Use the reset and the rest of summertime as a means of being more effective when things start back up again.Read More
Devotions to encourage and strengthen you
The 276 people aboard the ship bound for Rome bobbed about in the sea at the mercy of the fierce Euroquilo (northeaster) storm that battered the ship’s sails and rigging to the point that the captain ordered them taken down, leaving the ship subject to the storm’s capricious will. The fierce squall raged for days unabated in its fury, bringing with it misery upon misery for the passengers and crew. Acts 27:20 says, “Since neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small storm was assailing us, from then on all hope of our being saved was gradually abandoned.” Between verses 20 and 21 of Acts 27 it appears a few more days pass for the narrative states, “And when they had gone a long time without food, then Paul stood up in their midst” encouraging them that no one would perish from the storm, though the ship would be lost.
In verse 23 Paul tells the passengers and crew that an angel of God appeared to him that very night telling him, “Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar; and behold, God has granted you all those who are sailing with you. Therefore, keep up your courage, men, for I believe God that it will turn out exactly as I have been told (verses 24-25).”
Oh, wouldn’t it be just lovely when we are experiencing our own northeaster storms and our hearts are tempted to despair that all hope is lost, we could, like Paul, have a direct messenger from God, telling us not to be afraid? Such a message would be so particular and tailored for us that we immediately take heart. Yes, it might be tempting to somewhat envy Paul’s personal encouragement from the Lord. Yet, there really is no need for envy on our part, for we have received just such a kindness from the Lord, in fact, even better, for the multiplied promises of deliverance contained in the Scriptures cover every circumstance we might ever undergo.
Paul encouraged all on board the ship to keep up their courage because, as he said, “I believe God (Acts 27:25).” Knowing that God always keeps His Word, Paul chose to believe God’s promise of deliverance would come to pass. Paul trusted in God’s character of faithfulness to fulfill His promises and render aid to His children. Paul’s words of faith and trust—I believe God—can encourage us today when we face our own storms.
Will you keep up your courage and believe God?
God says He is always with us. The author of Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Himself said, “I will never desert you, nor will I ever forsake you so that we confidently say, ‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What will man do to me?’ (Hebrews 13:5-6).” That universal promise of the Lord’s presence is meant to bolster our courage and lead us out of fear, so that we can respond with that same faith and hope as Paul—“The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid!”
God says He is the God who delivers. Psalm 107 is a testimony to the delivering nature of God. He comes to the rescue of His children—always, as the oft repeated phrase attests, “Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and He delivered them out of their distresses (Psalm 107:6, 13, 19, 28).”
God says He is an active and ever present helper to us. Psalm 46:1-2 proclaims, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth should change and though the mountains slip into the heart of the sea.”
God says He brings us through the trials. Psalm 68:19-20 encourages us, “Blessed be the Lord, who daily bears our burden, the God who is our salvation. God is to us a God of deliverances; and to God the Lord belong escapes from death.”
If we continue to look at Paul’s story in Acts 27, we also learn that though Paul received God’s comforting message that all would be saved from the storm, it’s also helpful to note that deliverance wasn’t immediate. There were still more hours of soul-numbing and body-bruising buffeting from the storm before God’s rescue would be realized. In fact, the text says they endured the storm a total of 14 days, going that long without food as well. It wasn’t until Paul again encouraged them all to trust God, and cheerfully led the way in eating some food, that they themselves finally took heart and partook of some nourishment (verse 36).
Trusting God means keeping your courage up. Keeping our courage up comes from focusing on the Lord's character and His complete faithfulness. Trusting who He is, helps us wait well for our deliverance. David understood this when he wrote in Psalm 27:13-14, "I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord In the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; Be strong and let your heart take courage; Yes, wait for the Lord."
We learn from Paul’s example, and other writers of Scripture, that we can trust God, believing His promises, even when the pledged help and aid isn’t given immediately. Can’t you hear Paul? “God said He would preserve us from the storm, so He will. We can believe God, even though right now, the storm continues to rage. He will bring us through, so let us trust Him! Our God is faithful!”
Without a doubt, it is difficult to keep trusting the Lord when there are no changes in our circumstances or when the situation even worsens. Yet even then the promises of God are true, no matter what our situation. We often have an idea of what our deliverance should look like, but God rarely rescues us in the way we expect. He will, however, deliver us in His way, in His time, and in the way that will produce the most spiritual profit in us and promote praise in our hearts.
Therefore, keep your courage up, for I believe God.
As believers, we live in this realm on earth where the bald truth of a number can feel more real than the promises of God and the life of faith we are supposed to live. So, how do we counteract the fearful power of those numbers that sap our strength and place weights upon our faith?Read More
We’ve been in Louisville for two months now! We are settling in to our new church and getting to know the dear ones who attend it. Louisville itself is no small town; it’s not even a comfortably mid-sized city. It’s big and busy and full of nooks and crannies of places to explore and live, which is why we have been temporarily living in an apartment until we discovered which “nook” we wanted to roost in.
About a month ago we began the process of looking for a house. On our first day out our realtor, Troy, who is also a dear brother in the Lord, carefully constructed the day’s tour. He had managed to pack in showings at 12 or so houses to the east and south of Louisville. Jack and I were full of anticipation at watching the Lord’s plan unfold. Maybe we would find a house! Maybe our 3 ½ years of temporary would soon be at an end!
When we got to Troy’s office he needed to make a few adjustments to our schedule because one or two of the houses we wanted to see had sold overnight. After a bit of a delay we got on the highway out to see the first house. We hadn’t been on the highway out of town more than a minute or two when the traffic slowed to a complete stop. And there we sat for the next 2½ hours, inching forward at a snail’s pace. We learned that 3 semi-trucks collided and the crash completely blocked the freeway. Our day’s plans were rapidly changing.
Normally, I might have been anxious or discouraged about the changes, yet I found myself rejoicing. Left to myself there was no way I would have been exulting, especially since I had feasted on anticipation all morning. Yet, the Lord had already kindly prepared my heart for the day’s events.
It all began when Psalm 89 greeted me during my quiet time that morning. In Psalm 89 the psalmist extols the Lord’s character and ways. In fact, he’s just downright exulting in the Lord’s power and goodness. The psalmist, Ethan, creates a picture of heaven and all the holy ones praising the Lord. He describes the scene in verses 14-15, “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; lovingkindness and truth go before You. How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound! O LORD, they walk in the light of Your countenance.” Ethan describes the Lord’s throne being built upon righteousness and justice, which really just describes how the Lord reigns over His subjects—righteously and justly. Then the psalmist designates “lovingkindness” and “truth” as those who triumphantly announce our great King’s presence. What a grand and glorious picture of the Lord’s throne room!
That’s why the psalmist says in verse 15, “How blessed are the people who know the joyful sound!” Isn’t that the truth? We really are blessed when we know that lovingkindness and truth proceed from the Lord. And it’s even better when we live close enough to Him to experience that flood of His lovingkindness and truth. Yet, there’s more, for as we live closely to the Lord we will walk in the light of His countenance (verse 15).
That’s the phrase caught my eye. It grabbed at my imagination and entered my heart. What does it mean to live in the light of the Lord’s countenance? How would my life be different today if I remembered I was living within reach of His smile?
Living in the light of the Lord’s countenance is just another way of saying that we live close enough to see His face—and conversely that He sees us. The idea is captured really well in Aaron’s blessing of the sons of Israel in Numbers 6:24-26: “The Lord bless you, and keep you; the Lord make His face shine on you, and be gracious to you; the Lord lift up His countenance on you, and give you peace.”
The idea of living in light of the Lord’s countenance carries with it His blessing. It also carries with it a sense of accountability. It’s basically like living in His throne room—and that’s where the accountability comes in. We’re called to live differently in the throne room so that when His face shines upon us in holiness we’re not ashamed.
That’s why when our day of looking at houses looked like it was going to rapidly derail, I had a unique opportunity to check my thoughts and my responses. Was I living with trust and hope in the fair light of God’s gaze? Or would my countenance reveal fear or discouragement or a complaining spirit?
The Scriptures remind us that when we live in the light of the Lord’s countenance, He helps our countenance. Psalms 42:11 and 43:5 say virtually the same thing, “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.” He helps our countenance! What a joyous thought! We don't have to live in the cellar of grumpiness or fear for the Lord will help us.
The problem is that far too often we don’t avail ourselves of the Lord’s help, so that we end up resembling Cain more than is comfortable. Remember his story in Genesis 4:4-7? “And the Lord had regard for Abel and for his offering; but for Cain and for his offering He had no regard. So Cain became very angry and his countenance fell. Then the Lord said to Cain, ‘Why are you angry? And why has your countenance fallen? If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire is for you, but you must master it.’”
Cain wasn’t keeping His eyes on the Lord and certainly didn’t seem concerned about living within the light of His gaze. Even after the Lord asked him, “Why has your countenance fallen?” Cain didn’t repent of his wrong attitudes. Living in the light of the Lord’s countenance means answering the question, “Why has your countenance fallen?” and then doing something about it. This requires recognizing what we’re really thinking about any given situation, repenting if necessary, and most certainly, asking the Lord’s help for trust and faith.
The Scriptures talk about a sad countenance in Job 9:27; a proud countenance in Psalm 10:4; and an angry one in Proverbs 25:23. That’s just a sampling of the sins of our hearts that are revealed in some way. Paul understood this truth when he said in Galatians 5:19 that the “deeds of the flesh are evident.” We might try to hide our sinful thoughts and deeds away in the recesses of our hearts, but like ducks in the water, they always bob back up to the surface.
Understanding all that made Psalm 89:15 all the more impactful on that day of house hunting, when everything seemed to be unraveling in God’s perfect and sovereign plan. In fact, praying through Psalm 89:15 allowed me to rejoice in the same way as the psalmist in the very next verse, “In Your name they rejoice all the day, and by Your righteousness they are exalted.” Instead of feeling thwarted, I felt protected by the Lord’s new plan for our day.
O Lord, may we live and breathe this prayer, that we would walk in the light of Your countenance (Psalm 89:15) because You are the God who helps our countenance (Psalm 43:5).
“This book of the law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have success.” (Joshua 1:8)
“But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and in His law he meditates day and night.” (Psalm 1:2)
“O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
“My eyes anticipate the night watches, that I may meditate on Your word.” (Psalm 119:148)
With such Scriptures as the ones above staring us in the face we know biblical meditation must be important. But what was it really? The Bible speaks frequently about meditating on the Scriptures, but phrases like “It is my meditation all the day” can be pretty intimidating. The idea of thinking about something all day long seems impossible. It makes you wonder if regular people can learn to meditate on God’s Word or does that only belong to the realm of great thinkers and spiritual giants?
What does it mean to meditate on the Scriptures?
Biblical meditation involves thinking. Most of us comprehend that much of biblical meditation, but a good understanding of it can remain pretty elusive. For some reason, whenever I think of meditation I get a mental picture of Gollum from “Lord of the Rings” with the ring, his “Precious.” Gollum is definitely not my favorite character, but the way he prizes that ring provides a good illustration of what it means to meditate upon the Scriptures. Gollum gazed at that ring from every angle; no detail about it escaped his notice. Every facet of it was studied and delighted in. That’s biblical meditation. It’s mentally examining some Scripture from every angle so that no part of it is left undiscovered.
Meditation actually reveals how much we value the Scriptures. The simple act of looking at and thinking on God’s Word prizing God’s Word tells us, tells others, and most importantly, tells God, “O how I love Your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97)
Meditation, at its most basic level, is simply thinking on a specific verse or section of Scripture, yet it can also include thinking on aspects of God’s character, a specific doctrine, even the works of God. It’s also worth noting that meditation is not studying, though you can meditate upon what you are studying—and it’s wise to do so! Study and memorizing Scripture lead to meditation, yet it’s what meditation leads to that is the real jewel here.
The benefits of meditating on the Scriptures.
Meditating helps us overcome sin and the temptation to sin. Psalm 119:11 plainly says that this is so, “Your Word I have treasured in my heart, that I may not sin against You.” There’s a clear connection between loving God’s Word and overcoming sin. Don’t you think that’s because when we love someone there’s no way we want to grieve or ruin our loved one? Sin hurts our relationship with the Lord and grieves His Holy Spirit—all the more reason to meditate upon God’s Word.
I think Psalm 4:4 gives us a workable plan in combatting sin in our lives, whether it’s one specific sin we’re targeting or sinfulness in general. It says, “Tremble, and do not sin; meditate in your heart upon your bed, and be still (Psalm 4:4).” Tremble and do not sin reveals our heart response to sin. This is a holy fear and an abhorrence to sin again, as well as a commitment to not sin further. Then we’re told meditate in your heart upon your bed. We’re told to find a quiet place and think on the Scriptures, on the Lord, on His ways, His character; we’re not to meditate on our sin. We often have this backward and end up obsessing over our sin and never getting to the place of thinking on the Word itself. Then Psalm 4:4 tells us be still. As you pray through the Scriptures and focus your heart on the One who can help you overcome your sin, be still. Trust the Lord to “complete the work He began in you” (Philippians 1:6).
We have the example of godly greats who meditated on the Scriptures. David and Asaph both talk about meditating on the Scriptures (Psalm 27:4; 63:6; 119:15). The Apostle Paul doesn’t specifically use the word “meditate” but he does describe the practice in 1 Timothy 4:15 when he tells Timothy to be “absorbed” in the Scriptures. When he tells us to dwell upon the Word in Philippians 4:8 and Colossians 3:16 he is telling us to meditate on God’s Word. The author of Hebrews tells us to “consider” Jesus in Hebrews 3:1 and 12:3. In both places we’re told to dwell on and think on Jesus’ example.
It’s a way to show love to the Lord and also increase our love for Him and His Word. Aren’t you always looking for tangible ways to show your love for the Lord? I know I am! I also want to know that the ways I’m showing love to the Lord are actually pleasing to Him, rather than just being pleasing to me. Psalm 19:14 gives us encouragement that our very thoughts can please the Lord. Amazing! “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O LORD, my rock and my Redeemer.” God loves it when His children have tender hearts toward Him (Deuteronomy 5:29).
Meditating helps us memorize Scripture. The simple act of meditating on God’s Word helps us memorize it. This is true of everyone—no matter how young or old or how foggy our brain—eventually the things we’re thinking about will stick in our brains. Memorizing veers off from meditating when we begin to review what we’ve committed to memory and then seek to recite the Scriptures faithfully. Meditating isn’t necessarily trying to do that, but meditating and memorizing are certainly kissing cousins, and where one is you’ll soon find the other.
Meditating helps us pray biblically. If you spend any time at all dwelling on God’s Word, you know that soon you find yourself praying over those very Scriptures. This is absolutely my favorite way to pray. Praying through Bible passages emboldens my prayers, keeps my mind engaged and full of faith. The Lord remains foremost in my thoughts when I’m pleading His Word back to Him. Moving between meditation and prayer naturally invigorates our prayer time.
Meditating helps us grow in our knowledge of the Scriptures and of the Lord Himself. If you’ve ever prayed that you would “know the Lord, the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His sufferings, desiring to be conformed to His death” as Paul wrote in Philippians 3:10, then meditating on the Scriptures is the means to get there. The Scriptures reveal God to us; the Word describes His character and His ways; the Bible retraces His steps and helps us trust Him as we walk toward heaven. The Word moves us past our imaginations or feelings into the realm of truth and fact.
That’s why the author of Hebrews wrote in Hebrews 3:1-3, “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house.” When we consider Jesus, according to this text, we think about His roles of Apostle and High Priest; His faithfulness and the degree that He carried that out, and we consider how worthy He is of glory, and more!
Two easy ways to meditate on the Scriptures
The most natural way to meditate upon the Scriptures comes through memorization. There’s nothing like reviewing a section of scripture over and over again to get you thinking about every aspect of it. The mental slowing down that takes place in memorization is crucial in meditation. Sometimes our poor brains are a bit lazy and not used to thinking, but if you persevere in this, asking the Lord for His help, you will make progress.
Another very easy way for me to meditate on the Scriptures comes when I pray through a specific passage or verse. As I look at portions of the verse and pray through it, my mind is engaged rather than wandering. Praying through the Scriptures is a tremendous way to lift your prayer time out of the mundane. Praying through the prayers of the Bible is a great place to start, but that doesn’t have to be the only place you go in the Bible to pray. Any passage, understood properly in its context, can be the kneeling bench for your prayer time. I particularly love to pray through passages where God’s character is on display. Those passages may lead me to praise and thanks or may prompt me to plead that He would minister to His children according to His character (i.e. His goodness, faithfulness, righteousness). When we pray like this we can say like the psalmist, “I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds (Psalm 77:12).”
“Let my meditation be pleasing to Him; as for me, I shall be glad in the LORD (Psalm 104:34).”
He never failed us. Not once. Not once in 3 ½ years of joblessness; not once in 3 ½ years of waiting; not once in 3 ½ years of testing did God fail us. His Word has been the bedrock of our faith.Read More
God frustrates our plans and nullifies our counsel when our plans don’t match His plans. The counsel of the nations can be nullified, but God’s counsel stands forever. The plans of the peoples can be frustrated, but God’s plans, the plans of His heart, stand from generation to generation.Read More
There’s something so endearing about newlyweds. When I talk on the phone with our daughter, Leah, our own little newlywed, I’m always delighted to hear about the little things she and Bryant do for each other. It’s especially sweet to hear of their tender responses toward each other when things get a little tougher.
Somehow my thoughts about newlyweds made their way into my prayer time one morning. I was praying about some different troubles and what concerned me more than anything was my response to them. Was I responding with a sweetness of spirit that is so endearing of a newlywed or was I responding with an old, married, nag type of response to the Lord’s dealings with me? Oh my.
I turned to Revelation 2 and the letter to the church in Ephesus. This dear church had so much going for it. Jesus Himself commends them in verses 2-3 when He says, “I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot tolerate evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false; and you have perseverance and have endured for My name’s sake, and have not grown weary.” The Ephesian church was known for its service, for its love for the Lord and His Word, and for its longsuffering in trials. They persevered. They endured. They hadn’t grown weary.
Yet something happened to them along the way. Their sweet response to the Lord grew a bit thin-lipped, a bit stale, for Jesus said, “But I have this against you, that you have left your first love (verse 4).”
You’ve left your first love. What sad, painful words. Some married couples retain the newlywed spirit throughout their marriage. The years come and go yet there is still an eagerness to do what the other wants, to think well of their spouse in spite of the many failures along the way, and to think of ways to bring a smile to their hearts. While for others, there is a change. Within their marriage there is a stubbornness in doing things for their spouse’s sake, more often than not there is complaining—complaining about everything that the spouse does, and though they have persevered in their marriage, they are weary. The bright, hopeful and cheerful responses that characterized those early years somehow changed into a harping, less than sweet kind of response.
The Ephesian church is a case in point that our love for the Lord can fade into a shadow of its former brightness. And it's also true that this sad state can happen to any believer, even the most faithful. The Ephesians started out well, yet they didn’t continue well.
What’s the answer then? Is there hope to rekindle our love for Jesus? Thankfully yes, and Jesus Himself tells us how this can happen. Verse 5 tells us what to do, “Therefore remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first.”
1. Remember Your Love at the Beginning. Take the time to think about what you were like in that first flush of devotion to Jesus, and more importantly, consider the ways your responses are different now. You may discover that you actually love Him better now and that your responses are more tender, more consistent, and more humble than your early love for Him. Yet, there may be some patterns of habit, rote response, or “just cuz” that have crept in. Assessing your responses to the Lord’s dealings with you will help you take the pulse of your heart’s response.
2. Confess and Repent. If something’s broken, the way to fixing it includes admitting our wrong responses, any stubborn attitudes or feelings of entitlement, anger, or bitterness. Yet admitting our sin is only part of the solution, the other part means actually turning away from those sinful responses. This can be the tricky part because wrong responses can slip in undetected, so that we're not even aware we're doing them. That's why we need the mirror of God’s Word—to reveal our sin and any danger zones (James 1:21-25; Psalm 19:11-14).
3. Rekindle Your Love by Doing What You Used to Do. What practical advice Jesus gives here! Basically, this is applying what we remembered in #1—remember how you used to respond and then do that. That seems disarmingly simple, but if we've accumulated some baggage along the way, doing what we did at the beginning can feel like we're slogging through the mud. Yet if there is a problem with our response, then this is the time to persevere in doing what's right—for our love for Jesus isn't what it should be. Our heart response to the Lord’s work in our lives directly reflects the state of our love.
Do what you used to do. What characterizes that fresh love for Jesus and His work in our lives?
Newlywed love for the Lord is characterized by humility. Humility is that meekness or gentleness of spirit that recognizes God’s right to and perfect wisdom in orchestrating our lives. Newlywed love toward the Lord humbly accepts whatever He gives, whether we understand His ways or not. Ephesians 4:1-2 calls us to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord and one way manifests itself is in our humility. 1 Peter 5:5 says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” If you’re aware that some stubbornness or pride has crept into your heart, ask the Lord for His help in keeping your heart soft toward Him. This humble spirit is what separated Job’s response to his trials from that of his wife. He was soft toward the Lord while she grew stubborn and hardened toward Him. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I humbly receiving the Lord’s dealings with me?”
Newlywed love for the Lord is characterized by willingness. Willingness can be described as readiness to do whatever the Lord desires. The heart is inclined toward His ways rather than our own. Jesus illustrated that ready spirit for us when He told the parable of the Ten Virgins in Matthew 25:1-13. The virgins were part of the wedding ceremony as they waited in readiness for the bridegroom to come and claim his bride. As soon as the bridegroom came into view they were to be ready to join the procession, yet there were some among them who hadn’t prepared for his arrival. That ready and willing spirit for whatever the Lord brings our way should characterize our newlywed love for the Lord. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I ready and willing to do whatever the Lord asks whenever He asks it of me?”
Newlywed love for the Lord is characterized by patience. Nothing says love like a patient spirit. We tend to grow more impatient with people when we know them better or feel they owe us something. And that same impatience can creep into our responses toward the Lord and His ways. It’s no wonder that it’s the first description of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4. Patient love doesn’t get ruffled. It remains even-tempered no matter what the circumstances. Newlywed love for the Lord remains patient with God’s timing. That kind of love waits well, rather than demanding that things happen on our own timetable. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I patient and cheerful with the way the Lord is working or am I demanding that He fix things according to my agenda?”
Newlywed love for the Lord is characterized by passion. Do you remember the story of Zaccheus, the little tax collector who scrambled up a tree so he could see Jesus in Luke 19:1-10? Zaccheus’ newfound faith was so passionate that he willingly volunteered to recompense 4 times over all those he had previously defrauded and give half of his wealth to the poor. His complete devotion to the Lord and willingness to do whatever was necessary to please the Lord exemplifies newlywed love. That fresh love only sees the Lord’s smile and looks for new and extravagant ways to express it. The question we need to ask ourselves is, “Am I passionate in loving the Lord and willing to give up anything that might get in the way of my devotion to Him?”
Newlywed love for the Lord is humble, willing, patient, and passionate, though that's just the beginning. It's safe to say that there's not one of us who loves the Lord perfectly though it’s the first and foremost commandment of the Law of Christ (Mark 12:30), yet we can be encouraged to consider our responses to Him and ask, “Have I maintained a sweet spirit toward the Lord or has that first love for Him faded?” Then may our voices rise in whole-hearted devotion to the Lord with the words from Elizabeth Prentiss’ hymn, “More love to Thee, O Christ, more love to Thee!/Hear Thou the prayer I make on bended knee./This is my earnest plea: More love, O Christ, to Thee;/More love to Thee, more love to Thee!”
I was eating lunch on a layover in the Denver airport when I couldn’t help but overhear a conversation between two men traveling together. Their somewhat loud, though innocuous, conversation centered along the lines of business, until a young woman walked past dressed in tights/leggings. One man was completely derailed in his animated business conversation. I heard a sharp intake of breath, and then he said, “We need to thank whoever the guy was who created those tights things the girls wear. Man….", he said with a sigh of appreciation. The other man knew instantly what he was talking about and echoed similar sentiments. It was silent for a few moments while those men ogled that girl as she made her way through the airport.
I looked up from my lunch to try to guess which woman had caught their eye. And there she was, trotting off with her thinly covered behind in grand view for all to see. I confess I also stole a look to see what manner of men were behind me who were having a conversation like that. Their appearance didn’t match up to what I expected to see; they looked like nice, middle-aged, successful businessmen, even somewhat professorish. They looked like men you would trust if you were in trouble.
There were so many parts of their conversation I found insightful—one of the first was that they wanted to thank “the guy” who invented leggings. They were awed by the sheer genius of the man who somehow swayed women of all ages, shapes, and sizes to walk around in public with basically only a color for covering. It was illuminating to see that lust affects men of every station of life, every social stratum, and every age. And it was lust they were engaging in there in the middle of the Denver airport food court. It was also revealing that these men assumed another man came up with the whole tights/leggings fashion trend currently plaguing us. Apparently, they couldn’t imagine a woman’s desire to be looked at and admired, even lusted after, would drive her to design such items of clothing.
Contrast those attitudes and actions of today with what we read in John Chapter 21. There we read the story of how the disciples, under Peter’s leadership, returned to fishing after Jesus’ death. However, they fished all night, yet didn’t catch a thing. A man called to them from the shore and told them to put their nets on the opposite side of the boat and when they did, they caught so many fish they weren’t even able to bring the nets into the boat. John was quick to catch on to what was happening. Verse 7 tells us, “Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved said to Peter, “It is the Lord.” So when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put his outer garment on (for he was stripped for work), and threw himself into the sea.”
Though this story isn’t about modesty, Peter’s response to the Lord certainly carries import for us today. While he was laboring aboard the boat Peter was stripped down to clothing better suited for work than a robe. Yet when he realized it was the Lord Jesus standing there on the shore he didn’t just dive in to the water in his swim clothes, he took the time to put on his tunic and then swam to shore fighting and pulling against the tunic’s weight the whole way toward Jesus.
Why do that? The answer is pretty simple; Peter covered his body appropriately in the Lord’s presence as a sign of respect, to show honor, to maintain modesty. For believer’s who live every moment of every day in the Lord’s presence, Peter’s example should cause us to think for a moment. How can I best honor the Lord today in my speech, in my thoughts, in my relationships, even in how I dress? We can never forget that modesty has its roots in honoring the Lord. That desire to have every part of our lives give the Lord glory is what Paul was getting at in Philippians 1:20 when he said, “For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die.” What if we changed “life” to “clothes” at the end of verse 20 so it reads, “And I trust that my clothes will bring honor to Christ, whether I live or die?” That mindset gets at the heart of modesty, and it’s what every one of us needs to consider, whether it’s clothes or hair or music or books—will it bring honor to the Lord Jesus?
Modesty is more than how we dress; it’s a character quality that begins in the heart and shows up in our clothes. And I want to say right here that it’s completely possible to wear tights and leggings modestly. I've seen so many girls and women utilize these clothing items well so that they actually were more modest because they used tights or leggings under a skirt or with a long shirt or sweater. A little creativity and a desire to honor the Lord in every area of our lives will help us make wise and thoughtful choices as we dress each day.
If you're interested in more encouragement on modesty, check out Jack's excellent piece www.drivennails.com!
Have you ever started the day cheerfully, full of good intentions, and by mid-morning you’re in a puddle, pouring your heart out to the Lord in frustration over your sad turn of events? Have you ever said to yourself, “What happened? I started the day well; I spent time with the Lord; I even got up early to do so, but something went wrong. How did this happen?” Galatians 5:7 reads, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Ahhh, what a question! Taking the time to answer that question will help us the next time we find ourselves wondering, "How did I end up here?"
In leading up to Galatians 5:7 we see that Paul has been addressing a particularly pernicious issue plaguing the Galatian church in which the Judaizers were teaching the new believers that their faith in Christ alone wasn’t enough to be made righteous. Galatians Chapter 5 begins with Paul pleading with the Galatians not to subject themselves to the slavery of the law system again when Christ had already set them free from the Law’s demands of perfection. The Judaizers were saying believers needed to be circumcised and keep the Law to gain righteousness. Paul counters that idea by saying if believers begin to keep parts of the law to gain righteousness, then they are “obligated” to keep the whole Law (Galatians 5:3).
Over and over Paul points out the Christian life can’t be lived according to the old Law system, only through faith in Christ whose righteousness is applied to us. That's why Paul says it's through faith that we are “waiting for the hope of righteousness (Galatians 5:5).” It’s at this point that Paul quizzically asks the Galatians, “You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth (Galatians 5:7)?”
It probably seemed so logical to them to begin keeping the Law again. God had given the Law, they had come to believe in His Messiah, and now the Law and faith in the Messiah could be joined. Such a little thing, they supposed, in retaining the vestiges of the Law to gain righteousness. Yet the Galatians failed to understand the far-reaching consequences of those “little” choices.
What Hinders You From Running Well?
Now it’s implied in the context of Chapter 5 that the Galatians allowed someone else to hinder their obedience. Isn’t that often the case? We allow others to hinder us from running the race we know we should run. I know it's easy for me to get derailed when I compromise obedience because of someone I love or because I’m afraid of conflict. Sometimes we get off the path because we’re not as knowledgeable about the Scriptures as we should be so we’re easy targets for someone’s misinterpretations of God’s Word. Sometimes we’re our own worst enemy and actually pull ourselves out of the race and hinder our own obedience. It’s worth considering. Who or what has hindered you from obeying the truth found in God’s Word today, this week, the last month, the last year?
God Doesn’t Hinder Us From Running Well
Paul tells us in Galatians 5:8, “This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.” If you’re off somewhere, guess what, that’s not from the Lord. If you find yourself off the path and no longer running in the way you should, you need to know that you didn’t get to where you are because of the Lord. The Lord never leads us into paths of unrighteousness; He leads us in paths of righteousness (Psalm 23:3; James 1:13).
Hindrances Can Have Far-Reaching Effects
There’s an urgency to recognizing we’re off the path sooner rather than later as Paul explains in Galatians 5:9, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.” Just a little sin can lead to further ungodliness (2 Timothy 2:16-17; Proverbs 19:27; Hebrews 12:15).”
So what do you do if you find yourself in a “You-were-running-well-what-hindered-you” kind of day?
1. Getting back in the race is far easier than it was getting out of the race. The very first step is to stop, take stock of what’s happening, and cry out to the Lord in confession and repentance (1 John 1:9; Acts 3:19; 26:20; Revelation 2:5).
2. Recognize that turning away from sin, from wrong thinking, from any kind of defiling influence is crucial if you want to get back in the race. Look at the counsel we’re given from the author of Hebrews, “Let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us (Hebrews 12:1).” Lay aside every encumbrance; lay aside that sin that entangles so easily, and run. And run. And run.
Paul gives similar counsel in 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” Again, cleansing comes when first we confess our sin and trouble to the Lord and in repentance turn away from it, desiring to get back in the race. That’s what Paul means by “perfecting holiness in the fear of God.”
3. Come up with a plan for handling hindrances. Maybe it means talking to your roommate who plays Rock music as soon as you get your Bible out for your quiet time. Maybe it means preparing ahead of time to keep your temper in dealing with your kiddos by memorizing Scriptures, leaning on the Lord, getting enough sleep. Consider those things that may be hindering you from obedience, from running well, and then come up with a plan to circumvent their power.
4. The key to running well is fixing your eyes on the goal—look to Jesus. The author of Hebrews says, “Let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God (Hebrews 12:1-2).” Charles Simeon said, “Shall I not run with all my might now that I see the end in view?”
Oh, to get to heaven and to hear Jesus say, “You ran well! Nothing deterred you from the goal (Philippians 3:14). You made it home!”