He Keeps Me Singing

Sing to the Lord

God wants His children to sing! It is a fitting and beautiful thing when the redeemed, those made righteous by the blood of the Lamb, can’t help but to rejoice in their Lord with the God-given creation of singing and music! (Psalm 33:1-3)

But, what is it that keeps His people from singing? I don’t mean simply vocalizing through the mouth, but really singing and serving, with the power of God upon our voices and lives. Singing from the overflow of the joy of our salvation, and from the testimony of the Lord working in your life. Singing as the Lord opens your lips and allows you to truly show forth His praise. Serving the Lord with inner joy and gladness that comes from a heart of gratitude toward God and God-given love toward your neighbor. This kind of singing and serving does not happen by accident, and sadly, is not common in our modern churches, and homes, and lives today.

We can all “fake it.”

We have heard a lot lately about “fake news.” It’s becoming harder today to discern what is “fake” and what is real. In so many areas, the “artificial” is becoming so much like the “real” that it’s getting hard to discern. And so it can be in our “Christian” lives– fake singing, fake praying, fake serving, fake giving, fake teaching, fake preaching– just doing our job, what we’re suppose to do, without the power of God. And, sad to say, we can get pretty good at that.

What causes us as Christians to fall into this state? One cause is the same thing that caused David to “keep silent.” It is unconfessed sin. Listen to the words of David in Psalm 32, “When I kept silence, my bones waxed old through my roaring (groaning) all the day long. For day and night thy hand was heavy upon me:”

Have you ever been there? Are you there now? David, the great song writer and singer of Israel had been caught in the trap of sin, and he testifies that he “kept silent.” Sin will always keep us from truly rejoicing in our relationship with God, often expressed in song. Oh, we may go on “doing our thing” and living our days, but inwardly, toward God, we have become cold, hard, and silent. Aren’t you glad for the transparency God has given us in the lives of some of His greatest servants? So that we may be encouraged that we are not alone in our struggles? It’s one of the many reasons it’s so much better to saturate your mind with Scripture than with social media…

Like David, have you been caught in the trap of some sin? Maybe you are not presently. If so, thank God for helping you and ask Him to give you strength to press on for Him. But if you are caught, then you must not “keep silent.”

Our God, Who has given us the reason to sing as Christians, is also the One Who keeps us singing. Not only have we been given salvation through the blood of Jesus, but we have been given a wonderful promise that our transgressions can be forgiven and our sin covered! (Psalm 32:1) We must go to the Lord and confess our sin, admitting that we are guilty. We must forsake our sin, desiring to never come near it again with the Lord’s help. And then we must trust in our faithful God that He will keep His promises and will forgive us and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. And keep us singing.

It is a shame that so many Christians are continuing to “fake it,” “silently serving” through a life that’s defeated by some sin, when God has given us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

David pleads with the Lord in Psalm 51, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation; and uphold me with they free (willing) spirit.” Now watch this, “Then will I teach transgressors thy ways; and sinners shall be converted unto thee. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation; and my tongue shall sing aloud of thy righteousness. O Lord, open thou my lips: and my mouth shall show forth thy praise.” Isn’t God good to allow us to be forgiven through Jesus, and to continue serving Him!

Sin’s power is strong. No breathing Christian who’s desired a life of holiness for more than a few days would deny it. But God’s power is stronger. He has promised us victory. He wants us to be overcomers. He wants to use us in His service. Like David, let’s humbly ask for God’s forgiveness, getting our eyes off of ourselves, and trusting Him to keep His word. Then, as a good soldier, let’s pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off, and as He empowers us, keep singing to Him and for Him!

All my life was wrecked by sin and strife,
Discord filled my heart with pain.
Jesus swept across the broken strings;
Stirred the slumbering chords again.
Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, sweetest name I know.
Fills my every longing,
Keeps me singing as I go. 

-Luther B. Bridgers

All Days Eventually Come

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I recently had the opportunity to say a few words at our local homeschool graduation ceremony. Here is a portion of what I was able to share with the graduates and their families.

All days eventually do come.

For most of you, and possibly all of you, it seems like you have waited a very long time for your graduation from high school. A part of your journey is ending, and I’m sure you are greatly looking forward to the next one.

This is how life is– we live one day at a time– and eventually we do reach each milestone that we work towards and wait for (which can sometimes seem like forever!). Over the next few years you will find that life begins to seem to move faster and faster.

I hope that each of you graduates will find some quiet time in the next couple of days to reflect on where you now are in life. Take some time to talk to the Lord about where you have been, where are you are going. Most importantly, be sure you are on the road that He wants for you at this time.

We have just observed a beautiful ceremony. Each of you graduates are profoundly blessed, and you will realize this more in days ahead. I want to take just a minute to remind each graduate of the biblical principle that says– “to whom much is given, much will be required.”

Each of you has been given so much up to this point in your lives. You have received a quality education under the guidance of your loving parents– a profound gift. You are surrounded today by supportive family and friends who want to see you succeed in life. But again, to whom much is given, much will be required. Because you have been blessed so much, God expects you to take what you have been given and further invest it in the lives of others, and ultimately for God’s glory and His kingdom. And in this, you will find the greatest happiness and joy in life.

Yes, as we are reminded on a very special day like this, all days eventually do come. And while we certainly want to enjoy the journey, we must remember that as someone said, “Life is not all about the journey. The journey is all about the destination.” (J Bloom) What matters most is where you end up. Wisdom is always looking ahead, down the road, not just living for now. Each one of us is working our way towards the day when we will stand before our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, to give an account of how we invested the life that He gave to us. So as you celebrate this very exciting time, keep Him at the center of it all, and follow with your whole heart the road He has for you to travel. And though this narrow road is often hard, if God is truly your greatest treasure, you will end up gaining everything.

The LORD bless thee, and keep thee: The LORD make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The LORD lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace.

Learn to Do, or Do to Learn?

I had warned him…

I had told my friend that I had never played golf before, but he insisted that I join him for a round of 18 holes at a local high-class golf course. By the second hole, and after the numerous groups we had let bypass us, he knew he had made a mistake! I should have had at least a little training on a driving range before attempting an 18 hole course.

Often in life, this is the way it is. We must learn to do something before we can even begin to do it. We must have knowledge of the thing before we can perform it.

But this is not the way it always is with God.

Many times God calls us, not to “learn to do,” but to “do to learn.”

In 2 Peter 1:1 we read of the “like precious faith” that we have obtained in Christ. We then read a list of things beginning in verse five that we are told to add to our faith. It is interesting to note that God begins with faith– believing Him, trusting Him, looking unto Him. We are saved by faith. We walk by faith, live by faith.

The first thing in the list to add to our faith is virtue. This word virtue here actually means “valor” or “courage.” Then the next item in the list is knowledge. Isn’t it interesting that God does not list knowledge first, but faith and trust, and courage?

When God told Abraham to leave his homeland and journey out, He did not tell him anything. The only instruction given to Abraham was to “go,” and in Hebrews 11 we read that he simply obeyed what God said and, “went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise…” God expected Abraham to “do to learn.” He had to step out in obedience, though I’m sure he would have liked more information about God’s plan! Abraham passed the test and was truly blessed as God led him.

God’s people can often be hindered from obeying God because of feelings of ineptness or inadequacy. We feel that we cannot do this thing because we do not know how. We feel we have not learned enough or are not capable enough. There are others more knowledgable and much better at it. We must realize that when we choose to step out onto that seemingly dark, narrow, frightful path of God’s calling (the same path walked by countless followers of God throughout the ages!), simply taking the first steps of obedience to the clear leading of God in an area, He will give light along the way, and He will do the equipping. He will give the knowledge we need to do the job in His own timing.

Certainly there is a learning curve that must take place in any area God is calling us to. Yes, we must “learn to do” at some point. Teachers learn how to teach, mothers learn how to nurture, missionaries learn languages. But the truth is, often this learning takes place as we begin to obey the Lord in spite of our weaknesses and limitations. Fear of failure or discomfort should never stop us from stepping out in obedience and letting God begin His guiding and equipping.

This is the way God works– God calls, we demonstrate faith through our obedience (the “doing”), He equips (the “learning”), we give Him the glory, and our faith is strengthened.

Did you catch that? This amazing interweaving of the human and the divine?

God calls. I demonstrate faith through my obedience. God equips. My life bears fruit, and I give Him the glory. He strengthens my faith.

Then, what happens next?

He calls again. My faith is challenged again.

However, if we never step out of our comfort zone and demonstrate true faith in God by simple obedience, verse eight warns us that it is possible for a child of God to be “barren” and “unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” A spirit of fear and unbelief will lead to this dreadful testimony.

What work has God called you to– In the church? In the home? In the community? At the office? Across the street? Across the world? Whatever it is, don’t allow fear and lack of knowledge or inexperience to discourage you. By faith, obey God in whatever He has called you to. And then stand in awe of Him as He teaches you. Let’s learn to “do to learn!”

Preparing for the Meal

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My wife and family of eight children waited impatiently behind me as I inserted the key into the lock of our front door. A faint aroma teased my sense of smell. As we stepped into the front hallway, we were overtaken by the savory scent of roast beef, potatoes, and carrots cooking. (Hear a choir of audible “mmms” and “ahhs” here.) Very soon we would all sit down to eat our fill of a delicious meal that had been slow cooking while we were at church.

As we sat down to eat this feast, one of the family members could have asked himself, how did all of this deliciously cooked food come about? (Which I say completely for the sake of illustration. Because obviously at this point, the only priority is food entering our mouths rather than pondering philosophical questions entering our heads.) Did it just appear? (It’s about to disappear!) The obvious answer to the philosophical question is, of course not! Someone had to prepare it all, put together the correct ingredients, add seasonings, and get things started. In a home such as ours, it takes much ahead-of-time planning, preparation, and a mom’s constant call of “I need some helpers please!” to make this happen. You must prepare a meal before you can enjoy partaking of the meal.

Was the preparation really necessary? Was the hustle and bustle worth it? No, probably not. As long as we didn’t mind eating raw beef, cold, uncooked carrots, and crunchy, hard potatoes. No preparation, no yummy food. And believe me, in our household of eight children (three of them being constantly “starving” teenagers who, contrary to the evidence, can NEVER find anything in the house to eat), one assistant pastor and a church pianist, yummy food on a Sunday afternoon is very much needed!

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Our little Annalise Marie enjoying her favorite cereal, Rice Krispies. (June, 2016)

Now for the application. When we arrive at our church each service, do we expect to partake of a “delicious meal” in a spiritual sense? The Word of God is often compared to food. If a spiritual feast is going to take place, somebody has to be doing some preparation. You may think, “Yes, you’re right, the pastor should have been preparing to serve us some spiritual food.” This is true. But, we also have a responsibility to prepare. Of course you should prepare your own ministry of sharing God’s love and His Word through whatever ministry He has called you to bear fruit in, whether singing, teaching, counselling, giving and so on. But, not only should we all be preparing in a tangible sense (choir practice, lesson study, texting encouragement to a brother or sister in Christ), we should also prepare in a spiritual sense. We should prepare our hearts.

Ezra was a man in the Scriptures who had this testimony: “For Ezra had prepared his heart to seek the law of the LORD, and to do it, and to teach in Israel statutes and judgments.” (Ezra 7:10)

Notice the order of what Ezra did. He prepared his heart:

  1. to seek God through His Word.
  2. to obey what he learned God wanted of him.
  3. then to teach and minister to others what he had learned.

What a testimony God gives of this man! I want this testimony for my ministry! Notice that it does not say that Ezra had complete knowledge of all spiritual things. It simply states that his heart was ready to seek the Lord and to obey, and then to reach out in ministry.

When we step into the church building on Sunday, have we prepared our hearts ahead of the service? Have we added the proper ingredients into our lives in order for the Lord to serve others through us? We can often talk of spiritual things, but do we actually do them? Here are a few daily/weekly ingredients:

  1. Bible reading and meditation— allowing the Word of God to “slow cook” in our hearts through the week is one ingredient that will help us prepare to give (as well as to receive) a spiritual feast.
  2. Seeking God’s face— asking Him to work in the service, to take away any spirit of coldness from the congregation, and that He be glorified in all aspects. Asking for souls to be saved and rebels to have their hard hearts softened by the invading Holy Spirit upon them. And then stepping into the church building with great expectation for the day!
  3. Obedience– always a key ingredient. Prepare to obey. Recognize that as you are challenged by the preaching of God’s word, it is likely that steps of obedience will be required. These steps may sometimes be on the hard road of great faith.

Putting these ingredients into our lives can allow the Holy Spirit to serve through us in ways we cannot imagine.

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Our Thanksgiving breakfast table. (November, 2015)

Are we preparing for a delicious meal? Or, are we going to sit down with a heart grown cold? Draw near to God, add the proper ingredients to your daily walk with Him, prepare your heart, and then feast on the truth of God together with those you are serving!

Are You Prepared for Sunday?

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We’ve all been there: pull into the parking lot of the church 30 seconds before Sunday School. Plaster on a smile as you rush to get the kids and yourself to class. Where’s my Bible? Oh yeah, it’s in the car… better go get it. Wow, this shirt sure wrinkles quickly. Did anyone remember to turn of the iron at home? Camp registrations have to be turned in this morning? Totally forgot about that… guess I better fill them in now… Time to go to the choir room already. Where is my folder? I know I left it right here after choir practice last week. Oh, that’s right, I took it home to look over this week, ha, ha! I forgot to bring it back… I guess I’ll ask Joe if I can share his music. But I can never see the music when he holds it at that angle! Oh, we’re starting. Okay, here we go… 1,2 “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee…”

Sound familiar?! It can be difficult to worship and minister to others when it seems you are caught in a tornado! Is it just the inevitable Sunday morning routine, or can the chaos be avoided? Is it possible to arrive at church with a joyful heart, a genuine smile, ready to worship the Lord, and ready to be an encouragement to fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? It is often easy to forget that as we go to meet with the church, we should not only have our hearts prepared to worship the Lord together, but we are gathering with fellow believers with the intention to not only be ministered to, but to minister. This is a big goal for each Sunday. It is important that we work ahead in order to set ourselves up for the Lord to use us.

Here are a few practical tips that may help you be better prepared on Sunday:

Prepare on Saturday

If you never seem to have time to prepare on Saturday, then consider cutting down your activities on Saturday night. Listen to some godly music as you set clothes out, find pairs of shoes, or do some meal preparations. Prepare your heart for the Lord’s day just before you go to sleep on Saturday night. Instead of choosing an activity or entertainment that will keep the family up late, work to quiet your heart as you prayerfully consider the ministry He has for you the following morning.

Arrive at Church Early

Sunday morning may not be the best time to try to get some extra sleep! Save that for Sunday afternoon. When you arrive early you will have time to get your family settled, and take care of any last minute preparations.

Meditate Throughout the Week

If you are involved in the music or choir ministry, meditate on the choir special for that Sunday throughout the week. Post the words somewhere you will be often, or keep them on a notecard, or on your phone. If you are a Sunday School teacher, it might help to make the weekly lesson a part of your daily devotional time with God. Your heart will be more focused on the ministry God has given you when you have taken the time to internalize the message.

Be Right With the Lord

All the physical preparations in the world will not prepare you to minister if you are not prepared spiritually. Let your ministry on Sunday be an overflow of your walk with the Lord through the week!

The Unsurpassed Gift of Grace

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In the book of Luke, we have a beautiful account of a person who is completely overwhelmed by the grace of God in her life.

First, meet Simon. A Pharisee. A religious leader in his day. A man who had no concept of how spiritually sick he was.  Simon had invited Jesus to his home to eat with him. That was a good move on Simon’s part. He had invited Jesus in. Whatever Simon’s motive, he at least wanted to talk with him.

We are then introduced to another character who, uninvited, entered the home of Simon while they were eating. The brief description of this person is “a woman in the city, which was a sinner”. (Luke 7:37) Obviously, it was no secret who and what this woman was. But unlike Simon, she knew. She understood how great her need was. She knew how spiritually sick she was. And previously, she had no idea what kind of gracious God was seeking her.

This woman had lived a life of evil, wicked sin, and had a reputation. Simon the Pharisee knew her as soon as he saw her. Later, Jesus spoke of her sins, “which are many…” She had sinned and had brought others with her. But in this account, we don’t find her in sin. We find her at the feet of Jesus, not wooing and enticing, but weeping. She is not just crying, but truly weeping, as her tears of repentance and gratitude flow onto the feet of the Savior. Her long hair, once used for purposes of sin and seduction, are now being used to wipe the feet of her new Master. She is overwhelmed with emotion and begins to kiss His feet, then anointing Him with her sacrificial offering of the ointment she had brought with her.

When the self-righteous Pharisee sees this display take place in his own home, he is disgusted. He believes Jesus is unaware of the identity of this sinful woman who is making all this fuss over Him. Simon doesn’t understand that not only does Jesus fully know who this sinful woman is, He also fully knows who Simon is. He even knows what Simon is thinking. Jesus, in answer to Simon’s thoughts, begins to tell Simon a story. In the story, two debtors owe a creditor. One debtor owes the creditor a whole lot more than the other. The gracious creditor, when he sees that neither one could ever pay the debt they owed, freely forgave them both of their debts. Then Jesus asks the question to Simon, “Tell me therefore, which of them will love him most?” Simon answers, “I suppose that he to whom he forgave most.” He supposed correctly. Jesus then points out that the woman’s actions are tokens of true love for the Savior, which Simon had showed none of. She knew she had been forgiven of much, therefore she loved much. Self-sufficient Simon didn’t realize his own great need of forgiveness, and so, he loved little.

The grace of God is glorified in this unlikely object. Who would have thought that a woman such as this would now become a daughter of the King? Yes, she had provoked the Lord to wrath with her sins. Yet, she is now the object of amazing grace! What good news that our Lord is a Savior Who will “eat and drink with publicans and sinners” (Luke 5:30) that He is “a friend of publicans and sinners” (Luke 7:34) that “this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.”

Are you in desperate need of forgiveness? If so, this truth should be a great comfort to your heart! God has often reached down into the sewage of sin and brought out the filthiest of sinners. They too have been forgiven and cleansed by the blood of Jesus, and made to live righteous and godly lives! The truth is, whether we see ourselves in Simon, or in the “woman of the city,” we are ALL in desperate need of forgiveness, for we ALL have sinned and come short of the glory of God. But, the unsurpassed gift of the grace of God, through Jesus the Son, was made known to us, just as it was at some point to this sinful woman, and we also believed in the Only Begotten for forgiveness.

When we see the exceeding sinfulness of our sin, we are overwhelmed with the boundless, amazing grace of God! However, when we forget how terribly sinful we really are, our love for the Savior grows cold. There sits Simon the Pharisee, feeling pretty good about himself. Yet, the grace of God has found this sinful woman of the city, and not him. Simon does not see himself as an object of the wrath of God. He is trusting in his own life lived in a very “good” way. The Bible says, “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound.”

At the end of the account, Jesus says to her, “Thy sins are forgiven thee.” Think of that. How shocked Simon must have been to hear Jesus say those words to her! But what those same words must have done for her broken and contrite soul! The gracious Savior doesn’t stop there. He then says to her, “Go in peace.” How these words of grace to the former sinful woman of the city should stir all those who have found the very same unsurpassed gift of forgiveness and grace in the very same wonderful Savior. May Jesus Christ be forever loved and praised by the unworthy objects of His amazing grace!

Dressing for the Eyes of God

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What if, during a Sunday morning service, a man came barging through the doors of our church and began to loudly use profanity! Of course, nobody would allow such an act in one of our services. While this example may seem a bit extreme, something takes place in many churches every week that can be just as much of a distraction from what God is wanting to accomplish in His service– a woman’s immodest dress.

Ladies, it is a sin to dress immodestly. And may God help us not to bring immodesty into the very meeting place where we gather together to win the lost and encourage one another in purity and godly living!

Satan is very deceptive. God gives us the truth and Satan contradicts His truth. God says that women should “adorn themselves in modest apparel” (1 Tim. 2:9). Satan then questions what immodest apparel really is. He also sets the world before us with example after example of terribly immodest apparel, so that the immodest apparel some choose doesn’t seem all that immodest any longer in comparison.

Some may ask, “What is the definition of modest clothing?” Here is a question for anyone struggling with that question– why are you struggling with this question? Are you trying to get as close to the line of sin as possible? Are you dressing to please the eyes of men or the eyes of God? If you are dressing to please God, then I don’t think this really becomes an issue any longer. The choice then automatically becomes one that is nowhere near the line of sin. Our dress standards will be right because we have a right view of God. We will wear nothing that has a question mark hanging over it.

Is a lady to blame for her immodest dress? Yes. But I believe there are others at whose feet the blame should be cast as well. If a wife (or daughter) who is dressing improperly has a husband (or father) who calls himself a Christian, as the leader of the home, he is the one who is accountable. While some women may not be completely aware of how men are affected by a woman’s immodesty, men are certainly aware of it! Men, be sure your wife and daughters are dressing for the eyes of God. Take the lead in your home. You will gain a new respect from her as she sees your love and concern for her, and for the work of the Lord.

Who else is to blame? With all due respect, I believe “aged” women in our churches are also to blame. God has set forth an important ministry in Titus 2, “The aged women likewise… That they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste… that the word of God be not blasphemed.” Dear older saint, please remember that God has given you the responsibility of a teaching ministry to those younger women of your church. The next time you see someone in the church dressing inappropriately, instead of gossiping about her, maybe you should ask yourself if you are partly to blame, and then kindly and lovingly speak to her about it. There may be some who have never had a good example to follow and need you to help them. While some will not listen, you may be surprised who will.

This issue is a concern for many church leaders today. Most of God’s children are not intentionally trying to hinder the work of the Lord. Most Christian ladies do not put on a certain outfit with the intention of distracting a lost soul or placing a stumbling block before a fellow believer. But when we catch ourselves dressing for the eyes of men rather than God, we can become exactly what we never intended to be– a tool of Satan. Have a humble, godly attitude toward this serious issue, and make necessary changes in order to be an effective tool for God.

God loves you dear lady! Be a shining example of a beautiful daughter of the King. Let Him have His way with thee!

Waiting on God

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All days eventually come! Do you remember waiting for a special day in your life that had not yet come, but was approaching, such as your wedding day or graduation day? An event may seem far off in the hazy future. (Especially in our younger years. I’ve just passed the 40 milestone and the years are speeding up!) We count down the days, hours, even minutes. But the day eventually does take place. All days eventually do come.

For unto you is born this day.
On a certain evening on a quiet hillside, a group of shepherds sat watching their sheep, doing the normal everyday things they had been doing for a long time, expecting nothing more than what they had always experienced. Suddenly startled by an angel, they heard the completely unexpected announcement that “unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the LORD.” Wow! THIS day! An event that God had promised, an event they had believed would one day come– the coming of the Jewish Messiah– had come! That very night, the day had come. The Savior was born! How exciting to have been present when the day of the first coming of the Savior finally came. The faith of the shepherds transformed into sight on that day.

Mine eyes have seen thy salvation.
Eight days after the Savior was born, Joseph and Mary brought the baby Jesus into the temple, to go through the processes of the Jewish law that were required of them. A man by the name of Simeon also came into the temple that day, directly led of the Holy Spirit. We are told that he was a just and devout man, with the Holy Spirit of God upon him. The Holy Spirit miraculously revealed to him that this baby was the Christ, the Savior that God had promised he would see with his own eyes before he died. Taking the baby up in his arms, he glorified God and said, “Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.” The faith of Simeon was transformed into sight on that day.

Waiting.
Before the account of Simeon seeing the newly born Savior of the world, the Bible says in Luke 2:25 that Simeon had been, “waiting for the consolation of Israel”; for the coming of the Messiah. I wonder how long he had been waiting? We are not told how long it had been from the time God promised Simeon that he would see the Christ child until it came to pass. It appears he had been waiting a long time, and was toward the end of his life when his faith was made sight, since he stated that the Lord, having kept His promise, could now let him depart in peace. He had probably waited many years for this day.

What about those shepherds to whom the angels appeared? After going and seeing that which had been made known to them, they went about telling the news of what had happened and what they had seen, obviously overwhelmed with excitement! The Bible says, “And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.” But I have often thought, then what? What did the shepherds do then? After the night of excitement and amazement, then what? Well, they were back to, you guessed it, waiting. Again.

Joseph kept his little family in Bethlehem for two years, until God told him to take them by night and run to Egypt, as Herod was preparing to kill the babies of Bethlehem in his savage efforts to destroy this perceived threat to his rule. What would the shepherds have thought after this event? Was the child killed with all of the others in Bethlehem? Where did Joseph and Mary go? Time went by– a year, five years, ten years, thirty years– I think of how their faith must have been tested in what had been told to them.

Where is faith found? In the mountaintop experiences when we see God’s hand obviously at work? No. At least, not so much. Faith is found in waiting. God promises. We believe His promises. And we wait. Like Simeon and the shepherds, we wait for our faith to be made sight, no matter the circumstances of our lives. We don’t always understand the events that take place during our times of waiting on God. We don’t understand why God would take so long to keep His promises to us. We don’t like waiting! Especially not in America, where we are used to modern conveniences such as microwaves, fast cars, and instant information about anything we want at our fingertips.  “Have it your way right away.” But, it is in the process of waiting that God is working, and that is where our faith in Him is found. Our all-knowing God does things in ways that are not our ways, and His timetable is not ours. We must trust Him during the waiting. The Bible tells us in 2 Peter 3:8-10, “… one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slack (delayed, tardy) concerning his promise … but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance. But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night…”

Waiting on God to keep His promises is nothing new with God and His relationship to His people. Think of Abraham, promised by God that he would be the father of many nations, yet had no child. And God didn’t give him a child until he and his wife were well past child bearing years– Abraham was over one hundred years old! For us, looking back, it’s easy to say, “They should have believed God.” But, can you imagine day after day, week after week, years turning into decades… “God? About this promise?”

God told Noah that a flood would come, and then gave him instructions on what to do to prepare. Noah simply obeyed in faith, and approximately one hundred and twenty years later, the flood came, just as God had said it would. Did you get that? One hundred and twenty years! There is no record that God told him when the flood would come. Maybe it was just after he and his sons finished building the ark, and maybe it was long after. The Bible says they simply went into the ark when the Lord told them to. I’m sure Noah’s faith was strong on day 1 of building the ark. He had just received a promise from God Himself! But what about on day 36,500?! Years becoming decades, and still no flood. Just faith, in the waiting.

What is it in your life that you are waiting on God for? What promises have you claimed from God’s Word that you believe God for? Be assured that though the battle goes on and the waiting may seem long, the promises are sure, and God is going to keep His word! Have faith in God like Simeon, Abraham, Noah, and countless others in this great cloud of witnesses who have gone before us. Though they had to wait, their faith was eventually made sight. Let us pick up our cross on this narrow road to which Jesus has called us, believing the promises He has made to us, serving Him as we wait on the fulfilling of His promises.

We live between the two comings of Jesus. We look back on His first coming, and we look forward to His second coming, believing when He says, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:1-3) As all days eventually do, one day this day will come. What joy will be in our hearts if we have lived in faith, preparing for the promises to be fulfilled, patiently waiting for our faith to be transformed into sight!

Personal Time With God

Praying hands on an open bible

God is working. And if you are a true child of God, bought by the precious blood of Jesus Christ, God Himself desires to have a close relationship with you. He also desires to use you and me for His great work. It is very hard for me to believe that God would use me for His work on this earth. But, it is the truth! We must remember though that it is His work, not ours. We must remember that we can do all things through Christ, but without Christ, we are nothing. Our first work each day should be to submit to the Lord in a spirit of meekness, allowing Him to use our mortal bodies for the work that only He can do through us. We must stay in tune with God, every single day.

In order for that to happen, we must spend time with Him every day. Of course we should talk to God anytime and anywhere, but what a help and beneficial discipline it is to have a regular time and place we dedicate every day to spending time alone with God, in communication with Him. This is vital to a truly effective and Spirit-filled life of enjoying the Lord, pleasing the Lord, and ministering to others.

1. When? A Regular Time. David, the one the Bible calls a man after God’s own heart, spoke much of  spending time with God in the morning. (Psalm 5:3; 59:16; 88:13; 143:8) The morning is the beginning of a new day. Your mind is rested and clear. Whatever time of day you choose, it is important that it be a regular time. We are creatures of habit, and having that special, regular time devoted to being with God is important in causing it to happen every day.

2. Where? A Regular Place. Is there a special place in your mind where you are physically located when you spend time in fellowship with God? If not, I encourage you to find such a place. Going to that same location each day helps in getting into the good habit of spending time with God. This will become a very sacred and special place to you.

3. How Often? Every Day! We fight spiritual battles every day. The enemy does not take a day off. Let’s arm ourselves daily.

4. What Do You Do? Read your Bible and let God speak to you through His Word. Pray and speak to Him. Sing and make melody in your heart to the Lord. Memorize Scripture. Be still. Shut the things of the world out for a few moments and let God speak to you.

May I encourage you to take time to turn off the cell phone, walk away from the computer screen, turn off the music, turn off the television, close your door, and communicate with God each day. Your personal time with Him is a time of replenishment, restoration, receiving orders, remembrance, and rest. Don’t neglect it!

Surround Yourself With Truth

Spiritual Warfare

Hey there, friend! Have you forgotten that you are in a battle today? No, I don’t mean with your spouse! I mean with the very devil himself. I mean with your sinful flesh that Satan likes to so easily “beset” you with. It is very easy to forget that we are fighting, every day, against lies from the enemy. We are in a war of truth against lies (John 8:44), and even now the devil wants you to believe his lies. He wants you to mess up. He wants to ruin your testimony and your good work for Him. He is seeking your destruction, ultimately because he hates the One you serve.

It is certainly not pleasant to think that there is one who constantly works to see your life, family, and testimony destroyed, but it is so very necessary in order to have the victory. And remember, victory for the Christian is promised! However, the individual who doesn’t even know he is in a battle is in a pretty pitiful position.

So how do we fight the devil’s lies in our lives? We need to recognize the lies for what they are, and then we need to fight back with the truth. What is the truth? Jesus is the Truth. (John 14:6) The Holy Spirit is the “Spirit of truth.” (John 16:13) The Word of God is the truth. (John 17:17) God and His Word are truth, and anything that contradicts God or what He has said is a lie. So the battle has been set and it is raging, whether you know it or not. The enemy is Satan. The battlefield is your mind. The enemy’s weapons are sin, deception, and lies. The Christian’s weapons are the Word of God and the shield of faith in the truth of God.

The enemy has a strategy;  so should the Christian. One way we can fight is to surround ourselves with truth.

Practical ways to surround yourself with truth:

1. Read God’s Word every day. Let it be the first thing you do when you get up and the last thing you do before you go to sleep. Keep your Bible beside your bed at night.

2. Be accountable to someone each day. It may be your spouse, a good friend, a parent, or a pastor. We need each other in this battle! Be accountable to someone specifically in the areas where you know the enemy can easily get to you.

3. Post verses everywhere you are. Throughout your house, at work, at school, even in your car– let the Word of God be physically seen everywhere! Place verses on the refrigerator, on the bathroom mirror, and as your computer password. Choose verses that are specific to lies you battle personally.

4. Memorize the word of God throughout the day. Carry verse cards in your pocket. Post verses on your social media pages. Keep it before you all day long.

5. Get rid of anything in your life that is ungodly and replace it with things that are godly. It has been said, you can’t prevent a bird from flying over your head but you can keep it from building a nest in your hair! Make no provision for the flesh. David said, “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes.” (Psalm 101:3)

What other ways can you think of to surround yourself with truth?