Thursday, May 20, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 72 - Suffering

"In a world that is consumed with peace, prosperity, fulfillment, and comfort, it is a challenging thought to envision yielding our lives to a Leader who may lead us through a measure of suffering." Following Christ Joseph Stowall

Philippians 1:29 "For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake."

Look at what has been granted -belief in Jesus- and I know that this is a blessing. But suffering? Suffering is a gift? Huh? No thank you, Lord. I don't want it. Or do I?

I do want to be close to you, Lord. I do want to be the kind of follower who will go anywhere for Your name's sake. You said in Matthew 5: "Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven...". You said there is a joy and rejoicing in my life when I suffer because of You. There is hope of future a child excitedly waiting for the day to open the present under the tree.

Peter and the apostles saw it as a privilege in Acts 5:40, 41 "...they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name." They left their beating rejoicing. That could only be because You gave them a supernatural perspective. You filled them up with Your presence; like You said in Matthew 28, "I am with you always, till the end of the age."

Paul understood the preciousness of knowing You in the midst of suffering. "that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and may share His sufferings, becoming like Him in His death," Philippians 3:10 To know You is a great gift. To be given access to the Living God, Creator of the Universe, Maker of beauty I have yet to experience, is a wonder-filled promise! To know You is a privilege and if it must come with suffering, let it be so, and give me Your mind-set on it.

But let me give a caution to myself and to my readers. As Joseph Stowell wrote in Following Christ: "But there is no place in followership for self-inflicted crosses. Looking for crosses so that we can appear to be more committed is not a virtue. There is no merit in bearing a cross that we have constructed through our own waywardness."

So what do you and I get from these verses? Well, let's not be surprised when troubles come. We were warned. Let us remember, knowing Christ is worth it all. Pray for boldness to follow and speak as even Paul asked the church to pray for him. Relax (don't worry, as our Lord admonished so many times) and enjoy the day the Lord has given us today. His presence is with us now and it will be with us tomorrow.

"Some crosses are fleeting things and quickly gone; some crosses last a lifetime. But no cross lasts forever." Joseph M. Stowell

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 71 - Obadiah

"It is the righteous purpose of God, not the evil will of men, that determines history." NKJV Commentary on Obadiah

Obadiah vs.12, 15 "You should not look down on your brother in the day of his misfortune, nor rejoice over the people of Judah in the day of their destruction...The day of the LORD is near for all nations. As you have done, it will be done to you; your deeds will return upon your own head."

Obadiah is a very short book. - only 21 verses. But every story in the Bible whether long or short displays the glory, power, and sovereignty of our God.

Obadiah was a man who God used to bring a message of doom to the nation of Edom, and a message of promise to Israel. Obadiah's beloved Jerusalem had been captured and ransacked by the powerful Babylonians. Edom, the neighbors to the east and relatives of the people of Israel, had helped the Babylonians conquer Israel. We see clear demonstrations of this in verses 13 and 14. "You (Edom) should not...seize their wealth...You should not wait at the crossroads to cut down their fugitives, nor hand over their survivors in the day of their trouble."

But mind you, even the defeat of Jerusalem to the Babylonians was God's plan. Jeremiah 15:6 "You (Jerusalem) have forsaken Me." says the LORD. Jeremiah 21:10 "For I have set My face against this city (Jerusalem) for adversity and not for good," says the LORD. "It shall be given into the hand of the king of Babylon, and he shall burn it with fire."

The righteous purpose of God is that His people worship Him in truth and in spirit. This is the way to life and peace. But the Israelites had forgotten God, turned their back on Him and were heading deeper and deeper into Satan's territory.

Whether we like it or not, suffering turns us around, stops us short, and makes us despair of ourselves turning us to God for help. So God sent an army (the Babylonians) to conquer His people (the Jews) and Edom rejoiced in their destruction. But God does not leave His people without hope and promise. The Jews would repent and return. Jeremiah 30:10 "Therefore do not fear...says the LORD, "Nor be dismayed, O Israel; For behold, I will save you from afar," "The people who survived the sword found grace in the wilderness..." Jer.31:2

Back to Obadiah - Edom is now going to get his 'come-uppings'. Judgment time! God does not forget. As Edom had done to Israel now God promises the same treatment will happen to them. And it did. In God's great plan He was able to punish His own people in order to restore them and at the same time punish the nations in order to remove them. What God is doing in the world is always right, always just, always on time.

You know why I need Obadiah? Because I just finished reading about the torture of some men, women, and children who are my Christian brothers and sisters in a Muslim country. I put down the article and cried out: "God, why aren't you doing something? Bring judgment on those wicked men!" I was angry and sad. Obadiah reminds me, He will! There is not one moment in the day where God is passive. He is causing His perfect plan to progress second by second throughout the world. Nothing escapes Him.

Give thanks to God that we live under His mercy. When an injustice happens to us His plan is still being accomplished.

"When the church suffers at the hands of God's enemies, she needs to return to the prophecy of Obadiah and renew her faith in the just God revealed there. He cares for His persecuted people, and behind their present circumstances He is always at work for them." NKJV Commentary

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Devotional Snapshot 70 - Idolatry

"If you look too long at others or yourself, you commit the sin of idolatry." Carol Totten

"As Jesus and His disciples were on their way, He came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to Him. She had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord's feet listening to what He said. but Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to Him, and asked, "Lord, don't You care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!"

"Martha, Martha," the Lord answered, "you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not by taken away from her." Luke 10: 38-42

I have always taken this section of scripture to be referring to our tendency to be too busy. But just this morning as I awoke and my mind continued to meditate on yesterdays concerns the Lord brought these verses to mind.

I had just finished a wonderful weekend with family and friends. It was busy, but beautiful. Nevertheless, after it was all over I began to fret about some things I should have said differently, or not said at all. Why did I do this at an inappropriate time? Why didn't I consider this one's feelings or that one's feelings? Did I make someone uncomfortable? Did something pop out of my mouth that hurt someone I loved and I didn't even mean it that way?

I asked the Lord's forgiveness, but couldn't shake the sadness at failing others. Yesterday I chewed the cud of disappointment in myself and worry for others happiness and this morning I awoke and began to do the same again. Then my Mighty God broke through with His word.

He brought these verses to mind and I noticed it was not about the "serving" the Lord rebuked Martha for. Look! It is about chewing the cud of discontentment and worry about others. She was worried about making her guests happy and discontented that Mary was not joining her in the urgency to do it. "Martha, are worried and upset about many things.."

"Carol, Carol, you have been focused on yourself enough, One thing is needed, choose what is better! Sit at my feet and listen."

Now if I refuse to obey this clear word spoken to me and continue to worry I will be committing idolatry. Another love replaces my Lord when I spend too much time thinking of me. If I can not lift my eyes up to heaven and praise His wonderful name today than I have a real sin to confess!

Is there a worry consuming your thoughts today? Have you considered that if you can not let it go and give it to God and worship Him, you are committing idolatry?