Casting Away Our Garment

A color slide of a pair of seated beggars in Alexandria, Egypt.

Many of us have at least one item in our possession that we hold onto for security. It might be a particular article of clothing, a piece of jewelry, an official document, some kind of correspondence or a card, or it could even be just a toy, book, or stuffed animal. For some, it is not a tangible object, but is instead found only in the heart. Whatever it is for each of us, we value it greatly and refuse to let go of it.

While it is not necessarily wrong to have something to fall back on in times of distress and uncertainty, it is a real matter of concern when the reason or need for this item is removed—yet we still continue to hold onto it anyway. Some will never give it up for the rest of their lives.

There was once a blind man who sat along the highway outside the city of Jericho in the Middle East begging long ago. How he became this way, we are not told. He had a garment with him that he would have used during the day to collect support from travelers passing by, and at night for protection from the elements.

When Jesus was leaving the area on His one and only trip to Jericho, He walked in the vicinity of this blind beggar. The man already knew who Jesus was and what He was capable of doing, because we read in the book of Mark that “…when he heard that it was Jesus of Nazareth, he began to cry out, and say, Jesus, thou Son of David, have mercy on me” (Mark 10:47).

Now Jesus could have passed by him and kept on going, but this was not in God’s plan. So “…Jesus stood still, and commanded him to be called. And they called the blind man, saying unto him, Be of good comfort, rise; He calleth thee. And he, casting away his garment, rose, and came to Jesus” (Mark 10:49,50 emphasis added). We know this piece of clothing was essential to his well-being as a beggar outside of the city. For him to throw it aside meant that he no longer needed it.

The beggar could have brought it with him when he went to Jesus, as a precaution. But, by letting go of it and throwing it aside, he fully demonstrated that his trust was in Jesus to set him free of his blindness once and for all. Even after Jesus healed him, he did not go back, pick it up, and resume sitting by the roadside. Instead, he “followed Jesus in the way (verse 52). He wanted to be with the One who opened his eyes, the One he knew would be true to His nature and His word.

God wants us to let go of whatever we have been clinging to for our security throughout our life. He wants us to give it up totally, toss it aside, and believe in Him to make us whole and to set us free. The blind beggar cast his garment aside before Jesus even touched Him, because he was already believing that He would restore his sight. This beggar was capable of believing God and doing this over two thousand years ago, and we are just as able to do the same thing now—thanks to the victory Jesus made possible for us through His sacrifice on the cross.

Where is that “old garment” you have been depending on right now? Is it still in your possession, even after He has delivered you from your physical or spiritual blindness? Or is there something you are keeping by your side ‘just in case’ things do not work out? If so, cast it away now and leave it behind forever; you do not need it anymore. Do not let doubt and unbelief take away the deliverance Jesus has made possible in your life. “If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed” (John 8:36).

 

[Image credit:Brooklyn Museum]

Look Up to Me

upward view of a rope with knot at end hanging down from a large tree

The young woman ran wildly among the trees near the shore of the island in a frenzied attempt to escape a pack of wild dogs chasing her. After making a sharp turn to the left, she suddenly slipped into a patch of quicksand. The dogs picked up a new scent along the way, thankfully, and shifted their pursuit to another creature, which quickly began to run in the opposite direction. But the woman now had a new problem to deal with, and it was not waiting for her to figure out a solution.

Slowly but surely, the sand was pulling her in deeper and deeper.

At first, she thought it was not a serious problem, and began grabbing any nearby objects and branches. She quickly determined that this was pointless, since everything she pulled broke off or slid in with her. So she attempted to wade her way out, and even tried a light swimming maneuver. Both proved hopeless as her body became more engulfed in the thick, soft ground.

Since she had not seen anyone else around to help her, panic set in and loud screams emanated from her mouth.  

Meanwhile, the burly captain of a boat tied to a dock around the bend nearby had heard her shrieks. He dropped everything and ran as rapidly as he could to the place where she was trapped. He saw a large tree with sturdy branches hanging over the young woman, so he picked up some strong, thick rope lying not far from where he was and quickly climbed the tree. He crawled cautiously out to the place right on top of where she was stranded. After securing the rope tightly, he made a crude loop for her to grab, and slowly began to lower it down.

By this time, the woman was at the point of utter desperation. While her arms thrashed about in sheer terror, she frantically looked around for something, anything, she could get her hands on—only to discover nothing anywhere nearby.

Feelings of doom and death flooded her mind as she began to give up hope.

She thought about her husband she had recently married, and how he would handle the loss and emptiness after her departure. Her mood shifted to gloom as she brooded on the idea that she would never see the smiling faces of the children they would have had. There would be no home to spruce up for him or anyone else each day. In fact, there would be no more days to see anything, since she was sure her life was about to end.

She moaned loudly in hopelessness and agony as she realized that all prospects of rescue were gone. All she could think of was her terrible misery.

Suddenly, right above her head, a voice bellowed “Stop looking at yourself. Look up to me!”

The young woman looked left and right but saw no one. Thinking she was becoming delirious, she groaned louder. Again, the voice thundered: “Stop looking at yourself and look up to me!” The woman was more startled than anything else, as she turned her head around in all different directions. It wasn’t until she finally glanced upward that she noticed the rope dangling right beside her.

“Take the rope, put your arms in the loop, and lower it around yourself,” the captain hollered sternly. The woman grabbed hold of the line and pulled the loop under her arms and held onto the rope, while the captain used the leverage of another branch to slowly pull her up to the limb he was perched on.

“How can I ever thank you? I thought it was the end for me!” she exclaimed breathlessly as she sat beside him. “How in the world did you know I needed help?” The captain was silent while he helped the woman climb down the tree.

Then, as they walked back to his boat, he paused and remarked, “I heard your call in the beginning. I knew you couldn’t make it on your own. So I dropped everything and ran to where you were.”

With that, he motioned her to join him, saying “Come on, you can clean up, and then I’ll take you to the other shore.”

How many in this world today feel trapped like that young woman—not in quicksand, but in their own pain, desolation, and anguish? While trying to escape from one dangerous mishap, they end up stuck in another instead. And all too often, for many it is their last.

The problem is that they only keep their eyes on themselves and their circumstances, looking to themselves alone for the solution. They therefore end up struggling and trying all kinds of unsuccessful methods to get free from the bad situation that they are trapped in.

They leave God out of the picture, so their life becomes hopelessly lost. Eventually they reach a point of feeling like there is no one else around who could really help, and no way out.

Depression and despair set in and their outlook becomes grim. After one more desperate cry for help, they slump down defeated, and all but give up. They finally concede that their dilemma is greater than they are able to solve.

This is when they finally hear a voice from deep within their soul crying, “Stop looking at yourself and look up to Me!” Here is their solution. When they looked at themselves alone, their bad situation had no hope of ending well.

Only when they look up to Jesus will they find the answer that will save them.

The means of rescue is hovering right above them, like it was with the young woman in this story—if they will only look up and not look to themselves. As long as they stay focused on their dire condition, they will never be able to make their way out on their own. If they refuse to turn their eyes toward Jesus and depend on Him for their deliverance, they will continue to sink deeper in their sorrow.

When Jesus hears the desperate and sincere cries for help from our heart, like the captain of the boat did, He immediately comes to our aid.

If we put our trust in Him, He will extract us from the mire and pull us up to a secure place. He will even clean off our filth. And not only that, He will also invite us to follow Him to the other shore. All of this He willingly does, even though we don’t deserve any of it.

Do you find yourself running away from one problem, only to find yourself trapped in another, unable to find a way out? Have you been trying to free yourself, and all of your attempts have only made the predicament even worse? Then quit focusing on what you are going through and how you will solve it yourself. Look up to Jesus for your help instead. He is your only solution and He is listening for your call for help.

“…for the Lord thy God, He it is that doth go with thee; He will not fail thee, nor forsake thee” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

He is lowering your rescue rope right now, waiting for you to put your trust in Him, so He can deliver you from your difficulty.

 

[Image credit:Matthew Maaskant/freeimages.com)

Feelings or Faith?

There once were two different bridges that crossed a chasm between several mountains. The first bridge was an old stone arch that was very weathered and worn. It was a rough, long, and difficult walkway to travel. The other side could not be easily seen from this bridge, and the weather conditions around it changed frequently, but it always proved to be the most secure route to travel. No one who passed over it ever failed to reach the other side.

The second bridge, located some distance away, was a modern, state-of-the-art structure with a flat and smooth surface to cross on a direct run with full visibility across the whole span.  Sheltered rest areas with free refreshments were available along the way. The total distance was actually farther than traveling on the other route, yet this one never seemed to take very long. But there was a problem—even though the pathway was free of any obstacles or holes, there was no guarantee that a traveler would make it safely to the opposite side. People would frequently make it from two-thirds to three-quarters of the way, and then some unseen force would come and drive them over the edge.

Nevertheless, since this route seemed best, most people took it—totally disregarding the great risk of being pushed off and injured, or even killed.

Likewise, when it comes to following God, we often do not want to put our faith in His way. We would much rather traverse a bridge that is easy, comfortable, and appears right, than trust one that is rugged and challenging, but also tried-and-true. We prefer something we can perceive physically, something that feels good, which the devil is always happy to oblige us with. Since he has had thousands of years to study us, he knows that we are more inclined to follow a way that appeals to our senses than to choose one we have not seen or heard or touched before. But the Bible tells us that, “… faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1 emphasis added), not ‘the essence of that which is already known, the proof of something visible’.

He has told us to “Trust in the Lord with all [your] heart; and lean not unto [your] own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The Lord wants us to trust in following Him His way, even if it does not feel right to us at the time.

We might find ourselves accepting and following some guiding principle (without regarding whether it is good or bad) simply because we are comfortable with it—because it feels good—only to find out later that we were wrong the whole time. How often have we been guilty of choosing to accept or reject an idea or belief we encounter on the path of life almost completely on how we feel about it? If it does not feel right to us, we just toss it out. If it does feel right, we eagerly embrace it.

If we trust in ourself to choose the right bridge to God, will we choose the way appearing to have the least difficulties—that may end up leading us to uncertainty, pain, or even death?

Or will we look to God instead, and follow the safer but more demanding route that will never fail to bring us safely to the other side? Let’s put our confidence in following the way of the One who never fails, not in the way chosen by our fallible personal intuition or emotions. Nowhere does the Bible say to believe in God simply with our feelings, but it does state, “There is a way that [seems] right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death” (Proverbs 16:25). If you are walking right now on that nice, comfortable bridge based on your feelings, the one that seemed right to you at the start, then turn around while you still can. Get on the bridge of faith in God, the only crossing you can always trust to bring you safely across the precipice.

“God Is For Me”

Wood cut by Gustave Dore of Sennacherib's Army is Destroyed

How often do we go through our walk with the Lord, thinking that there is no place where we feel like our enemies would not gladly engulf us? It seems as if every time we turn around, a new hurdle, hindrance, or attack comes against us. In some instances, even what we say is twisted and used against us. We may seek help frequently from those we know around us, but it does little to ward off the trials we encounter daily. In the midst of our tears, we find ourselves calling out to God, unsure what our next step should be.

King David, one of the greatest leaders ever of a kingdom, struggled with the same sort of problems we often encounter today.

This same David single-handedly defeated the mighty giant Goliath—the powerful strongman of the same Philistines that David came up against when he wrote Psalm fifty-six.

Every day, he faced these enemies. In verse two he said, “Mine enemies would daily swallow me up: for they be many that fight against me, O thou most High.”

Later in this psalm David said, “Every day they wrest my words: all their thoughts are against me for evil. They gather themselves together, they hide themselves, they mark my steps, when they wait for my soul” (Psalm 56:5,6).

If this was the whole thrust of this psalm, we could easily declare his situation utterly hopeless, with no solution in sight.

Thankfully, he did not indulge himself in worrying about despair and sufferings, as seen in the rest of this passage: “What time I am afraid, I will trust in thee. In God I will praise His word, in God I have put my trust; I will not fear what flesh can do unto me…When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me. In God will I praise His word: in the Lord will I praise His word. In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me. Thy vows are upon me, O God: I will render praises unto thee” (Psalm 56:3,4,9-12).

David’s attitude through all of this is clear: he trusted in God and gave Him praise. We cannot go wrong when we turn our situation over to God and let Him handle it.

Remember, it is not our faith that bring results; it is His faithfulness. The psalmist declares “Thy mercy, O Lord, is in the heavens; and thy faithfulness reacheth unto the clouds” (Psalms 36:5) and “Thy faithfulness is unto all generations: thou hast established the earth, and it abideth” (Psalm 119:90).

Notice what he also said in Psalm fifty-six: “In God have I put my trust: I will not be afraid what man can do unto me” (verse 1). When we are fearful of those around us, or in the situation coming at us, then we have slipped out of trusting in God and have started focusing on our self. See what happened to Peter when Jesus called for him to step out and walk on the water. “…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 14:29-31).

When Peter took his eyes off of Jesus, he began to sink. Yet, even then, he still cried out to Him to help him—and Jesus did!

Peter could have floundered around in the rough water trying to save himself, or called on the others in the boat to help him. Instead, he put his trust in the Lord again to deliver him from drowning.

Three times in this short psalm David stated that he put his trust in the Lord. Four times he gave God praise. The more God repeats something in His Word, the more that we need to heed it.

Even though the Philistines were coming against him, David placed his trust in the Lord and His Word. His situation was desperate, but he remained confident that God would take care of Him, and praised Him before the victory even happened.

If Israel’s mightiest leader could cry out to God and trust in Him, so can we, as believers in Jesus Christ—the son of David, and the Son of God!

The victory Jesus won through His ultimate sacrifice on the cross became our victory too. By putting our faith and trust in His finished work, we no longer need to be worried about what our enemies want to do to us.

Jesus already defeated the enemy—all we need to do is to rest in His victory, confident in Him that He will save us. David said, “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me” (Psalm 56:9 emphasis added). 

Even the Apostle Paul affirmed in the book of Romans, “What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 10:31 emphasis added).

Therefore, when problems mount against you, or the enemy is close at hand, do not run away or hide in fear. Cry out to the Lord and believe in Him. Give Him praise for who He is and what He is going to do. Do not doubt or let your faith in Him waver. Put your trust in Him alone and let Him take care of the circumstances. Keep David’s words in mind, “When I cry unto thee, then shall mine enemies turn back: this I know; for God is for me” (Psalm 56:9).

 

[Image credit: Gustave Doré/public domain]

Can Love Be Earned?

Silhouette of bride and groom with sunset behind

Roberto and Maria were a fine couple who really adored each other. They were frequently found taking walks around the lake near the center of town. They loved to hold hands and to talk about all kinds of subjects, but especially about each other. The whole community thought highly of them as having a model relationship. It wasn’t long before they announced their engagement, and less than a year later, they were married.

But after marriage, something did not seem totally right between them. They never fought with each other, in fact, they never even had a sharp disagreement. Neither one ever exploited the weaknesses or strengths of the other. They had no deep secrets or hidden past. They just never seemed to feel adequate for each other, especially in the case of Maria.

graphic of woman washing car

Maria would clean the house from top to bottom, scrub the outside walkways by hand, and wash and polish both of their vehicles. She kept the landscape immaculate and even repainted the house. She was constantly doing something just to make Roberto happy, because she was determined, as much as possible, to earn his love. Yet it seemed like the more she tried to do things to please him, the farther she felt from him.

Roberto appreciated all that Maria had been doing around their place, but he could also sense a widening gap in their relationship. He also did many things to try to please her, but she hardly noticed as she ran from one project to another, trying to please him. After a while, he was grieved over all that she was trying to do for him.

He had always loved her for herself, not for what she could do for him.

The situation finally reached the point where he knew he had to get Maria away from the house and have a serious talk with her. But, sadly, it never happened. Every time he tried to make an effort to speak to her, she would enter into a monologue, and then dash off to continue with yet another project for him before he could say what he wanted to. But it wasn’t that she didn’t want to hear him; she just never really took time for him to have an opportunity to speak.

mid cropped shot of man and woman with upset relationship

Their marriage eventually became stagnant and lifeless, in spite of all the work Maria had done for the one she loved, and that Roberto had done for her. It never led to a divorce, but there was no longer any real fellowship or meaningful communication between them. Yet, the whole time, Maria still continued to try to make Roberto love and want her, because she had always considered herself not good enough for him.

A scenario similar to this story happens all the time in the heart of true believers in the Lord concerning God and some of His children.

When we accept Jesus into our life, we have actually entered into a spiritual marriage covenant with Him.

In a proper marital relationship, neither person needs to work to earn the other’s love, because the acceptance and commitment has already been made. In fact, the love was already there before the engagement and, in many instances, even the relationship, had occurred. Conversely, nothing we can ever do will earn the love and favor of Jesus. He already loved us more than we could ever know long before we ever knew Him. His love is His gift to us, not a reward for our actions toward Him.

Maria and Roberto spent most of their time and energy trying to earn each other’s love, allowing no time to just enjoy each other’s companionship. This approach only left them feeling incomplete and saddened in heart instead. The Bible says, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16 emphasis added). God has already shown His true desire for us through the ultimate sacrifice of His Son made over two thousand years ago.

photo of a cross on a hill with sun, clouds and red sky in background

Once we have become part of Jesus’ bride-to-be, we should realize that we need to refrain from trying to win Him over, and start living in the manner of one who is already promised to Him in marriage.

Jesus wants His bride to focus on Him, and what He did for her on the cross.

That is where He showed His true love for us. His interest is not so much in what we can do for Him. That is the product of our relationship with Him, not the goal. His desire is to have intimate fellowship with us. He wants us to spend time with Him, and to learn more about Him through His Word (the Bible) also. Then, the more we open our heart to Him in prayer, the more He will be able to speak to us in His own special, distinctive, loving way.

 

[Image credits: stocksnap/Lilly Cantabile/Gerd Altmann/Germán R]

What Cloud Are You Under?

 

A watercolor painting of cloud over camp of Israelites in the wilderness

When God brought the children of Israel out of the bondage of Egypt into the wilderness, He led them in a rather unconventional way. “…the Lord went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night, from before the people” (Exodus 13:21-22). One pillar provided shelter from the hot sun, and the other illuminated the darkness—both of which were a visible expression of God’s presence, since no human being can physically see God Himself and live.

Wherever the cloud went, the people were to pack up and follow it.

“And so it was, when the cloud abode from even unto the morning, and that the cloud was taken up in the morning, then they journeyed: whether it was by day or by night that the cloud was taken up, they journeyed. Or whether it were two days, or a month, or a year, that the cloud tarried upon the tabernacle, remaining thereon, the children of Israel abode in their tents, and journeyed not: but when it was taken up, they journeyed” (Numbers 9:21-22).

Notice that the cloud remained ahead of the people; they did not move on past it into unsafe and uncharted territory.

Only once, when they were being pursued by the Egyptian army, did God arrange for it to be behind them as protection. “…the angel of God, which went before the camp of Israel, removed and went behind them; and the pillar of the cloud went from before their face, and stood behind them: And it came between the camp of the Egyptians and the camp of Israel; and it was a cloud and darkness to them, but it gave light by night to these: so that the one came not near the other all the night” (Exodus 14:19-20).

As children of God today, we likewise need to pursue after God’s presence.

He wants to continually dwell among us now spiritually, just as He did physically, in a sense, among the Israelites. But sadly, we often follow the wrong cloud. This kind begins as a small cluster, but develops quickly as it feeds on our unbelief and worry. The more we focus on it, the more it grows, filling with all kinds of sin, such as lust, adultery, pride, greed, envy, hate, murder, etc. It does not just linger over us; it envelopes us as well.  If we continue on after it, we will eventually be overtaken to the point of death. The Bible says, “For the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23).

The Lord desires our obedience to His Word and our continual fellowship with Him, not with the cares or pleasures of this sinful world.

It is when we take our eyes off Him that we no longer know if He has moved on. It is not that He actually leaves us behind, but that we become distracted and end up not moving, or we drift away in another direction. This is when that dark mass of evil and sin starts to form like a cloud over us, which ends up restricting the view we can see around us, and, unlike God’s presence, it will not illuminate the night. In fact, it is the very darkness that only He can dispel.

What cloud are you following today? Is it the one of His presence and life, or of unbelief, sin and death? There are all kinds of clouds—yet only one is His.

Your life will never be secure and at peace with God if you are under one of the other kinds of cloud.

Too many in this world today have the wrong cloud covering over them. As a result, they continually wander in the desert, vulnerable to the enemy. God made a way for us to know where He is, day or night. Look upon His cloud and be led by Him, and you’ll be safe and sheltered from all harm.

 

[Image credit: J.J. Derghi, 1866. Wellcome Collection. CC BY]

“Physicians of No Value”

Graphic image of doctors and nurses in operating room

Imagine going to a medical facility, and after multiple doctors and nurses stare at you and ask a lot of general, unrelated questions, they immediately come to a conclusion about what your ailment must be. They have taken no tests, and never made any specific diagnosis of your body, externally or internally. No inquiry was made about your past to help them better determine the cause or nature of your ailment. Not one overall evaluation of your symptoms was ever completed. In other words—they do not really know much at all about what is wrong with you! They applied their personal judgment, based primarily on what little they have seen of you, and then prescribed treatment for a condition that may or may not be your actual problem.  In addition, they insisted that you follow their plan, in spite of your defense concerning your situation, since they are sure that they are more knowledgeable about this than you are.

This scenario resembles, in essence, what happened to Job (rhymes with “robe”) in the Bible. Job was trying to be as righteous before God as he could be. But when sudden calamity struck his life, his friends gathered around him and condemned him, saying that it must have happened because of sin in his life. But Jesus said, “Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven [by God]” (Luke 6:37). Are we quick to declare someone else guilty for wrongs they may or may not have committed, instead of taking a careful look at our own sins?

As children of God, we can be just as guilty as Job’s friends when we pronounce condemnation on another. The book of Job serves as a good example for the follower of Christ to study with all sincerity.

One situation in this book we should take particular note of is the way Job’s ‘friends’ counseled him. They were fully convinced that Job had to have done something wrong to cause the suffering and downfall that he was experiencing. They believed that there was some kind of sin in his life that he refused to admit or let go of. Their form of ‘help and compassion’ were an added burden for Job more than a benefit. The Bible says, “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). What authority did these friends of Job have to judge him, when the very Son of God would not even do so? No matter what defense Job gave in response to their accusations, they would counter it with their self-righteous advice. Job did not yet know that God was behind his adversity, but he still strongly believed that he had not brought in on himself by sin.

Artwork of Job and his wife with his friends pointing in accusation

By the time we reach the thirteenth chapter, we realize that Job had finally had enough of their counsel. What ye know, the same do I know also: I am not inferior unto you. Surely I would speak to the Almighty, and I desire to reason with God” (Job 13:2-3). Job tells them here that they are not superior to him, for he certainly knows as much about himself, if not more, than they do. He would rather take this matter up directly with God. Then he stated that they are forgers of lies, ye are all physicians of no value” (Job 13:4).  He declared that they would be considered wiser if they did not say anything at all! We should pay attention to Job’s statement here, because, too often, we are guilty of doing the same thing. God never called us to condemn one another. He has reserved the carrying out of judgment for Himself, not us.

Most people find it easier to point out what they consider wrong in someone else’s life, instead of reflecting on what may be wrong in their own life.

Jesus said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye [give out], it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the [speck or splinter] that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the [speck or splinter] out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam [is] in thine own eye?” (Matthew 7:1-4). The situation was even worse in Job’s case, because these friends were set on the idea that Job had sinned—even though they knew nothing of his true standing with God.

These ‘friends’ of Job thought they had him all figured out, while they themselves were guilty of being self-righteous.

It should be obvious that there is a bigger picture in the lives of all men that others will never see totally. We should study more of Job’s life and learn from how he responded, how his friends responded, and how God intervened in the whole matter. Instead of being “physicians of no value” in our attempts to help those we meet who are suffering like Job, let’s lift them up to God in prayer. He knows how to handle their situation better than any counsel we could offer. And let’s pray that our friends will do the same for us!

 

[Image credits:OpenClipart-Vectors/Pixabay; William Blake [Public domain]]

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]