I wonder if we sometimes get so wrapped up in our situations that we forget who we are walking with on our journey from earth to glory. Martha did when her brother Lazarus got sick. They sent word to Jesus, but He did not come. In fact, He intentionally waited. When He finally came, Lazarus had been dead and in the grave for four days. Martha said to Jesus, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died" (John 11:21 ESV).
Like Martha, our faith is tested by what we go through, and there are times when it's easy to loose faith even if it is only briefly. We may question God. Where is He in my time of need? Why is He not answering my prayers? Why do I or those I love have to go through this? Please know today that through it all, and in His grace, mercy and love, Jesus is perfecting your faith.
Martha quickly recovers and in the next breath she says to Jesus, "But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you" (John 11:22 ESV). In all appearances this seemed like a full recovery of her faith. After all, didn't she say the right thing? Maybe she did. Maybe those around heard her comment, and they thought, "What a person of faith!" Sometimes we can say the right words but be dying inside with lack of faith. Despite her words, Martha's faith was still deficient, and Jesus would need to perfect it a bit.
Jesus said to her, "Your brother will rise again."
Martha said to him, "I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day."
Jesus said to her, "I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this? (John 11:23-26 ESV)
Jesus got right to the point; He wanted Martha to see that no matter how bad the situation, He is the resurrection and the life. Nothing changes that -- absolutely nothing. Jesus spoke a word that day and called her brother out of death and back into life. Lazarus came walking out of the cold, dark tomb in response to Jesus' command. Death was defeated, and life came forth out of the darkness.
Beloved, no matter how dark your situation may be today and no matter how little faith you may have, Jesus is still the resurrection and the life. He walks with us, and He talks with us. He leads us, and He guides us. He is our shepherd, and we know His voice. It's the voice that brings calm in the storm and calls life out of death. May we say as David said, "Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me (Psalms 23:4 ESV)."
Let Jesus bring comfort to you today in the midst of your crises. In His grace, mercy, and love, He is perfecting the faith that He has already deposited within you. He knows just what you need and the time that you need it. He is never late. He is always right in time.
Under dark skies with the wind wildly blowing and causing the waves to be hurricane like in size and strength, they were all together in the boat. Their pulses raced with anxiety. Fear was on the verge of overpowering and overwhelming them as they frantically tried steering the vessel through the madness and the fierceness of the raging sea. They would row in one direction only to have to row in the other direction as the unrelenting, powerful winds were swirling all about them. The spray was stinging their eyes, and the waves were lapping up over the sides of the boat. The boat was taking on water, and the question of survival was racing through their minds. It was the storm of a lifetime for them and they could not rely on any past experience or self ability to get them through it.
The one they had been following had stayed on the land to spend time in prayer. Jesus had known that the storm was coming when He sent them to go across the sea, but they had to learn to trust Him, even when they did not see or feel His presence. They would have to expend all of their self before they could realize that He was all that they truly needed.
Jesus came to them in the darkest, most alarming hour of their storm, and He came in the most surprising way -- walking on top of the rough sea. As Jesus got close to the boat, the disciples were frightened. Jesus said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going" (John 6:20-21 ESV).
As I studied the account of Jesus walking on the water in the Gospels (Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21), the Holy Spirit revealed to me the actions of Jesus that will help us as we trust Him during our storms of life: Jesus was watching out for His followers even when they did not realize it; Jesus was not threatened by the storm; Jesus rose above the storm and became prominent in the midst of it; Jesus gave them comfort; and Jesus got them safely through the storm. As Jesus spent time in prayer that night while the disciples toiled in the storm, I imagine that they were the focus of His prayers.
Jesus has not changed; He cares and watches over His followers just the same today coming to us and making His presence known in all the chaos, confusion, anxiety, fear, worry, and depression the storms of life can bring our way. Sometimes it's in the last half hour of the storm, but He always comes right in time. It may be in surprising ways, but He will come to us; He is never far away from His followers.
Beloved, Jesus knows what you are going through today and is constantly interceding to the Father on your behalf. He is making a way out and before you know it, He will have you safe and sound on solid ground. Don't let the fear of the storm overpower or overwhelm you. Jesus is teaching you to trust Him in all situations and to rely on His grace and peace that He freely gives to those who will receive. Everything around you may be falling apart, but you can rest assure that Jesus is on the way!
Recently, I was contacted by a man in Texas who had lost his business, home, wife, and children in the last seven years; he was unemployed and homeless. He told me that the devil wanted him to kill himself, but he knew that the devil was a liar and that he would trust Jesus to bring him through. So many precious people are in similar situations.
I have a word of encouragement today that is fresh from the Lord. It is for all who are found in seemingly hopeless situations, or may be in one tomorrow, next week, next month, next year... Please share it with those you know.
Right before he was murdered by a group of religionists who thought they were doing God a favor, Stephen told them, "But as the time of the promise drew near, which God had granted to Abraham, the people increased and multiplied in Egypt until there arose over Egypt another king who did not know Joseph. He dealt shrewdly with our race and forced our fathers to expose their infants, so that they would not be kept alive. At this time Moses was born… (Acts 7:17-20 ESV)"
God had raised Joseph up out of a seemingly hopeless situation. His brothers were jealous of him, selling him into slavery, staging his death, and reporting back to their father the lie that Joseph was killed. Later in life, still separated from his family by this lie, Joseph would be falsely accused and imprisoned for something he did not do. God was always working in Joseph's life and situations though, and in God's timing, Joseph was freed from prison and lifted up to a high position in government where he was reunited with his father and brothers, which would prove to save their lives. Joseph's leadership in the government preserved two entire nations -- Egypt and Israel -- from sure death and destruction due to years of famine.
Stephen reminds the religious death squad he is facing of an important piece of their history that was 400 years after Joseph's life -- the birth of Moses. The current king did not know Joseph and he mistreated the ancestors of both Stephen and his persecutors, enslaving them, beating them, starving them, and using them to build comfortable cities and palaces for the Egyptian king and his race. "At this time Moses was born" -- as I read those words, the Holy Spirit quickens them to my heart. You see beloved, God was not caught off guard and without a plan to bring His people through their seemingly hopeless situation. It may not have been quick enough for them, but it was right in time -- God's timing -- and another deliver, like Joseph, was born. Moses would go on to face his own seemingly impossible situations which would include murder and bare existence on the back side of a desert for 40 years tending sheep, but in God's time he was raised up to deliver millions of people from the bonds of slavery. God was working all along.
Beloved, God is working now; He is at work in the midst of our seemingly hopeless situations. When we can not see a way out, God is preparing a way out. We don't have to see it. We are required simply to trust Him. For Stephen's ancestors, God gave Joseph and Moses. For us, God has given Jesus. Place your trust in Jesus today; fix your eyes on Him; follow Him. He will get you through this seemingly hopeless situation, the next one, and every one. There may be a dry patch along the way, or even a dusty, hot desert, and you may get tired and thirsty, but you can always count on Him to get you through. He is working on your behalf. He is never late. He is right on time -- God's timing.
During those times when life does not seem to be working out, feeling as if life could have been different, failing to see our impact on others not to mention the world, wishing we had not even been born, we need to realize that it truly is a wonderful life. It's hard to see this throughout the entire year as we deal with the ups and downs of life regardless of the calendar. It doesn't have to be just at Christmas time as in the climatic scene in the classic movie, It's a Wonderful Life, when George Bailey, played by the one and only James "Jimmy" Stewart, found himself in a situation that seemed impossible. George was contemplating ending his life, wishing he had never been born, failing to realize that his life had impacted so many in positive ways until he was shown by an unlikely source, Clarence Odbody (Angel, Second Class) played by Henry Travers, that if he had not been born the people of Bedford Falls would not have had such a wonderful life.
Through it all, the movie projects that God had a purpose for George Bailey and was working through him to help others in ways that would not have materialized if George had not been born. The Bailey house had a merry Christmas that year because God, answering the prayers of people who loved George, sent a messenger to show George his worth just in time.
It's a Wonderful Life is a great movie recognized by the American Film Institute as one of the 100 best American films ever made. In our house, my family and I have traditionally watched it on Christmas Eve although it is a good movie to be watched any time of the year. Because of that tradition, when I think of characters of Christmas, George Bailey is one who pops into my mind.
I wrote my first book, The Characters of Christmas: God at Work in our Lives, to encourage people to realize that God is always working in our lives, even if we can not see it or feel it. The book is not about fictitious characters from a movie, like George Bailey, and it's not just a Christmas book or a book to be read at Christmas time. In the book I take real life characters and show how God worked in their life while making it relevant to each reader by showing how God is working in us, no matter what we are going through in life.
Please know today that you have value. You are favored by God. He allowed you to be born for a purpose. He is working in your life. He is working in your seemingly impossible situation. As you realize this, you will realize that it truly is a wonderful life. You don't have to wait till the Christmas season to read the book. It will speak to you no matter what season of the year or season of life that you find yourself in today. I've prayed that God will use the book as a messenger showing readers and those they recommend it to their worth. With some it will be just in time.
Today, there is more of an infatuation with the end of days than in any other time I can recall during my lifetime. Movies have been made, books written, and predictions made. People are building bomb shelters, buying up precious metals as silver and gold, storing up food, and making sure they have ample supplies of water. Are we living in the last days?
The “last days” began over 2,000 years ago at the cross of Christ when those three powerful words, “it is finished,” were uttered from the parched lips of our tortured and dying Savior. Ever since and throughout the years, many have predicted the return of Christ for His followers prior to the wrath of God being poured out on a world that has rejected Him. These dates have come and gone, but the truth of Jesus’ return remains. Each time a prediction is made and the date goes by, some are swayed into believing that it is nothing more than a myth, but it is not a myth; it is truth and will occur at God’s beckoning, which will not be in response to His creation’s predictions. God will not consult with anyone.
Jesus said, "But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Then two men will be in the field; one will be taken and one left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one left. Therefore, stay awake, for you do not know on what day your Lord is coming. But know this, that if the master of the house had known in what part of the night the thief was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have let his house be broken into. Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect. (Matthew 24:36-44 ESV)”
So, as Christ followers, besides being in a continual state of readiness, what are we to do? Jesus answers that question in a few verses of Scripture prior when He says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. (Matthew 24:14 ESV)”
The gospel is good news. Jesus showed us what the kingdom is all about through His words and actions when He came into our world to show us how to live and how to die. I’m writing a book this summer that the Holy Spirit has laid on my heart titled “The Kingdom According to Jesus.” I believe that we have missed so much of what God intended in His kingdom as revealed through the life and teachings of Jesus. Please pray for me as I seek to obey our Lord in this endeavor.
The ministries of LGF are now touching 13,739 people around the world per day with the “gospel of the kingdom.” We thank God constantly for the faithful prayer and financial support that we receive.
Through the writing of the Palmist, Psalm 2 comes to a conclusion with a warning from the Holy Spirit: “Now therefore, O kings, be wise; be warned, O rulers of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and you perish in the way, for his wrath is quickly kindled. Blessed are all who take refuge in him. (Psalms 2:10-12 ESV)”
The Holy Spirit gives us three imperatives in this paragraph of Scripture, which if followed, will result in blessed living. First of all, the Holy Spirit compels those of our day to be “wise” and to be “warned.” Wisdom and warning come from God’s Word and His Holy Spirit. Christ followers must constantly be people of the Word and the Spirit to live for Jesus as the Word and the Spirit will come together and do a powerful work in our lives. When either the Word or the Spirit is rejected, wisdom and warning is cast away and the result is destruction.
The second imperative given by the Holy Spirit in these verses is to “serve the LORD.” Salvation from the wrath of God that is to come is not complete by only accepting Jesus as your savior; you must make Jesus LORD of your life. You must follow Him and commit your life to His lordship.
The third imperative the Holy Spirit gives us is to “Kiss the Son” which implies intimacy in relationship. Jesus came to earth rejecting religion and religionist, proclaiming and portraying relationship with God instead. You see, it’s not about religion. It’s not about manmade denominations. It’s not about church membership. It’s not about devoting all of your extra time to church activity. It’s all about relationship with Jesus; kissing the Son; having an intimate relationship with Jesus.
Why does the Holy Spirit give us these three imperatives? Because the wrath of God is coming on all those that do not love Him and have rejected His Son, Jesus Christ. Those who will obey these imperatives are found in Jesus and there is wonderful news for them in the face of world destruction like has never been seen before. That wonderful news is found in the last sentence of Psalm 2: “Blessed are all who take refuge in him.”
Beloved, take refuge in Jesus, making Him your LORD and Savior, receiving the bountiful blessings found only in Him.
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