“Like Them That Dream”

I no longer remember the reasons, but our cat once needed to be taken by car from our home to a particular destination, and then returned a day later (which she perceived as a week!). Now, this cat was not one who found pleasure in any kind of restraint or confinement—period! In fact, I think a small herd of donkeys might have had trouble restraining her. After she returned home, we noticed that her food dish in her cat carrier had been thoroughly beaten up, letting us know in no uncertain terms that she was QUITE UPSET—to put it mildly! After waiting a moment or so for her to settle down, we quietly opened the gate of her carrier without her knowing it, stood back, and waited. Several minutes went by before she realized she was no longer captive. As she made a quick exit, she must have thought her freedom could not be real and that she was dreaming! At this point she did not exactly race around the room filled with laughter and singing, but I don’t find it hard to believe that deep down inside, she had a great deal of joy and relief.

“When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter, and our tongue with singing: then said they among the heathen [worldly minded individuals], The Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.” (Psalm 126:1-3).

How about you? As a child of God, do you continue on in life as if your deliverance from the captivity of sin was just another occurrence, with little significance? Or is your “mouth filled with laughter” and your “tongue with singing?” This doesn’t mean that you necessarily have to laugh and sing out loud all day long, but rather, that your life shows outwardly the joy of God’s salvation that is in your heart. When God led the children of Israel out of captivity, they also considered it to be unreal at first. But when they realized that they were free, they overflowed with such peace, joy, and happiness that even the heathen nations around them recognized that “The Lord hath done great things for them.”

So often we take for granted the victories and blessings God has made possible for us.

We tend to be like the cat mentioned earlier who was upset with her captivity, and never considered the fact that this arrangement was only temporary. This is why it seems like a dream when God delivers us. We get so focused solely on the situation at hand that we fail to consider that God has a better plan for the future. This is why we need to reflect on all that God has done for us in our life, and not become caught up in what He has not yet accomplished. Jesus said, A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh” (Luke 6:45). What is the abundance in your heart? Can those of the world say of you, “the Lord hath done great things for them”? Why not take a few moments each day and think of all the great things (and little things, too) that He has done for you and say like the Israelites did, “The Lord hath done great things for us; whereof we are glad.”

Faith or Just Hope?

mother baby looking at plane

Is the object of our faith…

woman looking at planes

just a hope that a plane will get us to our destination?

airplane cockpit with pilot

Or do we place our faith in the pilot with his wisdom, training and experience…

woman looking out airplane window

to get us to where we are to go as safely as possible?

How often the child of God feels inadequate when it comes to faith. Our thinking seems to be—if we only could have more faith, then our doubts would dissipate completely. Actually many of us already have a great amount of faith. Jesus said, “…If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder [a distant] place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you” (Matthew 17:20). Our problem is that the faith we already have does not have works. “…faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Therefore, it is ineffective.

Often we say we have faith, but the truth is we just really, really hope that the problem will solve itself! So we cringe; we strain; we agonize. Yet in the end, we either solve the problem some way ourselves, thinking that our faith worked, or, by sheer coincidence, the problem has gone away somehow on its own. Our idea is to make faith into the actual effort, instead of having faith in the One who can solve our problem at hand. But it is the faithfulness of God that brings godly results, never our faith alone. If we will put our faith in God’s son, Jesus, and His finished work on the cross, then our sinful self is taken out of the picture, and He is able to carry out the actual works needed, through us.

Father, help me to make my understanding of faith not according to my own works, but of believing solely in your Son. May Jesus be the object of my faith and never anything else. From this point forward, I will look to Him and what He has done on the cross as the means for my victory. Amen.

A Lie in Disguise or Truth Unclothed?

old brick stone mansion

We live our life as a façade. We have pretty curtains on the windows with a nice welcome mat on the front step, and at the same time, we surround everything with a massive wrought iron fence. Our doors are padlocked and dead-bolted, but the painted stucco covering the walls is magnificent. The front yard is immaculately trimmed, yet the grass is artificial, and the flowers are plastic. In reality, our life often amounts to little more than a heavily dressed-up lie.

We tell our friends and neighbors how wonderful they are, then gossip about them when they are not present. We boast to our coworkers about what a wonderful job we did, never mentioning that someone else we haven’t mentioned did most of the work.

Under the guise of diplomacy, nations cover up their lies to appease other nations. Many leaders and politicians are quick to divert the not-so-pleasant truth about themselves, yet are quite eager to expose it about others—or even demand that others reveal it about themselves.

“These are the things that ye shall do; Speak ye every man the truth to his neighbour; execute the judgment of truth and peace in your gates: And let none of you imagine evil in your hearts against his neighbour; and love no false oath: for all these are things that I hate, saith the Lord” (Zechariah 8:16,17).

All the way back in the beginning, the first man and woman chose to clothe their disobedience in deception. “And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons. And they heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day: and Adam and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God amongst the trees of the garden” (Genesis 3:7-8). Adam and Eve knew they were wrong, but chose to hide and not disclose the truth to God, their Creator. But God cannot, and will not, be mocked or fooled in any manner. “Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in His sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of Him with whom we have to do” (Hebrews 4:13).

 

When we dress up our misdeeds we just make them into an appealing lie. And by living a life of covering up falsehood, we fill ourselves with pride, which further worsens our situation. We are telling God that we can handle the situation in the way we think is best. We don’t want the results that the actual truth will bring, so we keep the lie beautifully clothed and hope that no one will peek inside. Yet all we are really doing is putting ourselves into more and more bondage. By continuing our fashion show with our lie, we begin to live more and more in fear.

The reality here is that we sin, meaning we fail to obey the commandments of God, and then sin gains control over us. But we really don’t want anyone to know it. The only one who has a remedy for our desire to constantly disguise who we really are is Jesus. When we yield ourself to Him, and strip our disobedience bare by admitting that we were wrong and that we have sinned against Him, we allow Him to free us of this burden. From the time when Jesus came into this world, to the time when He sacrificed His life on the cross and rose from the grave, He fulfilled all of God’s requirements for us to be free from sin’s control over us.

The truth about who we really are is best when it is unclothed, raw, and out in the open before God. By hiding it, we set ourselves up for a life of falsehood, fear, and shame.

Even a half-truth, or a lie poorly clothed, is still falsehood. We may successfully disguise this from others, but never from God. Concealing it will never benefit anyone, especially in the long term. By living this way, we are in rebellion against God and setting ourself up for an eternity in hell. God loves us so much and has absolutely no intention of sending us there. We make this happen by continuing to reject Him. Yet all of this will change in a moment if we turn our heart and life over to Him. (Click here to learn more about how to yield to God.) Don’t dress up your disobedience—bring it out in the open, and lay it in the hands of Jesus.

All in Vain

This world is filled with people trying to make it in this life without God. Some physically work themselves to the point of death in an effort to live comfortably when they retire. Others put on a front that leads many to believe they have prospered and now have everything they need. A great number will spend their whole life attempting to succeed by getting others to do their work for them, or by getting them to give them something for nothing in return. Even some of the most religious do all kinds of ‘works,’ trying to make themselves morally and spiritually right with God.

Sadly, all of these methods, however good and beneficial that they be in themselves, are not sufficient when life ends. The wisest and richest person in history, King Solomon, sums it up well: “Vanity of vanities…all is vanity. What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?” (Ecclesiastes 1:2, 3) God firmly stated that, Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it” (Psalm 127:1 emphasis mine).

True, many do prosper in one way or another in this life, according to the world’s standards, but when it comes to eternity, no effort of our own can bring success with God. If God is not first in our lives, then all of our efforts are in vain.

“God is a Spirit: and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth” (John 4:24). We are sinful physical beings and God is a holy, sinless Spirit. We are on the ‘bad’ side from the start and cannot ever reach the ‘good’ side by our own means and strength. No matter how much we labor and manage to have some success, we will not ‘build the house’ without God. Instead, we fill our lives with worry and anxiety each morning and night about what our immediate and distant future holds—and all in vain—because God is not in it.

grey cross

Real success lies in Jesus, the One who overcame sin and death through His sacrifice on the cross. He made it possible that, by total trust and belief in Him, we can have the same victory over sin as He did. We now can worship God “in spirit and truth,” because Jesus is the truth. When we put Jesus first in our life through placing our faith in Him and His finished work on the cross, we are able to have real success. We no longer need “to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows” (Psalm 127:2). When we fully obey God and depend on Him, “He giveth his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:2).

“Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain. It is vain for you to rise up early, to sit up late, to eat the bread of sorrows: for so he giveth his beloved sleep” (Psalm 127:1-2). Let “the Lord build the house” and “keep the city,” or our efforts will all be in vain.