Monday, June 18, 2018

Controlled Environment

 

[Photo of a controlled environment]


“The Lord is thy keeper: the Lord is thy
shade upon thy right hand. The sun shall
not smite thee by day, nor the moon by night.
The Lord shall preserve thee from all evil:
he shall preserve thy soul. The Lord shall
preserve thy going out and thy coming in
from this time forth, and even for evermore.”
—Psalm 121:5-8 KJV

In looking through various definitions of “controlled environment,” I find clarity in this summation:

A controlled environment is an area where nourishment, temperature, humidity, air movement, and light are controlled and supervised in order to provide optimal growing conditions.

Unlike most traditional farmers, who constantly watch the sky and weather conditions in order to grow their crops, scientific farmers have learned to mitigate the negative results of wind, temperatures, and weather on their produce.

Recently I considered this in light of God’s written Word. Alec Motyer, in his study of Isaiah 54 reminds us that:

God as Creator not only started things off. He also maintains everything in its existence, controls everything in its operation and guides everything to His intended goal… As the Creator’s children in the Creator’s world we are a protected species in a planned environment and destined for a glorious future that is already ours.1

Not only do all people in our world enjoy the common grace of living in a controlled environment of temperature, air pressure, and other vital elements needed for life on earth, but those individuals whom God has specifically called as His children enjoy the kind of preservation and constant care He gives us out of His love and compassion.

Though sometimes, we may feel the chill of cold “weather,” and the blasts of terrifying “winds,” we can enjoy the assurance that we live safely in the controlled environment of God’s sovereign will and good jurisdiction. He wants to see our growth in grace. And, He knows exactly how to care for us.

______________________

1 Motyer, Alec, Isaiah By the Day. Scotland, U.K: Christian Focus Publications, 2011. p. 265.

 

 

Monday, June 11, 2018

The Big Picture

 

_______________

 

[Graphic of a road trip map]


The Big Picture

“I am the Alpha and the Omega,
the Beginning and the End.”
—Revelation 21:6

Only recently have I decided that I am a “big picture” person. Always before, when asked, I would say I wasn’t sure because I so often deal with details in sequence.

But, when I think about it, even as a child, I always liked to see the map with the entire trip in view from start to finish. Only then could I follow the exact route, town by town, which we were driving to reach our destination.

While I am getting used to reading books using the Kindle app on my phone, I have trouble reading on the device because I can’t see the whole book—front to back. I like to read about the author, see how many pages I’m dealing with, and I like to view those photos tucked in the middle: all before I start to read the actual text of the book.

Perhaps we “big picture” people have more trouble trusting God because we can’t see the route to the final destination and its relationship to our present location. Yes, we know the route we travel will finally lead us to Heaven. But, what about the next 15 to 20 years, or longer?

I am grateful that our God names Himself the Alpha and the Omega—the Beginning and the Ending. Though time does not bind Him, He knows our beginning and our ending, along with all the routes in between. And, He has promised us He will be with us every step of the way.

As recorded in both Deuteronomy 31:8 and Hebrews 13:5 God says to us:

“I will never leave you. I will never forsake you.”

We can trust God because He does know the end from the beginning. I don’t know His way, but He knows mine.

As Job 23:10 tells us:

He knows the way that I take; when he has tested me, I will come forth as gold.

In order to trust Him and not fear, I need to stay close to Him. That alone will keep me from frustration over every circumstance that seems to tell me things are out of control and I have lost my way.

Like a Good Shepherd, He goes ahead and leads us because He trly knows the “Big Picture.”

—Posted: Monday, June 11, 2018

Monday, June 4, 2018

That Which Remains

 

[Photo of threshing wheat]


“Simon, Simon, look out! Satan has asked to sift
you like wheat. But I have prayed for you that
your faith may not fail. And you, when you
have turned back, strengthen the brothers.”
—Luke 22:31-32

Every summer on my family farm, my father and his helpers used the old, rattle-trap, noisy threshing machine on the latest crop of oats. Like harvesting wheat, the machine would beat the grain until the seeds were separated from the straw and chaff. The straw ended up as bedding for cattle, the seeds became feed for them, and the chaff, well, it just blew away. The value lies in that which remains.

We dared not get too close while watching this process. Every time we did, the chaff would find its way into every crevice of clothing, between our bare toes, even up our noses. Chaff—what a dirty and useless material it is. We cleaned and cleaned it from our bodies.

In Bible times, as we read about in Ruth 3:3, men would use sledges, heavy wooden platforms weighted down with stones and fitted underneath with anything sharp. These sledges, pulled by teams of animals, would ride over the crop of wheat on a threshing floor. The farmers would “winnow” the loose plants with a winnowing rake and the chaff would blow away.

The agrarian culture of Bible times provided plenty of illustrations for the writers of Scripture to use in teaching God’s truths. The Psalmist, in Psalm 1:4, likens the chaff to the wicked people who walked away from God’s truth:

They are like chaff that the wind blows away.

But, why did Jesus allow Peter in the passage from the Gospel of Luke at the beginning of this blog post to go through the sifting process with Satan in charge? Certainly Jesus didn’t place Peter in the same camp as the “wicked.” What was Satan’s purpose here? I am convinced that Satan wanted to destroy Peter, the future leader of the Christian church. But, God had a different plan.

I like the way that Beth Moore explains it:1

Satan’s goal in sifting is to make us a mockery by showing us to be all chaff and no wheat. Christ, on the other hand, permits us to be sifted to shake out the real from the unreal, the trash from the true. The wheat that proves usable is authentic grain from which Christ can make bread.

Often we find that God puts His choicest servants through the hardest circumstances in preparation for powerful ministry. They learn what God considers chaff in their lives and submit to the painful and brutal threshing process.

If God seems to be beating the chaff out of you these days, rejoice that He has called you to suffer for His sake. Trust Him to bring about His purposes in your life, so that you may become nourishing bread for others. Remember, the value lies in that which remains.

______________________

1 Moore, Beth, Portraits of Devotion. Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2014. P. 264.

 

 

Monday, May 28, 2018

Anxious to Give

 

[Photo of a child giving her father a gift]


“Yet the Lord longs to be gracious to
you; he rises to show you compassion.”
—Isaiah 30:18

Did you ever know anyone who had something to give you and just couldn’t wait for the special event to share it? We think children often do this. They either give the gift early, “casting off restraint,” or “spill the beans” by saying something to reveal the secret of what’s in the gift they wait to give.

Did you ever think of Jesus that way?

Noted Bible teacher, Beth Moore, points out that in the account from Luke 7:11-17 of the healing of the son of the widow from Nain, Jesus, without being asked, “casting off restraint” immediately healed this boy. The men were carrying him out of the house, and Jesus, moved with compassion, told they boy’s mother not to cry. Then, Jesus leaned over to speak the dead son back to life.

At other times, as in the healing of Lazarus, we read in John 11:1-45 that the family sent for Jesus to come. But, He stayed where He was two more days.

To use Beth Moore’s viewpoint, this action must have taken great restraint on Jesus’ part not to hurry to his friends the very minute He heard. Yet, God had a larger plan for the healing of Lazarus. Or, as He said in John 11:4:

This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.

Here’s what caught my attention to Beth Moore’s writing:1

I believe what comes most naturally to Christ every time He encounters need is to instantly fix it. Is it possible He exercises great restraint to work any other way in the face of devastation? I think so.

A plan of profound importance exists that sometimes overrides the miracle we desperately desire. But I am comforted to know that instantaneous healing and resurrection power come even more naturally to our Christ than waiting and working through long but necessary processes.

Perhaps you have shown great trust and faithfulness in waiting for God to answer a prayer you have prayed. Be encouraged that He is waiting, too—for the right moment to give you the gift that will respond to your prayer.

Except for His overriding need to work His ways in us, He would instantly come to us with His answer whenever we pray. Let us be encouraged that He always waits for the best time and thrills to give us His greatest blessing in answer to our requests.

______________________

1 Moore, Beth. Portraits of Devotion. Nashville: B&H Publishing, 2014. Pp. 203-204.

 

 

Monday, May 21, 2018

The God of “Suddenly”

 

[Graphic of an artist's impression of Pentecost]


“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all
together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the
blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and
filled the whole house where they were sitting.”
—Acts 2:1-2

For most of us, waiting on God to answer prayer, or show us direction in a matter, seems like a never-ending period of time. We often wait far longer than we had ever anticipated when we started.

The disciples must have felt that way, too. They had seen Jesus ascend back to Heaven and had stayed together in an upper room for most of the 40 days between His death and His ascension. Now they had waited for His promise, the Holy Spirit, for ten more days.

I wonder what they expected would happen when the Holy Spirit came. This sudden wind and the flames of fire that landed on each of their heads must have shocked even these devoted followers of Jesus. I imagine that once they realized what was happening, they experienced a flood of incredible joy!

When we think of sudden happenings in Scripture, we might remember the words of Luke 2:13:

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom His favor rests.”

Certainly these shepherds shook in their homespun pants to see such a sight: the coming of this new-born Messiah for which watchers had prayed and had anticipated for so long.

The apostle Paul took a routine “business trip” to Damascus and we read this in Acts 9:3:

As he neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?”

Later, after Paul had begun working for his new Boss, and shared a missionary adventure with his friend Silas, we read of these two men in Acts 16:25-26. They had been imprisoned for speaking about Jesus and Scripture tells us:

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everybody’s chains came loose.

We should allow these accounts to give us confidence and renewed faith that God will answer our prayers, even though we may have waited for a very long time. When God decides to act, nothing will stop Him from fulfilling His will. Circumstances that ordinarily just wouldn’t work out can suddenly fall into place when His sovereign plan comes together.

As we think back over our lifetimes of knowing God through Jesus, we must have at least one account when we have seen this suddenness of His character. Let this remembrance and the Scriptures encourage us today. When God wills it, it will happen!

 

 

Monday, May 14, 2018

The “Look”

 

[Photo of a teacher looking at a student]


The Lord turned and looked straight at Peter.
Then Peter remembered the word the Lord had
spoken to him: “Before the rooster crows
today, you will disown me three times.”
And he went outside and wept bitterly.
—Luke 22:61-62

The Kindergarten teacher had them trained. When she gave important directives to her students, she would say, “And, I mean…” to which they would loudly respond, “BUSINESS!”

The corresponding “look” expressed her serious expectation. From that point on, all she had to do to remind them of her orders was to give them the “look.” They could read her solemn warning, as well as her disappointment, merely by reading her face. After all, as these were her students, she counted on them to not betray the confidence she had placed in them.

Even the apostle Peter needed reminding with the “look” that Jesus gave him. And, in that moment, Peter remembered the warning and saw the disappointment in Jesus’ eyes.

How often has the Lord instructed us about a serious matter where He has given us instruction in His written Word that He has expected us to obey, only to experience disappointment with our forgetful behavior and our betrayal of His confidence? In the first place, do we neglect to see that He means BUSINESS? Do we think like Peter did that he had the situation well in hand and certainly did not need any reminder?

The Lord knows us so much better than we know ourselves. He can look ahead and see the dangers and pitfalls into which we might readily fall prey. In response, He often speaks to us through His written Word concerning the matter.

How much better for us if we heed the warning He gives us than to have to see the “look” of disappointment on His face when we fail Him. What a joy instead to see His look of pleasure when we listen closely, heed His written Word, and take each matter seriously that He brings to our attention.

As His dearly loved child, has He recently spoken to you through His written Word? Did He then show His love for you by punctuating His message by having the Holy Spirit prompt you with the words, “And, I mean BUSINESS!”

When this happens in our lives, we do well to take our Lord seriously—very seriously.

 

 

Monday, May 7, 2018

Irresistible

 

[Photo of a child looking at a bowl of marshmallows]


“All that the Father gives me will come to me,and
whoever comes to me I will never drive away…
I will lose none of all that he has given me.”
—John 6:37, 39

I remember watching a video of children taking a psychological test. This test examined whether or not the children could withstand the temptation of simple marshmallows.

Each child would sit a table with a bowl of marshmallows immediately in front of them. An adult would explain to the child that she had to leave the room for a moment. She asked the child not to touch the marshmallows until she got back. A hidden camera captured the reactions of each of several children who took the test.

Some children ably resisted. Others played with a marshmallow and put it back. And still others, after looking around, quickly popped one into their mouths. For these last children, the yummy treat proved simply irresistible.

The Reformed Protestant faith believes in the term, “Irresistible Grace.” The belief states that God gives those He has chosen for salvation a very special grace to discover His call on their lives. That special grace irresistibly draws them to God. As the Holy Spirit interacts with the ones God has called, each chosen one responds willingly in faith to the irresistible draw of God’s grace.

Verse 44 of the same chapter of John, which I quoted from at the top of this blog post, tells us that:

No one can come to me [Jesus] unless the Father who sent me draws him.

Likewise, in John 15:16 Jesus said:

You did not choose me, but I chose you.

God’s love and grace powerfully call people to Himself.

Perhaps you wonder if He has chosen you for eternal life through Christ. If you show any interest at all in the things of God, have a curious longing to know Him better, or even think often of knowing Him, God is most likely drawing you to Himself by means of His irresistible grace.

Find a place to be alone with Him. As simply as you would talk to another person, share with Him your doubts, questions, and longings. Invite Him to come and live in your heart and mind. Read His written Word and start with the passages I have mentioned in this devotional.

This could very well begin a wonderful, life-changing journey for you. God loves you and He is irresistibly drawing you toward His grace and love.