TRUE AND FALSE CONVERSION

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

TEXT.--Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks: walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of my hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow.--Isaiah 50.11.*

 

IT is evident, from the connection of these words in the chapter, that the prophet was addressing those who professed to be religious, and who flattered themselves that they were in a state of salvation, but in fact their hope was a fire of their own kindling, and sparks created by themselves. Before I proceed to discuss the subject, let me say, that as I have given notice that it was my intention to discuss the nature of true and false conversion, it will be of no use but to those who will be honest in applying it to themselves. If you mean to profit by the discourse, you must resolve to make a faithful application of it to yourselves--just as honest as if you thought you were now going to the solemn judgment. If you will do this, I may hope to be able to lead you to discover your true state, and if you are now deceived, direct you in the true path to salvation. If you will not do this, I shall preach in vain, and you will hear in vain.

I design to show the difference between true and false conversion, and shall take up the subject in the following order:

I. Show that the natural state of man is a state of pure selfishness.

II. Show that the character of the converted is that of benevolence.

III. That the New Birth consists in a change from selfishness to benevolence.

IV. Point out some things wherein saints and sinners, or true and spurious converts, may agree, and some things in which they differ. And,

V. Answer some objections that may be offered against the view I have taken, and conclude with some remarks.

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Wait

Isaiah 40:31
But they that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength


The holiday season is full of highs and lows. It is a time when some are shopping, and othes struggling. It is a time when depression soars. Couple that with a struggling economy that is letting people go faster than new jobs can be created for them.

What can you do? What can you say? What will turn this around? Patience. Everyone knows Isaiah 40:31, but very few read verse 30. Verse 30 speaks to the winds of adversity that find their way into every life, both young and old. It tells a story of tough times...and maybe even down days!

We are called on not to fix, but to wait. We are challenged, not to seek out friends, but to seek God. Believe it or not, the easy thing in the world to do is to try and fix a problem....the right thing to do is to hand it off to God, and to wait. So many people take a package of problems to God in prayer, and as soon as they finish praying, they take the problem back, and try and fix it themselves.

Wait on God.. ..and He will answer...at the right time...with the right answer.....

God
we know you hear our voice, even when we don't hear yours. We know that you have the answer, no matter our circumstance. We pray that you will speak to our needs with your voice of reason, and will answer our prayers.

We thank you
in Jesus name
Amen


By Steve

Chosen

"And I will put it into the hand of your tormentors, who have said to you, 'Lie down that we may walk over you.' You have even made your back like the ground, And like the street for those who walk over it." Awake, awake, Clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; Clothe yourself in your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city. For the uncircumcised and the unclean will no more come into you. Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; Loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion. Isaiah 51:23-52:2 (NASB)

I had a painful experience as a young Christian when someone I respected expressed disappointment and doubt in the sincerity of my walk with the Lord. They had an agenda for my life that was contrary to the direction I was sensing. I was written off and it was devastating to me. For the first time in my life I had to deal with some deep depression as their dismissive and condemning words seeped into my spirit. I had become a victim of someone’s warped outlook instead of the victor God had declared me to be through His Son. As my depression grew so did an overwhelming passivity. In Isaiah 51:23 God tells Israel that their tormentors have told them to lie down that they may walk over their backs and Israel obeyed. They made their backs a smooth road for the enemy to walk over. They were listening to and obeying their enemy and so was I. Only God could lead a depressed person to read a book called Numbers. This is what I read, "And it will come about that the rod of the man w hom I choose will sprout. And behold the rod of Aaron for the house of Levi had sprouted and put forth buds and produced blossoms, and it bore ripe almonds.” Numbers 17:5b and Numbers 17:8b It was there through the written word that His still small voice spoke, “Carol, your life may look like a dried up stick to yourself and others but because I have chosen you, you will bud, bloom, and bear almonds.” Slowly but surely, hope and healing rose like a life giving sap through my wounded heart and emotions. The whispered lies that I was a failure and disappointment to my Father and Savior, and had been forsaken by His Spirit were replaced with spoken truth. I found the corresponding verse in the New Testament to further emphasize this truth. "You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask of the Father in My name, He may give to you.” John 15:16. I had read Isaiah 52 in the past but didn’t realize its significance to my life and struggles. God calls out a command to the one who is being walked on by their enemy, “Daughter, wake up, dress up, get up, and free yourself from the chains around your neck.” You have been given everything you need for life and Godliness, (2 Peter 1:3) - now use it. As I gained strength, I read Scripture and Scripture-filled prayers out loud every day. I put on my armor and clothed myself with the Lord Jesus Christ (my beautiful garment). I began to lift the shield of faith to quench the lies and parried with the sword of the Spirit. “I am chosen. I will bear fruit for His glory!” The dark pit of depression crumbled, the chains fell and I once again began to walk in the light as He is in the light. If you are in a relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ, His word to you is that He has chosen you and appointed you to bear fruit. Realize that you have an enemy. Don’t let his lies find a place of ent ry. Let go of those negative words others may have spoken over you and evict them from your mind. Stop renting them space in your head. Stop the negative chatter of self-criticism. Come into agreement with the Mighty One who has chosen you.

Lord, help me to humbly accept wise counsel and correction. Help me to discern and reject criticism that tears down and does not build up and edify. Help me by Your Spirit to recognize when my own thoughts are negative and faithless. Help me to realize when the enemy is whispering his lies to me. I will hold fast to who You say that I am. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

By Carol (North Carolina, USA)

I am Forgiven

I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins. Isaiah 43:25 (KJV)

I’ve known, truly known God’s gracious forgiveness all my Christian life. I’ve experienced beautiful times of repentance and the Lord’s merciful lifting of burdens of known sins. I’ve literally lost count of all the forgiveness I’ve prayed for and received. I’ve been washed, cleansed, and freed from besetting sins and temptations; immeasurably. There has been no doubt in my mind that Jesus died on Calvary, suffering a terrible death, to set believers free, that He took upon Himself everyone’s iniquities, in fact the sins of the whole world. And so I knew to bring *all* of my emotions into the Light of God’s Word. Colossians 1:13-14 - “For He delivered us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.” (NASV) But, in my case, a very big but, I found all too often the guilt of, and remembering of past forgiven sins would return when least expected. This returning , oppressive guilt would plague and torment me as if I had never received forgiveness at all, though I know By God’s Word, as well as the faith and belief in my heart, that I was forgiven. Micah 7:19 - ”He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou will cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (KJV) A few years ago, I opened up enough to receive God’s answer to my nagging prayer, about returning guilt and tormented memories, and this truly works for me, now. God had chosen to forgive, and not remember my sins, but had I? Obviously not! I hadn’t chosen this as a deliberate act, as God had. Therefore, I hadn’t asked the Lord to help me to choose to *forgive myself* or to help me choose to *forget my sins.* We hear it so often, don’t we? ‘It’s there for the asking, but you did not ask,’ and, or, ‘you ask amiss.’ Our loving merciful Lord has taught me He can heal tormenting memories and oppressi ve guilt, when we learn to choose what He chooses for us. We can live in the full freedom of God’s forgiving *Grace.*We can and should declare fearlessly to anyone doubting, including ourselves, “I AM FORGIVEN.”

Thank You, Lord Jesus, for your great and wonderful sacrifice on the cross. May we always remember that our true repentance and your forgiveness frees us from all guilt so that we may live more fully the abundant life You sacrificed Yourself to give us. In Jesus Holy Name, I pray. Amen and Amen.

By Rosemary (Victory, Australia)

His Exquisite Love

“Though the mountains be shaken and the hills removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the Lord, who has compassion on you. Isaiah 54:10 (NIV)

The call came at 5:30 in the morning. I was so nervous that I dropped the phone. My granddaughter was about to be born. I grabbed my already-packed suitcase and a breakfast bar. After a tedious two-hour drive through winding mountain roads, I made it to the hospital, only to spend 14 long hours until Kaeleigh announced her arrival. Finally, I experienced the unspeakable joy of her birth. Little did I know the intense love I’d develop for this little girl (and eighteen months later for her brother). Oh, the wonder of being a grandmother! So often when I think of my love for my grandchildren, the deep quiet voice within my heart says, “Don’t you know that you are even more precious and dear to me than your grandchildren are to you? I delight in you. I love to give you your heart’s desire. You are mine and I adore you. Enjoy these grandchildren and remember your love is but a fraction of what my love is for you.”

Dear Lord, we can never thank you enough for your extravagant and unconditional love for us. We know that we are precious in your sight.

By Jackie (Tennessee, USA)

THE SELF-RIGHTEOUS SINNER

SERMON BY CHARLES FINNEY

"Behold, all ye that kindle a fire, that compass yourselves about with sparks; walk in the light of your fire, and in the sparks that ye have kindled. This shall ye have of mine hand; ye shall lie down in sorrow." [Isaiah 50:11]

 

In speaking from this text, I shall enquire,

I. What is this self-kindled fire--what are these "sparks ye have kindled"?

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God's Refrigerator

Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, I love you.” Isaiah 43:4 (NIV)

On my refrigerator are pictures of everyone precious to me. I love this special collage of loved ones and often just stand in front of the door with a glowing smile on my face and special memories in my heart. I stare at my five year old granddaughter and three year old grandson ferociously banging on their older half-brother’s drum set. I am reminded of my husband and me at a Christmas dinner dance resplendent in our formal attire. My eyes then settle on my eighteen year old step-grandson as he plants a whopper of a kiss on his girlfriend’s face. Of course, there is a picture of our lovable Missy, our very active Rat Terrier. Have you heard the saying that if God had a refrigerator, He’d put your picture on it? Now that’s something to smile about! I imagine Him gazing at our pictures as He grins from ear to ear. See, He loves us no matter what our skin color is, no matter how we look, or no matter how smart we are —His is an incredibly incomprehensible love. Let t hat reality sink into your heart today. No matter what kind of day you’re having, know that you are surrounded and cushioned by the unimaginable love of God, for you are precious in His sight.

We really can’t comprehend your love, Lord. Let the very thought penetrate our hearts today and influence us to spread this love wherever we go.

By Jackie (Tennessee, USA)

Wilderness Roadways

Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert… the people whom I formed for Myself, will declare My praise. Isaiah 43:19,21 (The New American Standard Bible)

Once again I was in the Maine woods last week and as usual found myself walking along skidder tracks and following game trails as I moved from one location to another. Some game trails (deer and moose) generally offer the paths of least resistance through the woods but often don't always lead in the direction I should to go. They sometimes also create a false sense of confidence about my location and the possible return to my starting point. The ever-present hunt for the future occupies the minds of people these days as it always has. The treasure hunt for lifetime partners; career opportunities and changes; financial security and investment strategies; retirement and health benefits; and in general the path through life all seem to scream for attention. Some folks read tea leaves, consult horoscopes, call psychic hot lines or follow the advice of mystics in their attempts to get some sort of jump on the future. In a sense these are attempts at finding a path of least resist ance, a way in the wilderness, so-to-speak, and some understanding of the treasures waiting in the future. The inspired words of Isaiah remind me that God says He will do something new; make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert so that we might declare His praise. Is it not that we are a new creation in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17), designed for His purposes so that we might point others in a proper direction through this wilderness of life — giving hope for the future and praise to Him as we go?

Father, guide us along the wilderness roadways you would have us to follow, and provide the words to encourage others in their hope for a future in you. Amen.

By Don  ( Maine, USA )

End Results

Bible Verse:
The lofty looks of a man shall be humbled, and the haughtiness of men shall be bowed down, and the Lord alone shall be exalted. Isaiah 2:11 (KJV)

Text:
A number of years ago, I went to visit my old Aunt who had become chronically ill. I’d taken to visiting her regularly to read the Bible to her, because her eyesight was failing. We’d been reading the book of Isaiah during my last few visits, but on this particular visit, she interrupted me at the above verse, and related this story to me. In the back room of the local news agency, a woman who worked there was sweeping and generally tidying and dusting the room where all the newspapers and magazines were sorted early in the mornings. Two boys, Mike and Caleb, waited to be interviewed for the job, which Mr. Fletchly had advertised in the shop window. Mike, a well- known loner, wore designer clothes, seemed to do everything casually, with little effort, and boasted that he achieved top marks in most subjects at school. He wanted to earn money for materials for his science projects and experiments. He’d let it be known around the town, that the paper route job would be a breeze for him. Mike was serious and silent, except for the impatient non-stop tapping of his foot. Caleb, a few months younger than Mike, currently dressed mostly in hand-downs, and whatever his family managed to afford from the thrift shop. He needed to concentrate much in class, do heaps of homework after school to achieve good marks. But active games and making friends came easily to Caleb. He’d been praying for any kind of paying work so he could help with the family finances, which had greatly reduced since his father had lost his job. In fact, Caleb had prayed so repeatedly that he felt he was nagging the Lord for work. He believed God had something somewhere for him. Caleb saw Mike’s constant tapping foot. “I think you’ll do all right, Mike,” he said. “Anyway, all the best. Maybe we could wait for each other—have a coke afterwards?” Mike stood up, stiff and board-like. His face reddened. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets and shrugged without answering. He appeared to despise Caleb’s generous encouragement and good sportsmanship. When Mr. Fletchly, called Caleb in first, Mike visibly fumed, looked hot and huffy. He spent the next 30 minutes scowling and pacing the room, There were actually two jobs going; one was wrapping and addressing the newspapers and the other was the delivery route. So it was possible both boys could have jobs. Unfortunately, just a few minutes after going in, Mike, white-faced and obviously shocked, came out of Mr. Fletchly’s office, and trudged sulkily out of the shop. Sadly, even though he had the ability to do either of the jobs on offer, Mike’s haughty, churned-up jealous feelings toward Caleb had badly affected his conduct towards Mr. Fletchly, so he wasn’t given a job at all, and missed this opportunity to earn the extra money he wanted. “Looks like you get both jobs, Caleb,” said Mr. Fletchly. “Think you can handle that through the school holidays?” Caleb nodded, gratefully. “Yes, please. Thanks, Mr. Fletchly.” My Aunt tapped the Bible with a thin frail finger, and said, “That very morning I’d read that scripture as part of my daily reading. I literally saw the result of Mike’s haughty, jealous, angry attitude happen right before my eyes: I was the woman with the sweeping brush. I always remember those two boys whenever I sense a haughty, prideful, or jealous attitude in myself or in others. It always reminds me God means what He says in His Word.” God’s Word also tells us in Proverbs 6:16-18 “There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: Haughty eyes, A lying tongue, Hands that shed innocent blood, A heart that devises wicked schemes, Feet that are quick to rush to evil, A false witness who pours out lies, And a man who stirs up dissension among brothers. To know God, we need to learn from His Word what He hates and what He loves. To know God’s Will and God’s Ways, we need to know His Word.

Ending Prayer:
Our Loving Lord, please help us by Your Holy Spirit to receive fresh revelations about You, Your Ways and Your Will as we carefully read and absorb Your WORD each day. In Jesus' all Powerful Name I pray. Amen and Amen.

By Rosemary  ( Australia )

Inconvenient Waiting

Bible Verse:
"I am God, and there is no other...My plan will take place, and I will do all My will..Yes I have spoken; so I will also bring it about. I have planned it; I will also do it." Taken from Isaiah 46:9-11

Text:
Today I am waiting for the plumber to come. What an inconvenience! With a houseful of guests this could not have happened at a worse time. Calling the emergency “plumber” line last night I wanted help immediately. Yes, I was willing to pay the extra after-hours costs because I wanted it fixed “now”. The plumber encouraged me to wait until morning.
Waiting is hard work as I’m conscious of the limitations imposed while I’m waiting. This morning my thoughts turned to God as I began to see spiritual truths in this very mundane, every day event. How often we want Him to intervene immediately, to have Him fix it “now”. God knows that there are things that we need to learn so He delays His intervention.
As we begin to wait on Him we find that we begin to adjust our lives to that wait. Waiting is definitely not passive nor is it inactive. Necessary alterations are made during this time. This is a problem we cannot fix ourselves and so we see how dependent we really are. We don’t pick the times when we want God to work in our lives. He comes according to His will not at our convenience.

Waiting on Him is when our soul begins to be quiet in order to hear what He is saying. There is a sense of surrendering to His process and His timing. There is a cost. The “Plumber” will come at the appointed time and water will flow again as we orientate our lives back to Him.

Ending Prayer:
Father, today I surrender my life to You. May I learn how to rest in Your promises. May Your will be done in and through my life. Amen.

By Maria (Canada)

Means To Be Used With Sinners

Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant whom I have chosen . - Isaiah. 43:10.

In the text it is affirmed of the children of God, that they are His witnesses. In several preceding Lectures I have been dwelling on the subject of prayer, or on that department of means for the promotion of a revival, which is intended to move God to pour out His Spirit. I am now to commence the other department, dealing with the means to be used for the conviction and conversion of sinners.

It is true, in general, that persons are affected by the subject of religion in proportion to their conviction of its truth. Inattention to religion is the great reason why so little is felt concerning it. No being can look at the great truths of religion, as truths, and not feel deeply concerning them. The devil cannot. He believes and trembles. Angels in heaven feel, in view of these things. God feels! An intellectual conviction of truth is always accompanied with feeling of some kind.

One grand design of God in leaving Christians in the world after their conversion is that they may be witnesses for God. It is that they may call the attention of the thoughtless multitude to the subject, and make them see the difference in the character and destiny of those who believe the Gospel and those who reject it. This inattention is the grand difficulty in the way of promoting religion. And what the Spirit of God does is to awaken the attention of men to the subject of their sin and the plan of salvation. Miracles have sometimes been employed to arrest the attention of sinners, and in this way miracles may become instrumental in conversion - although conversion is not itself a miracle, nor do miracles themselves ever convert anybody. They may be the means of awakening.

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Immanuel

Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Isaiah 7:14 (KJV)
 
So many years in my earlier life, the Christmas season became the busiest time of year for me and my family, involving much planning, preparation, work, hustle, bustle, and spending money. It usually involved family and friends gathering for feasting and gift giving, as well as a hasty Church Service attendance.  
     
However, amidst all of the doing, giving, and loving, I scarcely made the time to love and worship my Saviour and Giver of all the truly good things, and the Spiritual celebration which is the main reason of the season: the birth of our Lord Christ.
 
I needed to break the many years of habits of thinking, doing and planning the usual secular way of celebrating CHRISTmas. It was the Lord Himself, through His Word, who gave me wonderful revelation truth, plus the desire and will to change. Now, my first focus is, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Isaiah 9:6a (KJV)
 
Immanuel, God with us.  
 
Jesus was God in human form, our Lord and our God, yet our greatest friend, and our eternal brother. Let us take the time to adore Him, to worship Him, to bow down humbly before Him with gratitude in our hearts. His miraculous conception was something unheard of before, and unparalleled since. Our Saviour, although truly a man, was the Holy One of God.
     
As we bow, may we be willing that He be formed in us to make us like Himself. Let us continue to worship Him as we live this coming year to our fullest potential and to the fullness of our Lord’s Purposes, for His Glory and Splendour through all the earth.
 
Lord Jesus, please help us be willing to first reach out to you in love, worship, praise and thanksgiving, before anything else we do each day.

Obey Partial Instructions

I have put my words in your mouth and covered you with the shadow of my hand. Isaiah 51:16 (NIV)

There we were at our weekly Saturday night prayer. A dozen members met to pray for the needs of our church. Our pastor shared that he needed guidance on who to take with him on his upcoming trip to India.

"Me!" I blurted out, "I want to go!"

His jaw dropped open in surprise. He was thinking about inviting another pastor to help share his teaching load at the Bible colleges. He was not thinking about taking another layperson, much less a woman. I was surprised at my boldness too, but I knew immediately that the Lord wanted me on that India-bound plane.

Next Sunday an invitation came in the bulletin for people to join our pastor on his journey to India. I prayed that another woman would step forward. One did, plus another layman. Another pastor outside our city also joined us. We were a small group but appointed to go.

In northern India we were at a Bible college for men. Our pastor gave a lengthy overview of the Bible. The other pastor then shared from Ephesians. We ladies sat with our heads bowed and covered, trying to look like part of the landscape.

After both our pastors taught, the school's headmaster came up to us women and asked, "Would you ladies like to share?" My friend declined but the teacher in me stirred.

"I'd love to share!" I answered.

We agreed to meet the next day since it was close to lunch and the students had other duties to complete. I decided to speak on what I knew best: children's ministry and the Bible club I worked in back home. The Lord enabled me to present a clear, ordered and vital lesson. I have never stood before such a keenly listening audience. Their hearts burned with the same desire to minister to children. We were one in spirit and in purpose.

As we prepared to leave the next day the principal tapped me on the shoulder. "Besides heading up this school I also help pastor twenty-eight other churches and we want to have these clubs!"

My heart flooded with celebration. This was why God had sent me to India! The mission organization we worked with focused on adult ministry. God used me to gently tell them that they had overlooked the children.

This trip took place in l997. Since then this mission organization has developed a mighty ministry to children. God has shown their leaders that the way to bring salvation to families is through the children.

Is God prompting you to go somewhere that does not make sense? I had a part in the start of a giant outreach to children. It is one of my sweetest memories, yet I had no idea before I went why the Lord was sending me.

Lord, is someone reading this who needs to go for you? Give them the faith to not shrink back and the strength to move forward. You will cover them with the shadow of your hand. Amen.

Do Not Fear!

Do not fear, for I am with you; do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand. Isaiah 41:10 (NASB)

One time the opportunity was right for me to share the Gospel with my neighbor, but because I did not want to be rejected I did not. Another time some co-workers were speaking badly about a person who was not there and I wanted to defend the person, but because I did not want to appear as being self-righteous, I remained silent. Many times in life I make decisions based not the Bible nor on righteousness but to avoid pain or humiliation. I allow fear to make my choices. 

God knows how easily we can tremble, how vulnerable we are. Many of the Bible’s greatest heroes needed reassurance. These were people who would eventually stand against oppression and change the world; yet at first their hearts were faint and their faith was weak. What were the first words that God spoke to Abraham, Hagar, Isaac, Gideon, Daniel, and Mary? It was “Do not fear.” He had to first quiet their fears. Then they were able to take action relying on God’s promises and power.

When we are faced with a choice of obedience to God or yielding to fear, let us also be strengthened by God’s words to us, “Do not fear.” As 2 Timothy 1:7 reassures, For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. Conquer fear with God’s promises.

When I am weak may I turn to Your Holy Spirit for grace and power. Amen.

God's Cure

For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, saith the LORD. Isaiah 55:8 (KJV)

Fear swept over me as I stared at my brother’s enormously swollen knee. Excruciating pain was all over his face, medication brought no relief. For years Jim had suffered from knee pain, but this huge inflamed mass was something totally different. As a nurse, I knew that kind of infection placed the entire leg at risk. “Oh God,” I prayed, “Please don’t allow Jim to lose his leg.”

After surgery for the infection and an additional six weeks of intravenous antibiotic therapy, Jim realized the constant pain he had suffered for years was gone. The dangerous infection that made my brother deathly ill and that we feared would cost him his leg, turned out to be God’s way of curing Jim’s chronic knee pain.

It happened that while cleaning out the raging infection in Jim’s knee, the surgeon had also washed away painful bone fragments that were left behind from a previous ineffective surgery. Wow!

When life doesn’t make sense and anxiety overtakes me, it seems so easy to forget who God is.  But by His grace I am learning how in the midst of fear and uncertainty to pause and refocus on God. Then He gently reminds me that He is sovereign and that His ways are higher than my ways. And once again my soul finds its rest in Him.

Father, help us to remember that You love us and that even when we do not understand Your ways, we can trust you with all our heart. In Jesus’ holy name we pray. Amen.

After the Movie Starts

Arise, shine; for your light has come, and the glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold, darkness will cover the earth, and deep darkness the peoples; but the Lord will rise upon you, and His glory will appear upon you. And the nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising. Lift up your eyes round about, and see...then you will see and be radiant, and your heart will thrill and rejoice. Isaiah 60:1-5 (The New American Standard Bible)

At the close of a recent Sunday morning service we sang, “This Little Light of Mine.” I guess it’s been one of my favorite songs since childhood. The words also brought another reminder from the distant past. In the 1950’s, motion picture theaters employed ushers to assist people in finding a seat in the dark after a movie had started. I remember showing my ticket stub to an usher and then being led down the isle to a row with vacant seats. The usher, with eyes adjusted to the dim light, guided my footsteps by shining a flashlight behind her to light my path down the isle. The service was greatly appreciated, especially since it saved me some embarrassment by not having to grope my way along rows of seats or tripping over people who were already enjoying the entertainment.

So the question that comes to mind as I write this thought is why not be an usher in life? With eyes already trained to discern shapes and pitfalls in the darkness that surrounds us, and holding the Light of the World in our hands, why not point it in a direction beneficial to those who are still groping for peace and security in life? After all, the price of admission has already been paid, so checking ticket stubs isn’t part of the job description. Just think, if everyone was an usher and all held flashlights that were turned on, it wouldn't be dark anymore!


Lord help us to lift up our eyes and be radiant in your light. Amen.

Absolute Trust

Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my strength and my song; he also is become my salvation. Isaiah 12:2 (KJV)

Icy rain had made the side roads in my county slick and hazardous as my 10-year-old daughter and I traveled home from school that wintry day. As I drove, I kept both hands carefully placed at 10 & 2 on the steering wheel as I crept along at no more than 25 mph.

My prayer for a safe arrival home was interrupted by the sound of the zipper on my daughter’s backpack. As she rustled around in her bag, she proceeded to tell me about the great new book she checked out of the school library that day, what page she was on, and how the story was progressing. When she became quiet, I chanced a quick glance back to her seat diagonally behind me to find her relaxed and completely enthralled with her newest reading adventure.

While I knew she was aware of the dangers of the road conditions, I realized that she fully trusted me to take her safely home. Her faith in me was so complete, she became totally absorbed in her book. It brought to mind two questions: When the storms of life are raging, do I absolutely trust God? Is my faith so great that I sit back, immerse myself in His book, the Bible, and allow Him to continue directing me safely home? 

Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for using a child to remind me what trust and faith are about. May I rely on your Spirit to direct me through each day of my earthly life until I come home to my heavenly reward.  In Jesus’ name, amen.

Holding Hands

For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear, I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13 NIV)

My Russian friend Natalia adores her grandchildren. She loves to delight their hearts by creating memorable experiences out of ordinary events, even just walking the familiar route to their house from hers. On their way through the downtown traffic, they pass a market surrounded by thick, knee-high ropes affixed to concrete pillars, which separate the sidewalk from the hazardous parking lot. Eugenia and Mita cannot resist their granny’s urging to hop up onto the rope and pretend they are circus performers on the high wire.

“Look straight ahead to the next post,” Natalia encourages, “and hold my hand tight. You cannot fall beyond my reach. Don’t be afraid! Granny knows the way.” 

Such a bright illustration for our walk of faith in Christ. As we reach out our hands to the Father, he grabs hold and promises to help us cross the treacherous tightropes we so often find ourselves balancing upon. The place of safety is straight ahead—on the Rock of our Salvation—Jesus.
 
Lord, help me to keep my fragile hands outstretched in faith to your mighty ones. 

Facing in the Right Direction

Declare and set forth your case; indeed, let them consult together. Who has announced this from of old? Who has long since declared it? Is it not I, the Lord? And there is no other God besides Me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none except me. Turn to Me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. I have sworn by Myself, the word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness and will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. They will say of Me, "Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength. Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him shall be put to shame." In the Lord all the offspring of Israel will be justified, and will glory. Isaiah 45:21-25 (The New American Standard)

About this time each year the Maine woods are filled with a tiny pest called a black fly. In their quest for blood, they find ways into eyes, ears, mouth and all exposed skin. Yesterday must have been the appointed hatch time because I was escorted through the woods most of the day by several thousand of these winged critters.

Yesterday a brisk breeze was from the NW and my direction of travel across an old clear-cut logging operation was to the SE. The flies collected down-wind in the lee of my body and swarmed in my eyes and ears, bringing me to a point of distraction several times. With my back to the wind, I was clearly faced with a gauntlet of these pests in my face as I attempted to map the geology of the area. It didn't take me long to figure out that I was able to accomplish more facing into the wind, thus putting the cloud of flies to my back side and out of my eyes.

At some point in the morning, as I sat on an old stump in the middle of the clear-cut munching an apple garnished with these little pests, a thought came to mind. The distractions of the world, the pesky irritations that swarm around us each day can be put behind us if we just turn our face in the right direction.

Lord, as we are distracted by the sometimes pesky irritations of the day, help us to turn to you for there is no other way. Amen.

Two Things Will Change: The Way You Walk and The Way You Stand

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength: they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; and they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 41:30 (KJV)

Wherefore take unto you the whole armour of God, that ye may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all to stand. Stand therefore, having your loins girt about with truth, and having on the breastplate of righteousness. Ephesians 6:13-14 (KJV)


“He’ll be different when he gets back home.” More than one made the same comment as word got around Ben had joined the Army.

“I don’t want Ben to change. I like Ben the way he is.” I didn’t speak the words for anyone to hear, but I would repeat them in my mind and in my heart, and make it a simple prayer from a loving Mom to her God. The Army would prepare him to be a soldier, pay for his education and send him to basic training. I was proud and sad at the same time. Proud of his desire to be part of the military and sad to see him have to face basic training without me there to watch it take place.

The house sounded empty without his warped sense of humor and spontaneous laugh. As his graduation date from basic training grew close, we counted down the days until we would see him again.

“Look at the way he walks, and he stands so straight.” That was my first reaction after I saw Ben in his military Class A’s.

“That is part of the military’s training,” my husband replied.

As I watched my boy, who was now a soldier, walk with the confidence of a warrior, the Lord quickened me. “Ben is ready for battle. He is prepared to fight the enemy. When the military calls him to go fight, he’ll be ready.”

“Yes, Lord, I understand that, but more than one said he would change. Has anything changed? He still looks the same, acts the same, and laughs the same.”

“What do you see different about him?”

“Two things: the way he walks and the way he stands.”

“Exactly,” was the one word I heard from the Lord. As I watched Ben eat his first Big Mac in three months, drink the biggest Coke McDonald’s sold, and enjoy the french fries, two scriptures came to mind: Having done all to stand…then stand…They shall walk, and not grow weary…"

Each of us as Christians are prepared to fight the enemy. Just as the US military prepares each soldier to go to war, we are prepared to war against the enemy. Don’t be discouraged when going through testing. It may be the only thing that needs to be changed is two things—the way you walk and the way you stand. When that is changed you are prepared to go against the enemy.

Dear Lord, may I be prepared to face whatever comes my way. May I be a trained solider in the Army of the Lord. Amen.

Thought: If times seem hard and you can't see the purpose in the endurance, remember that we need to know how to stand and how to walk. Those two things might be all that need to be changed.