Joel 2:25

Have locusts eaten your life? I’m not a farmer and I’ve never seen a locust myself, but these highly destructive grasshopper-like insects can supposedly level a field filled with crops to the ground in a matter of minutes, as the swarm passes by devouring everything in its sight. And while most of us will not have experienced a literal blight of locusts, there are some who can relate to the figurative desolation of a life foolishly wasted in rebellion to God.

“And I will restore to you the years that the locust hath eaten, the cankerworm, and the caterpiller, and the palmerworm, my great army which I sent among you.” (Joel‬ ‭2:25‬ ‭KJV‬‬)

It is God Himself who sends the locusts–did you catch that? This is not a random occurrence of nature; it is a plague God sends to cause His people to turn their hearts back toward Him! Because He loves them; because He cares that they are rebelling against Him–that they have been lured away by every conceivable foolishness and way contrary to Him–He sends something painful, something humiliating, something overwhelming, something degrading, something to cause us to see how much we need Him! God doesn’t just turn His back and go away; He doesn’t allow His people to stay lost–He disciplines us.

“You have forgotten the encouraging words that call you His children: ‘My child, don’t think the Lord’s discipline is worth nothing, and don’t stop trying when he corrects you. The Lord disciplines those He loves, and He punishes everyone He accepts as His child.’ So hold on through your sufferings, because they are like a father’s discipline. God is treating you as children. All children are disciplined by their fathers. If you are never disciplined (and every child must be disciplined), you are not true children. We have all had fathers here on earth who disciplined us, and we respected them. So it is even more important that we accept discipline from the Father of our spirits so we will have life. Our fathers on earth disciplined us for a short time in the way they thought was best. But God disciplines us to help us, so we can become holy as He is. We do not enjoy being disciplined. It is painful at the time, but later, after we have learned from it, we have peace, because we start living in the right way.” (Hebrews‬ ‭12:5-11‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

God’s discipline is never pleasant–it’s not meant to be. Otherwise, why would we ever change our ways? It would have no effect! He sends the locusts for a reason. But when discipline has served its intended purpose, it causes us to repent–to recognize we are wrong and God is right, and do a genuine correction in our life in our relationship with Him. That’s what repentance is–at its heart, it’s agreeing with God and lining ourselves up in an orderly fashion under His authority. King David described the attitude of someone who is right with God beautifully when he wrote, “LORD, my heart is not proud; I don’t look down on others. I don’t do great things, and I can’t do miracles. But I am calm and quiet, like a baby with its mother. I am at peace, like a baby with its mother.” (Psalms‬ ‭131:1-2‬ ‭NCV‬‬) After we have been effectively disciplined, “we have peace, because we start living the right way.”

So, have locusts consumed your life? Are you done rebelling? Is your way not working? Have you finally come to a point of recognizing God is right and His way best? Come back to Christ Jesus, the lover of our soul, and be right with Him and at peace!

Dear Lord God,

I’m sorry; You are right and I am wrong, and I’m coming back to You. Please fix my life and restore to me the years the locusts have eaten. Because of Your great mercy to me through Jesus I ask for this. Amen!

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Psalm 68:21

Who are the enemies of God? If you’re anything like me, you may not quite know who those nefarious individuals identified Scripturally as the enemies of God are–the ones whose destiny is eternal punishment–but you’re quite certain it’s not you, because, after all, you’ve accepted Christ. You go to church. You pray. You read the Bible. But…have you–really–accepted Jesus? And what does “accepting Him” (or alternately “being saved”) actually mean, Biblically?

“Surely God will crush the heads of His enemies, the hairy crowns of those who go on in their sins.” (Psalm‬ ‭68:21‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

The funny thing about us human beings is that we rarely think of ourselves as the wrongdoers–in fact, we almost never do. And that’s understandable. We try our best, so whether or not we give the other guy the benefit of the doubt, we almost certainly always do for ourselves. Yet where our relationship with God–our eternal destiny–is concerned, this isn’t enough; we need to be sure! We need to know we are among those who are saved, who really belong to Jesus–not just assume we are because we were once led in a prayer to “accept” Him.

So, let’s clear our mind of any preconceived notions of what “being saved” means, and instead, let’s look at what the Bible actually says it is.

First, we can see that today’s verse clearly identifies as unsaved--as the enemies of God–those who go on in their sins. It doesn’t say it’s the people who go on in really bad sins–just sins. So, I don’t have to be continuing an extramarital affair to be an enemy of God–I can be habitually disregarding the speed limit when I’m late. And any pattern of rebellion against God–any habitual sin–is continuing in sin.

John wrote the same thing to the New Testament church:

“But you know that He [Jesus] appeared so that He might take away our sins. And in Him is no sin. No one who lives in Him keeps on sinning. No one who continues to sin has either seen Him or known Him. Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. The one who does what is right is righteous, just as He is righteous. The one who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. No one who is born of God will continue to sin, because God’s seed remains in them; they cannot go on sinning, because they have been born of God.” (1 John‬ ‭3:5-9‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

So, we see again that continuing in sin–not a one-off mess-up, but again, to borrow the words of Psalm 68:21, “those who go on in their sins”is identified as evidence of someone who is not born of God, who does not know Him.

Of course, all Scripture is God-breathed, but what about Jesus? What did He say?

“You will know these people by what they do. Grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. In the same way, you will know these false prophets by what they do. Not all those who say ‘You are our Lord’ will enter the kingdom of heaven. The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what My Father in heaven wants. On the last day many people will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, we spoke for You, and through You we forced out demons and did many miracles.’ Then I will tell them clearly, ‘Get away from Me, you who do evil. I never knew you.’ Everyone who hears My words and obeys them is like a wise man who built his house on rock. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house. But it did not fall, because it was built on rock. Everyone who hears My words and does not obey them is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. It rained hard, the floods came, and the winds blew and hit that house, and it fell with a big crash.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:16-27‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

“The only people who will enter the kingdom of heaven are those who do what My Father in heaven wants.” This is not works-based salvation; it is not “I do good works in the hope of getting into heaven.” Rather, trusting God enough to do what He wants, to live our lives His way, is the evidence of genuine belief–of having really accepted Jesus as our Lord and Savior!

You know, Jesus said, “Enter through the narrow gate. The gate is wide and the road is wide that leads to hell, and many people enter through that gate. But the gate is small and the road is narrow that leads to true life. Only a few people find that road.” (Matthew‬ ‭7:13-14‬ ‭NCV‬) I am afraid that there are far too many who feel secure based on a supposed one-time “decision for Christ” who continue in sin, and are therefore, in fact, still very much on the wide road that leads away from Christ to their ultimate destruction.

Believing Jesus was a historical figure isn’t saving faith. Even thinking He really might have been the Son of God who paid for our sins is questionable if we don’t believe enough for our lives to be changed. The letter of James tells us, “You believe there is one God. Good! But the demons believe that, too, and they tremble with fear. You foolish person! Must you be shown that faith that does nothing is worth nothing?” (James‬ ‭2:19-20‬ ‭NCV‬‬) Believing Jesus is the Son of God who paid for our sins, and then trusting Him enough to actually deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him–and say no to ourselves and the sin we so desperately want to justify regardless of cost–that is evidence of salvation at work in us through Christ!

So, who are the enemies of God, and who are those who are being saved? How can I know which I am? Kay Arthur of Precept Upon Precept Ministries says those who persevere to the end are the saved. The Apostle John wrote, “This is what God told us: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. Whoever has the Son has life, but whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life. I write this letter to you who believe in the Son of God [who has the kind of belief that responds to Christ] so you will know you have eternal life.” (1 John‬ ‭5:11-13‬ ‭NCV‬‬) Jesus Himself said, “Now this is eternal life: that they know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom You have sent.” (John‬ ‭17:3‬ ‭NIV‬‬) Do you have Jesus? Do you know the Father and Jesus Christ whom He sent? Do you refuse to go on in sin? Will you persevere to the end? These are the questions we should examine ourselves with to see if we are really in the faith!

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me not go on in any sin! Amen.

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2 Timothy 2:19

Do you belong to Christ? Are you really His? I ask this not to frighten you or cause you to doubt your salvation–because Jesus will certainly never lose any of His own–but to urge you to honestly “examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine…” (2 Corinthians‬ ‭13:5‬ ‭NLT‬‬), as God Himself urges us to do in His Word.

“But God’s truth stands firm like a foundation stone with this inscription: ‘The Lord knows those who are His,’ and ‘All who belong to the Lord must turn away from evil.'” (2 Timothy‬ ‭2:19‬ ‭NLT‬‬)

Heaven seems free these days. For generations now we have had preachers literally begging people on the street corners and in the pulpits to “accept Jesus,” yet our world seems to be becoming more secular, and the distinctions between churched and unchurched lesser–to the degree that in many cases those who claim Christian beliefs poll indistinguishably from those who do not. What is the problem? Why is it that claimed faith in Christ seems to have too little bearing on their everyday life for so many people?

I believe part of the reason is because–in our desire to evangelize and bring into the Kingdom as many as possible–we have emphasized certain doctrinal truths while neglecting others. We have, for example, lauded wonderful verses such as “…Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” (Acts‬ ‭16:31‬ ‭NIV‬‬), and “If you declare with your mouth, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.” (Romans‬ ‭10:9‬ ‭NIV‬‬), while perhaps failing to explain that the Greek word translated into the English word “believe” implies such a belief as generates genuinely changed behavior. We have, on the other hand, skimmed over less comfortable passages, such as Hebrews chapters 3 and 4, which equate belief with obedience, and unbelief with disobedience.

So does this mean we earn our way into God’s good graces, and ultimately into heaven? No, of course not; salvation is through Jesus Christ’s finished work of salvation on the cross. And it does involve our believing in Him, but the belief God requires of us is of a far deeper and more genuine caliber than most of us imagine.

It is the kind of belief that Jesus Himself referred to when He said, “…Whoever wants to be My disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow Me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for Me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? For the Son of Man is going to come in His Father’s glory with his angels, and then He will reward each person according to what they have done.” (Matthew‬ ‭16:24-27‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

These are very uncomfortable words, because if most of us are honest, we must admit that we have become very comfortable with our lives here, and would be hard pressed if we had to genuinely forfeit them–or even any little bit of our comfort or pleasure within them–for Christ. Yet, this is the faith those in nations hostile to the gospel of Christ know, because for them, gaining Christ frequently does involve losing all.

And yet, Jesus gives us multiple opportunities to confess Him or deny Him in our daily lives–opportunities that might cost us if we are bold, if we confess Him openly. Maybe we won’t be stoned or have our property taken away or be imprisoned, but there might be social or professional repercussions. Yet even this is too much for many of us–there are times we aren’t willing to sacrifice even this little for the One we claim to have given up all to follow–for the One who gave up all to gain salvation for us.

All of this should cause us to remember Jesus’ words: “Whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of them when He comes in His glory and in the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” (Luke‬ ‭9:26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

We are indistinguishable statistically from the unchurched all too frequently because we fail to correctly understand the path of following Christ as one of self-denial rather than self-indulgence, as one that does lead to glory, but through the doorway of Calvary first.“…unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. Anyone who loves their life will lose it, while anyone who hates their life in this world will keep it for eternal life. Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, My servant also will be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me.” (John‬ ‭12:24-26‬ ‭NIV‬‬)

God gives no suggestions; He gives truth. It is our non-optional game-plan–the only game-plan–for obtaining eternal life. True faith sacrifices all for Christ.

This, in fact, is our biggest mistake: not recognizing that gaining Christ and being found in Him will cost us. Jesus’ parables are full of this truth–He repeated it multiple times in multiple ways. No, we do not earn it–Jesus earned our salvation for us. But it will cost us–why else would He have counseled us to consider how much we will have to sacrifice to follow Him?

“If anyone comes to Me but loves his father, mother, wife, children, brothers, or sisters—or even life—more than Me, he cannot be My follower. Whoever is not willing to carry his cross and follow Me cannot be my follower. If you want to build a tower, you first sit down and decide how much it will cost, to see if you have enough money to finish the job. If you don’t, you might lay the foundation, but you would not be able to finish. Then all who would see it would make fun of you, saying, ‘This person began to build but was not able to finish.’ If a king is going to fight another king, first he will sit down and plan. He will decide if he and his ten thousand soldiers can defeat the other king who has twenty thousand soldiers. If he can’t, then while the other king is still far away, he will send some people to speak to him and ask for peace. In the same way, you must give up everything you have to be My follower.” (Luke‬ ‭14:26-33‬ ‭NCV‬‬)

The Old Testament prophets understood this–they were rejected and persecuted. The early Christians understood this–they were lit up as human torches and saw their children killed off in front of them. Christians in other countries understand this–conversion for them typically means loosing family and friends, and even their life. But do we? I suspect once we do, we will no longer be indistinguishable from those who do not know Christ.

Dear Lord Jesus,

Help me be worthy of You! Amen.

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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.

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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 Christ, I 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. It 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, (D) 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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