Friday, July 27, 2012

When I Am Afraid

When I Am Afraid, Will I Trust in You?
Psalm 32:7; 56:3
Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with songs of deliverance.
What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee.
When life is hard and questions don’t seem to have any answers, do I turn to the Lord for His guidance? Do I trust Him with all my heartaches and rely on Him to lead me through times of sorrow? Does He hear my cry, in the midst of the storm, or see the pain my heart endures? The answer, “Yes,” He hears my cry, He understands my pain and is acquainted with all my fears. Learning to cast all my anxieties upon Him and not take them back upon myself, requires I wholeheartedly and completely trust in God. 
Many years ago, Fanny Crosby, a Christian hymn writer blinded six weeks after birth, penned these words to the song, “All the Way My Savior Leads Me.” This song pictures a faithful, loving God guiding His child step-by-step through life’s darkest trials. 
All the way my Savior leads me––
What have I to ask beside?
Can I doubt His tender mercy,
Who through life has been my guide?
Heavenly peace, divinest comfort,
Here by faith in Him to dwell!
For I know, whate’er be fall me,
Jesus doeth all things well.
All the way my Savior leads me––
O the fullness of His love!
Perfect rest to me is promised
In my Father’s house above.
When my spirit, clothed immortal,
Wings its flight to realms of day,
This my song through endless ages:
Jesus led me all the way.
I can trust God to guide and lead me all the way and some day I will stand before His glorious throne singing with this dear saint of God, Fanny Crosby, “Jesus led me all the way.”
King Solomon wrote, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other” (Ecclesiastes 7:14). In the day of prosperity be joyful, but in the day of adversity consider: God also hath set the one over against the other, to the end that man should find nothing after him. In the bad times we are prone to doubt God’s tender care, and in the good times we tend to forget it. If we are to trust God in the good times as well as the bad, we must acknowledge how dependent we are upon Him in every circumstance of life. 
Annie Hawks wrote: “One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular house­hold tasks. Suddenly, I became so filled with the sense of nearness to the Master that, wondering how one could live without Him, either in joy or pain, these words, “I Need Thee Every Hour,” were ushered into my mind, the thought at once taking full possession of me. I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long after, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace.”
 I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord;
No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee, O I need Thee;
Every hour I need Thee;
O bless me now, my Savior,
I come to Thee.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain;
Come quickly and abide, or life is in vain.
Thought: O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! how unsearchable are his judgments, and his ways past finding out! (Romans 11:33). We must realize God is able to work in our lives with or without human means. Sometimes our prayers for deliverance or healing come through predictable means yet, God is not dependent upon the predictable that we can foresee He sometimes chooses the unpredictable to remind us that our trust in Him must be in Him and Him alone. The daily circumstances of life will give us an opportunity to bring glory to God whether in the small things or in the unbelievable situations of life. Whether the difficulty is great or small, we must choose to trust God and say with the psalmist, What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. (Psalm 56:3).
Note: This devotion is dedicated to my friend, Rhonda Dodd and her dear husband, James, in his battle with cancer.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Faith or Feelings

Living By Emotions
Hebrews 11:1-9
 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.  By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.  By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.  But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.  By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.  By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.  By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:
It is important for us to realize that the first sin ever committed was that of choosing to follow feelings rather than to obey God’s commands. Feelings in themselves are not evil. God created us to feel many things such as pain, joy and love but, since the time of man’s fall, people have lived according to the dictates of their feelings, indulging in the desires of the flesh. What happens when someone lives by feelings alone or by following the path of least resistance? A life based on feelings is a life that invites the sin of disobedience and our fallen nature seldom feels like obeying–––it usually wants to do its own thing. 
If we live by our feelings only, we may tend to attain our doctrine or spiritual teaching from feelings. If we believe that God is with us because “He feels so close,” we will also believe there are times when he has forsaken us and feels so far away. We are assured by His Word that God’s presence does not come by feelings, but by faith. Hebrews 13:5b....for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. We don’t always have to feel God’s presence to realize the truth of His Word.
Procrastination is a consequence of living by feelings and not by what we know we need to do. When we give over to our feelings, the worse we feel and find ourselves overwhelmed and unable to do the task we are responsible for. We battle laziness and consequently, we don’t grow in our Christian faith.
The Lord gives to us a wonderful example of how to cope with human feelings. Jesus Christ, as fully Man, fully God experienced all human emotions and provides for us a model for dealing with our feelings. Christ admitted His feelings and gave to His disciples a glimpse of His soul being exceedingly sorrowful, even unto death (Matthew 26:38.) Feelings cannot be ignored they must be dealt with honestly. To admit our bitterness, depression, hatred or passion is the first step in learning to come to grips with our feelings. Christ requested support from His disciples, His friends. He asked for prayerful intercession and watchful companionship during His dark hour of trial. Christ also understood, in His emotional suffering, that nothing would separate Him from the love of the Father, nor would their relationship be affected by the weight of this anguish. As believers, we need to realize that our acceptance before God is unrelated to our feelings (For we walk by faith, not by sight:) 2 Corinthians 5:7. Trusting in a Sovereign and Holy God is essential in our walk of faith and should not be perpetuated by the many feelings that dominate our Christian life.
Thought: When we are obedient to the will of God, emotional peace and calm come but not before. The assurance of joy flows when we fix our eyes on “....Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2).  When we learn to give thanks for all things, whether we feel like it or not, a new liberty in our Christian life occurs as we realize our faith need not be tied to our feelings.

Friday, July 13, 2012

The Parable of the Pharisee and the Publican

Luke 18:9-14
And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others:  Two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican.  The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican.  I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.  And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, God be merciful to me a sinner.  I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Understanding the culture in which the Pharisee lived is very important. The Pharisee was one of the most respected people in that society. Everyone thought the Pharisees were very righteous. 
Pharisees were typically self-righteous and legalistic, flaunting their own "good works" before others to make themselves appear superior. Jesus referred to them many times as hypocrites. In Luke 14:8-11, we read the story of the Pharisee who prayed a prayer filled with self-righteousness and pride. He apparently prayed to himself more to impress others than to talk to God. He did not recognize that he needed God`s forgiveness because he, like all mankind, was a sinner. 

The Pharisee compared himself to others and was very condemning of others. He made the wrong conclusion in his comparison between himself and the tax collector in Luke 18:9-14. The Pharisee was unaware of his own sins, but very aware of others’ sins. This is very characteristic of a self-righteous person. The Pharisee was depending on his works and feeling that they gained him favor with God. He made himself righteous in the sight of men, but God knew his heart. 
What did the Pharisee do that would cause him to think he was so righteous? He fasted twice a week. Only one fast per year was dictated by law which was on the day of Atonement, Leviticus 16:31. There were times of sorrow, times of penitence, times of mourning when people fasted and that was something they could choose to do. But there was only one prescribed fast. The Pharisee covered all his bases in tithing. It says in Matthew 23:23, that the Pharisee tithed mint and anise and cumin. Those are tiny little spices. He tithed the tiny little seeds and leaves of the spices as a way to demonstrate virtue, holiness, and law-keeping. All these little twisted things they developed to make a favorable show in the flesh. Righteousness is not the result of self-righteous activities one might perform or the result of the things you don’t do. If you have that attitude it is legalism. 
If it is not what I don’t do and it is not what I do, then “what is it?” The publican gives us the answer.
The Publican was probably the least respected member of society. He was a Jew who went to work for Rome collecting taxes. He was viewed as a traitor. He was afraid to approach God,  standing at a distance, knowing that he was unworthy to come before God. He was unwilling to lift his eyes which showed his humility. He was beating his breast which in that culture was the outward sign of an inward pain in one’s soul. The day of Atonement was the day when you did this. You fasted and went around beating your breast because of the pain in your soul. Jesus Christ was the answer to this man’s prayer. Casting himself on divine mercy and grace, the publican obtained favor with God.
Justification is that gracious work of God whereby He extends mercy to the repentant sinner who comes to Him in faith.
Thought: The parable concludes with words that Jesus had used before in (Luke 14:11). “For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.” In His final words, it is the praise of humility that Christ gives––the hall-mark of Christian virtue. One lesson we cannot fail to learn from the publican’s confession which is foundational in ones personal sense of sin. Sin means separation from God, a sinner’s cry for mercy is seen in this parable and a picture of His great mercy is shown–– for only Jesus can save sinners. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy Ghost;” (Titus 3:5.)

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Woman at Jacob's Well

Draw From My Well
The Woman at Jacob’s Well
John 4:3-14
He left Jud├Ža, and departed again into Galilee.  And he must needs go through Samaria.  Then cometh he to a city of Samaria, which is called Sychar, near to the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. Now Jacob's well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied with his journey, sat thus on the well: and it was about the sixth hour.
There cometh a woman of Samaria to draw water: Jesus saith unto her, Give me to drink.  ( For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.)  Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.  Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.  
The woman saith unto him, Sir, thou hast nothing to draw with, and the well is deep: from whence then hast thou that living water?  Art thou greater than our father Jacob, which gave us the well, and drank thereof himself, and his children, and his cattle?  Jesus answered and said unto her, Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again: But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.
Several roads led from Judea to Galilee and Jesus, having a divine appointment in meeting the Samaritan woman, would choose the shortest route through the heart of Samaria. Even with strong animosity between the Jews and the Samaritans since the nation of Israel split politically after Solomon’s rule, Jesus took the road leading to Sychar’s well. Though Jesus was God, He also was flesh and suffered physical limitations in His humanity. He needed a rest and of course, a drink from the well.
The women of the city usually came in groups to collect water, either earlier in the day or much later, to avoid the heat of the sun. The Samaritan woman coming at noon or the sixth hour to the well, meant she was most likely publicly shunned and therefore, isolated from the other women. It was the custom of the land that a Jewish man did not speak to a woman in public let alone a Samaritan woman or to ask her for a drink. Jesus broke both social customs, first, by talking to a Samaritan and then speaking to a Samaritan woman–––this was a breach in rigid social tradition. (Rabbi’s were religious leaders and they were not to hold conversations with women of ill repute.)
When Jesus asked for a drink from the well, the Samaritan woman was taken back and said, “How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.” And Jesus replied, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked him, and he would have given you living water. Whoever drinks from this well will thirst again; but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give them will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.”  The water from the well was dead water, most likely rain water, far from pure and more suited for sheep than for people. Water was common, everyday stuff, but living water? What a concept! The Lord’s words were full of mystery, wonder and intrigue capturing her attention.
The woman, like Nicodemus in chapter 3:4, didn’t realize that Jesus was talking about her spiritual needs, she was thinking she could avoid her frequent trips to Jacob’s well and escape the raised eyebrows of her neighbors by drinking in this living water. It was her physical thirst that put her in the path of the Messiah leading her to a spiritual quenching of her soul. The woman at the well was thirstier than she realized and went away from that well with her spiritual cup full and running over.
Thought: If you are a Christian, what are you thirsty for, spiritually? Have you been searching for something other than the living water Christ offers? The Lord knows us intimately and knows our every need. Is there some sin in your life that keeps you from refreshing yourself in the living water of Christ? Wise is the woman who, when her sins are revealed, confesses, repents, and rejoices in the knowledge that even though Jesus sees through her smoke screen, He loves her completely showering her with His grace. Live at the well that never does run dry.