ACT ON IT

Grand Canyon - Bright Angel PointAs Jesus was walking along, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at his tax collector’s booth. “Follow me and be my disciple,” Jesus said to him. So Matthew got up and followed him. [Matthew 9:9 (NLT)]

In Arizona, sightseers can walk out on the Skywalk, a transparent horseshoe-shaped cantilevered bridge that juts out 70 feet and stands 4,000 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon. In Illinois, visitors to the Willis (Sears) Tower in Chicago can step off the Skydeck onto The Ledge, a glass box that extends out more than four feet and is suspended 1,353 feet (103 stories) above the city streets. Two miles away, in the John Hancock building, visitors to the Windy City can get another unique cityscape as eight visitors at a time hang out on the TILT from the Hancock’s 94th floor. Called a thrill ride, riders stand on a glass platform 1,030 feet over the city that that tips down over the edge of the building at a 30-degree angle.

The Skywalk is bolted to the canyon’s rim and can support seventy 747-passenger jets. The Willis Tower Ledge is made of three layers of half-inch glass and topped by another quarter-inch protective layer. Designed to hold five tons, over six million people have safely ventured out on it. Like it, the TILT is constructed of precision fabricated steel and several layers of reinforced glass and over one million riders have safely dangled 94 stories above the street on it. Although I believe all of these viewing platforms are well supported, regularly inspected, and considered safe, I will never set foot on any of them. I will never experience the thrill or enjoy the stunning views they offer simply because believing these structures are safe isn’t enough to make me commit to stepping out onto any of them. Intellectually believing something is true doesn’t necessarily mean we will act on that thought.

While I’ll miss seeing the Grand Canyon from the Skywalk, viewing fifty miles across four states from The Ledge, and hanging over Michigan Avenue on the TILT because of my lack of faith, there is one experience I don’t want to miss because of a lack of faith: a relationship with God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Let us never make the mistake of intellectually believing in Jesus, that he actually existed and even rose from the dead, and then not believing deeply enough to take the necessary steps to actually follow wherever He may lead us! We’ve got to step out in faith to walk with Him. The view from Heaven is one experience I don’t want to miss. How about you?

We don’t believe something by merely saying we believe it, or even when we believe that we believe it. We believe something when we act as if it were true. [Dallas Willard]

And now, just as you accepted Christ Jesus as your Lord, you must continue to follow him. [Colossians 2:6 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

GOD’S GOT IT!

Oh, God, my Lord, step in; work a miracle for me—you can do it! Get me out of here—your love is so great!—I’m at the end of my rope, my life in ruins. [Psalm 109:21-22 (MSG)]

Kandersteg - SwitzerlandIn her book Almost Everything, Anne Lamott describes a young mother who, after surviving a grueling battle with cancer, saw its return a few years later. As her friends tried to reassure her with cancer survival stories, the woman cheerfully announced, “Oh, God’s got it!” Whether figuratively or literally, Lamott says she now wears those words on a necklace. I know that if I ever got a tattoo, I might choose the same words: “God’s got it!”

A story is told of a mountain climber who decided to make a solo ascent of the Aconcagua in Argentina. As the day wore on, a storm threatened. Although the thunder rumbled and the sky grew dark, the man was determined to continue rather than seek shelter. Suddenly a dense fog rolled in and it began to hail. Losing all visibility, the climber slipped on a ridge and fell. As he dropped through the air, he was sure that he’d die until the rope he’d secured caught and stopped him with a jolt. As the frightened man swung in the darkness, suspended he knew not where, he called out, “God, help me!”

A booming voice answered: ”What do you want me to do?” Swaying in the frigid night air, the man said, “Save me, please.” When God asked if the climber really believed He could save him, the man said, “Of course, I do. You’re God!” The man, however, changed his mind about trusting God when the voice in the darkness said, “Then cut the rope that is holding you up!” Refusing to let go, he just clung to his rope and swung over what seemed to be a bottomless abyss. After the weather cleared the following day, a group of climbers found the frozen man hanging from a rope, suspended just a few feet from a ledge and a recess that would have offered him safe shelter during the storm. That climber didn’t believe that, “God’s got it.”

When we’re at the end of our rope, it’s not enough to believe there is a God. We must believe in Him—in His word, promises, love, faithfulness, goodness, and power. Trusting Him with our lives, we must be willing to step out in faith, even if it means cutting a rope. If we want peace, we must believe that God’s got it!

“Please, God!” I cried out. “Save my life!” God is gracious—it is he who makes things right, our most compassionate God. God takes the side of the helpless; when I was at the end of my rope, he saved me. [Psalm 116:4-6 (MSG)]

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule. [Matthew 5:3 (MSG)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

INADEQUATE AND UNQUALIFIED

I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling. And my message and my preaching were very plain. Rather than using clever and persuasive speeches, I relied only on the power of the Holy Spirit. [1 Corinthians 2:3-4 (NLT)]

buttercupWhen I sit in front of my computer to start writing, I often wonder what makes me think I am qualified to spread the good news of the Gospel. I take comfort in the Apostle Paul’s similar feelings of inadequacy. Of all the people we meet in Scripture, Paul’s credentials (other than those of Jesus) seem to be the most impressive. Fluent in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, from the tribe of Benjamin, and a second-generation Pharisee who had studied and trained under the respected Gamaliel, Paul was well-versed in the Hebrew Bible and passionate for Jesus. Yet, we know that even he sometimes felt inadequate to the task. Although extremely knowledgeable, by his own admission, his preaching ability left much to be desired.

Then again, an 80-year old man who stammered was called to lead his people out of slavery, a shepherd boy was called to be a king, and a housewife was called to be a prophetess and judge. Samuel was just a boy when he first prophesized, Jeremiah little more than a teen when God called him, and the disciples were just ordinary people like you and me. None of them had impressive resumes. Yet God, knowing exactly who they were, their ages, skills, capabilities, and shortcomings, called them! And He calls us!

In 1 Corinthians, Paul wrote that, rather than calling the qualified, God choses to qualify those he calls: “God chose the things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise.” [1:27] Paul reassured the Corinthians in a later letter that, “God will generously provide all you need. Then you will always have everything you need and plenty left over to share with others.” [2 Corinthians 9:8] While the Apostle was referring to material gifts for the believers in Jerusalem, his words hold true for the other gifts with which God has blessed us. Sometimes, we don’t even know we have those gifts until God calls us to use them!

Whether God calls us to lead two million across the desert or lead a small group, to compose letters to the new church or write a blog, to speak to kings or a troubled teen, to build a temple or the set for the Christmas pageant, none of us can do it alone; we must depend on God and believe his promises. We continually underrate ourselves because we’re thinking small; we think we have to go it alone, under our own power, but we don’t. When God called the young Jeremiah to be His prophet, He didn’t promise that it would be easy or that he’d never get discouraged or frustrated. What God promised was His protection, provision, and supervision. Those promises apply to us, as well. God is the source of our ability and it is His power that will enable us to do His work. We are merely God’s tools; He is the builder and we must let Him use us to build His Kingdom.

Loving God, His word, and His children hardly qualifies me to write and yet, with over 1,800 devotions written, as unqualified as I am, through God’s power, it’s been done. He has, indeed, generously provided. We must trust the God who calls us to reach beyond where we think we can grasp, to climb higher than we’ve ever been, or to dig deeper than we thought possible. He will enable us to do whatever He asks us to do. While we may not do it perfectly, all God asks is that we answer Him, obey His call to the best of our ability, and trust in His provision. The outcome is His responsibility!

We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we are qualified to do anything on our own. Our qualification comes from God. He has enabled us to be ministers of his new covenant. [2 Corinthians 3:4-6a (NLT)]

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. [1 Corinthians 4:20 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

DO YOU BELIEVE IN YOUR PRODUCT?

So go and make followers of all people in the world. Baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.”   [Matthew 28:19 (NCV)]

Jesus license plateDorian has departed and we Floridians are taking down hurricane shutters and removing plywood from our windows. Some people avoided that task by having high-impact windows and doors that combine specially glazed impact-resistant glass with heavy duty frames that keep the glass from breaking away from its frame; while the glass may crack from a direct hit, it will not break. In theory, when a home or business has such glass installed, no additional shutters, screens, or plywood are necessary to protect it from the ravages of a hurricane.

A friend recently sent me a meme with the words, “Do you believe in your own product?” It showed a business near West Palm Beach; the sign above the door said it sold “Impact Windows & Doors!” Since all of its windows were covered with plywood, the picture wasn’t a good testimony to the business owner’s confidence in his own product. Any potential customer seeing the plywood covering the glass might question the truth of his claims about its ability to weather a storm.

I suspect I know why there was plywood over those windows. I know of people whose supposedly impact-resistant window frames were bowed by Hurricane Irma’s forceful winds. While their windows remained intact (as promised), the rain blew in through gaps in the twisted frames. It could be that, while he touts the benefits of his product, the business owner knows that it’s not 100% trustworthy. When facing the likes of Dorian, complete faith in his windows failed.

Having been instructed to make disciples, we share the gospel message in the hope that people will want to have Jesus in their lives. In effect, our Christian witness is a little like selling a product. The meme and the question it posed made me wonder if our lives truly support our faith in the effectiveness of our product. Do we act as if we believe in Him and His promises? We say we trust God completely and yet, just in case He doesn’t come through, we tend to worry, fret, and fuss which isn’t much different than putting up plywood over the glass we claim to be impact resistant. Either we believe, trust, and place our lives in God’s hands or we don’t! If we truly trust Him, we must depend on Him in more than just the sunshine, summer showers and gentle winds we encounter. We must have faith in the thunderstorms, blizzards, tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes of life, as well!

It’s been said that people can tell the size of our God by the length of our worry list: the shorter the list, the greater our God. When life’s storms are brewing, do we worry or pray? Do we put our faith in God or ourselves? Unlike the not-so-confident business owner, we can be confident in our God; He is 100% effective and trustworthy. But, when we worry,  we’re a poor witness for our product. It’s not enough to speak of our impact-resistant God; we must live as if we truly believe that He can still any storm.

The great act of faith is when man decides that he is not God. [Oliver Wendell Holmes]

Jesus stood up and commanded the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind stopped, and it became completely calm. Jesus said to his followers, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The followers were very afraid and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” [Mark 4:39-41 (NCV)]

Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. [Philippians 4:6-7(NCV)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

LIKE A CHILD

He said to them, “Let the children come to me. Don’t stop them! For the Kingdom of God belongs to those who are like these children. I tell you the truth, anyone who doesn’t receive the Kingdom of God like a child will never enter it.” Then he took the children in his arms and placed his hands on their heads and blessed them. [Mark 10:14b-16 (NLT)]

riding Irish MailThe thing I’ll miss most when we move to southwest Florida permanently is easy access to my grandchildren. This summer I’ve relished watching the little guys frolic in the sprinkler, race their scooters down the sidewalk, climb the monkey bars, decorate the driveway with colored chalk, and play bags with their cousins. They insisted on helping in the kitchen, offered to set the table, listened intently to every story read to them, and never tired of endless games of Crazy-Eights and Kings’ Corners. Their squeals of delight at the holiday fireworks and when they mastered riding the Irish Mail (where they pumped with their arms and steered with their feet) were music to my ears. They asked endless questions and pondered every answer. Wanting to please us, they even were obedient. Seeing their unbridled enthusiasm, energy, and desire both to learn and please, I wondered why I wasn’t like that. After all, God wants us to be like children.

We’re mistaken if we think Jesus’s words about receiving the Kingdom like a child mean that we should be unquestioning and unthinking. Anyone who has experienced the never-ending queries of children knows how inquisitive and persistent they are. As soon as one question is answered, another will be asked. If a child wonders where the sun goes at night, the next question will be where the moon goes during the day, followed by a raft of other questions that strain our limited astronomical knowledge. While children’s inquiring minds inundate us with questions, they differ from adults because they actually care about understanding the answer. We adults, on the other hand, are rarely as anxious to learn something new since we’re sure we already know most anything worth knowing. God doesn’t mind our asking questions but He does want us to listen and learn from His answers as would a child.

Youngsters are also brutally honest (if a bit tactless), unreservedly enthusiastic, and genuine. They love freely, don’t try to impress, rarely judge and, for the most part, want to please their parents. They may carry a blanket or stuffed animal with them, but they never cart around guilt. Their parents, however, are often afraid to love, frequently less than honest, sometimes hypocritical, tend to be judgmental, and often haul a suitcase of guilt and regret wherever they go. While children are drawn to kindness and gentleness, their parents usually are more impressed by power and riches. We adults tend to rebel rather than obey and, rather than God, the one we most want to please usually is ourself.

I’ve never once heard a child say, “You shouldn’t have!” when offered a gift. My little guys certainly didn’t say they weren’t worthy or deserving of their ice cream cones, the trip to the lake, or the boat ride to watch the fireworks. Why then is it so difficult for adults to accept God’s gift of grace? Of course, we don’t deserve it and haven’t earned it, but it is ours for the taking. Like little children, we need to grab hold of this precious gift and relish it; only then will we enter the Kingdom of God.

Jesus called a little child to him and put the child among them. Then he said, “I tell you the truth, unless you turn from your sins and become like little children, you will never get into the Kingdom of Heaven. So anyone who becomes as humble as this little child is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven. [Matthew 18:2-4 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.

WHERE IS HE?

As the deer longs for streams of water, so I long for you, O God. I thirst for God, the living God. When can I go and stand before him? Day and night I have only tears for food, while my enemies continually taunt me, saying, “Where is this God of yours?” [Psalm 42:1-3 (NLT)]

white-tailed deer - FloridaNot so long ago, it was hard to face my computer with any enthusiasm. Every beginning led to a dead end or took me down a rabbit hole of confusion. The paragraphs over which I’d struggled had come to nothing and my hours at the keyboard seemed an exercise in futility. It’s as if I had little scraps of useless fabric but couldn’t find a way to quilt them together. I wondered where God was when I so desperately needed His guidance.

The best place to go when feeling hollow or hopeless is God’s word and Psalms is where I usually begin. David certainly had plenty of times of downheartedness and he wasn’t afraid to express his exhaustion, frustration, or despair and yet there always seems to be a ray of hope in his words. I turned to Psalm 42 and, having hit a “dry spell,” I knew what the psalmist meant when comparing himself to a deer panting for water and thirsting for God. Like him, I felt like I was dying of thirst.

It was the psalm’s mention of enemies with their taunts of, “Where is this God of yours?” that really hit home. I don’t share David’s flesh and blood enemies but all of us share a common unseen enemy: the doubt and anxiety that comes from spiritual depression.

The palmist asks why God has forgotten him and I think we all know that feeling. While I can get it when I’m staring at an empty page, that sense of desolation may visit others as they wait for the return of a prodigal, sit in a hospital room, endure chronic pain, look at the empty chair once occupied by a spouse, or have too much month left at the end of their money. We’ve all had times when it feels like God has turned a deaf ear to our prayers or has closed His eyes to our situation.

“Where is this God of yours?” is the enemy’s voice. Wanting us to lose faith or wallow in despair, he causes us to question God’s presence in our lives. God hasn’t forgotten about us; even the psalmist, as depressed as he was, acknowledges that God pours out His unfailing love each day. Nevertheless, sometimes, it feels as if God is looking the other way. Feeling defeated, discouraged, lonely, weary, or insecure, it’s easy to forget that our feelings can’t always be trusted. God, however, always is steadfast and trustworty!

In a gentle reproach, the psalmist asks why he is so downcast and reminds himself of the hope he has in God. That we don’t sense God’s presence, feel His love, see His hand, or hear His voice doesn’t mean that our loving God isn’t there. When asked, “Where is this God of yours?” let us never forget that He dwells, not just in heaven above, but also in our broken spirits. There always will be dark valleys to traverse but we are never alone; we have hope in God and, for that, we praise him.

A loss of the present sense of God’s love is not a loss of that love itself; the jewel is there, though it gleams not on our breast; hope…expects the promised boon though present providence stands before her with empty hands. [Charles Spurgeon]

Why am I discouraged? Why is my heart so sad? I will put my hope in God! I will praise him again—my Savior and my God! [Psalm 42:11 (NLT)]

Copyright ©2019 jsjdevotions. All rights reserved.