A Passing Breeze

God gives us a brief time here on planet earth. Because our life is so short, he calls us “a passing breeze.”

But this little span of time we call a lifetime, though it’s only a blip in the eyes of the eternal God, is a supremely valuable gift from him. That’s because it’s our “time of grace,” the time God has given us so that the Holy Spirit has opportunities to call us to faith in Jesus, enlighten our hearts with the gospel, and gather us into the church.

And for God, there is no more highly valued goal than to see us in heaven, enjoying eternity in his presence.

This earthly life is the time we’ve been given to experience God’s mercy and forgiveness in Christ. It’s amazing — but God does not immediately destroy us for our sins. He does not get anywhere close to as angry as he could.

All of us have experienced this. It’s like the time when I put a big dent in the back of my Mom’s car. Of course, I thought she would be furious. But instead, she wasn’t very upset at all. Just the opposite! She was understanding and patient with me.

But far more importantly, all of us have experienced this with God, too. It’s just as the Psalmist Asaph wrote:

“Yet he was merciful; he forgave their iniquities and did not destroy them. Time after time he restrained his anger and did not stir up his full wrath. He remembered that they were but flesh, a passing breeze that does not return” (Psalm 78:38-39, NIV).

Lord, thank you for the mercy and grace you show me every day. Remind me that I am but a “passing breeze” and to wisely use every day to draw close to your word, so that your Holy Spirit will draw me close to Jesus.

Our Bible reading for Sunday, June 28, is 1 Kings 20:1 – 21:29, Acts 18:9 – 19:13 and Psalm 78:32-39.

Header image based on "Catch the Breeze" by Duncan Harris, CC By 2.0

A Safe Place to Be

If you’ve ever been to a coastline where you can watch big waves tumble over sharp volcanic rock, you know that’s a place to be cautious about swimming. You want to make sure that you have some bigger rocks to hide behind. Otherwise, the forces behind those waves are going to be awfully harsh, if not deadly.

Life can be like that. At times, we need something to hide behind. The rough and tumble of daily living can overcome us, and the constant, unrelenting battering of life’s powerful “waves” slowly, but surely, threatens to drain the life out of us.

Nothing saddens me more than the realization that most people don’t know where to find true safety and rest. So they wander around amongst the sharp rocks and the violent waves and the powerful undertow of life constantly searching, using a trial-and-error method.

In that scenario, every supposed safe harbor just ends up being a short-lived solution to the problem. The fear and exhaustion soon return.

Until we find what David found. There is a true place of safety — a rock to hide behind. There is a place of peace and restoration.

That place is God.

And how does one find refuge behind him?

  1. Know that God really exists as one who wants to be your refuge.
  2. Trust that he is strong enough and loving enough to be your Rock to hide behind.
  3. You hide behind him when you study the Bible and believe its words and promises.
  4. You hide behind him when you are baptized, or when you bring to recollection the benefits of your baptism.
  5. You hide behind him when you receive the Lord’s Supper.
  6. You hide behind him with others when you fellowship with fellow believers in church.
  7. You demonstrate that you are hiding behind him when you pray.
  8. You demonstrate that you are hiding behind him when you give the same grace to others that you have already received from Jesus.

Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him. Truly he is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge. (Psalm 62:5-8, NIV)

Our Bible reading for Sunday, May 17, is Ruth 3:1 – 4:22, John 9:35 – 10:21 and Psalm 62:1-12.

Lord, you are my rock and my refuge. Help me to hide behind you so that I always feel safe, even when life is very rough.

Header image based on "Volcanic rock on the shore line" by raider of gin, CC By 2.0

Impulsively React or Thoughtfully Respond?

I’m a person who has always struggled mightily with my mouth. I tended to impulsively react to events and say things before really taking the time to think them through. One reason I reacted this way was that I arrogantly believed that I was almost always on target with my words.

Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Then I began to learn. I heard from my wife, my children, my good friends, and even from some who were not always so friendly. I learned from the Bible, and there heard from God.

Once I was schooled in this, here’s what I found out: Impulsive reactions are most frequently not a good thing. They are not a sign of great native intelligence. In fact, the Bible would call them unwise (or just plain dumb!), and more than once labels them sin.

Some seem to know this more “naturally.” It’s like it’s built into their personalities to respond more carefully. But others, like me, spend a lifetime learning the importance of responding thoughtfully, rather than reacting impulsively.

One of the greatest gifts of the Holy Spirit is the gift of inner peace, a calm-heartedness, and an ability to just slow down a bit in one’s thought-processes. Some decisions are best reached quickly. But many decisions are wisely arrived at after a few moments (or hours, or days, or even weeks) of thought.

One of the best places I learned this was in the book of Proverbs — the book of God’s wisdom. And here are a few things one can learn about the blessings (or, alternatively, the curses) of our choice to react or to respond:

  • When I talk with an evil intent toward someone (or behind their back), that’s going to end up being a harmful trap for me!
  • When I speak with an innocent heart, I don’t have to worry so much about traps.
  • Words that are thoughtful and well-crafted can really benefit me and those I speak about too.
  • Fools react in a headstrong fashion, impulsively thinking they are always right.
  • Wise people take some time to listen to others for advice before they announce a decision.
  • Fools have a short fuse and get annoyed quickly.
  • Wise people know how to overlook insults and let them run like water off a duck’s back.

“Evildoers are trapped by their sinful talk, and so the innocent escape trouble. From the fruit of their lips people are filled with good things, and the work of their hands brings them reward. The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice. Fools show their annoyance at once, but the prudent overlook an insult” (Proverbs 12:13-16, NIV).

Lord, help me by your Spirit’s power to control my mouth and respond thoughtfully rather than react impulsively. By your Son Jesus’ blood, wash me clean and forgive me for all the sins that I have committed with my words. Thank you that you have spoken to me with thoughtful, loving words and promises. Help me to hold those in my heart at all times.

Our Bible reading for Saturday, May 16, is Ruth 1:1 – 2:23, John 9:1-34 and Proverbs 12:8-17.

Header image based on "Mouthing off" by Demi-Brooke, CC By 2.0

What kind of deliverance are you looking for?

Often, we have a singular idea of what being “delivered” means. But how God delivers can happen in more ways than one.

Sometimes God’s deliverance is physical. Daniel was delivered from the jaws of a lion in a lion’s den. The blind man was delivered from his blindness. Peter was delivered from a jail cell. The 5000 were delivered from their hunger.

Sometimes God’s deliverance is emotional. He leaves us in a very difficult and troubling situation, but gives us joy, peace, contentment and courage in that situation. I think of Paul and Silas singing hymns in the middle of the night in a jail cell in the city of Philippi. Or David being hunted down by King Saul, and yet always knowing, “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall lack nothing.”

Sometimes his deliverance is spiritual. God allows our physical bodies to remain in trouble, in illness, in injury, in brokenness, or in pain. But he draws us closer in relationship to himself through all of this. Recall Paul praying to have his “thorn in the flesh” removed, and God saying simply, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

Sometimes — and for a believer in Jesus, this is the most critical — God’s deliverance is eternal. He allows trouble to take us to the door of death, and then through that door. There he delivers us eternally. Consider Jesus praying for his Father to “take this cup from me” and then saying, “Your will, not mine, be done.” And then he was arrested, put on trial, beaten, mocked and crucified — only to be raised three days later.

Which of these kinds of deliverance are we most likely to ask for?

Whichever it is, the God who delivered his Son for you is the God whom you can trust to choose the right deliverance for you.

“And call on me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you will honor me” (Psalm 50:15, NIV).

Our Bible reading for Thursday, April 23, is Joshua 3:1 – 5:12, Luke 22:1-38 and Psalm 50:1-15.

Header image based on "Day 91" by Chris Vaughan, CC By 2.0

Taste Test

David was in a jam. Again.

Before David became king of Israel, he sometimes needed to find a place where he could hide from the king who preceded him. David’s gifts threatened King Saul and this led him to attempt to eliminate David.

So David fled to the Philistine city of Gath where he hoped to be sheltered. But the officials there reminded their king that David had slaughtered many of their own people.

Feeling trapped, David resorts to trickery. But it’s not the most clever or courageous ruse. He pretends to be insane so that the king will no longer perceive him as a threat. The king becomes convinced David is nothing more than a raving lunatic and orders him kicked out of the city.

Breathing a huge sigh of relief, David knows the true reality of the situation. God has preserved his life. The words he writes to commemorate God’s protection are profound:

“Taste and see that the Lord is good; blessed is the one who takes refuge in him. Fear the Lord, you his holy people, for those who fear him lack nothing. The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” (‭Psalm‬ ‭34‬:‭8-10,‬ NIV).

We just need a taste of God’s goodness to know that he is the real thing. David had sought out the Lord when the jaws of the trap were about to spring shut. And the Lord came through.

Was acting crazy God’s idea? The Bible doesn’t say that. But David recognizes that God had somehow used this weird plot to shield him from harm.

We all find ourselves in a jam at times. In that situation, you can’t go wrong by taste-testing God’s goodness. Seek him out. Tell him about your problem.

If he can use a dumb idea like David’s and somehow protect him — despite the utter lack of either brilliance or courage — think about what he might do for you!

Our Bible reading for Sunday, March 15, is Numbers 2:10 – 3:51, Luke 1:39-56, and Psalm 34:1-10.

Lord, protect me from harm and danger. Keep me from stumbling into Satan’s trap, or snares of my own making. Forgive me for my sins, and wash me clean in the blood of Jesus. Thank you for allowing me to taste your goodness and love daily.

Header image based on "Glasgow Cathedral Bible" by Clegg, CC By-SA 2.0

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

God’s Outstretched Arm

This was no small problem Moses was facing. His job was to deliver the Israelites from Egypt. But Pharaoh, the most powerful man in the world, was a tad resistant to the idea.

Pharaoh had plenty of authority to back up his desire to keep the Israelites enslaved. In fact, when the Israelites requested a short leave so they could worship God, Pharaoh felt completely comfortable doubling down on the Israelites and increasing their workload instead. What were the puny Israelites going to do about it?

Moses was supposed to be helping the Israelites gain their freedom, and it seemed like all his efforts were merely increasing their servitude instead. Moses’ efforts only served to stretch the problem out further.

We’re not discussing your everyday, garden-variety problem here. We’re talking real problems. Big problems.

Do you have any problems like that? I’m talking about the type of problem that makes you feel far more like a slave than a person who’s been freed in Christ. I’m referring to the kind of problem in which the solution only seems to make matters worse. This is the sort of problem that comes with built-in, huge resistance to change.

Do you know what the beauty of these problems is? Eventually we come to the realization that we can’t solve them in our own wisdom or strength. Only God can.

Big problems are the precursor to witnessing God step in to create a big solution.

The Israelites slavery in Egypt was that kind of problem. Our slavery to sin is that kind of problem, too. On both occasions, God responded with the perfect solution. And it was a solution only God could provide.

Because the stretched-out problems we face demand the power of God’s outstretched arm.

“Therefore, say to the Israelites: ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. I will free you from being slaves to them, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment. I will take you as my own people, and I will be your God. Then you will know that I am the Lord your God, who brought you out from under the yoke of the Egyptians. And I will bring you to the land I swore with uplifted hand to give to Abraham, to Isaac and to Jacob. I will give it to you as a possession. I am the Lord.’” (Exodus 6:6-8, NIV).

Lord, how awesome to know that whenever I’m facing a big problem in life, you are there to deliver me. It’s not all up to me to discover and implement the solution. My wisdom and strength are not nearly as important as your wisdom and strength, as you pointed out to Moses. Help me to rest in the power of your outstretched arm and find peace in knowing I am your very own.

Our Bible reading for Monday, February 9, is Exodus 4:1 – 6:12, Matthew 26:31-46 and Proverbs 4:10-19.

Header image based on "Embrace the City" by Mill, CC by-SA 2.0