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What are some of the reasons why you find yourself in a quandary about trusting God? Have you taken the time to reassess your walk with Him? Does he seem too far away? Too cold? Not answering when you think He should?
Meet Ezra the priest. What do we know of him? Not much except he has been in Babylon for what seems like centuries, well not really, but it seems that way when all you can think of is your home city. But let’s look at it from a different perspective. Ever heard of the TV show the Amazing Race? Stay with me now while we journey back in time.
The TV show called the Amazing Race is where two individuals are given the task to find and locate a prize. The book of Ezra is a lot like that. The task: get to Jerusalem..anyway you can. Well, that is not likely since he was a prisoner of war situated in Babylon. He has seen kings come and go and now the entire Babylonian kingdom is gone and a new king is in place with a new man at the helm named Cyrus. You recall that Nebuchadnezzar, some 70 yrs ago stole the precious items from the Temple and so you need to find these hidden gems to rebuild the Temple. But, first, you need to get released from the Persian, kingdom. Ezra didn’t know the “how” or the “what” but God had already put into motion the plan.
The book of Ezra reflects that race and it begins with a heart that has been changed. God will “hire” not just any man but the Persian King, Cyrus who said: “The Lord God of heaven has given me all the kingdoms of the earth. As part of that gift, I am to build a temple for him in Jerusalem!” Whereas the Jews in captivity were not so willing to believe that God could use any Gentile, God will not only reveal it but show them that He is the God of all the earth; He is God to both Jews and Gentiles.
Cyrus was rich beyond our wildest imaginations. And the stolen Temple treasures? God knew exactly where they were. If he could bring a Gentile king to power to do His bidding why do we have problems thinking Cyrus wouldn’t know the location of the stolen treasures? And why do we fall short in our trust of God to take care of each detail down to the essentials?
Prov 3:5-6 is always true: Trust in the Lord with all thine heart…He will direct your paths. And He will bring to pass each and every detail needed to complete His work with the men/women He so chooses.
So why is that you have trouble trusting God again?
When I come up against a dilemma sometimes I seek to find my own solutions. But, in reality, the best solution is to sit down and have a heart to heart chat with the Almighty. I love this picture because it is saying, “Hi God, Do you have a minute?”
Conversations with God are not only helpful but often in times we don’t understand, the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see the unbelieving through the eyes of God. Psalm 94 is what we might call a prayer and conversation as the writer voices his questions and his responses as he talks with God. He explains to God what he sees in the wicked and then as he does this, it dawns on him how often he too acts and thinks in the same way. That is why he writes:
“How blessed is the one whom you instruct/chasten, O Lord, the one whom you teach from your law, in order to protect him from times of trouble, until the wicked are destroyed.”
God’s purposes are not like ours. Ours are temporal but God’s are eternal. He wants us to have open eyes to see the demise of the wicked in contrast to what He has planned for you as His child. He wants you to see the blessed eternal rest of the believing. Another psalmist noted that after he entered the house of God he was ashamed that he had even considered challenging God about why they seemed to prosper but he did not. In the end, he knew believers will not only enter the dwelling place of God but remain there in eternity.
Know this: you are beloved by God and He knows your frame. Trust Him.
I remember when I was little and I was scared I would find a place of refuge to wait until the storm passed. Where do you turn? Mine was a closet and books. I hid in them until the storm passed. The psalmist is no different yet when he faced the storms of life with no answer to all of his questions, he didn’t hide in a closet, he reflected upon the names of God.
The psalmist knew God as El Elyon, Yahweh; El Shaddai; Elohim and Jehovah.
As El Elyon, The God Most High, the psalmist knew that by calling upon God as El Elyon he could find shelter in the midst of a storm that had sent its fury his way. He didn’t just turn there but he chose to live or abide there. Jesus said; if you abide or remain in Me, the vine, you will find shelter.
As the Sovereign One God is El Shaddai. He is the All-Sufficient One, the Lord Almighty. He is the “I AM” who has great power. El Shaddai says trust Me, follow Me for I am immutable/unchangeable from yesterday to today and tomorrow. Therefore you can find rest in Me and in my protective shadow. My shadow will hide you from the taunts and snares of the evil one.
As Lord; Elohim is Sovereign, the Mighty One over all. As we observe the heavens and the sunrise and sunset, the stars and moon we can know that all is well because Elohim is in control. He cares and He is steadfast to carry us through even the most difficult of times. He controls our every day and every circumstance. Nothing comes to us but filtered through His fingers.
No matter the name you use, know this: God is available 24/7 for us in contrast to the idols and false gods which are detracted from us unless we offer something to appease them. Jesus said, Come unto me and I will give you rest. [Matt 11]
Today as you face the unknowns, find your rest in Him.
No matter where I am reading, the Living Holy Spirit catches my attention. This morning was one of those wake up calls and it began last week. Just like the Holy Spirit to see how I will face these unanticipated circumstances to show me how to put faith to work remembering the words of James. You want to know if my faith is real? Watch my works. OUCH! I thought I was handling this disruption pretty well …that is until finally I caved today and realized, umm nope, I am not handling this well at all.
Perhaps you can relate. It seems that no matter where you live or how your day is going, you and I can be sure of one thing; we will face unexpected, unforeseen and unanticipated circumstances that will disrupt our day and our scheduling and we don’t like it one bit! How we face these proves much about our character and our walk with God.
Listen to this and see if you can relate. We can be heard saying: “I don’t have time for this!” Why are we not rejoicing as Paul said we are to be doing? Why are we whining? Don’t we look for God to show Himself faithful? Intellectually we know God sees and understands just what is happening but in our heart we are complaining; “why me, why now?” As our Heavenly Father He is looking to see if we truly believe this truth: I understand and I am in control and I am allowing this for your good!
But in the immediate we just want relief.
You know as I do that we easily can spout Romans 5 “we have been declared righteous by faith” and Romans 8:28 “all things work together for good.” As a believer those verses are in our instant recall gray matter. But when these circumstances raise their ugly head, we fail to apply them to our own circumstances. Sounds ludicrous; doesn’t it? But, our response reveals the truth of the matter.
Our whining says God you are not there, you don’t understand my schedule and we fail to forget to stop and ask; God what do you want me to learn through this? If we believe Romans 5 we will look with an eternal perspective that these unforeseen, unexpected, unanticipated circumstances WILL produce endurance or steadfastness if we allow God to do the work that we need. They WILL enhance our character so we are reflecting Christ if we allow them to do so. They WILL produce hope not despair if our focus is on Him not on “me.” The bottom line is this:
Do we believe God has our best interest at heart?
How doth thou respond today?
What do you fear most? People or God? In Matt 26 and Matt 27 we find that those who should have had the fear of God were more concerned about the people and their response. The Proverbs writer said it best: “The fear of people is a snare but he who trusts in the Lord will be exalted.”
We know that from eternity past Jesus’ death has been foretold, but it is the religious leaders’ fear that will be the ultimate source of his crucifixion. Into this we see Judas coming to them and saying that he had betrayed innocent blood. The grace of God warns them to stop and take notice of this deed they are considering. Instead of meeting Judas’ need, their fear of the people has become a stronghold, a stumbling block, (a trap stick) and they will seek to heap up their guilt rather than allow the Law and heart to guide forgetting this: Heb 10:31. And so in Matt 26 we find them plotting to find a way to overrule the commandment “thou shalt not kill” and in Matt 27 they are plotting how to get their guilt assuaged through Pilate.
How like us!
We know we are wrong but won’t admit it because the enemy of our souls has sought to use the argument “if you do this, the people will hate you; if you speak of Jesus and you will be ostracized, you might even lose your job; you might even lose your head. Yet we fall for the words of the enemy dripping with sarcasm and lies.
Beware of the enemy and his tactics lest you fall into temptation and the end is worse than the beginning.
C.S. Lewis; Through the Shadowlands
Having just finished Randy Alcorn’s book “If God be Good” and then this book on the suffering of Joy Davidman, C.S.Lewis’ wife, I have come away with a deeper appreciation for those who are blessed with that ability to write prolifically yet with humility.
Lewis wrote: “Lord of the narrow gate and the needle’s eye, Take from me all my trumpery lest I die.” That is true humility.
As a middle aged man and having never married, Lewis is swept up into love from a divorcee he met through correspondence. In their short wedded life they moved each other to know the foibles and beauty of love that only God can bring.
Brian Sibley as the author of this book explains how Joy came to God. She wrote He was like her favorite creature–a cat. The cat creeps upon its prey and then pounces upon it when the prey least expects it. That is how Christ came to her and how she surrendered to His will. He fulfilled her longing for extraordinary love that she never found a Jewess, a Communist or a neglected wife. She earnestly needed God for the last journey from this life to the next and He did not disappoint.
Brian Sibley has researched Joy and C.S. Lewis’ lives and keeps the reader moving from one year to the next sharing how these two met and embraced Christ. As a prolific writer Sibley shares excerpts from The Chronicles of Narnia and his other books to expertly show how Lewis faced life. Sometimes it was through the lives of Lucy and the other children and Aslan the Beloved Lion.
Lewis may have been a prolific writer but his books were not always received well. Case in point: The Chronicles of Narnia. However, when Lewis became a radio host others began to take note of his work. Now we have a fondness for Aslan and Lucy and the wardrobe. While Adults have trouble with the imagery, children flock to and understand Lewis’ way of presenting Christ through a lion named Aslan who gives his life as a sacrifice.
The wicked queen stopped by her mirror each morning asking: Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Obediently the mirror replied that she was …until one day the mirror said it was not she but Snow White. The queen became stark raving mad and sought to harm Snow White. That is a picture of what Jesus saw as he observed the self-righteous religious leaders.
The mirror of the Pharisees revealed knowledge but lacked compassion. When Jesus looked deeply into their mirror he saw the warts and pimples of their hypocrisy. And when they looked into the mirror and saw their image, they just piled on more and more makeup of flattering words, wide phylacteries and longer tassels to cover their hypocrisy rather than seek to correct the flaws the mirror revealed.
These religious leaders had blind spots and we have them too. God has given us His mirror, the Word of God. He can see beneath our visual image to who we truly are. But too often like the man in James, when God reveals the truth, we just walk away and forget what we saw OR like the religious leaders we heap on more and more makeup to cover our flaws.
Let’s be frank: What does our – What does MY mirror reveal?
If it is self-exaltation then God will humble us/me and if the mirror reveals humility He will exalt us/me.
Psalm 74 “The Why’s of Life”
Children are the most inquisitive of all people I have concluded! Spend a day with them and you will hear “why… why…and why?” Children want to know the cause and its effects. Today in our reading we find that Asaph is no different! He is faced with dilemmas for which he seeks answers.
First he asks why God has rejected His people. If you have felt this way turn to the NT and hear Paul’s answer: “God has not rejected his people, has he? Absolutely not!” [Rom 11:2] Asaph is not alone. Listen to what a recent reader noted: “I’ve been thinking that I’d been rejected…God told me today that wasn’t true, I’ve been redirected.”
Then Asaph asks; Why are you angry with your people God? Do we sometimes ask God the same thing when life seems to throw us a curve ball? Could it be that He is angry because we have sin in our lives and need cleansing? The answer? “If we confess our sins, he is faithful to forgive and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” [1Jn 1]
Are you feeling rejected? Ask God to reveal His redirection plan for you!
Do you feel God is angry with you? Seek His face and His cleansing.
Not too long ago we were given a glimpse of a royal wedding via television. We had not been invited but for the moment pretend we were. What would your response have been? Would you have been astounded and excited that you would have been invited? Would you have accepted?
Jesus used the illustration of a royal wedding as his prop. Notice the responses of the invitees when they received the invitation. Some said they would NOT come! They were indifferent and turned their back. But being a gracious king he sent a second invitation and this time they responded even more vigorously, I will NOT accept! Is that what you would have said or would you have been among the many who would have gone shopping to find just the right outfit to wear? Would you have taken time to get your hair and nails done? But see what Jesus said about this king; he was furious that they said NO because he had spared no expense or the preparation.
There is a lesson here that Jesus wants us to glean. The king is God and He has a banquet prepared for his Beloved Son. He has spared no expense. As the King, he sent his only son so that no one would perish but have eternal life. You and I have been invited to come and celebrate! But, like many today some will say yes but many more will say no.
I wonder what your response would have been?
But then Jesus throws a conundrum into the mix. The banquet starts and the king finds an interloper or intruder. Who is he? And why is he even there? Jesus wants us to see that he is like the world around us. They say I will come to Jesus in my way. Remember the words of Jesus “I Am the Way, the Truth, the Life and no one comes to “banquet” except through Me. This is God’s invitation to you; accept Me as the Beloved Son.