Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Jesus is our faithful peacemaker . . .

Someone called me yesterday in great anguish. A person close to her had verbally attacked her, viciously unkind and accusing her of things not true. My friend felt as if a demon had attacked her, but she was unsure and wondered what she had done to deserve this.

I’m certain she had done nothing, but rather than focus on the attack, she needed to focus on the remedy. We talked about the loving power of God and how the Holy Spirit never stabs us. Even when He convicts us of sin, He does it with a hug and with clarity. The enemy always accuses with fuzziness, making us uncertain and fearful. God is faithful; He does not treat us with accusations and a mean spirit. I encouraged my friend to pray for this other person. This would help her avoid an attitude of retaliation. It is the enemy that promotes strife and ruined relationships. Besides, in prayer God would help her know the best response.

Today’s devotional is about the faithfulness of God. It is good to be reminded that we rely on Him to help us through life’s puzzling and hurtful events.

“Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; if we endure, we will also reign with him; if we deny him, he also will deny us; if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself.” (2 Timothy 2:10–13)

The psalmist reminds us that we are prone to turn away from God. Like the ancient Israelites, we can even fake our faith and often rebel, yet God remains faithful:

“In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe. So he made their days vanish like a breath, and their years in terror. When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly. They remembered that God was their rock, the Most High God their redeemer. But they flattered him with their mouths; they lied to him with their tongues. Their heart was not steadfast toward him; they were not faithful to his covenant. Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. How often they rebelled against him in the wilderness and grieved him in the desert! They tested God again and again and provoked the Holy One of Israel. They did not remember his power or the day when he redeemed them from the foe . . . .” (Psalm 78:32–42)

I know that God will take care of my friend and bring something good out of this for her. Trusting Jesus when another person turns against you is a difficult and challenging test, one that we cannot endure on our own. It is so important to cling to the faithfulness of God.

“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him.” (Lamentations 3:22–25)

It is also good to remember just how dependent we are on the Lord. He chose us; we did not initiate or cause our salvation or our walk with Him. He began it and He will finish it:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as he chose us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace, with which he has blessed us in the Beloved.” (Ephesians 1:3–6)
“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins.” (1 John 4:10)
“He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit.” (Titus 3:5)

My friend needs to guard herself from sinning as a backlash to this unexpected and unfair treatment, but even if she remains angry and retaliates, the Lord Jesus has it covered:

“My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.” (1 John 2:1–2)

Jesus, because You cover the sin of the world, we also need to forgive those who sin against us. You died for the sin I commit, yet You also died for the sins people commit against me, against those I love. Forgiveness is a huge peacemaker. I pray You will bring peace to my friend’s heart and to the relationship between her and this other person who attacked her seemingly with no reason. You are our faithful Prince of Peace, and we need You for this and for everything else in our lives.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Jesus is Lord of all . . .

The devotional book that I’m using this year has given much space to the preeminence of Christ. While the author’s words are good, the Lord usually speaks to me a little differently, often from the same Scripture passages. This is also evidence of His Lordship; He knows each human heart and life situation. He knows what His people need to hear on any given day. As I read through today’s passages, these thoughts came to me concerning the evidence God has shown me that Jesus is Lord of all . . .

Death could not hold Him.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it . . . . Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2: 22–24; 36)

There are other resurrections recorded in the Bible, but all of them were at the command of God’s servants, either prophets or Jesus Christ, yet Jesus rose from the grave without anyone calling Him to come forth. It was simply impossible for the Author of life to stay dead. He is Lord.

He changes the lives of those who believe.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2:1–4)

The Word of God says that when a person believes, they become a new creation. We do not become perfect in this life (our old nature habitually interferes), but change happens, and perfection will be ours in eternity. Others may form new habits or be affected by events that change their value system, but only Jesus Christ can turn hearts from sin and selfishness, that we can consider others more significant than themselves. He is Lord.

He obeyed God completely.

“Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11)

Not one Christian or anyone else can make this claim of being totally obedient. Only Jesus is totally sinless. Only Jesus is totally worthy of worship for He is unlike anything or anyone else. This is God the Son, the God-man who reveals the Father, who listens to the Spirit, who is without any reason to humble Himself except that God sent Him to earth to do it. He set aside His rights as God and took on human flesh as a baby! He grew and learned obedience through the things He suffered — just like we do. He then did the unthinkable; He took our sin on Himself, bore our guilt and took our punishment by dying for us. Not only that, for those who believe He gives His righteousness, even His very life, that we might live forever. No one else can do that, even if they wanted to. Jesus is Lord.

Jesus, every morning when I sit down to hear from You, You never disappoint me. Your voice is like a warm blanket, covering my anxious thoughts, and restoring that which so often slips my mind. You get inside my head and tell me exactly what I need to hear, replacing my foolish ideas with Your wisdom, forgiving and comforting that foolishness and telling me again and again that I am Yours and You are mine. You have risen from the dead, and You are at work in this world. Yes, You are Lord of all!

Monday, December 11, 2017

By God’s grace

My husband goes to a men’s early morning Bible study when his work commitments allow. Every year, the leader and his wife host a gathering of those men and their wives. The food is wonderful and their home looks like a magazine feature for Christmas d├ęcor.

At the same time, both host and hostess are more focused on the Lord and the Lord’s work than anything else. I appreciated their beautiful home, yet it is their lives that are worthy of imitating. Both thoughts leave me feeling a bit intimidated.

This morning’s usual devotion was not ‘calling my name’ so I asked the Lord what to read and He sent me to Charles Spurgeon’s devotional called “Morning and Evening.” The verse for the day came from this passage:

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.” (1 Thessalonians 5:16–24)

This brief passage says much about how to live the Christian life. Sometimes this ‘list’ seems impossible. Joy is almost always deep within me, but expressing it is sometimes elusive. I do not pray without ceasing and nor am I always thankful. I’m learning to listen to the Holy Spirit without throwing a wet blanket on His gentle commands, and learning to test them and hold on to them, but must confess that I fail often.

Yet despite my stumbles and failings, the Bible says that all who are in relationship with Jesus Christ are secure. I am His child and have committed my life to His keeping. Experience proves that His promises are true; He is a faithful and unchanging Savior.

Because this is a reality, I can enjoy security in this life. It is not that “high and glorious security which renders us free from every slip” but still a precious security. Jesus promises that no one who believes in Him will ever perish and that I will eternally be where He is. Living for Him may or may not include a well-decorated home, but it does include walking by faith and trusting Him to keep me in His care and present me faultless before His throne. As the Apostle Paul said, by grace, I am what I am.

Thank You Lord Jesus for Your promises and Your power. This produces great joy in my heart — a joy that makes it possible to rejoice always. Keep teaching me to talk with You all day, to be totally thankful in all situations, and to listen and obey You always. May I honor Your faithfulness in every way and never waver from total confidence in You. And keep me from comparing myself with others!