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]

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.

Our Steps Are Progressively Revealed

 

backside of woman hiking on heavy fog path

Have you ever walked down a path that you thought was the best way to go, only to find that you were greatly in error and you should have gone the other way—even though it didn’t seem ‘right’ at that time? Perhaps God pressed on your heart to travel in a direction where there is thick fog and you are unable to see past it. Yet in all other areas, it is mostly clear, or maybe just a little bit dense. Do you keep going where He is leading you? Or do you follow your common sense and go where it is easier to see most of the way?

In the book of Acts, the Lord told Philip the Evangelist through an angel to “Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert” (Acts 8:26). Now, to our natural, finite minds this does not seems logical.

Why should he go out into the desert? There is nothing there but rocks and sand almost as far as the eye can see. It is not very likely that anyone is out there to visit.

At the same time, right there in Jerusalem, hundreds of people are present almost everywhere at any given moment. It would seem best for him to just stay there, or maybe to go to a nearby village instead. Besides, the shade of the buildings in that area makes it cooler.

But that is not how God works in our lives. He reveals our path to us one step at a time. When we walk into an area of thick fog, it hits our eyes at first like a wall. As we move further inward, we can begin to see a little bit more of the walkway. And so, the pattern continues, as we progress even farther into the cloud and our way then becomes somewhat clear again. Notice how it only becomes clearer after we move to the next area. This is what the Lord wants us to realize.

We must go when He directs, even if the road ahead appears impassable, or just a waste of time. Not until we obey is the subsequent stage made visible to us.

Look again at Philip’s predicament and see what occurs. “And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, was returning, and sitting in his chariot read [Isaiah] the prophet” (Acts 8:27,28). Notice that he ‘arose and went’, meaning that he was obedient to the Lord’s command. As a result, the Lord revealed another section of the way to him.

“Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot” (Acts 8:29). If Philip wanted to know what was to come, he first had to obey another directive from the Lord. Of course, he could have just kept on walking, since this person was linked with royalty and he was merely a commoner. After all, it wasn’t proper protocol to just run up and “join thyself to this chariot.” No. He fully obeyed what the Spirit of God put forth, and, in turn, the Lord opened the way for another step to be revealed. And Philip ran [toward] him, and heard him read the prophet [Isaiah], and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him” (Acts 8:30,31). Whether Philip was royalty or not, this eunuch wanted Philip up beside him to explain God’s word to him.

As a result of Philip’s diligent following of God’s commands, each part of the way was progressively made visible to him. At any point he could have concluded that there was no other way to go and reversed his course. Or he could have kept on moving instead into unsafe territory. Yet, if he had done so, this individual “of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure” would never have known Jesus Christ, never have accepted His plan of salvation, and never have been baptized.

We are not expected to know the whole picture that God sees in advance. He wants us to trust in Him for each part of the way.

It is human nature to want our whole day laid out ahead of time. Most of us would be quite content to know that at a certain time in the morning we will do this thing. Then at a later time, we will do something else. At noon we eat lunch, at five we eat dinner, and then we read some more of our favorite book and go to bed. We really prefer our life set before us in advance like this, and, of course, we want a little variety randomly distributed here and there throughout each week. As a whole, it is our human desire to know what lies ahead, both immediately, and in the distant future.

Yet doing so would only lead us to a lack of dependence on God. Why should we bother to look to Him, when we already know what each day will bring? This is the reason we need to trust in Him for the next step we are to take. No matter how obscure or odd the way may be ahead of us, if the Lord directs us to go, we need to move forward. Philip did not know that the treasurer of the Queen of the Ethiopians was out in the desert that day, and he certainly would not have expected that he would reveal Jesus Christ through the book of Isaiah to him.

But Philip did obey God, and one more soul was added to God’s Kingdom.

Actually, every step of our walk with the Lord needs to be ordered by Him. We, like Philip, need to let God’s Spirit direct us to wherever He wants us to go. It is not necessary to see the whole road ahead in advance. We very likely will not know who we may reach out to or speak with along the way. Instead of trying to figure out where we are going next, we need to let our eyes be on Him as He progressively reveals each step of the way.

 

[Image credit:Jason Blackeye/Unsplash]

A Plan Where Preconditions Are Accepted

graphic showing a doctor at counter with laptop and papers

Today, health insurance coverage is the rage among individuals and governments alike. Many believe that they need it so that they can receive treatment of whatever condition or malady that may occur in their life without having the enormous financial burden that would follow. Since healthcare costs continue to rise, the demand for insurance continues to increase even more. In order to make insurance that people desire available, companies have instituted various requirements for the applicant, one of which is whether or not the individual has any preconditions.

If there is some disease or malady like cancer present, the insurer will often deny coverage—and not for the just the stated condition, but for everything else, too.

So why won’t the insurance companies readily supply the coverage to treat these disclosed illnesses? The answer commonly lies in the cost of treatment. The providers know that if they accept a significant number of people who are already experiencing some kind of expensive or long-term illness, they will not have enough to pay for the recipient’s future care and maintain their own business financial needs as well. In other words, they won’t take the risk for fear that they will go broke.

Red 'denied' inside of retangular box stamped on white surface

Are you aware that we all have a precondition that prevents us from being right with God, from going to heaven, or from having any eternal rewards? It is called sin and it was precipitated, ever since we were formed in the womb, by something called the “sin nature” (the inclination to sin). The Bible flatly states that “…all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).

Now, like any physical ailment, we can do all kinds to things to try to eliminate the symptoms and byproducts of sin. Yet the sin itself will always remain, because it is a spiritual problem that we are only able to treat unsuccessfully with physical methods.

God cannot tolerate any sin, anywhere, anytime. He is holy, righteous and completely pure. To allow sin—even the smallest possible amount—would invalidate His very existence and bring everything into complete chaos.

Yet there is someone who will accept us, regardless of our past problems and sin. In fact, He welcomes them. And who will give us the coverage that we need anytime and anywhere? It is Jesus. When He came to this earth, He fulfilled all of the laws and requirements God set forth in the Bible. Due to our sins, we could not possibly satisfy them ourselves. When He sacrificed His life on the cross, He sealed and finalized this fulfillment. He made it possible for everyone—past, present and future—to be made free from sin, through Him. He paid the price for our sins for us.

Red approved stamped on white surface

By opening our hearts, asking Him for forgiveness for our sins, and allowing Him to work through us, we can have access to God through Him, and the door to eternal life becomes open for us to walk through. Jesus washes our sins away, removing them completely from God’s sight, through the shed blood of His sacrifice on the cross.

Jesus has a plan greater than any insurance company on this earth could ever offer. Any preconditions that you have are freely accepted.

He said, “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). If you will believe in and accept Him, you will not be refused or denied, and your coverage begins immediately. As long as you obey His Word, the coverage He offers is complete and guaranteed for all eternity. Tomorrow may never come; won’t you consider receiving Him today?

If you are interested in knowing more about this plan that God has for your life then please click here.

 

[Image credits:Mohamed Hasan/Pixabay,tswedensky/Pixabay,Clker-Free-Vector-Images/Pixabay]

God’s Blessings Are to Be Used Completely When Given

line drawing of Israelites gathering manna

“And when the dew that lay was gone up, behold, upon the face of the wilderness there lay a small round thing, as small as the hoar frost on the ground. And when the children of Israel saw it, they said one to another, It is manna: for they [knew] not what it was. And Moses said unto them, This is the bread which the Lord hath given you to eat. This is the thing which the Lord hath commanded, Gather of it every man according to his eating, an omer for every man, according to the number of your persons; take ye every man for them which are in his tents. And the children of Israel did so, and gathered, some more, some less. And when they did [measure] it with an omer, he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack; they gathered every man according to his eating. And Moses said, Let no man leave of it till the morning. Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked]: and Moses was [angry] with them” (Exodus 16:14-20).

In the early stage of their journey in the wilderness, the Israelites reached a point where there was no food readily available. Rather than calling out right away to God for help, they decided to murmur and complain about their situation instead. Yet God still provided for them, and in a way that they were not expecting. He blessed them with what has been referred to as “angel’s food,” or, as the people called it, “manna.” It was the ‘perfect’ food.

Unlike other things they had eaten, manna could not wait and be harvested at a later time. It had to be gathered and processed each morning; otherwise, it would rot or melt away.

They only took “every man according to his eating,” (other than on the sixth day on the week) as God had told them. Whatever they collected each day, it was always sufficient, and “he that gathered much had nothing over, and he that gathered little had no lack.”

We need to consider God’s blessings in our life in a similar manner. Whether small or great, we are not to delay in using what He has given us. So often, following a period of great need, we have the tendency to ration and store away what God blesses us with. We tend to take for granted that what has been distributed will always be there, or at least it will be for an extended period of time. Some of the Israelites acted in the same way. “Notwithstanding they [listened] not unto Moses; but some of them left of it until the morning, and it bred worms, and [reeked].”  Actually, if we do this, we are allowing unbelief to resurface in our hearts. We succumb to an attitude that either His blessing is not going to come to us again, or that He will keep our former shortfall from ever reoccurring.

As the children of God, we should not only ask of Him for all of our necessities and believe that He will supply, but we must also completely use what He blesses us with wisely in return.

When the Israelites gathered the right amount that they had to have of the manna for each day, they used it to satisfy that which they needed most. In this case, it was for the satisfying of their hunger. They didn’t pool it with their neighbors, making one big meal for the whole day, and then grumble about their ravenous appetite the rest of the time. Neither did they barter it with the surrounding nations to get meat or rich delicacies which would have had much less nutritional value.

Ultimately, what God desires in all of this is for us to depend on Him for our concerns. He wants us to come before Him continually.

The Lord does not like to see us hoard that which He freely gives us, and then become complacent or less reliant on Him. Therefore, let’s cheerfully and generously use with thanksgiving all that He blesses us with.

 

[Image credit:CCXpistiavos/Pixabay]