“So, I said, ‘The Philistines are ready to march against us at Gilgal, and I haven’t even asked for the Lord’s help!’ So I felt compelled to offer the burnt offering myself before you came.” “How Foolish!” Samuel exclaimed. “You have not kept the command the Lord your God gave you. Had you kept it, the Lord would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom must end, for the Lord has sought out a man after his own heart. The Lord has already appointed him to be the leader of his people, because you have not kept the Lord’s command.” 1 Samuel 13:12-14 NLT
How many times am I like King Saul and try to do things in my own strength? Instead of having a humble and repentant spirit like David.
“O Lord, don’t rebuke me in your anger or discipline me in your rage! You arrows have struck deep, and your blows are crushing me. Because of your anger, my whole body is sick; my health is broken because of my sins…I am exhausted and completely crushed. My groans come from an anguished heart. You know what I long for, O Lord; you hear my every sigh.” Psalms 38:1-3,9-10 NLT
In Acts I read about another Saul. One that God chose, even though he was far from him. Maybe God knew that his heart could be softened like Davids. It took blindness to get Saul’s attention. Sometimes in my own life I am blind to what is paralyzing me. I forget I am chosen, like Saul was. I am encouraged by God’s constant pursuit of him. And the impact he made for the kingdom. When I want to give up praying for someone, this reminds me that no one is too far gone. God didn’t give up on Saul. He saw him for what he was becoming, not who he was.
“But the Lord said, “Go, for Saul is my chosen instrument to take my message to the Gentiles and to kings, as well as the people of Israel. And I will show him how much he must suffer for my name’s sake.” So Ananias went and found Saul. He laid hands on him and said , “Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus, who appeared to you on the road, has sent me so that you might regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” Instantly something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes, and he regained his sight. Then he got up and was baptized. Afterward he ate some food and regained his strength… And immediately he began preaching about Jesus in the synagogues, saying, ”He is indeed the Son of God!” All who heard him were amazed. “Isn’t this the same man who caused such devastation among Jesus’ followers in Jerusalem?” they asked. “And didn’t he come to arrest them and take them in chains to the leading priests?” Saul’s preaching became more and more powerful, and the Jews in Damascus couldn’t refute his proofs that Jesus was indeed the Messiah.” Acts 9:15-22 NLT
Lord, Thank you for never giving up on me. For your grace, mercy and forgiveness. I desire to have a heart that searches after you. Amen.
Do you believe in coincidences? Many times in our lives what look like chance encounters end up being life-changing events. There’s an interesting movie entitled, “Sliding Doors”. It has to do with two alternative outcomes depending on whether a woman gets on a train or has to wait for the next one. This simple choice — and the movie plays out both options — shows what happens by just that one tiny choice.
Ruth 2 has an interesting “throw away” line, “3 So she set out and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers, and she happened to come to the part of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the clan of Elimelech.” The author of this short book treats this chance encounter as a coincidence. Yet, it starts of a chain of events that results in the unbroken lineage in the ancestry of Jesus. What seemed like a chance decision or happenstance ended up being one of the most important events in human history.
Have you had something like this happen in your life? I can see in mine events that seemed unrelated being life-changing and subsequently life changing for millions of people. Not because of my choices, but because of what God has done in the circumstances of my life. Look back over the history of your life. Can you find at least one of these sliding door moments that has changed your path or those of others that has made an eternal difference in God’s kingdom?
Whenever I start feeling that God no longer sees me and from time to time, hears me, I love the stories of the Old Testament that show God has a long-term plan in place. Samson is such a story.
“A prophet who looked like an angel of God came and talked to me. I was so frightened, that I didn’t even ask where he was from. He didn’t tell me his name, but he did say that I’m going to have a baby boy. I’m not supposed to drink any wine or beer or eat any food forbidden by God’s laws. Our son will belong to God for as long as he lives.” – Judges 13:6-7 CEV
I know that God has an agenda – He wants to love people and bring them to Him – I know that because He loved me right into His Kingdom.
The Lord sets prisoners free
and heals blind eyes.
He gives a helping hand
to everyone who falls.
The Lord loves good people
and looks after strangers.
He defends the rights
of orphans and widows,
but destroys the wicked. – Psalm 146:7-9 CEV
Why else would He send Jesus, His Son, to die for me? And so when those doubts cross my mind, like they find a way to do and I feel that I am not seen or heard, I remember Jesus and what He did for me. More importantly, I remember that He rose from the dead and that His Spirit is in me and I am never left alone.
But Jesus said, “Why are you so frightened? Why do you doubt? Look at my hands and my feet and see who I am! Touch me and find out for yourselves. Ghosts don’t have flesh and bones as you see I have.” – Luke 24:38-39
Lord, I know You see me and hear me – always. I have no idea why such doubt crosses my mind from time to time but I am thankful they do not take complete control over me. Thank you for Your Word – it always changes me and brings me to a place of healing and holds me safe. I love You for loving me so much.
“The Israelites were in great distress. Finally, they cried out to the Lord for help, saying, “We have sinned against you because we have abandoned you as our God and have served the images of Baal.” The Lord replied, “Did I not rescue you from the Egyptians, the Amorites, the Ammonites, the Philistines, the Sidonians, the Amalekites, and the Maonites? When they oppressed you, you cried out to me for help, and I rescued you. Yet you have abandoned me and served other gods. So I will not rescue you anymore. Go and cry out to the gods you have chosen! Let them rescue you in your hour of distress!” But the Israelites pleaded with the Lord and said,”We have sinned. Punish us as you see fit, only rescue us today from our enemies.” Then the Israelites put aside their foreign gods and served the Lord. And he was grieved by their misery.” Judges 10:9-16 NLT
What other gods am I following? Sometimes good things can turn into idols if I am not careful. Before I know it my focus is on them and off of the one who graciously gives them to me.
“As they led Jesus away, a man named Simon, who was from Cyrene, happened to be coming in from the countryside. The soldiers seized him and put the cross on him and made him carry it behind Jesus. A large crowd trailed behind, including many grief-stricken women.” Luke 23:26-27 NLT
I reflect on the things in my life that have over-shadowed the cross.
“But Jesus’ friends, including the women who had followed him from Galilee, stood at a distance watching.” Luke 23:49 NLT
The women followed Jesus all the way to the cross. “The more we follow Jesus, the more we fall in love with Him, want to obey Him, experience life with Him, and become a beacon of light to others through Him. Will following Him be inconvenient? Maybe. Will it cost us in ways that stretch us? Sometimes. Does it force us to live life with a less self-centered outlook? Yes. Does living to follow Jesus at every turn bring joy that we can’t get any other way? Absolutely. Following Him is the very thing our souls were created to do. And it is the most daily way to discover our purpose in life.” (Embraced Devotional, Lysa TerKeurst)
“As his body was taken away, the women from Galilee followed and saw the tomb where his body was placed.” Luke 23:55 NLT
They wanted to be near him.
“I have followed your commands, which keep me from following cruel and evil people. My steps have stayed on your path; I have not wavered from following you. I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God. Bend down and listen as I pray. Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways. By your mighty power you rescue those who seek refuge from their enemies. Guard me as you would guard your own eyes. Hide me in the shadow of your wings.” Psalms 17:4-8 NLT
Dear Father, please forgive me for putting other things before you. Thank you for your grace and mercy. For your presence. To you be the glory. Amen.
“Then Jesus said, “What is the Kingdom of God like? How can I illustrate it? It is like a tiny mustard seed that a man planted in a garden; it grows and becomes a tree, and the birds make nests in its branches.” Luke 13:18&19 NLT
He also asked, “What else is the Kingdom of God like? It is like the yeast a woman used in making bread. Even though she put only a little yeast in three measures of flour, it permeated every part of the dough.” Luke 13:20 NLT
As I prepare my heart for Easter, I think about God’s Kingdom coming to earth. Humble beginnings. The obedience of Jesus. Even with the knowledge of his death, he pressed on…
“Jesus went through the towns and villages, teaching as he went, always pressing on toward Jerusalem.” Luke 13:22 NLT
Moses, the man who once couldn’t find the words, lead the children of Israel with a song. He reminded them of God’s faithfulness.
“Listen, O heavens, and I will speak! Hear, O earth, the words that I say! Let my teaching fall on you like rain; let my speech settle like dew. Let my words fall like rain on tender grass, like gentle showers on young plants. I will proclaim the name of the Lord; how glorious is our God! He is the Rock; his deeds are perfect. Everything he does is just and fair. He is a faithful God who does no wrong; how just and upright he is!” Deuteronomy 32:1-4 NLT
Moses was called Israel’s greatest prophet, but his disobedience kept him from entering the Promised Land.
“Then the Lord said to Moses, “This is the land I promised on oath to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob when I said, ‘I will give it to your descendants. ‘I have now allowed you to see it with your own eyes, but you will not enter the land.” So Moses, the servant of the Lord, died there in the land of Moab, just as the Lord had said.” Deuteronomy 34:4&5 NLT
Sometimes God wants my obedience, even when I can’t see the results.
“There has never been another prophet in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. The Lord sent him to perform all the miraculous signs and wonders in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh, and all his servants, and his entire land. With mighty power, Moses performed terrifying acts in the sight of Israel.” Deuteronomy 34:10-12 NLT
Dear Father, Help me to be more concerned about building your kingdom, instead of my own. Thank you for making a way to you through your death on the cross. Give me eyes to see glimpses of your glory everyday. Amen.
“But I trust in your unfailing love. I will rejoice because you have rescued me. I will sing to the Lord because he is good to me.” Psalms 13:5 NLT
“These are the journeys of the children of Israel, who went out of the land of Egypt by their armies under the hand of Moses and Aaron. Now Moses wrote down the starting points of their journeys at the command of the Lord. And these are their journeys according to the starting points: They departed from the Ramesus in the first month, on the fifteenth day of the first month; on the day of the Passover the children of Israel went out with boldness in the sight of all the Egyptians” Numbers 33:1-3 NKJV
The Israelites were on their way to the Promised Land. I imagine Moses writing about their struggles, hardships, faith or lack there of. “They departed”…What old ways am I still holding onto that could be leaving me stuck? I think about times that I can get complacent. I read over my journal entries and my hope is renewed over God’s faithfulness. Sometimes I have to look back to be able to move forward.
“Plead my cause, O Lord, with those who strive with me; Fight against those who fight against me. Take hold of shield and buckler, And stand up for my help. Also draw out the spear, And stop those who pursue me. Say to my soul, “I am your salvation.” Psalms 35:1-3 NKJV
David cried out to God to make right the wrongs committed against him. Things that could have hindered him, he gave to God instead and found freedom.
“And my soul shall be joyful in the Lord; It shall rejoice in His salvation. All my bones shall say, “Lord, who is like You, Delivering the poor from him who is too strong for him, Yes, the poor and the needy from him who plunders him?” Psalms 35:9&10 NKJV
As I prepare my heart for Easter, I pray that I would be filled with wonder over what Jesus did for me.
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled. And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight. And the rough places smooth; And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” Luke 3:4-6 NKJV
Dear Father, thank you for the victory I have in you. I pray for others who don’t know you, to know how much you love them. Enough to die on the cross for their sins. Thank you that you will complete the work you started in me. Amen.
For some reason I have been drawn to the New Testament passages in this year’s readings. This one is particularly touching and profound to me. And this passage in Luke’s Gospel not only speaks to the birth of Jesus, but also His crucifixion. Also we have a grandson Simeon and I do think his parents named him that with this passage in mind. And before he was even born this passage always has brought tears to my eyes. It’s a great passage for Christmas and for this Lenten season.
25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon, and this man was righteous and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him. 26 And it had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. 27 And he came in the Spirit into the temple, and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him according to the custom of the Law, 28 he took him up in his arms and blessed God and said,
29 “Lord, now you are letting your servant depart in peace, according to your word;
30 for my eyes have seen your salvation
31 that you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
and for glory to your people Israel.”
33 And his father and his mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 And Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, “Behold, this child is appointed for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and for a sign that is opposed 35 (and a sword will pierce through your own soul also), so that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” (Luke 2:25-35 [ESV])
Simeon had been told that he would not die till he saw the salvation of the Lord. Till he had seen the Messiah and here Jesus was. And Simeon said he could depart in peace because the greatest thing in the world had just happened to him. Wow! What an experience. He held and dedicated the God of the universe. What a privilege.
Then he mad a profound statement to Mary. That a sword would pierce Mary’s soul because of this little one. And 33 years later we see Mary standing at the foot of the cross and in torment she watches Jesus die for her and for us all.
What are you waiting for this Lenten season? Is Jesus on your list? You know that in Revelation 7 the Apostle John views heaven and sees people from ever tongue trip and nation standing around the throne of God. There are presently 3,200 people groups that would have no representative in heave if Jesus came back today. So there is still much to do before He returns. What are you doing to hasten His return today?