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June 19th, 2019

For he is our God,
and we are the people of his pasture,
and the sheep of his hand.
Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts … (Psalm 95:7-8)

Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end. (Hebrews 3:12-14)

Life can only be lived in the present tense. Yesterday is a dream and tomorrow does not exist and never shall. We truly only have the present now that we can live in. The inspired authors above knew this, that “today,” whenever “today” is, is the only time that we may live life, live in faith, live in Christ.

It is the most fundamental duty of every Christian to arise each morning and thank God for that day, turning our hearts to Him, worshiping and trusting and following Him. Oswald Chambers wrote:

We are not meant to be illuminated versions, but the common stuff of ordinary life exhibiting the marvel of the grace of God. Drudgery is the touchstone of character. The great hindrance in spiritual life is that we will look for big things to do. “Jesus…took a towel,…and began to wash the disciples’ feet.”

There are times when there is no illumination and no thrill, but just the daily round, the common task. Routine is God’s way of saving us between our times of inspiration. Do not expect God always to give you His thrilling minutes, but learn to live in the domain of drudgery by the power of God. (My Utmost for His Highest, June 15)

But the Lord is always present. He is constant not as a force but as a person, as the divine presence with the face of Christ, who is able to move in each heart each day. Have you ever been surprised by the grace of God moving in your heart and life amid the boring details of life?

“Bi-polar” is the term we use to describe those people who tend to live in the extremes, as if the only days worth living are those of high euphoria. Yet we each have a touch of this in us, and we each will be tempted to think that God is only present in the moments of great euphoric emotion. But God is the Friend who is with us also in the quiet times of simple things.

There is no sweeter thought to a Christian’s heart than the admonition of Christ: “Abide in me, and I will abide in you” (John 15:4). Notice he does not say, “Abide in euphoria and euphoria will abide in you.” Euphoric times can even intrude on personally knowing others, simply because in moments of emotional highs we focus on the emotion itself, or on our own feelings, more than on the other person. We truly do not know anyone until we are with them in quiet times and listen to their heart. And with Christ, it is when all is quiet that we can gain a better view of His heart and mind.

When days seem slow, tedious, dismal, and when nights seem lonely and the thrill of earlier times has dissipated like the fog, when there is seemingly nothing but tedium and the duties of the day, turn your eyes toward heaven, and let faith grow in your heart. Believer, God is with you today, and though He may be more like a quiet Friend than a chatty one, there is precious grace in each moment with Him. This is especially true in days of uncertainty and loneliness.

“Today” if you hear His voice, whether as a shout, a song, or a gentle whisper, do not harden your heart and demand some emotional thrill, but simply turn to Him, listen to Him, abide in Him. And, as He promised, He will abide in you.

Daily Devotions, John 15, Psalms

The Persecuted Vine

August 17th, 2018

If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. (John 15:18-19 ESV)

It is essential to remember the context of these words. They were said immediately after Christ gave His well-loved vineyard analogy: “I am the vine, you are the branches.” The first part of John 15 includes some of the most precious and beautiful promises and analogies of the teachings of Christ, promises of His abiding life in us, of His friendship and election of us, of God’s answers to prayer, assurances of living constantly in love and in loving communion with others believers.

Then on the heels of the promise of being called and empowered to bear spiritual “fruit that will last,” is this word of future persecution. We are caught between two loves – the love of God and the love of the world. The love of God is sacrificial, redemptive, uplifting, and positive. The “love” of the world is fallen, convenient, marked by selfishness and anger, and negative. Christian love lifts others up to God. Worldly “love” drags others down to immorality and hardness. The world loves its own because they do not make it look evil, nor speak to the conscience, nor offer the hope and life of God.

It is perfectly logical, of course, that if we are called in Christ into a life of eternal love, if we have an experience of heaven touching us with its compassion and grace, if we are receiving the life of our Eternal Vine, if we are being called out of darkness and into light, then it is only logical to assume that the darkness and spiritual death that we are being called out of will unleash vengeance on us. The Christian experiences these two extremes: loving fellowship among believers and apathy, suspicion, or even angry vengeance from non-believers.

But it is the persistence of life under threat of death that gives its most potent witness to its power. On our balcony in our apartment in Germany, my wife has placed many plants and flowers – the presence of life on the otherwise austere concrete. But in the cracks of the stones have fallen many random seeds and they spring up in the European summer, even after we have repeatedly pulled them out, giving testimony to the potency of life.

Should we expect less from Christ in our life today, that His life in us will empower us to face and overcome all threats. “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (John 1:5). Wherever God has placed us as believers in Christ, there we are to grow – whether we are planted in the midst of rich Christian soil, surrounded by a loving community, or we are placed in the cracks of the stone-cold hearts of the world, feeling all alone. If you feel alone, remember, as Elijah did, that there are still thousands who also believe. And if you are planted in the midst of a rich and fertile Christian community, do not think too highly of yourself.

John 14-17, John 15