Devotionals

I Will See You Again

Therefore you now have sorrow; but I will see you again and your heart will rejoice, and your joy no one will take from you. – John 16:22

The Lord Jesus spoke these words to His disciples – although Judas had gone – before the events surrounding His arrest, trial, and death rushed in upon Him.  He was instructing the disciples about His leaving them to return to the Father who sent Him, and He was preparing them for their experiences and their ministries to come. 

Among the several matters that Jesus brought up was the sorrow and suffering that would inevitably come upon them because of their allegiance to and love of Him.  On a personal level, it was going to be difficult to say goodbye to their friend and Master; although they did not yet know just how painful that was going to be.  It was also going to be difficult serving Christ after He had gone.  The world hated Jesus and it would hate them.  There would be some who would even believe that in putting the disciples to death they were actually serving God!  When it came to what we might call “positive reception of the world” these men had little to look forward to.  They would “have sorrow.”

Yet alongside of their sorrow and their trouble they would also be blessed.  For one thing, Jesus promised that it was to the disciples’ advantage that He was going away, for the Holy Spirit, whom He called “the Comforter” or “the Counselor” would come in His place.  Because of the Spirit’s work with them they would learn  and grow and do great things for God.  The Holy Spirit would enable them to “abide in Jesus” and so be very fruitful.

As dependent as they would always be upon Jesus there was another promise that He left them with which must have raised their spirits.  They would see Jesus again!  This parting was not to be final.  They would see their Lord and Savior and Friend and their hearts would rejoice.  Moreover, no one would be able to take away their joy.

How does this speak to us?  We have not seen Jesus.  We have not walked and talked with the Master as the disciples did.  True enough.  But we have met Him.  We are known by Him and by the Father, and we do have the Holy Spirit residing within us.  This world is till hostile to Jesus and to His teachings.  It will not welcome us with open arms if it detects anything of Jesus Christ about us.  So we must face up to the fact that our sojourn down here will not be all chocolate and roses.  But there is a reunion coming.  And it will be a full reunion; a face to face meeting; a surpassing experience of relief and rest and, yes, joy.  Our joy will last and will be unimpaired by regret or sickness or the remnants of sin fighting from within.  Jesus has chosen us to serve Him here and now in “this present evil world” (Gal. 1:4).  That is just for a time.  But then there is a more permanent and delightful service to which He will call us. There is a Kingdom coming in which “the world” cannot share, and to which we belong.  It is Christ’s Kingdom of unending joy.

       

Willing to do God’s will?

Jesus answered them and said, “My doctrine is not Mine, but His who sent Me.  If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority. – John 7:16-17

Even this early in the narrative of John’s Gospel Jesus was very unpopular with the religious leaders.  They were talking about killing Him.  So to avoid the many problems that accompany being hated by those in influence, the Lord chose not to go up to the yearly Feast of Tabernacles openly.  Instead He mingled with the crowds until the middle of the Feast.  At that point He began ministering, teaching, and performing miracles.

It is most important that we understand that Jesus was always referring to Himself; not indeed out of an inflated ego, but because He was Who He was.  It is also important that we understand how strongly Jesus drew the connection between Himself and His words and the work of God the Father upon the earth.  Did you want to see God at work?  Watch Jesus among the people.  Did you want to hear God teaching?  Stop and listen to Jesus.

And this is what makes this passage so illuminating.  Jesus was at the center of a discussion about His remarkable teaching gifts:  “How does this Man know letters, having never studied?” (Jn. 7:15).  in reply to the hubbub that the question created, Jesus spoke these extraordinary words of verses 16 and 17.  If I may paraphrase Him a little, Jesus asserted that the words at which everybody marveled (and which the soldiers who were sent to arrest Him were astounded by in verse 46), were the very words of God.  Moreover, the things that He was teaching to the people were from God.  We can be sure that the teaching of Jesus made a stark contrast to the formulaic and lifeless teaching of the priests and rabbis.

But it was not just the effect of hearing what the Lord said that proved that He was sent from God.  Jesus offered a proof that His doctrine was divine.

If anyone wills to do His will, he shall know concerning the doctrine, whether it is from God or whether I speak on My own authority.

Again, but with a wider paraphrase: “I am not merely speaking to you as another teacher with great oratory skills.  No, My doctrine comes from Heaven, and the sure way to know that is by putting what I say into practice.”

This is Christ telling us that God moves when we move.  That is to say, when we do what He tells us we should do, His grace and power acts with us, supporting our efforts, meager as they may be.  There is also that that sense of moral rightness which accompanies Christ-likeness; when we humble ourselves; when we put God first by hallowing His Name; when we think of others before ourselves; when we do good works in His Name, etc.

The teaching of Jesus comports with Heaven and Earth, with the soul and the body, and with love and Truth.  It always bears good fruit.  It always magnifies the One Who gave it.

Do Not Worry About Your Life

Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink; nor about your body, what you will put on… Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? – Matt. 6:25-26

How different our modern sense of security is from people who lived one hundred years ago, never mind two thousand years ago!  Pensions and stocks and 401Ks, and retirement – the fail-safes of contemporary life – these were unknown and beyond the ability of believers to do anything about for most of history.  Not that any of these are bad things; it is only prudent to “store up” for the future if you can do so.  But in this world investments and savings can evaporate overnight (which is what has happened to many because of the Coronavirus), and pensions cannot always be relied upon (because of various forms of mishandling).  California, for example, has a colossal bill for teachers pensions that it seems ill able to afford.   Moreover, some people are simply not able to afford to retire.  What is to be the outlook of God’s people when it comes to these kind of questions?

The Christian is called to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Cor. 5:7).  Although this does not mean we are not to think ahead, it does mean that we are to look to God for all things.  Our Lord taught His disciples to pray “give us this day our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), and the words of our text today are an enlargement upon that prayer.  God wants us to depend upon Him.  He wants us to exercise faith in His ability and willingness to look after His loved ones.

There is a bigger principle here: it has to do with God’s role as Creator and our response to Him as creatures.  It is to be a daily interaction, and a daily dependence.  And for most believers in history, that is just what it has been.  The question is, has this changed?  Is this now not what God wants us to do?  Are we rather to fend for ourselves?

Again, before addressing the point head on I want to be clear that those who have been given the wherewithal to save for retirement should see it as God’s provision for them ahead of time.  They have a responsibility to save.  But those who do not have that opportunity; maybe because of a change in circumstances, or because they have chosen a lower paying job to be able to serve the Lord where they believe He wants them to serve, can and ought to trust in these words of Jesus.  Jesus words are for always.  He is our Head, our Lord and Master, our Keeper.  He can be trusted.  David knew this:

I have been young, and now am old;
Yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken,
Nor his descendants begging bread. – Psa. 37:25

Do we find things to worry about?  Are there things that Satan can use to take our eyes off of God?  Yes, and finances are one of the best.  We can and should tell ourselves that God will not leave us helpless and alone.  He has promised to look after us.  In times like these that is a very reassuring truth.

To Be Meek

Then Hananiah the prophet took the yoke off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck and broke it.  And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying, “Thus says the LORD: ‘Even so I will break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from the neck of all nations within the space of two full years.’ ” And the prophet Jeremiah went his way. – Jeremiah 28:10-11

What is meekness?  We know that it’s important and that God prizes it.  We know that Jesus was “meek (or gentle) and lowly of heart” (Matt. 11:29.  We are told that “the meek shall inherit the earth” (Psa. 37:11; Matt. 5:5).  Meekness is a good thing!  But what exactly is it?

The Greek word translated “meek” in Jesus’ own description of Himself bears the connotation of mildness and gentleness.  It can also mean “humble.”  But does that get us to the real idea of meekness?  Not fully.  The “meek” who will inherit the earth are those who are for the most part powerless, or, if they have power, do not wield it as if it is their’s by right.  A meek person is one who has a proper understanding of their position before God and men.  As mere men and women we are only human, and to be human is to be faulty, to be mistaken, and too often, to be unwise.  For all the positive things we may be thankful for, none of us can escape our sins or our finiteness.  Sins can be forgiven, and God “remembers that we are dust” (Psa. 103:14), but we can forget!

The Apostle Paul tells us that we have “this treasure,” by which he means the light and glory of salvation, “in earthen vessels” (2 Cor. 4:7).  These “earthen vessels” or “jars of clay” are not to be gloried in.  Rather, they are to be kept under strict watch (see Rom. 6:11-13; 7:18; 1 Thess. 4:4).  As for our minds, well, it is easy for the most intelligent people to play the fool.  How little we really know about the world, and how apt we all are to give our own faults a pass while thinking we can spot the faults of those around us!  We need a slice of humility and a good dose of meekness.

The passage for today provides us with a good illustration of meekness.  Here is Jeremiah, the great Prophet of the Lord; a man who has faithfully and sacrificially served God and delivered an unpopular message to king and people.  And here is Hananiah cutting an impressive figure, fawning before the priests, and deliberately humiliating God’s man in the process.  Hananiah contradicts Jeremiah’s prophecy and belittles him in front of everyone.

What is Jeremiah’s response?  He simply walks away.  How many of us would have tried to think some choice words for the occasion, trying to save face?  Here is a man of God in more than word but in deed.  He is humble.  He is meek.  He knows his place and is content to leave the outcome to God.  His role is to speak, and then to retire.  Our role is to serve and not to seek things too high for us; to look to God for the result that He wants, and that, surely, is enough..

 

What God Makes Possible Isn’t Without Cost

With God all things are possible. -Matt. 19:26

We believe in a God who is so good that He is the very measure of what “Good” is.  “Good” is not a standard to which God attains.  Indeed, to have that idea of God is to have a false God.  The goodness of God reaches down to us.  His goodness embraces us, even when we think He is distant.

In the context of these words of Christ the goodness of God is looking on in sadness as the rich young ruler is departing, having been discovered as a covetous man.  The rich ruler was pious, and he was sincere, but he was not properly focused.  His heart had at least one idol in it: possessions, and in all probability, position.  These two things are common idols, either because we want them or have them.

Christ’s remark upon seeing the young man leave Him astonished the disciples.  Here was a person who had led a strict life of observing the law (at least outwardly), and who demonstrated zeal in running up to Jesus and kneeling in front of Him.  “Who then can be saved?” they ask.  It was not his money and position that provoked the question, but the strain of piety that they witnessed.  And yet it was found out!  Jesus exposed the fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of “goodness” and also the insufficiency of religion.

Who then can be saved?  This is where the Lord answers, “With men it is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”  The religion of the rich young ruler was not good enough to save him.  What would be good enough?  That was the disciples’ question.  The answer is seen only once we have read the whole story.  The “possibility” of salvation that God offers to us could only be wrought by God.  But salvation was made possible not by a quick click of the Divine fingers.  Such a thing was not possible, even for God.  Why so?  Because of sin and its injuries to the Divine character.  Because of the stain of our lives on God’s creation.  Because as sinners from cradle to grave we are a blight upon justice and goodness.  Such a black mark as a human life makes cannot be removed by pretending it didn’t happen.  Indeed, God would not be God if He tried to do such a thing.  Sin is darker than we are wont to imagine, and redemption and forgiveness for sin was wrought by the greatest act of undeserved sacrificial love in all of history.

How then can God make possible the salvation of sinners?  The New Testament answers, through the coming into the cursed creation of the Son of God; through His life among men, and His death for them!  Through sorrow and humiliation and pain.  With God all things are possible, but not easy!  It is possible for sinners like you and I to be saved, and not just to be saved but to become children of God and citizens of Heaven.  But only because the Father sent the Son to do the one thing that could satisfy His justice and remove the stain of our sin.  The Gospel is an easy message to speak, but it involve the wonder of wonders, the profound suffering of the God-Man for His enemies.

When we think of Jesus and His death and resurrection, we should think very soberly about the fact that this was the only possible way to make sinners into saints; to take us out of Adam and place us into the second Adam, Christ Himself.  The cost to God of answering the question, “who then can be saved?” was very high indeed!  With God all things are possible, even our salvation.  But they are not easy!

Waiting on the Lord

I waited patiently for the LORD; and He inclined to me,
and heard my cry. He also brought me up out of a horrible
pit, out of the miry clay, and set my feet upon a rock, and
established my steps.” – Psalm 40: 1-2.

It is so hard to wait on the Lord. Especially when one is in trouble or hurting and there just isn’t anyone else who can help. Truthfully, that is not a bad place to be in, since our natural propensity is to lean on God very half-heartedly most of the time. If we want a good spiritual road check I suggest that all we do is to realize how quickly and easily we slip back into the driver’s seat of our lives whenever we think that things are within our own control. Limited dependence on God is the Christian’s default position and the cause of many of his troubles. What God wants from us; what He has always wanted from men and women is total dependence. This is one of the reasons God puts us to waiting for things. If circumstances are against us and nothing is happening to change them it is second nature for us to want to manipulate the situation so the ‘things get done.’ In most cases things don’t change and we have to wait for God to do something.

David understood this. He knew who was in control, and he “waited patiently for the LORD.” David faith caused him to see both that God hears and that He considers. That is why this Psalm twice refers to the thoughts that God has toward us (vv. 5, 17). If we are sure that God is thinking about us, that “He knows what we need before we ask” we have more than sufficient reason to allow faith to settle us. Not that we shouldn’t pray for God to help us quickly. Twice also David asks for just this (vv. 13, 17). That is not a contradiction of his attitude in verse 1, since patience is necessary if God decides not to act when we would like Him to.

Let us not forget that Psalm 40 is both a record of God’s past and present dealings with the author. On the basis of what God did in the past (v. 2) David can have assurance in the present. And what had God done? He had delivered his saint from a desperate situation, described as “a horrible pit” and “miry clay.” In other words, a place of anxiety and discomfort; a position that looked for all the world as if it would only get worse. But God saw and at the right time, when David’s heart and mind had been trained in reliance upon his Maker.

What is significant about God’s deliverance is how full it was. Described by David as a “rock,” a solid point from where he could go forward. But it didn’t stop there. God also “established” his steps. His providence made a sure path for the writer’s feet. It is a great gift from the Lord when He clears all obstacles out of our way and then tells us, “This is the way; walk ye in it.”

Photo by Servant’s Place

The Gift of Quietness

When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble? – Job 34:29a

It has always been easy to neglect personal communion with God.  The matters which lie right in front of us call for our time and attention, and if there are any of those two things left at the end of the day, well, we’re tired and we want to “turn off.”  God gets the scraps of our time.  But our relationship with our Father in heaven cannot be well kept up with fleeting prayers and momentary meditations.  And if we stopped to look at things aright, we would see that His claims upon us are primary.  It’s not as if we live these lives of ours in secret, cordoned off from God’s providence.  Psalm 139:1-17 shows us that the Lord knows us through and through.  God can facilitate our way if we slow down for Him.

Job was a man who was in deep distress and confusion, and he said some things which furnished plenty of proof of it.  But he also said some things which were hopeful and which he knew to be true.  It was Job who testified that “I know my Redeemer lives” (Job 19:25), and it was he whose faith shone out in his exclamation “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.” (Job 13:15).  Satan tries to persuade us that because things are not working out the way we hoped God can’t be trusted, but Job’s words are certainly true.  We might not be able to understand why everything is going awry, but we can know that God is worthy of our trust – always.

In this verse it is not Job who is the speaker.  It is the younger man Elihu.  But it is a sentiment that Job at his best would have heartily agreed with.  I can remember a time in my life when I was very depressed.  Every day (for many years) was a struggle.  I trudged through the hours (emotionally speaking), as I lived out my existence.  I do not reveal this to garner sympathy – the Lord delivered me from it all  along time ago – but I mention only so that I can record an experience.  One particularly bad night I felt that I couldn’t take another day of it.  I cried out to God for help.  I then feel asleep emotionally exhausted.  In the morning it was like I was a different person.  I was permeated by peace.  It was a deep and powerful and yet “light” thing.  I was suffused by it.  It was without any question not mine.  It was given to me.  It was wrapped around me by Someone Who cared for me.  It didn’t last for more than a few days, but the knowledge that my Father had given it, and that such “shalom” was my destiny in Christ, was all I needed.

The text asks us, “When He gives quietness, who then can make trouble?”  Notice the quietness or tranquility is given.  It includes a sense of utter safety and belonging.  It subdues all fears, and answers – though not in words – every doubt.  I believe emphatically that one day every saint of God will be surrounded by this “quietness,” and no one and nothing will be able to upset it.  Grace and peace is addressed to us in the New Testament letters.  Jesus words to His discouraged disciples are words to us too:

“These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33 

So we can expect trouble in this world.  We shall have peace!  Today, wouldn’t it be a good idea for us to spend more time with such a God of Peace?

 

Be Anxious for Nothing

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. – Phil. 4:6-7

It is easy to worry.  There is always something that we can think about that will be guaranteed to perturb our souls.  The Apostle Paul knew something about that.  His imagination could have envisioned the next round of mockery, or the next beating or imprisonment.  Or if not those things then maybe the sheer hassle of journeying from town to town on foot, on those sometimes dangerous byways.

What about us?  We can become anxious because we have been watching too much news on TV, or we have chosen to read an article by a contemporary prophet of doom.  We are in the midst of COVID-19 panic.  It is real.  It is serious.  What are we to do?  There is one vital thing we should do.  We must listen to God!

This passage is not a mere suggestion, as if it were a piece of homespun “wisdom” from an agony-aunt.  It is a command.  It is, in the military sense, a call to attention!  It declares, “Christian, do not worry…rather, do this!”  Go to God.  Ask, seek, knock.  Count your blessings and thank Him for them.  Thank your heavenly Father for easy access to the very Throne of Grace in Heaven.  Tell God your fears and concerns, and leave them with Him.

These verses are a call to mental discipline.  This means that we are to train our thoughts by repeatedly appealing to “the God of all comfort.”  We are to rein-in our imaginations and put them to work contemplating the Savior and our inheritance.  We are to cast all our cares upon Him, because we know that He cares for us.  And because the Father is there and hears us, we are to expect the warm breezes of His peace to start exercising their influence upon both mind and heart.

We don’t have to manufacture our own peace.  That is not our job.  Our job is to refuse to worry and let our God worry about it for us, whatever may be disturbing our emotions at the present time.  If Jesus can with a word command the wind and the waves to become calm and placid, He can surely introduce tranquility into even the stormiest heart.  So pay attention to this command.  Flee to the Lord and, “with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.”

Spiritual Single-Mindedness

I will go in the strength of the Lord GOD;
I will make mention of Your righteousness, of Yours only. – Psalm 71:16

Psalm 71 is all about trusting the Lord, and seeing that in Him we have a strong foundation for our lives.  Even amid peril and distress there is a reason for hope.  Many of the psalms are heartfelt cries to God for help; sometimes for safety from ones enemies, sometimes for encouragement, and at other times for strength to support us in our weakness.

God wants us to depend upon Him.  For sure, there are many areas of life where we are required to put in effort, like at work, or at school, or “at home,” in the case of that unsung hero of our times, the housewife.  But even in the midst of those various responsibilities God wants us to lean on Him.

The role of dependence is especially important in the spiritual life; that is, for our inner selves, our minds and our hearts.  “Keep your heart with all diligence” we are told, “for out of it spring the issues of life.” (Prov. 4:23).  A heart that has not taken some time to make God central in the morning, will be liable to fret once the pressures of the day gather steam.  A mind that has not quieted itself with God’s Word and with the knowledge of His presence, is likely to become disquieted with the list of items which begin clamoring for attention.

Here in this text the Psalmist acknowledges where his strength comes from.  He has to go forward into the day, but he goes “in the strength of the Lord God.”  His mouth must utter many words, but the righteousness of the God Who upholds him will find expression too.  And the acknowledgement of God, gives witness to and reinforcement of the strength which is graciously given by Him to those who seek Him.

Because what is going on inside can affect the way I relate to my job, or to others, or how I hear the news, or indeed how I frame my attitudes for the whole day, it is imperative that I throw off the reluctance to pray and to meditate on the Scripture, and take at least five or ten minutes to seek “the strength of my life” (Psa. 27:1).

We Are Anchored

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus… – Hebrews 6:19-20a

The “hope” of which the inspired writer speaks is the sure hope of someone to whom God has pledged eternal salvation and peace.  That is you if you are trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ to save you from your sins.  This pledge or “oath” to you is called “immutable” (i.e. unchangeable), which is why our hope is pictured as anchored.

Notice, the hope of salvation is what is our anchor, being as it is, fixed by God’s promise to us in the Gospel.  The Devil wants us to believe that our hope in Jesus is just like our hope of receiving a surprise inheritance from a distant relative we never knew we had.  If that were the case God’s salvation could hardly be described as an “anchor of the soul” and would be more like a message in a bottle, cast with doubtful anticipation of someone picking it up on some foreign shore.  But that is exactly the opposite of the truth.  The Lord sees your faith and knows you, and your life is tied unbreakably to Jesus, Who, as the passage tells us, “has entered for us.”  We are represented in Heaven.

If we look around for confirmations of this teaching in the New Testament we won’t have to look very far.  “Our citizenship is in heaven” (Phil. 3:20).  Already the Father has “raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus.” (Eph. 2:6).  In a sense we don’t fully comprehend right now, you are already in Heaven!  As a citizen you are right now “on the books,” and your future well-being is assured.

Not that our Father forgets about us until we arrive at the Golden Shore.  Reflect upon this invitation from the same book:

Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. – Hebrews 4:16

God’s throne of grace is where we can “obtain” help.  The link is never broken.  God’s love is never unresponsive.  If you are a Christian, you are and always will be anchored.