Faithful

www.bible.com/1713/heb.10.23.csb

Though we often use the word “faithful” in religious contexts, there is another context that is used almost as often. That is marriage. More to the point, the antonym of this word is often used in the marriage context, “unfaithful”. And that word can bring some folks to immediate depression and anxiety, so I apologize if that word has negative connotations for you.

Recently I spoke to an individual who was truly suffering because of unfaithfulness. Though this person had never formally committed to any of the relationships, this person noted that every one ended in unfaithfulness. And this fact destroying this person. It’s one thing when boyfriends and girlfriends step out on you because there are no formal commitments. That is frowned upon nevertheless because there is an expectation that a person will be “faithful” as long as they are dating until they break off dating or break up. That is acceptable. But it is unacceptable for a person to go and date another person while they are still dating the first person. That kind of individual gets a reputation. But it can be devastating for the first relationship because there is an assumption of faithfulness.

It gets worse in marriage. And the consequences become even more drastic. In marriage, there is a formal commitment made in front of witnesses. This formal commitment the couple to monogamy, and no others will be allowed in the implied sexual relationship between the two of them. “Unfaithful” is what we call it when that covenant agreement is broken. The consequences then also include separation, divorce, destruction of assets, and children, as well as broken family relationships. It is more widespread and more far-reaching, but obviously, I don’t have to tell some of you that. You’ve lived it.

But it is in this marriage context that we find meaning for “faithful”. I hope you have all been witness to marriage relationships, if not your own, where both husband and wife have been together for decades. It is a good picture of faithfulness because we see that it was not all good. Sometimes faithfulness is hard, even impossible, if not for the bonds of marriage keeping them together. We faithfulness is forged and well-earned, not without effort. Faithfulness sis oftentimes the more difficult path, and one less traveled.

So it is with God. With God, our journey with Him is forged into stronger bonds of trust. As we encounter increasingly difficult terrain, we find our faith tested, and His faithfulness to us returned in answer to our prayers. We find God more faithful, more devoted, more true, but not without effort. We find that the answers to our questions are immediate, but they do come in time. We find the One who promised is faithful and will continue to be faithful, even when it looks like He is not. God never forgets you.

Heavenly Father, today there will be times where it seems You have forgotten me. There will be times I will feels at the end of rope pulled by a sailboat in the dark. I will not see You, just the rope, and I will be forced to trust the rope without seeing the boat to pull me in. There are sometimes Lord when I doubt You are really there, whether You are really listening. But it is at those times I need to still the storm, because it is not all around me, but it is in my soul. And I pray Lord help today to still the storm in me, so that I can clearly see the path before me. Thank You Lord for being faithful. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Waiting

www.bible.com/1713/psa.130.5.csb

Have you ever waiting for something, something that you didn’t want to wait for, but had no choice but to wait? Earlier this year, my wife and I had planned a special trip to North Carolina to spend our 25th wedding anniversary. We had planned this back in November, when things were still “normal.” As the date for our trip moved closer, my anticipation was growing. I didn’t want to wait, but because of time and schedules, had no choice. And then the Corona Virus hit. From January to February, I was still hopeful, despite the fact that things began to close. I was still hopeful that at least we could stay in our rented accommodations. But by March, it all can to halt. Even our Governor forbade anyone from leaving the state. Our guest accommodations were canceled by the company, for the protection of their employees. We were stuck. I was angry. I had waited for so long, only to have everything cancelled. But that is 2020 for you.

As the quarantine is beginning to wind down, we have now rescheduled our trip for October, and surprisingly enough, this one promises to be even better than the one we missed. So now we wait, again. October can’t get here fast enough, but I will wait this time, cautiously. Because even though we make plans, it is God who sees them through. So I will wait with patience, knowing there is plenty of life to live between now and then.

I will wait upon the Lord, for as I continue to learn, His timing is the best. The Lord knows how to give good gifts to His children. He knows what you want, not just what you need. He also has a way of moving pieces behind the scenes so that when He does put you into play, you are in the right place at the right time to accomplish His purposes. Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will also find their hope assured by His word, for the Lord keeps His promises.

Heavenly Father, I know I don’t bring much to the table. My abilities are feeble and weak. But with You, little is much. Your power is made perfect in weakness. And in You I have nothing to fear. Thank You for teaching me patience, for the rewards far outweigh the wait. Thank You Lord. In Jesus’s Name, Amen.

You will have Trouble

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.16.33.csb

Promises of God are certain things. When God says it, it is truth. So when God promises salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, then we can expect salvation. When Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit by our baptism into His Name, then we can be certain of that promise. If you are a Christian, you are receiver of certain promises. We know this to be true because of the One who promised.

And then there is the promise made here, a promise we would rather do without: “In this world you will have suffering.” It isn’t something that just happens. Suffering is not accidental. Suffering is a certain part of this life. Why? Because Jesus says so. So let no one us bewail our condition because we find our selves in suffering, as it we were not supposed to happem because we are children of God. Perhaps it is because we are children of God that we receive a greater share of suffering (nice, huh?) because of the bliss we will experience when we are called home to be with the Lord.

But with this promise of suffering comes a promise of peace. We know better. We know that this world is only temporary. We know that despite our 70-90 odd years we spend here, and it feels like an eternity, we know its really not, because we have already started living our abundant life, our eternal life, changed not in presence but in quality. We are living today, whether or not we suffer at present, in the Presence of the Lord God. He has already conquered everything in this world that matters. He is Lord of all. He is King of the Universe, and nothing, not even the fact that we suffer, escapes His notice. In this we have peace. Though we suffer, we do not suffer alone. We suffer before Him, being poured as as pure offerings of worship before Him. Let God be glorified in our weaknesses. Let us show to others that even though we suffer, we prove that our faith does not depend on good times. Our faith does not depend on blessing. Our faith depends on the sure and certain promises of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him alone is our faith.

Lord, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and and thy staff, instruments both of leading and discipline, comfort me. You will show me where the boundaries are, and You will lead me to quiet waters and green pastures. Though I am beset on every side with enemies, You set a table before me. You provide me what I need, and I need not fear. Lord help me walk with You and not away from You when sorrows come. Let me not fear, but rest in the peace You provide. Lord, thank You for your eternal blessings. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

Renew Your Life

www.bible.com/1713/psa.19.7.csb

In case you are feeling old, the word of God has the potential to make you feel new again. Don’t believe me? Try it. Within the word of God is life. Jesus said He came to bring life, and that more abundantly. Jesus is the Word, the enlivening and enthusing Word of God scent to us to create within us that new life.

Feeling old and worn-out is a symptom of sin, and the creeping of death. Though our bodies waste away, we are being renewed inwardly day by day. Our God is a god of life, or death. So when He calls is to life in Christ, eternal life, it isn’t just about the quantity, it’s the quality. It is life that transcends our day to day. It is life that allows us to see past our stunted vision to the glory of our created world, the order reflective of God’s superlative ability to form and shape and call into being that which was nothing. Feeling old is natural, but this life is supernatural.

Heavenly Father, help me to see the life You have set for me, more than drudgery, more than the glories of physical wealth or natural beauty. Help me to see Your world with Your eyes, so that I may crave that life that only comes from you. Thank you Jesus for coming I to this world and offering this life to us all, so that we may be rescued from death and sin. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Guide my Feet

www.bible.com/1713/psa.119.105.csb

Not sure where your life is going today? It’s Monday morning and you are back to the same ground you’ve been doing for years. Nothing has changed. Monday is a painful reminder that your life has been put on hold indefinitely. Yes. It’s a job. Your family is cared for. Your needs are met. Your marriage is good. But it’s Monday and life is dull. It’s been this way for years and you just don’t know how to get out of this rut.

May I suggest something? The excitement you at looking for will not be in a new location, job, or marriage. It doesn’t really matter when you are the same. What needs to change is you. If you keep looking at the world through your own lenses, it will only be as exciting as you can imagine. Take a look at your world through God’s vision. What do you see?

God sees relationships and work that He is blessing. God sees a great foundation for ”greater works than these.” Imagine the contrast of a family if one element of your blessed life is removed. Good job but bad marriage. Good house but unreliable work. Food on the table but one child is hooked on drugs. Imagine if one thing was knocked out of your perfectly boring world. Doesn’t seem so bad now, does it?

Yeah, but I’m still bored. I’m sorry others aren’t as blessed as me, but that doesn’t change my situation. Maybe remind you of one verse in Philippians? ”Godliness with contentment is great gain.” Both of these drivethe engine of joy. Are you godly? Are you striving to be more like God every day? Do you appreciate and thank Gid for the blessing you enjoy every day? Do you bring the needs of others before God? Do you see others as God does? If you feel you have reached a plateau in your spiritual life, that’s not God’s fault. The depths and mysteries of God cannot be fathomed. If that doesn’t at least pique your curiosity, then you seriously need to work on your faith. Read more. Listen more. Get out of your own head. You already know everything in there. Submit to God in your daily activities and see what He can do with them. It’s not all about you.

Heavenly Father, being back to Monday isn’t what I had in mind for a good time today, but You remind me that life is more about my own needs. You remind me that I was put on this earth for You and Your purposes. Show me today what I can do to grow in my faith and not be so consumed my my own little world. Help me to grow past the dull and into the light. Show me the path. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Death to Life

www.bible.com/1713/jhn.5.24.csb

What would you say to Jesus after He said this to you? Yeah right? We know what death is. You can’t come back from there. I’ve seen too many die. No one came back. There’s no life after death. What does it matter what’s in your head when you die or what you believe in?

But what does Jesus do to earn your trust? He dies. He puts this theory to the ultimate test and does in a horrific fashion, in a way that there is no question, He is dead. We walk away from Him, saying it’s too bad such a good person died. The good die young. He was too good for this world, and in that, we are smarter than we know.

Jesus dies on a Friday. He lay in His grave all that night. He lay in that grave all day Saturday. He lay in His grave through the early morning. And then ”up from the grave, He arose!” He passed from death into life. No, you can’t keep a good man down.

And all of those who believe in Him will not perish, but have everlasting life. All of those who will listen to Him and believe in Him will die, but that death will only be of the flesh. Every believer will pass through physical death and receive eternal life in a new body. How do we know? Because He proved it by Himself. We trust in His ability to raise us up by truth of His own resurrection.

But more than this. We can have life while we live this life, and that life more abundantly. You can have a fulfilled life, not one that looks forward to death, but one that looks forward to what lays beyond the portal of death. We are not like those who have no hope. We have hope in this world, making it much more livable, and hope for the next.

Heavenly Father we thank you sincerely for the example taught to us by your son Christ Jesus who showed us the path from death to life, that we need not fear it. Thank you, Jesus, for setting the example, being the author and perfectly of our faith. May you continue to lead us day by day and show us how to live. Thank you for bearing the weight of all our sins and giving us life. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Prayer and Petition

www.bible.com/1713/php.4.6.csb

Need something? Ask. That’s basically what God is saying here. Just ask for it. Have a problem? Lift it up to God. He will hear your request. There is no promise here of satisfying that need, but in every request there is surrendering your right to worry about it when you ask God about it.

Is it any wonder that we have an epidemic of anxiety in this world? Did you wake up this morning worrying about something? Are you anxious about today? As much as depends on you, you do what you can. But we trust in an Almighty God. He sees around the corners. He looks ahead in time and can see what’s coming. He knows what the circumstances will be and prepares ahead of time for what you will face. There is nothing that catches God by surprise.

So if God prepares the future for your arrival, then He knows what you will need before you do. If you are going through a test right now, it is because you are being tested for something in the future that you will need today’s lessons for. My hope and prayer for you is that you will learn on the first try.

We were not put on this earth to be happy. That is not our purpose. Sorry. Our purpose is to be joyful followers of Him, finding our true joy in obedience to His will. We were made to conform to the image of His Son. We are most happy when we see His face in the mirror. God is the highest and and best good, the standard of beauty, and the epitome of joy. If you are striving to be happy in this world, you will fail. You can only be truly happy when you are fulfilled in Him.

Dear Father, we come to you this morning with heaviness in our hearts. We come upon another Monday, with the worship of Heaven still fresh in our ears. We pray Father that you would look upon our downcast faces and grant us joy. Show us a glimpse of hope for the joy You posses so that we may long for that true joy. May You fill us Lord today with that hope and direct our steps to walk in Your direction. May we lift up to you today our prayers and petitions of our ordinary life that You May transform our everyday tasks into works of eternal significance. We ask these things today in the name of Jesus, Amen.

Holiday Depression

www.bible.com/1713/psa.42.11.csb

Like a tropical depression, holiday depression brings you down when you should be up, low when you should be enjoying the climate. Well, maybe it’s not an exact comparison.

But holiday depression is a real thing. I think everyone gets it. It’s when you don’t get that same holiday feeing you used to, especially when you were a child. It’s that feeling you get when someone you love isn’t going to be here this year. The holidays are supposed to be times of cheer and joy, a relief from the everyday stresses. But oftentimes, they are more stressful, dealing with families and parties and social get togethers.

But let’s put that behind us for a moment. What makes the holidays holy days? Why do we celebrate to begin with? Because we are celebrating the birth of Christ into this world. We are celebrating the moment when God took on human flesh to live as one of us. Technically we call this the Incarnation, but most of us think of it as God with skin on. It is a mystery. But that I God for this mystery, do God loved us so much He sent His Son, God in flesh, to live as one of us. Isn’t that profound? The God who created us, who is so far above us and to be beyond our understanding, became as one of us. That is the Reason for this Season.

Why is my soul dejected? Why am I down? Jesus is here. He rose from the grave so that we would not be separated from Him. He exists today. The baby from the manger is the one who rose from death on a cross so that we can always be with Him. Whether in life or death. It’s ok to be down sometimes. David taught us that. But never lose hope. Hope is that Jesus still loves us and will not let us go. Thank God for this holiday season.

May God bless you today with this hope.

Someday

www.bible.com/1713/zec.14.9.csb

What are you looking forward to? Are you looking forward to Friday? Does the prospect of another work week seem gloomy to you? With Monday once again at our doorstep, it’s hard to get into the Spirit with the anticipation of another week of work before us.

Maybe you are looking forward to retirement, carefully putting money away every paycheck so you will have money to finally do the things you want to do, to travel, to write that book, or something else you’ve been dreaming of.

It’s dreams like these that motivate us, give us hope for a better day tomorrow. Honestly the doom and gloom predictions about our economy and the climate aren’t in the same vein when I think about my own future. And maybe they ought to be. For on the one hand I get dire predictions about the power grid and terrorism and a great need to prepare for disaster. On the other hand I get advice about how to save money for the future so that I can retire in comfort. Last night I learned about Living Trusts, an alternative to the Will that I could form for my family to protect my assets when I die.

Well, there’s another thing I need to be ready for. Death is the most certain scenario of all. The Bible tells me how I need to live today to prepare for death tomorrow. It felt creepy writing that statement. I don’t like to think about my own death, even though I know it’s coming, and I know that it will be the most glorious part of my life. I don’t know that I have tomorrow, so I need to prepare today.

Well, all of that to say this. What gives me peace about the scary unknown future is the verse above. He will be. I know Him. And He is already my King. I have advance tickets to the greatest show in the universe. All of this other stuff is just set dressing. The main event is coming and I already know I have good seats. It is this motivation that moves me from Monday to Monday. Christ in you, the hope of glory.

God bless you on this Monday and every day.

Anxiety Nation

www.bible.com/1713/pro.12.25.csb

I’m not sure why we are so anxious, but we are. Easily half of the people I talk to, and that includes myself, feel some form of anxiety. It may be anxiety about work, about family, about health, or how that person over there is looking at me strangely. Anxiety doesn’t need a logical basis to exist. It can exist simply because we are not anxious, and probably ought to be. Anxiety is the reason for prescribed or over the counter medication, probably more than anything else, as many stomach and headache issues can be attributed to it.

The Scripture today acknowledges this reality. Anxiety is a real thing, and even the wisest Solomon understood it. He understood its effect on the human heart (or psyche), in that it is “weighed down”, which easily translates to “feeling down”. Anxiety robs our joy, steals our contentment, and makes foolish our faith. That’s right. If you worry, your faith isn’t operating as it should.

“I believe in God, but . . . ” Really? You believe in God’s providential care? You believe that God has prepared the way and the circumstances you are experiencing right now? You believe that God truly loves you and only wants what’s best for you? You truly believe there is nothing to fear because there is no fear in love? You believe that? “Perfect love casts out fear … and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (1 John 4:18) And there it is. Anxiety is fear, sometimes paralyzing fear. We fear for the future. We fear that we won’t have enough money to make rent or groceries. We fear that our needs will not be met. Fear is a sign of immature faith. If our love is not perfect, or mature, then we will feel anxiety about God’s ability to care for us.

Now I won’t sit here on a high horse and tell you I’m perfect. Far from it. I still feel fear and anxiety. The Bible clearly says even believers still feel fear. But these two things, fear and faith, are at war in our heart, and are frequently tested. It is maturity to weather these tests and grow in our faith. Remember that to grow in our faith, the tests must be harder. But we have this confidence: the God who brought us through the last test will bring us through this one.

By the same token, we can offer and ought to offer encouragement to others who growing. A kind word, a helpful encouragement, a joy shared can all be helpful for those in anxiety. As believers, it is our responsibility to share the lessons we have learned. When God brought you through that horrible health problem, or financial burden, or relationship, you have the responsibility to share that with others going through the same thing now. Everyone’s pain is unique, but if you can share your trial overcome through faith in God’s provision, that can offer hope to someone lost in anxiety. I might say that this hope is the one sure antidote to anxiety. Anxiety says, “all is lost.” Hope says, “the best is yet to come.”

If you are going through anxiety, may I offer hope that God is not done with you? May your eyes be open today to others going through tough times, that you may offer them hope in the love of God who eagerly desires to provide for them and satisfy their needs, just as He does for you.

God bless you today.