An Inexhaustible Supply

bank teller with child

A very wealthy nobleman died and left his faithful servant an exceedingly large amount of money in a bank account that was easily accessible. The servant decided one day to go the bank and ask if it would be possible for him to withdraw a tiny amount for an item he wanted to buy. The teller explained to him in many different ways that he could have the small amount, but he now also had access to much, much more. But it did no good. He had never had much, and he just couldn’t comprehend the concept of asking for more than he had ever had before. He only wanted his tiny request fulfilled so he could purchase one item and then return to his little home. Years went by with him continuing to make similar small requests. From a purely ascetic aspect, this servant did do one admirable thing—he did not give in to fleshly indulgences and squander the money frivolously. He also spared himself the burden of managing his wealth, and he never had any fear of it being stolen from his house or wallet. But he also never made good use of the abundance the nobleman had supplied for him. After many years, the servant died in poverty, never having realized that he had forfeited a fortune.

How often we, like this servant, don’t want to burden God with our needs beyond those which we consider trivial. God is limitless—but in our finite wisdom, we often exhibit a false humility, thereby limiting what He can do for us. How many times do we treat God this way as His children?

“But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, with men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” (Matthew 19:26).

Why put God in a box when it comes to making our needs and desires known to Him? He is our Heavenly Father! He certainly does not want His children in lack. He says in the book of Psalms, “For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fulness thereof” (Psalms 50:10-12). If He owns it all, why would He object to His own children drawing on His abundance and having all their needs met?

Jesus said, “Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened. Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread, will he give him a stone? Or if he ask a fish, will he give him a serpent? If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children, how much more shall your Father which is in heaven give good things to them that ask him?” (Matthew 7:7-11).

All God expects is for us to come to Him asking and believing. Too many simply ask and that is the end of it; there is no anticipation of receiving. In fact, some even forget they asked at all. When God says to ask, He wants us to keep on asking—not as vain repetition, but to prove the depth of our desire to Him. Then there are others who ask with reservation. They simply can’t believe that God will meet all of their need, so they ask hesitantly, only hoping and expecting to receive a small portion of it. This is not faith, but doubt! When we don’t fully expect God to fulfill our requests, we are limiting Him. In essence, we are saying that His supply is not sufficient to meet every need that we may have. The Apostle Paul said, “But my God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19 emphasis mine). That ‘all’ Paul mentions here encompasses both physical and spiritual need.

Yet, while God’s supply is inexhaustible, it is not unconditional. “Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts” (James 4:3). Our Heavenly Father graciously supplies our need according to His will.

A loving father is not going to give his young child a flame-thrower or a rhinoceros just because he asks for it. He knows what is best for His children, and won’t give them something that they are not yet mature enough to handle.

The same idea applies with our Heavenly Father. When we ask for something we are incapable of managing, or when our heart’s desires are actually selfish, He will not supply it until we are at a proper level of spiritual maturity. What God really wants is for us to be in such a close relationship with Him that we do not have to wonder whether or not our requests align with His will. Then we will know how to ask according to His will, and that our requests will therefore be granted.

Where do we stand when it comes to asking of our Heavenly Father? Are we asking Him to be generous and believing that we will receive, in His timing? Or are we like this servant, limiting God by asking for just the bare minimum, never believing that He can give us more than enough to meet our needs and is willing to do so? Do we embarrass God by always walking around in rags, as if He is incapable of meeting all of our needs? God is greater than all the universes combined; ask Him for the maximum, not just enough to get by! Seek Him not for what we think we can handle, but for what He knows we are ready to handle. God wants to move us out of the little sphere that we have carved out for ourselves and into the big realm that He has made for us. Ask Him for what you need and partake of His inexhaustible supply freely and without reservation!

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Altogether Forgiven Forever

prayer at cross

“…we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace” (Ephesians 1:7)

What word in any language could be more pleasing to someone guilty of sin than the word “forgiveness”? Is it truly possible that your sin can be altogether forgiven forever?

Forgiveness is the essential part of redemption (being freed from the consequences of sin). Paul used forgiveness in this verse in Ephesians as if it was everything that redemption is, since it is so prominent and important in redemption. In the Greek, the word translated ‘forgiveness’ here means the remission (release from the guilt or penalty of) of our transgressions (violations of a command or law), not merely passing over sin. It is the explanation of what it means to be redeemed. It includes not only deliverance from the penalty of sin, but also from its power to contaminate and conquer us. It is a proper satisfaction to a God who is just, which makes it possible for us to be reconciled (restored to friendship and harmony) to an offended God. When Jesus Christ shed His blood on the cross, that very moment remission of our sins became possible for us. He covered over all our sins—past, present, or future—with His precious blood, when He died in our place.

But redemption is not just forgiveness; it is the cause of forgiveness.

Therefore, forgiveness is the effect of it. It is not only the adequate fruit of redemption, but the primary and principal fruit upon which the other depends. But don’t suppose that this is the total benefit we receive from Christ’s death, or that this is all that redemption consists of. Yet it is the main (and probably the most) important one. Have you believed in what Jesus Christ did for you when He was crucified on the cross to pay for your sins? Then all your sins were forgiven at that very moment you did so, and forevermore—due to the pain and death His suffered there on your behalf, as your substitute. He forgave you everything, and He did it freely, fully, and for all time! O, how His free forgiveness displays the riches of His grace!

But this is not all—there is more! You also obtain the hope of heaven, along with many more benefits, including the influence of the Holy Spirit, and the grace of God to guide and support you in every trial. And when your time comes to die, then you will have peace, knowing your sins have been freely forgiven forever, and that nothing stands any longer between you and God.

Fading Footprints

shoreline with footprints

Children like to play the game of following another child by trying to step in each of his footprints behind him. The child who follows will do his best to keep up, but he may let his attention get distracted while the leader keeps walking and gets too far ahead. Before long, the one following will lose sight of the leader and become lost. After making attempts for a while to find the missing track of footprints, he may stumble across a different set, mistakenly thinking that he has rediscovered the missing tracks instead. He will be likely to follow the new prints immediately, without stopping to consider that they may belong to someone else. Only after he has traveled quite some distance will he come to realize that they are not the right ones. By then he will be nowhere near where he began and will have also lost the leader altogether.

Apply this illustration to following in the steps of Christ. When we first give our lives over to Him, everything is so wonderful, and we are willing and eager to follow Him anywhere He wants to lead us. Our intentions start out good, but when following in His footsteps becomes more difficult and challenging later, we tend to lose our zeal. Then we are likely to become distracted and lose sight of where He is heading. Sometimes we rediscover His path and return to following Him again. Other times we become lost by wandering around in places where He did not go, hoping to find Him there. But all too often, we end up following the wrong footprints and are never able to find Him again.

multiple footprints in the sand

Jesus gave us an essential command that would help us keep our focus on Him and keep us following His steps. He told us to “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41). Our “flesh” (physical self) is prone to getting distracted from God and tends to wander and fall for almost any temptation that may come its way. So we can’t depend on our flesh to find the way; we need to keep our focus on Jesus, especially concerning His victory at the cross. If we get distracted, we have stopped watching where He is going, and we often fail to pray. Even if we regularly seek God for forgiveness for the sins we have committed, we are still not necessarily watching and praying. We need to continually look to Jesus and stay prepared for what is coming. Don’t lose sight of His footprints due to the distractions all around us. Immediately after a victorious moment, our adversary, the devil, likes to come to steal our victory away, along with our joy. He’ll try to use a time like this to bring a heavy dose of doubt and unbelief into our lives. We therefore need to continually watch concerning our victorious moments, while being sure to seek God in prayer at the same time.

footprints in sand along surf

Success in keeping up with the footsteps of Christ only comes from maintaining our desire to stay with Him. But, if we lose interest in His Word, or in the desire to communicate with Him in prayer, we make ourselves vulnerable to distractions instead of following Him. As a result, we won’t notice that His footprints are fading, and will either end up detached from Him, or following another set of footprints that are not His—thereby leading us farther away from Him.

How much do we really want to be with Him? So much that we make sure we will follow close enough to Him that His footprints are never out of sight? Are we continuing to watch and pray so that we will not get distracted or be led away to follow the wrong set of prints? Does our focus continue to be on Christ and Him crucified, or has it turned to some distraction we have encountered along the way?

Breadcrumbs or Sawdust?

cut tree with sawdust

“What are you doing?”

“Feeding the ducks.”

“Hey, I thought ducks ate crumbled bread. That looks like sawdust.”

“It is! I figured it’s much cheaper and they don’t really know the difference.”

“But ducks don’t benefit from eating sawdust.”

“I know that, but they’re just a bunch of wild ducks, not pets. Look, some are eating it! I told you they wouldn’t know the difference.”

“Well, they still aren’t getting any nourishment from it.”

“As long as they’re fed and happy, it doesn’t matter what they eat. Besides, this is so much easier to obtain and distribute. It won’t get moldy or stale like real bread, and it lasts practically forever.”

“Except when it burns.”

“OK, but it still works for me. If they’re satisfied, that’s all that counts.”

“But they’re not satisfied. Look at the ones who ate the fresh whole wheat bread I tossed to them earlier. They look full. They’re grooming themselves and have no more interest in eating bread. Your group is still begging for more food. I don’t see any satisfaction yet.”

“That is because yours are just full prematurely. I’m sure they’ll be desperate for more shortly. I’ll just open another bag of sawdust and distribute it here and… Hey! Where are you going?”

“It’s been several hours since I left and you are still feeding those ducks?”

“They’re not just the same ones I fed earlier; a lot of new ones just arrived.”

“Well, it appears that the flock I fed is now on the other side of the lake asleep and contented. These don’t look contented.”

“True, but mine are with me and yours left. What kind of loyalty is that?”

“Um—does that include yours who are now looking kind of sickly?”

“What? Oh, I hadn’t even bothered to notice. They’ll be better later. They probably just ate too much too fast, that’s all.”

“No, I think it’s more of a case of eating too much of the wrong thing.”

“I know—I’ll just mix some breadcrumbs with the sawdust and give it to the rest. Maybe they won’t feel as bad as the others.”

“You know, this whole episode got me thinking while I was away earlier—about how many Christians are being fed like these ducks.”

“Stop right there! Did you just call me a duck?”

“No, I’m saying many are eating like your ducks. Here, give them the rest of my bread and come with me.”

“Wow! They really have to work on your bread, but they gulp mine down like it’s their last meal.”

“Exactly! When we feed on “ground-up wood pulp,” we think we’re getting lots to eat real quickly, yet we never feel satisfied and complete. Sure, we may feel ‘full,’ especially after we drink something and all that pulp swells up inside us. But it will either make us sick or long for more.”

“I’ve noticed the same thing almost every time I eat at a fast-food place. The food usually tastes great and I feel full briefly, but never fully satisfied. I end up eating more later—like ice cream or a milkshake.”

“When we feast on Christ through His Word, the Bible, it’s like that fresh whole wheat that you fed the ducks a few moments ago. They really had to work on it, but it made them full and satisfied.”

duck running towards food

“You’re right! Look at the ones who ate the bread you gave me. They cleaned up all of it and didn’t even touch the sawdust!”

“Jesus said in John 6:51, “I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” When we eat this Living Bread, we become satisfied and won’t grow hungry. Jesus confirmed this in John 6:35 when He said, “…I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst.” His Bread is not fast-food.”

“That explains why I feel empty inside a few days after my pastor’s message at church. I thought I did something wrong, or didn’t pay enough attention during the service.”

“Now you’re starting to see my point. You’re feeding on sawdust, not breadcrumbs, or bread itself. Sadly, many pastors and church leaders distribute sawdust—possibly because they’re feeding on it themselves as well.”

“But the pastor says things so well and makes many great points. He always makes me feel good after his message. How could he be feeding me sawdust?”

“The fact that you feel good about yourself afterwards is proof enough that you are feeding on sawdust. When we take in God’s Word, we should discover that we are nothing and Christ is everything. We should always see the need to grow and never be content with where we are spiritually. The Apostle Paul never minced words when he spoke or wrote to the churches. He always uplifted Jesus Christ, never himself or others. In First Corinthians 1:23-24 he wrote, “…we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness; but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.” If what you’re hearing or reading doesn’t point to Jesus Christ, you might as well be feeding on sawdust.”

“That’s pretty strong. I have noticed that my pastor really likes to tell compelling stories, show videos, sing, and so on. In many services, he never reads from or even mentions the Bible. Come to think of it, quite a few people I talked to at church don’t really know much of what the Bible says or means. I’m beginning to sense that I’m receiving sawdust more and more even as I speak.”

“Sadly, so many enjoy sawdust instead of bread, since it’s so easy to eat. They enjoy and feast on the speaker’s words, not God’s Word. Yet they don’t realize that sawdust has no nutrition. The result is that they’re spiritually wasting away. Even though they drink fluids which make them feel full from the swelling wood, they are still dying from spiritual malnutrition.”

“So how can I get free from eating sawdust and increase my intake of bread?”

open bible

“The best way is to start reading the Bible for yourself, not just material about the Bible. Spend more time before God in prayer, and ask Him to reveal His Word to you as you read. The more time you spend with Him and His Word, the more you feed on the True Bread—not sawdust. Ask Him to show you how to get more of His Bread and be able to pass it on to others. If He shows you that the place where you’re meeting feeds you sawdust and not even breadcrumbs from the Bread of Life, then ask Him to lead you to one who proclaims words like these of Paul: “For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Most importantly, seek God for wisdom and discernment as to what is and what is not sawdust before you partake of any more.”

“That’s just what I’m going to do as soon as I get home. No wonder I feel weak and incomplete spiritually—I’ve been feasting on sawdust all this time! Hey, look at those ducks that ate the real bread you gave me. They’re as contented as the ones you fed earlier! But those other ducks I fed sawdust to look awful! I better get them some real bread, quick!”

“Now you’ve got it. That’s why we need to feast on the True Bread, not sawdust, for our own spiritual well-being.”

Abiding Under the Shadow

person and shadow

A shadow can be considered a nuisance or a benefit at various times, like when a cloud obscures the sun. On a hot summer afternoon, the shadow from a large cloud is a welcome relief, but on a bitter, cold winter morning, the shadow from almost any size cloud will cause discomfort. A shadow could be a sign of impending danger as well, like when a very large object is about to fall on someone. On the other hand, a shadow could also be an indicator of protection.

The psalmist declares in the first verse of Psalm 91, “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty.” What a wonderful thought for us, the children of the Almighty, to be under His shadow! Imagine how our enemies would feel if they knew that someone the size of the continents of Asia, Europe, Africa, and Antarctica combined was hovering over us to protect us. Yet that represents only a fraction of how much God covers over us when we dwell in His secret place.

God protects and shelters those whom He loves and who are obedient to His Word. He is ready and willing to shelter us under His shadow at any moment. “He shall cover thee with his feathers, and under his wings shalt thou trust: his truth shall be thy shield and buckler,” the psalmist continues to declare in verse 4. His protection resembles a bird that spreads its wings to shield its young. Without the bird’s protective shadow, its young are helplessly vulnerable to predators that are quick to snatch them away. We are also helpless without His protection. His shadow is always ample to keep us covered, no matter how many enter under it, or how extreme the circumstances are outside of it. “Thou shalt not be afraid for the terror by night; nor for the arrow that flieth by day; nor for the pestilence that walketh in darkness; nor for the destruction that wasteth at noonday” (Psalm 91:5, 6).

shadow of cross

But God’s shadow is only available to us when we earnestly seek it. When we enter and stay in His secret place, we obtain His protection. This place can only be found through prayer and communion with Him. It is an area where we can dwell alone in an intimacy with God that can never be shared with another. As long as we stay in His secret place, His shadow will continually be over us. But when we allow ourselves to be lured away by the cares of this world, we leave the protection of His shadow and expose ourselves to the enemy. “Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour” (1 Peter 5:8).

God expects His children to continually rest under His shadow. When we choose something else, we deny ourselves the abundant protection that He provides. The devil will try to keep us from abiding there, but God will never keep us out. “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Why should we continue to expose ourselves out in the open when He is willing and able to shelter us bountifully? “For thou hast been a strength to the poor, a strength to the needy in his distress, a refuge from the storm, a shadow from the heat, when the blast of the terrible ones is as a storm against the wall” (Isaiah 25:4). Why wait until tomorrow, or next week? Come now into His presence, His secret place, and lodge under His shadow. Allow Him to be your refuge and habitation.

Candied Liver and Glazed Brussels Sprouts or Sugarcoating the Truth

cooked calf's liverbrussels sprouts

I told you how much I love bread in a previous entry. It doesn’t matter whether it’s fresh baked white bread, Italian, rye, sourdough, or naan—I’ll eat it! Flavor it, toast it, grill it with butter—I’ll be right there, big plate in hand, ready and waiting! This time I want to mention a couple of foods I don’t love—beef liver and brussels sprouts. Fry the liver, grill it, braise it, or smother it—it will still retain that flavor I’ve never loved. The bitter taste of brussels sprouts strikes a bad chord in me as well. But I don’t absolutely despise either one. Both are very nutritious and I’m certainly not against anyone else eating them. In fact, if you coat or infuse them with a very sweet sauce, I just might enjoy them as much as I do ground beef and green beans. Yes, their nutritional value would be greatly affected, and they’d likely be more detrimental to my health than in their original form. But here’s my theory—if the foods we like the least were covered with enough sweetener, most of us would eat them without hesitating. Coat some chipped wood liberally with a really sweet sauce or maybe rich milk chocolate—how many would readily devour it like candy? Now don’t feel insulted. I just want to point out how inclined we are to desire something just because it’s sugarcoated, whether it’s good or bad for us!

The reality of sin and truth fall into this category of being unpalatable too. Both have been, and still are, a problem to everyone on Earth. We don’t like to be told the truth about sin. We don’t want to be told it’s wrong, or that there will be eternal punishment if we don’t repent of it. But we don’t want to experience the ugly side of sin either.

Sin in its full glory is very enjoyable for the sinner. When we live in sin, life appears good and pleasurable. As long as we stay within our own sin-laden circles and don’t anger or upset others living in their sin, life functions pretty smoothly. The problem is that we slowly become desensitized to the sin that we’re actively involved in and begin to crave more. Our conscience warns us not to partake of any sin, but Satan is prepared for this. He’ll make sin even more appetizing by masking its putridness and the parts we don’t love with something else very appealing. He may redefine or sugarcoat it. Then it no longer seems questionable or repulsive to us. As a result, we embed ourselves even deeper and become thoroughly surrounded with sin. But it does not stop there. We soon tire of this sin too, and begin to desire some even deeper sin than this. Engaging in sin puts us on a slippery slope to destruction. Once we are on it, we can no longer leave it in our own strength and ability.

Meanwhile, sin takes its toll on us. Its byproducts, like disease, uncontrollable rage, or ultimately death, begin to surface. Sin always ultimately breaks down and destroys and is never of any benefit to us. It keeps us in bondage and brings us no real hope. It not only harms us individually, but also affects everything and everyone around us. The whole world is falling apart more each and every day because of sin. Divorces, wars, famines, health epidemics, poverty, greed, destruction of life and property, abuse of innocent children, etc.—all are derived from sin. But Satan will cover up and shift the blame for the problem to something completely the opposite of sin. He’ll sugarcoat the issue, thereby making it more palatable. He baits us with hopes and promises that will either partially or never come true, and keeps us locked in sin.

On the other hand, when we are steeped in sin, we don’t want to hear the truth. We don’t want to be told that sin is wrong and or that punishment will someday follow. We don’t want to know how ugly sin is, and that we have been deceived into believing that it is good. We don’t want to be robbed of the pleasure sin provides—even if it is destroying us.

two sugar donuts

Satan is happy to oblige us, once again. He’ll gladly sugarcoat the truth by disguising the painful or undesired areas that the truth discloses just as much as He sugarcoats sin. He’ll encourage us to pass by a church, or to give our Bible to a thrift shop. He’ll make sure we’re too tired or preoccupied to pray, or to even watch a religious program on TV. Of course, if we feel better by going to a church, then Satan will make sure we go to one with a real ‘sweet’ message. The pastor there won’t want to offend or drive anyone away. He’ll deliver (‘preach’ is too harsh a word) an inspiring message after some modern songs, all of which leave people feeling good about themselves when they leave. But when we are living in sin, the truth hurts. It quickly snaps us out of our sin-induced pleasure, so naturally, it is painful and undesirable. It convicts us and leaves us feeling awful.

How ironic—truth, the very thing that gives us freedom and victory over sin, is what we despise most.

The Bible says “And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Why hide what the truth reveals when it is so beneficial to us? And why do those who proclaim the truth make us feel so uncomfortable when it’s presented to us? Can’t we just accept the truth and go about our lives? The answer is that truth is not a concept, ideology, or philosophy. Truth is a person, and His name is Jesus Christ. He declared, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6 emphasis mine). When we hate hearing the truth, we actually hate or reject Christ and what He has done for us on the cross, because He is the Truth. He brings out in us the sin we’d rather not know about or let go of.

Jesus and sin don’t mix. We either live in sin and die eternally lost in perpetual judgment, or we completely yield ourselves to Jesus and live forever with Him with real joy and peace in Heaven. Disguising the truth and what it reveals by sugarcoating it is like a sick person who hates the taste or after-effects of the medicine given to cure him. Many prefer to thoroughly dilute medicine with something more enjoyable, instead of just taking it the way it is. The end result is better tasting—but completely ineffectual. Ultimately they consider the medicine useless and continue to be sick, hoping for a better cure while slowly dying each day.

This is the reason Jesus willingly came to Earth to offer His life as a sacrifice for us by dying on the cross. He knew that we could never be free from the bondage of sin by our own ability. He knew that without divine intervention, sin would destroy everything in time and life would cease to exist. God did not create this universe as one solitary act with everything in it designed to die off and never continue. He wants us to be with Him now and forever. That is the reason He sent His sinless Son to fulfill all of the laws or demands He set forth, since we could not fulfill them on our own because of sin. Now He wants us to come to Him and willingly love and obey Him. When we insist on living our lives without Him, we are living in sin, and are disobedient to Him and His Word, the Bible.

candy coated donuts

The inevitable is only delayed when we constantly refuse to know the truth because we have sugarcoated it or covered it up. The more we live for the pleasures of sin and fall for the ‘sweetness’ we are offered, the deeper we go in sin—until we die for all eternity, separated from the only cure. The Bible says, “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment” (Hebrews 9:27). After we die, there is no hope any longer. We don’t get another chance. There will be no more sugarcoating sin or anything else then, because we will have reached the bottom of that slippery slope—the point of no return. Here the real ugliness of sin rears its head and won’t let us go. The pain and repulsiveness of the truth no longer matter either, since it can no longer help us.

There is good news though! Jesus is fully able to pull us up from that slippery slope before we reach the bottom—if we will just cry out to Him and let Him. There is no depth of sin He cannot bring us out of. Throughout history, man has always been the one who left God. But (contrary to what we may have been told) God has never left us. No matter how sinful we may be, God is always ready to forgive our sin and allow us to be His children, if we ask Him to. We need to stop sweetening or covering up what the truth reveals in us and allow it to free us from the bondage of sin instead. We need to seek forgiveness from God for our sinful ways and repent of them. Then we can accept Jesus into our heart. When we feed on what has been heavily sweetened, it will only leave us dissatisfied in the end, longing for even more sweetening. But if we feed on the whole Truth, Jesus Christ and His Word, we will find complete satisfaction.

For more information on how to know God click here.

Envy for the Wicked?

Envidia / Envy: Inequidad flickr photo by NeoGaboX shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

 “John’s been promoted again,” Maria sighed to herself. “This is the third time in six months. How does he get ahead like this?”

Then Sarah, the recently hired office assistant, raced into the room and leaned over into Maria’s cubicle, saying “Maria, Maria, guess what? Jessie just made me the assistant logistics coordinator!”

How?” exclaimed Maria, incredulous. “You’re twenty years old and have only been here three weeks!”

“Well…” Sarah paused, ”I kind of offhandedly mentioned to Jessie that my brother is a venture capitalist who’s been eagerly looking for some companies to invest in, and…” Sarah paused again. She moved away from the cubicle while looking back and forth quickly in each direction.

“And what?” Maria raised her voice. Sarah moved slightly and then leaned over on a different side of the cubicle.

“Well, I sort of hinted that he just might possibly invest in our company if things look favorable enough around here, and…” Sarah’s voice almost squealed, “a few days later, here I am in logistics!”

“But your brother works as a driver for a waste collection company; he doesn’t know a thing about investing,” Maria countered.

“I guess it’s all in what you say and how you say it,” Sarah responded with a sinister smirk. Then she strutted off with a slight skip in her step.

Maria began fretting to herself, “Why can’t I be rewarded like they are? I do what is right. I follow the rules, and yet, here I am in the same position for the past twelve years. Sarah brazenly lies, and then acts so innocent and cute. With John, I shudder to even consider the evil he performed to advance so quickly through all these positions.”

Meanwhile, Reba in accounting strolled by Maria’s cubicle, flaunting the latest outfit she had recently acquired. “And Reba,” Maria continued with disgust, “I just don’t see how she buys all these new outfits. She and her latest husband bragged about having already declared bankruptcy twice. Then she boasts of all of these credit cards and even the second home they recently purchased. I can’t even borrow five dollars without a backlash, it seems. Oh, how I envy them all!”

Maria is not alone in feeling this way. For centuries people have been struggling unsuccessfully with envy. But there was one man named Asaph who found the solution. He was a worship leader in the Temple for the Israelite people, a skilled musician who also wrote several of the psalms in the Bible. He was one who knew about the blessings and the mercy of God. He also knew that God is able to supply the needs of His people, and can bring them through any situation they encounter. In spite of all this, he became envious and downcast. It bothered him so much that he wrote about it in a psalm:

For I was envious at the foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. For there are no bands in their death: but their strength is firm. They are not in trouble as other men; neither are they plagued like other men. Therefore pride compasseth them about as a chain; violence covereth them as a garment. Their eyes stand out with fatness: they have more than heart could wish. They are corrupt, and speak wickedly concerning oppression: they speak loftily. They set their mouth against the heavens, and their tongue walketh through the earth. Therefore his people return hither: and waters of a full cup are wrung out to them. And they say, How doth God know? and is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed my heart in vain, and washed my hands in innocency. For all the day long have I been plagued, and chastened every morning. If I say, I will speak thus; behold, I should offend against the generation of thy children. When I thought to know this, it was too painful for me (Psalm 73:3-16).

Asaph saw how the wicked and the foolish were prospering. It appeared to him that doing what is right and holy did not pay off. Everywhere he turned, he saw that the ungodly were successful in their endeavors. Yet they were also corrupt, oppressive, and full of pride. They held the position that, since they were so prosperous and well off, God must therefore approve of their acts. Surely He would have responded if anything they did was wrong. This was the reason Asaph became very downcast and distraught. He just could not understand why the righteous suffered while the ungodly prospered.

So Asaph “went into the sanctuary of God” (Psalm 73:17a). He did the right thing. Instead of wallowing in self-pity, he took his struggle and outcry to God.

He could have continued on in pain and agony over the prosperity of the ungodly. He could have moaned before God and anyone else who would listen about his struggles. He could have even gone to “professional help,” but he went before God instead, and “then understood I their end” (Psalm 73:17b).

God made it known to Asaph’s heart that He is fully aware of their evil and is not pleased with it. He showed just how their evil mortal lives could come to an end in an instant. Then Asaph began to realize that this life is all they have. In just a moment’s time, all of their prosperity, success, and scheming would be gone forever and of no benefit to them.

Asaph was grieved in his heart initially. The Spirit of God convicted him of his foolishness and his envy of the wicked. Then he said, “So foolish was I, and ignorant: I was as a beast before thee” (Psalm 73:22). Asaph began to see that trusting God really is the only way. He realized indirectly that the means of the wicked would only let them down in the end, and there would be no eternal hope or happiness for them. He also began to see that God is to be his source of success and eternal life.

“Thou shalt guide me with thy counsel, and afterward receive me to glory. Whom have I in heaven but thee? and there is none upon earth that I desire beside thee. My flesh and my heart faileth: but God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever. For, lo, they that are far from thee shall perish: thou hast destroyed all them that go a whoring from thee. But it is good for me to draw near to God: I have put my trust in the Lord God, that I may declare all thy works” (Psalm 73:24-28).

In the end, Asaph no longer envied the wicked. He came to realize that following the path they were travelling leads to judgment and destruction. Although he knew he would continue to have trials and tribulations, he could now truly say “God is the strength of my heart, and my portion for ever” (Psalm 73:26b). His heart was changed and his burdens were lifted because he took them before God instead of fretting over them himself. What a change in his countenance there must have been toward the end of this psalm!

For any child of God who wants to grow closer to Him, there will be tribulations. There will be struggles. There will be challenges that have to be overcome and there will be times when he will feel that the path the ungodly follow is much better than his own. Dear believer, do not envy the wicked. Do not allow Satan the latitude to make you feel like you should have never followed Jesus in the first place. The more you focus on the lives of the wicked, the more you will feel like Maria or Asaph. “A sound heart is the life of the flesh: but envy the rottenness of the bones” (Proverbs 14:29).

When feelings like these come upon you, the best thing you can do is to go “into the sanctuary of God” like Asaph did.

Commit your concern to the Lord, and leave it there. Seek the Lord and allow Him to speak to you. Let His Spirit work in your heart and bring out your feelings and attitudes that hinder your relationship with Him. Don’t indulge yourself in self-pity over the prosperity of the wicked. “For what is a man advantaged, if he gain the whole world, and lose himself, or be cast away?” (Luke 9:25). The wicked have their only reward right now, but you have a much better reward coming that will last for all eternity!

Floating or Sinking?

boat in water

Have you ever watched an object float on the water? All it will do is float along and it won’t sink—unless water is allowed to come inside. It doesn’t matter whether it is a huge ship on the ocean carrying hundreds of containers of cargo, or just a plastic bottle cap on top of a puddle—both float on the water. Yet, when water gets an opportunity to come inside, both will stop floating and sink to the bottom, either slowly or very quickly, depending on how much water has been allowed in.

If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you are like a ship floating in the ‘sea of humanity’. You have a responsibility to maintain your buoyancy in order to stay afloat. You can’t allow your exterior to deteriorate or corrode. If you do, holes will develop, or you may become structurally unstable and your ‘hull’ (a boat’s outer covering) will weaken and collapse or burst, allowing the water of godless humanity to enter in. This will cause you to sink. When you are floating in this ‘sea,’ you are in the world of the ungodly, but when you allow the water of this ‘sea’ to enter your ‘ship,’ you become full of this world of the ungodly. Then you will be liable to sink. Jesus told us to “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world” (1 John 2:15, 16). The more of the corrupt system of this world you allow into your heart, the more your ‘ship’ fills with water and starts to sink. A sunken ship seldom has value to anyone.

sinking sailboat

The ways that the ‘water’ of this ungodly world can come into you are not always obvious, since Satan, the prince of this world, usually operates in subtle ways. One of the simplest ways he likes to use is to get you to decrease your desire to pray, to the point where you eventually stop praying altogether. Satan likes to use this method, since prayer is your communication with God and it is where He aligns you with His will. Regular communication is essential for a lasting bond to develop, whether in a marriage relationship, or just between two close friends, but especially in your relationship with your heavenly Father.

Satan absolutely hates it when you diligently continue to pray to God with all your heart.

Satan also likes to discourage you from reading the Bible each day, or, better yet, he tries to bring you to the point where you stop reading it altogether. The Bible is God’s standard for your life. It shows why we are all sinners in His sight, how you can obtain His mercy, how you can be redeemed from the bondage of sin, and that forgiveness for your sins is available because of His Son’s sacrifice of His own life on the Cross on your behalf. It also tells you how to live a righteous life that is pleasing to God by coming to Him through His Son (and only through His Son). It shows us the consequences of our past, and the future of everyone who does not believe in and obey God by accepting His Son and the ultimate sacrifice He made on their behalf into their heart.

Satan likes to lure you away with the things you used to do in your ungodly past. He might also try to distract you with things that, while not outwardly sinful, will still succeed in removing your focus from Jesus. Whenever Satan can get you to focus on yourself and not Jesus, then those holes start rapidly appearing in your ‘ship’s’ hull and let water rush inside. He may even get you to become so focused on what you want, and not what God wants, that you will actually start letting in water on your own, without the need for any holes or corrosion at all! God does not want you to ever lower yourself down to the world’s standards. He wants the world to come up to the standard you are to be following, which is Jesus Christ.

cross

The best way to be in this world of ungodliness, and not become full of it, is to put Jesus Christ at the center of your faith. Stop trying to operate your ‘ship’ by yourself and place it in His hands instead. Then you will no longer give Satan the freedom to force ungodly water inside as a result. If you take your focus off of Christ and all that He accomplished for you on the Cross, you will create openings that give Satan the legal right to work in your life. In other words, the ‘water’ of the world begins entering inside you. You can’t freely mingle with the sinful world as a child of God and still walk away afterward unaffected by it. Jesus told us to Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41 emphasis mine). Fill your ship with God’s word instead. Keep your ‘hull’ strong by prayer, and you will be able to keep the ‘water’ of the world from causing you to sink, through Jesus Christ!

Our Little Bebop

We carefully backed our camper van in among the trees of our new campsite, which was elevated on a ridge about four feet beside a lake. The local ducks and geese soon found us. After welcoming us to ‘their’ lake, they told us they were ‘starving.’ Squirrels quickly descended from the live oaks draped with Spanish moss shading our lot.

One seemed to live in the tree beside our van, because he came several times every day to request a handout. We handed out saltine crackers, having nothing else a squirrel might desire.

He’d hold them in his front paws like a pizza box, and then spin them around from corner to corner, nibbling as he turned. We named him Chester.

The ducks and geese received carrot and potato peels. They gladly gobbled them up, being the freeloaders that they are, and immediately asked for more. After receiving the same thing morning after morning, they soon tired of the peels and demanded ‘real’ food. Chester continued coming down and asking for another saltine. Then he’d run back up the tree, returning two seconds later to ask for one more. How could he eat a cracker in less than two seconds? One day we spotted him stashing the latest cracker on a high limb before he ran back down. We also noticed that he was gaining quite a bit of weight. His name was soon changed to Chesterina, because ‘she’ was heavy with child(ren)!

We put our slow cooker right outside our van at night, so our food would be done cooking when we got up the next day (and to keep it from heating up our van as we slept!)

Another ‘woodland creature’ appeared not long after we started using it—a little calico cat with no tail. She was smaller than the average cat and did not have enough to eat or a home.

She was afraid of people, and would very cautiously approach our campsite hoping for a handout. But she’d run off out of sight if we approached her to offer something. We began leaving a bit of food for her on a picnic table at another site. Then we’d leave and watch and wait. She came around when the coast was clear to claim her handout. But the irresistible smell of cooked meat in our slow cooker every morning began drawing her a little closer to our van every day. One morning we found her hiding under our van, hoping something might fall out of the slow cooker and become hers!

The weeks went by, and she played in the leaves and caught lizards to eat because she couldn’t find anything else. Her generic name around the park was “Bobtail.” A large male calico cat, who was more adept at getting handouts, started coming around our site—drawn by the odor coming from the slow cooker. He would intimidate Bobtail and push her aside to claim whatever we might be offering that day for himself. She was too small and timid to fight back. So she would back off and let him have whatever he wanted. Hence, her lizard diet.

My husband noticed her dilemma. He would yell at the male calico to leave when he saw him coming around and would chase him away if he wouldn’t go. After a few days, Bobtail caught on that she now had a knight in shining armor who would defend her! She was really warming up to us and becoming less timid all the time.

One day she stood between my husband’s legs as he was threatening the male cat, and did the cat version of sticking her tongue out at him, saying, “So there! You heard him! Now don’t come back!” Then he ran off.

After a month or two, we moved from the tiny lot beside the lake to a larger site within the park. Before long, a little calico bobtailed cat came timidly creeping up to our patio! We introduced her to the novelty of dry cat food and put some out for her regularly. She decided that she didn’t need to be afraid of us anymore. We wanted to give her a name that was not so generic, but similar to the one she already knew, so we settled on “Bebop.” Since she had never lived with people, everything we did for her was a new treat. Sometimes we’d pour some liquid from a can of tuna into her water. She’d gingerly walk over and try it, then say, “Wow! They even have flavored water here!” What a delight she was!

Once Bebop began to know and trust my husband, she relied on him to protect her. When she stood between my husband’s legs, she had faith in him that he would look out for her.

She only weighed nine pounds, but the bigger cat would turn and run off. He was not afraid of her—he was afraid of what my husband might do to him if he hurt or mistreated her! She was no longer timid and afraid around that cat, because she knew that her ‘knight’ would take up her cause and defend her! She stood up to her bully (as long as he was there over her), although there was no way she could protect her little self on her own if the bigger cat came after her.

cross at sunset

Paul writes that we are to “…be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. Put on the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:10-11).” (Notice that we are to put on God’s armor, not our own.)

Being “strong in the Lord” means that we believe that God is our source of strength, and then rely on Him and the promises He has made to us so we can stand against the devil’s attacks.

It does not mean being strong in our own self, but only through the One in whom our real strength lies (literally, “Be strengthened with power.”) Apart from Him we can do nothing. By having faith in Him, we can “…do all things through Christ which strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

“…in the power of His might” refers to …the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power” (Ephesians 1:19). Your own strength is really weakness when battling the devil, but the strength of Jesus Christ’s power is almighty.

To the devil, we are timid little nine pound nothings. He is not afraid of us in the least.

But when we put on the armor of God and stand up to him relying on God’s strength, he runs off! He knows he cannot take on God and win! Bebop would say, “I can do all things through my hero who looks out for me!” And I say to you, “Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might!

The Lonely Ones of God

young Japanese woman looking over railing

Many people fear loneliness. But for a child of God in His service, being alone is a necessity—because God’s way is a lonely way. If you are going to lead others as God directs, it requires a certain amount of loneliness. You cannot take friends along with you, even though they may provide you a great deal of comfort.

Anyone can go with the crowd. But how many can turn and go in the other direction—alone? Nothing but God’s grace can make it possible for a man to face any obstacle—alone.

You need to be able to stand like a solid rock that nothing can move, even if the whole world pushes against you! It is boldness like this in the name of the Lord that is worthy of His grace. Do you count all the difficulties that you encounter? You don’t need to. Why not count how many times God has gotten you through difficulties you considered insurmountable instead! In fact, it is better to have more difficult situations, and fewer friends, because more grace will be poured out on you to help you stand firm in your lonely situation—with your faith resting solely on God.

O man or woman of God, don’t think of yourself as alone! God never leaves you unprotected. You would be amazed if you could see all the mighty angelic bodyguards surrounding you all the time!

You have no right to complain of loneliness, therefore, because you never really are alone. Nor do you have to fear evil, because “thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). When you know the Lord is with you, you will be able to go through loneliness, illness, grieving, poverty, and even terrifying torment. Yet you never need to doubt the Lord, or give up on Him, in spite of what you may go through. In fact, your song can still be full of joy, even if you have to pass through “the valley of the shadow of death” (Psalm 23:4). This is the victory that your faith in Him provides!

man sitting on bench with distant mountains

Are you a child of God in some remote place, far from any friend, known by no one? Even if you have only a hut to live in, and are not near any group of Christians, don’t let your spirit be down. Lift up your voice and sing to God! He will hear you and comfort you and remain with you. Maybe you rent a room in the middle of a crowded city, without even one person you can call a friend. The Lord sees you and can help you to thrive in the midst of your loneliness, even in a crowd. He has not forgotten you and is not neglecting you.

You can’t see God’s presence when He is working on your behalf. But those who know Him and fellowship with Him can sense His presence, nevertheless.

When your ears have been constantly trained by faith, you will hear God’s ‘footsteps’ nearby. Do you ever sit in sorrow, feeling all alone at times? Every so often, lift your head and listen for that gentle whisper telling you “It is I; be not afraid” (John 6:20). “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him…” (Psalm 25:14). Instead of trying to avoid loneliness, retreat every once in a while to a private corner alone. Tell your heart to rejoice, and then break into a song of praise unto God.

 

woman standing water at sunset

Sometimes the Holy Spirit stirs you inside, calling you to come away and be alone with God. Do not take your own good time responding to His call. If you are truly born again, you need private prayer time just to live! The Spirit calls you to spend much time in loneliness. This is to your advantage, so you will have a chance to prove whether you are truly trusting only in God. There are also times when you can get very alone, and then discover that no one will be kind to you. At times like this, lean solely on the Lord. He has the power to provide the comfort you need and He will prove it to you. Then you will discover more of what God is to His people. Get alone with God and the damage done by the noise and worry and shouting of the world will be repaired in your life.

Man of God, woman of God, you don’t need to feel the pain of being lonely. No matter where you may be at any given time, God is there. All you need to do is to pray, and you and God will be together. Bring Him to mind, and you’ll find Him walking with you that very moment. Go to Him with all your needs and He will lay His hand upon you. He is your dependable, inexhaustible source of supply and support. Devote yourself to Him and you will find that lonely, narrow path which leads to His unending love.

man looking out window

No one who ever lived experienced more loneliness than Jesus did. He knows just what it’s like to be lonely and forsaken—even by His own brothers. Therefore, His sympathy is endless for all who feel alone and forsaken. But who did Jesus turn to when He was afflicted and set apart from others? Who could He uncover His innermost feelings and thoughts to? No one but His Heavenly Father. He prayed and asked for His assistance humbly and earnestly, time after time. All of His sorrow and complaints He brought to Him. And His heavenly Father answered them all and comforted Him.

Lonely one, you are not truly alone. The Spirit of the One crucified on the cross of Calvary is with you right now, whispering gently in your ear: “Fear not: for I am with thee” (Isaiah 43:5). He “is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Proverbs 18:24). He promised that He will never leave you, nor forsake you. Let Him be your source of comfort whenever you are in danger of succumbing to the pain of loneliness.