It’s Not As Easy As It Looks

There was a man who was trying to cross the street. As he stepped off the curb, a car comes screaming around the corner and heads straight for him. The man walks faster, trying to hurry across the street, but the car changes lanes and is still coming at him.

     So the guy turns around to go back, but the car changes lanes again and is still coming at him.

     By now, the car is so close and the man so scared that he just freezes and stops in the middle of the road.

     The car gets real close, then swerves at the last possible moment and screeches to a halt right next him.

     The driver rolls down the window.  The driver is a squirrel!  The squirrel says to the man says, “See, it’s not as easy as it looks, is it?”

     There have been times when I’ve discovered that experiencing something is more difficult than it looks.  For example, when I was younger, I was full of ideas on how parents ought to be raising their children.  However, after having three of my own, I’ve discovered that “it’s not as easy as it looks.”

     Maybe there was a time when you thought someone ought to be handling a divorce or a death in the family better than they do.  But after experiencing it for yourself, you found out that “it’s not as easy as it looks.”

There is an old Indian saying, “Never criticize a man until you’ve walked a mile in his moccasins.”

Elvis Presley sang the song, “Walk a mile in my shoes.” “Before you abuse, criticize and accuse, walk a mile in my shoes.”

     Sometimes there’s no way to know what it feels like to go through something without actually experiencing it yourself.  That’s why the incarnation is so important.  There’s no way we can say to God, “Living here on this earth — it’s not as easy as it looks!”  God knows.  He’s taken on flesh and blood and walked this earth.  He’s experienced temptation, frustration, persecution, disappointment and a host of human emotions.  He knows how tough it is.  He understands.  And that’s why He is in a position to be of help to us.

     “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.  Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Heb. 4:15-16)

     It’s true.  Living life on this earth is “not as easy as it looks.”  But may you find comfort today in knowing that God understands that more that you can begin to imagine.

So before you share your great “wisdom” with others or criticize how someone does something or how someone is feeling, try walking a mile in their shoes first! Life’s not as easy as it looks.

In His Hands,

John – HE>i

Hammer & Nails

I’ve been working on a drawing based on Mark 15:24, “Then the soldiers nailed [Jesus] to the cross. They divided his clothes and threw dice to decide who would get each piece.”

Hammer & Nails! Instruments of the carpenter. Used together and they can build beautiful things. Bookshelves, chairs, bed frames, etc. In the right hands the hammer and nail are quite useful, But in the wrong hands they can be destructive. By themselves they seem harmless, but can cause great harm.

Hammer’s come in all shapes and sizes and in the wrong hands they can be destructive. Hammers can destroy things and can even be a deadly weapon. 

Nails come in all shapes and sizes as well, and if you get one stuck in your shoe or even your car tire, ouch! Either you have a tetanus shot coming up or you’re on the road side changing out a flat. Put nails in a nail gun and they can be deadly as well.

Jesus was subjected to the hammer and nail. He used these tools for good and made beautiful things. But in the end they were used to nail Him to a tree. A beautiful gesture for mankind but a ugly picture to ponder. The hammer and nail! 

But let’s move on to the dice. Tools that can be used to play games for fun, or games for money. You can lose your shirt if you don’t roll them well. At the foot of Jesus the soldiers gambled for Jesus’ things. 

Just as the soldiers at the foot of this cross gambled for Jesus’ clothes, people still gamble on the cross of Christ today. Anytime people refuse to recognize who was crucified on that cross, they gamble with their future — their eternal future — assuming that Jesus was only just another man. The stakes of this gamble are incredibly high. Either Jesus offers eternal life with God or he is a delusional, self-appointed messiah. The Place of the Skull where Jesus was crucified leaves no other options for us to place a wager. For those who believe in what Jesus did at this cross and commit their lives to him, their faith promises them life. For those who do not believe, there is only a horribly risky gamble that this Jesus was just another man. We know from Mark 15:39 that at least one soldier acknowledged Jesus as God’s Son. What have you decided about the identity of this man, Jesus, on this cross?

In His Hands

John – HE>i

Remember The Duck

The prophet Isaiah writes, “I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more.” – Isaiah 43:25

Memories are a blessing and a curse. Let me explain.

I have great memories of my dad. A loving and caring man. A man of God who loved the Lord with all his heart, soul, mind and strength. I remember him sitting at the kitchen table with just a curtain separating him from our bedroom. I remember my dad singing, reading the Bible and praying. I love those memories of my dad. 

But I also remember the bad choices i’ve made in my life when it comes to temptation. I remember picking up that porno mag I found in the woods. I remember lying to my dad. I remember stealing money from my step-moms dresser. I remember cheating on a test. I remember too much and I don’t like it.

You see, memories are a curse and a blessing. Satan loves to hold those memories over us and he keeps kicking the dust up into our faces. It’s like this story I came across years ago.

There was a little boy and his sister visiting their grandparents on their farm. Johnny was given a slingshot to play with, out in the woods. He practiced in the woods, but he could never hit the target. Getting a little discouraged, he headed back for dinner. As he was walking back he saw Grandma’s pet duck. Just out of impulse, he let the slingshot fly, hit the duck square in the head and killed it. He was shocked and grieved! In a panic, he hid the dead duck in the woodpile; only to see his sister watching! Sally had seen it all, but she said nothing. After lunch the next day Grandma said, “Sally, let’s wash the dishes.” But Sally said, “Grandma, Johnny told me he wanted to help in the kitchen.” Then she whispered to him, “Remember the duck?” So Johnny did the dishes.

Later that day, Grandpa asked if the children wanted to go fishing and Grandma said, “I’m sorry but I need Sally to help make supper.” Sally just smiled and said, “Well that’s all right because Johnny told me he wanted to help,” She whispered again to him, “Remember the duck?” So Sally went fishing and Johnny stayed to help. After several days of Johnny doing both his chores and Sally’s, he finally couldn’t stand it any longer. He came to Grandma and confessed that he had killed the duck. Grandma knelt down, gave him a hug and said, “Sweetheart, I know. You see, I was standing at the window and I saw the whole thing, but because I love you, I forgave you. I was just wondering how long you would let Sally make a slave of you.”

And so it is with us. Whatever is in your past, whatever you have done…And the devil keeps throwing it up in your face (lying, cheating, debt, fear, bad habits, hatred, anger, bitterness, etc.) …whatever it is…You need to know that God was standing at the window and He saw the whole thing. He has seen your whole life. He wants you to know that He loves you and that you are forgiven. He’s just wondering how long you will let the devil make a slave of you.

I love the words found in Psalm 103: 8-13 “The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love. He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us. As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.”  ‭ESV‬‬

Today, as a follower of Christ, don’t allow the devil to keep you in slavery. Instead, celebrate the freedom found in Christ: freedom from our past sins, and freedom to choose not to repeat them. Put on the full armor of God so that you can stand against the devil’s schemes.

In His Hands,

John – HE>i (John 3:30)

Life’s GPS

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps. In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 16:9 & 3:6).

I’m sure you’ve driven a car with a Global Positioning System (GPS). I remember settling into the passenger’s seat of a fully equipped Lincoln driven by a friend of mine as we were headed to a conference. I had my first taste of what it means to be given on-site, immediate directions from point A to point B by a screen built into a car. You simply punch in your destination, and the GPS does the rest. Mapping out the route on the screen before you, it audibly directs you as you maneuver the wheel: “Turn left on Madison Avenue. Proceed three miles,” and so on.

Today I own my own GPS and it’s located on my phone, and besides being an efficient way to get me where I’m going, it provides a great metaphor for the Christian journey. Here are ten comparisons I’ve found between a GPS and our journey on the Christian path.

First, Start with the end in mind.

When using a GPS, the first thing you need to do is program in your destination. Once you know where you’re going, everything else takes on a clear perspective. Your first task is to be clear on where you’re headed. There may be some detours along the way, but as long as you keep the end in sight, you will get there. I love what Paul writes to the church in Philippi, “Our citizenship is in heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ” (Philippians 3:20).

Second, know that your GPS charts a straight course.

The GPS guides you on the most direct route to your destination. The objective is to get you where you want to go as quickly as possible. This is no time for the scenic route! On the Christian journey, you may be tempted to leave the beaten track for the tourist traps along the way, but the straight course will lead you to victory. Paul reminds young Timothy to, “Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made good your confession in the presence of many witnesses” (1 Timothy 6:12).

Third, you need to trust the details of the plan.

If you try second-guessing the GPS, it’ll take you a lot longer to reach your destination! The map may look like the best way to go; you may think you know a shortcut. However, if you waste time putting in your two cents every time the GPS gives you directions, you might as well go it alone, with no guarantees that you’ll make it! Maybe we all need to memorize Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.”

Fourth, believe in the big picture.

There’s no reason to become frustrated or give up halfway to where you’re going. The trip may be a long one, but you know you’re going to arrive. That knowledge frees you to be an optimistic, faith-filled traveler. Paul reminds us, “[Love] bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Corinthians 13:7, NKJV). So, be patient and rest in the Lord, He knows what He’s doing.

Fifth, please don’t fret when you get off course.

The beauty of the GPS is that it starts wherever you are. There’s no programmed message that chides you when you make a mistake and leave the path. No matter where you turn, the GPS just keeps charting a straight course. You may make mistakes in life, but Christ reassures you that you don’t need to get bogged down with your problems. Jesus assures us of this in the Gospel of John, “If [you] confess [your] sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive [you of your] sins and purify [you] from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9).

Sixth, remember, your future has more power over you than your past.

The GPS is all about what lies ahead of you. It pulls you toward your destination, and it relentlessly recalibrates until you get there. The detours, wrong turns, and accidental ventures mean nothing to the program. No time is wasted analyzing what went wrong. All energy is spent pointing a line to your destination. Paul said, “Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 3:13, 14).

Seventh, every point is a new starting place.

No matter where you are in life, You’re always at a point where you can start fresh. The GPS never flashes a warning signal, “Too late to start over. Too many wrong turns.” Today is a new day. Right now, is your first step toward a fulfilling Christian life. The Prophet Isaiah writes, “Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool” (Isaiah 1:18).

Eighth, there is always a way to get there.

Have you ever heard the phrase, “You can’t get there from here?” Sometimes it’s hard for you to imagine a way to extricate yourself from the mess you’re in and truly achieve your life’s goals. The message of the GPS is that there’s always a way to get there. Wherever you are right now, you can find your way home. Paul declares that very thought, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, and the new has come!” (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Ninth, as soon as you’re lost, a plan is being devised to help you.

The GPS doesn’t waste any time. The instant you get off course, the countdown begins to get you back on track. It doesn’t matter that you feel hopelessly lost. A fresh plan is already afoot. I love Paul’s words found in Romans, “When we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6–8).

And then finally, you will reach my destination.

When all is said and done, you will get there. That’s the best part. If you start with the end in mind, chart a straight course, and accept each bend in the road as a new beginning, the Christian journey will eventually lead you to victory. Paul said, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Now there is in store for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award me on that day, and not only to me but also to all who have longed for His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:7).

I very much enjoy my phone GPS, because it helps me get where I need to go. I also enjoy my heavenly GPS, because it also helps me get to where I want to go. So, our vision is set. Our course is charted. Each day, has its potential challenges and heartaches, but remember, today is a fresh starting point on our heavenly journey. I pray you trust in and enjoy your heavenly GPS as well.

In His Hands,

John – HE>i

“Meshuga”

“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” James 4:7-8a (ESV)

Scripture is full of contradictions. OK, I can see the steam coming out of your ears.  I sense the cry of “heresy” forming on your lips.  So, let me gently assure you: I totally affirm the inerrancy of Scripture.  It is factually and spiritually trustworthy from cover to cover.

But let’s face it: it does contain “seeming contradictions.”  I mean, we’re told not to murder—yet God told His friend Abraham to kill his own son (only as a test, of course).  We’re told to honor our parents (Ex. 20:12; Deut. 5:16; Matt. 15:4)—yet Jesus tells us to “hate” our family in order to gain His Kingdom (Luke 14:26).  We’re told to eschew jealousy (Romans 13:13; 2 Corinthians 12:20) by the very God Whose very name (per Ex. 34:14) is jealous!

This brings us to the subject of how to react to opposition.  Doesn’t God tell us to love our enemies?  Then why does He go to great lengths to tell us how to defeat our ultimate enemy?

The answer, of course, is that our enemies are not our enemy.  Our enemy is Satan himself.

So how do we defeat him?

By DRIVING HIM CRAZY (or “MESHUGA,” as my Jewish people would say).  That’s how.

Below are some practical steps to not only drive him crazy but to send him packing.

STEP #1:  WORSHIP GOD!

The first and foremost way to drive Satan crazy is simply by worshipping God.  He (Satan) specializes in  creating distractions, trials, afflictions, and (yes) offenses to get our eyes off of the only One worthy of our worship.  Why?  Because Satan wants that worship for himself!  When we take his bait, we cede a portion of our hearts to him.  When we don’t, we frustrate his plan.

To put it succinctly: worshipping God in the midst of our adversity tells Satan he does not—and will not—occupy the throne of our heart.  And believe me, that drives him “meshuga” (crazy)!

STEP #2:  SPEAK THE TRUTH!

We also confound our enemy by speaking God’s truth.  When we’re hit with bad news, we can respond by declaring God’s victory over the circumstance.  When we’re depressed, we can respond by declaring God’s goodness.  When our emotions scream at us, “GUILTY!,” we can respond by declaring our forgiveness by the blood of Jesus!  (Oh, how the enemy hates that blood!)  When even other people tell us to “curse God” (a la Job’s wife), we can respond by declaring truth.

Indeed, declaring God’s truth thwarts the enemy’s purpose of believing lies about God.  And that drives him even more “meshuga” (crazy)!

STEP #3:  LOVE YOUR ENEMIES!

A close friend of mine grew up with an alcoholic father.  This friend learned real well how to hate their dad—until the day God pealed back the curtain and revealed the real enemy behind the “perceived enemy.”  From that point on, my friend’s heart was radically transformed.  The alcoholic dad was no longer the enemy.

Loving our enemies exposes the real enemy.  And believe me, he can’t stand that spotlight.  Talk about driving him crazy!!!

STEP #4:  FORGIVE YOUR ENEMIES!

If all this isn’t enough, extending radical forgiveness drives him BONKERS!  Forgiveness releases our enemies (that is, the human ones) from any indebtedness toward us.  It closes the door to bitterness, which is the devil’s lifeblood.

Most importantly, forgiving our enemies is a declaration of the radical forgiveness of God toward us through the cross.  And the cross is something Satan never, ever wants to be reminded of.

TO SUMMARIZE

This earth is a spiritual war zone.  All around us are spiritual landmines, waiting to take us down.  Nary a day goes by without a distraction, trial, affliction, or offense lying in wait to blindfold us and take us captive.  For those of us who have never given their hearts to Jesus, these serve to strengthen Satan’s grip upon our hearts.  For those of us who do follow Jesus, they serve to take our eyes off of our Master and render us ineffective in His Kingdom. Satan likes to imitate a lion (1 Peter 5:8).  By refusing his bait, we not only rebuke his phony roar.  We remind him of that his days are numbered.  We allow him to hear the sound of the real Lion—the sound that drives him CRAZY and makes him flee.

In His Hands,

John – HE>i

(Devotional adapted from devotableapp)

Through Jesus’ Eyes

We read in Matthew 9:9-13, “As Jesus went on from there, he saw a man named Matthew sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, ‘Follow me,’ so he got up and followed him. While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and his disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, ‘Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?’ But when He heard this, He said, ‘Those who are well do not need a doctor, but the sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.’”

For Jesus to call Matthew, a tax collector, was a big deal. In Jesus’ time, tax collectors were viewed as traitors, Jews who had turned against their own people to help the Romans with their continued oppression. They often became rich by overtaxing the Jews and taking the money for themselves. Tax collectors were reviled by the Jews. They weren’t welcome anywhere or by anyone.

Not only did calling Matthew not go over well with the other disciples, but it also definitely didn’t go over well with the Pharisees. Once Jesus called Matthew and he accepted, they gathered at his home for a dinner party. This was where the Pharisees found them and made their objections known.

“While he was reclining at the table in the house, many tax collectors and sinners came as guests to eat with Jesus and His disciples. When the Pharisees saw this, they asked His disciples, “Why does your Teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  (Matthew 9:10-11)

What I love so much about this story, and about Jesus, is that He doesn’t care about their objections. He knows there is opposition between Jews and tax collectors. He knows how tax collectors are viewed by others. He knows that spending time with sinners is the unpopular choice. He’s not interested in any of this; He’s only interested in saving souls. I love His response to them:

“But when He heard this, He said, ‘Those who are well do not need a doctor, but those who are sick do. Go and learn what this means: I desire mercy and not sacrifice. For I didn’t come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” (Matthew 9:12-13)

As I look at this story and Jesus’ response, I try to apply this to my own life. Right now, in our country, there is a lot of political and social unrest. We’re letting our differences, whether it be race, gender, sexuality, political affiliation, religious beliefs, or more, divide our nation.

What if I (we) stopped focusing on what makes us different and focus on what we have in common? What if I (we) looked at others through the eyes of Jesus?

Imagine if we started viewing others as Jesus did? Instead of focusing on differences, we made a point to look at others through eyes of love and acceptance. What an impact we could make!

The Bible states, a house divided will fall (Mark 3:25). Division gets us nowhere. The only way to survive and defeat all the “isms” (racism, sexism, etc.) is to instead seek unity.

“How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in harmony!” (Psalm 133:1)

Father, may we go today and see this world through Your eyes and be Your hands and feet to those who come across our path today.

In His Hands,

John Hilts – HE>i

(Adapted from Daily Devotion at http://www.devotableapp.com)

Beauty Remains

I came across this story in my devotional reading…

“Although Henri Matisse was nearly 28 years younger than Auguste Renoir, the two great artists were dear friends and frequent companions. When Renoir was confined to his home during the last decade of his life, Matisse visited him daily. Renoir, almost paralyzed by arthritis, continued to paint in spite of his infirmities using a brush strapped to his arm.”

“One day as Matisse watched the elder painter working in his studio, fighting torturous pain with each brush stroke, he blurted out: ‘Auguste, why do you continue to paint when you are in such agony?’ Renoir answered simply: ‘The beauty remains, the pain passes.’”

“And so, almost to his dying day, Renoir put paint to canvas. One of his most famous paintings, Bathers, was completed just two years before his passing, 14 years after he was stricken by this disabling disease.”

Renoir could have easily put away his brush and canvas years before when the disease grew worse. He could have become bitter about his life’s situation and given up. He didn’t. Renoir saw beyond the pain to the beauty.

Like the beautiful painting that was created from pained hands, I believe that God wants to take the painful experiences of our lives and create something beautiful in us. This does not minimize, trivialize or spiritualize the pain. Renoir’s arthritis was real. You and I experience real pain in life. Sometimes that pain is physical, but most often emotional. Still, if we allow God to work in us, He will use our painful experiences to shape our lives and form us into something more beautiful—ultimately into the image of Jesus.

Today, when you encounter pain, look beyond the situation and its cause, and seek to persevere. Look for God at work to bring beauty beyond the pain.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” –James 1:2-4

In His Hands,

John – HE>i

Ask, Seek, Knock

This weeks blog post comes from my son-in-law Benj Nichols, he writes…

Recently I have been subbing at Pocosin Innovative Charter. The main thing I do is teach PE with the 6th-8th graders. One thing I love about it is all the different questions I get asked: “where do you live?”, “how old are you?”, and “What other job do you have?” With such diverse questions it always ends up at the Church, no I am not talking about a building, but rather I am talking about God’s people. The kids start asking where do I minister? What do I teach? What fun things do we do? And I Just love it because I can teach them, no matter how small, about Jesus.

This makes me think more and more about childlike faith. Are we asking all the questions that come to our minds? Are we trying to find the answers in the Bible? Are we doing our very best to gain a closer and more personal relationship with God? Matthew 7:7 says “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.” This verse in sum is three different aspects: “ask, seek, and knock.” Are we doing those things? Even more than that are we doing those things as much as a child would?

ASKING. “Why” is a question phase that all kids seem to go through. Benji isn’t quite there yet but I am hesitantly looking forward to it. Kids are just curious, they want to know every aspect, you explain the why and then they have 5 more. They want to know so much because their brain, their knowledge is expanding, they have a yearning for it. As Christians we hear things all the time, whether it’s through Sunday morning sermons, self-study, or just talking to fellow Christians. We hear things all the time and just accept it, instead of asking “why”. Now I’m not saying to question God, but we should see why God loves us so much, why we ought to respect those in authority, etc.. If we ask why it helps build a relationship because you truly want to know the mind of God. Now we might not be able to find an answer to all the whys, but God will never get tired or annoyed of those who want to grow a relationship with Him by asking “why”. 

So why don’t we ask why? Most of the time it’s because of our own fears. We don’t want to ask any dumb questions, for if we do, people might think less of us. We fear that if we ask a question, we might not always get the answer we want. For the answer could cause a change in beliefs, tradition, a way of life and change can often be frightening to people. We might not want to change, so ignorance is bliss right? Not necessarily. 

SEEKING. My son is 1 year old, and he is already walking all over the place, and his curiosity is showing. When we walk with him into new places his eyes brighten up and has the biggest grin on his face and he starts to take off to explore to seek the unknown. 

It’s okay to ask others why but do we try ourselves first to find the answers? Or to find out more about God? Do we seek Him? We are blessed to be able to have our own copy of the Bible easily available to us whether it is a hard copy or even through a Bible app. We have the opportunity to read the Bible and find out answers to our “why” questions. With such availability God would want us, expect us, to seek the truth about His Word even though it might mean a change. 

So, I ask again why don’t we seek? We already talked about the fear of asking, so we won’t talk about fear, but in my opinion, I think we are lazy and don’t want to take the time. Now in general you might not be lazy, you might honestly have a busy schedule: work, kids, spouse, parents. You might get up and lay down once and fall asleep and then get up the next day and do it all over again. That’s not being lazy, however, it’s not putting God as a priority in your life, if you’re not trying to seek Him first. Matthew 6:33 says “But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added unto you.” If we are seeking first God’s kingdom, we will make time to be with Him and in His word. You can go to God with your family, make it family time. If you do that your kids will see you showing the importance of seeking God, and it will rub off on them if you continue on. So even in your busy schedule seek God, seek answers to your questions. 

KNOCKING. Whenever we leave the living room or try to use the bathroom, you better believe little Benji is going to be right behind you calling you back or knocking on the bathroom door until you let him in or you come out. Even if you are in a room for a long time he will just sit on the other side of the door banging on it every now and then just to remind you that he is waiting for your attention. Are we persistent when we wait for God? Are we patient while we ask Him to lead us in the way we ought to go? It’s easy to ask God to lead us or give us an answer but we want an answer right away. We want the doors to be either open or closed shut as soon as we knock, instead of waiting patiently. Think about it, if you go to someone’s house unexpectedly, do you just knock once and if they don’t answer the door right away you just leave? No, of course not! We knock again, we try the doorbell, and if we don’t hear the doorbell go off, we knock again and wait. God has a timing for everything; it just might not be as quick as we want. But the promise still is the door will be open.

So, why don’t we knock or rather keep knocking and waiting? I think sometimes we don’t want to knock at first. We might be afraid of what’s behind door number one. We might not want to walk through some of the doors. Like if God is calling you to be a minister, elder, teacher, etc. we might have this urge that we should do something, but we are comfortable in the room we are right now, so why even bother going to the door? I try to have the mentality of: if I see something is wrong or I know someone should fix something, then I should do it. Because God might be laying it on your heart to do something about it. We all have different skills, different perspectives of things so why don’t we act on it. For example, maybe you know of a church that needs a preacher, or the church you are at needs a deacon, elder, worship minister, youth minister, whatever and you think to yourself someone really needs to fill that role. Examine yourself and ask God “should I fill that role?” For instance, as a preacher or an elder you might see that you don’t quite fit the qualifications, and that’s okay. But how can you help out the church in times of need? Sometimes we just stop knocking all together because the door doesn’t open up fast enough for our liking, so we move down to the next door. Just because one door doesn’t open or a door closes, doesn’t mean God just wants you to give up, He might be saying “just hold on a bit, I’m still training you.” remember it’s all about God’s timing, not ours.

Be like a child and continue to ask, seek, and knock. Be curious in trying to learn more, be persistent and find the answer, be patient and wait for the door to open and see what God has instore for your life.

Why Does Evil Seem To Prevail?

Do you ever wonder why it seems like the wicked prosper more than the godly? Why it is that good things seem to happen more often to bad people? If so, you are not alone. Even in the Bible, you find people asking those questions and wondering if godliness really pays off in the end. If you read the 73rd psalm you will find one person’s struggle with this question.

Surely God is good to Israel, to those who are pure in heart. But as for me, my feet had almost slipped; I had nearly lost my foothold. For I envied the arrogant when I saw the prosperity of the wicked. Psalm 73:1-3

This is a psalm that can speak to many believers. We seek to serve God and be faithful to him. We invest time and resources in that service. And we try to make a positive difference in the world around us for the kingdom’s sake.

Then we look at our neighbors, co-workers, the celebrities on TV, sports or media stars; those who are making no attempt to please God. And yet they seem more blessed than us. Nicer cars. Bigger houses. Better vacations. And on and on. It is easy to envy their prosperity, and wonder if serving God really pays off.

That is where Asaph is when Psalm 73 begins. So much so that he had nearly fallen. Turning his back on God and following the example of the wicked. The wicked who seemed to have no worries. Free of the cares that seemed to plague him. Was it all in vain? Was there any value in maintaining a pure heart and personal innocence?

When I tried to understand all this, it troubled me deeply till I entered the sanctuary of God; then I understood their final destiny. Psalm 73:16-17 NIV

On the surface this didn’t seem right. It troubled Asaph. Why did the wicked prosper so?

But then he stopped to consider their destiny. And he realized that they were on the pathway to ruin. Their prosperity would not endure, but would be swept away. And all memory of their former prosperity would be like a dream. Something that is only remembered vaguely and elusively.

And then he realized the foolishness of his jealousy. Of envying those who endure but for a moment and then are gone. In the end what have they gained?

Yet I am always with you; you hold me by my right hand. You guide me with your counsel, and afterward you will take me into glory. Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. Psalm 73:23-26 NIV

Asaph realized that while good things might happen to bad people now, it will not continue. And while he might not enjoy some of the prosperity that this world cherishes today, he had something much greater. He had God’s presence to guide him. And not just for this life. In the end, when the wicked would be punished, he would be taken into glory. Into the very presence of God.

And once he realized that, he returned to God. There was nothing this earth had to offer that could top his relationship with God, both present and future. The wicked may prosper for a short time. But God was his portion forever.

As it was in the days of Asaph, so it is today. Not all of the wicked prosper. And not all believers suffer. But it is awfully easy to think that the wicked are in general better off in this world. We might well be tempted to envy the prosperity and lifestyle of the Hilton’s, the Kardashian’s, and many others in the rich and famous sect.

But don’t envy them. What they have is only passing. In the end their prosperity will be left behind. It will be only like a barely remembered dream. They deserve your pity rather than your envy.

Put your hope in God. He will always be with you. Now and through eternity. While your strength may fail you, His will not. When you don’t know the way, which way to turn, He does. Your road may not be smooth, but it will end in His rest.

And that should be sufficient. When tempted to envy what others have, consider their fate. Then consider the all-sufficient goodness of knowing God. Let your desire be for him alone.

In His Hands,

John – HE>i

(Devotional adapted from devotableapp.com)

Prayer & Fasting

Do you ever feel stuck spiritually? Maybe your life seems in a rut, and you have no idea how to grow. Maybe you are overwhelmed with the troubles that surround you and our Christian Nation? Maybe you have a loved one who is suffering with disease? You feel hopeless and stuck! So, what can you do?

God has provided us with many spiritual disciplines to help us get closer to Him and to seek His will and way in our lives, such as prayer and fasting.

In the Old Testament we find that God’s people often fasted and prayed in times of repentance and in times of great distress, recognizing they needed the deliverance that only God could give.

Jehoshaphat did this when a group of nations threatened to conquer Judah. The opposing army was vast, and only a miracle could keep Judah safe. Jehoshaphat was learning that the nation needed to turn back to God (2 Chronicles 18-19). So, the king declared a fast and led the people in prayer, saying, “Lord . . . we do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.” God then told the nation through a prophet that the battle was the Lord’s, and he would fight on their behalf.

As we humble ourselves before the Lord in prayer and fasting, God fights on our behalf in ways that we cannot even fathom. Powerful enemies self-destruct, and oppressive, unjust forces wither away. People may be healed, and churches will grow in unity and strength.

When we adopt habits of following Christ, through God’s power we can grow, serve, and praise the Lord again and again.

So, with that said, I’m declaring a weekly 24 hour day of prayer and fasting. On Wednesday’s, let’s eat breakfast, and then fast until breakfast time Thursday morning, if you are willing and your health allows. Let’s ban together as Christian brothers and sisters and let’s fast and pray for our families, community, churches and for our Nation and its leaders.

Father, “our eyes are on you.” You rule over all nations and over our hearts. Power and might are in your hands. We cry out to you to rescue and restore us. Amen.

In His Hands,

John – HE>i