“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day… So we don’t look at the troubles we see now; rather we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” -2 Corinthians 4:16, 18
We can fool ourselves. A person can give up and yet still keep going. You do what has to be done. People see you and see nothing different. But inside… inside you have given up, become discouraged, leaking hope… So, how do I move from giving up to never give up? I am promised that The Spirit renews my spirit every day. To not give up I must pay attention to what God is always doing for me, for us – renewing me… daily. How do I do that? How do I see what God is doing in and around me when circumstances look and smell like the bottom of a trash can that has held trash for too long? I am to fix my gaze on to the eternal, rather than the moment, the temporary. Anything I see in my circumstances is temporary; temporary because God will change them, and temporary because of the eternal life I will experience when Jesus comes again. It all comes down to where I fix my gaze. If I fix my gaze on circumstances, then I have focused on my inability to “fix” it. When I fix my gaze on the unseen, I focus on Jesus, His promises, the presently unseen things He is doing. And, ultimately, my gaze is on the eternal.
Father, turn my gaze in the right direction, and give me eyes to catch glimpse of what you are doing in and around me.
Readings: Luke 20, 2 Corinthians 4, 1 John 3, Romans 8
“May the Lord show special kindness to Onesiphorus and all his family because he often visited and encouraged me. He was never ashamed of me because I was in chains. When he came to Rome, he searched everywhere until he found me.” -2 Timothy 1:16-17
While I would never want to name a kid after this guy, I certainly would want kids to be like him – adults for that matter too! He is an encourager, and being an encourager requires something very specific. An encourager must be willing to go out of their way again and again. Paul was in prison, and this man visits again and again. Traveling to Rome, finding a place to stay, and making time for repeated prison visits is no small sacrifice. On top of all this Paul adds that he searched for Paul until he found him.
God’s call for me/we to be encouragers means a readiness to go out of my way; to make sacrifices repeatedly; to persist until found. We tend to hate the slightest inconvenience. This has to be shed to encourage. While many people we may minister to may not literally be in prison, they can be in prisons of their own struggle. They, too, must be found. They will require persistence because they may at first push us away. But the encourager presses on and in.
Father, make me a better encourager…
Readings: Ezekiel 37, 2 Timothy 1, Psalm 17
“Yes, the Lord has done amazing things for us! What joy! Restore our fortunes, Lord, as streams renew the desert. Those who plant in tears will harvest with shouts of joy.” -Psalm 126:3-5
Hey, wait a minute! Are not these opposing concepts? How can God do amazing things and yet we need God to restore some things? How can God do amazing things and I have to work at things in tears? Doesn’t the idea of restoring run contrary to amazing? How can working at something with great struggle, pain and tears also be God doing amazing things?
Yet this is right where I am. I live in a world that is held together by tension. God is, has done, is doing and will do amazing things in and around my life. At the same time, I can need God to restore fortunes in an area of my life. My life has the tension of amazing and need. I live the tension of a great, amazing, good God and the tension of restoration in another area. I live with the tension of God doing amazing things, while at the same time life being hard and bringing tears to my eyes and soul. The good news is this amazing God promises such tension will lead to a harvest with joy – i.e. God does something amazing again.
Father, You are amazing, and I trust you will come through in amazing ways where I need You to restore my fortunes. I choose to look forward to the harvest.
Readings: Psalm 126, Psalm 92, Psalm 135, 2 Corinthians 12
“But you would not have condemned my innocent disciples if you knew the meaning of this Scripture: I want you to show mercy, not offer sacrifices.”
“He will not crush the weakest reed or put out a flickering candle…” -Matthew 12:7, 20a
The disciples had picked grain and was eating it on the Sabbath. It was a clear violation of religious law at that time. Jesus’ words point to the need for mercy. Mercy is not something extended to the deserving. Mercy is for the undeserving. Mercy is both forgiving and overlooking sin. Mercy is not excusing sin, but releasing the sinner through forgiveness. Mercy is not crushing the weakest. Mercy is not snuffing out a flickering candle. Mercy sees into the eyes and heart of the fallen and devotes itself to keeping the flame burning… ever brighter.
I can speak not only from the Word, but from experience. I have been the weakest, and He loved me and put me back together, instead of crushing me. I have been the flickering flame about to go out, but He stirred the flames. I have known, know, and will know in the future His unquenchable mercy. Which leads back to me. Am I seeking to be like Jesus? Are my fellow followers of Jesus seeking to be like Jesus? Am I condemning or giving mercy? Am I crushing or curing the weakest? Am I building a roaring fire in others or snuffing out the flickering flame of others? It doesn’t matter what other believers do here. It doesn’t matter if they think I am weak. What matters is living like Jesus.
Father, let me be a source of Your shelter for the weak, and the bearer of Your fuel for the flickering flame of others.
Readings: Matthew 12, Romans 5, 2 Corinthians 8, Philippians 1
“And He also said, It is finished! I am the Alpha and Omega – the Beginning and the End. To all who are thirsty I will give freely from the springs of the water of life.” -Revelation 21:6
Today when I went out to ride my bike I had decided to use the time to think and talk with God about some things. My ride was this seamless drifting from talking to God, to thinking about pacing and how far I could push and not cramp up later, to thinking about some things I needed to work through, to how cold it was in the wind, to prayer, to thinking, to how surprisingly hot I was and would pay for that later when I was out in the fierce wind again, to talking to God…
At around the 20 mile mark the Lord planted a thought in my mind. People today are stressed out. One recent study stated that millennials are so stressed out that many are prematurely losing their hair. (I will not speak to the veracity of such a statement.) Nevertheless, we are more and more “stressed out” not matter what our age. Some would think it is the complexity of the world we live in today. With all the advances in technology and the pace at which knowledge is increasing, complexity must be stressing us out. I don’t think our problem is complexity. It is perplexity. We stress out because we are perplexed at our situation; or why God hasn’t done anything yet; or why we intended to do better but didn’t; or why someone so close to us hurt us as they did; or… We live in a perplexing world, where things, circumstances, and people are perplexing because we are just not consistent (though it is a noble goal to strive for). (The thought – “it is not about complexity but perplexity!)
Here is where Revelation 21 comes into play. After telling us what the New Heaven and New Earth will be like after Jesus returns this statement in verse 6 appears – “To all who are thirsty I will give freely…” What Christ did for us isn’t complex, it is perplexing. Why bother saving people who turned their back on Him? Why love the unlovely and unlovable? The flip side is I find the idea of thirsting for Jesus is not complex, it is perplexing. Sometimes I am really thirsty for more of Jesus. Then there are other times where what I want is elsewhere. I am a perplexing being. I relate to other perplexing people who, like me, will spend our entire lives nowhere near being consistent. But the perplexing has a solution – Jesus. I can love others no matter how perplexing they may be to me because Jesus can love through me. I know I should be thirsty. I have been thirsty and therefore received Jesus as my Lord and Savior. But I can also go to Jesus to ask for His help in being thirsty. It’s a bit perplexing, but it is the very thing that Jesus loves to answer.
Jesus, guide me through this perplexing life by keeping me thirsty for more of you.
Reading: Genesis 15, Hebrews 9, Revelation 21, Luke 1
“I am the one who has seen the afflictions that come from the rod of the Lord’s anger… The faithfulness of the Lord never ends! His mercies never cease. Great is his faithfulness; his mercies begin afresh each morning.” -Lamentations 3:1, 22-23
This chapter makes it clear that his suffering is from God. God is angry. They have sinned and he is responding. He describes his suffering as “broken bones”, “distress”, “heavy chains” to mention just a few. I/we have experienced heavy chains, brokenness, distress. It is an unbearable pain and there seems to be no end in sight; whether physical, emotional, mental. It is the kind of hardship that makes us ready to quit. We come to the point of just “getting through” the day. It is a period of life where optimism and hope dries up. Our spiritual, mental, and emotional make up becomes dead, hardened, empty. Yet Jeremiah finds a way to keep going; a way to grab on to hope. He lays hold of the promise of God to be faithful. And to emphasize it, he redundantly says God’s faithfulness “never ends.”
When all hell seems to break lose in our lives; when suffering seems beyond our ability to cope; when we are ready to give up; to fall down and decided to not get back up – in this desperate place – God is faithful. He is faithful in leading us to this hard place; faithful in leading us through this hard place, and faithful to lead us to a new phase of life on the other side.
When life can’t seem to get any worse, and then something else happens; when it just feels like everything, everyone, every circumstance is just piling on us – he rests on the promise that God’s mercies are new every morning. Every morning, no matter how bleak and discouraging – God gives us a fresh start. Every morning He is there; His love is there; His faithfulness is there; His mercy is there. I have found that it is in the deep valleys of life that God’s faithfulness and mercy shine brightest. And that is what happens when you choose to live by Promise instead of by problems!
Faithful God, when I am down I will choose to see Your faithfulness to me more than what I am feeling.
Readings: Lamentations 3, Psalm 37, Psalm 83, Genesis 22
“God also bound himself with an oath, so that those who received the promise could be perfectly sure that he would never change his mind. So God has given both his promise and his oath. These two things are unchangeable because it is impossible for God to lie. Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls.” – Hebrews 6:17-19a
God binds himself to every promise he makes. Every promise in his Word is certain. It can never be changed. God doesn’t lie or change his mind. It is these promises of God that give us strength for daily living. His promises give me a life that is “perfectly sure” of Him. His promises give me refuge in Him. His promises give me “great confidence” in him. His promises assure me of hope; a hope that is strong because it rests in him rather than wishing. And, this hope is a trustworthy anchor for my soul. An anchor, used in the storms of life to prevent the ship from running aground, or worse from breaking apart on a reef. The promises of God get me through the storms of life pouring into me certainty in God seeing me through. His promises give me refuge when needed. His promises give me confidence to get back up and keep going when all else screams to give it up. His promises give me one of the most vital things for living – hope. Not a hope that might happen, but a hope that is certain. A hope grounded in the love of God for me, a hope resting on all He promises.
Father, thank you for your promises that give me hope in every situation I face this day, and every day.