15 Aug 2017
Are You Thirsty?
“Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” –St. Augustine
Perhaps you remember when Jill encountered Aslan in C. S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia (The Silver Chair):
“Are you not thirsty?” said the lion.
“I’m dying of thirst,” said Jill.
“Then drink,” said the lion.
“May I- could I- would you mind going away while I do?” said Jill.
The lion answered this only by a look and very low growl.
As Jill gazed at its motionless bulk, she realized she might as well have asked the whole mountain to move aside for her convenience. The delicious rippling noise of the stream was driving her nearly frantic.
“Will you promise not to do anything to me, if I do come?” said Jill.
“I make no such promise,” said the lion.
Jill was so thirsty now that, without noticing it, she had come a step nearer the lion.
“Do you eat girls?” she said.
“I have swallowed up, consumed girls and boys, women and men, kings and emperors, cities and realms,” said the lion.
It didn’t say this as if it were boasting, nor as if it were sorry, nor as if it were angry. It just said it.
“I dare not come and drink,” said Jill. “Then you will die of thirst,” said the Lion. “Oh dear!” said Jill, coming another step nearer. “I suppose I must go and look for another stream then.”
The lion said, “There is no other stream.”
Jill desperately wanted a sip of water, but she wanted to enjoy it away from Aslan. Lewis mirrored the heart of humanity in this scene—we want our souls satisfied, but we’re prone to want it on our terms, before finally recognizing it doesn’t work.
The Psalmist spoke of his longing for God, so intense, he likened it to an animal panting for a drink: “As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God” (Psalm 42:1). God is to the soul what water is to the body.
Consider God’s invitation: “Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat. Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1).
And Jesus’ promise: “Whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14).
We were made to be satisfied with the Living Water. Nothing else will do.
Are we thirsty? What makes us aware of our thirst for God today? Are we ready for relief?
My prayer this week – Heavenly Father, I confess I’ve tried to satisfy my soul’s thirst amiss. I’ve panted after other, lesser affections. I realize my soul longs for you. Thank you for your invitation: that I may come to your fountain. Thank you for your promise: that you satisfy.
08 Aug 2017
Where Do I Find Courage?
“Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill: God’s truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever.”
–Martin Luther, A Mighty Fortress
In the early 1500s, an Augustinian friar and theology professor came to reject several teachings of the Roman Catholic Church.
Chief among his convictions, he believed people are saved by faith, not human effort, and that Scripture, not the Church, defines truth.
Pope Leo X had the man, Martin Luther, excommunicated. Emperor Charles V tried him as an outlaw.
The “heretic” was ordered to appear at Worms, Germany in 1521. There, an assortment of powerful bishops and political representatives gathered to witness the proceedings.
In the midst of it all stood a table, covered with books and papers Martin Luther had written.
When Luther appeared, an official asked, “Did you write these books, and if so, which of them will you now recant?”
Luther answered, “The books are mine, and I have written even more.” As to what he would recant, Luther asked for time to consider an answer. He was granted 24 hours.
The next evening the place was even more crowded. Asked the same question, Luther rose to speak. Just as he started to speak, he was interrupted: “You must give a simple, clear and proper answer! Will you recant or not?”
Knowing his life was on the line—he could be arrested and executed for his answer—Luther replied, “Unless I can be instructed with evidence from the Holy Scriptures I cannot and will not recant. Here I stand. I can do no other. God help me. Amen.”
Luther was condemned. He was branded a heretic.
An order was issued for his arrest, making it criminal for anyone in Germany to provide him with food or shelter, and allowing anyone to kill him without legal consequence.
Martin Luther is known as the father of the Protestant Reformation. There was theological conviction behind Luther’s answer, but don’t miss the reality: standing strong in that moment took a great deal of courage!
When a young man named Joshua learned he would succeed Moses in leading the Israelites—a daunting task—he was encouraged by God: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:6).
In Psalm 91, the Psalmist found courage in trusting God despite severe adversity: “If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent. For he will command his angels concerning you, to guard you in all your ways” (Psalm 91:9-11).
Where in my life—at work, at home, in my community—am I being called upon to act or speak out courageously? Can I take courage knowing God is with me and the Lord is my refuge?
My prayer this week – Lord, help me to know when I should stand up for you, as well as how to do it. Will you remind me of your presence, of your strength and of your sovereignty over all? May I find courage in you!
01 Aug 2017
The Seeds I’m Sowing
“There are long stretches of darkness and invisibility and silence that separate planting and reaping.”
The Spanish ship Our Lady of Atocha sank in 1622, just off the Florida Keys. She was carrying a fortune in copper, silver, gold, gems and jewelry when she went down—which explains the vigorous court battles over rights to the wreck that have ensued since its discovery in 1985.
Among the team that examined items recovered from the wreck was an archaeologist.
In the sand that had served as the ship’s ballast, he discovered a handful of seeds. To keep them from drying out, he placed them in a cup of fresh water. To his astonishment just a few days later, he discovered the seeds had sprouted leaves.
Seeds are magnificent things! Perhaps this is why Jesus often uses them as an example in teaching on the kingdom of God. Consider these examples:
“This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head” (Mark 4:26-28).
“What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade” (Mark 4:30-32).
In both of these parables, Jesus uses a seed to illustrate the way the kingdom of God germinates in people’s lives—the seed is first planted. By inference, our role is sowing seeds.
Once planted, the seed begins to grow. That part is God’s work.
I’m caught by the phrase “the seed sprouts and grows, though [the one who planted the seed] does not know how.”
This can be a discouraging reality for the sower—for a long stretch of time we may not see anything resembling life, growth or fruit.
It takes many months for pumpkin seeds to yield a pumpkin, many years for an acorn to become an oak.
It’s often a very involved process, but all the while God is at work.
The apostle Paul understood his sowing among the people of Corinth in this light: “I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow” (1 Corinthians 3:6).
He was confident in God’s ability and faithfulness to bring the work to completion: “Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 1:6).
Our role is to sow seeds … and trust.
My prayer for this week – Father, what spiritual seeds am I planting? At home? At work? Among my friends? Will you reassure me you are at work in and through the seeds I’m planting, even when I don’t see results? May I be faithful in sowing—as you are faithful in harvest!
25 Jul 2017
How’s Your Schedule?
“Our decision to close on Sunday was our way of honoring God and of directing our attention to things that mattered more than our business.” –S. Truett Cathy, Founder Chick-fil-a
A long time ago, in a kingdom far, far away, a king selected a “fool” to entertain him and make him laugh when he was depressed. He gave the fool a golden scepter and told him, “If you ever meet a bigger fool than you are, pass this rod on to him.”
Years passed with the fool in the king’s service. Then, when the king was very old and nearing death he called for the fool to make him laugh one last time.
“I’m preparing to leave on a long journey,” the king said.
The fool asked, “Have you made preparations for your arrival at your destination?”
“No. I’ve been far too busy,” replied the king.
The fool handed the golden scepter to the king, saying, “My king, you are a greater fool than I.”
We live in a day when people wear “busy” like a badge of honor. Ask someone how they’re doing and more often than not they answer, “Busy!”
And we affirm this—the typical reply is usually, “Well, busy is good!” or “It’s better than the alternative!”
Is chronic busyness really a good thing?
Nothing is wrong with hard work, pouring ourselves wholeheartedly into what we are doing—the Proverbs are full of such admonitions. But we do need to rest. God rested, and directed us to keep the Sabbath as a day of rest:
“Six days do your work, but on the seventh day do not work, so that your ox and your donkey may rest and the slave born in your household, and the alien as well, may be refreshed” (Exodus 23:12).
His Word reveals the folly of a life burning the candle at both ends:
“In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat—for he grants sleep to those he loves” (Psalm 127:2).
Jesus even offers us an invitation:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
It’s a simple truth: Too much of even a good thing, becomes a bad thing, if it keeps you from the best thing.
How busy am I? Am I neglecting times of rest? Am I spending so much time and effort on the good things I’m missing out on the best things?
My prayer this week – Lord, I thank you I am fearfully and wonderfully made. You made me, and you know I need rest—my physical, emotional, and spiritual life needs it. Will you help me know when and where to say “no” in my schedule? Will you help me to recoup a Sabbath’s rest each week, to reorder priorities and to redeem my time?
18 Jul 2017
The Heart Speaks
“Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”
An elderly lady approached a stock clerk in the produce section of the grocery store and asked, “Son, can I purchase a half-head of lettuce?”
The clerk replied, “Are you kidding? They grow as full heads, and that’s how we sell them.”
The woman persisted, “But I’ve been shopping here for thirty years—couldn’t you make an exception?”
The clerk told her he would go ask the store’s manager.
He found the manager in the front of the store and began, “Some crazy old lady asked if I could sell her a half-head of lettuce!” Noticing the look of panic on the manager’s face, he turned to see the woman had followed, and was standing directly behind him as he spoke. The clerk continued, “And this nice lady, right here, is asking if she can buy the other half.”
Our tongue can get us in trouble!
“The tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:5-6).
James didn’t mince words. He describes a variety of wild animals man can tame, contrasting, “but no human being can tame the tongue” (James 3:8).
But taming the tongue isn’t so much a matter of the tongue as it is a matter of the heart. Jesus teaches: “The things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them” (Matthew 15:18).
A first step is to examine what comes out of our mouths. What does it reveal?
“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water” (James 3:9-12).
When was the last time I said something I regret? What was behind it? What do I need to confess? Who should I offer an apology?
The next step is to pray. This week, let’s echo the prayers of the Psalmist.
My prayer this week –
“Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10).
“Before a word is on my tongue you, Lord, know it completely” (Psalm 139:4).
“Set a guard, O Lord, over my mouth; Keep watch over the door of my lips” (Psalm 141:3).
“May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart be pleasing in your sight, Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer” (Psalm 19:14).
11 Jul 2017
You Can Rest Assured
“There’s no sight like seeing the light from Calvary kiss a human face as it fills the heart with the assurance of Divine forgiveness.” –Gipsy Smith
Recall the old schoolyard method of picking teams? All the kids who wanted to play lined up, waiting, hoping to be selected? The captains of each team took turns—first this kid was selected, then that kid, then another, and another.
With each turn you weren’t chosen, you feared you might be standing there forever and wondered, “What’s wrong with me?”
If someone doesn’t want you on his or her team, it’s a painful experience.
Your self-esteem and self-confidence can take a tremendous blow.
How about a little boost? Your God wants you! He selected you out of the crowd! He loves you and chose you to be his child! Let the apostle Paul tell you:
“For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will—to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves” (Ephesians 1:4-6).
We didn’t have to do anything to merit his choosing. In fact, there is nothing we could have done!
The gospels include the story of a young man who approached Jesus and asked, “Good Teacher, what good thing shall I do that I may have eternal life?” (Matthew 19:16)
The question: What must I do?
Consider what Jesus didn’t say in answering him.
He didn’t say, “Bow your head and say the sinner’s prayer.”
He didn’t say, “Read your Bible, and go to church every Sunday.”
He didn’t say, “Don’t drink, smoke or chew—or go out with girls who do!”
No, Jesus answers, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19:17). The young man was confused. He believed he’d done this to the best of his ability. Yet, he had no assurance he’d done enough.
Doing—even when it’s done to the best of our ability—will always leave us insecure.
Have I done enough? Have I done it long enough? Have I done it well enough? How can I be assured? You can’t. As long as it’s about what you do, you’ll always be lacking assurance.
Here’s the good news: It’s not about what we do. It’s about what God has done!
“But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved” (Ephesians 2:4-6).
God’s love! God’s mercy! God’s grace! When we understand it’s about what God has done—then we can truly rest assured.
My prayer this week – Gracious Heavenly Father, thank you for this blessed assurance: By your grace alone I am saved. May my acts of devotion not be attempts to impress you or earn your favor, but rather reflect my love and thankfulness for what you’ve done!