Thursday, April 23, 2020

Trusting in the Power of God

Are you struggling with any fears or worries today? If so, we have a Mighty God who is up to the task of strengthening us! Martin Luther wrote in his wonderful hymn A Mighty Fortress Is Our God, "A mighty fortress is our God, A bulwark never failing; Our helper He amid the flood of mortal ills prevailing." We have an all powerful God who deeply loves us and desires to strengthen us! I have been greatly challenged by Psalm 86 and find great comfort in David's reminders to us of the power of God to help in our time of need. Take not of verses 7-10:
Psalm 86:7-10 In the day of my trouble I will call upon thee: for thou wilt answer me.  (8)  Among the gods there is none like unto thee, O Lord; neither are there any works like unto thy works.  (9)  All nations whom thou hast made shall come and worship before thee, O Lord; and shall glorify thy name.  (10)  For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone.
Notice David's determination to pray in v.7. When trouble came to David he knew enough to bow in prayer. Back in v.1 David asked God to hear (answer) him because he had a great need. David seems to be asking for God's presence to comfort him, but the implication seems to be that he does not "feel" God's presence. So again, here in v.7 David calls upon the Lord. Notice that David is determined to call upon his great God even when he does not "feel" God's presence because he knows the theological truth that God is there for Him. We cannot depend on feelings, but we must depend on God's truth! So David calls upon God through his troubles and trusts that God will answer (v.7).

Notice in v.8 that David understood that the false gods of the nations around him were impotent; no ability to act for they are the figment of man's imagination. What have the false god's ever created or destroyed? Elijah, on Mount Carmel, challenged the worshippers of Baal to call upon their gods to send down fire to burn up their sacrifice (1Kings 18:22ff.). So they cried and cried unto their gods, but nothing happened! Notice 1Ki 18:26-27-
And they took the bullock which was given them, and they dressed it, and called on the name of Baal from morning even until noon, saying, O Baal, hear us. But there was no voice, nor any that answered. And they leaped upon the altar which was made.  (27)  And it came to pass at noon, that Elijah mocked them, and said, Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awaked.
But when Elijah called upon Yahweh, the fire came down and consumed his sacrifice (1Kings 18:31-40).  "Gods" of man's imagination can do nothing! So why do so many today, including Christians, look for help and comfort through idols? Yes, idols. When we look to anything other than our God, we are looking to idols. Idols of philosophy. Idols of psychology. Idols of friends thoughts. Idols of our own thinking. We may even turn to the idols of shopping, sports, eating, etc. We may be tempted to turn to anything to find relief from our problems and frustrations. But listen friend, only God can guide, comfort, and help us!

In v.9 David also found comfort that eventually all nations will be brought under the rule of God in the Millennial Kingdom! He had confidence in the Lord's universal sovereignty and saving plan for the Nations. David sees God's mercy extended beyond Israel. The Abrahamic Covenant promised salvation even unto the Gentiles (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 28:14). As a gentile, I am especially glad that God's care, mercy, and love extends beyond the Jews.

David then again focuses on God's power in v.10. As seen with many of David's Psalms, he drew hope and strength from rehearsing God's wonderful acts. David says that God does "wondrous things." The Hebrew word means to do something extraordinary, or difficult, especially His acts of deliverance and judgment. These are supernatural acts that defy our understanding, amaze us, and cause us to praise Him. Acts like the crossing of the Red Sea, providing manna/food from heaven, providing water from a rock, feeding Elijah by the ravens, and Joshua's crossing the Jordan River at flood stage. Friends, God is all powerful and can help you through any problem that you have today! Charles Spurgeon wrote, "Being good, God is ready to forgive; being great, He works wonders." 

Listen! Things in your life may be discouraging you and may even seem hopeless, but God can fix them or see you through them. Only God can truly help you! There is no where else to turn. Focus on God's mercy, love, and power! Don't turn to "idols." God is able and delights to help His children. There is nothing in your life to great for Him! Deal with your sins (1John 1:9), humble yourself, and turn to God in full trust and watch Him work on your behalf!

Monday, April 13, 2020

The Vital Importance of Prayer

For the Believer in Christ, prayer is of the upmost importance! Unfortunately, I fear that too many of us fail to grasp hold of just how important that it really is for our spiritual maturity. In Psalm 86 we find David in a time of distress. He seems to fail to feel the presence of the Lord in his time of need. But what I love about David is that even though that he does not "feel" the presence of the Lord, he knows that God is still with him as we often witness in his Psalms.  Take note of the first three verses of Psalm 86:

A Prayer of David. Bow down thine ear, O LORD, hear me: for I am poor and needy.  (2)  Preserve my soul; for I am holy: O thou my God, save thy servant that trusteth in thee.  (3)  Be merciful unto me, O Lord: for I cry unto thee daily.

Notice how David pleads with the Lord to hear and answer him. But, even more importantly, notice how David comes to the Lord. He recognizes his spiritual neediness; "poor and needy." We must recognize this same thing. We NEED God daily because as mere humans, we are weak and constantly in need of the Lord for strength! Also recognize in v.3 above that David comes to God in prayer "daily."  David had many physical and spiritual needs that he could not solve himself, so he wisely turned to the Lord. We must follow his example and daily depend on the Lord by cultivating a stronger prayer life.

We find in the New Testament Scriptures a great illustration of the importance of prayer with our Lord's final hours with His disciples in Mark 14:26-51. Turn to and read the passage before you continue reading here.

Notice in verses 26 and following that they left the upper room and headed to the Mount of Olives where Jesus will spend some time with the disciples in the Garden of Gethsemane. As they are walking, Jesus informs them that they will stumble and turn against Him- Mark 14:27 And Jesus saith unto them, All ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered.  Peter quickly answers that he will never deny the Lord. The others answered likewise. Peter, along with the other disciples failed to recognize their spiritual weakness and constant need for spiritual strength. See, they failed to remember David's Psalms.

Jesus and the disciples finally make it to the garden (Mark 14:32ff.). Jesus instructs eight of the disciples to wait by the gate, possibly just inside of it, while He takes Peter, James, and John further into the Garden to pray. In vv.33-34 Jesus became very distressed and grieved under the pressure of the coming cross experience. I don't believe that we will ever understand what Jesus was going through, but He desired that these three disciples experience some of His grief with Him and to pray with Him. Notice Mark 14:34: "And saith unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful unto death: tarry ye here, and watch." Jesus instructed them to "watch," to be vigilant and alert. Why? Because their was spiritual danger. Jesus prophesied in v.27 that they would stumble and scatter. Satan was waiting to "devour" them: 1Peter 5:8 Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour: We must all be on alert because there is spiritual warfare around us. Satan wants to trip you up- devour you! Prayer is a vital ingredient to our maturing spiritually and being able to "resist the Devil" (James 4:7).

Jesus goes a little beyond them and drops to the ground to pray to His Father in Heaven. Remember, that Jesus came to His disciples twice and found them sleeping. He gently scolds them and reminds them of the great importance of "watching and praying lest they enter temptation" (v.38). Then Jesus makes this remark in the same verse: "The spirit truly is ready, but the flesh is weak." The spirit is eager- Peter truly believed what he said in verses 29 and 31 that he would not deny or leave the Lord. But what he failed to understand was that the "flesh is weak."

Jesus knew what He was talking about. He knew the weaknesses of mankind. He knew the power of Satan's temptations. Remember Satan tempting Jesus in the desert (Luke 4:1-13). Jesus experienced the full force of Satan's temptations and resisted every one of them. He knows Satan's tricks. You and I end up failing at some point. This is why Jesus challenged His disciples and the Holy Spirit challenges us to "watch and pray."

One last point I want you to meditate on! We have Jesus here praying to His Father. We have Jesus agonizing in the Garden. If Jesus needed to consult His Father, how much do you and I need to pray? We are not Jesus! We do not have His power and strength! We are always needy, even if in different degrees.

So let us learn from David the importance of Prayer. And let us also learn from Jesus' instruction and by His example the vital necessity of prayer. How often do you bring your problems, sins, and concerns to the Lord? How dependent are you upon the Lord! Let me challenge you today to Pray! Pray! Pray!

Friday, April 3, 2020

Walking By Faith

I was greatly challenged this morning as I read the account of Abraham's Faith being tested by God in Genesis 22. In many ways, our faith is being tested now by living during this Covid 19 Pandemic. Fear and anxiety fill the hearts of many, including some Christians. Fear is simply a tool of Satan to drive us away from truly trusting God. So, what does this have to do with Abraham? Well, Abraham's faith was tested through an unusual command of God. Genesis 22:2 "And he said, Take now thy son, thine only son Isaac, whom thou lovest, and get thee into the land of Moriah; and offer him there for a burnt offering upon one of the mountains which I will tell thee of." What would Abraham do? How would he handle a situation that was hard to understand? How could God form a nation and keep His promise if Isaac is dead? Isaac was the promised seed through which God would eventually form the Nation of Israel (Genesis 12:1-3; 17:15-19). Observe and learn from the great faith of Abraham in God's Promises.

We saw above that Abraham was commanded to sacrifice His son. How could God command this? Human sacrifice was forbidden and was a heathen practice performed by the wicked nations around him. How could one understand this request? But notice that Abraham never questioned God- He simply obeyed. Genesis 22:3 "And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and saddled his ass, and took two of his young men with him, and Isaac his son, and clave the wood for the burnt offering, and rose up, and went unto the place of which God had told him." We find no questioning or arguing from Abraham. Even though he probably did not at all understand what God was doing, he followed God's order with unfailing trust in God's wisdom.

It took days to get to the mountain as we observe in Genesis 22:4 "Then on the third day Abraham lifted up his eyes, and saw the place afar off." With that amount of time there is a temptation to start to question what you are doing. The mind can start to imagine all kinds of things- twisted things if we don't guard it. But Abraham's obedience here to God's command and word never waivered. Contrasted to Abraham's trust, we find Gideon's hesitancy and little faith in Judges 6. When the Lord visited Gideon and declared to him that he would save Israel from the Midianites, Gideon questioned, gave excuses, and pleaded for signs. Notice these examples:

Judges 6:15 And he said unto him, Oh my Lord, wherewith shall I save Israel? behold, my family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father's house.  Judges 6:17 And he said unto him, If now I have found grace in thy sight, then shew me a sign that thou talkest with me.
Judges 6:36-37  And Gideon said unto God, If thou wilt save Israel by mine hand, as thou hast said,  Behold, I will put a fleece of wool in the floor...

Gideon failed to immediately trust in the Lord's plans and instructions, even though he would go on to do as the Lord asked of him. Abraham did not ask for signs, did not question God, or give excuses, he simply trusted and obeyed. In Genesis 22:9-10 Abraham reaches their destination, builds an altar, ties up Isaac, places him onto the altar, and is about to kill him until the Lord stops him. Notice what God says in Genesis 22:12 "And he said, Lay not thine hand upon the lad, neither do thou any thing unto him: for now I know that thou fearest God, seeing thou hast not withheld thy son, thine only son from me."  Observe what God did for Abraham and Isaac: Genesis 22:13 "And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son."

There is one more thing that I want you to observe in Genesis 22. Isaac himself never argued with his father or with God. He too, willingly allowed his father to place him on the altar. Isaac was not a little boy here. Notice the v.5- "And Abraham said unto his young men, Abide ye here with the ass; and I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again to you." The words for "young men" and "lad" are the same Hebrew word. Isaac could have stopped his aged father from tying him up, but he did not! Isaac too, was trusting God!  Abraham passed down his faith and trust to his son Isaac.

So, how should all of this challenge us today in our endurring the challenging time in which we live? We, like Abraham and Isaac must trust in God's Word and promises. None of us know exactly why all of this is happening to us today. It is hard to be confined to our houses and isolated from other people. It is hard to be away from others that we love. It is challenging to do our grocery shopping. It imay be hard to explain to our children. Some are going "stir crazy." As, Christians though, we know that God is still Sovereiegn over it all. God has a purpose for it all. God deeply cares for us as we observe in His Word. Let us walk like Abraham today!! Trust that God knows what He is doing and will see us through what we don't understand. Unwaveringly, follow His will! Completely trust in His care! Immediately obey His Word! and for the parents out there, teach your children to trust the Lord and to find comfort in Him! "Trust and Obey" as the hymn goes.