Archive for August, 2012


All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 29

August 22, 2012

The LORD Laughs at Them

 

He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.

(Psalm 2:4)

When did human beings start mocking the concept of God and ridiculing His followers? This question is easy to answer: “From the beginning of history.” Man’s perception of God and all things associated with God was thoroughly corrupted when our first parents disobeyed Him in the Garden. Although we have been made by God and live in a universe that He created and now governs, due to our fallen natures, we do not recognize Him and we find the very idea of a Supreme Being to whom we are accountable irrational unless we are enlightened by God.

The serpent mocked God as he tempted Eve to disobey. And by their actions, Adam and Eve mocked God by casting aside His command and proceeding according to their own wisdom and desire. As Noah built the ark, he called his generation to repentance before God and for that, he was scorned and considered a fool as he warned about what was to come.

This kind of behavior continued throughout history and is certainly present in our own day. We hear of those who want to rid our culture of all references to God, all respectful signs of belief in Him, and all evidence of how belief in God has influenced this country’s development. In recent years, the activities of those who have identified themselves as atheists have expanded and become more entangled with our day-to-day experience. They have taken steps to organize themselves and present a professional front. Banding together, many atheists have begun using our court system to further the agenda I just described.

After the twin towers in New York City were reduced to rubble, workers discovered an unusual formation of metal. Two steel beams had been compressed together in the form of a cross. Officials are planning to locate this cross in the same vicinity as a way of honoring those who perished and comforting their loved ones. An atheist group, however, is vigorously opposing this memorial. They say that it will discriminate against those who reject the idea of the Christian God.

This is the kind of situation that often causes believers to become anxious and frustrated. It seems to them that our world is getting more and more hostile to God even while immorality spreads at an alarming rate. On such occasions, we should keep two things in mind. First, as noted above, enmity toward God and the things of God is nothing new. Although such opposition has existed throughout the history of the world, it has not succeeded in eliminating God’s work for and through His people.

Second, God has revealed a pointed reaction to those who would mock Him and seek to rid the world of His influence. His response is quoted above: “He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them.” It is absurd to think that the creature would represent a serious threat to the Creator. In this verse, God mocks those who want to cast off His authority. I do not mean to be irreverent, but they are little more than an amusement to God.

God has always controlled our existence and He always will. His power is unlimited and His will cannot be impeded. In the end, it is those who deny God who are the fools, not those who confess Him and seek to live for His honor. Therefore, whatever victories they appear to gain are hollow and ultimately meaningless.

If you find yourself unsettled by the kinds of things I have described or, in fact, by any attempt to silence the Church or remove believers from the debate, then you should memorize Psalm 2:4. If the atheists were a genuine threat to God and His plans, then we should be seriously alarmed. But, as noted, God laughs at the grand assertions of His enemies. Remember, too, that this God, who is by nature unstoppable, is just as involved in your life as He is overseeing His unfolding plan of redemption.

God is intimately aware of you and all of your struggles, all of your worries, and all of your hopes. Contrary to what God thinks of His enemies, He loves us and guards us while we are on our journey to heaven. Just as there is no power to oppose God successfully, so there is no real threat against us because we are His children. If the united powers of darkness must fail in their war against God, then so must they fail in their attempts to harm God’s people. Therefore, the atheists can rave and accuse and demand all they want, but they will never be the cause of distress for those who know God.

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All Saints Weekly Devotional

Volume 1 Number 28

August 15, 2012

When Expectations Are Not Realized

From Pastor Bordwine

 

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit.” Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away. Instead, you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.”

(James 4:13-15)

How often do you have this experience? You make a plan and anticipate all the contingencies. You assume that you’ve foreseen all the necessary elements that might affect your plan in one way or another. But then the day comes to follow your plan and something completely unseen and unexpected happens that requires you to alter or even abandon your original intention. Although you thought you had all the bases covered, so to speak, you soon learn that your carefully crafted strategy is vulnerable to something that never occurred to you.

I recently began a new job in which I transport patients from one location to another. After a week of training, during which I rode with another experienced driver, I was assigned my first series of pickups during which I would be by myself. The night before, I spent a lot of time going over the stops I would be making. I familiarized myself with the roads and addresses, the clients’ names, etc. I felt that I was completely prepared to handle the transports by myself.

A big problem occurred, however, at my first pickup. I could not find the passenger! I spent 30 minutes driving around and knocking on doors trying to locate her. I had very little leeway between pickups, so this delay cut into the span of time I had to find the next client. All of a sudden, it looked like my whole night was going to be one late pickup and apology after another. This would not make my new boss happy. I began to panic. It was my first night, my first patient, and I couldn’t find her! I had been so confident just an hour before this happened. I knew exactly where I needed to go and exactly when I needed to arrive. I was not anticipating any difficulty whatsoever. One glitch rendered my plan irrelevant and my anxiety was growing.

When we think of committing our plans to the Lord, we usually have in mind the “big” issues of life—moving to a new location, getting ready for marriage, facing surgery, or something that is not common and may, in fact, be a once in a lifetime experience. It is right to do our best and then submit the matter to God and ask for His blessings and grace. I want you to notice, however, the passage quoted above from the book of James. His emphasis is not on the kind of concerns I just listed. Instead, James speaks about how we approach the very next day.

James imagines someone speaking confidently about what they are going to do “today or tomorrow.” This person has made a plan and assumes it will succeed just as expected (“make a profit”). But then James points out that such conduct is really presumptive because “you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow.” How true! No one can say with certainty what they will do tomorrow. We can have a plan and assume that we’ve discerned all possible obstacles, but until the plan is complete, we don’t really know whether we will accomplish what we desire.

After all, James adds, we are “just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” This description of our existence puts into perspective the fact that we cannot control our experiences. That is because we are not all-knowing or all-powerful. We do not master circumstances, we are subject to them. God alone controls what we experience because He is sovereign and, therefore, controls all circumstances perfectly. Only God knows what tomorrow will bring for us. Only He knows if our plan is compatible with what He has ordained.

That is why James exhorts us to take into account our limitations when making plans: “Instead, you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and also do this or that.’” As I already mentioned, James is focusing on everyday life. Each day should begin with the realization that our intentions, regardless of how well organized, are subject to the will of God. Once this perspective becomes part of our normal approach to goals and accomplishments, those frequent interruptions will be seen as God’s wise correction and provision according to what He judges to be most beneficial. This instruction from James is essential to our peace of mind in those unsettling moments. Rather than presume or boast, let us recognize the truth of the matter. And in this recognition understand that our heavenly Father really does ordained only that which is for our good and His glory.

By the way, my dilemma described above quickly concluded when I learned that my passenger had decided to take an earlier ride home. I was in the right place at the right time, but she was already gone. I was supposed to have been notified, but wasn’t. In the end, all my anxiety was for nothing. I was on time for the rest of the shift and I was reminded of the truth I just explained above. I needed to have that reminder and it is one I’ll probably have to have a few more times before I leave this world. At least for the immediate future, however, I will remember the lesson from James and, I expect, gain a measure of peace the next time I face a similar situation.

 

 

Praying without Ceasing

From Pastor Bordwine

 The Lord is far from the wicked, but He hears the prayer of the righteous.

(Proverbs 15:29)

Yesterday I had an opportunity to speak briefly with an older lady who goes by the name “Angel.” She said that her friends gave her this nickname because of her dedication to helping people in need. For example, Angel volunteers at one facility that is dedicated to providing shelter for the homeless, food for the hungry, and rehabilitation for drug abusers. She also hands out food whenever she can. Sometimes, as Angel told me, she has little more than a piece of fruit or some bread to give away, but she believes that even a small amount can provide some temporary relief.

 Angel has two grown children. Carlos, her son, is a faithful Christian, according to his mother. He is active in his church and she spoke of him with joy. Her daughter, however, is another story. Angel frankly admitted that her daughter is entangled in a number of sinful snares and shows no evidence of faith. As we talked, I asked her if she was continuing to pray for her daughter. Angel responded: “Oh yes. Every day. That’s all I have left.”

I understood what Angel meant. She had exhausted all other means of trying to free her daughter from the bonds of darkness. Eventually, she realized that she had no other option except prayer. It was clear to me that Angel did not view prayer as a “last resort,” as so many believers seem to do. But she did understand that since every other attempt had failed, she was absolutely dependent upon the intervention of God to save her daughter; and so, with a unique burden that only a mother can bear, she prays without ceasing.

In the verse quoted above from Proverbs 15, we have one of many direct statements concerning the response of God to the prayers of His people. As this writer says, the Lord hears the prayer of the righteous. This promise does not depend upon the eloquence, length, or theological depth of our prayers. We do not have to convince God to hear us, nor do we have to create some kind of event to get His attention. We pray and God hears us. As His children, we speak to our heavenly Father and He listens.

As I said, Angel does not view prayer as an act of desperation. She views prayer as a continual aspect of her love for her daughter and her desire to see her daughter come to know Christ. But some believers do treat the gift of prayer as if it were a “final option.” What I mean is that, unless there is some crisis in their lives, such people do very little praying. When severe adversity appears, however, they quickly recognize the inevitable need for God’s help. And that is when their prayers become frequent and fervent.

The many declarations of God’s willingness to receive our prayers indicate that our petitions do not have to be formed in the context of calamity. Our normal routine should be characterized by prayer throughout each day. Obviously, I am not referring only to the kind of praying where we attempt to close off all distractions. I am referring to simple communion with God in our thoughts and words. This can happen at almost any time—while driving, working in the office or around the house, shopping, or resting. This approach to prayer is what I think the apostle Paul had in mind when he said “pray without ceasing.” (1 Thess. 5:17)

Why shouldn’t we pray frequently? Why shouldn’t we count God’s promise to hear us as an encouragement to trust Him and a tremendous source of comfort? Is there any legitimate reason why you should not be characterized as a person of prayer? If God tells us that He will receive our prayers, it means that He expects us to pray—and not just during extreme turmoil, as I noted already, but frequently in times of stress and times of peace.

If you are facing a severe challenge at the moment, then you should be praying frequently for God’s intervention; and, like my friend Angel, you should not stop praying as long as the situation remains unresolved. If things are relatively peaceful in your life at this time, then you should still be praying regularly for God’s intervention in the multitude of “routine” issues we encounter daily as we seek to live for His glory. If God is going to listen, then I am certainly going to pray and I’m going to pray without ceasing.