Isaiah 42:3

Do you ever feel insignificant or unimportant? Do you sometimes look around and see amazing individuals with secular careers or Christian ministries and the people who love and support them, and wonder where your place in this world is and who, if anyone, would be affected, or even notice, if you weren’t here–or even if God cares?

“He will not break a crushed blade of grass or put out even a weak flame. He will truly bring justice;” (Isaiah‬ ‭42:3‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Today’s verse is an Old Testament prophecy about Jesus. It’s longer than just one verse, but it is this one that shows us God’s heart: one of support and love toward the least of His people.

You see, the world regularly judges us; those who don’t know God–and here we must be careful because even we who claim to follow Jesus are susceptible to assessing others like this–rank humanity according to their perceived value within the strictures of society. The world sees how wealthy we are, how much education we have, how many times we’ve been written about or had our work published, our job title, even the size of our ministry–it sees, in other words, that which we could brag about.

But God looks at us differently; He “…does not see the same way people see. People look at the outside of a person, but the LORD looks at the heart.” (1 Samuel‬ ‭16:7‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

God sees our heart. And, His Word warns us that the pride of life (arrogance about our status or accomplishments) is not from Him:

“Do not love this world nor the things it offers you, for when you love the world, you do not have the love of the Father in you. For the world offers only a craving for physical pleasure, a craving for everything we see, and pride in our achievements and possessions. These are not from the Father, but are from this world. And this world is fading away, along with everything that people crave. But anyone who does what pleases God will live forever.” (1 John‬ ‭2:15-17‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

We are furthermore warned, “Be not highminded, but fear:” (Romans‬ ‭11:20‬ ‭KJV‬‬) And to those who have more in this world, He commands: “As for the rich in this present world, instruct them not to be conceited and arrogant, nor to set their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly and ceaselessly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. Instruct them to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous, willing to share [with others]. In this way storing up for themselves the enduring riches of a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” (1 TIMOTHY‬ ‭6:17-19‬ ‭AMP‬‬)

The truth of the matter is that God loves us: He loves each and every one of His children–there are no orphans in His family, no stepchildren or not-quite-part-of-the-family siblings. All of us are precious to Him. And, He looks at our heart–at our love for Him. Our obedience to Him reveals our love for Him, but it’s okay if the world doesn’t see what God sees, or even if it looks to others like we haven’t done anything particularly exceptional–if we don’t look impressive on the outside. So long as we are faithful to our Lord; so long as we love Him with our heart, and soul, and mind, and strength; so long as we’re working for the eternal treasures that don’t decay or rot or get stolen; so long as He is the most precious thing in our lives–everything is okay. In fact, it’s more than okay–it’s as He wants it!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Thank You that You won’t break a crushed blade of grass or put out a weak flame; thank You that You love us enough to give Yourself for us–and that each and every one of us is precious to You! Please encourage us, and help us to love You above all else! Amen.

https://www.oneplace.com/ministries/leading-the-way/read/articles/youre-a-vital-part-of-gods-kingdom-10788.html

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Matthew 13:27

Have you ever dropped the ball? Not intentionally, but–have you ever had a situation where you were doing exactly what you thought you were supposed to be doing, but unbeknownst to you, something was going on behind the scenes that you would never have let happen had you been aware of, and now it’s too late because the damage has been done–and, quite honestly, you’re not quite sure what to do at this point?

“…Sir, the field where you planted that good seed is full of weeds! Where did they come from?” (Matthew‬ ‭13:27‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Life happens. Let’s face it–sometimes even really bad things. It’s like the quote taken from Robert Burns’ poem says, “the best laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” That’s because life isn’t perfect, we aren’t perfect, and others aren’t perfect. And it’s particularly aggravating when we mean well–when our intentions are good.

The fact of the matter is that we do the best we can, but sometimes we just don’t have the foresight to understand that what’s about to happen isn’t what we were hoping for. Or, we trust a person who betrays our trust. And, the frustrating thing is that most of the time we don’t even have a clue until the damage has already been done.

This can happen in multiple ways. The most obvious and abhorrent example is trusting someone with your children who abuses them, but it can also occur when we release our children into any environment we believe is good for them, only to find out years later that bad seeds were planted there.

Maybe we sent them to school and they decided evolution was scientific and Christianity isn’t, and they turned away from Jesus. Maybe they made bad friends and picked up language and behavior we never taught them. Maybe they began smoking or even got into drugs. Maybe we invested everything into them, but now we’re not even sure we know them anymore. How should we respond–what can we do?

The first thing we should do is remember what God says: “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.” (Galatians‬ ‭6:9-10‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Or, as Winston Churchill is attributed to have said, “Never give up.”

And pray. A lot. God tells us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

And that’s what we ultimately want, isn’t it–the peace of God? It’s what we get when we realize that regardless of what terrible (or not quite so terrible) things happen to us, our spouse, our children, our parents or anyone else in our lives, “…we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV11‬‬) And that’s a promise. In all things God works for the good of those who love Him.

(1) So, by the power I have through ChristI will not be weary in doing good because He has promised me that at the proper time I will reap a harvest if I don’t give up.

(2) I will, furthermore, not be anxious about anything, but in every situation by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, I will present my requests to God.

(3) And, most of all, I will know that in all things God works for my good because I love Him.

Because if I say I believe in Him I must really believe in Him!

Dear Lord,

Heal my situation! Help me be Your instrument, and work all things for good and to Your glory! Amen.

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Isaiah 30:21

How does God reveal Himself to us? Is the Bible our only reliable source for guidance, or are there other ways? Most importantly, when faced with decisions-especially those of momentous impact–how do we know whether something is from God or not?

“Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.'” (Isaiah‬ ‭30:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

This is the most famous verse about God’s guidance, yet we need to recognize its context. This was specifically spoken to the prophet Isaiah–which is not to say God cannot or will not also direct our paths in the same manner, but we must be careful to understand that just because we feel God approves of a particular course of action doesn’t necessarily mean He does–after all, there are schizophrenics in institutions who genuinely believe God told them to commit their crimes!

Which leads us to a primary principal of Divine revelation: 1) God will not contradict Himself. If He has already spoken on a matter in Scripture, it is vain for us to try to argue our way out of it. Because His Word says not to kill, He will not “lead me” to murder. Because He says, “You shall not commit adultery,” (Exodus‬ ‭20:14‬ ‭NIV‬‬), unfaithfulness is always wrong. My situation–regardless of how sincerely I feel “guided” differently–will not be the exception to the rule. Too many sad stories of serious deception occur when people prioritize feelings over the truth of Scripture; we must remember that “…even Satan changes himself to look like an angel of light.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭11:14‬ ‭NCV‬‬).

Which leads us to another principal. 2) We must never put feelings above the Word of God. So, yes, the Word of God can, at times, seem unrelenting and immovable. Remember Hagar, and how difficult it was for her to do what was right? She’s the Egyptian slave-woman sexually given to and impregnated by an eighty-something Abraham because Sarah wasn’t conceiving, then harshly beaten–so much so that she ran away. We are not told how she was enslaved, but she was a human being with feelings and opinions and preferences like each of us–none of which mattered in the position she found herself in. Yet when the angel of God confronted her in the desert, she was told to go back:

“The angel of the LORD found Hagar beside a spring of water in the desert…The angel said, ‘Hagar, Sarai’s slave girl, where have you come from? Where are you going?’ Hagar answered, ‘I am running away from my mistress Sarai.’ The angel of the LORD said to her, ‘Go home to your mistress and obey her.’ The angel also said, ‘I will give you so many descendants they cannot be counted.’ The slave girl gave a name to the LORD who spoke to her: ‘You are ‘God who sees me,’ because she said to herself, ‘Have I really seen God who sees me?'” (Genesis‬ ‭16:7-10, 13‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

God told her to go back–but even in this difficult directive provided comfort through the promise of a nation of descendants through her, and in the end, she felt heard, and obeyed.

Feelings are unreliable indicators of God’s will. Sometimes what God expects of us is difficult and not pleasant; He does not let us out of our difficult situations, but rather comforts and helps us bear up within them. It’s so easy to complain and reason that He wouldn’t ask that much of us. Yet Jesus gave everything–why do we assume we shouldn’t have to give something!

God never contradicts Himself, and feelings are unreliable indicators of His will, but before leaving His followers, Jesus promised them (and us) His Holy Spirit, “But the Helper will teach you everything and will cause you to remember all that I told you. This Helper is the Holy Spirit whom the Father will send in My name.” (John‬ ‭14:26‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

Jesus gives us His Holy Spirit, and it is He who teaches us everything and causes us to remember everything Jesus told us. But–He does not cause us to remember what we do not yet know, so we must be diligent to faithfully search out and study His Word. So how does God reveal Himself to us and guide us in making decisions? 3) The Spirit of God Himself helps us to understand and correctly apply God’s Word. Not just the explicit portions of Scripture, mind you; when we really know the Bible, He helps us develop a feel for His heart on other issues, too!

But is there any other way to know what God really wants us to do in a particular situation not addressed in Scripture; can I ask Him for guidance on a specific issue? Of course I won’t consult a medium, or read palms or tea leaves or horoscopes, or use ouija boards; God forbids these because He is truth and we will not get that from evil spirits. Yet Gideon in the Old Testament asked for confirmation twice about something God told him, (“let it be wet” and it was; then, “let it be dry” and it was), and I believe God is patient with us when we seek Him.

Because He “…wants all people to be saved and to know the truth” (1 Timothy‬ ‭2:4‬ ‭NCV‬‬), God is merciful beyond belief, and knows exactly what is needed for each of us to be fully convinced, and our faith strengthened. 4) Thus, He goes above and beyond to meet us where we’re at to provide what we need to believe, and He does it in various ways, including answered prayer and confirmation.

That is why, I believe, there were so many supernatural manifestations–miracles–in the early days after Jesus, and why there are reports even today in remote pockets of the world where the miracles will serve to confirm God’s authority and engender faith. We in the modern world, however, have become much more cynical and tend not to see as many obvious physical manifestations of His power because God gives what we need to believe; He is not in the business of curiosities or amusement.

So, how do we make a God-honoring decision? A) First, we line it up against Scripture–does it violate any clear-cut Biblical teaching? B) Next, we search for God’s heart–even if it doesn’t specifically violate a command in the Bible, does it go against something you know God would have you do instead? It’s not wrong, for example, to sell a junk car, but if you know of a needy family that has a desperate need and you can honestly live without the money, maybe you should just give it to them. C) What about wise Biblical counsel–have you bounced it off of someone who will advise you according to what God says, rather than what they think you should do? And, of course, (4) have you prayed?

I leave this for last not because it is least important, but because if you haven’t taken the other steps it is too easy to feel God is leading you to do something unbiblical.

Dear Lord,

Thank You for Your Holy Spirit, who helps us understand truth. Thank You for Your Word, which is truth. Thank You for Your faithful people who advise us according to Your Word. Thank You for the privilege of approaching You in prayer to seek Your will in light of Your Word. Amen.

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Acts 1:8

Do you sometimes have trouble getting enough sleep? What do you do when your sleep schedule gets disrupted–when things don’t go the way they’re supposed to at bedtime? How do you respond when someone else’s bedtime emergency throws a monkey wrench into your day at the last minute? When you think you’re going to sleep in the morning, but your child–who’s been in bed for hours–gets up at their normal hour, whilst you feel like you’ve barely closed your eyes? Do you blow your top? Do you lash out at the offending culprit with all the fury he who deprives you of your necessary rest deserves? Or do you use the moment to allow the Holy Spirit of God to control you?

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

We normally don’t think of today’s verse in the context of Christ-like behavior under challenging circumstances, but that is exactly what the Sprit of God in us can accomplish–if we yield ourselves to Him. It is certainly true that God “…grants sleep to those he loves.” (Psalm‬ ‭127:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬) yet at the same time there will be occasions when we will be confronted with a character-evoking moment. And what we call true character is of Christ–of His Spirit.

Remember the fruit of the Spirit list?

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” (Galatians‬ ‭5:22-23‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Am I truly evidencing these qualities in my life–even when I’m sleep-deprived–and especially to those nearest and dearest to me? Or does my family see someone quite different from the public persona I reveal to everyone else?

The truth of the matter is that we who say we’re Christians are witnesses–“…you will be My witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts‬ ‭1:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Whether we realize it or not; whether we’re feeling great or coming down with something; whether we’ve gotten enough rest or still feel like we need the second half of our night; whether we’re on top of things or our life is falling apart–we are witnesses to what God can do in a human being through the power of His Spirit.

Especially when our life is falling apart. Keep in mind that the truest evidence of what God can do in us is what He does under adverse conditions. Everyone can be nice when things are great, but who are you–what are you really like–when they’re not? Are you walking by the power of the Holy Spirit of God–or do you make excuses for yourself?

God is amazing, and what He can do in His people is amazing, but it’s not going to happen in me if I resist His Spirit and grieve Him. Remember, I am to “…count it all joy when…[I] fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of…[my] faith produces patience.” I am to “…let patience have its perfect work, that…[I] may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” (James‬ ‭1:2-4‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

This is not to say I should live foolishly and wear my body down, or not train my children to respect others’ need for sleep. But it does pertain to my witness when I’m not at my best.

So, how do I respond to the monkey wrenches of life? Hopefully, by remembering that “…those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians‬ ‭5:24‬ ‭NKJV‬‬)

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me let patience have its perfect work that I may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing! Amen.

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I Timothy 6:17

Are you arrogant? Do you think highly of yourself and find it hard to–or even believe you shouldn’t–accept those who don’t live up to your standards? You may be right–you might be an accomplished individual who has worked hard to get where you are, or whose family has–but is it right for you as a child of God to look down on others?

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant…” (1 Timothy‬ ‭6:17‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God’s Word teaches us to “…not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you. (Romans‬ ‭12:3) NIV‬‬

What does this mean?

I suspect that one of the most difficult parts of following Christ is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Him, and I fear many who genuinely believe they are Christians might not, in fact, actually be doing so. In our flesh, our humanness, we want to assert our identity in who we are; the entire advertising industry is, in fact, predicated on this aspiration! We seek distinction (how many times have you heard that word in a car commercial?)–but in a way that reveals us better than others. We look for it in, yes, the car we drive, the clothes we can afford, the schools we attend, the neighborhood we live in, the profession or job we have, the vacations we go on, even in our intellect–and so on and so forth.

Christ, on the other hand, calls us to find our identity in who He is, in “…nothing…except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians‬ ‭2:2‬ ‭NIV‬‬), and this goes against everything the world does. Do you see it? My flesh wants to carve out its identity apart from Christ; He calls us to find our truest meaning in Him.

The world not only seeks to find its identity in status; it rejects and condemns those who don’t fit in at their level–and this rejection can occur because of any one of a number of reasons. We may not even realize it, but we intuitively form opinions of people based on various criteria. We judge others and are ourselves judged by them according to how we speak, what we wear, where we live, where we went to school, what we do for a living, and other defining criteria. To complicate things further, we also judge and get judged based on who our parents, spouses, and even children are and have accomplished!

Do you see it in yourself–do find yourself subliminally ranking the people you know into “important” and “not that important?” Do you consistently make sure to “like” some Facebook posts, while skimming past others that seem irrelevant? Are you honest enough to admit that it’s difficult not to do so? Now, think about the times you felt slighted–the times you yourself didn’t live up to the standard of whomever you were trying to relate to? How did it feel? Not very good, did it?

Yet these are the ways of the world–of those who do not know Christ. But those of us who cling to Him are instructed, “…because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear.” (Romans‬ ‭11:20‬ ‭KJV‬‬) We who belong to Christ are not to be arrogant against anyone!

The only hope we have, after all, is Christ, and He is available to all who call on Him, regardless of wealth, education, ethnicity or any other criteria. We have nothing to boast of except Jesus Himself–who He is and what He did. We, of all people, see most clearly that apart from Christ we are all mired in the hopelessness of our sins, that “All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” (Isaiah‬ ‭64:6‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Regardless of whatever we have accomplished in life, we need to see ourselves and others with God’s eyes!

But what of our accomplishments? Do they count for nothing? And to extrapolate this a bit further–should we then not even bother trying to achieve anything of substance? At this point we must distinguish between accomplishment for self and accomplishment for Christ. I will probably never forget a little plaque my mother kept beside her bed that embodied the truth of Scripture–“Only one life, ’twill soon be past; Only what’s done for Christ will last.”

So the question becomes: whom are you doing whatever it is you’re doing for–for whose glory? The same action can be done for self or for Christ. Are you buying that car to favorably distinguish yourself from your neighbors, or to get to work to support your family? Are you seeking to bring glory to Christ through your accomplishments, or to yourself?

The apostle Paul, of all people, had human status–if anyone could feel accomplished, he could. Yet this was his attitude:

“…I consider everything a loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them garbage, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith. I want to know Christ—yes, to know the power of his resurrection and participation in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, attaining to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians‬ ‭3:8-14‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

So, are you arrogant? Do you somehow feel worthy because of who you are or what you have done, or are you completely focused on finding your value in Him and in everything He is?

Dear Lord,

Help me “not think of…[myself] more highly than…[I] ought, but rather think of…[myself] with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to…[me].” Amen.

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2 Corinthians 4:17-18

Why do bad things happen? Why do people, for example, get attacked, or get cancer, or get into accidents? Why do little children die unexpectedly of something as absurd as influenza, or develop serious congenital issues before they’re even born? Why do families fall apart? Why do people slip on the ice and break a hip or fall down the stairs and become paralyzed? Why does God sometimes let spouses be unfaithful or abusive, or parents not be the people they should be? Why do friends let us down? Why can people be unkind or unwelcoming; why do we get looked down on and thought less of for things we can’t really control? Why is there scarcity in life? Why is there war? Why is there oppression? Ultimately, in whatever shape or form it touches our lives, why must we, as human beings, experience pain?

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭4:17-18‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

The short answer as to why there is pain is that it is because of the presence of sin in this world, but there is more, and that pertains to how we respond to the pain that enters our life–what its result is in us. Whenever bad things happen we have two choices–1) we can pull further away from our heavenly Father, or 2) we can draw closer. We can become angry at Him. We can mistrust Him. We can question His judgment. We can doubt His love for us. We can pull back and even become alienated from Him. Or–we can run into His loving arms. But what determines what our response will be? It all depends on the quality of our relationship.

Let’s use my marriage as an example. If I have a strong relationship with my husband–if I know he loves me very much and is always concerned about my well-being, and if he has always been faithful and there is a good explanation for everything he does–I will not panic if he unexpectedly drops off the grid for an hour or two because I know he is trustworthy and there is a good reason why I can’t reach him at the moment. If, on the other hand, he has shown himself unworthy of my trust–well, I probably won’t respond in quite the same way. Do you see? It all depends on his character.

It’s the same with God. If I have a strong intimate spiritual relationship with Him based upon a significant investment in His Word and prayer, I will know my God. I will know that He is–utterly and completely beyond any shadow of a doubt–trustworthy. I will be convinced both of His love for me and of His ability to successfully effect whatever it is He is working out in my life–and I will not fight Him. To the contrary, I will run to Him, and like the apostle Peter I will say “…Master, to whom would…[I] go? You have the words of real life, eternal life. [I’ve]…already committed…[myself], confident that you are the Holy One of God.” (John‬ ‭6:68-69‬ ‭MSG‬‬)

And that is the crux of the issue: do I know Him well enough to respond with a confidence like that? Do I recognize–and genuinely believe–“…that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate…[me] from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans‬ ‭8:38-39‬ ‭NIV‬‬)? Do I remember that He has declared, “I am the Lord, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah‬ ‭32:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)?

Trust in any relationship is predicated on a previous track record of proven character. God, however, is always good; I just may not have invested enough in my relationship with Him to recognize this yet. But if, as the result of an ongoing vibrant relationship with Him, I have come to recognize that He is always good, loving, trustworthy, faithful, omnipotent, omniscient and wise; if I have been able to personally, “Taste and see that the Lord is good…” (Psalm‬ ‭34:8‬ ‭NIV‬‬); if I remember that He has never failed me before; if every time I obeyed Him I found that things have worked out–in other words, if I know from personal experience, “…that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” (Romans‬ ‭8:28‬ ‭NIV‬‬)–then I will be more inclined to cling to Him in faith, and trust Him in this situation too.

But why do bad things actually happen? I’m convinced that God allows pain to enter our lives to drive us to Him–to cause us to seek more of Christ, which is not something most of us naturally do. When all seems well we might be content to close our hearts off from God and attempt to navigate life apart from Him; it is only when confronted by that which is bigger than us–that which injures us, or which we cannot solve or get through on our own–that we recognize our need.

I am furthermore convinced that most of us do not comprehend through how much we will have to pass before we get to eternity. The Word of God confirms this. In Acts 14:22, Paul and Barnabas affirmed that, “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God…” (Acts‬ ‭14:21-22‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Each of us has a separate path, but it is the path our Lord has given us and we must walk it. Just as John’s was not Peter’s, yours is not mine and mine is not yours–each is uniquely ours: “Jesus answered, “If I want him to…[fill in another’s path] what is that to you? You must follow me.” (John‬ ‭21:22‬ ‭NIV‬‬) But if we will use the trials and difficulties and pain God allows to enter our individual lives to seek Him more–to “gain Christ and be found in Him,” it will serve its intended purpose of refining us and drawing us closer to Him “…until Christ is formed in you.” (Galatians 4:19)

Dear Lord,

Help “our light and momentary troubles…[achieve] for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” Help us “…fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” Amen.

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Romans 8:27

Why do I believe in Jesus? That’s a great question, and I’d love to answer it, but first let me ask you why you believe in the wind? You haven’t ever actually seen it, have you? Of course you see what it does–leaves swirling and trees bending–but you’ve never actually seen the wind itself. You might think you’ve heard it, but scientists tell us that’s just the vibrations from the wind blowing past various objects. Neither have you touched it or tasted it or smelled it. So why do you assume it exists; why can you say with certainty it’s there without seeming ridiculous?

“And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans‬ ‭8:27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

Well, obviously, because you’ve seen what it does! It may be invisible, but it’s effects are not. They are clear to anyone observing. And I’m not just talking about rustling leaves; it’s effects can be momentous–just ask someone who’s lived through a hurricane.

That’s why I believe in Jesus–because I can clearly see what His Spirit does in someone who doesn’t know Him. I can see someone who doesn’t yet believe and is still lost to God–the deadness in his eyes, the sadness and hopelessness, the life of quiet despair. Then, after Christ gets ahold of him, after he is born again of God’s Spirit, everything changes! The deadness is gone–there is life! There is hope, and a future, and even though he may not know very much about God, he knows enough to know he is Christ’s and Christ is his! And it’s not the excitement of someone who’s gotten enamored with a new preoccupation–it’s literally like the difference between a corpse and a living human being!!

I also know the miracles God can work through people who have surrendered themselves to Him and obey Him–the seemingly nonsensical things others don’t get because they don’t understand the concept of working for eternal treasures. Like spending your life, resources and energy creating a home for recovering addicts. Or moving to Calcutta to minister to the forgotten. Or taking in deformed babies and raising them as your own. Or any one of the “so-selfless-there’s-no-explanation-but-Christ” things He does through His people submitted to Him. The list is endless, but they all involves losing your life for His sake–giving up your pursuits to further His.

Most of all, I believe in Him because I know Him. That, I can honestly say, is the real reason I believe in Jesus–because I know Him. The other reasons are great for convincing those who don’t yet know Him, but at this point of my walk with Him you couldn’t convince me Christ isn’t real anymore than that you could convince me my husband isn’t. And it isn’t because of some kind of altered perception, it’s because of two experiential reasons–things which I’ve personally experienced myself.

The first is answered prayer. So imagine I were to pray to a great frog who’s holding up the earth on its back. How many times would you expect me to get what I’ve asked for? Statistically speaking I’d expect a favorable response 50% of the time, right? Because there’s a 50/50 chance something could happen or not, correct? But praying to God isn’t like praying to a nonexistent entity like a great frog–God’s real! That’s why He actually answers my prayers–and during the course of my life it’s been way too often for this to be mere coincidence!

The second reason is because of His Holy Spirit. It’s Romans 8:16–“The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children.” What does that mean? It means that as we fellowship with Him in prayer–as we come before Him and seek His presence, we get it–we really truly experience His presence, as well as confirmation of our status as His children!

Actually, let’s put that verse into its proper context to understand better:

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace. The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. Those who are in the realm of the flesh cannot please God. You, however, are not in the realm of the flesh but are in the realm of the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, they do not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, then even though your body is subject to death because of sin, the Spirit gives life because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we have an obligation—but it is not to the flesh, to live according to it. For if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live. For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “ Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.” (Romans‬ ‭8:5-17‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

“In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans. And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God.” (Romans‬ ‭8:26-27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

When a child of God prays, something miraculous happens–we are brought into the very presence of God!

So, why do I believe in Jesus? More accurately, how could I not?

Dear Lord,

Thank You that You are real; thank You that Your Spirit intercedes for me according to Your will; thank You that I can cry, “Abba, Father,” to You; thank You that You show Yourself freely to those who want You; please help me want You more than anything else! Amen.

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