmentionable things and He knew it, but He kept His mind stayed on His Father. He knew His mission. He went forward. He did not hurry or shrink back.

He used His last hours to teach His disciples to be humble. To be servants. And to love each other as He loved them.

The washing of the feet was a visual picture of how He was willing to do the job of the lowest of servants, and how they, too, should serve each other in the same way.

We are all to imitate our Lord Jesus Christ.

Only Peter seems to think it inappropriate for Jesus to wash his feet. But here again we have this beautiful visual picture of what the Lord was doing for them and for us.

Jesus said that we cannot be washed unless He washes us, but once we are clean [saved], we only need to have our feet washed.

Jesus washed their feet because He knew that He would “depart out of this world.” His ministry would continue after He went back to heaven. He has identified Himself with His people, and today He still washes the feet of His disciples. He says that He will depart out of this “world” [kosmos], meaning the world system. It is man’s world, a world of sin. It is a civilization that is anti-God and anti-Christ, and it is under judgment. Because He is leaving this world, He washes their feet. (1)

In John’s other book, we read this:

If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us…
—1 John 1:9

We only need to confess to be washed clean. Ephesians 5:26 says we are washed by the washing of the Word.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. —John 1:1

So we know what God says and Who Jesus was and is: The Word. This is how we are washed—once for all, and daily as well.

To me, the feet imply our daily life—our Christian walk. We need to wash those dusty, dirty feet that have led us into some grimy, filthy places where we have sinned.

We do this by what we read and obey in God’s Word.

Each time we fall short of God’s standard for us, all we need to do is confess those sins to Him and we are immediately washed clean.

(1) J. Vernon McGee, Through the Bible with J. Vernon McGee (Nashville:Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), 451.

To be continued next Thursday…

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God is the great I AM [REPOST]

TREASURE TUESDAY

Today’s Treasure Tuesday post is brought to you thanks to my mentor and friend, Patricia Knight.

God said to Moses, ‘I am who I am.’   —Exodus 3:4

God is.

God is able.

God is able to do.

God is able to do great things.

He is able to do great things for us.

Sometimes the simpler we describe God, the more majestic He becomes. Isn’t it with simplicity that He guides us in our faith? It was never His goal to make our walk with Him complicated. “Come as a little child” (Matthew 18:3), He told His disciples long ago. He instructs us the same way today. That is why I love to observe our grandsons and learn truths about God from applying analogies to their activities. We can learn from all people, young and old.

God tells us to “get wisdom, knowledge and understanding” (Proverbs 23:23b) and to treasure them.  God wants us to learn and grow. Not a static faith, Christianity comes alive in Christ. Worship at the throne of Grace where we can find our Lord, not as a hard-handed authoritarian, but as a loving, merciful, gracious Father.

If we knew we could plug our bodies and minds into a Source of power to gain energy and ability, wouldn’t we rush to do it? We can call on the God of all power who created and sustains the universe. If we knew we could inherit an eternal life of bliss, with no suffering or sadness ever again, wouldn’t we stand in line waiting for an extended period of time to gain access to such a gift?

There is no need to cool our heels in long lines. Come to the Savior personally. With humility and meekness, imitating Jesus, bow down before the Savior of the world, requesting forgiveness and a new life with God as the Lord of your life.

Believe.

Has God made our faith in Him too simplistic?  It was designed so that a child could understand the terms. At times when we struggle with trials, we are convinced the Christian life is complicated. There are adversities to be lived and learned so that we can develop into the best disciples possible. There is predicted persecution from following Jesus, but we have never been told to go it alone.

God is with us and promises

never to leave us or forsake us” (Joshua 1:5). 

What security! What blessedness! What absolute joy! God is in the quietness. Listen carefully for Him. You will hear Him speak through His Word, through other Christians, through your experiences, and in prayer.

We will never hear Him if we are striving and fumbling about with our own goals.  Prayer is a two-way conversation. Talk and then—listen. Listen with impunity. Listen with intent. Listen with reverence. Hear with purpose so that once the quietness is past, the goals become manifest. Go forward in faith, knowing what God has spoken is solemn and sovereign.

God is faithful.

He will meet all your needs” (Philippians 4:19).

That is a promise! God said it and that makes it so. Do not fret. Do not worry. Forsake anxiety and confusion, for God offers peace and comfort. God is immutable. It is impossible for Him to make mistakes or to go back on His Words. It just can’t happen, for it would alter the character of God.

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.
—Hebrews 13:6

What a firm foundation for our faith!

As you go forward with new plans for each day,cast your cares and worries on God, for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). He will free you from questions and doubts to accomplish the work for which He has chosen you. Keep your faith strong by remaining  locked in God’s Word. He will steer your life and your plans. Stay the course. As you leave your home bay for a destination on the other side of the waters, keep your eyes on the Light in the distance, for God will lead you home. Allow God to be your pilot, your oarsman, your guide. He promises to provide you with His strength for the journey, though it may occasionally be long and treacherous.

Dare to think big. Dare to trust in a God who is big, who is strong and mighty, and who controls the elements of nature with complete authority. Become one with God so that His goals are yours; His power and strength are transferred to your life. God lavishes His children richly with His gifts. In return, give yourself obediently to the Lord; all of your body, mind, and soul.

He will never fail you. On that you can depend, for He is simply, but elegantly,

the Great I Am.

Thank you, dear Pat, for sharing your heart with us here again.

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OUR SELFLESS SAVIOR (Part 2) [REPOST]

~This is the second part of the series on John 13 by Donna Baker~

 

Last Thursday we read how Jesus spent His last hours fulfilling the will of His Father in teaching and serving others.

God’s plan was in place.

Jesus was in lockstep with His Father in spite of what He knew He was facing.

The focus switches now to Judas.

During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray Him… —John 13:2

All sin begins in the heart. Only when it is acted upon does it become sin.

We can read about this downward slide in chapter 1 of James:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. —James: 1:13-16

If you look up the verses in the Bible where Judas is mentioned, you learn he was covetous. We know this because it tells us he was a thief. He didn’t need the money, he simply wanted the money. He had been with Jesus for three years. Did he think Jesus didn’t know he was stealing?

Our hearts deceive us too. We think God doesn’t see our secret sins but He does, just as Jesus knew Judas’ heart.

One of the most startling things to consider about Judas is that earlier in time, Jesus had also sent Judas to heal, cast out demons, etc.:

And he called to him his twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every affliction.

The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip and Bartholomew; Thomas and Matthew the tax collector; James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother; Philip, and Bartholomew; Thomas, and Matthew the publican; James [the son] of Alphaeus, and Lebbaeus, whose surname was Thaddaeus; Simon the Canaanite, and Judas Iscariot, who also betrayed him.

These twelve Jesus sent out, instructing them, “Go nowhere among the Gentiles and enter no town of the Samaritans, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.

And proclaim as you go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons. You received without paying; give without pay.

—Matthew 10:1-8 (ESV)

Isn’t this astonishing? Judas was able to do all these things and saw these miracles and many more. He saw Lazarus and the others Jesus raised from the dead, and yet he still didn’t believe with his heart.

Sobering thoughts, aren’t they? Doesn’t it give this portion of Matthew 7 a whole new perspective to ponder?

Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven.

On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’

And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’

Matt. 7:21-23

We all have preconceived ideas of what we expect of Jesus in our lives even if we are not aware of it. It is very likely that Judas had some preconceived ideas toohow he thought Jesus should be or doand it was not working out that way. From my point of view, this is probably part of why he was contemplating betraying Him.

Here is one of my thoughts [and remember, this is my opinion, not the Bible’s]: we know that two of the other disciples thought Jesus was going to set up His kingdom right away and free them from the Romans. We know this because their mother asked Jesus to give them the two highest political offices, on the right and the left of Him.

Maybe Judas expected, as they did, to have an important “cabinet” position such as Department of Treasury where he could have both prestige and siphon off a lot more money to help him grow rich and powerful.

Does that sound like some of today’s politicians?

When it became clear to Judas that Jesus had another plan, he was probably disillusioned and maybe even angry. He seemed to have forgotten all the miracles of the past.

Remember, it is only a few days before Jesus will raise Lazarus from the dead! Judas was there!

How this applies to us.

Often when we pray, our preconceived or erroneous ideas expect God to answer in a specific way. Or maybe we wonder why He is sometimes silent. Perhaps there’s even some other way we are disappointed by the answer [or no answer] to our prayers.

We must guard our hearts so as not to let unbelief seep in and cause us to sin or to doubt that God always has our best interests at work in our lives.

When we are angry or fearful, or when things are not going well, we are vulnerable. But sometimes we are equally vulnerable when we are on the “mountaintop.”

Therefore, we must be like Jesus: keep focused on the mission.

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To be continued next Thursday…

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Love in Action

 

Romans_12_12

 

Love in Action

Love must be sincere.
Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
 
Be devoted to one another in love.
Honor one another above yourselves.
 

Never be lacking in zeal,
but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord
.
 
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction,faithful in prayer.
 

Share with the Lord’s people who are in need.
Practice hospitality.


Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
 
Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.
 
Live in harmony with one another.
Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position.
Do not be conceited.


Do not repay anyone evil for evil.
Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone.
 
If it is possible, as far as it depends on you,
live at peace with everyone. 

Do not take revenge, my dear friends,
but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written:
“It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord.
 

On the contrary: 
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
 
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. 

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.”


Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good.
—Romans 12:9-21

 

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Joy Inexpressible, Part 2

Last week I shared Pat Knight’s devotional entitled Joy Inexpressible, Part 1. Today I give you Part 2.

joy

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Joy Inexpressible

Part 2

By Patricia Knight

God not only fills us with joy but also adds a sweet fragrance to that joy.

“But thanks be to God,
who also leads us in triumphal procession in Christ
and through us spreads everywhere
the fragrance of the knowledge of Him.
For we are to God the aroma of Christ
among those who are being saved
and those who are perishing”

(2 Corinthians 2: 14,15).

“The fragrance of the knowledge of Him.” Now, that should cause us to smile. So much revenue is spent on cosmetics, many for the purpose of erasing deep frown lines that have formed over the years. Smiling takes substantially fewer muscles than frowning. Did you ever practice smiling in front of a mirror? It provides a light-hearted experience, putting a smile on your face, and one in your heart.

There are some extremely expensive fragrances on the market for which both women and men pay lofty amounts. As aromatic as these may be, there is no sweeter fragrance than that emitted by Jesus. We “are to God the aroma of Christ” among people being won to Him. What a privilege and a responsibility! We need not think we have to spread His joy alone. God manufactures it and gives it to us, the most expensive fragrance in the world, bought with the highest sacrifice in heaven and on earth. Then, God will help us distribute it to the destitute in heart. The source is readily available, renewable, and inexhaustible.

Gal5-22-23Joy is one of the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22). In a long line of attributes, joy is second in line, snuggling right up close with love. We are told to have joy, ALWAYS! Have we been neglecting something important in our lives? We need possession of the immediate joy that sparks a flame of excitement plus the persistent joy that produces a daily expression of happiness and thanksgiving.

Worship flows naturally out of a thankful, joyful heart.

Praise, song and love all emerge from a heart previously primed with joy.

When we are consumed with joy, there is no room for negativism. As we are caught up in serving God and men with a happy heart, we are celebrating God and the joy He places there for us. When we share with others, our joy multiplies and carries with it a sweet aroma. People are encouraged.

Phil2_14We are commanded to do everything without complaining or grumbling (Philippians 2:14). I have never learned how to express joy while complaining, nor do I believe God intends for us to combine the two.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:12). Choices are made from the attitudes we form. No matter how negative our lives appear, no one can force us to match it with a negative attitude. Even though we tend to blame others for our problems, we as Christians are to rise above our circumstances. We choose our responses. We also choose joy. Though joy is free flowing and available, we have to embrace it for our personal life style for it to become an effective tool for us. An outpouring of our inner joyfulness is our gift to others.

In my earlier career, I worked at a medical facility where a friend of mine was later hired in the social services department. Martha was the most effervescent, enthusiastic and happy woman I had ever met. She possessed a beautiful smile and used it unsparingly, with a deep, engaging laugh. Other workers were aloof toward her and later shared with me that they didn’t trust Martha and were suspicious of her. They reasoned that she was too happy and smiled too much. I am still shocked by their logic. The unhappy, insecure workers were not going to befriend a newcomer who embodied joy and confidence. Studies have proven the power of a positive attitude in achieving the healing and recovery process. Martha understood the benefit of permeating her life and profession with joy.

Each day we have a predetermined amount of energy. When our supply of energy is used positively and creatively, we contribute to the joy in our lives and in the lives of others. If we look for laughter and sunshine wherever we go, we are able to increase the joy that we discover. Joy shared is multiplied. Joy restrained is limited. God commands that we prioritize joy. Look for the brilliance in the early morning sunrise, the diamonds bouncing off the rippling water, and the crystals radiating from newly fallen snow. Then, store those scenes in your mental imagery and share that beautiful joy with someone else when the opportunity arises.

Ps100-1-2

“Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth.
Serve the Lord with gladness;
come before Him with joyful songs.
Enter into His gates with thanksgiving
and His courts with praise;
give thanks to Him and praise His name”

(Psalm 100: 1, 2, 4).

That same compelling joy will gladden your own heart and travel far and wide to affect the lives of others.

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P”

Pat, you are one of the most joyful people I have ever met and I am so blessed to have you in my life. Thank you so much for allowing me to share this wonderful and joyful devotional! 

PureJoy“Joy Inexpressible” is from Pat’s devotional book, Pure Joy.

Beloved, if you are interested in purchasing a copy of Pure Joy, please let me know by commenting in the section below this post.

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Joy Inexpressible, Part 1

Today I once again have the delightful privilege of sharing another of Pat Knight’s writings. She and I have been talking more lately about joy and how to hang on tight to it while living with chronic pain. I think this devotional from her book, Pure Joy, was particularly appropriate right now.

This part 1 of 2.

1Pet1-8-9

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Joy Inexpressible

Part 1

By Patricia Knight

 Joy!

What a small word for such a giant effect it creates in others and us. “Joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8) is how our Guidebook, the Bible, assumes is the attitude and method of every Christian. Joy is dynamic and ready to do its work. Joy can flow out from one person to another or it can rush in to fill a life.

The exchange of wedding vows, the birth of a child, the acceptance of Jesus Christ as Lord of one’s life are times when joy knows no bounds. It overflows, gushes, whirls, either causing an action or a reaction. We cannot ignore joy. And, who would want to disregard such an important emotion?

The times we remember best in our lives are the joyous occasions, those that offer us great delight and gladness of heart.

Psalm126-3

“The Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy” (Psalms 126:3). “Filled with joy” is not a phrase I hear used often, but it sure does sound like a good idea to be infused, saturated, slathered with a good dose of joy. Imagine the result if we were all living joy-filled lives. I rarely hear about it, though I have heard of the opposite—”to be filled with anger.” I can even envision that anger at work, as a person’s face reddens and his voice and actions become irrational. As Christians, we are commanded to have joy. There’s no preference of when to have or when to share it. Joy must be an integral part of our being, with instant preparedness for sharing.

“Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God” (Philippians 4:4-7). Notice how joy, thanksgiving, and prayer have all been interlocked in this command. For us to have joy, we need to be thankful. If we follow God’s command to give thanks in all things, we will be joyful people. If we have joy in our own lives, then we yearn to give it away. Living in perpetual communication with our Lord, our supply will never be depleted.

“Let your gentleness be known to all.” God means all-inclusive, no matter to whom, in whatever conditions and circumstances we find ourselves, and for all reasons. The word “all” can be a little tricky. It is a small, three-letter word that can easily be ignored. It isn’t a difficult word to understand, but applying its meaning to our everyday life presents a challenge. In my personal life, I have struggled with expressing joy and thanks for constant pain. There doesn’t seem to be a purpose to it. That’s when God asks me to be thankful and trust Him enough to be joyful regardless of my life’s circumstances. I have to acknowledge that before the pain enters my body, God has approved it and because it is part of His plan for my life, I can thank Him that His will is being done and be joyful in His decisions for my life.

PraisingGodInSong

“The ransomed of the Lord will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will overtake them and sorrow and sighing will flee away” (Isaiah 51:11).  To be “overtaken by joy”? That is what God says. What would result if all of us took a new approach to joy? I suggest that we all begin a new day with an abundant, heaped-to-the-top-and-running-over package of joy.

Perhaps that sounds a little fantastic, not really credible. If God is in charge, and He tells us that “all things are possible with God” (Mark 10:27), then being overtaken with joy is possible. I want to be overtaken with joy so that there is no room for conflicting negative emotions. Nothing can quench the joy. If it were God’s wish that we be completely consumed with joy, then why do we find ourselves moping about at times, bemoaning our situation? God may wonder too. If He has given the instruction, He will also give the strength and power to accomplish what He has commanded.

“For God did not give us a spirit of timidity,
but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline”

(2 Timothy 1:7).

P”T

Stay tuned for Part 2!

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