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God Can Go to Lunch Whenever He Wants to

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Back when I graduated from college, phones still hung on the wall instead of in our pockets. My first job was as a probation officer in Clearwater, Florida.

My boss was a no-nonsense businessman. Here’s the thing — we had an hour for lunch. My boss would leave for lunch and return at his leisure. I knew him well enough to know he did not waste time, but still it made me think about how the boss can go to lunch whenever he wants — and come back when he wants because, well, he’s the boss. He does not answer to me.

How much more with the God of the universe. He spoke the world into being and sustains it with a word. As I await hurricane Florence’s arrival here in North Carolina, I think of when Jesus slept through a storm and his disciples said in Mark 4:41,

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (NIV)

Sometimes I question God. Don’t understand how He functions. In my puny brain, I think I can run the world better.

Stop laughing.

Really.

It’s like an ant shaking his tiny ant fist at an NFL lineman — except worse.

In Isaiah 45:5-6, Jehovah is speaking to rebellious Israel. Scripture says this:

I am the LORD, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God. I will strengthen you, though you have not acknowledged me, so that from the rising of the sun to the place of its setting people may know there is none besides me.” (NIV)

God is all-powerful, all-knowing, and absolutely unique. He is beyond all we can imagine or comprehend.

Yet, He reached down to me and grabbed my tiny ant fist. Cradled me with His loving arms. Sent His Son, The Lord Jesus Christ to pay the penalty I deserved for my rebellious soul.

For yours.

He is The Good Shepherd, the Alpha and Omega, My Savior, My Redeemer. He is The Bread of Life, my Great High Priest, The Lamb of God, Messiah.

He is The Son of God. There is no one like Him.

And He does what He pleases.

And He was pleased to come as a baby, lead a sinless life, die a gruesome death to be raised from to life so that I could share His inheritance throughout eternity.
Check out this passage from Romans 5:6-8:

“You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Kind of makes you marvel, doesn’t it? That the God of the universe cares deeply about us.

Makes me want to get low and worship Him today.

How about you?

Copyright © 2018 Pauline Hylton, used with permission.

Joy in Suffering?

Years ago when I still wore a single digit sized pair of pants, a man I admired expressed his desire to go to heaven.

“I don’t understand.”

My friend elaborated, “When I am experiencing God in worship or praise or prayer, I sense His presence. I think how much better heaven will be.”

As I grow older, understanding dawns.

But there are still many mysteries. Like for instance Mark 10:29-30,

“Yes,” Jesus replied, “and I assure you that everyone who has given up house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or property, for my sake and for the Good News, will receive now in return a hundred times as many houses, brothers, sisters, mothers, children, and property—along with persecution. And in the world to come that person will have eternal life.

I like the first part, but shy away from the “gift” of persecution.

Take a look at this verse.

philippians 1:29

Suffering is granted to us? Like receiving a wish from a genie?

Recently, I received a newsletter from Voice of the Martyrs. The back page revealed about 12 people who are imprisoned because they taught a Bible Study, or shared the gospel, or even attended an underground church. Some have been in prison for over 15 years.

Here is the issue…when I read this publication, many of those who have been imprisoned say things like, “Christ suffered, I am privileged to suffer for Him.” And when they are released, they go right back to preaching oftentimes to be thrown back into prison.

It is a mystery to me.

The only thing I can figure is when they are in prison, they experience what my friend described when he praised or prayed or worshiped. They somehow sense the Lord’s presence so intensely that they glory in it. Basking themselves in Jesus.

As an American, it is almost impossible for me to relate. Yet Scripture says that suffering brings joy. If the Bible says it, I believe it, so that settles it.

But don’t get me wrong, I am not praying for suffering. I think that would be weird. But I am praying for my brothers and sisters who are suffering. They are my eternal family and I love them, even though I haven’t met them–yet.

For today, I pray, and read God’s Word, and wonder.

Here is a nugget I read yesterday in Psalm 16:11, “In Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand are pleasures forever.”

Even so, Lord Jesus come.

 

Grace Dispensers

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The Pharisees try to trick Jesus with a woman caught in the act of adultery. They tried to discredit Christ by making Him side with the Law and appear to be uncaring, or breaking the Law of Moses and siding with the woman.

As usual, Jesus exceeded all expectations. (In baseball terms, He hit the ball out of the park.)

Take a look at the passage from the New Living Translation:

 Jesus returned to the Mount of Olives, 2 but early the next morning he was back again at the Temple. A crowd soon gathered, and he sat down and taught them. As he was speaking, the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees brought a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery. They put her in front of the crowd.

“Teacher,” they said to Jesus, “this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law of Moses says to stone her. What do you say?”

 They were trying to trap him into saying something they could use against him, but Jesus stooped down and wrote in the dust with his finger. They kept demanding an answer, so he stood up again and said, “All right, but let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone!” Then he stooped down again and wrote in the dust.

 When the accusers heard this, they slipped away one by one, beginning with the oldest, until only Jesus was left in the middle of the crowd with the woman. Then Jesus stood up again and said to the woman, “Where are your accusers? Didn’t even one of them condemn you?”

 “No, Lord,” she said.

And Jesus said, “Neither do I. Go and sin no more.” John 8:1-11

When describing this scene, my pastor said, “The Pharisees threw this woman down with the Law, and Jesus raised her up with Grace.”

Sometimes I think of this woman as needing His grace. I mean–caught in the act? I’ve never been caught in the act. But if I believe all Scripture is inspired by God, then I have to believe that when Jesus spoke in Matthew 5 about being guilty for just thinking about it—in His eyes, well, I might have a problem. You might too. In fact, I’m pretty sure of it.

But the fact is, I tend to categorize people.

I look at them and have thoughts like, How could they make such bad choices? I would never have done that! Can’t they get their lives together?

I throw the Law down.

But then I realize that my life has been pretty good. My parents provided for me as a child, didn’t abuse me, and even liked each other. They encouraged me to attend school and assumed I would go to college.

Many don’t have that. And by the way, why was I born in the United States? I could have been born in Nigeria or Iraq.

It is all grace. All of it. All undeserved and unearned.

The God of the universe dispensed grace and forgiveness to this woman. He did the same with me. The Law threw me down and Jesus raised me up.

That is Amazing Grace.

Let’s be grace dispensers like our Lord.

How can you do that this week? Tell me about it.

 

How Long, Lord

How Long, Lord?

This devotional appeared on 7/15 at cbn.com

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“How long, Lord? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I wrestle with my thoughts and day after day have sorrow in my heart? How long will my enemy triumph over me?” Psalm 13:1-2 (NIV)

Anxiety engulfed me. Sitting up in bed, I fought to breathe.

This time it centered around our move to North Carolina. How would we move Mom there? What about her hospital bed? How could we load it into the moving truck and still have a place for her to sleep? What about our son who remained behind?

Ever feel like that?

That’s what I thought.

Where does anxiety come from and why do I struggle so much with it?

It helps to know that King David suffered from anxiety. Seems like he had a better reason—people were constantly trying to kill him. Usually, I’m just worried about what others think of me, or if we will finally be able to take a vacation.

Many times, I worry about my adult children. Those are the thoughts I struggle with the most.

A pastor I enjoy says all sin stems from unbelief. The more I’ve chewed on that, the more I’m convinced.

Do I really believe the Lord has my best in mind? Do I really believe He is sovereign? Can He protect my children? Does He really love me in spite of myself—my sin?

The Bible shouts a resounding “Yes!” to all of the above.

Still, I doubt. And worry.

What is the antidote? Thank God, He has given us His answer. It is found in Philippians 4:6-7,

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”

Prayer brings me to the heart of God and the truth about myself. The more I understand God, His Word, and the priceless message of salvation, the more I comprehend my unworthiness. This brings me to my knees in much-needed humility and lifts God up to His rightful place of worship.

As my anxious heart prays to a forgiving, loving, faithful God, I begin to taste His peace.

Beth Moore said once that she began to thank God for His answers before He answered. And the verses above command us to pray with thanksgiving.

I’ve begun to do that in my prayer life. I have prayer cards with Scripture verses for each of my family members. As I pray the verse back to the Lord, I thank Him for how He will answer.

I look back on the awesome ways He has answered in the past—ways I could not have imagined—above all I could ask or even think.

Funny thing, as I pray, peace comes. It did for King David, too.

And it will for you.

A Father’s Day Tribute and Challenge

Here is my latest post from CBN.com

Or you can visit their website at http://www1.cbn.com/devotions/crying-out-to-the-most-high

Crying Out to the Most High

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“If you put some money in the kettle, we’ll stop singing!” my larger than life father shouted as we manned a Salvation Army stand on Christmas Eve. He would throw his head back, laugh and then remind those around him how funny he was.

Since my parents were Salvation Army officers, and my sisters had their own families, it was usually the three of us plowing through that busy season. Last-minute-Christmas shoppingand singing questionable three-part-harmony on the kettles became our tradition.

As a teenager, I’d roll my eyes when my father did something embarrassing. I wouldn’t now.

Dad entered heaven ten years ago, and I still miss him. Especially on Father’s Day. I have possession of his Salvation Army Songbook and New Testament. His left-handed all caps print is noticeable in many of the margins. In this book are personal notes about the songs and humble prayers of a man who failed much—and knew it. Often his prayer centered on forgiveness, but many times he cried out for a deeper relationship with the Lord.

His passion and prayers still speak to me.

Reading through the first few chapters of Nehemiah, I also feel the depth of his passion and his prayers. Heartbroken because Jerusalem lies desolate with no walls, he fasts and prays—crying out to the Most High, confessing his sin, and the sin of his people while lifting up the name of Jehovah. Listen to this:

“O Lord, God of heaven, the great and awesome God who keeps his covenant of unfailing love with those who love him and obey his commands, listen to my prayer! Look down and see me praying night and day for your people Israel. I confess that we have sinned against you. Yes, even my own family and I have sinned! We have sinned terribly by not obeying the commands, decrees, and regulations that you gave us through your servant Moses.”Nehemiah 1:5-7 (NLT)

With Mother’s Day behind us, and Father’s Day right around the corner, I’ve been wondering how I will be remembered. Will it be for complaining or discontentment? Will my children think of the times I yelled or functioned at just a notch above crazy?

I hope not. My desire is for them to remember me in the same way Paul remembered Timothy’s mother and grandmother in 2 Timothy 1:5,

“I remember your genuine faith, for you share the faith that first filled your grandmother Lois and your mother, Eunice. And I know that same faith continues strong in you.”

Genuine faith—not perfect—a woman of passionate prayer and humble repentance.

Just like my father. Just like Nehemiah. Just like a myriad of others who pressed on in this fallen world, looking for a better place.

What about you? How will you be remembered?

Let’s passionately pray about it together.

Copyright © 2018 Pauline Hylton, used with permission.