Relentlessly Pursued, Unfailingly Loved

Minute after minute after minute. Hour after hour after hour. Day after day after day.

They pursue me, relentlessly.

You know who I mean: Satan. The world. My own sinful nature. Every hour, my powerful, untiring spiritual enemies hunt me.

“Fall,” they whisper. “You will fall.”

I get so tired of their voices playing over and over again in my head. In my heart.

But, Lord, I know that minute after minute, hour after hour, day after day, you are with me. You are my God. And your love for me never quits.

The clock may tick. The minute hand slowly moves around the face of the clock. But each new minute, each new hour, brings more of your grace, more of your forgiveness, more of your love.

More of your strength.

I may be relentlessly pursued by powerful enemies, but I am also unfailingly loved by you, my Savior.

“But I trust in you, LordI say, ‘You are my God.’ My times are in your hands; deliver me from the hands of my enemies, from those who pursue me. Let your face shine on your servant; save me in your unfailing love.” (Psalm 31:14-16, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Sunday, March 8, is Leviticus 17:1 – 18:30, Mark 14:17-42 and Psalm 31:9-18.

Lord, when my soul is consumed with anguish, when I am in distress, renew my faith in you. My spiritual enemies — Satan, the world, my own sinful nature — pursue me relentlessly. Help me to know that each day is in your hands. Let me enjoy your smile today. Love me faithfully so that I can be convinced — day after day — that your love for me is unfailing.

Header image based on "Yuno's alarm clock? No, it's mine." by Toshiuki Imai, CC By-SA 2.0

The Last Word

Near the end of his life, David went against God’s explicit wishes and counted his fighting men. It’s clear that David had slipped into thinking that he should rely on human power, rather than God’s strength. Even David’s leadership team knew that this was a hugely bad move, and they told him so.

David pressed on anyway with the count. God then became angry with David’s sinful actions, and especially his prideful heart. In response, the Lord sent a plague on Israel. The plague actually progressed to the point where 70,000 people ended up dying.

But then the Lord suddenly relented from his anger. He withdrew the angel who was bringing this disaster on the people. With some irony, the place where the plague ceased became the place that David purchased for a temple, so he could demonstrate his repentance and honor God.

Not all bad stretches in our life are brought about as a result of God’s discipline. But when this does happen, we need to remember that God’s anger lasts only a short while. God’s true nature is not to display anger but love.

In other words, displaying love is what God most loves to display. Look throughout the entire Bible. Yes, God gets angry at times. But grace and forgiveness always get the last word!

So, if it’s your “night of weeping,” remember these words always and know that rejoicing will come in the morning.

“Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise his holy name. For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:4-5, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, March 4, is Leviticus 11:1 – 12:8, Mark 12:13-27 and Psalm 30:1-7.

Lord, I pray with David: “I have sinned greatly in what I have done. Now, Lord, I beg you, take away the guilt of your servant. I have done a very foolish thing” (2 Samuel 24:10, NIV). Thank you for forgiving me. Let rejoicing return quickly. Show me your favor, and lead my heart to find joy in your grace.

Header image based on "Sunrise" by Grassi, CC By-SA 2.0

We Got ‘Em Right Where We Want ‘Em

The children of Israel were headed out of Egypt. But Pharaoh is set to take one last crack at them. He fervently wants to get them to turn around so he can put them back in chains.

He takes a huge multitude of chariots and battle-hardened, veteran charioteers and foot soldiers — strong men who were each respected leaders in their own right — and chases down the Israelites.

The Israelites find themselves trapped between this vast multitude of Pharaoh’s elite and the Red Sea. They are squeezed with very little hope of victory or escape.

Fight? Not a real option. And with the Red Sea at their backs, neither is flight.

The Bible tells us the children of Israel have the normal human response. First fear — or rather as Moses reports it in Exodus 14 — terror. Then finger-pointing and blame. “What is this you did to us, Moses? We were perfectly safe as slaves in Egypt. Now we’re all going to die!”

But Moses, the Israelites’ leader, thinks differently. He is a classic “man of faith.” He knows the God who has put them in this “impossible” situation. He understands that there is no way God will let them down at this point. And he has given up control to God. He realizes that he’s powerless without him, anyway.

In other words, Moses is confident, “We’ve got the Egyptians right where we want them.”

Or more accurately stated, “God’s got them right where he wants them.”

What a great lesson for us too! Fear and worry is not helpful or productive. When the situation seems dire, our best move is to stand firm and watch for God to act.

While you stand and watch, be still in your heart and believe that God has your situation “right where he wants it.”

Moses answered the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand firm and you will see the deliverance the Lord will bring you today. The Egyptians you see today you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you need only to be still” (‭Exodus‬ ‭14‬:‭13-14,‬ NIV).

Our Bible reading for Friday, February 13, is Exodus 13:1 – 14:31, Matthew 27:45-66 and Proverbs 4:20-27.

Lord Jesus, help me to stand firm in the face of dire circumstances. Give me confidence in your promises, and faith in your love for me. Allow me to see clearly that I am powerless without you, and therefore the best thing I can do is give control to you. I want to stand firm, and not be afraid.

Header image based on "Sunset" by Brotchie, CC By-SA 2.0

The God Who Is God

God called Moses to be his appointed servant. Moses’ service would be to deliver the Israelites from their brutal captivity in Egypt.

The Israelites had been crying out for that deliverance. God heard their cries. He recalled the promises he had made to the patriarchs, the forefathers of the Israelite people. He was concerned for his people. And he was about to do something about it.

God acted through a miracle. From a burning bush, he told Moses that he was appointing him to be his emissary to call upon Pharaoh. He was to call for the Israelites’ release from slavery.

Moses knew he would be asked if he was doing this on his own authority, or did he really have God’s backing?

Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14, NIV).

God’s response to Moses is very important.

“I am” sent Moses to the Israelites. The God who is. The God who exists. The God who does not have to defend or justify himself to anyone because “he is who he is.” He does not change — not for anyone or anything.

He is the same God whom Jacob served, Isaac worshiped, and Abraham followed in faith. He is the same God who created the heavens and the earth in six days, and who crafted a beautiful home named Eden for Adam and Eve.

And he is the same God who still is today. Unchanging. Unconquerable. Unrelenting in grace and in his willingness to see your misery, hear your cries for help, and be concerned about your suffering.

And because he is God — the one, the only, true God — he is capable of doing something about it.

Lord God, thank you that you are who you are. You are the same God who loved the children of Israel and sent Moses to deliver them. You are the same God who loved lost sinners like me and sent Jesus, your own Son, to deliver me. May I always know you, the one true God, and your Son Jesus, whom you sent for my salvation.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, February 8, is Exodus 1:1 – 3:22, Matthew 26:1-30 and Psalm 19:1-6.

Header image based on "All the troubles lie on his shoulder" by Ossama, CC by-SA 2.0

A Man Burdened

E.M. Bounds (1835-1913), who authored nine books on the subject of prayer, once wrote, “Prayer is the language of a man burdened with a sense of need.”

But sometimes when we go through a painful patch, we wonder where God is. Does he know what I’m going through? Is he aware?

And if I pray, will he listen to me? Will he pay attention, even if all I feel like doing is lashing out? What if it sounds a lot like faithless whining?

Then, will he do something about it? Does he care enough to help me? Do I matter enough to him that he will get up and act to take care of what’s causing this pain?

And finally, can he do something about it? Does he have the power? The authority?

David must have had some of the same questions going through his own mind. And he wrote a Psalm about it. Whatever pain, sorrow or affliction he was going through at the time, he puts himself in front of God in prayer.

There he reminds himself (and if you actually look at, he appears to be reminding God too!) of these facts:

  • God is always in control, and that will never end.
  • He listens when we pray.
  • He encourages us and defends us–especially when we are most helpless and powerless.
  • He can and will do something about our troubles. The power and authority are there. The love and compassion are there too.

“The Lord is King for ever and ever; the nations will perish from his land. You, Lord, hear the desire of the afflicted; you encourage them, and you listen to their cry, defending the fatherless and the oppressed, so that mere earthly mortals will never again strike terror” (Psalm 10:16-18, NIV).

Lord, you are king! You are in control of everything that goes on in the world and in my life. You listen to me when I pray. You hear me when I’m most powerless. Lift my burden. Encourage me with your power and love at work in my life. Take my trouble and worry, and deal with them according to your will. I know that you can and will help me carry this burden, and at the same time, you will use this trouble to strengthen my heart, and increase my faith.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, January 18, is Genesis 36:1 – 37:36, Matthew 13:18-35 and Psalm 10:12-18.

Header image based on "Prayer is the Language" by Francisco, CC by 2.0

Anguish

Anguish is defined by Merriam-Webster as “extreme pain, distress or anxiety.”

You’ve been there. So have I.

We experience a loss. Maybe it’s a loved one, or a treasured possession, or a capability we once possessed. It’s painful.

We come under attack. Perhaps it’s an attack on our health by a disease or injury. Maybe it’s a personal attack by someone from whom we expect support. That’s distressing.

We face difficult challenges that lie ahead. They may seem insurmountable. Defeat looms, rather than victory. In the place of glory, shame hovers. The situation is most definitely anxiety-producing.

What’s the best way to handle anguish? I highly recommend David’s way.

He trusted God’s power to sooth his anguish. He leaned on God’s authority to address issues and provide healing, according to his will. Most of all, no matter what situation was creating his pain, distress or anxiety, David looked to God for unfailing love.

“Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony. My soul is in deep anguish. How long, Lord, how long? Turn, Lord, and deliver me; save me because of your unfailing love” (Psalm 6:2-4, NIV).

Lord, you are in control of the entire universe, and you love me. Please grant me relief of my anguish, according to your will, Lord. May this pain and distress draw me closer to you. May my anxiety make me a more faithful pray-er.

Our Bible reading for Wednesday, January 7, is Genesis 14:1 – 16:16, Matthew 5:43 – 6:24 and Psalm 6:1-10.

Header image based on "anguished..." by Aoyama, CC by 2.0