Did God Lose You or Have You Lost Him?

lost and found box with articles inside

How distressing it is when something of value to us becomes lost. It could be something important, like a wallet, purse, phone, keys, or jewelry. Or it could be items of little value to anyone but us, such as a hat, glove, or even just a shopping list. Any or all of these have most likely been misplaced or forgotten at some point in our lives. And how often we find the item later right where we left it—usually unnoticed or undisturbed. Then again, someone else may have discovered the lost item and taken it with them.

We hope that the finder will not keep or discard it, but will take it to the nearest lost and found.

Most offices, stores, restaurants, schools, and other locations have some area designated for lost or misplaced items. It might consist of something as simple as an open cardboard box, or be as secure as a safe or lockbox. Retrieval of the lost item may be as easy as digging through the box until the item is found. Otherwise, we will need to describe the item and may have to show identification before the missing object is returned to us.

Many people today are like these lost articles. But the situation is not that someone lost them, but that they became lost on their own.

They once had a good, close relationship with the Lord, but somewhere along the way they became distracted and drifted away from Him. It wasn’t a deliberate separation, but rather more of a subtle withdrawal. They may still occasionally go to church, but the joy is no longer there—it is just a ritual or routine to make someone else happy. Reading the Bible has become boring and dry. They may make a comment like, “Who has time for prayer these days? Besides, God doesn’t respond anyway. It’s like talking to the air.”

They will often find other things more enjoyable, like taking up a hobby again that they put aside years ago, or traveling to places that they have wanted to go to all their life. They may also become more immersed in their work, due to increasing bills and expenses at home. It might be a sudden windfall or increased dividend from one of their stocks that renews their passion for the stock market more than God.

Whatever the reason, they gradually reach the point where they feel that they cannot return to the Lord.

There is a slight longing for Him, but they refuse to give in to it, and soon develop the mentality that they will never be good enough for Him to accept them again. Yet they still just can’t seem to shake off that desire for Him, no matter what they do.

lost, found, searching sign post in rocky desert area

Does any or all of this sound familiar? Then you need to know that it doesn’t have to be this way. Like sheep wandering in a large pasture, you may have become lost from the Shepherd. But the Shepherd did not lose you.

Jesus loves you so much that He will never completely give up looking for you. He would rather give up His life than to lose one sheep that has drifted away.

“For the Son of man is come to save that which was lost. How think ye? if a man have an hundred sheep, and one of them be gone astray, doth he not leave the ninety and nine, and goeth into the mountains, and seeketh that which is gone astray? And if so be that he find it, verily I say unto you, he rejoiceth more of that sheep, than of the ninety and nine which went not astray. Even so it is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish” (Matthew 18:11-14).

In the parable of the prodigal son, the son left his father and lived a lavish life, squandering all that his father gave him. Then he finally humbled himself and returned home. He intended to go to his father and admit his wrongdoing and unworthiness to be called his son, with the intent of just becoming one of his servants. But when he arrived, instead of placing him in a yoke of condemnation, his father declared,

“Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found” (Luke 15:22-24 emphasis added).

In a similar manner, our Heavenly Father wants to place a robe around you, put a ring on your hand, and shoes on your feet—if you will just return to Him. Don’t feel that you have crossed a point of no return, or be too ashamed to come home and be called one of His children again.

Like the father of the prodigal son, your heavenly Father eagerly desires for you to come home.

No one is capable in his own efforts to make himself right enough to come before God. This is the reason Jesus sacrificed Himself on the cross. Through the death of His Son, God made a way for us to be able to come before Him at anytime, anywhere.

Don’t put it off any longer. Don’t let pride or embarrassment keep you away. Come back home to Him, today. Admit your sins and seek His forgiveness. Then He will welcome you home with open arms and remind you how much He loves you.

You don’t have to remain lost—call out to the Lord right now and you’ll be found.

Give Him a reason for rejoicing!

 

[Image credit: Flickr; Jan Alexander/Pixabay]

Don’t Let Storm Clouds End Your Journey Prematurely

clouds obscuring top of mountain

The view was outstanding, and they were only a couple of hundred feet up the side of the mountain. Now more than ever, Janet and her younger brother Caswell wanted to reach the peak. If the sight of the surrounding region was this wonderful here, it must be absolutely breathtaking at the top. Hal, their guide, was relieved, since many of those that he leads often want to turn around at this point.

After struggling up one precipitous path after the other for another hour, they finally reached a small plateau.

With much pleading and coaxing from the hikers, Hal reluctantly conceded to their request to refrain from further climbing, and they set up camp for the night. Janet bundled up in preparation for the chilly night ahead, while “Cas” preferred to wear only what he had on, relying on the sleeping bag for warmth. Hal, still somewhat wary of stopping at this location in their ascent, chose to dress for a quick departure.

Three hours later, their slumber was abruptly cut short as the ground started shaking and the sounds of tumultuous rumbling filled the whole region.

“Get up! Get up! It’s a rockslide!” Hal shouted. They all scrambled out of their tents while grabbing as much of their supplies as possible. In the midst of all the commotion, Hal ordered them to move quickly along the side of the mountain, just near the left edge of the plateau. Mere moments later, a deluge of small boulders and gravel poured over the cliff right above their heads. The place they had just fled from was completely inundated.

Each hiker, although very shaken up, breathed deep sighs of relief. “Wow, that pile of rocks could have fallen all over us,” Cas remarked, looking back over the place where they had just been sleeping.

“Well, actually, you would be all the way down there, and asleep permanently,” Hal grimly responded while pointing to the valley hundreds of feet below.

“That slide was more powerful than it appeared. Your tent would have been no match for it.” Following a few more minutes of rest, the group pushed forward on the small trail they had used as an escape earlier. “Now you know why I wasn’t keen about resting in that spot. Come on, let’s keep moving for a little longer. I know a better place just a short way ahead where we go and can finish sleeping,” Hal said encouragingly.

The following morning broke with a bright sun, a beautiful blue sky, large clusters of clouds, and a cool, light wind blowing over the tired but enthusiastic hikers. Hal managed to put together a small breakfast with some of what was left from the previous night’s escapade. After they ate, everyone pressed on toward the peak.

Hal estimated that there was just over a mile to go, but he also cautioned that this would be one of the most difficult parts remaining. Even so, his two intrepid explorers didn’t let this dampen their zeal.

Their excitement did not last long. The sun soon disappeared, and the clouds seen earlier began to thicken. The breeze became a strong, biting wind. Hal informed them that a storm was moving in, but they were not to panic, since he was going to lead them on a longer route instead, which would provide some shelter. Janet and Cas’ exuberance began to fade. They no longer wanted to continue, despite Hal’s reassurance.

Thunder echoed among the mountains as the hikers moved slowly along. Hal was right—the detour did give them a fair amount of protection.

While the stormy weather raged on all around them, they still managed to climb higher. Yet Cas could not be convinced that things were going to improve if he kept going.

He stopped, warily looked around, and then began to cower in fear. “We’ll never make it,” he moaned. But he knew that turning around and returning home was not a reasonable option.

It wasn’t long before Janet started feeling the same way, and in a short time they both came to a total standstill. The top of the mountain was completely gone.

All they could see was a wild and turbulent situation above them. Even Hal had vanished from sight in the clouds earlier.

Then, a short while later, he returned to the two scared hikers who were trying their best to hide from the dreadful conditions.

“What are you doing here?” he shouted. “Let’s move! The best is yet to come!”

“We can’t go any farther. Don’t you see how awful it is out here? What do we gain by going on? It’s just not worth it!” Janet screamed in reply.

“I told you earlier that we were at one of the hardest places in our climb. Don’t give up now. You are letting your discouragement run your life. These storm clouds are obscuring your view. It’s beautiful up there!”

Reluctantly, the two hikers pulled themselves together and slowly followed Hal up through the thick and tempestuous clouds ahead of them.

After a half hour of struggling, things started to dramatically change. The atmosphere began to thin out and the sun started to shine brightly again.

“Hey, look, we are climbing up out of the storm!” Cas eagerly remarked. “It’s not as bad as it appeared. I can see for miles now!”

man sitting on mountainside overlooking clouds below

Janet’s countenance began to change as she, too, was enveloped by the bright sky. “Wow! The clouds are now beneath us! It’s a beautiful day again!”

As they finally arrived at the top of the mountain, the two climbers danced about. “We made it!” they shouted joyously.

In our walk with God, we are also going to find difficult areas and places where we cannot see how we can make it through on our own. There are going to be mountains to climb, and valleys we must descend to. But we should not allow rough areas or storms to deter us from traveling on.

The Lord, our guide through this journey, expects us to look to Him for direction, encouragement, protection, and strength.

In Exodus, God guided His people on a journey through the wilderness. They looked forward to it when it began, but soon became discouraged when they encountered difficult obstacles they didn’t know how to deal with. But every time they turned their latest challenge over to God, their leader throughout the whole trip, trusting in Him, they would make it through. But when they let their doubt, fear, and discouragement obscure their view, their circumstances were able to block their way or overtake them.

In our journey with God, we can easily let stormy weather discourage us from going on to higher altitudes, too.

We often want to just turn around and go back where things seem calmer and more manageable. But if we do this, we will still have to go through the previous challenges we had to overcome before. It is very likely that we will find ourselves even worse off than if we had pressed on and gone forward. This is the reason we need to turn any difficult situation over to the Lord, and not rely on our own feelings or understanding. We don’t want to let fear of the storms end our journey prematurely. If we keep following Jesus, our Guide who has already succeeded in reaching the top of the journey, we can be sure that He will lead us safely all the way through.

 

[Image credit: Eberhard Grossgasteiger/Pexels; Joshua Earle/Unsplash]

Finding Out What God Means

When someone becomes a believer in Christ, it means that he or she has committed to learning to look at everything Christ’s way. But we are not to just accept what some people say that He taught. A lot of difficulty and trouble has been caused by doing just that! We have the true source to go to.

Why should we go to anyone else, when Jesus, through His Holy Spirit, is ever ready to answer any question or resolve any issue we don’t understand!

He may use another person to explain something to us at times, but that is not the same as always accepting as truth what other people claim that God has said or meant. It is easy to fall into this trap for those who have recently accepted Christ as their Savior or are new at studying the Bible.

If you are part of a denomination, this is particularly important to keep in mind. Your denomination may help to lead you to a great deal of truth in the Bible, but it is still important to examine all that you are told for yourself. You should see if it lines up with other parts of the Bible besides the one(s) they are referring to. The Bible will never contradict itself. (If you think you have found a place where it does, it is usually because of a lack of depth of understanding of the passages or issues involved. Make a note of the ‘discrepancy’ and ask the Lord about it in prayer. When the time is right, He will show you what the truth of the matter is.)

Be careful when a Bible teacher says, “Brother (or Doctor) So-and-So taught that this means…”

The esteemed brother may or may not perceive the matter correctly. Keep in mind what he said, but examine the passage for yourself. Don’t accept it until you are sure it lines up with the Bible, no matter how eminent the teacher may be. On the other hand, do not assume that you have superior knowledge to Bible teachers who have a great deal more experience and knowledge in studying and teaching the Bible than you do. You are just as liable (if not more so) to error as they are. Both of you should be searching the Bible for the answers, not each other!

You may also run into the matter of tradition by following what others say that God meant. There are many people who feel that following what their group’s Christian leaders have traditionally taught, whether currently or in the past, is the best and safest way to learn what God has said and meant. But this can also be a way for an error to multiply many-fold.

Just because something has been traditionally taught for a number of years or decades or even centuries does not automatically make it scriptural. It is lining up with what the Bible says that makes it scriptural!

As a quick example, a preacher taught that when the Israelites traveled in the desert forty years with Moses after they had crossed the Red Sea, the shoes grew to fit the growing children’s feet during those decades, because they had no way to get more shoes. That is an interesting concept, but it is not written anywhere in the Bible. Why couldn’t the parents exchange shoes when their children needed different sizes until they got the right ones? This is a simple example of tradition. One person came up with this idea and shared it with another, who apparently passed it along to more people, and it became accepted as a fact after a while—especially if people heard it repeated in more than one place. In this case, it is not a significant error. But what if it was a major issue that became accepted in this way? The inaccurate information can multiply until no one can tell what the real meaning is anymore! We need to check it out with what the Bible actually says!

Learn to tune into what we refer to as “the divine flutter.” This refers to experiencing a sense of uneasiness inside over a biblical matter someone is sharing with you, even though everything you are receiving seems to sound and look fine. There is probably a good reason you sense this uneasiness, or inner “flutter.” Don’t automatically dismiss it.

The Holy Spirit is very likely trying to warn you that all is not as it appears to be. He will not yell at you and say, “Deception! Run! This person or concept is wrong!”

He will usually tell you in a quiet way, deep inside your being, to pay careful attention and not be easily misled. Perhaps you aren’t knowledgeable about this subject enough to understand the problem yet. Tune into that ‘divine flutter’ whenever you encounter it, and let the Holy Spirit lead you back to asking God directly what it means.

For all who really want to know what God is saying, the Bible is still the source of all truth—because it is God’s word (not man’s).

The more we consult and study it, the more we will be able to detect error and embrace truth. Then we can be sure that we will not easily be misled.

 

[Image credits: Waldryano/Pixabay;Robert Owen-Wahl/Pixabay]

Some Examples on How to Fail God

White stone statue of man holding hand over face

The only place we should look when we want to know how to succeed is the Bible. But do you know that it also gives many instances concerning how to fail? It’s true! God actually wants us to understand how to fail. Look at the following examples.

Right at the beginning of the human race, we find one of the first failures. God specifically told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil—a simple command to follow. Don’t eat the tree’s fruit, and their relationship with God would remain in good standing. But sadly, it didn’t work out that way. After Eve was deceived by a serpent, she took a bite of the forbidden produce. But this was only part of the actual failure. The remainder came when she then gave the fruit to Adam. At this point, he could have refused her kind gesture and rebuked her for yielding to the deception.

Instead, he willfully took the fruit and ate of it himself. He failed when he deliberately chose to disobey God. Their relationship with God was broken as a result, and sin entered the picture.

Now all humanity from that point forward would also inherit a sin nature. This meant that we are born inclined toward sinning, rather than against it—and it was all due to Adam and Eve’s failure to obey God.

In another example God told Saul, one king of the Israelites, to “go and [strike] Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have, and spare them not; but slay both man and woman, infant and suckling, ox and sheep, camel and [donkey]” (1 Samuel 15:3). The Amalekites had previously hindered and tried to destroy the Israelites back when they left Egypt through the wilderness.

Saul dutifully followed God’s command by mustering up thousands of soldiers and heading to Amalek. He was even kind enough to warn the Kenites, who dwelt among the Amalekites, to leave the region so they would not be killed too. They had been helpful to the people of Israel in their past journey, unlike the Amalekites. When Saul reached Amalek, “he took Agag the king of the Amalekites alive, and utterly destroyed all the people with the edge of the sword” (1 Samuel 15:8). The failure was Saul not fully obeying what God had ordered. Verse nine says, “…Saul and the people spared Agag, and the best of the sheep, and of the oxen, and of the fatlings, and the lambs, and all that was good, and would not utterly destroy them: but every thing that was vile and refuse, that they destroyed utterly”.

He let their king live and kept the best livestock, thereby acting upon own his best interests, not what God had required of him.

Not only did Samuel fail to obey God, but he also lied to Samuel, the priest. “…Saul said unto Samuel, Yea, I have obeyed the voice of the Lord, and have gone the way which the Lord sent me, and have brought Agag the king of Amalek, and have utterly destroyed the Amalekites” (verse 20). In very next verse, we find him playing the victim and shifting the blame for his failure to obey God to the people: “But the people took of the spoil, sheep and oxen, the chief of the things which should have been utterly destroyed, to sacrifice unto the Lord thy God in Gilgal.”

Samuel was able to see through all of this. He told Saul that obedience to God is more important than sacrifice. Then He solemnly declared: “…rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft, and stubbornness is as iniquity and idolatry. Because thou hast rejected the word of the Lord, He hath also rejected thee from being king” (verse 23).

Saul failed by wanting to do what suited him, rather than what suited God. So, God rejected him as king.

Look now at a New Testament example. Here we find failure in one of the Jesus’ own disciples. “…Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water. And He said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”  (Matthew 14:28-31).

Peter was not a bashful individual, to say the least. He had little problem though with speaking his mind, as we find later on, when he insisted that he would stand by Jesus even unto death—only to be informed by Him, “Wilt thou lay down thy life for My sake? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, the [rooster] shall not crow, till thou hast denied Me [three times]” (John 13:38).

Yet, in the first case, Peter did believe he could walk on the water, all the way out to where Jesus stood. His downfall came when he took his eyes, his focus, off Jesus, and onto the conditions around him. We see in verse 32 of Matthew 14 that the winds were still rough until “…they were come into the ship, [and then] the wind ceased.”

Peter failed when he gave doubt room to work in his heart. He no longer trusted in Jesus’ faithfulness, but slipped back into believing in himself.

That was the point when he grew fearful and began sinking. “There is no fear in [godly] love; but perfect love [drives] out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). Peter’s relationship with Jesus was not yet strong enough for him to completely let go and trust Him.

Throughout the Bible we read that failure comes about when God’s Word is disobeyed. When we listen to or follow something or someone other than what God has commanded, we will fail. Adam and Eve obeyed a serpent. King Saul looked to himself. Peter let the wind distract him.

Over and over, the Word of God demonstrates that failure is the product of disobedience.

God does not want us to fail Him. Yet we find so many places of man’s failure in His Word. He wants us to learn that when we turn away from Him and do what we consider to be right instead, we will ultimately fail. He wants us to read and study His Word, and then to obey and follow it. If we do, we will learn from the failure of others and keep from becoming another example of failure ourselves.