and grace my fears relieved,
how precious did that grace appear,
the hour I first believed.
Look, Listen- Hear, Obey!
Some challenge arises and we wonder, “What are we going to do?” With that we are off and running, scrambling to assemble resources, putting together our strategies. What’s wrong with that? Nothing, except that as Christians, we are not our own! The Bible teaches us that we are to “Be silent, and know that I am God! I will be honored by every nation.” (Psalm 46:10, NLT) Before we work, we are to wait. If we make the plans, we do so within the framework of what we believe to be possible. The Lord does BIGGER things!
The newly ‘called out’ nation of Israel left Egypt in high spirits. After a long struggle with Pharaoh, they were finally free. They danced across the desert, singing the praises of God and their leader, Moses. Then, somebody spotted the dust plume on the horizon and scouts reported that the crack brigade of Egypt’s army was on their tail, some 600 chariots, coming to take them back to slavery. They could not flee because the Red Sea was front of them. “As Pharaoh approached, the Israelites looked up, and there were the Egyptians, marching after them. They were terrified and cried out to the LORD. They said to Moses, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die? What have you done to us by bringing us out of Egypt? Didn’t we say to you in Egypt, ‘Leave us alone; let us serve the Egyptians’? It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the desert!” (Exodus 14:10-12, NIV) Their terror is not baseless.
Moses response to them is a lesson for the ages, for all who would know the salvation of the Lord. “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the LORD will bring you today.” (Exodus 14:13, NIV) Wait? Stand in place? With an army coming quickly to capture? That was exactly what God wanted them to do. Moses listened prayerfully and God gave him an absurd (by human reason) direction. “Lead the people right up to the edge of the Sea, then extend your staff over the water and I’ll make a way for them.” Can you even imagine the faith it took for Moses to relay those plans to the nation? But, he knew he had heard from the Lord and he did as instructed. One of the more dramatic and spectacular deliverances in the Bible happened that night. “Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and all that night the LORD drove the sea back with a strong east wind and turned it into dry land. The waters were divided, and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with a wall of water on their right and on their left.” (Exodus 14:21-22, NIV) God did not want a Moses-sized plan because then Moses would have received the credit for the victory. He told Moses – “The Egyptians will know that I am the LORD when I gain glory through Pharaoh, his chariots and his horsemen.” (Exodus 14:18, NIV)
The Spirit of God wants to work in our lives in a way that clearly makes it known that we are His and that what happens to us and through us is His design. We cannot know His plan if we are full of our own! He invites us to stop, look, and listen – and only then to move out in obedience. The first generation of disciples waited before they went out to tell the Story. God wanted to empower them so they would bear witness to Him, not to themselves. He does not call us to passivity, but to prayer. Those prayers are not to instruct Him on what we want done, but rather to talk over the challenges of the world we live in, so that He can share His heart with us. Are you ready to wait?
Here’s the word from the Word. It’s familiar. Don’t rush through it. Read it prayerfully, thoughtfully – “For God, who said, “Let there be light in the darkness,” has made us understand that this light is the brightness of the glory of God that is seen in the face of Jesus Christ. But this precious treasure—this light and power that now shine within us—is held in perishable containers, that is, in our weak bodies. So everyone can see that our glorious power is from God and is not our own.” (2 Corinthians 4:6-7, NLT)
In my life, Lord, be glorified today! Amen.
A friend for all times
To say that Jim’s (not his real name) life had hit a rough spot would be terrible understatement! If it could go wrong for him, it did. His wife died suddenly, leaving him with 3 small children and his grief. His job evaporated. His Mom who helped him with the little ones, died. He nearly became homeless. Are you discouraged for him yet? In it all, he found himself carrying a very heavy load nearly alone. Talking with Jim made me realize how important it is that we keep a network of friends around us. In my experience, people tend to under-value this resource more than anything else. On my way home from Jim’s home, I thanked God for the wide circle of friends that are a part of my life, people that I love and who love me. More than money, more than stuff; my wealth is found in the people in whom I am invested.
Do you think that all you need is Jesus? In a sense that is true. He is a “friend that is closer than a brother.” But, even those who are close to Christ need people. “A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for adversity.” (Proverbs 17:17, NIV) A great dinner tastes better when it’s served at a table with a friend. A heavy burden is lighter when there is someone who cares. A renowned psychologist said that his profession would barely exist if people maintained strong ties to friends and family. He provides, for a fee, what people once gave to one another freely: advice, support, a listening ear, and reinforcement for sound choices.
Perhaps you’re reading this and remembering the failures of friendship! Yes, I have experienced those, too. I wince with something like physical pain when I think of those hurt by my actions. And, I have a few memories of people who betrayed or abandoned me along the way. There are those with whom I shared the things of the Lord who have moved on and out of my life. I miss them, wonder how they are doing, and hope for restoration someday in Heaven. I will not become a Lone Ranger, carefully protecting my heart from pain by shrinking my circle of friends. I take Jesus’ counsel about forgiveness seriously! I refuse to hate or hold a grudge, knowing that if I do, I pay the greater price both emotionally and spiritually.
It seems like common sense, yet the Word reminds us to value our friendships with this wisdom. “If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up! Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4:10-12, NIV) A band of brothers, we stand shoulder to shoulder. Oh, that God would keep us connected and teach us to assign a higher priority to staying in our circle where there is safety.
When my children were young, I counseled them to choose friends wisely. Those with whom we spend our time can lift us to higher heights or drag us into the pit. If you believe you are above peer pressure as an adult, think again! Psalm 1 warns of spending inordinate amounts of time with mockers who reject God’s ways, sinners who live willfully, and the wicked who serve Self. Their attitudes will rub off on you. Disciples are called out of the world and into the Body of Christ. It’s not that we refuse to be-friend those who are yet to come to faith in Christ, but we recognize that we need to join our heart with those who share our love of Jesus. Jesus loved sinners! So should we. But our closest friends must be friends of God.
Here’s a word from the Word. “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses. He who is full loathes honey, but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet. Like a bird that strays from its nest is a man who strays from his home. Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of one’s friend springs from his earnest counsel. Do not forsake your friend and the friend of your father, and do not go to your brother’s house when disaster strikes you— better a neighbor nearby than a brother far away.” (Proverbs 27:6-10, NIV)
Bind Us Together
There is only one God
There is only one King
There is only one body
That is why we can sing
Bind us together Lord
Bind us together with cords
That cannot be broken
Bind us together Lord
Bind us together Lord
Bind us together with love
© 1977 Thankyou Music (Admin. by EMI Christian Music Publishing)
CCLI License # 810055
An elder in our congregation took the words right out of my mouth when he said, “I want to experience the power and Presence of the Spirit of God!” We were talking about the relative impotence of the church, about the gatherings in which we too often went through the motions of worship but failed to engage with the life of God’s Spirit. We wondered how it is that people can be active ‘church-ians’ and fail completely to love, to forgive, to serve? Apparently this condition has existed since the first generation of Christians appeared. In the last letter he wrote, Paul warned Timothy about those who had “a form of godliness but deny its power.” (2 Timothy 3:5, NIV)
A robust and living Christian experience is quite similar to marriage. It has moments when excitement and passion are primary, alongside of moments when love is expressed with quiet patience and perseverance. Who wouldn’t want to live each day of marriage with the same kind of emotional engagement that comes in the first months of the relationship? But, we recognize that is not possible. (Well, some of us do. Others have affairs!) Our marital vows include “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health.” Our intimacy goes far beyond sentimentality. Learning to love the Spirit includes a covenant that is not self-centered, but God-focused. Honestly, we will sometimes find Him enthralling and sometimes wonder where He’s gone. He is a Person, not a program; a living Being, not a machine whose levers we control. And, we must not confuse a genuine Spirit-filled life with ‘feeling good.’
Yet, we must hunger for Him, pursue Him, and wait on Him. When Garry made the statement that I quoted in the opening lines today, I added that I too am desperate for the Spirit’s move. But, am I really? Or I am so full of religion, that I have no real appetite for loving God? “When we are at our wits’ end for an answer, then the Holy Spirit can give us an answer. But how can He give us an answer when we are still well supplied with all sorts of answers of our own?” – Karl Barth (as quoted by Francis Chan in Forgotten God)
I thought I could never love Bev more than I did when I was an infatuated 19 year old kid. 37 years later, it is apparent that I knew next to nothing of love then. Our ties now include parenting four kids into adulthood, surviving major surgery, holding on to each other when death visited our family, and leading two congregations as a team. We have learned the language of love that allows us to send support across a crowded room when our eyes meet. We share our tears and our laughter. Our dreams are merged. In the best sense of the Genesis ideal, we complete each other: she is me, I am her!
If we would love the Spirit, He will lead us through experiences that rip away our pretensions, reveal our weaknesses, and hurt deeply. He is no Sadist. He just wants us to look past health, wealth, and comfort. He wants to become one with us. Jesus promised that he would “ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” (John 14:16-17, NIV) It takes courage and faith to abandon what we know to become the Spirit’s friend. I want to know Him. So, help me God!
Jerry D. Scott, Pastor
Faith Discovery Church
Washington, NJ 07882