Keep From Making a Wrong Decision

I was in charge of a luncheon and afterwards sensed that I had missed the Holy Spirit's direction regarding one of my decisions during that function. Wondering how I could have unwittingly done that, I began writing out the whole scenario, seeking what the Spirit wanted me to learn from this. 

As I wrote one line, He said, "Weren't you trying to impress the women when you made that decision?" 

Immediately, I had to admit that He who scrutinizes our motives was right. "That was why you couldn't sense what I wanted," He said. 

"All a man's ways seem innocent to him, but motives are weighed by the Lord" (Proverbs 16:2). Without the help of the Holy Spirit, we usually fail to see our "selfish ambition and vain conceit." Only He can show us where self-glory affects our decisions. The first step in gaining a humble spirit is to allow the Spirit to help us identify pride in our lives. When we are intent on obeying the Holy Spirit, we welcome His revelation of our motives as well as His grace enabling us to be humble.

John Wesley wrote to Francis Asbury: "I study to be little and lowly." What a profitable discipline! God gently calls us to humble ourselves. Although at times, He may need to humble us, He prefers that we choose humility. 

"Do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them," (Jeremiah 45:5). The Holy Spirit invites us to place ourselves where He is free to show us exactly what He sees. Is He pleased? That is the only question that matters.

Thank You, Jesus, for the joy and rest I have when Your approval is my highest desire. 

"Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted" (Luke 18:14).

"I seek not to please myself but him who sent me" (John 5:30). 

"Since God chose you to be the holy people whom he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience" (Colossians 3:12 NLT).

 

A Way to Get Rid of Frustration

Confusion and frustration flooded Jeannine Brabon. She faced a situation that made her want to run. But where could she go?

As she prayed about her situation, God brought the face of Eleanor Burr who had been a great blessing to her during her years at Asbury College. The Holy Spirit challenged her, "Pray for Eleanor instead of yourself." As she began praying for Eleanor, Jeannine discovered a new joy. Her own anguish began to disappear as she visualized victory in Eleanor's life resulting from her prayers.

She continued this practice for several months until the Holy Spirit led her to write to Eleanor. She obeyed the leading although she did not know her very well. She felt sure Eleanor was unaware of how God had influenced her through her life.

Eleanor's response brought tears to Jeannine's eyes. "Now I know why these past months have been the best in my life. Overwhelming problems have seemingly faded away," she wrote.

Job wrote of having his captivity turned to freedom when he prayed for his friends. Jeannine's experience was similar. She wrote to Eleanor, "This has been the toughest year of my life, but as I focused prayer on you, God miraculously resolved my problems as well."

After that, Jeannine found that major and minor crises subsided as she prayed for others. She wrote, "If you want to experience Calvary love, enter your Garden of Gethsemane and allow the Holy Spirit to intercede through you for someone else. After that, you will not want to  confront perplexity in any other way."

Dear Lord, help me to confront problems by interceding for others just as You did on the cross.

"Pray for each other so that you may be healed" (James 5:16).

Adapted from A Watered Garden by Alice Huff and Eleanor Burr, published by OMS International

Our Faith Satisfies God

I had been lifting a need to the Lord throughout the day and that evening, the Spirit impressed upon my spirit, "Have I ever failed You?" It was a gentle reminder that He yearns for me to be confident of His care and to believe that He hears my prayer.

When Jesus was about to feed the 5,000, He turned to Philip and asked, "Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?" (John 6:5). Jesus already knew what He would do, but scripture said He said this only to test Philip. 

Jesus would have been so pleased if Philip had said, "Jesus, I know You can provide for these people."

But Philip failed the test. "Eight months wages would not buy enough bread for each to have a bite!"

It's possible that Jesus was testing Philip because He had reason to believe Philip believed in Him. He knew Philip had earlier declared to Nathaniel, "We have found the very person Moses and the prophets wrote about!" Also, Philip saw Him turn the water into wine at the wedding in Cana. Now that there was a new need, would Philip expect Jesus to meet it?

Perhaps Jesus still allows impossible situations in our lives to see how much we trust Him. It is one thing to say, "Look how faithfully God provided in the past!" But when there's a new situation, do we believe He will provide? 

Our Father longs to find children who trust Him just as a small child  those who confidently rest in Him knowing that their Father will provide. "They will have no fear of bad news; their hearts are steadfast, trusting in the Lord" (Ps. 112:7).

Faith is best shown, not in the moments when it's easy to believe, but when we rest in His faithfulness no matter the current circumstance. How satisfying our faith is to God. 

I praise You, Father, that you have great pleasure every time I refuse to doubt but instead remind You of Your promises.

"Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!" (Isaiah 49:15). 

No Time to Be Bitter

"Put the best construction on what others do that you can," my mother would often tell me. I learned what that meant by watching her. She refused to believe others meant to be unkind and insisted on thinking they simply didn't know how they came across. She always tried to understand the other person's perspective. 

If a person is impolite and cross-tempered, maybe he is worried or in pain. Maybe he has been misunderstood or been misinformed about something we have said or done. Forgiveness is easier if we try to understand before we allow ourselves to condemn. 

"A man's wisdom gives him patience; it is to his glory to overlook an offense" (Proverbs 19:11). The Wesley Bible comments on this verse, "No attitude is more godly than to forgive or to overlook a wrong. 

Love "keeps no records of wrong" (1 Corinthians 13:5),  or as the Amplified says, love "takes no account of the evil done to it--pays no attention to a suffered wrong." 

The Holy Spirit enables us to respond with His love when we ask. A single mom of two girls had been wronged by her sister. I heard her desperate prayer. "God, if You don't do something for me I can't do for myself, I'm going down and I'm taking my two girls with me."

Instantly, the bitterness against her sister was gone. "Today I can go into her house and know I hold no bitterness toward her," she said with both joy and relief.

Thank You, Lord, for the grace that You always have available for those who refuse to be bitter.

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many" (Hebrews 12:15).

 

When the Answer Is Delayed

When we would say God answered prayer in the "nick of time," He would declare it to be "in the fullness of time" (Galatians 4:4). The secret to not losing heart when we are waiting for God to answer our prayer is in our learning to wait because we have faith that His timing is perfect.

The cupbearer who had promised to tell the Pharaoh about Joseph "did not remember Joseph; he forgot him" (Genesis 40:23).  Two full years passed before he remembered. Getting our hopes up and then having them dashed can work havoc on our faith. But Joseph was faithful despite God's delay.

"And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?" (Luke 18:7). It appears that God sometimes delays His answer, but His delay is not denial, so His delay should not discourage us.

Notes in the Wesley Bible comment on this verse, "God always does the right thing. It may seem to us that He delays. But from His point of view He acts speedily....The truth of the parable also applies to any discouraging delays in God's answers: we ought always to pray; we ought never to lose heart."

To"pray without ceasing" doesn't mean to pray without intermission but simply to not give up on our prayers. When the answer is delayed, God has not forgotten nor failed to hear. At just the right time, we will discover His delay was indeed good. 

Thank You, Jesus, that someday I will be able to look back and see that You answered my prayer in Your perfect time.

If it seems slow, wait patiently, for it will surely take place. It will not be delayed" (Habakkuk 2:3 NLT).

"...those who hope in me will not be disappointed" (Isaiah 49:23).

Watson Needed Money

One cold  January, George Watson's orange groves in Florida were ruined. This meant he now had no money to support himself, and in November he had a large bill due. He had no way to get the money except by prayer. The Lord kept him from even thinking of complaining, but he began to fast and pray for God to supply his needs. He determined he would ask help of no one except the Lord.

All through September and October he prayed much and even fasted, and was kept in perfect peace. During the last week of October, a widow he had never seen and who knew nothing of his need, wrote to him. One day she had been impressed to pray for him, and God assured her He would meet his need.

Watson had only been praying about his November bill, but he had an equally huge one in December. Her prayers covered both bills.

One day the Spirit gave Watson a powerful view of the Fatherly provision for him, and these words filled his mind: "Money is nothing to Me; it is only My wrapping paper, and is inexhaustible; just give Me continually your warmest love and perfect obedience, and I will attend to your finances."

By faith he knew his prayer was answered. Four days later, he received a check that more than covered both bills. The man wrote that he, "felt a strong impulse to send him a check." The check did not surprise Watson at all, for he expected God to do something. 

He walked into the forest, sat down on a log, and just gazed for an hour at the great and living God, and adored His love and the reality of His personal presence. He didn't know which to admire most: the Holy Spirit's prompting the widow to pray or His moving the man to send the money. And then he thought about the accuracy of the Lord's time-table causing the check to reach him on the very day of his need.

Dear Lord, give us the kind of faith that is not surprised, but simply humbly grateful, when the answer comes.

"Yet he did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God, being fully persuaded that God had power to do what he had promised" (Romans 4:20, 21).

All for Jesus

Several years ago we had the privilege of caring for my mother in her final illness. One week we invited a new family in town to church and to our home for Sunday lunch. After the rest of the family left for church that morning, I was busily running back and forth between the kitchen and mother's bedroom. 

On one of my trips up the stairs to mother's room, words of an old song came to me, "What thou spendest I'll repay when I come again." The joy I had that day knowing He saw I was doing my work for Him was all the payment I needed.

The key to an intimate love relationship with God is to hunger for Him and to be eager to do more for Him. One way to keep our soul longing for more of God is to do all we do in His name. How tenderly the Lord receives our offerings of made-up beds, errands run for an elderly parent, help with a child's science project, a kind word to a hurting co-worker. All of these can be offered up with an "I am doing this because I love You, Lord. I am living to express You."

Mother Teresa and her co-workers prayed daily, "Make us worthy, Lord, to serve our fellow men throughout the world who live and die in poverty and hunger." Why did they pray "Make us worthy" to serve the poorest of the poor? In serving them, they felt they were literally serving their Lord, who said, "As you did it unto the least of these My brethren, you did it to me." They were seeking to be worthy to serve Him.

Jesus, receive all I do or say today as though I'm doing it for You.

"How can I repay the Lord for all his goodness to me?" (Psalm 116:12).

 

Pray for Jesus' Sake

A lady came to our prayer group with deep needs. She had been abused as a child and had suffered through a difficult marriage. As we wept before the Lord for her, the Spirit said to me, "I'm so glad you're doing this. Now I can do what I want to do."

Our prayers open up possibilities for others that they would not have if we had not prayed. We are, indeed, our brother's keeper.

Samuel recognized that he sinned against the Lord if he did not pray for others. "As for me, I will certainly not sin against the LORD by ending my prayers for you" (1 Samuel 12:23 NLT). Our prayers are vital to Jesus' activity.

So we pray for others out of love for Jesus. He wants to bless, to send truth to those in darkness, to encourage the discouraged. We please Him and give Him joy when we give Him access to hearts by bringing their names to Him. Wesley Duewel said he didn't think we are ever more precious to Jesus than when we are praying for the unsaved.

Dick Eastman tells of a Sunday School teacher who helped bring many students to Christ. After her death, her diary was found to contain such resolutions such as: "resolved to pray for each scholar by name;" "resolved to wrestle for each by name and expect an answer."

When we commit to daily bring names to the Lord, our prayers are powerful. Our feeling of responsibility and love will deepen as we pray. God doesn't entrust those who scarcely pray with a prayer burden, but if we regularly come to Him with specific requests, He'll see us as ones He can bless with a deepening concern for those we love.

Jesus, help me to pray with compassion so that You can accomplish Your will in others today. 

"We always thank God for all of you, mentioning you in our prayers" (1 Thessalonians 1:2).

How to Satisfy Your Real Hunger

I was chatting with a lady while having my hair done one day, and she said, "I bought a Bible because I was hungry." Many people never tune into this spiritual hunger. Physical food satisfies physical hunger, but it can never satisfy our spiritual hunger. 

Solomon stated that God "set eternity in the hearts of men" (Ecclesiastes 3:11). 

Jesus wanted His listeners to be aware of this "eternity" in their hearts. He said, "My flesh is real food and my blood is real drink" (John 6:55). Jesus spoke these words to the crowd that came searching for Him the day after He fed the 5000 their fill of fish and barley bread. He knew why they showed up. They wanted more bread.

Jesus also knew that they were seeking to satisfy the lesser of their two hungers: "You are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life" (John 6:27). Centuries earlier the prophet Isaiah made the same point: "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy?" (Isaiah 55:2).

The crowd enjoyed Jesus' gifts, but He had so much more to give them. So He tells them to eat His flesh, to drink His blood. These words are full of mystery to us, but in pagan religions, the worshipper ate some of the animal that was sacrificed. They believed that their god entered into this meat, and so when they ate it they were literally god-filled. 

They could understand His language-and so can we. It is Jesus' invitation to feed on Him by faith, to absorb His Word and let it be expressed through our lives. 

Thank You, Jesus, for inviting us to experience the inexpressible joy of feeding on You in our hearts by faith. 

"Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me" (Jn. 6:57).

 

He Heals the Abused

"Remember, Shelley, you can't tell your mother," Uncle David reminded her as they left the barn.

As usual Shelley's mother hardly noticed when she came into the house. Shelley was full of questions, but she didn't know how to ask them. Her parents were both too busy for her to get their attention. She thought that the person who came nearest to loving her was Uncle David.

Shelley suspected that Uncle David and she had done what the preacher called "adultery," but she wasn't sure. She thought her uncle was a nice man, so he must have been awfully tempted by something she did to make him do what he did, she reasoned. More episodes occurred in the following years.

When Shelley was twelve, she couldn't stand the guilt, so she told her mother about Uncle David. "You know better than to do that," she remonstrated. "Don't do it any more."

At age fourteen, Shelley gave her life to Christ. The next time her uncle approached her, she firmly said, "No. Absolutely not. If you want to kill me, go ahead, but I will not do that anymore. I'm a Christian now."

Uncle David made a few more advances, but she was always able to ward him off making her feel that she really could have prevented the abuse in the first place if she had wanted to. She felt guilty. Why had she allowed her uncle to do that? What kind of a girl was she? No matter how hard she tried to be good, she felt bad and carried the guilt for years.

Then one day after reading in Psalm 139 that God knows our deepest thoughts, she allowed herself to look back and remember that first time in the barn. She saw a very surprised little girl. Never in her wildest imagination had she planned what happened. 

She began to thank God for forgiving her when almost audibly she heard God say, "I did not forgive you. I never considered you guilty. You were a child. You did not plan it."

"But I went to the barn and other places with Uncle David," she reminded God.

"I know you did, Shelley," He answered. "But no one had taught you that some people cannot be trusted. You were a child. You were not guilty."

God brought healing to Shelley's damaged heart. She continues to thank Him for tenderly assuring her she is not guilty.

Thank You, Lord, for providing truth that frees us from the lies of the enemy.

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

 

Is My Faith in God or in Circumstances?

An evangelist was coming for revival services at S. A. Keen's church. When he arrived, the evangelist casually asked, "Do you have faith in God?"

Keen replied that the church services had been good and the conditions appeared favorable for a soul-winning revival. Instantly the evangelist warned, "We can't depend on good meetings or favorable conditions. Do you have faith in God?" As Keen thought about it, he realized that he had great faith in the good meetings and in the coming evangelist but very little faith in God for that revival.

The Lord wants to teach us to recognize the signals of "living by sight"--of trusting in our own efforts or in the efforts of others rather than in God. Too often we find our faith growing because a situation has improved. But when all such signs of answered prayer vanish, we begin to doubt God. 

Then rather than "live by faith," we begin living by our own efforts and find we're trying to do the work of the Holy Spirit. If we try to do the work of the Holy Spirit, He will let us.

But the results will be only human--often negative. For example, a mother concerned about her wayward son wrote to him every week for years trying to persuade him to become a Christian. Even when the son was an old man, he resented those letters his mother had written.

We stop trying to work things out through human efforts when we're trusting God to be in control. The situation may appear desperate and we may be tempted to feel we must do something, but we are doing the most we can do when we're waiting in faith. Strong faith allows God to do His work without interference from us. 

God, I know You are pleased to work when the Holy Spirit has freedom to control.  

"My soul, wait thou only upon the Lord; for my expectation is from him" (Psalm 62:5 KJV).

God Will Have the Final Word

John wrote his whole gospel on the theme that in Jesus we see the mind of our heavenly Father. Again and again we discover that His heart is touched with our pain and our grief. 

John records Jesus' response to those grieving the death of Lazarus: "When Jesus saw her [Mary] weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled" (Jn. 11:33).

William Barclay may be getting close to the real meaning of this last phrase when he translates it, "Jesus...was deeply moved in spirit so that an involuntary groan burst from him, and he trembled with deep emotion." 

Here is one of the most precious pictures in the Gospel. Jesus entered so deeply into Mary's sorrow that His heart ached with anguish. In Jesus, we see a portrait of our heavenly Father's compassion.

The words "deeply moved in spirit" are sometimes translated "moved with indignation." Why was Jesus indignant? We can only imagine what fueled Jesus' indignation, but surely it was directed towards Satan who caused sin that brought death, the cause of Mary's deep sorrow, to come into the world.

Mary was weeping and Jesus couldn't stand to see her weep. He must do something. First, He wept with her. Jesus who is the "same, yesterday, and forever" is still weeping with those who weep. He feels their pain. He weeps even for those who deny He exists.

Then He revealed to Martha who He was. "I am the resurrection and the life." Satan who comes to steal, kill, and destroy had to flee.

Believe that He is the resurrection and the life in your situation. God will have the final word. 

I praise You, Father, for Your heart of compassion.

 

As a father has compassion on his children, so the LORD has compassion on those who fear him" (Psalm 103:13).

Gain the Blessing of Meditation

God gave Joshua a clear command and what promise could be better than the promise He attached to it? "Meditate on [the book of the Law]...day and night... then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua. 1:7-8).

 At least that was how I read it for many years. Then I noticed the key phrase. "Meditate ...so that you may be careful to do everything written in it then you will be prosperous and successful" (Joshua. 1:7-8).

It is not the simple process of meditation that God attaches His promise to, but to the process of considering it so we can continually live by its words. To those who do that, His promises are unlimited.

Biblical meditation comes from a Greek word meaning to revolve in the mind. It bears little resemblance to those Eastern forms of meditation whose purpose is to train the consciousness to move beyond thoughts, words, and images to a kind of "emptiness." Rather than emptying our minds of words and images, our heart takes in the Word and feeds on it. Meditation helps us absorb Scriptural truth on a deep level. And when we do, we agree with the psalmist: "Oh, how I love your law! I meditate on it all day long" (Ps. 119:97). 

In meditation we go over the Word in our minds inquiringly "What does this mean?" We hold it questioningly before the Lord, and as a result, we gain fresh understanding. E. E. Shelhammer said the early saints made much of solitude accompanied by godly meditation. The results? "They were deep thinkers; we are imitators." Even our Bible study may have us merely thinking thoughts from others rather than hearing from God.

Dear Lord, help me to be a listener to You as I focus on Your Word.

"Oh the joys of those who...delight in doing everything the Lord wants. Day and night they think about his law" (Ps. 1:1,2 NLT).

Is Jesus Weeping Alone?

Soon after Missionary Amy Carmichael arrived in India, she was distressed because orphan girls were given to Hindu temples to be used as prostitutes. Her heart ached for those girls, so she started an orphanage hoping to rescue them.

The Hindu priests resented her intrusion into their affairs, and soon British businessmen complained to the missionaries that they must stop Amy. When the unsympathetic missionaries told her to quit, Amy went to the priest herself. He was not about to hand the girls over to her.

She went home thinking she would have to forget helping these young prostitutes. Surely it was not to be her burden. But then it seemed she saw Jesus kneeling alone as He knelt long ago weeping under the olive trees. 

Would Amy Carmichael share His burden and weep with Jesus? 

"The only thing that one who cared could do," she wrote, "was to go softly and kneel down beside Him, so that He would not be alone in His sorrow over the little children." God eventually used Amy to rescue hundreds of girl prostitutes from the temples.

God seeks for those who are willing to carry burdens with Him by interceding for others. Intercession is passionately entering into the needs of those for whom we are praying. Dr. John Oswalt, speaking of intercession said, "We storm the gates of heaven. Why? Because God is callous and uncaring? No, because we are callous and uncaring, and until our passion is in some small way connected to the great passion of God, his power is in some way restrained." 

Just as Jesus was disappointed when the disciples were too sleepy to "keep watch" with Him, He is still disappointed when we are too unconcerned to "keep watch." God acts when someone prays for what is on His heart with a true burden.

Dear Jesus, what burden do you want to share with me? Give me a sensitivity to what grieves You. Give me tears to weep over what You weep over.

Do "not grieve the Holy Spirit of God" (Eph. 4:30).

 

Disappointed with Prayer

There are some people for whom prayer has been a disappointment. They say they can't believe God because they once tried prayer and "it didn't work." Fortunately, our prayer lives can move through this stage of prayer to a more adult response.

In childhood, Johnny believes everything his mother tells him about prayer. She says, "God will always be there for you," and he thinks, "Great, I'll always have what I want."

Then mother gets sick and Johnny prays, "God heal my mother," but mother dies. 

At this point, Johnny has a couple of options. He can enter a rebellious adolescent stage and think, "God didn't heal my mother, so prayer doesn't work." 

A second option would be for Johnny to say, "What did mother mean when she said, 'God would always be there for me'? Maybe she meant God would be there for me in my suffering." Johnny will regain the joy of believing by surrendering his ideas of how God should answer his prayers.

My friend said her father-in-law went to the hospital and her mother-in-law asked her to pray that he wouldn't have to have surgery. "Frankly, I wasn't comfortable with her request. I prefer to pray for God's will in a situation rather than for what I think is best." Her adult response says to God, "I trust You to choose what is best, and I accept Your choice because I know You'll cause all things to work together for good for me because I love You."

Dear Father, teach us to pray in ways that always express faith in Your goodness.

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably 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!" (Ephesians 3:20).

Making the Word Our Daily Bread

Jim Downing, former chairman of The Navigators' board, noticed that in Joshua 1:8 and Psalm 1:3 he was called to meditate on the Word of God day and night. To meditate at night, Downing begins his Bible reading in the evening, often using the Psalms. 

For example, for the eighth day of a month, he uses Psalm 8, 38, 68, 98 and 128, and begins reading them the evening of the seventh. As he reads, he asked God for a thought, a command, a warning, an exhortation or a praise.

On the seventh of one month, he read Psalms 8 and 38 but God did not speak to him out of them. Then he read Psalm 68, and saw, "The Lord...daily loadeth us with benefits." The marginal reading in his Bible suggested an alternative reading: "He daily lifts our burdens."

He had been walking around with a burden for four or five days but had not really realized it. When he came to this passage, he thought, "That's for me! I've been carrying a burden. God said that He wanted to lift my burdens and then load me up with His benefits." That thought gave him a good night's sleep and thrilled him every time he recalled its promise.

After Downing has read a verse until a verse speaks to him, he closes his Bible and makes sure no other thought becomes prominent in his thoughts so he can drop off to sleep meditating on that verse. If he awakens in the night, he follows the example of the psalmist when he said, "O Lord, I remember Thy name in the night" (Psalm 119:55), and deliberately recalls his verse to mind.

As Downing disciplines himself to turn his heart and mind to the thought God has given him every time he awakens in the night and on waking the first thing in the morning, it becomes a part of his life.

Thank You, Lord, that You intend for Your Word to be our daily bread.

"But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night" (Psalm 1:2).

God Does Not Disappoint

I had waited for a decision that would directly affect my life in major ways. I began to look forward to the changes that would occur when the months of waiting were over. More than that, though, I looked to the Lord. His will would be perfect no matter what the outcome would be.

One Monday morning, I received the anticipated phone call. The answer was "No." The opportunity I had dreamed about would not be offered.

I hung up the phone wondering if my spirit would fall after learning that these months of anticipation were answered with God's "No." Suddenly, I was amazed to be filled with overwhelming joy. My daughter came into the room and, while telling her about the phone call, I was so overcome by joy that tears began to flow. 

When an apology was offered a few days later, I could honestly say, "I'm not disappointed. I was hoping in God, not in you."

"Those who hope in me will not be disappointed" (Isaiah 49:23). We can think we're hoping in God, but when the outcome is not what we anticipated, our faith is tested. We can check to see if our faith is in God alone by considering how we would feel if our answer is not what we envision.

Sometimes God may delay His answer to allow our faith to grow. We may think that quick answers to prayer deepens our faith, but faith grows more during times of trusting His promises while refusing to doubt. 

The more we cling to our faith, the stronger our confidence in His faithfulness will become. 

Jesus, please give me discernment to know when my hope is in something or someone other than You.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:13).

"But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love" (Psalm 33:18).

 

Let God Give You His Best

While serving in the Philippines as missionaries, on May 27, 2001, Martin and Gracia Burnham were abducted by a militant Islamic group and held captive for 376 days. On the afternoon of June 7, 2002, a rescue attempt managed to free Gracia although her leg was wounded. Martin, though, was killed.

I heard Gracia Burnham tell of those days they were in captivity. They endured incredible hardship as they trekked through the jungle with limited food and supplies.

At one point, they were forced to go without water. Gracia said she was begging, "God, I need water. I can't make it without water."

Then her prayer changed. "Lord, You know what I need. You have something to teach me. Help me to be content."

God blessed her with a spirit of contentment. Contentment--the result of trusting God to supply all our needs in all circumstances--is more satisfying than always having what we would choose for ourselves.

No doubt their submissive spirit was a part of what sustained them during the 376 days. Today Gracia and Martin's hardships so patiently endured are bearing fruit. Some of the militant Islamist group that held them captive are inside prison and three have become Christians. 

During one of their last conversations before Martin was killed, Martin and Gracia discussed the phrase "Serve the Lord with gladness" in Psalm 100. Even though they had been walking through the jungle for a year, Martin believed they were still serving the Lord, and they should do it with gladness.

God gives His best to those who leave the choice to Him. And His best is better than we would think to ask.

Jesus, You know what I need. Thank You for the grace to let You choose.

"Godliness with contentment is great gain" (1 Tim. 6:6).

"Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God" (Ps. 100:2, 3).

 

Our Iron Dome

My husband and I like to take early morning prayer walks. One morning  as we were walking and praying, Daniel asked God to put an "iron dome" over those we were bringing to Him. We have used that phrase many times since. Just as the iron dome in the news is designed to intercept and destroy rockets fired toward Jerusalem, God has told us to take up our "iron dome." "Take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one" (Eph. 6:16).

Israel's iron dome reportedly destroys 90 percent of the missiles launched against them. But the word "all" Paul used in this verse means "every kind of variety." With our shield of faith, we can protect from every kind of attack the enemy sends. Our faith-filled prayers can defend from "all the fiery darts of the wicked one" (KJV).

When "bad" things do happen, we put up our shield of faith, and say, "Father, You promised that You would make "all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28). Satan may have intended his flaming arrow to cause harm, but God intends it for good for those who trust Him. (Gen. 50:20) We confidently pray, "I trust You to bring good in this situation because 'You are the ruler of all things' and 'all things serve you.'" (1 Chron. 29:12; Ps. 119:91).

The fiery darts Satan hurls at us can often be labeled "fear" or "worry." Nothing creates that the "iron dome" of faith more effectively than praising Him in the midst of trouble. We praise because we wholeheartedly trust that in His unfailing love God will cause "even this" to serve His good purposes.

Dear Lord, thank You for protecting those for whom we pray when we trust You. And thank You that our fears disappear when we express our confidence in Your promises with praise. 

"Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see." (Heb. 11:1 NLT)

God's Word for Our Dark Moments

There is a fascinating story behind the last song William Cowper wrote. Cowper, who died in 1800, often struggled with depression and doubt. One night he decided to go to the Thames River and end his life. He called a cab and asked him to drive him to the river. 

However, according to the story, the fog was so thick that the driver could not find the river. After driving around for some time, the cab driver finally stopped and let Cowper out. To Cowper's surprise, he was at his own front door. God had sent the fog to keep him from killing himself. 

He later wrote this song. I especially like the third and fourth verses:

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

Thank You, Father, that in our most difficult moments, You are watching over us.

"You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand" (John 13:7).