The Devil is my Taskmaster?

ancient slave driver

“The devil is my taskmaster; I will always be in lack. I aimlessly wander in dry, barren meadows; he drives me through raging rivers of unrest, he wearies my life. In accordance with his nature, he deceptively sends me down the wrong way deeper into sin. Though I travel on the sides of the mountains of life, peace, and happiness, I am filled with anxiety and dread from the evil that still lies all around me: for the devil is always near me; his club and his dagger they distress me. God has abandoned me with no sustenance or help in the presence of my enemies; He cares nothing about my health and well-being; my cup is empty. Surely iniquity and ruthlessness shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will never be able to live in the house of the Lord for even a day, much less forever.”

If an anti-Bible was ever written, it would probably render Psalm 23 like this. Sounds depressing and rather dreadful, doesn’t it? Yet, for millions around the world, this is close to being the narrative of what their life seems like to them every day and night. They hope for a better tomorrow and it never seems to come. Or it does come, but with a hefty price—leading to more regret and disappointment.

The devil plays for keeps. Jesus said, “The thief [the devil] cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly” (John 10:10). One of the devil’s greatest attributes is deception. He never acts fairly. Once he has a person deceived, his efforts to keep him from having eternal life with God become easier. In fact, the devil is so enamored with deception that he has deceived himself into believing that he can overthrow the Lord God! Throughout the Bible, his attempts to destroy, oppose, or corrupt the works of God are recorded. Yet he thinks God is not aware of how he operates, as if He is powerless to stop his nefarious efforts—the very Lord God who is the Creator of the universe!

The devil believes that, by corrupting as many of God’s creation (the human race) as he can, he will be able to coerce God into compromising and allowing sin to continue to exist.

If this could be, it would nullify God’s very existence and open the door for the devil to take the place of God in return. The devil does not care about anyone or anything on this earth. He loves to exploit the human race for his own gain. He likes to keep people content and distracted with both the cares and the pleasures of this physical life. Entertainment is one easy means of diversion, which keeps us from knowing the devil’s ultimate motives. At the same time, sin, which the devil heavily encourages, also takes its toll in the form of pain, disease, corruption, and ultimately, destruction. So, by living in his fold (or world), we are both satisfied and dissatisfied, happy and miserable, strong and weak, and so on, until we die. We are never complete, and there is always emptiness in our hearts.

The devil would have us believe that we are living in the gray area between good and evil, and that we decide which side we will ultimately end up living on. But the truth is that we are already living on the evil or dark side by default. We are living on his pasture and the lush green grass that we see is only a facade; underneath all of this is dry and barren ground, full of unsatisfying weeds. We are subject to his terms and demands. His burdens are hard and his yoke is heavy. We are slaves to his system.

shepherd-biegun-wschodni-8636(https-:unsplash.com:@biegunwschodni)-compressed

Yet God never intended for us to be under the devil’s care. Let’s look at the real Psalm 23 as God inspired David to write it:

“The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.”

God wants to be our Shepherd and, in return for our obedience and submission to Him, we will not lack, because He will provide. He won’t let His sheep (those who have surrendered to Him) become sickly and starve. He will bring them to the land of plenty and lead them to the still waters of rest. He will restore them and keep them in a path of wholesomeness because that is His nature. He is their defense, and evil will not be a concern as long as they love Him with all of their heart. “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). He will bring them to a plateau and shelter them from those who are against them. He will cleanse them of pestilence and protect them from irritation. As a result, truth and compassion will spring forth from them and be with them continually. God will not turn them away from abiding in His presence forever. “He that dwelleth in the secret place of the most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty” (Psalm 91:1).

The devil wants us to think that his way is best. He doesn’t care whether or not man trusts him, or loves him, or hates his very existence, since man is already stuck on his side.

The only way out is to stop trying to make it on our own, and to give our heart and life to Jesus instead. When we surrender our ‘self’ to Him and repent (give up completely and turn the other way) of our sinful ways, then Jesus will reach down and pull us out of the devil’s pasture and place us into His own. He will care for us as a true shepherd cares for his sheep. Of course, the devil will still come like a wolf to try to steal us away and destroy us, but now we can call out to The Shepherd, who will come to our rescue (unlike the devil). Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (John 11:28-30). Do you want to follow a cruel, selfish, and heartless taskmaster, or a loving and compassionate Shepherd, who has even given His life for all of His sheep?

For more about making Jesus as your Shepherd, click here.

Riding Against the Wind

bike riding

Riding against the wind is one of the things I despise the most when I ride my bicycle, (although riding up a steep hill would have to be second on the list!). No matter what I try to do, like shifting to the lowest gear, or hunching over close to the handlebars, etc., I still struggle to move forward. It seems like I spend eighty percent of my effort and energy trying to push against the wind. Yet, even though I am weary upon arrival, I have found over time that the extra effort has gradually strengthened my muscles and developed my body in areas I may not have developed much otherwise.

Although the wind will continue to impede my travel, I am now more physically equipped to handle it than I was before. That is, I will be as long as I don’t avoid the wind, the hills, or other forms of resistance. When an athlete, such as a football player or weightlifter, stops building up his muscles, flab and weakness result. He will soon find that his weight no longer contains a large percentage of muscle, but rather fat. He won’t be able to run or lift great weights like he used to, although his food intake will still be strong. He will also find that trying to rebuild those muscles will require much more effort than the first time he began building them.

As believers in Jesus Christ, we face the same responsibility to strengthen our spiritual bodies. Satan will continue to buffet us and bring about great resistance as we develop and increase our relationship with Jesus. But we can’t let this hinder us from pressing forward, like riding against the wind.

“Finally, my brethren, 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. For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness; And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace; Above all, taking the shield of faith, wherewith ye shall be able to quench all the fiery darts of the wicked. And take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God: Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints” (Ephesians 6:10-18).

God wants us to stand, not fight, against the ploys and schemes of the devil. It is normal human nature to want to fight, but when we have Jesus as the Lord (master, governor, ruler) of our life, we operate with a godly nature. Therefore, when we stand against the enemy, we do not stand in our own strength, but in Jesus’ strength—when we let Him be in charge. Actually, we must let Him, since we are dealing with a spiritual matter much, much greater than our frail human body.

To “stand” does not mean to stay in one place and do nothing but gaze at the trees and clouds, or wait around to be overtaken by some disaster. It means to resist or hold yourking of the hill ground. In wrestling, your opponent must try to move and pull you away from the area that you are trying to hold. Your goal is to resist all of these attempts, and not to fight back. It is like the game kids used to play called ‘king of the hill,’ where one person has to keep from getting pushed or pulled off of his position on a hill by the others at the base. If he fails to hold his ground, someone else will take his place. In return, the person who just lost his position will now attempt, along with the others, to remove the successor.

So how do we press onward and stand against these efforts of the devil to dislodge us? The answer is simple: through prayer. The Apostle Paul was referring to prayer when he gave this analogy of the armor of God. The simple act of prayer produces the best results when it comes to holding our ground against the devil. One of the greatest things Jesus told His disciples was not to fight against the devil in battle, but to “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation. The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak” (Mark 14:38). Now what was Jesus doing prior to this? “…he went forward a little, and fell on the ground, and prayed…” (Mark 14:35). After He told the disciples to watch and pray, what did He do? “…again he went away, and prayed…” (Mark 14:39a). If Jesus—the very Son of God, the One who was in constant communication and communion with God the Father—needed to pray, how crucial it is, and even more so, that we must pray!

girl praying

Prayer is one of the easiest things we can do, and yet, in our own strength, we make it one of the hardest. But it is our own laziness that makes prayer such a chore. Prayer is an uphill challenge to us when we have allowed the devil and his minions to gain ground through our lack of prayer. When we don’t exercise frequently and build our muscles, we lack the strength to overcome any resistance we may encounter. If we don’t watch and pray often, the very act of prayer becomes more and more of an effort. This eventually leaves us wide open for temptation and sin. At the same time, we should never bring prayer to the position where it is the solution alone. Jesus Christ and His victory at the cross is the real solution; prayer only opens the door of our heart to the solution. We don’t worship prayer; we worship God.

Remember that the victory over sin’s power and control has already been won through Christ and His sacrifice on the cross.

“Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us” (Romans 8:37). We are not to conquer, for He has already conquered. We are to stand in faith on His victory. He has already fought the devil and won. (And we, in our physical bodies, can’t fight a spiritual entity like the devil and win anyway.) Notice how many times the word “stand” is used in the passage from Ephesians. Now count how many times the word “fight” is mentioned. The devil will gladly fight and bully our unprotected self, but when we put God’s armor on, the devil sees God, not us, and he flees.

man riding bike

When I ride my bicycle against the wind, I use the strength that I developed in my muscles to pedal harder. At the same time, I reduce some of the resistance by crouching closer to the handlebars, keeping my body as close to the bike as I can. I do not throw my bike at the wind in an attempt to fight against it. I do not take a large stick and stab at or slice the wind. I never yell at or curse the wind either. And, most importantly, I do not give up and run away from the wind, or hide somewhere until it passes. God expects us to develop ourselves through prayer, and then stand against the enemy when he comes. He wants us prepared when we pray by utilizing the armor He has provided. Never are we told to fight or flee, but “having done all, to stand” (Ephesians 6:13b).

Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

What Takes Less Than a Moment?

 

stopwatch

Just how long is a moment? Does it translate into roughly a minute? Is there any definite period of time assigned to this word? After duly researching this, I concluded that the ‘moment’ known today does not have a definite fixed duration, other than being very brief. But the original use of the word put it at around ninety seconds. This led me to consider how many common things one could do in a moment (in its original use) or less. While this list is hardly exhaustive, it does demonstrate how much can be done in one or several moments of time (pun intended).

  1. Drink a glass of water. (Unless you are one of those types who likes to extensively ponder over the best arrangement all of the contents in your living room or the origin of chicken noodle soup, while drinking a beverage, this is a relatively simple task.)
    bedroom
  2. Make your bed. For the average person who actually does make his bed regularly, this can be done, surprisingly, in no more than a moment.
    recycle bin
  3. Empty a trash can. Another simple and quick task for those in an average single-family home. (Of course, if you have a small apartment or motorhome, you could easily empty all of your trashcans, with maybe a few seconds to spare!)
    shoes
  4. Tie your shoes. At least, for those who do have shoelaces in their shoes to tie (which isn’t as common anymore), this is, or at least should be, only a moment’s effort.
    plants on windowsill
  5. Water a plant. This is one moment that your plant will thank you for, especially if you are not a born horticulturalist.
    vitamins
  6. Take your vitamins. A very good idea. Possibly an even better idea if you combine it with the first item on this list. That’s two accomplishments in one moment!
    signature
  7. Sign or write your name. (Now if you majored in calligraphy or something similar, this one may be a challenge for you to do in a mere moment.)
    woman walking
  8. Take a short walk. Since you are only going for a moment, this is a beneficial effort that could even be done indoors. Stop reading this blog entry and do this now. (It will be waiting for you when you get back).
    woodpecker on tree
  9. Watch a woodpecker peck for 1,800 times. If it were pecking continuously for a moment’s time, and you actually counted each peck, that is roughly how much it would total up to.
    man jumping into air
  10. Sing a national anthem. Something, again, that you could do while you are taking that short walk mentioned earlier. (That is, if you read on and did not stop immediately, like you were told to do.)
    sunscreen lotions
  11. Put on sunblock. This also might have been a good idea to do before you went on a short walk. Of course, you could have done this while taking a short walk and singing a national anthem. (Hey, that would be three things that could be done in one moment’s time!).
    automatic car wash
  12. Go through an automatic car wash. OK—this is something you probably shouldn’t be doing while taking that short walk earlier, (although, with all of the extras now being added on to a car wash, this might not fit entirely in a moment anyway. So hold off on those nasty emails—I know I’m pushing it with this suggestion.)
    soapy hands
  13. Wash your hands. (A good idea after putting on all of that sunblock earlier, and definitely not a bad habit to be practicing, considering how short a time it takes to do this.) Now, if you just rebuilt the engine of your car or truck, this might very well take a little longer than a moment.
    waffle cookies
  14. Bake cookies on a sandwich grill or waffle iron. A rather novel idea that really could take only a moment (provided the cookies are already made, and the grill or iron is already hot. But, hey, those are just trivial little details that will only take a few more moments of your day).
    woman balancing
  15. Stand on one foot. Now here’s a relatively easy one, provided you stay on that foot and don’t fall over. If you really want to utilize this particular moment to the max, try hopping at the same time. (Just don’t forget, and go ride your bike with just one foot!) Extra credit: Stand on no feet.
    man holding baby
  16. Hug someone you love. This probably will be the best moment of your day. After the previous item, this might not only be welcome, but quite necessary in order to stand again on both feet!
    toothbrush with toothpaste
  17. Brush your teeth. This may be at the end of the list, but it’s still just as important as item thirteen. (Just don’t get them mixed up—not everyone appreciates breath that is hand-soapy fresh!)

There is something else not on this list that will set your life on the right course for eternity, and it can easily take just a moment, too. That is, to give your heart and life to Jesus Christ. There is no multi-step list or long grueling pilgrimage you must make. You don’t need to repeat a mantra, or take an extensive series of classes. You don’t even have to jump up and down and scream at some devil a dozen times. All that is required is a simple prayer of faith. In fact, you can’t do anything else but pray, and then believe in faith that He has accepted you. Whatever you try to do to make yourself right with God beforehand will only be rejected by Him. He doesn’t desire your good works or any of these other ‘efforts.’ He only wants you.

There will never be any real lasting peace and happiness in your life without Jesus Christ. You might feel happy and satisfied right now, but deep down inside of you, there is a longing and emptiness that can only be satisfied by a real relationship with Him. If you let Him operate in your life, you will find stability, even when others around you are falling apart. The best part is that He will never fail you. Others around you, even your own family, may turn on you or desert you, but He never will. What He says in His Word will happen. “So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:11).

To reject God and His Son Jesus is to put your life and future totally into your own hands. Even worse is the fact that you are putting your death and the eternity that lies afterward into your own hands as well. This is a feat that becomes an impossibility, because you no longer have any control over your future once you have died. A life without God results in an eternity with the Devil in Hell. So why not take less than a moment and pray this simple prayer. Believe in faith that He will take care of your future on Earth and throughout eternity.

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Dear God, I acknowledge that I am a sinner and have violated your laws. I realize that my wrongdoings have separated me from you. I want You to know that I am sorry, and I ask for Your forgiveness. I believe in faith that Your Son, Jesus Christ, died for me, was resurrected, and is alive today, and He that hears my prayers. I would like to open my heart and allow Jesus to come inside to become my Lord and my Savior. I want Him to control my life and I ask that He would rule and reign in my heart, so that His perfect will would be done me. I ask all of this in the name of Jesus. Amen.

****

If you just prayed this prayer and accepted Jesus into your heart, congratulations and welcome into the family of God. If you are wondering now just what to do next please don’t hesitate to contact us by clicking here.

If you are still unsure and want to read more about the path to God, please click here.

The Bitter Made Sweet

dead tree in water

“So Moses brought Israel from the Red sea, and they [the Israelites] went out into the wilderness of Shur; and they went three days in the wilderness, and found no water. And when they came to Marah, they could not drink of the waters of Marah, for they were bitter: therefore the name of it was called Marah. And the people murmured against Moses, saying, What shall we drink? And he cried unto the Lord; and the Lord shewed him a tree, which when he had cast into the waters, the waters were made sweet: there he made for them a statute and an ordinance, and there he proved them, and said, If thou wilt diligently hearken to the voice of the Lord thy God, and wilt do that which is right in his sight, and wilt give ear to his commandments, and keep all his statutes, I will put none of these diseases upon thee, which I have brought upon the Egyptians: for I am the Lord that healeth thee. And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” (Exodus 15:22-27).

Only three days before this, God had miraculously brought Israel across the Red Sea. But they found no water for their desert thirst all three days. Finally at Marah they found some, but it was bitter, unfit to drink. Their first reaction? To “murmur” against Moses, their God-appointed leader. These were the same people that God had just miraculously redeemed! He intentionally brought His children to a time of testing here to bring out what was really in them. Where was that faith that had trusted God to lead them through the Red Sea? Their lack of faith in Him was not hard to expose, unfortunately.

Marah’s bitter waters were the first trying encounter on the path God had marked out for His people in the wilderness. They were a type of what life and its disappointments are like, a foretaste of the path ahead for them. These trials that began in their wilderness journey were examples of our trials in our spiritual journey as the redeemed people of God.

How could these waters be healed of their bitterness so the Israelites could drink from them? When they complained loudly to Moses, he took their complaint straight to God. This is the right way to handle setbacks and disappointments—turn to God at once and pray. He won’t begin to help until we begin to ask for it.

Think about this: if Marah’s waters had been sweet instead of bitter, would Moses have prayed? How could the Israelites have then known that it is in God’s power to make bitter water sweet? And how many of us realize that the Marah experience is normal for God’s children? What would we be like if we had no trials or tribulations? We very likely would be rough and hard-hearted, unable to sympathize with those undergoing suffering.

During a bitter-tasting experience many say, “Why is God allowing this to happen to me?” Know that it is not because God is punishing you for something. “In the world ye shall have tribulation…” (John 16:33). This is all part of your preparation and education for the future God has for you.

Realize that there is always a remedy when God puts us in a trying situation. It is close by, but He will not reveal it until we come to Him in prayer. Years before, God planted the ‘tree’ we would one day need to throw into our ‘bitter waters.’ For those who are willing to pray, the Spirit of God is always ready to lead them to the tree that will sweeten the bitter waters. He knows what we will need, and He provided for it long before we become aware of a problem. He holds back the answer until the time is right, but everything we need here in order to get to Heaven He has already provided.

Why did God provide a tree for this wilderness trial? Was there something about that particular tree that would make the sickening waters sweet? It was not so much the kind of tree, but what it stood for. Moses did not discover the tree and run back and say, “I’ve got the answer!” God specifically provided the tree and made Moses aware of it. The healing of the bitter water was a miracle, and God intended for it to teach His people something. For every trial in this earthly life, a remedy has been provided—although we don’t always see it.

Our first parents ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and made life bitter for themselves and all who came after them. But God has also provided a tree of life, with leaves as the remedy for the healing of the nations.

cross with colored sky

Jesus is a ‘tree of life’ whose branches spread far enough to encompass everyone who wants to come under His outspread limbs. And He reaches high, as high up as Heaven. But this Tree was chopped down at its peak of maturity. Then it was thrown into the bitter waters of our life to sweeten the bitterness that we encounter.

He is the ‘tree’ that is our remedy. His cross is also a tree where He succumbed to the deep, dark waters of death for our sake, thereby making them sweet again.

God used this Marah incident to demonstrate to the Israelites their need of Him to survive the wilderness experience, as much as their need of Him to be delivered from the power of Pharoah and Egypt. After He healed the bitter waters and satisfied the thirst of all the people, He told them to strictly obey every one of His commandments. Then He would make their lives ‘sweet,’ just as He had done with the waters of Marah. This would be their next trial in their journey.

“And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and threescore and ten palm trees: and they encamped there by the waters” [v. 27].

After their ordeal at Marah, God led His children to the oasis of Elim—a place to refresh themselves. When God’s people obey Him, He graciously cares for them. Here they would learn about God and His ways in order to prepare them for the trials ahead. Then He would be able to bring them into His full blessings and promises.

The bitter experiences in your life can be changed by God to become sweet. He allows you to taste the bitter water for a reason—it is for your benefit. Accept God’s will out of your love for Him. Then you will find the secret place of peace in your life in the midst of this bitter world of trouble.

Has grief and suffering embittered your life? Remember that Jesus suffered on the tree for you and still continues to suffer with you. He shares all your woes and has deep sympathy for all you go through. He will never leave you, nor forsake you, nor forget you, especially in your time of trouble.

Are you experiencing the bitter waters of Marah yourself right now? Cast the ‘tree’ into the water and cause it to become sweet. The tree makes all the difference. Drink from God’s well deeply. Its water will always be sweet. Remember His mercy and thank Him for His sweet presence. He alone can heal your bitter, troubled waters. He is right there with you.

What’s Next?

“So now that you have graduated from high school, what are you going to do next?”

“Well, if my scholarship goes through, then I’ll be going to medical school; otherwise, I’m going to scale back my plans and go to the state university and pursue a degree in dentistry.”

“That’ll be quite a challenge, but I’m sure you’ll make it. What’s next?”

“After graduating and fulfilling the necessary internships, I hope to be moving into a career as a dentist. Of course, if the money becomes available in one form or another for med school, then I’d gladly continue on there to become a pediatrician.”

“Good for you! Now after you are established as either a dentist or a pediatrician, what will be next in your pursuits?”

“Naturally as I become set in my career, I’ll most likely get married to someone who’s just as well off as I am and have a bunch of kids, you know, the usual routine.”

“Wow! I’m sure that will keep you extra busy. So what’ll be next?”

“I’ll probably make sure that my kids are all set in life and get them into some big time sports program, or, if possible, maybe an Ivy League university, like Yale or Harvard.”

“Sounds like only the best for them. What’s next after that?”

“Well, I’ve been thinking about maybe following through on the rest of the music lessons I began a few years ago. I’m really good on the piano and guitar, you know.”

“Music, too? You really will be living your life to the fullest by that point. So, then what’s next on the list?”

“Oh, what most do at this point—I’ll move on from my dental or medical practice and probably captivate audiences with my musical ability during the rest of my life. I’m sure by that time I’ll be living in a relaxing cottage near the ocean, and maybe even have a second home that will overlook a gorgeous mountain vista.”

“Well, you certainly have your whole life planned out. I don’t foresee any boring moments in it. So, after all of that, what’s next?”

“After that? Why I will just pass away peacefully in my sleep and give mostly everything to my children and spouse.”

“Sounds like a kind and generous plan, but what is next?”

“What’s next? What more is there? Why I’ll have a memorial service and be placed deep into the earth in a beautiful secluded spot at a cemetery, that’s what’s next!”

“OK, so you are nicely taken care of; now what happens next?”

“Look, I don’t know what you are insinuating now with these ‘what nexts,’ but I die—that is it! Life is over. How should I know what happens next? I’m dead, right? It’s done. Kaput. The end. You may exit the auditorium now. The program has finished.”

****

So is it really over when we die? Does life just quit in the grave? Are we destined to just become a collection of bones buried several feet down in the earth, or a pile of ashes that are either scattered through the air or sitting on someone’s mantle in an urn? Can we really plan our whole life, possibly to the tiniest detail, decades in advance?

Let’s address that last question first. Do we really know what our next year will be like? How about next month, or even tonight? We plan much of our future based on what has already happened to us, or on the present, as if we could see the whole picture ahead of our life in advance. Yet we really don’t know what may happen to us even a few hours from now. The doctor may conclude that everything is fine in our health, and yet we could contract a severe case of food poisoning from a meal on that same afternoon and die several days later.

On the other hand, how certain is it that we will get that job or establish that career we were planning for several weeks or years from now? Suppose that ‘perfect’ job turns out to be a nightmare, or someone on that job becomes jealous and gets us terminated for something we never did? What if a parent or family member dies, and we are forced to leave school to take care of the family? What about a car accident on the way to class that forces us to permanently leave college? Or our grades weren’t anywhere near as good as we planned, and we fail to get our degree or degrees? Do we really know that we will find the right person to marry? What happens if our children turn out the total opposite of the way we raised them, causing us much grief, detriment, and ruin?

We may conclude, based on current trends, that the world is getting better and better—only to have a financial market crash, or a disaster, like a severe flood or a major terrorist attack, occur, sending shockwaves across the global economy. What about those ‘unforeseen events’ that happen to everyone? We make all of these extensive travel plans to some relaxing vista and end up not going because of some ‘unforeseen event’ that occurred at our job or at home.

God already knows our future here, and more importantly, He knows what our ultimate end will be after our death. He mentions this in the Bible: “…it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment…” (Hebrews 9:27).

For many, the idea of judgment of their life may come as a surprise. Sadly, we were born in sin, and carrying it out became inevitable in our lives. “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). As long as we reject God, and plan out our life without any regard to the possible consequences, while continuing to live in sin, we leave Him no choice but to bring us to judgment after we leave this life. “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life: and he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth [remains] on him” (John 3:36).

The good news is, that we don’t have to be destined to this judgment. In fact, God never wanted or intended for us to be in, or controlled by, sin, and thereby judged in the first place. God loves us more than we could ever imagine. “But God commendeth [presents or shows] his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God is holy and can never allow any sin in His presence ever. That is why he sent Jesus, His only Son, to this Earth, who willfully came to fulfill all of the necessary requirements laid out in the Old Testament of the Bible for the permanent covering of our sins. Only Jesus was fully qualified to do this. We, in our naturally sinful state, could only fulfill these laws on our own to cover our sins temporarily.

He wants us to come before Him, and love Him in return, not reject Him. God has gone to great lengths to make it possible for us to trust in Him for our life. He does not expect or want us to plan and work out our life on our own. This only results in sin, and ultimately, judgment after death.

We need to “believe on the Son.” In other words, we must accept His death and sacrifice on the cross as if they were our own. We need to leave our sinful ways and trust in Him for our future. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten [born] Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). When we die, our natural, physical life comes to an end, whether we end up in the grave or by some other means, but our spiritual life continues on into eternity. Whether it will be eternal life in Heaven, or eternal death in Hell depends on whom we place our trust in: Jesus or our self. Only Jesus can bring real satisfaction and freedom. “If the Son [Jesus] therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36). We can’t plan our whole life without God. Our next reply to the question “What’s next?” needs to be “God‘s next.”

For even more information about what’s next, please click here.

“Grace to the Lowly”

kneeling in prayer

“Surely He scorneth the scorners; but he giveth grace unto the lowly” (Proverbs 3:34).

“…God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble. Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (James 4:6-7).

Scorners lift up themselves, refusing to yield to anyone else, always resisting them. They pay no attention to God, as if He did not exist, while boldly continuing in sin. But God will deal with them and their proud ambitions by holding them in everlasting contempt, while blessing those who humbly believe in Him. Humble people don’t mind lowering themselves and walking in the footsteps of Christ. But mockers and scorners are wise in their own thinking. They hate those who are humble and lowly. In our current era, love of self rules, with contempt for all that is good, noble, holy, and true. As we get ever closer to the end of this present age, scorning and mocking are increasing all the time.

“God resisteth the proud” ones who lift themselves up against Him, and whose self-esteem knows no limits. Their nature is having pride in what they own, or are part of, or of anything that applies to them. They have convinced themselves of their supreme excellence and importance. Yet they have nothing to justify their superior attitude. They truly hate others, and even despise the warnings and judgments from God. It is this very attitude that can provoke God to set Himself up to oppose them.

But God is also kind enough to allow those with a humble and contrite spirit into His presence. They don’t covet what others have, or envy them, nor are they consumed with worldly ambitions. But being humble does not come naturally to man. Left to his own ways, he would never have a single humble thought or holy desire on his own. Realizing this alone should be enough to bring us low before God and make us want to be humble.

True humility comes from receiving the grace of God—His unmerited favor—which makes a person humble in the first place. Only by the operation of God’s Holy Spirit in our life can we become humble.

And the humble and poor in spirit have the right to be part of the kingdom of Heaven, which they have been made fit to receive. They will enjoy being there in God’s presence, but the proud and scornful would not. No one who truly mourns for his sin will be turned away by God. And He will not refuse to exalt anyone who comes to Him in humility.

God cannot tolerate the exalting of ‘self’—which is the very nature of sin. Look at Christ as an example. He made Himself of no reputation while here on Earth, although He is the Lord of Lords and King of Kings. How can we justify elevating ourselves, when He did not? Proud people resist God’s laws, truths, and His provision. Do we wonder why God resists the proud? There is great danger in pride, which is why God “resists the proud” in every way. “Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Peter 5:6).

The devil, who is naturally full of pride and completely the opposite of humility, makes it his job to get men swollen with pride in themselves. Then he can easily master and do what he pleases with them. But humble believers who have God living inside them receive more of His grace. Their lowliness doesn’t come from their own strength; it comes from His.

A humble believer knows very well that deep down he is vile and sinful. So he runs to God’s grace and Christ’s blood for his protection. And the devil, in all of his pride, doesn’t know what to think of people like this—how they puzzle and frustrate him!

He is not pleased by the power and strength that come from prayer and faith either. Humble believers like this he leaves alone—in fact, he flees from them!

Don’t go along with the devil’s proposals and temptations. Consider him an enemy and oppose him. How can the devil conquer someone who continually resists him? Even though he is stronger than man, God will never allow him to conquer His people who continually resist him. Stand therefore, by faith in God, and put all the spiritual armor of Ephesians 6 to use. Depend on the Lord to help you, and continue to resist the devil at all times. Remember that, to those who have faith, the devil is already defeated.

Fight against the devil by refusing to yield to him and the fleshly lusts he proposes. Submit to God instead, as Head and Ruler of us all. The devil will run if we continue to resist him. But he will also return again and again to try to tempt us to sin. We will not be conquered as long as we don’t give in. And our heavenly Father will not allow him to force the human will to give in to his temptations (if we continue to stand and resist his onslaughts). Continue to be ‘resistance-fighters’ and we will have the victory!

God favors the humble who feel the need for His help, welcome His teaching, and desire Him as a friend. He will give them the grace they need so they can be saved. But who can teach someone who is so full of himself that he thinks he knows it all? If he feels no need for grace, he will receive no grace. The heart has to be humble before it can be saved. God favors and honors those who are lowly in their own opinion. But He also gives them enough grace to overtake and destroy their worldly lusts and corruptions.

The heavenly Father invites all who are humble to come boldly before His throne, where they will find grace for help in time of need. But they must come with a lowly spirit, knowing that He resists the proud.

If we judge ourself first, He will freely give us His grace. He gives more grace to the humble because they recognize their need for it. We need to conduct ourselves in a way that will glorify God, the One we belong to and should always serve. He stands ready to give us the strength we need to resist and rise above the attraction of the world.

Why should we want to humble ourselves? Reflect for a moment on what our sin and failure cost God and His Son. He had to die on the cross to free us from both. He had to offer Himself up as a sacrifice to the judgment of God because of our iniquity. Is there really anything for any of us to boast about in comparison with what He had to go through to set us free? God calls us to humble ourself before Him; then He will exalt us. Do this once and for all, as a done-deed, not an ongoing process.

So continually watch and pray. Remain ready to submit to God, who will calm our spirit and give us His grace. If we humble ourselves before Him, we will never be left ashamed. We need to rid ourselves of the fighting attitude that is intent on putting other people down in order to lift itself up. The humble ones in the end will inherit true glory, long after worldly fame has tarnished. Let’s freely submit ourselves therefore to God, humbly obeying His commands, with a sense of how empty, weak, and in need of His grace we really are. Let’s bow ourselves before Him and yield totally to His will. Then we will find the path to peace and joy forevermore.

Are Pieces Missing in Your Puzzle?

missing puzzle piece

Have you ever felt like your life is one big puzzle—like you were born as a thousand-piece puzzle—and each year, thousands more pieces have been added?

Even though your parents might have assembled some of this puzzle for you as you were growing up, does it seem like you have had to figure out the rest by yourself? Have you tried really hard to put your puzzle together, only to have a major event, or even a tragedy, come and break apart hundreds of the assembled pieces, like a large puzzle on a table that has been pushed partially over the edge? Or did you ever feel like someone put all of your pieces into a box abruptly, and then shelved them out of sight for several months, or even years?

Maybe you feel like you aren’t able to figure out where many of the pieces belong, and everybody you ask for help doesn’t want to be bothered. Or, even worse, they do ‘help’ by forcing pieces of your puzzle into the wrong place! Maybe it seems like someone slips in and steals the very pieces you need when you aren’t looking.

Have you reached a point in your life where you just can’t seem to find the final pieces that would make your puzzle complete? In fact, do you even know what the finished puzzle of your life is supposed to look like? Does anybody know?

closeup of incomplete puzzle

There is someone who does know you and the way your puzzle will turn out, even better than you know yourself. This ‘someone’ is God. He knew you before you were even conceived. “Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee…” (Jeremiah 1:5), the Bible tells us. When God created human beings, it was never His intention for them to function solely on their own. God wants you to be dependent on Him. The problem often is that, knowingly or unknowingly, you left Him at some point; but He will never willingly leave you. “And the Lord, he it is that doth go before thee; he will be with thee, he will not fail thee, neither forsake thee: fear not, neither be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). If He ever does withdraw from you, it is only because you do not want Him. This means that you want to do it your way, or do it by yourself, instead.

missing piece of puzzle

When you look at your life as a complex puzzle that you can’t totally assemble, you are looking at it from the angle of your own strength and understanding.All of your struggles and fears or worries and confusion come from trying to solve a situation that you can’t possibly solve by yourself.

Even if you go to someone else to help solve your puzzle, you are still sidestepping God. The only way to achieve complete satisfaction—real and lasting happiness and victory over life’s situations—is to surrender your life and all of your attempts to solve this puzzle by yourself over to God.

photo puzzle missing pieces

God is the only One who knows what the picture on the puzzle of your life will look like when it is complete. When He first formed you, He did not include the final ‘missing’ pieces of your puzzle. He did this because He wants to be the One to complete your puzzle. He wants to fill that void in your heart that nothing else can fill.

No matter what you try to do on your own to make your puzzle complete, without Him, it will never work.

You might try to cut up a piece from another puzzle and force it in, or you may try to make your own pieces. Either way, improper replacements will only leave you feeling empty inside in the end. Let Him complete your puzzle in the way that He knows is best. No other way will satisfy.

If you are interested more about completing your life’s puzzle with God, click here.

Ritual or Relationship?

 

 

Do you ever felt like you are making great efforts to do all of the right things (or at least what you were told were the right things) to please God, yet He still seems distant or unreachable to you? Do you feel like a sense of guilt comes over you if you don’t pray or read the Bible? Or have you stopped praying and reading the Bible because you can’t seem to get anywhere, and everything you did read seemed so confusing and dull? Maybe you go to church because this is what you were told do, but you have never felt any real enthusiasm in being there. Or, are you doing as much as you can for your church, yet you still don’t seem to have any reward from God—or even worse—you just feel used by your church? Have you often asked yourself, just where is the fulfillment, the satisfaction and the real joy in following Jesus that others have told you about?

On the other hand, maybe you are one who really does find excitement and satisfaction with God and what He has done for you, but only after you attend church or various religious events and entertainment, thereby necessitating repeat visits to maintain this enthusiasm. All of these are common ploys of Satan to prevent you from having true intimacy with God. He tries to keep you in a mindset where you feel that you have to continually do works to be right with, or accepted by, God. When you left Satan’s domain and entered the domain of Jesus by getting saved, it certainly did not go unnoticed by Satan. And, in revenge for leaving him, he will persist in trying to keep you from having complete peace in Jesus. His goal is to turn your focus off of Jesus Christ and onto yourself (and ultimately onto him alone).

He wants you to wear yourself out in trying to be right with God on your own, to the point where you become bitter or discouraged and turn back to him. Actually, Satan would really like for you to hate God just like he does, and to never want to even try to follow the Lord again.

Since he has had thousands of years to observe others like you, he knows just what technique works to keep you from truly following Jesus.

What Satan tries to do here is to turn all of these ‘good’ efforts into a ritual. Jesus does not want rituals or your ‘works’; He wants a personal relationship with you. He wants yourcross worship trust and faith in Him alone. Religions have rituals, but they add up to nothing in God’s view. When Jesus died on the cross on your behalf, it was a complete work. There are no works, no rituals—there is nothing that you can do to improve on this or make yourself more acceptable to God on your own. Every time you try to do something to make yourself more holy before God, you are, in essence, canceling out the sacrifice that His Son made on your behalf. He already did everything necessary to make you acceptable to God.

You may now be thinking that reading the Bible, praying, or attending church are wrong. Each of these in themselves is right, and God expects them of you. But when doing them becomes your motive behind being accepted or becoming right before God, then doing them becomes just as wrong as worshiping idols. And you also enter the area of self-righteousness, which is just as sinful before God as idolatry or any other sin.

couple on bench

When you accept Jesus Christ into your heart, you are entering into a personal relationship with Him. In our human relationships, one person does not work to make the other accept him or her; instead, each accepts the other for who he or she is, by faith in him or her. They no longer have to prove themselves; they now have established trust between them.

If you have just become married, and you constantly do things to make your spouse love you, then you have entered into marriage for all of the wrong motives (and your spouse will really begin to wonder about you).

Your marriage partner should love you for who you are, not so much for what you do. What you do is a by-product of love, a way of expressing it.

Similarly, Jesus wants you to have trust, and simple, child-like faith in Him. He never set up a complicated set of rules and requirements that you must follow to improve your standing with woman worshipingHim. These only lead to things like favoritism, jealousy, regression, and failure. If you yield your self (or will) to Him in a loving personal relationship, you will soon find that you will want to pray, you will want to read His Word, and you will want to be in a fellowship of other believers who also want to do the same thing. You will also find that that all of these efforts to please Him before will now be the by-product of a relationship with Him now. It is only in a true relationship, not in a ritual, that will you find real peace in God.

You Can’t Drown by Just Falling into Water


Jumping into the Pool flickr photo by odonata98 (Kimberly Reinhart) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-ND) license

Did you know that if you were to fall into a large body of water, such as a pond or lake, you wouldn’t drown? It’s true; you could fall into significant depths of water and still be alive. (Of course, I’m talking about ordinary liquid water, not solid frozen or near-freezing water.) The drowning occurs when you stay underwater. The longer you stay, the sooner you will drown. No matter how much you train or prepare for such a dive, if you don’t get out of the water, you will drown. Even if you keep your head above the surface, if you continue to float, you will eventually succumb from fatigue and drown.

The same is true with sin. Your relationship with God won’t permanently end when you fall into sin. It’s when you remain in sin that your relationship suffers. God is holy and can never have sin in His presence. When you continue to sin, or live in sin, then your relationship and fellowship with Him eventually ceases. Just as with water, it is easy to fall into sin, but getting out takes significantly more effort, and the longer you remain living in sin, the harder it is to get out of it.

Due to the sin of Adam (the first man), mankind has always had an inclination to sin (commonly called the “sin nature.”) Therefore, sin will always be present with you, but you don’t have to be controlled or overcome by it. When Jesus died on the cross, He won the victory over sin and death.

Since He fought the battle over sin and won, you no longer need to fight this battle yourself. In fact, you can’t fight this battle on your own and win.

The answer is to repent (turn completely in the opposite direction) of your sins and sinful ways, surrendering your will and life over to Him. “Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord…” (Acts 3:19).

lambs and sheep

When a sheep falls into a ditch, it doesn’t just lie there. It does its best to get up out of the ditch onto more stable ground. When you fall into sin, don’t just stay there and continue to sin; repent and get up to better ground.

An even better solution is to put your focus on Jesus, and your trust in the victory He made possible through His sacrifice on the cross. It’s when you take your eyes off of Him and place them on your self and your problems that the ease in which you fall into sin becomes greater and greater.

The greatest tool you have against your sin nature is Jesus.

When you take your eyes off of Him and fall into sin, you need to turn your eyes back to Him, repent and flee from that sin, and seek forgiveness from God your Heavenly Father. Then “…the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19b). Sin only keeps you in despair, fear and depression (among many other things) due to your separation from God. So why continue in it when it is only going to prevent you from having real peace with God?