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Archive for September, 2008

When You Pass through the Waters

September 29th, 2008

September 30, 2008

 

But now, this is what the LORD says—
       he who created you, O Jacob,
       he who formed you, O Israel:
       “Fear not, for I have redeemed you;
       I have summoned you by name; you are mine.

When you pass through the waters,
       I will be with you;
       and when you pass through the rivers,
       they will not sweep over you.
       When you walk through the fire,
       you will not be burned;
       the flames will not set you ablaze.

For I am the LORD, your God,
       the Holy One of Israel, your Savior;
       I give Egypt for your ransom,
       Cush and Seba in your stead.

 Since you are precious and honored in my sight,
       and because I love you,
       I will give men in exchange for you,
       and people in exchange for your life.

 Do not be afraid, for I am with you;       

Isaiah 43:1-5a

 

 

The words of Isaiah 43 are about Israel and God’s faithfulness to the nation, yet they have an application for the Christian as well and how reliable our God is to fulfill His promises to us. Because God is sovereign His children can follow Him with confidence, trusting Him to guide and supply our spiritual and physical needs.

 

We are in the midst of a worldwide financial crisis, and no one knows where this will all end. Perhaps in a few days or weeks we will all see some improvement and breathe a collective sigh of relief; perhaps it will take months or even years to see some real improvement. But every child of God can be at peace in this moment by taking to heart the promises of God’s word to provide for His own.

 

The context of these promises above is the return of Israel to Jerusalem physically and to God spiritually following the Babylonian captivity. The Church has been grafted into the olive tree of Israel (Romans 11:17) and now “share in the nourishing sap” of the experience of Israel with God. So the promises of God to Israel are precious to the Christian. These words in Isaiah 43 have to do with the fulfillment of God’s redemptive will for His people, and are of particular help to us in times of financial problems. When we speak of the will of God it is essential we understand the redemptive aspect of God’s will, and not just the prescriptive aspect.

 

In the prescriptive sense, God wills the best for His children to help us avoid problems and by His justice we often experience the results of poor choices we make. But the hand of God does not end its work in our lives at the point of our failure, for if that was the case, then the entire human race would be without hope since we have all, since Adam and Even, failed to walk in the will of God in all areas of our lives. Even the best among us is far off the mark of perfection in God.

 

In the redemptive sense, God wills His children to be forgiven and cleansed, redeemed and restored, and to be set back into a privileged position of hope for the future. God deals with us on the basis of His grace, and grace is what the world needs for we have all sinned and fall short of His glory. We can come to God humbly but confidently in our moment of need and even failure. He has created us and recreated us in Christ Jesus. He has planned for us to know Him and to be found in Him from before the world was created, that he might lavish on us with all wisdom and understanding the riches of His grace (Ephesians 1:4-8). God’s redemption is primarily spiritual in nature, yet it also has physical and material applications in this life.

 

God is active in the affairs of men and He is our Provider. He acts with compassion and mercy for His children out of His great purpose for our lives and in consideration to our weaknesses. His actions are not just limited to spiritual blessings but include the provision of the material needs of His children, as Our Lord taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread.” He provides jobs, provides finances, gives wisdom, hope, creativity, and incentives for the meeting of our physical needs.

 

Even when financial problems are the result of our own mistakes, the Lord promises to be with us as we “pass through the waters” and “walk through the fire,” on our way back to Him. We should pray with confidence for our peace and prosperity in this time of need. We should also seek to be His hand of redemptive grace to others and seek to grow in compassion toward others as we grow in confidence in Him. The Lord watches over His own.

 

Lord, we know that this world is not our home, and that our boasting must be in You and in Your love demonstrated on Calvary. One day we shall lay aside the tent that is this body and put on the indestructible body You have prepared for us. In this life we can expect problems and even persecutions, but Lord we can also expect Your help and rescue. We lift up to You the financial markets of the world that provide livelihood and the means of employment to the world’s population; we pray for political leaders and business leaders, that they have have the wisdom they need to resolve the challenges we face today, as wel pray also for their salvation. We lift up to You our own financial situations and ask for Your provision. Give us this day our daily bread. Give us peace in this time. Amen.

 

 

Evening Devotionals

Objections to Grace

September 28th, 2008

 

September 29, 2008

 

They were all trying to frighten us, thinking, “Their hands will get too weak for the work and it will not be completed.” But I prayed, “Now strengthen my hands.”

Nehemiah 6:9

 

We are not given access to all the thoughts of Nehemiah during the days of rebuilding the wall of Jerusalem, but we know ourselves well enough as a race to be certain that doubt and fear of failure crossed his mind more than once. We face the same questions within ourselves when we start down the path of personal revival: Can we accomplish the tasks God has for us?

 

Revival is God’s work in our lives that He calls us to join Him in accomplishing; it is returning to Him in intimacy and obedience to continue our journey of faith with Him. In that sense the overall task of revival is never completed, but in the revival of faith there are milestones in our lives that need to be accomplished: establishing a Christ-centered life; learning to forgive ourselves and others; rediscovering the love for God’s Word and the privilege of prayer; learning to experience daily the flow of the life of Christ in our lives and through our lives to touch others. Nehemiah’s story depicts the importance of removing the shameful stigma of past failures, the heart of which is seeing our self as a new creation, recreated in Christ and given a fresh start. This can only be accomplished in our lives through our faith in God’s Word and in the witness of His Spirit. In the realm of faith to believe God is where we need our “hands” strengthened.

 

The kinds of opposition that Nehemiah faced we also face. His enemies said it could not be done and ridiculed the progress as insignificant – often our enemy the devil discourages us by constant accusations against us, reminding us of what we have done in the past. His fellow Jews complained of their tiredness and continual harassment – they did this after the wall was half way completed and this pictures the willingness within us to accept a lukewarm Christian experience and think that is enough, just so long as we are not too bad. Plain old materialism crept into the picture in chapter 5, and a love for the things of this world is one of our greatest distractions in personal revival. In chapter 6 Nehemiah is threatened with accusations of fanaticism, and don’t we hear people warn us of not getting too carried away with our faith, simply because they cannot understand the experience of grace and personal revival?

 

Our transition from having been dead in transgressions and sins to being alive in Christ is documnented in Ephesians 2;1-10. The Message translates the passage this way:

 

It wasn’t so long ago that you were mired in that old stagnant life of sin. You let the world, which doesn’t know the first thing about living, tell you how to live. You filled your lungs with polluted unbelief, and then exhaled disobedience. We all did it, all of us doing what we felt like doing, when we felt like doing it, all of us in the same boat. It’s a wonder God didn’t lose his temper and do away with the whole lot of us. Instead, immense in mercy and with an incredible love, he embraced us. He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ. He did all this on his own, with no help from us! Then he picked us up and set us down in highest heaven in company with Jesus, our Messiah.

Now God has us where he wants us, with all the time in this world and the next to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. Saving is all his idea, and all his work. All we do is trust him enough to let him do it. It’s God’s gift from start to finish! We don’t play the major role. If we did, we’d probably go around bragging that we’d done the whole thing! No, we neither make nor save ourselves. God does both the making and saving. He creates each of us by Christ Jesus to join him in the work he does, the good work he has gotten ready for us to do, work we had better be doing.

 

Without the second section of that passage we would be discouraged about ourselves. The devil’s accusations and our own self-doubts are appropriate, if it were not for the grace of God. But because the grace of God is our reality, because “He took our sin-dead lives and made us alive in Christ,” then we have every reason to see ourselves as forgiven and cleansed, and God is ready to shower grace and kindness upon us in Christ Jesus. We just need to “trust him enough to let him do it.”

 

The response to all of these accusations is found in Nehemiah’s prayer, “Strengthen my hands.”  Though this is a good prayer to pray for anything God calls us to do, the application in revival is that Nehemiah represented experiencing the covering of shameful legacies of failure in our lives by the grace of God. Our repentance from sin must be real and we each have people to whom we should apologize and areas where we need to make amends. None of us dares to appear before God in our righteousness, which is as filthy rags before God. We each are greatly in need of God’s grace and all we can do is to come before Him humbly confessing our need. But God’s grace is greater than our sin! As believers in Christ we can say that whatever we had been in our failures we are no more; the old has passed away and the new has come (2 Cor. 5:17). The grace of God in Christ has completely covered our sins. Our humility remains, for only the humble truly know the power of God, but through our humility God’s power and grace are released into our lives. We need God to strengthen our minds and faith to understand the new position we have in Christ, to put our shame in the past and to move forward confidently and joyfully as a child of God.

 

Anyone returning to God will experience setbacks, discouragements, doubts, and is likely to be misunderstood by the world. But revival is the rediscovery of the power of God and in moments of weakness and doubt we can turn to Him in prayer. God delights to show Himself strong on behalf of those who seek Him.

 

Lord, strengthen our hearts this evening and encourage us with the greatness of Your forgiveness and grace. The devil accuses us, the world doubts us, and we have our own fears as well. But this evening let us believe fully the proclamation of the Scripture, “He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion” (Phil. 1:6), and rejoice in You.  We are new creations in You. Thank You for Your grace! Amen.

 

 

 

 

Evening Devotionals