“Worshipping God will always cost us something – from the blood sprinkled altars of the Old Testament to our tithes and time in this present Age…following the Lord is going to cost you SOMETHING, but it’s supposed to. To offer something to the Lord which cost us nothing is not a sacrifice, but merely a gift. Perhaps your act of sacrifice now is to endure a season of sifting. If so, I pray for you. Literally. I pray that all those facing insurmountable odds and unexplainable tribulation will find their peace – and strength – in God and His goodness during this time, so that (like David) your place of sifting can become your place of praise!” -Sifted, April Estes.
Life can be heavy. There are wounds that sometimes never get healed, things that never get closure. Sometimes it can feel like we’re swimming in a mess of undone things. Things start to get real hairy when we start to try to wield that closure that won’t close, or balm a wound that’s not quite ready yet. Friend, the truth is some things will never be “done”. Some things must wait for heaven. But the good news is heaven is coming! God in His loving kindness had created a place for all the “incompletes” to be made whole. A place where all the wrongs will be made right and all the hurts, restored. If you have become weary from struggling to get that ever elusive healing or closure, let it go, friend. Place it at the feet of God, knowing He can hold it all til heaven. As the song goes “Earth has no sorrow that heaven can’t heal!”
Today’s devo is audio! Click the link: https://anchor.fm/april-estes/episodes/Friendship-e1cnntd
There are certain words as a writer I just love: undaunted, saudade, picturesque…
Lately, I’ve another favorite word has been emerging a lot. Sometimes it comes as “pining,” sometimes “longing,” but it comes around at least every other day.
As the days grow longer in this quarentine, disease ridden world, I feel my soul and heart longing, yearning, pining for heaven. At least once a week, I pour my heart out begging for Christ to come, already.
Have you ever felt that way? Maybe you were a fiance, longing for marriage or a soldier yearning for home. There’s something almost tangible about extreme pining.
We aren’t the only ones to pine for something. Hannah yearned for a child of her own. Leah longed to be loved. Joseph pined for Canaan. In all cases, it would have been easy to give up, stop wanting. But they didn’t. Despite the hunger, they remained faithful, and continually prayed for their needs. Philippians 4:6-7 tells us “Don’t worry about anything, but pray and petition every situation with thanksgiving, presenting your requests to God. And the Peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” Note what it says: if we pray with thanksgiving, God will give us His peace! We might not always get everything we are praying for (Leah and Joseph didn’t), but we will be given the peace to withstand the journey.
Are you pining today? Take it to God, in prayer. He promises peace.
There is a verse that has often perplexed me: “If your enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give water to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head, And the LORD will repay you.” (Proverbs 25:22–23). It made no sense because I was reading it through Americanized lenses. But to get to the true message of this verse, we must view it through New Testament eyes.
Back then, the fire was the hub of the home and stayed lit 24/7. If one’s fire went out, it could mean death for the family. If one’s fire ever did go out, they would ask for coals from their neighbor, causing a feeling of indebtedness. This view makes way more sense, now. God is not saying if you treat your neighbor well, it will hurt him. Rather, it will cause him to feel closer to you. A better interpretation (done in 1903 by Ferrar Fenton) would read: “If your enemy hungers, feed him; If he thirsts, give water to drink, And a fire besides for his needs; And then the LORD will repay you.” (Proverbs 25:22–23). This also lines up with the example in Job where God replenished Job’s children and wealth only AFTER he prayed for his enemies. When we let the blessings flow, God’s blessings flow to us.
Living in America is a blessing. We have freedom of religion, freedom of speech, freedom upon freedom upon freedom. We are told from a young age we can be whatever and whoever we want to be. We are then told we need to be and have everything – all the time. It’s a lot of pressure. It’s also a lie.
If you buy into all this, you will have conflicts. You can’t have everything you want all the time. It wouldn’t be healthy. You can’t be everything to everybody all the time. You would be “spent” in a couple of weeks. And as a Christian, we are taught to Deny ourselves, not indulge ourselves. Living as a Christian in America sometimes makes you feel like you have failed the American dream.
To have the dream job, you must sometimes be away from your family, sometimes totally. Which priority wins? You feel like you are failing yourself if you don’t pursue “ all you can be,” but you fail your family if you’re never there. No matter what you choose, you feel like you are failing one.
We are told from the time we are young to “be happy.” But what if “being happy” falls outside the will of God? What if we have to choose between personal happiness and following Christ?
I have wrestled with it and I know many others have, too. It is difficult to choose wisely when the world is screaming for us to do otherwise. No matter what we choose, we feel like we are failing. Let us pray for God to give us the strength to choose wisely and tune out the voices that say differently.
Jesus was once in Jerusalem for a Jewish festival when he passed the pool of Bethesda. This pool was special because at a certain season, an angel would dip into the pool and whoever was first to step in was healed. Jesus noticed a lame man who had been by the pool for 38 years. Jesus then asks him a strange question, “Do you want to get well?” I always wondered about this question. But miracles are used to illustrate spiritual truths. Jesus asks him if he wants to get well because to be well would require a total change in his way of life. He would say goodbye to the way he used to live, waiting by a pool as a cripple, and enter society. It would be wonderful, but it would be hard. The same is true for us. When we say goodbye to our old life of sin, life is very different, sometimes harder. But, just as it was worth it to the lame man, so it is with us. In the same way, Jesus stands before us, asking “Do you want to be well?”
“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Matthew 5:8
There is a saying in our culture, “Follow your heart.” It sounds nice and makes for neat home decor signs, but, unfortunately for the Christian, it is not accurate. Jeremiah 17:9 says, “The heart is deceitful above all things…” The Bible indicates the heart is something not to blindly follow, but to tame and guide. As Christians, we are not called to “find ourselves” but to “deny ourselves.”
So, how do we develop a pure heart? Psalm 12:6 says, “The fear of the Lord is pure.” Psalm 119:9 says, “How can a person stay pure? By living according to Your Word.” Psalm 20:11 says, “Even small children are known by their conduct, if their heart is really pure and upright.” Proverbs 15:26 says, “God detests the thoughts of the wicked, but gracious words are pure in his sight.” We can see through these verses that by living according to God’s word and watching our conduct and our words we can develop a pure heart. And there’s good reason! Psalms 24:4-5 says those with pure hearts will “receive a blessing from the Lord” and “righteousness unto salvation.” We are also told in Matthew 5 the pure in heart will see God and that our purity is the “fine linen of the righteous deeds of the saints.”
The bad news? One of the ways we are made pure is through tests and trials (Proverbs 17:3). Sometimes God puts us through the refiner’s fire to rid us of impurities and make us shine. Don’t fret the unwarranted trials and tests, friend. It is all a part of the journey.
1 Samuel 17 is the account of David and Goliath. We all know how young David challenged the giant Goliath and God gave him the victory, but there is a pre-story. David had been sent to the battle not to fight, but to merely deliver food. But when he heard the Philistine insulting God, he could not turn away. David’s brother, a soldier, was insulted. “You are nothing but a lowly shepherd. Go home!” he essentially said. David’s brother tried to put him in his place, insulting him with his job status. This did not have the impact the brother was hoping for, because David did not leave. As a matter of fact, David used his job as an example to King Saul.
“Your servant has been keeping his father’s sheep. When a lion(AI) or a bear came and carried off a sheep from the flock,35 I went after it, struck it and rescued the sheep from its mouth. When it turned on me, I seized(AJ) it by its hair, struck it and killed it. 36 Your servant has killed both the lion(AK) and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God.37 The Lord who rescued(AL) me from the paw of the lion(AM) and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” (1 Sam. 34-37)
The same thing the devil will use to try to discredit us is the very thing God will use to bring the victory! God does not see as man sees. He uses everything – even our scars and failures – to His glory. It’s all about perspective.
I love the stories of David, and the account of him and Goliath is still one of my favorites. I love the idea of the underdog gaining victory over God’s mocker. I noticed that when David challenged Goliath, everyone was doubtful, even his brothers. King Saul himself even tried to give young David his own armor! There was one who did not doubt: David. David did not doubt because he remembered God giving him victory over not only a lion, but also a bear. When these happened, his friends were not around. They had not yet perhaps seen the mighty hand of God bring the victory. But David lived in his remembrance. Perhaps you have been in a similar situation, where well meaning and supportive friends aren’t quite so supportive. Know this: their lack of support is based on their level of faith. Many people do not think God can bring the victory because they have never seen it before. But you have. Perhaps you have had God kill the symbolic lion and bear in your past, so you know he can do it again. Don’t fully listen to the whispers of your friends. They might not yet have stood with feet mired in mud, watching as God parted the sea. But you have. Remember those times. Cling to those times, knowing that the same God who brought you through the fire first time can bring you through again! Live in full remembrance, friend, of all God has done for you!