I See Jesus Standing

Do you know what this year has done? It has captured our attention. We have fixed our gaze on a virus so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on an election so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on some sinful thing so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus.

It’s been a tough year. It’s not the kind of year you planned and certainly not what you needed. In a year like 2020, a person needs perspective. However, the perspective needed is the perspective of heaven. In an effort to help you see your circumstances with a bit more clarity, I would like to tell you about a man in the New Testament whose name was Stephen. On the worst day of his life, and on what seemed to the the worst day in the history of the church up to that point, Stephen saw his circumstances from the perspective of heaven.

Stephen was a great servant of God. He was one of the first deacons. He was said to be full of wisdom, full of the Spirit, full of faith, full of grace and power. In fact, through the hands of Stephen God worked signs and wonders among the people. His wisdom and handling of the Scripture was such that his enemies were unable to cope with the wisdom  and the Spirit with which he was speaking.

They secretly induced men to say that Stephen blasphemed both Moses and God Acts 6:11. They spread misinformation about Stephen in the community, stirring up the people against him Acts 6:12. The brought forward false witnesses who accused him of speaking against the temple and against the law Acts 6:13. And yet, through it all, Stephen’s countenance was like that of an angel Acts 6:15.

Things went from bad to worse that day. I’m sure Stephen had an idea of what would happen when the day began. Stephen’s powerful sermon is recorded in Acts 7:2-53. That sermon condemned his hearers, who were also his accusers, as lawbreakers themselves. That sermon pierced their hearts like a knife. But rather than convicting them and bringing them to repentance, it only deepened their hatred for Stephen and all he stood for. While his face was like that of an angel, they looked like angry demons, gnashing their teeth in murderous fury.

Suddenly, Stephen stopped preaching. It was as if had been interrupted. It was as if he no longer was the communicator, but as if someone was communicating with him. He turned away from the angry crowd, not in cowardice, but with an even greater confidence and conviction than that with which he was preaching. It was as if someone was there—as if someone was with him.

Consider the State of Stephen’s Relationship with God:

He was full of the Holy Spirit. Do you remember those moments when the Spirit of God came mightily upon men in the Old Testament. When the Spirit came mightily upon Saul, he was turned into another man. His life was changed from timid to confident, from a man of weakness to a man of power.

When the Spirit of God came mightily upon Samson, he performed feats of great strength.  Stephen had been preaching in the power of the Spirit, but now that Spirit filled him for a new purpose. He was filled with the Spirit to face death. God empowered him for that journey and whatever it brought. 

Here is a picture of a saved man dying. He is a man filled with the Holy Spirit. He has been empowered to live and serve, and now, full of faith, full of grace, full of wisdom, he is full of the Spirit given power to face the moment of his death.

His countenance that day was like that of an angel. There was a beam about Him. There was a presence that settled on him and around him. That day, as Stephen faced his accusers and as he faced death, he was not alone. You are not alone should you be facing your last days. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, a disciple whose life is characterized by the same traits as Stephen, you will not be alone when it comes your time to die.

Many times I have heard the story of someone very ill who had been talking with family, but just at the point of death, that person turned their face away, fixing their gaze elsewhere.

Second, Notice Stephen’s Focus.

But being full of the Holy Spirit, he gazed intently into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

This is the focus of a believer in trouble. This is the focus of a believer facing death. His gaze was not fixed on his problem. His gaze was not fixed on the trouble. His gaze was not fixed on the crowd or on his accusers. Instead, he gazed intently into heaven. 

Where is your focus in your circumstances? Do you know what this year has done? It has captured our attention. We have fixed our gaze on a virus so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on an election so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus. We have fixed our gaze on some sinful thing so intently that we have lost sight of Jesus.

But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, gazed intently into heaven and saw something you and I can never see without our focus so fixed. He saw behind the scenes of his circumstances. He saw a prevailing providence overshadowing his life. He saw God’s glory!

Do you remember what Jesus told Mary and Martha at the tomb of Lazarus—distraught as they were by their circumstances—discouraged as they were by their grief? He said, “Did I not say to you that if you believed you would see the glory of God.” They would see the glory of God in their circumstances. Stephen saw the glory of God in his circumstances, and you can see the glory of God in your circumstances, whatever they might be, if you will gaze intently into heaven.

First, I asked you to consider Stephen’s State. He was filled with the Holy Spirit. Second, I asked you to consider Stephen’s focus. He gazed intently into heaven.

Third, Consider Stephen’s Vision

And he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened up and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.”He said, “I see Jesus standing….”

Jesus said in Luke 22:69:But from now on, the Son of Man will be seated at the right hand of the Power of God. ” 

But Stephen said, “I see Jesus standing…” He saw Jesus standing sovereign over the affairs of earth and heaven. That is what we have lost sight of in 2020. We must regain our confidence in the fact that Jesus rules and reigns in heaven, and He stands victoriously triumphant in spite of our circumstances. In spite of Covid. In spite of the election. In spite of what is going on in my life or yours. 

That was a statement of Stephen’s faith. He saw Jesus standing!! On one level it was that and nothing more. We can make that same statement by faith in whatever circumstances we face. But we have to know that it is more than a statement of faith. 

For Stephen it was also a statement of fact. He saw heaven opened. Heaven was opened in anticipation of his arrival. But even more, it was open so that he could clearly see the response of Jesus to his injustice. He was standing. Jesus who said that after his crucifixion he would be seated at the right hand of God was standing!

He was standing as a witness to Stephens faithfulness and as his Advocate with the Father. But He was also standing as a swift witness against his adversaries.  He was standing with Stephen in his circumstances. he was standing ready to answer. He was standing ready to help. 

But Jesus was also standing because it was the end of Stephens life. Jesus was standing to welcome Stephen upon his entrance to heaven. Jesus promised His disciples in John14:3 “If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself that where I am, you may be also.” Jesus was standing in Stephen’s honor, in recognition of his service, and as sovereign over his circumstances.

Finally, Consider  Stephen’s Last Prayer.

But they cried out with a loud voice, and covered their ears and rushed at him with one impulse. When they had driven him out of the city, they began stoning him; and the witnesses laid aside their robes at the feet of a young man named Saul. They went on stoning Stephen as he called on the Lord Jesus and said, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit!” Then, falling on his knees, he cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them!” Having said this, he fell asleep. Acts 7:56-60

What do we see here in his final prayer? We see a man praying in trouble.  We hear a man praying in acceptance of his trouble.  We find a man knowing he is about to die in his trouble. He dies with his hope in Jesus.  He dies with the name of the Lord on his tongue. He sees Jesus in heaven, and he prays that Jesus might receive his spirit upon arrival in heaven. 

This man was confident. This man was courageous. This man was in communication with heaven from before the trouble began and through the time of his trouble. He knew a presence and a power that some men simply will not know come their time to die.

Stephen died calling on the name of the Lord, humbly asking for a reception in heaven. Stephen died praying for the forgiveness of those who sinned against God, by sinning against him. He embodied the spirit of his Savior in his trouble. He embodied the spirit of His Savior toward those who brought him trouble. He died with bitterness toward no one in his heart. 

Is that how you will die?  Will you die filled with the Holy Spirit? Will you die with your gaze fixed intently on heaven or on some set of earthly circumstances.? Will your vision be one of Jesus reigning victorious over all your problems even when he chooses not to remove them or remove you from them?  Will you die having forgiven every man remembering that Jesus has also forgiven you?

Finally, what is it that you and I need to see today? What do we need to see as we near the end of 2020, looking into an uncertain beginning of this third decade of the 21st century? We need to see Jesus Standing! We need to see Jesus Reigning! We need to know that Jesus is in Control! He is at the right hand of God, but He is also with me. I challenge you to join me in releasing your future to Him, trusting Him as did Stephen on this darkest day of his life!

Eight Words That Can Change Your Life

Amidst the swirling confusion surrounding the coronavirus and the mounting madness of cultural chaos, these eight words can mean the difference between mental stability and mental breakdown. They can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. These same eight words can save your marriage or hold the potential of bringing revival to your life and to your church.

I am about to share eight words that can change your life. Amidst the swirling confusion surrounding the coronavirus and the mounting madness of cultural chaos, these eight words can mean the difference between mental stability and mental breakdown. They can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. These same eight words can save your marriage or hold the potential of bringing revival to your life and to your church. What are those eight remarkable words? The come from the last verse of Psalm 46. Be still and know that I am God.

Recently, the Lord has led me to return to a book that I first read more than two decades ago. It was written by Austin Phelps. It was published in 1859. The title of the book is The Still Hour. Today, we would come nearer referring to “the still hour” as a quiet time—a time of personal devotion. When I think of a quiet time, I think of the person whose quiet time made an impression on me. We were staff members together in the 1980’s. Jeff had a deep commitment to a personal, private, daily meeting with God. For him, it was an appointment. Nothing interrupted it. Nothing was more important. From my observation of his life, nothing ever had a larger and more lasting impact that those moments he spent daily with God.

What is a quiet time? Very simply, it is an appointed time each day that you set aside to meet with God to seek guidance, direction, and refreshing from His presence. It is a time of Scripture reading and prayer. It should include both, but after that, a time of quiet waiting before the Lord—a time to be still and know that He is God.

These eight words urge you to plan a time into your day when you come aside from the business of everyday affairs, setting aside all other concerns, that you might turn your heart toward God seeking to benefit from time in His presence. Be still and know that I am God.

Those Words Serve as a Statement of Faith

The most extraordinary faith that God may ever require will be in the privacy of your own quiet time. That is where God calls you to simply be still, leaving all the problems and complexities of life to Him. The NASB translates this verse: Cease striving and know that I am God. God is saying, “Don’t do anything. Trust Me to do it for you! Don’t make plans. Pray! Don’t run. Rest in Me!” In your quiet time, you will grapple with your fears and your failures, with your sins and your sorrows, your desires and your destiny, learning to release it all, placing it in the Hands of God.

The very fact that you take the time to “be still” will be a statement of your enormous faith in God. You will be still for a portion of every day because you trust God to do for you what you can’t do for yourself. When the children of Israel stood between the waters of the Red Sea and the crush of Pharaoh’s chariots, there was nowhere to run. There was nowhere to hide. Yet, what was God’s command through Moses?  And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. Exodus 14:13

It takes great faith and great courage to stand still in the face of great danger, choosing instead to leave matters in the hands of God. It was to Jehoshaphat that God sent this word: You will not have to fight this battle. Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the Lord will give you, Judah and Jerusalem. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged. Go out to face them tomorrow, and the Lord will be with you.’” 2 Chronicles 20:17 In essence, God was saying to Jehoshaphat, “Be still and know that I am God.

These Words Require a Sense of Expectancy

If you take the time to be still, God will honor your appointment. He will not interrupt you in order to meet with you, but He will have no trouble scheduling you onto His calendar if you will schedule Him into your own. If you set aside a time to meet with God, you can expect Him to meet you there. If you bring your Bible, you can expect Him to speak to you from His Word. You can expect direction for your life. You can expect hope for your heartache. You can expect strength for your weakness.

Some years ago, I was the pastor of a young couple who owned their own business. The wife managed the books with great precision. She managed her house with the same precision. She managed affairs at the church with the same precision as well as those at the school where her children were involved. If you wanted something done well, give it to Sally, and she would accomplish it! Sally’s car was graced with a personalized tag. The letters read: “TOO BUSY”. It was a good busy—and she needed to be, because just a few years later her life was cut short by an unanticipated bout with cancer. BUSY LIVES end too. Most of us have no plan for the unexpected. That is why we never need to be too busy to pray, or too busy to read God’s Word, or too busy to spend time with God.

The frenzied hurry of life rushes you toward many uncertainties for which you are unprepared. You have only navigated the past. You have no idea what lies ahead. But God does! Every day, you must leave the rushing current of life’s frenzy, and be still before God. You must seek His guidance and his direction. In 1 Chronicles 16:11, David said, “Seek the Lord and his strength, seek His face continually!” 

If you will seek God, you must of necessity be still! In the wilderness, as Moses led the children of Israel through their daily wanderings, life was slow and unhurried. But even in the days when life was slower—when it was still measured by hours and not by nanoseconds, there was a need for stillness to seek direction from God. To those wandering Hebrew people, Moses spoke these words: “Stand still, and I will hear what the Lord will command concerning you.” Numbers 9:8. Every day that you are too busy to be still before God, will be a day that you will miss His direction for your life. Be still and know that I am God.

Those Words Call for Confident Faith

In the O.T. book of Ruth, Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, gave her a bit of critical guidance. An important matter concerning both their lives was pending. Naomi urged Ruth not to fret, but to leave the matter in the hands of her redeemer. 

Then she said, “Wait, my daughter, until you know how the matter turns out; for the man will not rest until he has settled it today.” Ruth 3:18

In the KJV the word Wait is translated sit still. Her advice to Ruth was to simply be still and know that the matter was in confident hands. Can you rest your concerns confidently into the hands of your Redeemer?

T.W. Hunt was a professor at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. He wrote a study called PrayerLife , The Mind of Christ, and also a book called The Doctrine of Prayer.

In the fall of 1974, Hunt’s family went through a financial crisis. They were unable to pay their daughter’s tuition at TCU, even in monthly installments. Although they prayed desperately, the situation only seemed to get worse. During that same time they had outstanding medical bills. Ultimately, they began getting second notices from the University. In spite of continued prayer, the load of debt became even heavier.

One weekend, their daughter came home from college. She seemed unusually distracted. Hunt’s wife probed her to discover the problem. She confessed that that she had been suffering with an awful toothache for weeks. with a head splitting toothache for three weeks. Knowing their financial condition, she was trying to bear the pain without causing them further expense. Dealing with a tooth required a visit to a specialist. That bill was also more than they could pay, and they had no dental insurance.

Hunt was broken, not so much over his financial condition, as he was over the strange delay in answer to their prayers. He searched his own heart for something in his life that might be holding back God’s answer.

His wife suggested that since he taught students that the Lord was their Friend, perhaps he should talk to his Friend Jesus about their problems. He took his wife up on that suggestion. He took two cups of bouillon to their prayer room and invited his friend. He talked to the Lord just as if they shared the room together. There he poured out the details of his problems.

At the end of November, he received a letter from his daughter’s university stating: “This is to inform you that a friend, who wishes to remain anonymous has paid your daughter’s tuition for this semester.” The other bills were all paid before Christmas. Hunt’s needs were met because he responded to these eight words that we have been talking about. Be still and know that I am God. They call for confident faith.

Finally, Those Words Require Absolute Surrender to God’s Authority.

Your burden may involve more than just your family. You may the leader of a large corporation. Who leads you? Have you considered that the God whose Word is life to your soul, is success to your business? If you will allow Him, if you will trust Him, if you will be still before Him, He will guide you as you guide your business. He will guide you through an unsettled economy and an unsettled culture. Will you give Him the opportunity to lead you?

Be still and know that I am God. Those eight words that can change your life. Those words can mean the difference between mental stability and mental breakdown. They can mean the difference between success and failure in your business. Those same words can save your marriage or hold the potential of bringing revival to your life and to your church.

So what do you need to do? You need to find a place. You need to set a time. Go there, and be still and know that He is God. Cease your striving.  Surrender your fears and your failures, your sins and your sorrows, your desires and your destiny, releasing it all to Him.

Amazing Grace

Is there anything in your life that you have been asking God to take away? Is it a problem to you? Does it hinder you spiritually? Is it a trial? Is it a temptation? Is it a weakness? Is it a worry? Is it a sorrow you can no longer carry or a sickness that can’t be healed?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  2 Corinthians 12:9

These are the words of Jesus. If you are a student of the New Testament, they seem almost out of place. Words of Jesus normally appear in the gospels, but here they appear in one of the letters of Paul. This was a personal promise Paul received from Jesus in a period of his life which was unexpectedly difficult and overwhelming. Paul found himself so overwhelmed, that three different times he asked for the difficulty to be removed. The Lord refused. Instead, He offered Paul His Grace. It is also what He offers to me in my difficulty and to you in yours. 

Jesus wasn’t telling Paul that his own strength was enough. It was not enough. He was not able. The problem was too big. The thorn was to deep. But what the Lord did say is that He would give Paul His Grace, and His Grace would be enough.

Grace enough. My Grace for you. Grace enough for every circumstance! Grace enough for every trial! Grace enough for every temptation! Grace enough to live! Grace enough to die! My Grace for you!

First, what is Grace?

It is God’s favor. It is undeserved. It can’t be earned. It can’t be bought. It is the fullness of God’s favor expressed most fully in Christ. It is such an important word that Paul could say, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.”   (Ephesians 2:8)

In Paul’s weakness, Jesus didn’t say, “Paul, try as hard as you can to endure, and when you have done all you can, My Grace will do the rest.” Jesus didn’t say, “Paul, work with Me here. You do part, and My Grace will do part.” He said, “Paul, you can’t. You are weak. But set against your weakness is My Grace, and My Grace alone is sufficient. My Grace alone is everything you need.”

When Christ offers us His Grace, He is not offering us a substance. He is not offering us His sympathy or compassion. He is offering us Himself and all that He is and all that He has. My Grace for you! Me and all that I am and  have for you! My presence, My power, My provision, My providence, My protection. My Grace for you! 

My Grace in your weakness. My Grace in your worry.  My Grace in your weariness. My Grace in your wandering. My Grace in your woe. My Grace for you in your present circumstances, whatever those circumstances may be!

14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace. For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:16-17)

That is what He offered Paul. That is what He offers me. That is what He offers you. My Grace for you!

Second, what is unique about Grace?

Paul noted that this was a personal promise from the Lord Jesus.  “He has said to me…” And in saying it, He was not saying His Grace would be barely enough. He said, “My Grace is sufficient.” How sufficient is Grace? 

When it comes to my sin, how sufficient is Grace? Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more! (Romans 5:20b) It is more than enough.  It is enough with Grace to spare. When Jesus Christ offers me His Grace, He offers me Himself. In the New Testament, He was never insufficient for any need. When there were five thousand to be fed, He took five loaves and two fishes and fed them with food left over. His Grace was sufficient.  He was never at a loss to meet a need whether it was  a man in bondage to a legion of demons, or the need of a man wrapped for four days in the windings of death inside a dark tomb. He could have stood outside the tomb of Lazarus, and said the same thing to him in his deadness that he said to Paul in his weakness. “My Grace is sufficient for you!”

His Grace is sufficient for salvation! It is sufficient in temptation! It is sufficient for sanctification! It is sufficient right now amidst any situation you face in your life!

Third, who can be a recipient of this Grace?

This was a personal promise to Paul. But it is also a personal promise to you. My Grace for you in your particular circumstances. My Grace for your bondage, for your deadness, for your depravity, for your darkness, however dark it may be. Can you sin past the point of forgiveness? My Grace for you sinner, regardless of how sinful you may be!

Paul talked to God about this thing, this thorn, this problem that overwhelmed him, that overcame him, that was too much for him personally. It was a problem for him spiritually. He asked God to take it away. Is there anything in your life that you have been asking God to take away? Is it a problem to you? Does it hinder you spiritually? Is it a trial? Is it a temptation? Is it a weakness? Is it a worry? Is it a sorrow you can no longer carry or a sickness that can’t be healed?

Three times Paul asked God to take that thorn away. And HE didn’t. HE wouldn’t! Instead, He offered Paul something to go along with his thorn. He has said to me, “My Grace is sufficient for you!” Sufficient for the thorn. Sufficient for the trouble. Sufficient for the tragedy. Sufficient for the trial. Sufficient for whatever it is in your life that overcomes you and overwhelms you!

Fourth, where should I expect to experience this Grace?

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

What is the weakness that Paul was facing? We don’t really know. But whatever it was, against that weakness, in the face of that weakness, the Lord Jesus offered Paul His Grace. He was not offering Paul His sympathy. He was not offering Paul His compassion. He was offering Paul Himself!

Power is perfected in weakness! What does that mean? It means there is no better place to experience Christ, no better place to know His presence, His strength, His deliverance than in weakness. Paul said, “Most gladly, therefore I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.”  (2 Corinthians 12:9b)

Christ in my weakness. Christ in my worry. Christ in my weariness. Christ in my wandering. Christ in my woe. Christ in my trial. Christ in my tragedy. Christ in my temptation. When Jesus Christ offers me His Grace, He offers me Himself, His strength, His presence, His power, His protection, His provision. My Grace for you! Where? In your weakness—whatever it is.

Finally, when can I expect to experience that Grace?

There is one word in this verse that I want you to see. That one word may come to mean more to you than all the rest of the words in this verse. And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you… (2 Corinthians 12:9a)

This is a promise. It was a promise made to Paul. But it is also a promise made to you. In the original Greek, the first part of this verse is written in he perfect tense. Written in the perfect tense, it comes with a sense of finality and absolute authority. It is unquestionably true. My Grace is sufficient!

But we still have not answered the question of when. When will I know this grace? When can I know this grace? How long will I have to bear under the weight of my trial? How long will I have to struggle against my temptation? How long will I have to face my weakness before I know that Grace? When will I know it? When can I claim it?

The promise was made in the past as Paul reflects upon it. However, the promise itself is written in an abiding present. Jesus didn’t say, “My grace will be sufficient.”Paul didn’t say, “His grace has been sufficient.” Paul wrote the words exactly as Jesus said them because the truth remains. “My Grace IS sufficient!”

That little word “IS” should mean all the world to you, because it means right now! Whatever your circumstances. Whatever your weakness. Whatever your worry. Whatever your weariness. Whatever your sorrow. Whatever your struggle. Whatever your suffering. The promise of the Lord Jesus is: My Grace for you!

“My Grace is sufficient. My Grace is power perfected in weakness.” When Christ offers you His grace, He doesn’t offer you His sympathy or His compassion. He offers you Himself. To know the Grace of Christ, is to know the power of Christ dwelling in you. When can you know that? When can you experience that Grace all sufficient? Right now! My Grace for you IS! His Grace is sufficient for anything you might be facing in your life!

His grace IS right now! Right now Christ offers you Himself, His  presence, His power, His protection, His provision. Do you need His help? Do you need His strength? Do you need the deliverance that only He can give?

What must you do? Let me take you to one more verse of Scripture that may drive home the point to your heart. And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe thatHe is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (Hebrews 11:6)

HE IS! HIS Grace IS! His Power IS perfected in weakness! If you seek Him in your weakness, you can experience the power of Christ dwelling in you right now! When Jesus offers you His grace, He offers you Himself! It is my sincere prayer that the Lord will reveal Himself and His Grace to you in your personal journey!

Between the Little Whiles

Are you facing some uncertainty, some suffering, some sorrow? In the space between the little whiles, we don’t know what God is doing. But it is good to know God is doing something. He says so in His word.

Some of you are passing through difficult circumstances. Your night of difficulty is long. You, like me, know the Lord Jesus. You are a believer. But you are in one of those “in between” moments of life. You are in between the Lord’s promise, and the realization of His promise. You are in between crying out to God for deliverance, and waiting for that deliverance to come. You are in between the dark night of trial, and the glorious morning of being on the other side of that trial, where you can see how God worked all things together for good.

Some years ago, I grappled with a set of verses that left me wondering what they might mean. As a matter of fact, as I read them, I realized that even the Lord’s own disciples were having hard time understanding what He meant. He was talking to them about some “in between” moments in their lives.

16 “A little while, and you will no longer see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me.” 17 Some of His disciples then said to one another, “What is this thing He is telling us, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me; and again a little while, and you will see Me’; and, ‘because I go to the Father’?” 18 So they were saying, “What is this that He says, ‘A little while’? We do not know what He is talking about.” 19 Jesus knew that they wished to question Him, and He said to them, “Are you deliberating together about this, that I said, ‘A little while, and you will not see Me, and again a little while, and you will see Me’? 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world.22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John 16:16-22

Seven times in four verses, we meet this phrase a little while. There are two distinct little whiles in this conversation between Jesus and His disciples. There is the little while before His departure, (that is between that moment and the cross) and there is the little while between His departure and His resurrection. He speaks of what will happen to them in between the little whiles and at the end of the little while.

The disciples were clearly confused by the little whiles and just what Jesus might be saying. But what was He saying, and is He still saying it to us? Is He telling us what to expect and how to live between the little whiles?

I will let you draw your own conclusion. But the matter peaked my interest some years ago. So I began to investigate. Here are the questions I asked as I began my investigation.

  •  How Long is a Little While?

I don’t think there is an answer to that, but on the other hand, we have several illustrations of periods the Bible refers to as a little while.

First, Jesus own life on the earth was referred to as a little while.

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9

In light of eternity, the thirty-three-year life-span of Jesus, was just a little while. In fact, so is your life and mine.

Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. James 4:14

Of course, your age will determine how you relate to that verse. If you are a younger person, say in your teens to your thirties, you can’t see how life could be short. You have so much ahead of you. Yet, if you are older, you know how fast time passes, and how it seems to go by faster and faster. So you understand how an entire lifetime could be characterized as just a little while.

You might like to know that in each case the Greek word is the word from which we get our word Microscopic. It means very small. And yet, a little while, from the perspective of heaven, can cover many generations.

For yet in a very little while, He who is coming will come, and will not delay. Hebrews 10:37

How long has it been since those words were written? Well, in light of the verse itself, just a little while. But chronologically, it has been almost 2000 years. I share these things to show you how impossible it is to put a time on a little while. So what was Jesus trying to tell his disciples? He was preparing them for what was going to happen between the little whiles.

  • What Happens Between the Little Whiles?

He compared what happens between the little whiles to what happens to a woman in labor. There is pain between the little whiles. There is sorrow between the little whiles. There is weeping between the little whiles. Life happens between the little whiles.

For someone passing through one of these little whiles of sorrow or suffering, it can seem overwhelming. …even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials… 1 Peter 1:6

You might find yourself in the little while of suffering or sorrow. How long will it last? There is no way to know. God governs the days and hours between the little whiles. God has a purpose in these little whiles. That is what Jesus was telling his disciples. Life between the little whiles was going to be difficult. But God was working His purpose.

After you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace, who called you to His eternal glory in Christ Jesus, will Himself perfect, confirm, strengthen and establish you. 1 Peter 5:10

The suffering, sorrow, pain, and weeping of the little while, falls under God’s sovereignty. Jesus was alerting His disciples to these things, that they might not lose faith between the little whiles.

  •  How Should I Live Between the Little Whiles?

In the Old Testament, we are told of the time the nation of Israel experienced a three and a half year drought. From the perspective of the people who endured it, it was agonizing. All through that little while, Elijah lived under the protection of God, who engaged the ravens to feed him until the brook ran dry, and then chose to provide for him at the home of a destitute widow. The widow was destitute because there was a famine in the land during the little while. Eventually, Elijah emerges from his God imposed hiding place and finds himself atop Mt. Carmel praying for rain.

But Elijah went up to the top of Carmel; and he crouched down on the earth and put his face between his knees. 43 He said to his servant, “Go up now, look toward the sea.” So he went up and looked and said, “There is nothing.” And he said, “Go back” seven times. 44 It came about at the seventh time, that he said, “Behold, a cloud as small as a man’s hand is coming up from the sea.” And he said, “Go up, say to Ahab, ‘Prepare your chariot and go down, so that the heavy shower does not stop you.’” 45 In a little while the sky grew black with clouds and wind, and there was a heavy shower.  1 Kings 18: 42b-45a

I refer to this passage because I want you to see that Elijah endured the little while on Mt. Carmel the same way he endured the years of famine. He exhibited an absolute dependence upon God during that little while of waiting for answer to prayer. Between the little whiles, we wait in patient faith in God, who is sovereign over the little whiles.

In Isaiah, God’s people are in crisis. It is a crisis that Isaiah compares to the crisis of a woman in labor who can’t bring her child to birth. Listen to Isaiah describe it, and then listen as God instructs His people how to endure the little while.

16 O Lord, they sought You in distress; They could only whisper a prayer, Your chastening was upon them. 17 As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains, Thus were we before You, O Lord…. 20 Come, my people, enter into your rooms And close your doors behind you; Hide for a little while Until indignation runs its course. Isaiah 26:16-17; 20

Here again, we see God calling for patient faith in the life of His people during the difficult days of the little while. Do you find yourself between the little whiles? Are you facing some uncertainty, some suffering, some sorrow? In the space between the little whiles, we don’t know what God is doing. But it is good to know God is doing something. He says so in His word. God showed me, just this week, how He was working during the little while of this COVID-19 crisis. Do you also need to see how God is at work during your little while?

Did you know that even the saints in heaven endure the little whiles?

10 And they cried out with a loud voice, saying, “How long, O Lord, holy and true, will You refrain from judging and avenging our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11 And there was given to each of them a white robe; and they were told that they should rest for a little while longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brethren who were to be killed even as they had been, would be completed also. Revelation 6:10-11

How do the saints in heaven endure the little while? They rest themselves in God’s sovereignty. How long is the little while? Only God knows. God governs the days and hours in the little while. The little whiles serve His purposes in ways known only to Him.

  •  Finally, What Can We Expect on the Other Side of the Little Whiles?

…you will grieve, but your grief will be turned into joy.21 Whenever a woman is in labor she has pain, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she no longer remembers the anguish because of the joy that a child has been born into the world. 22 Therefore you too have grief now; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one will take your joy away from you. John 16:20-22a

What can you expect on the other side of the little while?  There is a joy there—a joy that only be fully appreciated by those who have endured the little while. In the midst of the little while, those of us who keep our trust in God are…  protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 1 Peter 1:5-7

What is on the other side of the little while? A tested and approved faith, having passed through the fiery testing of the little while, and found to result in praise and honor and glory at the coming of Jesus. God has something for you on the other side of your little while. There is always something on the other side of the little while!

Life should not be measured by the little while of suffering. We look beyond the present life, which is, at its best, a vapor, only a little while. And instead we look to things eternal, although we see them only through the eyes of faith.

Between the little whiles we live by faith and not by sight. We rest in the knowledge of God’s unseen presence and in the comfort of His love. Meanwhile, God is sovereign over the little whiles, working His purpose for our good and His glory. God will bring an end to this present crisis. He will do it in His own time and in His own way. For this little while, let’s keep encouraging one another to put our trust in Him.

Photo by Johannes Plenio from Pexels

A Defender in Difficulty

Do you stand in need of a fortress? Are you in danger? Are you vulnerable? Are you in that high risk group in danger from COVID-19? If you are one of the defenseless and vulnerable, how would you go about entering the fortress of God’s Presence?

O my Strength, I will watch for you, for you, O God, are my fortress.  My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 59:9-10 ESV

While looking through some old files, I found a few notes from my personal Bible study. Notes are precious to me. They take me back to moments when God spoke to me. These notes took me back to a time in 2009 when God spoke these words to my heart, showing me three very simple truths from His word.

I would like to share these truths with you and the verses that inspired them. When God speaks to me, He does so in very simple ways. After all, we are very simple people. We are like children. God gives us the basics. Then we take those basics to our everyday life. It is there He helps us live them out in the midst of our circumstances.

You would think that the older we get, that we would be so much wiser, and the deep things of God would enrich us. And yet, I find that the older I get it is the simple, basic, truths that tend to get lost in the forest of some difficulty. I will give you an example out of my practical experience. 

In 2016, after I had a knee replacement, I was having trouble walking. We had two grandchildren, six and seven, living with us at the time. They took care of me with a tenderness that touched my heart. But I was having trouble making the artificial knee work right. I was going to trained therapists who were trying to help me as well as my surgeon.

But then, one day, while holding my little seven-year-old granddaughter’s hand, she looked up at me and said, “Beep” (they all call me Beep) she said, “Beep, you have to pick your leg up like this.” And she showed me. It was the simplest little thing. But it was the thing only she had observed that I was not doing. It was basic. It didn’t take a rocket scientist or a surgeon to understand it. My seven-year-old granddaughter helped me walk again.

Let me help you walk through your time of personal difficulty by offering some precious truths a seven-year-old could share. These truths aren’t profound, but they may help you walk through whatever valley, whatever darkness, whatever forest difficulty you might be facing. You too can trust God to be your defender in difficulty.

First, To Know God as Strength, You Must Stand in a Position of Weakness.

Is that so hard to understand? No. You understand it perfectly. What kind of weakness has invaded your life? To you, the weakness has hindered you. It is holding you back. Yet, have you considered the weakness itself as an opportunity to experience God as your strength? Listen to what Paul said in 2 Corinthians 12:9

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 

His power is made perfect in your weakness. His strength is perfect when our strength is gone. We have to get where we don’t know how to walk, before we will let a little seven-year-old girl teach us to walk. We also have to be weak before we are ready to depend on God’s strength.

How then can I access God’s strength?

First, acknowledge your weakness. Is it a physical weakness? Acknowledge that weakness to God. He is not surprised by it, though you might be. Is it a spiritual weakness? Do you not suppose that He also knows that weakness? The promise is the same regardless of the weakness. Simply acknowledge your need.

Second, ask God for strength. Did He not promise to have the supply which you were need? In Isaiah 40:29 God promised: He gives power to the faint,and to him who has no might he increases strength. He gives power to the faint.Are you just about to faint? Are you ready to give in and give up? God waits for you to realize your weakness and to ask for His strength.

Third, once you ask, anticipate the provision of God’s strength. Remember His promise that: they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;they shall mount up with wings like eagles;they shall run and not be weary; Isaiah 40:31

What God promises, He gives. Would you know His strength? Acknowledge your need. Request His strength. In faith, receive it.

By the way, God’s answer to prayer rarely comes with feeling. It comes by experience, as we walk in faith. David didn’t know God’s strength to face Goliath until He made the journey. Likewise, God’s strength is experienced in your weakness as you continue to walk by faith. When you receive it, against whatever enemy that comes against you, it will be obvious that the victory belonged to God and not you.

The fourth thing I would tell you is to personalize the promise. The words of David must become your words. “O MY strength I will watch for You.”

David also said: for You, O God, are my fortress.

2. To Know God as Your Fortress, You Must Stand Defenseless and Vulnerable.

Only those facing trouble and danger need a fortress. A fortress is not a place from which to fight. It is a place to hide. David also called God his hiding place.

Do you have a hiding place? The other night when our phones rang out a tornado warning, my wife and I went to our hiding place. We closed ourselves in, defenseless and helpless against whatever was coming.

Do you stand in need of a fortress? Are you in danger? Are you vulnerable? Are you in that high risk group in danger from COVID-19? If you are one of the defenseless and vulnerable, how would you go about entering the fortress of God’s Presence?

First, Surrender. Just as I was preparing this, I received a message from one of our members whose granddaughter was being taken to the hospital desperately sick. I know how he feels. He is helpless. Right at this very moment, his family needs God to be their fortress—their hiding place.

What can you do? Nothing! Surrender the battle to the Lord. 

Second, take up the position of prayer. You have heard it said that a man is never taller or stronger than when he is on his knees. But while you are there, let me encourage you to spend less time telling God about the size of your problem, and spend more time considering the greatness and majesty of the God you serve. He is a God who sees. He sees you in your hiding place. He sees you in your need. He sees your little granddaughter whether she is holding your hand or whether a doctor is holding hers. You are helpless. You are weak, but He is strong. Didn’t you sing that as a child. Then practice that on your knees.

Third, while you are there rest and trust. I know the panic of a distressed heart, distraught over weakness and helplessness. Not able to do what needs to be done in your own life or in the life of someone you love. Just today, I read another verse that means much to me. Let it speak to you as you ponder how to respond to your circumstances.  For thus said the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel,“In repentance and rest you will be saved;in quietness and trust is your strength.” Isaiah 30:15

As you lay out the situation before the Lord, whatever it is, allow Him to carry it. Don’t try to carry it on your own. You’re not able to fight this battle. Surrender it to the Lord. Take up the position of prayer. Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him.

Fourth, personalize the promise. Speak it out to God. You are my fortress. You ae my hiding place in times of trouble and uncertainty.

To know God as strength, you must stand in a position of weakness. To know God as your fortress, you must stand defenseless and vulnerable.

Third, In Order to Experience God as Love, You Must Stand Personally in Need of His Mercy.

David said:My God in his steadfast love will meet me; God will let me look in triumph on my enemies. Psalm 59:10

Let me caution you. When you come to God for help, helpless as you are, in your utter and absolute weakness, the enemy will tell you that you have no basis on which to approach Him. You are too sinful. You are not good enough.

In one way, your enemy is right. You are not good enough. But we never come to God on the basis of our goodness. We come to God on the basis of His steadfast love. We come as those in need of Mercy. 

The Bible tells me that God’s mercy is new every morning. It is not like some limited stimulus a government might give. It is not like some human affection that depends on who I am and what I look like in another’s eyes. God’s love is steadfast and unchanging.

So what should I do? First, affirm it, just as you did as a little child. Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so. Little ones to Him belong. They are weak, but He is strong! Have you lost sight of God’s love in the forest of some difficulty? God is still your strength in time of weakness. He is your shelter in times of storm. He is your forgiveness in times of failure.

To know God as strength, you must stand in a position of weakness. To know God as your fortress, you must stand defenseless and vulnerable.To experience God as love, you must stand personally in need of His mercy.

There is a song I dearly love because it speaks of God’s greatness and my great need. It is called Made Me Glad. The chorus says this: You are my Shield, my Strength, my Portion, Deliverer, my Shelter, Strong-tower, my Very Present Help in time of need.

May He be all of that and more to you today! May it be your delight to depend on Him! May He shelter you in His fortress and comfort you with His love! May He be your Defender in Difficulty!

Photo by Gustavo Fring@pexels.com

The Vaccine for Fear

In the face of this present crisis, you may be thinking, “My resources are not enough.” Looking at your health situation, you tremble, worried that your strength is not sufficient to withstand such an illness. You are not sure if you will be able to cope with the trials the crisis brings.

The world is looking for a vaccine for the coronavirus. Until one is found, nations, economies, and the lives of individuals, grind to a halt. While there is not at present a cure or a vaccine for the coronavirus, there is a vaccine for the fear that spreads in its wake. Even if you are not in one of those “at risk” groups, you suffer fear related to the economy or some other calamity waiting in the wings.

Fear usually results more from what we don’t know than what we do know. Fear can freeze your faith. It can stop you dead in your tracks, hindering your obedience. It can keep you awake at night as you toss and turn, imagining the worst. Fear can cast the shadow of gloom over your life.Is there an answer—a solution to fear. Is there a medicine that you can take that will soothe your troubled mind? 

The answer to fear is not in a pill or a potion but in a Presence.

Allow me to introduce you to a single verse from the book of Isaiah. Personally, I don’t believe it is accidental or incidental when we encounter a word from the Lord. For that reason, I hope you will be alert to what God might be saying to you. In this single verse, you will discover God’s Promise, His Peace, His Power and His Presence.

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

In this present crisis, we need to look for God. We need to seek Him. Our one great longing should be to be in His presence. He is the answer to this present crisis that exists in our world as well as the crisis bells that ring inside our hearts. I believe being in God’s presence is the safest place that I can be, the richest place that I can be, as well as the happiest place that I can be. If I am with Him, I have all I need. Our greatest need is Him. We need His presence. 

In this verse, we have the Promise of His Presence.

Do not fear, for I am with you… Isn’t it strange how the presence of another person in the house at night diminishes fear? Alone, we imagine any creak of the house or rumble of the refrigerator as an intruder. But with someone in the house with us, those sounds don’t seem to bother us or unsettle us. The awareness of God’s Presence brings an end to fear. 

But have you ever wondered: “Is God really with me?  Does He care?  Does He know what I face?” God promises never to leave us or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) By faith, we accept the simple promise of God’s Presence, and in so doing we find great comfort.

Is that not what the Lord says to you as you look down the road that you travel?  “I am with you. I will go with you.” When Moses responded in fear at the assignment that God gave him, God assured by saying, “My Presence shall go with you and I will give you rest.” (Exodus 33:14)

But this is not just an Old Testament promise. In Matthew 28:20 it is recorded as the last promise of Jesus to His disciples: “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

His Presence Brings Peace

In Isaiah 41:10 God whispers: Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. God knows the road ahead of you. Any journey you take at His command, will be a journey overshadowed by His Presence. Any step you take in Obedience to Him, will only serve to bring you nearer His Presence and deeper into His Peace and Rest. 

Our troubled minds grope for peace, finding only misery until they rest in Him. Claim the promise of His Presence, and you will know His Peace. The peace of God which passes all understanding will guard your hearts and minds. He will surround you with His peace.

David, who himself knew what it was to experience His comforting presence wrote, “He will cover you with His pinions and under His wings you may seek refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and a bulwark. (Psalm 91:4)

We have the promise of His Presence. The awareness of His Presence brings a sense of peace.

Third, When You Have His Presence You Also Have His Power.

In the face of this present crisis, you may be thinking, “My resources are not enough.” Looking at your health situation, you tremble, worried that your strength is not sufficient to withstand such an illness. You are not sure if you will be able to cope with the trials the crisis brings. Is God able? Is this God of the Bible able to see you through the darkest night or carry you through the deepest valley?What is it that God offers you in the face of your fears and in the face of your need? He offers you Himself!

I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.

Whose hand is it that promises your deliverance? Who will cover you with His pinions, and whose very Presence is a shield and a bulwark? It is God Himself! When God is with you, you have access to His Power. You have the assurance of His Peace, and you have the great Promise of His Presence.

What is the vaccine for fear? It is God Himself.

Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God.  I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.  (Isaiah 41:10)

When God says “fear not” He always gives a reason to back up why we shouldn’t be afraid? “Don’t be afraid because I am with you!” Is that the assurance God is giving you? 

You are worried to the point of exhaustion. The news changes faster than you can change the channels to watch it. What is going to happen? What will we do? Those are all hand wringing, gut wrenching questions. You’ve worn holes in your sheets as you toss back and forth trying to figure out how.  But the answer will not be found in asking how but in asking WHO. Amidst your alarm, God whispers, “Do not look anxiously about you, for I am your God.” God promises supernatural activity in your behalf. “I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

For those who are a little older or whose health situation makes them a higher risk as we pass through the eye of this storm, I offer this extra word of comfort from the book of Isaiah. I cling to this verse personally. 

“Listen to Me, O house of Jacob, and all the remnant of the house of Israel, you who have been borne by Me from birth and have been carried from the womb;Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you!” (Isaiah 46:3-4)

The vaccine for fear is God Himself. You may access this vaccine by faith, asking God to help you, to hold you, and to carry you. I am praying that you will trust God’s Promise, experience His Presence, and discover His Peace.

Photo by Piron Guillaume

Crumbs of Mercy

What need exists that troubles your home and troubles your heart? Are you in need of a few morsels, a few crumbs of mercy from God’s table to deal with some need in your life?

There is a story in the New Testament of a woman who was unfit for God. If that sounds shocking or surprising to you in any way, then you should read further, because her story is your story and my story. In the gospel of Matthew, she is referred to as a Canaanite woman who came to Jesus in search of mercy for her little girl, who she described as cruelly demon possessed. In the story, it appears Jesus abruptly told her she didn’t qualify for mercy since she didn’t come from the right people. Then He said something that seems cold and cruel from our perspective. He said, “It is not good to take the children’s bread and give it to the dogs.” In just a few moments of conversation, Jesus spoke to a desperate woman, telling her she was unfit for God. If it troubles you that Jesus would say that about a woman in her position, then you need to hear the rest of the story because it has a wonderful ending.

This woman was a person who was distant from God. I’m convinced that Jesus’ approach was very tender, in spite of how it seemed to her in the beginning, or how it might seem to us as we read the story. Jesus is moving her to consider her standing before God. The Jews considered all Gentiles as dogs. It was a cruel term and a failure to understand the heart of the God they worshipped. There is no distinction among peoples or races. We are all equal before God. No person or people group is less important than another. 

However, in the presence of God, against His holiness, His greatness, and His glory, I am no more than a dog. That is to say, I am unfit for God. I don’t qualify for God’s help. I am undeserving and unworthy. That is why this story is not only the story of a troubled woman, it is your story and mine. She was unfit for God. She was distant from Him spiritually. She didn’t know the true God. She was a worshipper of false gods.

One of the great truths the Bible teaches us is that all of us, in spite of race, economic status, or religious standing are unfit for God. You were distant from him from the day you were born. That distance is evidenced by the thoughts and intents of your heart that are only evil continually. According to Jesus, it is what comes out of a person’s heart that pollutes them and renders them unfit for God.

This woman was unfit for God. She was unfit for God’s fellowship. She was unfit for heaven. As she sought help from Jesus, she was asking Jesus for something she didn’t deserve. Likewise, God owes us nothing. All of us are unfit for God.

She was at a point of desperation in her life. As Mark tells the story, he writes, But after hearing of Him, a woman whose little daughter had an unclean spirit immediately came and fell at His feet. Mark 7:25

Here was a woman who was unfit for God, and now, her little daughter had an unclean spirit that defiled her. She was distant from God, and now that distance from God was showing up in the life of her little girl. 

Emotionally and spiritually exhausted, she fell down desperate at the feet of Jesus. I’ve carried a limp and lifeless daughter in my arms into the Emergency Room. I know what it is to stand in the hospital with a child so sick I didn’t know whether she would live or die. So I feel her pain, even as I read this story. Some of you do as well. You know what it is for your child to have a demon; for the devil to get a hold of your precious boy or girl, and you would do anything to see them set free.

That is this mother. Are you desperate? Have you run out of options? Is there some need in your life that has reached critical mass? You want to talk to the Lord about it. You want to bring it to Jesus. But then you look at your own life, and you say, “But I’m like that woman. I am guilty of sin. I am distant from God. I am unclean. I am unfit for God.”  You see, this is your story, and it is mine!

She made a decision to make a move toward God. This woman had trouble in her home. When you have trouble in your home, I know by experience, you also have trouble in your heart. 

God created us all with a conscience. Your conscience tells you if you are right with God or guilty of sin. You may never listen to the voice of your conscience. You might shut it out and not even care until your child is sick or in trouble. The first thing your conscience does is to condemn you as guilty. It blames you for the problem or you blame yourself. As you stand in the middle of difficulty in your home and in your heart, you begin to feel an overwhelming need for God. You may have lived distant from Him all your life, denying His existence and running from His influence. 

This is your story. This is you. This is a picture of your life. This is a picture of your need. This is a picture of what you must do. You need to come to Jesus in your need and as you are. Your only help and only hope is at His feet.

What was that woman thinking that day in the moments before she ran to Jesus? Was she thinking, “I haven’t been living for the Lord. I can’t pray. I can’t ask God to help me. I’m not worthy. I’ve been living distant from God. I’m unclean. I’m unworthy. I’m unfit for God!”

If those were her thoughts, then certainly the Lord’s initial response reinforced them.  In the gospel of Matthew, we are told that initially, Jesus didn’t respond. The disciples were urging Him to send her away, considering her unworthy for His attention. When Jesus finally answered, He said, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

Have you ever applied for some kind of special assistance and been told you didn’t qualify or that your child didn’t qualify or that you were the wrong kind of people or worse that you were a dog? Were you made to feel unclean, unworthy and unfit?

She might have just stomped her feet and walked away in anger. But she didn’t. She fell at His. She risked making this move toward God by coming to Jesus. She heard about Him. She thought: “He can help my little girl.”

In Mark, we see Jesus’ response to her request: “And He was saying to her, “Let the children be satisfied first, for it is not good to take the children’s bread and throw it to the dogs.”  Mark 7:27

Two things here. First, Jesus is taking this woman through the process of evaluating her own relationship with God. Was she deserving of God’s help? No. Are you deserving of God’s help? No. You prove it over and over. Your thoughts that rise up out of your heart betray you as being just as unclean and unworthy and unfit as this woman here.

But second, Jesus did this a little more tenderly than it appears. The word He used was not for some mangy street dog, but for the puppy that might sit at your feet as you eat at your table. 

He was painting the same picture that I have painted for you, but He did it in a tender way. Here was a woman who came to Him for help. She made a decision to make a move toward God—even though she was unclean, unworthy, unfit for God. She did so because she was desperate.

Are you ready to make such a step toward God today? Is there some need in your life that presses you to fall at the feet of Jesus and plead with Him for help that only He can give?

What was it that she wanted? What was it that she needed? Matthew tells us that when she initially approached Jesus, she came crying out,“Have mercy on me, Lord, Son of David; my daughter is cruelly demon-possessed.” Matthew 15:2

When Jesus told her that dogs didn’t eat bread from the children’s table, she replied: “Yes, Lord, but even the dogs under the table feed on the children’s crumbs.” Mark 7:28

There is the deep desire of her heart! She wanted crumbs—crumbs of mercy. Whatever He could spare! Whatever He could give.! Whatever drop of mercy He could provide, she believed it would help her little girl. Like that other woman who had the issue of blood who said, “If I could just touch the hem of His garment, I could be healed,” this woman wanted just a few crumbs—a few drops of His mercy.

She was saying, “Lord, I know I’m unworthy. I know I am unclean. I know I don’t deserve anything from you. I know I am unfit. I know who I am. But I also know who You are. All I am asking for you is for a few crumbs of mercy!”

Would that do for you today? Would you settle for a crumb of mercy that fell from the table of Heaven? I believe most of us would. I believe most of us would say, “Lord, I don’t deserve anything from You, but I beg you for mercy.” Maybe it’s not for you. Maybe you too have a son or a daughter or a spouse who you believe could be delivered with just a few crumbs of His mercy.

So how do you get that process started? Do what she did. Make a decision to move toward God. Place yourself by faith at the feet of Jesus. Tell Him that He’s right about you. Tell Him you know who you are, but you also know Who He is. Believe that He is willing and able to help you!

Did Jesus give her the deep desire of her heart? He said to her, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”  Mark 7:29

What was so special about her answer. First, it revealed that she understood her own spiritual condition before God. She was distant. She was unworthy. She was unfit. It revealed that she understood her own need for God. She proved that by coming to Jesus. Second, it revealed what she believed about Jesus. She believed He could meet the need in her life as no one else could. Third, in placing herself at His feet, she was coming in surrender, not based on her own worth, but simply on her need for mercy. And fourth, in coming to Jesus for help and hope she was placing her faith in His person and in His power.

So Jesus said, “Because of this answer go; the demon has gone out of your daughter.”  Mark 7:29 It’s done. It’s over. I’ve done it. I answered your prayer. I met your need. Instantly. Miraculously. Just what you asked for because of your answer. The demon is gone.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could exercise the faith of this woman. She knew who she was and what she was. She didn’t come to Jesus based on her worth. She came as she was, and in her need, looking for just a crumb of mercy. And when she went home, look what she found.

And going back to her home,  she found the child lying on the bed, the demon having left.   Mark 7:30

Imagine the joy in that mother’s heart when she went home and found her little girl no longer tormented by that demon. Her little girl delivered. Her little girl whole.

What need exists that troubles your home and troubles your heart. Do you need to put yourself and that need at the feet of Jesus? Do you have a need like that? Are you in need of a few morsels, a few crumbs of mercy from God’s table to deal with some need in your life? Are any of us worthy? No. But all of us are needy!

How desperate are you for the Lord’s blessing? Are you desperate enough to come to Jesus? This woman was so desperate that she came publicly. Her need was so great that she clamored for just a crumb of His blessing. How about you? Are you willing to identify yourself as the person whose need and faith moves you to come to Jesus? All of us are unworthy. Jesus wants all of us to know that. He also wants us to realize that all of us are needy! Ultimately, He wants us to know that He is the One who can meet the deepest need of every heart!

Photo by Monika Grabkowska

The Common Threads of Knitted Souls

Now it came about when he had finished speaking to Saul, that the soul of Jonathan was knit to the soul of David, and Jonathan loved him as himself. Saul took him that day and did not let him return to his father’s house. Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. 1 Samuel 18:1-4

These verses come on the heels of David’s defeat of Goliath. Jonathan, much older than David, watched a boy become a champion for God. That day, something happened in Jonathan’s spirit. But it was not just a one way street—Jonathan admiring David. David shared the same feelings toward Jonathan. There was a spiritual connection between them. Two souls were knit together that day. A bond of friendship and fellowship formed between them such as exists only between brothers in the Lord. 

There was a whole army of men present that day, including three of David’s own brothers. However, being a member of that army didn’t forge the kind of unity that existed between David and Jonathan. Nor does simply being a member of the church mean that your soul will be knitted together in such a unity that existed between these two brothers in the Lord. 

David didn’t have such a relationship with his blood brothers. Jonathan didn’t share such a relationship with his father—although they were often partners in battle. The story of this relationship between David and Jonathan reveals the common threads shared by these two knitted souls. These same threads form a bond of unity share between true followers of the Lord Jesus Christ.

In describing this relationship, David called it a covenant of the Lord between himself and Jonathan. 1 Samuel 20:8a

The first thread that served to knit these two souls was this Common Covenant.

This was more than just a relationship between two friends. It was a relationship between brothers in the Lord. In a way, it is a relationship that mirrors Christ’s own relationship with the church—and therefore ought to mirror our relationships with one another.  

There are many people who are members of the church. Some don’t attend, but they are still members. Some  don’t give, but they are still members. Some don’t serve, but they are still members. Some don’t worship, but they are still members. But members of this kind are like the cowards in Saul’s army, who shared no camaraderie  with David and Jonathan. True members of God’s church have made a covenant of the Lord. They are bound together by cords that can’t be broken.

What do true brothers in the Lord have in common? We will find those characteristics in the fellowship of these two knitted souls.

The second thread that served to knit these two souls was a Common Cause.

Jonathan was himself a breed apart. More than once he risked his life for God’s honor and glory. And that day, as David came walking across that battlefield wagging that giant’s head, Jonathan realized that here was a lad whose heart beat in tune with his heart.

They shared the same vision, the same passion, and the same purpose. That vision and passion and purpose was to know God, serve God, honor God and bring Him glory. Jonathan recognized David as a man after God’s own heart. The passion of David’s heart fanned the flame of that same passion in Jonathan’s heart. The Bible says that as iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend. Proverbs 27:17 

This was the relationship that existed between these two men. They each inspired the other to be better men. It all began with the thread of a common cause. That’s what brought them together. A church that gathers around the common cause of knowing God, worshipping God and bringing Him glory will be a congregation of knitted souls. A contagious unity will flow from that fellowship drawing others who long to serve God and bring Him glory. The bond of true unity in the church is held by the common threads of souls knitted together in a common covenant with the Lord and who share a common cause.

The third thread that served to knit these two souls was a Common Courage.

Prior to the time David fought Goliath, Jonathan emerged  among the soldiers of Saul’s army as a man of great courage.  

 Now the day came that Jonathan, the son of Saul, said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the Philistines’ garrison that is on the other side.” But he did not tell his father. Saul was staying in the outskirts of Gibeah under the pomegranate tree which is in Migron….Then Jonathan said to the young man who was carrying his armor, “Come and let us cross over to the garrison of these uncircumcised; perhaps the Lord will work for us, for the Lord is not restrained to save by many or by few.”1 Samuel 14:1-2a; 6

That day, Jonathan and his armor bearer proved to be more courageous than those men who sat in the shade with Saul.  Jonathan had a heart for God. He knew Who he was fighting for and who it was helping him in the battle. Jonathan, like David, fought that battle depending on the presence and power of God. 

That day, as Jonathan watched David stroll across that battlefield with nothing but his shepherd’s bag filled with five smooth stones, his shepherd’s staff, and his slingshot, he was watching someone who shared his own courage and his own confidence in God.

David’s courage was a moral courage. It was the courage to stand up for what was right and to stand against what was wrong. Such a courage will cause a man to stand apart from the cowardly who have no passion to stand up for what is right.  If you stand up for what is right,you will find that God’s true people will stand with you. Those otherwise will stand somewhere else.

The kind of courage needed in the church today is not only a moral courage. The church today needs a doctrinal courage. We are bound together by what we believe about God and what we believe about the Bible. 

It was a doctrinal courage—what David believed about God—that sent him to battle the giant. It was doctrinal courage—what Jonathan believed about God—that prompted him to leave the comfort of the shade and risk facing the enemies of God’s people. The threads that knit the souls of David and Jonathan were these threads of a common cause and a common courage as they stood bound together by a common covenant with the Lord.

There was a great contrast between Saul and Jonathan. They were members of the same family and members of the same army, but their souls were not knit like the souls of David and Jonathan. It was not just what Jonathan believed about David that separated him from his father. It was what he believed about God. It was doctrinal courage.

The church of the future, large or small, will not be men and women boys and girls whose names are on the church roll—whether they attend or not—whether they give or not—whether they serve or not.  The church of the future will be those whose souls are knit together by the threads of a common cause and a common courage who share a common covenant with the Lord Jesus Christ.

There was a fourth thread that knit together the souls of these men. It was a Common Commitment.

Jonathan loved David like he loved himself. If you read the story all the way through, to that moment when Jonathan loses his life, you will find that David laments over the loss of a brother who meant more to him than his own brothers by blood.

What a beautiful picture this is in Chapter 18: Then Jonathan made a covenant with David because he loved him as himself. Jonathan stripped himself of the robe that was on him and gave it to David, with his armor, including his sword and his bow and his belt. 1 Samuel 18:3-4

In these actions of Jonathan, he was at once brining David into the family, so to speak—but at the same time—he was surrendering his own position—his own glory—his own place in the kingdom to David. It is a picture of a great commitment on the part of Jonathan and a great confidence in that commitment on the part of David.

When we enter into fellowship with one another in the church, we enter into a similar covenant of commitment with one another. Jonathan esteemed David better than himself. We are to do the same toward our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4

It is that kind of relationship that existed between David and Jonathan. They were committed to one another because they were both committed to God. It was Jonathan’s desire to empower David, to enable him to become the leader God meant for him to be. Jonathan took off his robe and gave it to David.  He clothed David with his armor. He girded David with his belt. He gave David his sword. Now David wore the robe of a prince, the belt of a prince, the armor of a prince and carried the sword and bow of a prince. There was no selfishness between them. Jonathan, like John the Baptist, would have said of David, “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

The souls of David were knitted together by a common cause, a common courage, and a common commitment.  They were bound together in a common covenant with the Lord. They were committed to one another and they were committed to God’s kingdom. 

Likewise, you and I should be committed to God’s kingdom as it is represented through his church—not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together. Church membership is not just on paper. It is not something you can put on your resume when you run for political office or drop into a news article when you want community attention. It is a commitment to a specific body of believers who share a common cause, a common courage, a common set of convictions, and a common commitment having entered into a common covenant with the Lord.

But they were not just committed to one another—they were set apart by their strong commitment to God. Each one’s own personal commitment to God fanned the flame of commitment in the other.

This week, I have reflected on that verse that says: A true friend is a gift of God.  Have you pondered the significance of that? Most of the time we read that and say, “Yeah, what a blessing a friend is.” That is not what the verse is saying. It is saying that a true friend is a gift to you from God. In other words, God is the one who purposefully brings that person into your life. That person may be a there for a lifetime. They may be present for only a short time. But when that person comes along—hopefully, each of you will recognize the other as God’s gift to you. Not just a random acquaintance—but somebody God brings into your life to challenge you to a deeper commitment—to bring you to a closer walk with Him—but also to help you know when the Lord is calling you to make a course correction in your life.

For me, the most beautiful part of this story is the last meeting between David and Jonathan. The whole of chapter 19 tells of the multiple efforts of Saul to put David to death. In Chapter 20, Jonathan comes to the reluctant realization that David is no longer safe in Saul’s house and that the time has come for David to depart. David and Jonathan agree on a signal Jonathan will use to warn David of danger and to confirm God is calling David away.

That is where we discover the final thread that knit together the souls of David and Jonathan—the thread of a Common Calling.

Both of these men were clearly called of God. Each of them had come to the kingdom for such a time as this. Their lives crossed, in the purpose of God. But their lives also parted according to that same purpose. David’s calling required that he leave the house of Saul. To stay would have been physically dangerous for David. 

There are also times in our lives when failing to adjust our lives to the next phase of God’s purpose is spiritually dangerous. There may not be a Saul seeking to kill us as there was for David. But there is a devil seeking to destroy us. Had Jonathan encouraged David to stay, it would have put at risk the greater purpose of God.

The final meeting between David and Jonathan is a moment of great sadness but greater commitment. Jonathan arranges to have David hide in a field. 

18 Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed because your seat will be empty. 19 When you have stayed for three days, you shall go down quickly and come to the place where you hid yourself on that eventful day, and you shall remain by the stone Ezel. 20 I will shoot three arrows to the side, as though I shot at a target. 21 And behold, I will send the lad, saying, ‘Go, find the arrows.’ If I specifically say to the lad, ‘Behold, the arrows are on this side of you, get them,’ then come; for there is safety for you and no harm, as the Lord lives. 22 But if I say to the youth, ‘Behold, the arrows are beyond you,’ go, for the Lord has sent you away. 1 Samuel 20:18-22

The story of what happened next is found in the verses below.

35 Now it came about in the morning that Jonathan went out into the field for the appointment with David, and a little lad was with him. 36 He said to his lad, “Run, find now the arrows which I am about to shoot.” As the lad was running, he shot an arrow past him.37 When the lad reached the place of the arrow which Jonathan had shot, Jonathan called after the lad and said, “Is not the arrow beyond you?” 41 When the lad was gone, David rose from the south side and fell on his face to the ground, and bowed three times. And they kissed each other and wept together, but David wept the more. 42 Jonathan said to David, “Go in safety, inasmuch as we have sworn to each other in the name of the Lord, saying, ‘The Lord will be between me and you, and between my descendants and your descendants forever.’” Then he rose and departed, while Jonathan went into the city. 1 Samuel 20:35-42

Jonathan and David realized that while their journey together on this earth was about to end—their friendship was forever. The very threads that knit them together would also be the basis of their separation. David had a calling from God as did Jonathan. That calling for each of them was their highest priority in life. 

The only thing that binds some of us together is that our names appear on the same church roll. But those who belong to the fellowship of souls knitted by common threads share a common calling, a common commitment, a common cause and a common courage. They have entered into a forever covenant with the Lord. What does that mean? It means that some in the church share a fellowship that will last forever. Some share a fellowship that will last only in this life. But friends are friends forever when they are friends connected by the common thread of a relationship with Jesus Christ.

Some of you are connected to me through the words that I write. You read them. You relate to them with a deep passion that reveals these common threads. For others, these are just words on paper. You can’t relate. You read them as an outsider, curious, but a true stranger to their meanings. What is it that you need that would allow you to feel such a connection—to know the common threads of knitted souls? You need a relationship with the Jesus Christ. You need to meet Him. You need to know Him. Your soul needs to be knit to Him first of all. I would like nothing more than to help you make that connection. And for all of you whose souls are knit to mine in this covenant of the Lord, we may never meet in this life, but because of our relationship to Him we share a forever friendship. We are bound together by the common threads of knitted souls!

Photo by David Clode

One Hour with Jesus

Did you know that if you get 8 hours of sleep every night, you spend 4 months of every year sleeping? If you sleep that much who needs a vacation? If yo,u watch television three hours a day, you spend a month and a half of every year just watching television. If you work forty hours a week, or more, you spend about three months of every year working.  Check your screen time on your phone. I don’t know which side you are of average, but according to statistics, the average person spends about four hours a day on their phone. That translates into two months of every year.

So you spend four months sleeping, three months working, two months on the cell phone, a month and a half watching television. That is the way you spend  over ten months out of every year. If you goof off another four hours of every day that’s the other two months. And that is your life.

In regard to that, allow me to ask you a question, in all of the time that you spend—however you spend it—have you thought about spending one hour with Jesus? How you spend your time is none of my business. But the chances are good that there is a situation in your life right now that might have been different if you had spent one hour with Jesus?  But you didn’t. You were too tired—or too sleepy—or too busy—or too interested in television—or too distracted by sin to spend one hour with Jesus.

And now you have this situation in your life—and you wonder—“If I’d only prayed more and spent less time surfing the web—if I’d only read my Bible more and spent less time watching sports—if I’d only thought about Jesus more than I thought about  _______!”

Consider these words spoken by Jesus to his disciples. And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?  Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:40-41

First, It Was a Personal Question.

How many disciples were in the garden with Jesus? There were three—Peter, James, and John. But Jesus was especially disappointed with Peter.  So He singled Peter out with this question. Jesus asked the question to an individual. Perhaps He will ask that same question to you.

And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour? 

Did He single you out as you read it? Did He call your name? As soon as you saw the verse, did you somehow know that Jesus had put His finger on your heart?

Why Peter? Why call his name? Why question him? Do you know the last thing that Jesus said to Peter before they went into the garden?

 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permissionto sift you like wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.”  But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me.” Luke 22:31-34

This is not only a Personal Question, it is a Question About Prayer.

There was something Jesus knew that Peter didn’t know. Peter needed to pray because of a situation that was coming into his life. One hour spent with Jesus would make all the difference in the world in how He handled it.

Has the Lord called you to pray recently? Has He urged you to adjust your priorities so that you could spend time with Him? Now, I am not talking about time at church. Time at church is not the same as time with Jesus. Do you think Jesus called you to pray because of something He knew that you didn’t? There is a situation that will arise in your life—and the time you spend with Jesus—the hour you spend with Jesus will make all the difference in the world in the outcome.

This was a personal question, directed specifically to Peter. And it was a question about prayer. And He came to the disciples and found them sleeping, and said to Peter, “So, you men could not keep watch with Me for one hour?”

Couldn’t you—of all people—you who I warned—you who I personally prayed for—couldn’t you have spent one hour with Me—rather than sleeping—rather than surfing the web—rather than talking on your cell phone—rather than….

Not only was it a personal question, not only was it a question about prayer:

It Was A Question About Priorities.

How would you like to take a two week all expenses paid retreat with just one other person? Those two weeks would make all the difference in the world in how you looked at life—in the way you handled your problems—in the way things turn out for you in the future.  Can you give up two weeks?  Can you spare the time?  Can you afford it?  Would you be willing to spend two weeks with Jeff Bezos, or Elon Musk, or some other financial or business entrepreneur who could give you business or financial insight? You might. But what do any of those people know about the needs that are going to arise in your life and family. How can one of them alert you to some impending crisis that is just around the corner of your life? 

The two week opportunity I am talking about is absolutely free. There’s no travel involved.  You won’t have to take a day off work or spend any time away from your family. All you have to do is to commit to spend One Hour with Jesus. One hour every day for 365 days. Do that and in the course of a year you will spend the equivalent of 15 days, 24 hours a day with Jesus.

Is Jesus asking you for that commitment? Remember, there is a situation that will arise in your life—and the time you spend with Jesus—the hour you spend with Jesus will make all the difference in the world in the outcome. So how do you need to adjust your priorities so that you can spend time with Jesus?  Why? Why is it so important? Why was it important for Peter?

Jesus said, “Keep watching and praying that you may not enter into temptation; the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” Matthew 26:41

This Question Concerns the Protection Of Your Life And Your Family.

Jesus only recently warned Peter that Satan had demanded permission to sift him like wheat. Do you know what happens when wheat is sifted? The impurities come to the surface. Everything that is ugly and dirty comes to light. Is that what Satan has planned for you? Is that what he plans to do to your family? Could that be why Jesus has called you to spend time in prayer? Watch and pray so that you won’t enter into temptation. Jesus knew what was around the corner in Peter’s life. He knew that a disaster was coming—a failure of Peter’s faith—an embarrassing, humiliating, heart-breaking failure.

But Peter didn’t have to fail! Peter could pray! He could spend an hour with Jesus. But Peter didn’t pray. He couldn’t stay awake. He didn’t adjust his priorities.

Why didn’t you pray? Why haven’t you answered the Lord’s call to prayer? Will you answer it today, before Satan sifts you and your faith fails, and things that are ugly and dirty come to the surface of your life for all the world to see?

The warning that Jesus gave Peter is a warning that most of us have turned into an excuse. “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak.” I know I ought to pray. The spirit is willing—but I just can’t seem to spare that hour of sleep—or give up that hour of television—or sacrifice that hour of spare time. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.

How did Jesus know that ? Because He was flesh, just like you and me. He was flesh for forty days in the wilderness, and when Satan came to sift Him in His weakness, His spirit said no to Satan’s suggestion to turn stones to bread. And His spirit said yes to God.

He did that every day. Many times He sacrificed sleep getting up a great while before day to go out to a lonely place to pray. Jesus knew that Peter would have to say no to sleep to watch and pray. But he didn’t. He slept and didn’t pray. And just hours later, Peter was in a courtyard where Jesus was taken to be questioned. Satan was there waiting for him.

69 Now Peter was sitting outside in the courtyard, and a servant-girl came to him and said, “You too were with Jesus the Galilean.” 70 But he denied it before them all, saying, “I do not know what you are talking about.” 71 When he had gone out to the gateway, another servant-girl saw him and *said to those who were there, “This man was with Jesus of Nazareth.” 72 And again he denied it with an oath, “I do not know the man.” 73 A little later the bystanders came up and said to Peter, “Surely you too are one of them; for even the way you talk ]gives you away.” 74 Then he began to curse and swear, “I do not know the man!” And immediately a rooster crowed. 75 And Peter remembered the word which Jesus had said, “Before a rooster crows, you will deny Me three times.” And he went out and wept bitterly. Matthew 26:69-75

That was the situation that Jesus warned him about. That is why Peter needed to adjust his priorities so that he could spend one hour with Jesus. Now, what situation exists in your life that might have been different if you had spent one hour with Jesus? What situation has caused things that are ugly and dirty to surface in your life—that might never have surfaced if you had spent one hour with Jesus?

What situation has entered your life that when it happened you felt as if you were looking squarely into the face of Jesus—and you—like Peter wept bitterly because you fully understood that it might have been different—it might never have happened—if only you had spent one hour with Jesus.

You must adjust your priorities so that you can spend ONE HOUR WITH JESUS.

Finally, This Is A Question That Probes The Heart Of Your Relationship With Lord Jesus.  

Jesus addressed Peter as representative of the group, and He said, why could you—you of all people—you men of all men—you who have I have shared so much of my life with—why could you not spend one hour with Me.

Jesus was probing Peter’s heart concerning his personal relationship with Him. Let me ask you some final questions? When is the last time you spent even five minutes with Jesus? Maybe its been a while. Are things messed up inside you? Are there personal and spiritual disappointments that are directly related to your failure to spend time with Jesus? Only you can answer that question. 

Now let me ask you another question: Are things broken in and around your life? Relationships? People? Your Finances? Your home? Your job? Would those things be broken if you had spent time with Jesus instead of spending time_________? Last question: Could things be different, if from today you began spending time with Jesus? If what you have been doing is not working, why not try spending one hour with Jesus.

Photo by Agê Barros

When Your Soul Has Had Enough

My soul has had enough! I have had all I can take and just about more than I can stand! I’ve had enough trouble, enough heartache, enough sickness, enough grief. My soul has had enough!

The book of Psalms is a study of the highs and lows of life. Many of those moments occurred in the life of David. We are privileged to know about them because David laid them before the Lord in prayer. Apparently, he often went to some quiet spot, where he could be alone with his harp and pour out his heart to the Lord. An old guitar has been therapy for me. Sometimes I sit down with one of David’s Psalms or with some other passage of Scripture and bare my own heart before the Lord. (In a spot where no one can hear me but Him, of course.)

But Psalm 88, is not written by David. This is one of the Psalms of the Sons of Korah, the singers of the Old Testament. I think it is normal that those assigned to sing might write a Psalm. But this Psalm is unique out of all 150. It is believed to be the saddest. Now does this mean that the guys who wrote it lost their faith or lost hope in God? If you had a chance to read my journal, you would find that there are some days that I seem deeply discouraged. I expect this is one of those times for these men—or perhaps just for the one man who retreated to some lonely place and wrote it. There is a sense of frustration. 

It seems whoever wrote it had been praying for some time, apparently in the midst of difficulties that left him spent both physically and spiritually. He is overwhelmed. His prayer is a cry of desperation, and an urgent plea for God’s intervention.

O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before You. Let my prayer come before You; Incline Your ear to my cry! For my soul has had enough troubles, and my life has drawn near to Sheol. Psalm 88:1-3 (The last word is variously translated, grave, death, and in The Message,the edge of hell.”)

Do the words of this Psalm meet you where you are?

My soul has had enough! I have had all I can take and just about more than I can stand! I’ve had enough trouble, enough heartache, enough sickness, enough grief. My soul has had enough!

That statement started me on a search through the Bible looking for similar expressions.  In Psalm 119:28 ,the psalmist said “My soul weeps because of grief.” It just reminds me that there are times when trouble goes soul deep.  Is some present crisis having an impact on your soul?

In Isaiah 38:15, as Hezekiah dealt with a life-threatening illness, he related his own bitterness of soul.  Experiences that sour the life can also sour your spiritual life.  Later,  in that same chapter, Hezekiah came to the realization God was Sovereign over his circumstances. So he prayed, “Lo, for my own welfare I had great bitterness; It is You who has kept my soul from the pit of nothingness, for You have cast all my sins behind Your back.  Isaiah 38:17

In Lamentations 3:17, in the rubble of what was left of war-torn Jerusalem, Jeremiah cried, “My soul is bereft of peace; I have forgotten what happiness is.”

Sometimes trouble sweeps into the life of a family, leaving them physically and financially devastated. Like a raging tornado, it took just a matter of seconds for their whole life to be in shambles. The emotional and spiritual trauma that follows leaves them feeling as if the storm is still raging.

Job describes what life is like for the person in bitterness of soul.  It is a continual misery.  It is one calamity right on the heels of another. I sigh when food is put before me, and my groans pour out like water. 25 For the thing I feared has overtaken me, and what I dreaded has happened to me. 26 I cannot relax or be still;I have no rest, for trouble comes. Job 3:24-26 HCSB

There are periods of life when trouble seems relentless.  It won’t stop coming.  Are you in one of those periods?  Has the strain taken a toll on your relationship with God? Five times, in the book that bears his name, Job describes himself as being in bitterness of soul.  

Psalm 88 is the cry of a man who has gone about as far as he can go under the weight of difficulty and discouragement. At the point of absolute despair, he cries: O Lord, the God of my salvation, I have cried out by day and in the night before Thee.  Let my prayer come before Thee, Incline Thine ear to my cry!  For my soul has had enough troubles…  Psalm 88:1-3

Mary was told that a time would come that she would endure a sorrow so deep that it would be like a sword that pierced her soul. Have you had a sorrow like that in your life?  Do you have one now? Have you experienced some soul piercing sorrow?

As we near Mother’s Day, I think about a woman in the Bible named Hannah. She was childless.  She prayed and prayed for a child, but no answer came. An adversary ridiculed her constantly because she was barren. Finallly, when she could stand it no longer, she cried out God. When Eli the priest saw her praying, he thought she was drunk. She replied, “No, my lord, I am a woman oppressed in spirit; I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but I have poured out my soul before the Lord.  1 Samuel 1:15 She was praying out of her great anguish and sorrow. Her soul had had enough.

Peter said that we should be alert to all the different passions and desires within us because they can wage war against the soul. Spiritual defeat can lead to spiritual despair.  When Jesus was in the garden, He prayed saying that His soul was very sorrowful, even to death.  Mark 14:34

If something can bring sorrow to the soul of Jesus, who am I to think that there are not times when my own soul will be overwhelmed. It is clear that the Lord understands when my soul has had all it can stand and teeters on the edge of collapse.

Two expressions in Psalm 107 describe the plight of a person overwhelmed by difficulty. Their soul fainted within them, then they cried to the Lord in their trouble; He delivered them out of their distresses.  Psalm 107: 5b-6

Their soul melted away in their misery.  They reeled and staggered like a drunken man. They were at their wits end.  Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble and he brought them out of their distresses.  He caused the storm to be still so that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalm 107:26b-29

Is that where you are?  Is your soul about ready to melt and faint away? Are you at your wits end? The Psalmist cried out in Psalm 88:3  “My soul has had enough troubles.”  He was at his wits end.  He desperately needed the Lord’s intervention in his circumstances.

The Psalmist said in Psalm 31:7 I will rejoice and be glad in Your lovingkindness, because You have seen my affliction; You have known the troubles of my soul.  

God said to the prophet Jeremiah, who often found himself spiritually exhausted, 25For I will satisfy the weary soul, and every languishing soul I will replenish.”  Jeremiah 31:25  (ESV) In The Message, that verse reads:  I refresh tired bodies; I restore tired souls.  

Is that what you need God to do for you? Your soul has had enough!  You’ve gone about as far as you can go and carried about all you can carry.  Now you just need God to carry you.  

I was two feet tall when I was born. Well, I was 24 inches long. In other words, I was a rather large baby. Before I reached elementary school, I was nearly five feet tall. I remember the day my dad told me that I had was just too big for him to carry. That hurt. I was a little boy on the inside. When life overwhelms me, I get that feeling all over again that I and my problems might be a little much for God to carry. After all, I am a grown man now! Doesn’t God expect me to be able to carry myself and my own problems?

Thankfully, I and my problems never get too big for God to carry. I love the promise God gave to Isaiah, “Even to your old age I will be the same, and even to your graying years I will bear you! I have done it, and I will carry you; and I will bear you and I will deliver you. Isaiah 46:4

If you are physically, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted, find a quiet spot. Relax your body, and rest your soul into the arms of God. He knows when your soul has had enough before you do. He is willing and able to carry you.

Photo by Ali Yahya