Archive for June 2016

Our Shepherd Forever

from the devotional book, PICTURES OF GOD

Revelation 7:9-17

When God’s timeless purposes are complete, when He has done in Christ everything He ever wanted to do for His people, what will our relationship with Him be?

They are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from the eyes. (Revelation 7:15-17, NASB)

Psalm 23:1 will be full reality for each of God’s people.

The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing. (NIV)

As the Good Shepherd, the glorified Christ will pasture them:

They will hunger no longer. (Revelation 7:16a, NASB) 

He will lead them “beside quiet waters” (Psalm 23:2b, NASB):

“…nor will they thirst anymore…for the Lamb…will guide them to springs of the water of life.” (Revelation 7:16-17, NASB)

He will meet their every need in full measure: 

God will wipe every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17b, NASB)

As the Good Shepherd, God Himself will be their shelter and protection:

They are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. (Revelation 7:15, NASB)

He will be with His flock personally, constantly, completely, and forever. “The Lord is my Shepherd.” What a beautiful picture of God’s love!

My Weakness Glorifies God

It’s Sunday morning, and I’m doing last minute preparations to teach my Sunday School class again. I can’t help but wonder why God uses such a highly-imperfect method for communicating His perfect truth to His precious people. I have so many weaknesses in both my understanding and my ability to communicate. All we human creatures do. All we who communicate God’s truth are deeply flawed in many ways. Why would He entrust His precious Word to us?

The question reminds me that all-wise, all-powerful God seems to prefer to do His work through His creatures. And this seems to be part of His overall desire to incarnate Himself – to make His transcendent perfection flesh and blood. He incarnated Himself perfectly in His Son Jesus, but throughout our history, before and since Christ, He has sought to incarnate Himself by filling His human creatures with His own divine Spirit, His own life.

Again, why would a perfect God choose to reveal Himself so imperfectly? I don’t pretend to have all the answers to that, but I see part of His purpose explained in His Word:

We have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves. (2 Corinthians 4:7, NASB)

“My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:9-10, NASB)

When God has a Jericho to conquer or a Goliath to defeat or a fiery furnace to be faced, He chooses someone small and weak who is simply willing to trust and obey Him. That way it is obvious to everyone that the one acting is not the weak human creature, but the all-powerful Creator.

Or to bring it back around to my personal situation, my weakness glorifies God. When God’s beautiful, life-giving truth comes from my mouth, however imperfectly, it is plain to all who hear that the truth they are hearing is His, not mine.

I still catch myself wanting to appear strong, bright, and eloquent. But that’s not the truth, and that’s not how I can glorify God the best. People don’t need me. They need Him. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30, NASB).

Yes, I do everything I can to prepare and deliver His message with the passion and clarity it deserves. How could I do anything less? But I can’t hide the truth: anything worthwhile that comes out of my mouth is from Him, not me. Even in my smallness and ignorance I can show people how good and great and present He is. How wonderful is that?

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Not I, but Christ
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Only a Seed

What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe – as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God made it grow. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow. (1 Corinthians 3:5-7, NIV)

We dream of building empires. We like to think of ourselves as becoming strong oaks, or perhaps lush, glorious gardens of accomplishment.

But we lose sight of our smallness. We are only one tiny part of a people that together – and only together – are a holy temple, a fruitful vine.

My accomplishments will not be an empire, an oak, or a garden – only a seed. But God will make that seed grow. In His time it will take root. It will blossom and flower and produce fruit. And in that fruit will be more seeds. Some will fall nearby; others will be carried far away. God’s garden will grow richer and broader, spreading out into all eternity.

My Lord and Savior, deliver me from an exaggerated image of my importance as Your servant, no matter what part I am assigned in Your work. Deliver me from the hope that I will be honored above others. I only want to be one with You and one with Your people.

Thank You, Lord God, for the beauty of Your truth, for the beauty of living and growing in You. You are wonderful!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Touch a Life through Me
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

SEE JESUS Devotional Tapestry

SEE JESUS Devotional Tapestry

Devotional Tapestries are short recordings designed to draw your heart and mind to the Living God. Each includes a devotional reading over instrumental music, leading into a hymn.

Listen to SEE JESUS Devotional Tapestry
Printed devotional & hymn
More Devotional Tapestries

Forced Fasts

Many times in my life I’ve looked back and realized that God had taken something away from me, often temporarily, in order to make me more dependent on Him.

Fasting normally refers to doing without food for a time in order to focus more on God. But God sometimes forces us to do without other things for a while in order to draw our eyes more singly to Him. He may take away financial security, success, close relationships, health, or even a general sense of comfort and well-being.

Older writers would say that God is separating us to Himself. It is a common experience for God’s servants. Through such times of spiritual formation God is making us more like His Son Jesus. Read the Gospel of John, and you’ll get a sense for how Jesus focused His eyes on the Father alone, depending on Him constantly and completely for everything He said and everything He did.

Is God leading you through such a forced fast? He is separating you more completely to Himself. He is expressing His love for you. Bring your needs and concerns to Him, then rest in His care. Be content, trusting Him to bring relief in His way and time.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Back to You
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

Compassion

When a need stirs your compassion, what do you do next? Jesus was frequently moved with compassion, and whenever He was, He always took immediate action to meet the need before Him.

  • He taught and healed the crowds, then sent His disciples to do the same. (Matthew 9:36 – 10:8)
  • He fed the hungry. (Matthew 14:14; 15:32; Mark 6:34; 8:2)
  • He gave the blind their sight. (Matthew 20:34)
  • He touched the untouchable leper and healed him. (Mark 1:41)
  • In the middle of a funeral, Jesus felt compassion for the bereaved widow and raised her son back to life. (Luke 7:13)

All that is fine for the Son of God, but what about us? We can’t feed thousands with a boy’s lunch, or give blind men their sight, or heal all the sick, or raise the dead. What are we to do when we are moved with compassion?

Jesus answered this question through three of His most memorable parables. In each, a human being like us is moved with compassion and takes action in response. These parables point the way for us.

  • We can use what we have to help the needy as we encounter them. The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:30-37) was moved with compassion toward a needy person of a different race. He used his own time, energy, and resources to help him.
  • In mercy, we can help restore those who are trying to rebuild their broken lives. While the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) was still far away, the father saw him, felt compassion for him, and ran to him. He kissed and embraced him, then restored him to his former relationship by giving him a robe, a ring, and sandals. Then he threw a lavish party to celebrate his return.
  • We can show those who have wronged us the same compassion and forgiveness that God has shown us. In the story of the unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35), when the master completely forgave the overwhelming debt of his servant, he expected the servant to do the same for his own debtors.

God moves us with compassion for a reason. Don’t be satisfied with simply feeling the sentiment. Use what the Lord has given you and reach out to help the needy. 

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Lord, Keep Us Reaching
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

The Creator’s Miracles

from the book, ONE WITH OUR FATHER 

John 2:1-11

Creation shows us how
powerful, wise, and loving God is.
But often we see His magnificent works and
dismiss them as the products of
chance or
natural processes, or
we simply take them for granted.

Jesus came to show us what the Creator God is really like,
face-to-face.
That’s why He performed the Creator’s miracles
up-close and personal,
no stage,
no curtains,
no fancy lighting.
Nothing between Him and us.
He let us stand right in front of Him as, on a small scale,
He did what our Creator does every day:
He turned water into wine.
He produced a lot of food from a very little.
He stilled storms.
He healed diseases.

The Son showed us how marvelous and amazing
our Creator Father really is!

Father, You are high and holy,
transcendent and unseen,
great beyond all imagination.
Yet in Jesus Christ we see You as a
real, touchable, walking, smiling, speaking human being.
How amazing You are!
How can we help but love You and want to be like You!

Listen and sing:
Hymn: See the Father Walk among Us
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

One Part of the Whole

We sometimes think that if we could only work alone, free from dependence on others, we would function better. But Ephesians 4:1-16 teaches that God intentionally made each of us dependent on others and others dependent on us. He made each of us only one member of the Body – a finger dependent on the hand, an eye dependent on the brain. He made us different and specific, not to divide us, but to draw us together. He made us partial so that we would learn to work together. Each of us is only one part of the whole, only one member of the glorious Body of the holy, eternal Son of God, Jesus Christ.

Our supply-and-demand economy prods us to “broaden our market,” to generalize our work to appeal to a greater number of people. Even in Kingdom work the Spirit sometimes stretches us beyond our comfortable limits in order to make us more useful in Christ’s work. But remember that He has intentionally made each of us partial, each of us a role player, each of us only a small piece of the overall picture.

So in God’s work, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, be yourself. Be the best possible version of the unique person Almighty God is creating you to be. Others depend on your unique gifts, honed by the education, the experiences, and yes, the scars, that God is using to make you who you are.

Let me emphasize again: there is no substitute for the Spirit’s guidance. At times He will stretch you. At times He will keep you small and focused. But in the end, you will be only one piece of the whole, one specific member of the Body. Be content there. There is a hole you need to fill. There is a role that you need to play in an eternal purpose that is far grander than you can imagine.

More

I kneel before the Father, from whom his whole family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. 

Now to him who is able to do I measurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. (Ephesians 3:14-21, NIV)

Jesus, I am finding You
more than a promise,
more than a hope,
more than a thought.

You are
more than I have let You be,
more than I can imagine You to be,
more than all the dreams
that have cluttered by mind.

You are all the “more”
of my restless desires,
all the “more”
of God’s restless love for me,
all the “more” of eternity,
ever here, ever flowing,
ever full, yet ever growing,
ever satisfying and
ever surprising.

Jesus,
to You be all my love and trust,
all my hungering and hoping,
all my living and rejoicing and aspiring,
look by look, Lord,
more and more.

Listen and sing:
Hymn: Beyond Imagination
Recording
Printed Music & Lyrics

SIMPLY CHRIST Devotional Tapestry

SIMPLY CHRIST Devotional Tapestry

Devotional Tapestries are short recordings designed to draw your heart and mind to the Living God. Each includes a devotional reading over instrumental music, leading into a hymn.

Listen to SIMPLY CHRIST Devotional Tapestry
Printed devotional & hymn
More Devotional Tapestries

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