Monday, July 31, 2017

Tight Spots and Wide Open Spaces


[Photo of a woman looking under the hood of a vehicle]

“You… knew the anguish [straits] of my soul.
You… have set my feet in a spacious place.”
—Psalm 31:7-8

If you’re like me, on occasion you’ve been in tight spots in your life.

I remember a day before cell phones when I sat in the middle of an intersection in rush hour traffic on my way to the garage with my horn blaring (out of my control) and the car refusing to start. Drivers behind me impatiently honked. When the police came, they pushed my broken down vehicle to the side of the street where I waited for help.

I remember other times, in that same car, with windows open, driving in the summer breezes through the countryside admiring the wide-open spaces, enjoying every moment of the ride.

God can put any of us in a tight spot when He sees we need the discipline, or the lesson to build our faith, that such a spot will teach us. Some tight spots keep us confined for a very long time and we begin to feel forgotten, like I did in traffic that long-ago day.

In those times, God seems far away, but He still hears us when we cry to Him. Psalm 18:6, 19 uses that same word that means “strait”:

In my distress [strait], I called to the Lord, I cried to my God for help. From his temple he heard my voice; my cry came before him, into his ears…He brought me out into a spacious place; he rescued me because he delighted in me.

Imagine God of the Universe delighting in us, waiting for our cry for help, and arranging a rescue for us.

God’s rescue may not come as soon as we’d like, like the wait we sometimes have for the towing service to show up on the scene. But, if we trust Him, we know He will come to us at the best possible time with our best possible interests in mind.

The Israelites felt as though they had stayed in the straits of Egypt far too long, but we know God had a great plan to rescue His people there. Deuteronomy 6:21-24 sums it up:

We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand… He brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land that he promised on oath to our forefathers. The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive.

God always has our best in mind, even when we seem to live in the “straits.” When we find ourselves in the “straits,” we must learn to trust Him to come to our rescue in due time. And, we must not forget to praise Him for His kindness and generosity in providing everything we need!



Monday, July 24, 2017

The Rest of the Story


[Photo of Paul Harvey]

The Rest of the Story

“A record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the
Son of David, …Salmon the father of Boaz,
whose mother was Rahab, Boaz the father of Obed,
whose mother was Ruth, Obed the father of
Jesse, and Jesse the father of King David.”
—Matthew 1:1, 5-6

Anyone who grew up in the 1960s and 1970s knows the name of the late radio announcer Paul Harvey. You could hear his daily syndicated broadcasts on many radio stations at noon. Typically, one of his stories shared at the end of a regular newscast would begin like this one:

When you’re a little boy and Dad calls you “good-for-nothing,” it’s just got to hurt! That’s just what Guiseppe’s Papa called him.1

Harvey goes on to relate the story of an immigrant family from Sicily who worked in the fishing industry after coming to America. Guiseppe became ill each time he helped out on the boat. The “rest of the story” began after Guiseppe decided to leave fishing and began working at other odd jobs before finally stumbling on the thing that most interested him. He entered the world of sports and turned that world upside down.

Paul Harvey dramatically ended the story with these words:

For if that young man hadn’t been too seasick to join the family business, he would have left a vacancy in baseball’s Hall of Fame too great to fill… Guiseppe… Joe… DiMaggio. And, that’s the rest of the story.2

One of the reasons I like the Old Testament stories so very much comes from the fact that the people in those stories didn’t possess our knowledge of how the story would end. They got caught up in tragedy, or intrigue, or adventures they didn’t understand. And, at that moment in time, God alone knew the rest of their stories.

I think of two women, Rahab and Ruth. Rahab, a former prostitute, simply allowed Hebrew spies safe haven in her Jericho home because she had heard the reports about the Hebrew God who did miracles for His people. You can read the beginning of the story in Joshua 2, but the rest of it comes centuries later in Matthew 1.

Ruth, the poor immigrant Moabitess, who followed her mother-in-law and her monther-in-law’s God back to Bethlehem to scrape together a living, had no idea, even when she married and had a baby boy, that he would also become part of the lineage of David and Jesus, the Christ. The beginning of her story happens in the Book of Ruth and also concludes in the first chapter of Matthew.

I reckon that all of us play a role in stories of which we don’t know the ending. The Sovereign God of the nations, of time, and of a plan which He hasn’t fully made known to us, works through our seemingly mundane experiences, many of which we might be tempted to call “coincidences,” in order to complete the rest of our stories.

We need to ask God to show us His fingerprints in our lives, as He leads us through circumstances and experiences we don’t understand. Perhaps, in His time, He will reveal His plan so that we can more fully trust Him and take encouragement. Perhaps we will not know the end of the story until we see Him in the next life.

Whichever way God chooses to work out our stories, we can be sure that we will praise and exalt His sovereign and loving plan for us, when we at last come to know the rest of the story!


1 Aurandt, Paul. Paul Harvey’s the Rest of the Story. New York: Bantam Books, 1977, pp. 62-64.
2 Ibid



Monday, July 17, 2017

The Devil and Cinderella


[Photo of Cinderella]

“Your enemy the devil prowls around like a
roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”
—1 Peter 5:8

Cinderella, the beauty of her family, lived her life by the stories her stepsisters told her and in the mockery and servitude in which they made her live. She willingly allowed them to pile the dirty jobs on her and to intimidate her into believing she wasn’t fit to attend the ball she prepared them to attend.

In their book, The Sacred Romance, Brent Curtis and John Eldredge liken many of us to this poor housemaid. The authors suggest that we believe the lies that we may have heard all our lives, instigated by our real enemy, Satan himself.

This very trickery worked on Eve in the Garden of Eden when Satan questioned her—as recorded in Genesis 3—and asked “Did God really say?”

Unsuccessfully, Satan tried these same tactics on our Savior when He went into the wilderness of temptation before He began His public ministry. Satan tried to put doubts into Jesus’ mind over God’s plan, as well as doubts about His place in it, using such statements as “IF you are the Son of God…” found in Luke 4:3, 9.

Satan likes to tell false stories to us, as well. Sometimes he uses the voices of family members or classmates, causing us to believe the lies he tells us. If we allow him to convince us, our whole lives can feel useless and pointless, unaware of the Prince of Peace who has a new name, a new nature and a new ever-after for us.

Here’s how the authors of The Sacred Romance put it:

Fortunately for Cinderella, the prince is a romantic who will not give up searching the city until he has found her, and they live happily ever after. And so it will be with us who are the beloved of the great Prince who is Jesus. It is this destiny that so enrages our enemy and makes him determined to destroy the love affair that he can never have a part in.1

Have you been listening to the wrong voices? Let God’s written Word, His great Love Letter to us, fill your mind and heart. And, accept from Him the invitation to see yourself as the Child of the King with a royal purpose. Allow Him to invite you to the singing and praising of God’s people, where you will find a sense of belonging and true rejoicing.


1 Curtis, Brent, and John Eldredge. The Sacred Romance. Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1997, p. 110.

—Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017



Monday, July 10, 2017

The Pleasure of Your Company


[Photo of a wedding invitation]

“I delight to sit in his shade, and his fruit
is sweet to my taste. He has taken me to the
banquet hall and his banner over me is love.”
—Song of Songs 2:3-4

You can still read the lines, “The pleasure of your company is requested...” on formal wedding invitations. These words most often get overlooked when we keep reading to learn the details that follow.

Chances are that you enjoy the company of special people: those with whom you feel comfortable, those you know well, or those you would like to get to know better. As Christians, we learn to enjoy the pleasure of our Lord’s company through Bible study and prayer, most often in the privacy of our quiet time alone.

The Westminster Shorter Catechism, which many believe summarizes the doctrine of the Bible, begins with the question: “What is the chief end of man?” And, the answer written there says simply: “The chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever.” Most often, when we consider these words, we think about our lives “glorifying” God. I wonder how often do we think about “enjoying” Him?

David, the man after God’s heart, says in Psalm 16:11:

You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand.

Another psalmist in Psalm 43:4 refers to God as his “joy and delight.”

And, God requires nothing of us to meet with us than our firm desire and our time. Remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 11:28:

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

He knows the pleasure and rest we find coming into His presence. We do not have to wonder if this presence comes only at certain times. Yes, sometimes we can sense His nearness more than at other times. But, He has promised never to leave us alone.

In fact, the very last words Jesus spoke before He ascended into Heaven, recorded in Matthew 28:20, remind us:

“Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

An old hymn1, written in the 18th century, captures the concept of joy in His presence:

O thou, in whose presence, my soul takes delight,
On whom in affliction I call,
My comfort by day and my song in the night,
My hope, my salvation, my all!

We can get started receiving this close fellowship with the Savior by beginning our prayer time as follows:

Oh, Lord, You who have invited us to know You, we request the pleasure of Your company during this prayer hour. Reveal Yourself through Your written Word as we draw near to You.

Thank You for Your promise to be with us always through our Lord Jesus. Amen.


1 Swain, Joseph. Hymn: O Thou in Whose Presence, Public Domain.



Monday, July 3, 2017

Knowing the Voice


[Drawing of Little Red Riding Hood]

“When he [the shepherd] has brought
out all his own, he goes on ahead of them,
and his sheep follow him because they know his
voice. But they will never follow a stranger;
in fact, they will run away from him because
they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
—John 10:4-5

Evidently Red Riding Hood did not know her Grandma as well as she thought she did. On her famous visit, the wolf, who had earlier spoken to her in the woods, disguised his voice in such a way that he tricked the little girl into thinking he was her Grandma. Had it not been for her quick legs and a woodsman nearby, the wolf would have had her for dinner.

We know that in our modern day, voice recognition software helps authorities identify people scientifically. As our fingerprints, the retina of our eyes, and our DNA give distinguishing characteristics, so do our voices.

Just as Jesus taught, we can recognize His voice if we know Him. He does not reveal Himself to “strangers.” In the same way that Red Riding Hood was duped by the clever wolf, so our spiritual enemy, Satan, has packs of evil emissaries that come to us with trickery and temptation.

So, how do we come to recognize the true voice of the Good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ?

First of all, we know Him by speaking to Him frequently. I don’t recognize the voice of someone with whom I’ve only had one or two conversations. But, even something as simple as the clearing of a throat of someone I know intimately, identifies that person to me.

Secondly, we can discern the real voice of our Lord by the way in which the voice speaks to us. In James 3:14-17, the apostle gives us these distinguishing marks:

If you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. But, the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

Do we hear the loving, merciful, and engaging voice of our Savior? Or, do we hear the accusing, resentful voice of our sinful nature and our enemy, Satan? This kind of discernment comes from a mature walk with God. And, it becomes increasingly evident the longer we live.

Maybe Red Riding Hood should have prayed before she began her walk to Grandma’s house. Each day, and in each decision we feel unsure to make, we need to stop and pray that God will make Himself evident in our thinking, and that we will clearly recognize His loving voice, distinguishing it from all other voices.