Monday, October 28, 2013

My Suitable Portion


[Photo of a large food buffet]

 “ My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the
strength of my heart and my portion forever.”
 —Psalm 73:26
 “I say to myself, ‘The Lord is my portion;
therefore I will wait for Him.’”
 —Lamentations 3:24

I may lose, and lose, and lose—people, place, position, possessions, but not my portion. We tend to take our comfort, our joy, our stability, our sense of well-being and balance from these things.

Back in 1967, a study called the Holmes-Rahe Life Stress Inventory identified the top ten stressors they found. The list included:

  • death of spouse

  • divorce

  • separation

  • jail

  • death of close relative

  • injury or illness

  • marriage

  • being fired from job

  • marriage reconciliation

  • retirement.

Personally, I would add “moving to a new city.” And, from the experience of many Christians, I would add “strife within the church.”

The human race has never been without stress. Can you imagine how stressed Adam and Eve must have been when God sent them from Eden, their home, into a “big, bad world” they had never known, with sin and death and pain? Stress and loss pretty much sum up the human condition under the rule of sin.

The psalm which inspired Martin Luther to write the hymn, “A Mighty Fortress is Our God” speaks the following from Psalm 46:1-3:

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam and the mountains quake with their surging.”

Sometimes we feel like the “earth is giving way.” Everything we have relied on, or that helped our sense of stability can be taken from us. Why does God allow this to happen? I would purport God uses such losses to drive us to Him alone. He wants to be our portion; that which we feed upon, that which gives us nourishment and delights us.

In the 17th century, Puritan writer Thomas Brooks wrote:

“Our God is a suitable portion. No object is as suitable to the heart as he is. He is a portion that is exactly suited to the condition of the soul in its desires, needs, wants, longings and prayers.” 1

Think how awesome the banquet of God’s love and provision. He who fed the Israelites in the wilderness for forty years on manna can feed us with everything we need. Yes, the manna gave these people a temporary provision while they waited to taste the full bounty of the Promised Land, but he gave them enough as recorded in Exodus 16:12:

“You will be filled with bread.”

The Apostle Paul writes of contentment in Philippians 4:12b:

“I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

From this we see our need to learn contentment and rejoice in the portion God gives us.

Whether your portion today is a wafer of manna or a feast of the finest foods, praise God that HE is your portion and HE is enough.


1 Thomas Brooks, Works, 11:27-28 as quoted in Voices from the Past, edited by Richard Rushing.



Monday, October 21, 2013

“You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby!”


[Photo of women praying]

Even if you’re a non-smoker like I am, if you grew up in the 1960’s and 70’s, you will likely remember this slogan for Virginia Slims cigarettes—all too clever marketing targeted at women. This age of the female gender gaining equality with men, women’s rights, and the sexual revolution brought with it these symbols of what the world regarded as “elegant” or “sophisticated.” Any “modern” woman aspired to look like the cultural images portrayed in such advertising.

This phrase came to mind last summer when I spent an evening with my graduating class for our 50th high school reunion. Such an event is a rather “normalizing” occasion in which all present meld again into just “Ann, the girl whose father died when we were in the third grade,” or “Jim, the farm boy with red hair and freckles.” It seems almost impossible to put into dinner conversation a full explanation of how far we’ve come as adults along the road of life since those days. We have just come way too far.

We can see how far we’ve come in a much more beneficial way by examining our spiritual growth. We look back at commitments we made to Christ as teenagers and the “young love” we experienced toward Him then, as compared to the mature walk of faith we strive for now. Or, we look back to see how drastically different we lived without Christ in our youth to our days of walking with Him faithfully now.

If you journal your faith life, you can benefit from looking back into your old volumes and see how far you’ve come. God wants us to grow. He wants mature servants. He works His grace in us in all its various forms and wants us to join Him in working that grace out in our lives.

I am reminded of the Parable of the Talents in which a wealthy landowner called in his servants and entrusted his property to them in the form of talents. He expected them to invest and grow the trust He had given them. He rewarded those who put the talents to work, and threw the servants out as “worthless” who only buried their talent.

At the end of our lives, He wants to speak to us the words from Matthew 25:23:

“Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!”

Sophistication, an elegant look, a culturally acceptable persona do not come close by comparison. But, if we’ve walked faithfully with Christ, we can still say “You’ve come a long way, Baby!”



Monday, October 14, 2013



[Photo of a boy with a basket of fresh-picked apples]

 “Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each man should give what he has decided in his heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.”
 —2 Corinthians 9:6, 8

During my teaching career, I loved those crisp fall days when the kindergarten children would walk out to their buses with bulging backpacks full of fruit they had picked on their field trip to the apple orchard. They proudly exhibited how much weight they could carry, expressed with groans of heavy toil as they walked.

Todd beamed, too. But instead of keeping his apples hidden, he carried them in his hands and offered them to staff members as he made his way down the hall.

“Hey, look what I picked! Would you like one?” he asked as he walked toward me.

I accepted his proffered gift and thought about Todd and his sister. These children obviously lacked in ordinary material possessions. The clothing they wore betrayed their poverty. Yet here he came, the poorest of the lot, giving out his apples right and left.

Was it possible that Todd at age five had already discovered the joy of giving? Perhaps this rare occasion, when he had something tangible to give away, provided those of us observing him a glimpse at his generous heart.

It pleases God if we give cheerfully like that. Sometimes we give because we feel others expect us to give. Sometimes we give because someone has actually asked for a donation.

What can God teach us today about giving?

Do you have something which you could give away to bring pleasure to another? Do you have something God wants you to give in a cheerful and abandoned manner?

Ask God to share with you His perspective on giving. Search His Word for what He has to say about giving. Take note of the verses that opened this blog post.

If you follow His instruction regarding giving, in your obedience you will surely reap a generous harvest!



Monday, October 7, 2013

The Voice


[Photo of a woman listening]

Maybe you’ve seen the popular musical television contest called “The Voice,” which begins with a blind audition. The four judges face the audience and listen to the artists sing. If they believe they would like to act as a coach for a particular artist they hear, the judge turns toward the artist and his or her chair lights up with the words, “I Want You.”

What a wonderful thing—to hear the voice of someone you respect giving you that kind of message. My analogy breaks down here, because instead of writing this devotional about our voice, I want to focus this devotional on the voice of our God. We want to hear His voice speak clearly to us. And, when we do, we know He has said to us, “I want you!”

In the well-known passage, John 10:27, Jesus says:

“My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me…”

In another passage found in Isaiah 30:21, the prophet Isaiah gives this instruction to the people of Israel:

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’”

But, “What does God’s voice sound like?” you ask.

Like us, God uses His voice differently to fit the circumstances. Psalm 29:3 says:

“The God of glory thunders, the Lord thunders over the mighty waters.”

Yet, in 1 Kings 19:12, we read that:

“After the earthquake came a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire. And after the fire came a gentle whisper.”

Like earthly fathers, our Heavenly Father uses His voice in ways appropriate for each situation to assure that He will be heard. When we need a swift warning of danger, we hear the tone of voice that will get our attention. When we need the comfort of His nearness, we hear the “still small voice.”

Do you know the voice of the Father? God wants us to recognize Him just as we do when our earthly father calls on the phone and we instantly know His expression and intonation.

God purposefully desires our fellowship. He does say, “I want you.” Just as He requested a response in Scripture, He requests a response from you and from me.

In Revelation 3:20, Jesus says:

“Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with him and he with me.”

This is the very best news spoken by the very best Voice that we could receive!