“I will do this to recapture the hearts of the people of Israel” (Ezekiel 14:5).
As I pray each day for my granddaughter, I also pray for the people that will touch her life. I pray for her future friends, caregivers, teachers, beaus, bosses and coworkers, and the man that she will one day marry. I pray that they will be people who love the Lord, have a passion for His will and will help her achieve God’s purpose in her life. I always ask Him to surround her with godly people. But I know that there will be people who will come into her life that will not be godly. They are what I call “sandpaper people” – gritty and abrasive people who rub us the wrong way. I’ve had more than a few of them cross my path and I image you have too. They are the people who frustrate and annoy us, who take advantage of us, fail to keep their word, who lie and who take more than they give. They hurt us, mistreat us, abandon us and yes, even abuse us. They make life hard and painful. But they are there for a purpose. For what does sandpaper do? It smooths the rough surface. Likewise sandpaper people are God’s tool for smoothing off our rough edges.
God used some of those sandpaper people to scrape off judgment and arrogance. He placed some of them in my life to rub off selfishness and to remove my “victim mentality.” He used some of them to sand out my attitude of self-righteousness. And He used them to teach me humility, kindness, generosity, compassion, patience, and forgiveness. Through them He opened a tiny window into His amazing grace. He taught me about prayer – oh how I learned to pray about some of these abrasive and hurtful people – for me and for them. He also taught me about discernment and wisdom, for some of those people were there because I foolishly invited them in. He exploded my understanding about His unconditional love, then asked me to be a conduit of that love into other’s lives. Let me tell you, when God uses you to love someone to Christ, you will never consider another soul as a “hopeless mess.” I confess that I complained – a lot and loudly – about some of the people who rubbed me the wrong way – but every one of them taught me something God wanted me to know and each one left an indelible mark on my life – some imprints of grace and forgiveness, some scars of wisdom, and some cracks in the wall I had built around my heart.
Beloved, who has God brought into your life that you sometimes wish wasn’t there? Can you look at them through His eyes? Maybe they are the very ones He is using to remove something that keeps you from fulfilling His purpose for your life. Maybe they are there to teach you some valuable lessons about grace, compassion, forgiveness or discernment. They may be in your life so that you can love them to Jesus—or so that you can become more like Jesus. Ask God what He’s up to in your life and in theirs. Not every relationship is going to be sunshine and roses – some people will bring on the rain. But rain makes the roses grow and their fragrance is a sweet aroma. Above all remember – every person – even the one who rubs you the wrong way – is a soul God loves and Jesus died to save. That’s reason enough to love them.
I was reading an article the other morning. In this article, the author made the argument that much of what is determined to be faith by some is not actually faith, but is more of a blind belief in something. He went on to write that the Biblical Hebrew word for faith, “Emunah,” actually means, “Reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, steadiness.”
This really made me stop and think. As I meditated on his words, I began to question my own idea of faith. Did I believe blindly? Is my faith a true faith or is it more wishful thinking – a blind belief in something with no eternal value? Or…Is my faith relying on, trusting in, depending on, and being steadfast in the Lord?
After much pondering, I then turned my thoughts towards the nature of his argument. Shouldn’t all faith be blind? After all, the Bible says to trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not to your own understanding (Proverbs 3:9.) Don’t get me wrong, if someone’s so-called faith is based on nothing more than the outcome of their personal desires, then that would be wishful thinking.
Ah-haaa… wishful thinking equates to a blind belief in something that has no eternal value.
In the end I realized that this guy and I may not necessarily be on the same sheet of music even though we, for the most part, were playing the same song. Faith is a reliance on, a trust in, a dependence on and steadfastness in the Lord and His promises. Faith is not wishful thinking nor is it trying to make God move to our own individual drum beat. Faith is never blind; faith is moving forward in the things of God with our eyes wide open.
Consider the following words from the Bible concerning faith. “But our way is not that of those who shrink back to destruction, but [we are] of those who believe [relying on God through faith in Jesus Christ, the Messiah] and by this confident faith preserve the soul. Now faith is the assurance (title deed, confirmation) of things hoped for (divinely guaranteed), and the evidence of things not seen [the conviction of their reality—faith comprehends as fact what cannot be experienced by the physical senses].” (Heb 10:39; 11:1 AMP). By a true faith – Reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, steadiness – in God, we too will frame our world just as our elders framed their world. Be blessed.
Therefore, since the promise of entering his rest still stands, let us be careful that none of you be found to have fallen short of it.For we also have had the good news proclaimed to us, just as they did; but the message they heard was of no value to them, because they did not share the faith of those who obeyed.Now we who have believed enter that rest, just as God has said,
“So I declared on oath in my anger, ‘They shall never enter my rest.
And yet his works have been finished since the creation of the world.For somewhere he has spoken about the seventh day in these words: “On the seventh day God rested from all his works.”And again in the passage above he says, “They shall never enter my rest.”
The warning continues in this text, but now the warning is building up to something wonderful. The “promise” of entering His rest still stands. Needless to say, this is sometimes a source of confusion; what exactly is this “rest” that still stands? In the original Old Testament context, the “rest” was the Promised Land, but it was also the Sabbath. Now, there seems to be another context taking shape: What’s going on?
Whatever is going on, we still have that hope somehow, and we need to be careful that we don’t fall away from God before we get there. Now our author adds the rest and the Sabbath. So is the Sabbath as promise? Some say so, but last time I checked, it wasn’t a promise, it was a Commandment! In fact, it’s one of the 10 Commandments, but unlike the other 9, Jesus didn’t re-assert this one in the Gospels: Why? Because it was the sign of the Old Covenant, just as circumcision is the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant; neither are in force now. And yet, there is still a rest for the people of God…?
Therefore since it still remains for some to enter that rest, and since those who formerly had the good news proclaimed to them did not go in because of their disobedience,God again set a certain day, calling it “Today.” This he did when a long time later he spoke through David, as in the passage already quoted:
“Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts.”
There it is again! There is still a “rest” that we might enter into, and we need to ensure that our hearts aren’t hardened into disbelief, or we might miss out. I don’t know about you, but I think this is really cool… and great fun! What could he mean?
For if Joshua had given them rest, God would not have spoken later about another day.There remains, then, a Sabbath-rest for the people of God;for anyone who enters God’s rest also rests from their works, just as God did from his.Let us, therefore, make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will perish by following their example of disobedience.
Again the promise, again the warning- and more clues. Joshua led the people into the Land, Moses had given them the Law, and still centuries later, David spoke of another “rest” and the disobedience of old. Hebrews has several instances where the Old Testament is said to contain “shadows” that are pictures of the glorious reality to come in Christ, and this is the first one of them, even though the author hasn’t come right out and said so yet. In this case, both the Land and the Sabbath are mere shadows of a great reality that doesn’t come until Christ. Everything in the Old Covenant is centered on the physical world. The promises, the curses, the worship, the Temple, the festivals… all are physically oriented, but point to a great reality that was to come; this is called “typology” and these things are called “types.” Thus, the Land and the Sabbath are “types” of something wonderful that the people of the Old Testament had no real concept of… eternity. When Jesus began speaking of eternal life, He was speaking of something that the Old Testament made no mention of… at all. All of the promises in the Law were earthly, not one was eternal in scope. Jews do not die and go to Heaven, they die and live through their children. If you don’t believe me, ask one of your Jewish friends.
Yes, I know that some Christians might want to dispute this, saying that God hasn’t kept the Land promise, and will do so in the millennium. Personally, I think that runs counter to our text right here, but my normal reply is: “Would you rather have a Tel Aviv address for a thousand years, or eternal life with Christ? Jesus fulfilled the promise of land with something far better than real estate: This is the wonderful part. Yet, another warning, “make every effort” to enter the rest and not to perish because of disobedience.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.Nothing in all creation is hidden from God’s sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account.
This is the sternest warning of all in this section, and yet it is wonderful at the same time: The Word of God- powerful, penetrating, alive! We often refer to the Scriptures as the Word of God, and so they are. Then we go and relegate it to a mere academic discipline full of teachings, rules and promises… even trivia, but the Word of God is never trivial. The Word of God is powerful, the most powerful force in our universe, for it holds the entire universe together as we saw in chapter 1. The Word is also a Person. Go back and read John 1:1-4; 14. The Word of God is none other than Jesus Christ Himself: The Word of God is Wonderful!
Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.Ephesians 6:4 (NIV).
In Ephesians 6:4 the “do not” of fatherhood is followed by an explicit do. Dads should bring up their children “in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Which, requires dads to do three things:
Be tender. The words, “bring them up,”means “to nourish or feed.” Eugene Peterson puts this phrase into contemporary English by saying, “take them by the hand.” And Calvin translated “bring them up” as “let them be kindly cherished.” According to God’s Word, men are manly when they’re sensitive and sympathetic with their children. Dad, speak to your children with gentleness and friendliness. And take time to hold your baby in your arms, kiss your son, or hug your teenager or adult child. For even though fathers fight dragons almost daily, and even though fathers must do battle in the arena which is sometimes called an office or a workshop, you must nonetheless be a man who reflects the image of the Heavenly Father. So take your child by the hand and climb the mountain of life remembering there’s a son or daughter who’s following in your steps.
Exercise discipline. The word “training”means “discipline, even by punishment.” The same Greek word is used in Luke 23:16 when Pilate said of Jesus, “I will punish him and then release him.”Thus the word “training” includes and encompasses everything necessary to help “train a child in the way he should go”Proverbs 22:6. Dad, don’t leave the issue of discipline to your wife. To not discipline your child is a sad breach of domestic responsibility and a denial of God’s Word which ultimately robs a child of the security and self-esteem which comes from being disciplined by a father. Proverbs 19:18 says, “Discipline your son in his early years while there is hope. If you don’t, you will ruin his life” (TLB). As a wise grandmother once said, “You don’t spoil a child by giving him love. You spoil him by withholding discipline.”
Bring instruction. The word “instruction” literally means “to place before the mind.” Fathers should be alert for every opportunity to teach moral values and natural skills. This will only be accomplished if you take time to talk, listen, work, and play with your children. And it will only be effective when you back up your instruction with a walk that matches the talk. Yes, the most important instruction that your children receive comes from watching how you iron out disagreements with your wife, how you talk about your boss behind his back, and whether or not your dealings with people are honest and fair. Thus school is always in session when your child is growing up (but don’t tell her that!). And leading your child in the way of the Lord is a lifelong calling.
A dad can’t father his children by proxy. A dad should be leading family devotions, putting the children to bed, praying with his children, and reading to them. A dad should also worship with his children, attend their sporting or cultural events, and spend quality and quantity one on one time with them.
Yet he gave a command to the skies above
and opened the doors of the heavens;
he rained down manna for the people to eat,
he gave them the grain of heaven.
Human beings ate the bread of angels;
he sent them all the food they could eat.
He let loose the east wind from the heavens
and by his power made the south wind blow.
He rained meat down on them like dust,
birds like sand on the seashore.
He made them come down inside their camp,
all around their tents.
They ate till they were gorged—
he had given them what they craved.
But before they turned from what they craved,
even while the food was still in their mouths,
God’s anger rose against them;
he put to death the sturdiest among them,
cutting down the young men of Israel (NIV).
Reflection Several years ago I received some wise counsel from a pastor. He said, “Be careful what you pray for. You may get what you want. And that’s not always a good thing.”
What happens when we get exactly what we want? For the answer to that question we should consult with million-dollar lottery winners. Obviously, they got what they wanted when they bought their lottery ticket. Sociologists who do long-term studies on lottery winners will tell you that in some cases winning the “big one” ends in disaster. Some people have managed to fritter away millions in a perpetual party lifestyle that leaves them physically broken and bankrupt in less than five years. Others have maintained their wealth and their health, but they have become socially isolated with family relationships in ruins. Getting what we want and more than we need doesn’t always end well.
In today’s reading from Psalm 78, we learn that despite Israel’s rebellious ways, God gave the people exactly what they wanted and more than they needed. Human beings ate the bread of angels; he sent them all the food they could eat.
The greatest temptation we face may not be denying God in the face of poverty, but rather neglecting Him in the midst of wealth. When God gives us the wealth we want, the end result may be the impoverishment of our spirit. Be careful what you pray.
Response: LORD God, help me to find my contentment in you and not in the abundance of my possessions. If your blessings come, help me to be a wise and generous manager that seeks first the Kingdom of God. Amen.
Your Turn: Have your answered prayers led to regrets later on?
Wash me thoroughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin. v.3: For I acknowledge my transgressions, and my sin is ever before thee. Psalm 51:2-3
Forgiveness of our sins is essential for us to experience the joy that God desires and intends for His people. When you and I approach the throne of God’s mercy and grace in confession and repentance, God hears our prayers and answers them in accordance with His perfect will and ability. David had committed some horrible sins with his adulterous encounter with Bathsheba, and no doubt, his sin and his guilt was making him sick and miserable.
It is interesting to me that David did not take the first step in coming to God with a broken and contrite heart. GOD took the first step when He sent the prophet Nathan to confront him with these sins that David thought nobody knew existed. (2nd Samuel 12) For you see, there must be conviction on the part of God before there can ever be seen by us the need to approach God in confession and repentance.
We receive God’s grace by admitting to Him that we are NOT GOOD. The Bible confirms our badness, and not our goodness. We receive His forgiveness by asking for it, and not by telling God how good we have been, how good we are, and how good we are going to be in the future. For you see my friends, it is GOD and not popular opinion that determines what is right and what is wrong. And it is God that determines how you and I must approach Him when we have sinned against Him. For all sin is against God. We must seek His forgiveness not on the basis of who we are or who we intend to be and the things we intend to do, but on the basis of WHO GOD IS, and what HE has said and promised to do.
This morning I thank and praise God for His forgiveness and His mercy. I need it. You need it. All of us need it. NONE of us deserve it. It is obtained thru God, and by His wonderful mercy and grace. And when we receive it by God’s way, we are on the path to experiencing joy once again. Don’t miss it!
Thursday, we marked the 75th Anniversary of the D-Day Invasion, the day that marked the beginning of the end of WW 2. Nonetheless, it was a horrible day. German casualties on D-Day have been estimated between 4,000 to 9,000 men. Allied casualties were at least 10,000, with 4,414 confirmed dead on just that first day. Stories of those from that day were stories about survival—just to get through those initial first hours—and the days that followed.
Today we’re beginning a new series called “Surviving Your Personal D-Day Invasion.” This series addresses some of the tough issues that many of us have to face from time to time. These Invasions Are Designed To Enslave You. There Are No Vaccinations Against These D-Day Invasions, And No One Has Natural Immunity From Them.
We’ll journey together through God’s word as we talk about these D-Day Invasions. I want you to know something about this series. I’m not teaching theory here—I’m teaching from the scars of my experiences. I’ve learned that everything Jesus promises is absolutely true.
The invasion may be happening right now, but it is not a battle that you have to lose. In this series, we’re going to learn that surviving our Personal D-Day Invasion will take complete trust—and it will take complete hope—in God alone. I want you to discover that through Christ we have overwhelming victory—no matter what we face. This morning our passage is found in one of the most misunderstood books in the Bible. Job 1:13-21(NLT)
13 One day when Job’s sons and daughters were feasting at the oldest brother’s house, 14 a messenger arrived at Job’s home with this news:
“Your oxen were plowing, with the donkeys feeding beside them, 15 when the Sabeans raided us. They stole all the animals and killed all the farmhands. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
16 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “The fire of God has fallen from heaven and burned up your sheep and all the shepherds. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
17 While he was still speaking, a third messenger arrived with this news: “Three bands of Chaldean raiders have stolen your camels and killed your servants. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
18 While he was still speaking, another messenger arrived with this news: “Your sons and daughters were feasting in their oldest brother’s home. 19 Suddenly, a powerful wind swept in from the wilderness and hit the house on all sides. The house collapsed, and all your children are dead. I am the only one who escaped to tell you.”
20 Job stood up and tore his robe in grief. Then he shaved his head and fell to the ground to worship. 21 He said,
“I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The Lord gave me what I had, and the Lord has taken it away. Praise the name of the Lord!”
Today’s topic is Disillusionment. I’m not talking about disappointment or discouragement. These emotions are painful, but disillusionment is much, much deeper—and so much darker.
Disillusionment comes when what we thought was going to happen seems to be impossible. It is losing the ability to dream and vision about your future.
Disillusionment is what causes us to feel despair—the feeling that we will not survive.
Disillusionment is what makes us cynical—and cynicism always makes us bitter.
We say, “Oh, I’ll never become disillusioned!” So we turn to motivational speakers and posters. But they don’t really help. In fact there is a website called http://www.despair.com operated by a company called Demotivators. Here’s their mission statement on their website:
No industry has inflicted more suffering than the Motivational Industry. Motivational books, speakers and posters have made billions of dollars selling shortcuts to success and tools for unleashing our unlimited potential. At Despair, we know such products only raise hopes to dash them. That’s why our products go straight to the dashing. Enjoy!
The fact is that there will come a day when you will experience the D-Day Invasion Of Disillusionment. When things start crumbling around you, you will need something to hold onto, something that’s steady and constant. And what you may have thought you could count on—evaporates before your very eyes.
So here’s the one thing you need to remember: The Only Way You’ll Be Able To Survive Is If You Have Learned To Put Your Trust And Hope In God Alone. True survival for now and for eternity comes when you know God personally in a deeply intimate and personal way.
There is classic story in the Old Testament—nearly everyone is familiar with Job. It’s the story of a man who suffered much during his Personal Invasion, yet he was able to survive. We’ll look at his story and others during the course of this series and learn how they did it and how you can do it, too.
You need to understand that it wasn’t easy for Job nor did his victory come instantly. Job was a man who loved God deeply and had life going his way. Then comes Satan, who accuses that Job only loves God because of his blessings. The eternal conflict between good and evil is revealed once again.
Are you experiencing disillusionment in your life today? The disillusionment of being in a dead-end life? Of struggling financially? Of a crumbling health? Of rebellious children? Of broken dreams? What’s disillusioning you? Job faced his Personal D-Day Invasion. Let’s take a look at three survival tactics Job used to survive—these same tactics worked for me and they will work for you. Here are 3 things that Job did that you need to do in the face of Disillusionment.
1. Be Open And Honest About Your Grief.
Job didn’t try to hide the pain in his life—he grieved openly and admitted his suffering. In order to get beyond pain and experience healing in our lives, we have to grieve.
Too often, we try to mask our pain through denial, through superficial spirituality, through a drink or pill, or some other thrill. Job doesn’t do this. And he doesn’t resort to clichés, “Hallelujah; I’m just going to let go and let God. I’m just going to claim my victory.” Instead, Job Grieved. He tore his clothes, he put on sackcloth, covered himself with ashes, and he began to mourn.
This is how grief was expressed in his time and culture. And in doing this he was telling everyone there that he was grieving—he was being open and honest about his suffering. It’s normal to grieve.
In fact, it’s abnormal not to grieve. Through grief we can express our feelings about the situation. This is what Job did—He expressed all his feelings about the situation. Through grief, we are able to gripe and express our desire for the circumstances not to be true.
Job was brutally honest with God, and when we go through struggles, we can be brutally honest with God about what is going on in our lives. Grieving helps us to express the effects that we’ve experienced from the impact of The Invasion. We can begin to tell God and even other people how we really feel.
Grieving has a purpose. It Forces Us To Become Honest With Ourselves So That We Can Begin Making The Necessary Changes In Our Lives. Grieving gives a chance to ask the hard questions that we need to ask—“Why did this happen? Is it God’s will? Did God do this? Is it my fault?” As we ask the questions, we can then begin to discover the source of our disillusionment.
Like Job, sometimes it’s the result of evil, like planes flying into buildings. Sometimes, it’s the result of wrong choices on our part. Through either situation, there are lessons to be learned, and we can’t learn them until we Grieve, until we ask the tough questions. That’s the first tactic to handling disillusionment. The second is:
2. Choose To Put Your Complete Trust In God.
We don’t know how long Job grieved, but we do know there was a day when he stopped. He grieves, but he doesn’t stay in grief.
Did you notice verse 21?—“Then Job fell to the ground and worshipped God!” Real trust comes only through a personal relationship with God. I want to make sure you understand this.
We can do a lot of different things to feel good once in a while—but true faith, true trust comes only through a personal relationship with God. When we trust or value anything more than God, guess what happens? We’re setting ourselves up for Disillusionment.
You can’t trust in your money; money can be lost. You can’t trust in your skills; there are some things your skills can’t get you through. You can’t trust in your relationships; relationships can unravel. Where do you put your trust and hope? If you put it anywhere else than God for here now and for eternity later, you will become a disillusioned person.
I Have Learned That I Can Trust In God Because He Loves Me Unconditionally. It doesn’t matter what I’ve done, what I’m doing, or what I will do. God loves me unconditionally and I cling to this truth. And so can you! I discovered that I can cling to this truth and I can trust God because He’s always in control. In your D-Day Invasion, you need to know who’s in control. God is—and you can trust in God.
Yes, sometimes bad things happen, but God is still in control. I can trust God because He loves me unconditionally. He is in total control. He knows what’s going to happen. Most importantly—He promises to never leave me and to always be there. Here’s a third tactic to help you through the invasion of disillusionment:
3. Restate Your Eternal Hope In Jesus.
We all need to believe in dreams—to believe that we have a purpose and can achieve great things. We should desire to be effective and successful. We should want to be the best that we can be and drive hard towards it. However, when these positive thinking traits are not balanced with the real world and real life and the sovereignty of God, we can become Disillusioned.
When we develop unrealistic expectations, we’re setting ourselves up for Disillusionment. There’s a hard truth we have to face—The World Doesn’t Revolve Around You And It Doesn’t Revolve Around Me. Sometimes we have a hard time believing that, but it’s true.
Believing that the world revolves around you is a sword that cuts you down. We have these expectations that we should shoot for but when we don’t balance it with reality we become Disillusioned. It’s great to dream, and we need to work toward those dreams. Just remember:
Jesus said that life would be hard sometimes. But he also promised to help us overcome. We can walk around angry and disillusioned and wish things could be different, or We Could Stop And Take Responsibility For Our Own Stuff. We Can Stop And Re-Evaluate Our Priorities—And Focus On What’s Really Important.
Really, what’s more important to you—to have a big house and a new car, or to play catch with a child? It’s your choice. It’s perspective, isn’t it? This sword cuts us down when we’re not honest with ourselves about our passions, our purpose in life, and about our time constraints. Re-Evaluate Your Expectations. Prioritize Your Life. Set Your Face, Values And Priorities With God And Continue To Move Forward.
The economy can crash, relationships fall apart, health declines, but God is always the same. Our hope is in Jesus. It’s the confident expectation that God is willing and able to fulfill the promises that He has made. Christian hope is based on Who He Is And What He Can Do, not on you and me. It’s not based on our circumstances.
With Christ, we are able to rise above our circumstance no matter what they are because of who God is. Do you need that kind of hope? That firm foundation of trust? Are you wondering where your hope can be found?
It can only be found in the one who knows your past and loves you anyway. He Promises To Hold Your Hand In The Present And Has Your Eternal Security In His Heart And It’s Secure In Him. Hope and trust in God alone is the backbone of this whole series. It’s how we can survive and even learn to thrive in our D-Day invasions.
If You Are Hiding Your True Feelings, Be Honest With God. You need not be afraid of telling God how you really feel. He already knows and He’s so full of grace and love for you, He can handle whatever it is you are feeling.
When Your Life Is Invaded By Disillusionment, Talk It Out! I am always available to you. But find someone who will listen as you grieve, and at the right moment, offer you hope. Make it someone who won’t say “Let go and let God” or some other cute phrase. Make it someone who will listen to you, AND the Holy Spirit.