“Humbled or Devoured: Which is Worse?”
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary, the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. 1 Peter 5.6-8
We pray dangerous prayers when we ask God to humble us. I wish that humility was passed to us instantaneously at baptism. Unfortunately, God gives us the slow-cooking means by which the virtue is formed, not a microwaveable version.
To be humble “under the mighty hand of God” sounds like punishment, until we see the second part of verse 6. Under his mighty hand, we “cast all our anxieties on him” and place ourselves under His lordship “because he cares for us.”
I was recently talking with some female students about their frustration with the Ephesians 5/Colossians 3 commission for wives to submit to their husbands. They thought the teaching was antiquated and oppressive to women. Graciously, these girls were looking to understand the why, not to be combative.
As we talked about the groom and Christ, we quickly began to see the real issue. Submission wasn’t the frustration these girls were dealing with – their challenge was trust. They only saw submission as punishment, not protection.
And that’s true of us as Christ-followers when it comes to humbly submitting – we don’t trust Jesus. But, Peter reminds the Church of a very real and present danger. Outside of the Groom’s care there is an adversary whose intent and desire is to see souls devoured. Our souls are vulnerable and we need to be on guard.
When we lay ourselves at the feet of our good and gracious Groom, we can trust that our souls are protected by His mighty hand. Spend some time today expressing to God why you trust Him. Humble yourself before Him (maybe take a bowed or open hand posture) and simply repeat multiple times, “I trust You,” until you feel like you really do.
“Attending [God] were mighty seraphim, each having six wings…They were calling out to each other, ‘Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of Heaven’s Armies! The whole earth is filled with his glory!’” Isaiah 6:2-3
I know that God is Holy. I’ve learned this since I was a kid. But in the regularity and distractions of life, I begin to forget. God is Holy. He is sovereign. He is powerful and awesome. Do I really believe this? Do I stop to notice? How does noticing His holiness change the way I face my day?
Music helps me hear an old truth in a new way. The lyrics of this song by Addison Road remind me of my place in this world in light of who God is and his awesome holiness:
I guess I thought that I had figured you out
I knew all the stories and I learned to talk about
How You were mighty to save
Those were only empty words on a page
Then I caught a glimpse of who You might be
The slightest hint of You brought me down to my knees
What do I know of Holy?
What do I know of the wounds that heal my shame?
And a God who gave life it’s name?
What do I know of Holy?
Of the One who the angels praise?
All creation knows Your name
On earth and heaven above
What do I know of this love?
I urge you to pause in your day today and worship our Holy God.
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
I was on a mission. I had just met the girl of my dreams and I knew that the time had come to propose. My goal was to find a diamond that most purely reflected the beauty and life I saw in my future wife. Despite my all too small budget, I examined each option carefully until I found the one.
Being completely honest, I am struggling with writing this devotional. I want to stay within my head and write intellectually about what a pure heart is. I’d rather wax and wane about the process that produces a purified heart rather than admit I have an impure heart that needs constant examination. I fight against selfish desires that keep me from focusing completely on Christ. Often I want to see and know God on my own terms rather than allow him to refine me from the inside out. My guess is I’m not alone in this struggle.
If there’s any hope for us as Christ-followers, we must allow Him to examine the condition of our hearts. Psalm 51:10 says, “Create in me a clean heart, and renew a right spirit within me.” An unexamined heart is an impure heart. What impurities keep you from fully following Christ? Let James 4:8 and 1 John 1:9 be your guide toward an examined heart.
A pure hearted person has an examined and cleansed heart that can see and reflect God’s will and His ways. May we more clearly reflect our Creator today.
My Soul Waits
“Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord; O Lord, hear my voice. I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in his word I put my hope. My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning.” Psalm 130:1, 2, 5, and 6
A week ago today, I was holding the head of my Aunt Betty as she left this earth. There’s nothing more intimate or special than being with a person in their last moments of life. Our family gathered around her bed and my dad read scripture as we cried and hugged each other. My Aunt and Uncle were married for almost 69 years. Uncle Frank talked through tears for the rest of the night about how much they loved each other, how she helped him love Jesus more, and how beautiful she was. One of the stories he shared was when he left to serve in the navy during World War II, she told him that she would wait for him to return. In these last few weeks as she became weaker, she kept telling him that she would wait for him again in heaven.
We live in between the “already” and the “not yet.” Author, Paul David Tripp says it like this, “We live in the ‘already’ of complete forgiveness. The cross of Jesus guarantees that all of these broken things will be fixed, but they are not fixed yet. Final restoration is yet to come.” Romans 8:23 says, “We wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved.”
What are you waiting for today? As we celebrate Memorial Day, you may be waiting for the day to see a loved one again. Just as my Aunt Betty waited for my Uncle to return from the war, we wait for the day when God will make all things new. May your soul wait with hope.
“When Jesus arrived in Bethany, he was told that Lazarus had already been in his grave for four days. Bethany was only a few miles down the road from Jerusalem, and many of the people had come to console Martha and Mary in their loss. When Martha got word that Jesus was coming, she went to meet him. But Mary stayed in the house. Martha said to Jesus, “Lord, if only you had been here, my brother would not have died. But even now I know that God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus told her, “Your brother will rise again.”
I was absolutely held by the word ‘revive’ in Psalm 119 as I was studying for my sermon for this weekend. Psalm 119:25 says, “I lie in the dust; revive me by your word.” Wow, what an idea. The Psalmist is saying that God’s word can actually revive us, it can bring us back to life; it can breathe life back into our lungs. I immediately started thinking about all of the movies that I’ve seen that feature scenes of endless CPR and people agonizing to bring someone back to life. And there’s always such a sense of relief when a once-dead person has air hit their lungs again; that huge gasp that has been made paramount in so many films. We celebrate those times; and it’s so exciting that God’s word, the Living Word, Jesus Christ, can revive us. His life truly can breathe life back into our lungs.
The crazy thing to me about this story with Lazarus, however, is the four days that he has been dead already. Surely that’s too long, right? Yeah, God can revive us, but he’s been dead for four days already. Isn’t that too far gone? You can’t fault Martha for thinking it was too late. But, she learned in this story the same thing we can learn; “too far gone” isn’t in God’s vocabulary or economy. There is no such thing as too dead or too lost for the power of Jesus’ saving grace. Rejoice in that truth today. Be encouraged by the fact that the Living Word revives us; and it doesn’t matter how dead we feel or lost we seem to be. Jesus doesn’t write us off; it’s never too late.
For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named. Ephesians 3:14-15
When Paul wrote Ephesians 3:14-15, no doubt he was kneeling before the Father. No matter that a Roman guard was in the room, perhaps even chained to the prisoner. No matter whether the guard was making fun of him or respectful. No matter that his situation was bleak and without a lot of hope. Paul was on his knees.
Last night I had the opportunity to hear one of my grade school classmates speak about her last ten years as a missionary in Ethiopia. I was captivated by story after story of healings, lives changed and the impossible made possible by God through the power of prayer. More than once, when the obstacles seemed too big and too far gone, my friend Shelly and other faithful Christ followers would not give up. They continued to pray together because they knew that nothing was final until God made that decision. They thought stopping too soon was unacceptable and if they did, they were giving up on God. Not always, but often that’s when the miraculous happened.
Prayer is not a magic bullet, or a last resort, and it’s also not about you or me and how diligent we are. Prayer needs to be what we do all day long, not only reserved for meals and before we go to bed. Prayer puts the perspective on who is in charge and shows that not only do I depend and believe in God but I know that no one else has the power to change anyone or anything. Prayer is conversation and worship to the Father.
Do you trust and believe in the Father? Are you showing Him by what and how often you pray? Do you take time to kneel before God? If you are struggling in this area, make the commitment today to step up your prayer practices and let conversations with God permeate you entire day.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. – James 1.2-3
If I was a first century Christian, I’m not sure I would have read the rest of James’ letter. Somehow, I grew up thinking that the Jesus-following life was easier than life without God. I’m not sure where this Americanized version of the gospel came from, but it permeated my thinking.
I’m tracking with James as he starts, “Count it all joy…”
I’m all-in for joy. As I’ve grown in faith, I’m realizing that joy should be a central and definitive feature of the Christian life. We are sealed with the eternal Spirit of God and evidence of His activity in our life is joy.
But most of my joy is circumstantial.
So, James, what’s the secret to joy “when we meet trials of various kinds” and when we are experiencing the “testing of our faith?”
Trials and tests don’t naturally evoke floods of joy in my soul. When I’m feeling down, I never think, “If only I had a trial or test today I would feel better.” But James is emphatic. Being a Christian enables us to be joyful in various trials and all things that test our faith.
Too often with God, I want the result rather than the process. Joy is fruit of the Spirit, not a gift of the Spirit. God doesn’t impart joy to us; He develops it in us. Steadfastness/endurance/perseverance/fortitude is the virtue formulated in the painful circumstances. The increase of this virtue enables me to enter my trials and tests with joy.
If someone offered us guaranteed growth in fortitude, we’d accept it joyfully. So why are we so hesitant to accept the painful circumstances that come our way?
What circumstances have you been asking God to take away that He’s been asking you to count as joy?