Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour. For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property.
Matthew 25:13-14 ESV
One day all of us will take a journey. We will finish our final 24 hours on this planet and go to stand before the Lord. On an earthly journey there are some things we need to do to get ready. We might need to draw money from the bank, pack our suitcases and fill up the car with gas. In our preparations whether we know it or not we are making two decisions: what will we take with us and what will we leave behind.
In the same way we need to prepare for our heavenly departure. Jesus told us to be watchful because we cannot know the day of His return. For some that will be the day He splits the skies and descends from the clouds and for others it will be the moment in God’s calendar when we depart to be with Him. Whichever way we meet Him there are some things we must do today to get ready.
First into your suitcase be sure to pack faith. Faith is God’s first gift and – Without faith it is impossible to please Him… Hebrews 11:6 But to travel with your faith you will discover that fear is taking up so much space inside your bag that one must be left behind.
Next we must be sure to find a place for hope. Hope is the gift that God gives us after faith and it gives us strength to keep going through all the weary miles of life. But to find room for hope we have to allow God to unpack our shame and leave it at the foot of the cross. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts … Romans 5:5
Last always remember to never leave love behind. The entire reason for our journey is not because God needs more servants to get stuff done in heaven, but because He wants children on whom He can lavish His amazing love forever! So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love 1 Corinthians 13:13
February 23 Effective Prayer Part 2
Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much James 5:16
If we prayed as earnestly for others as we have prayed for ourselves how different might our church be? In the garden of Gethsemane Jesus prayed so earnestly that we are told that “his sweat was as it were great drops pf blood” Luke 22:44
No priest, no king, no father and no mother ever prayed with the earnestness of Jesus Christ. Yet for all His earnestness Jesus’ request was denied! The Father’s will remained unchanged and then three times our Lord ended His prayers with “not my will but thine be done”
And though apparently His request was denied yet the most earnest of all prayers continues to be answered for us today. God still hears and has always heard earnest fervent prayers. The way He chooses to answer remains wrapped in the mystery of His Sovereign will. We change and our lives fade yet if we forever hold fervently to His promises lives all around us will be changed!
When he had said this, Jesus called in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” John 11:44
And looking up to heaven, he sighed and said to him, “Ephphatha,” that is, “Be opened.” And his ears were opened, his tongue was released, and he spoke plainly. Mark 7:34-35
Taking her by the hand he said to her, “Talitha cumi,” which means, “Little girl, I say to you, arise.” And immediately the girl got up and began walking (for she was twelve years of age), and they were immediately overcome with amazement. Mark 5:41-42
Jesus never prayed for bread, He thanked His Father for it and the bread was multiplied. Jesus’ prayers were never for His own provision. He prayed and restored the sea to calm when the disciples were in fear. He prayed and the blind man’s sight was restored. The entire ministry of Jesus was about His prayers of restoration for others.
How differently might our own prayers be if we prayed as Jesus did. Prayers of restoration might be for a neighbor or even a stranger God sends our way. Prayers of restoration don’t need to focus on our desires but on God’s. Prayers of restoration are like the stone jars of water being transformed into wine at His command. When our prayers are poured out and given for others then the miracle will happen. When we pray for others then our plain water prayers turn red with the restoring life of Christ!
And she said, “Yes, Lord, yet even the little dogs eat the crumbs which fall from their masters’ table.” Then Jesus answered and said to her, “O woman, great is your faith! Let it be to you as you desire.” And her daughter was healed from that very hour
When Jesus said, “Great is your faith!” it is interesting to see that she had two kinds of faith operating here at the same time. The first faith said, “Jesus can heal my daughter.” While the second, “He wants to heal my daughter.”.
Most of us when we are praying believe that God is able to grant our request. God’s ability is tied directly to His existence. If there is a God He is certainly able to do anything. But for us to have the great faith of this woman we must also pass in the dark testing so then we will know His true joy when the ray of hope breaks through
In spite of His silence she continued to believe that He was listening. In spite of the discouragement by His disciples she continued to ask. Finally in the face of seeming refusal she continued to believe that Jesus was truly willing to give her the help that she needed.
The source of our answer to our plea for grace is unfailing but it often lies at the bottom of the well of humility. Will you and me, like this woman accept grace on any terms. Will we be willing to take the lowest place possible? It is not that God is out to humiliate us but He is inviting us to a deeper fellowship with Him, who came as a servant of all!
Fifth Gift of Christmas – HOPE
Matthew 12:20 a bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not quench,
until he brings justice to victory
Not long ago a home on the next street of our neighborhood was condemned by the city. It had the unfortunate luck to be near a large storm sewer project gone awry. Somehow with all the digging, smashing and scraping going on its foundation had become weakened. In order to move the construction forward, large equipment was brought in and in just a few days the house was demolished and trucked away.
Is there someone in your world who is a lot like this small unfortunate home? They have gotten a little too close to important building projects. The heavy equipment, the digging and smashing going on while others nearby are reaching their goals has weakened their footings. A lifetime of planning, years of family dinners and memories of children playing can be wiped away in just a few days or even hours.
Jesus said he would never break bruised hearts of put out the candles of flickering hope. When we give to bind up bruised dreams we are carrying on His work in a wounding world. When we help to light candle flames by pointing them to His gift of hope we are reaching a goal far greater than our own!
“Row harder! More to the left! Don’t stand up! Just be careful!” Who hasn’t heard all these instructions as you began your first solo voyage in a kayak? You might have been feeling a little nervous, but then just as you launched out, barely ten feet from the shore it seems you were sinking under waves of advice.
Jeremiah 29:11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
The Jewish people as they arrived in their new home in Babylon were in very much the same situation. Some people were so depressed they just literally wanted to hang up their harps and give up. There were also some “Prosperity prophets” around telling the people to cheer up because God was going to destroy Babylon any minute and they would soon be back in their own land (PS send a big offering to me) Last of all, there were folks with their hands just itching to pull out their swords because they hated the foreign rulers and wanted revenge. With so many voices pushing and pulling at them many ordinary people were plenty confused. That is exactly when God sent Jeremiah this word of encouragement and guidance.
A) I Know the plans I have for you No matter the situation you are facing today, the first person to listen to is God! Rick Warren once said, “God loves you and everybody else has a wonderful plan for your life!” It is human nature to give advice but unless the advice they are offering lines up with God’s direction for your life it is at best just well meaning confusion. Most of the difficulties I have gotten myself into have been snap decisions that haven’t been tempered by prayer and patience. Don’t allow others to stampede you into their direction. God already knows which way you need to row and if we are ready to listen He is ready to guide us.
B) Plans to prosper you and not to harm you… There is no one more interested in your true prosperity than God. Wanting our best is at the heart of God’s very nature. When we were separated by sin God sent His son. When we felt alone, God promised to be with us. When we didn’t understand, God promised His wisdom. There is nothing in this life or in the world to come that God will not give us if we will listen and do things His way! Most of the spiritual snake oil salesmen actually bank on us wavering in our trust of God’s control. So remind yourself today that you don’t need to send $19.99 to anyone for God to act on your behalf. You don’t need to sign up to partner with a stranger or pick up the phone and call a special help line to hear what Jesus has to say. The promises of God in the Bible are just as powerful for you as anyone else in the world!
C) To give you a hope and a future The people of Israel had lost hope. They had no idea how things could ever improve. They were being lied to and manipulated by the very leaders who should have been concerned for the welfare. But God sent Jeremiah to them with words of calm encouragement. He was given the message that even though they would be in Babylon for 70 years (a lifetime for most) that even there He could bless them. They were to pick up the pieces and rebuild their lives right where they were. God wanted them to know above all things that He was still in control. In your fast paced world you may fell lost, disoriented and discouraged but God still has a plan. His plan always begins right where you are and it is the best plan of all.Because of the cross of Calvary God has already amazingly decided to bless us, to provide our needs and to lead us all the way home to him if we will trust Him alone!
Something a little upbeat today. I’ll Fly away was written by Albert Brumley in 1929 and sung by people everywhere since as an exuberant expression of our joyful hope of heaven. As my old pastor used to say, If you can’t clap on this one, your arm must be broken!” Be blessed. Smile in the face of what ever comes because when the shadows of this life are over then our flight plans are already laid in with heaven’s control tower thanks to the cross of Jesus Christ!