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This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us.  And if we know that he hears us — whatever we ask — we know that we have what we asked of him.- 1 JOHN 5:14-15

Do you struggle to experience a fulfilling prayer life? Admittedly, I know sometimes I do. Lately, the anguish of urgency and impatient expectation is an excruciating, burdensome ritual. My head conflicts with my heart as I cry out for God to answer quickly, but the ongoing sound of silence births even more exasperated cries: Are my prayers bouncing off the ceiling? Is God really listening? A gentle prompting appeases my burden – compelling me to trust and wait, despite the contradictory, untrustworthy counsel of my natural senses.

Throughout Scripture, prophets, priests, and patriarchs remind us that God hears his people’s prayers. Jesus assures us likewise. John echoes Jesus’ assertion by defining our confidence when we approach God’s throne in prayer. John clarifies confidence as knowing God hears prayers that align with his will. He emphasizes his counsel by asserting, “We know . . . whatever we ask . . . we know . . . we have what we asked of him.” John’s counsel exudes trust. He doesn’t need to know all the details. He doesn’t allow his natural senses to avert or affirm God’s ever eternal truth. He surrenders the big picture details confidently before God’s throne by the power of the Holy Spirit living in him.

As Christ followers, we have much to learn from Scripture’s counsel. Our misplaced sense of entitlement to completely understand God’s tactic and timeline can hinder our prayer walk because we don’t see or understand the big picture. The big picture is God’s business. Our prayer mantle and posture are to align our requests with his Word and will. In the interim, between our request and our Father’s response, God influences our perspective, nurtures our relationship, and transforms our trust.    Dear Heavenly Father, Thank you for the sound counsel of your Word. Give me the words and wisdom to align my prayers and petitions with your will. Increase my patience as I learn to trust you completely with all the details and surrender my prayers’ outcomes at your throne.

Throughout This Day: Seek to worship God and pray according to his will by praying through a psalm or other biblical passage.

Isaiah 64:1-4

The Lord is a God of action. Even when He rested after six days of creation, it wasn’t because He was tired and needed to recuperate—His creative activity may have stopped, but He never ceased working. And throughout history He has always been intimately involved in individual lives without ever relaxing control over the universe.

Sometimes, however, it may seem He’s unconcerned about us, because our prayers aren’t answered as quickly as we expect. When that happens, we need to remember it doesn’t mean God has stopped working. He is still actively involved in our lives but often in ways that are not always visible. He orchestrates circumstances, changes people’s hearts, and protects His children from making foolish decisions that could have disastrous consequences. Waiting times are opportunities for growth in character, obedience, faith, and service.

By intentionally choosing to trust and depend on God rather than doubt Him, you are cooperating with His process of spiritual growth. He alone knows what you need and when you need it. Be encouraged, knowing that God has planned good things for those who wait (Isa. 64:4). Even if you don’t get specifically what you requested, your Father’s answer will be for your eternal good and His glory. 

But every one of the Israelites went down to the Philistines to sharpen his plowshare, his mattock, his axe, or his sickle.

 1 Samuel 13:20

We are engaged in a great war with the Philistines of evil. Every weapon within our reach must be used. Preaching, teaching, praying, giving—all must be brought into action, and talents that have been thought too mean for service must now be employed.

These various tools may all be useful in slaying Philistines; rough tools may deal hard blows, and killing need not be elegantly done, so long as it is done effectually. Each moment of time, in season or out of season; each fragment of ability, educated or untutored; each opportunity, favorable or unfavorable, must be used, for our foes are many and our force but slender.

Most of our tools need sharpening; we need quickness of perception, tact, energy, promptness—in a word, complete adaptation—for the Lord’s work. Practical common sense is a very scarce thing among the conductors of Christian enterprises. We might learn from our enemies if we would, and so make the Philistines sharpen our weapons. This morning let us note enough to sharpen our zeal during this day by the aid of the Holy Spirit.

Witness the energy of some, how they travel over sea and land to make one proselyte—are they to monopolize all the earnestness? Consider what tortures some endure in the service of their idols! Are they alone to exhibit patience and self-sacrifice? Observe the prince of darkness, how persevering in his endeavors, how unabashed in his attempts, how daring in his plans, how thoughtful in his plots, how energetic in all!

The devils are united as one man in their infamous rebellion, while we believers in Jesus are divided in our service of God and scarcely ever work with unanimity. O that from Satan’s infernal industry we may learn to go about like good Samaritans, seeking whom we may bless!

GOD FUNDS US

Praise the Lord, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.- PSALM 103: 1-5

Recently a fire swept through a large apartment complex in our city, and sixty families lost homes. We learned that the son of a friend had lived there with his wife and two small children. The son was early in his career as a university professor, and the fire destroyed his library and laptop — right in the middle of a busy semester.

Soon a call went out online to “help the kids” who had “lost everything”. The target was set for $10,000 and within days, donors doubled that. The family had lost furniture, appliances, clothing, and toys, but the gifts they received would eventually replace these things and more.

I suspect they were thankful since they had no content insurance.

David’s praise to God captures a similar theme. When Israel was in the pit, diseased and sinful, God had their back. He provided them with benefits, healed them, met their desires, and forgave them.

Are we not like the couple in need of kindness and grace from strangers, and redemption and love from God? A lot of us are living with no insurance so to speak, experiencing disaster, and losing it all. How wonderful that God and friends surround us with their love and forgiveness, and sometimes even provide us with financial help we do not deserve.

It gives reason to pause. Are our hearts full of praise to God for his gift of salvation and providing grace? How have we . . . how can we . . . be giving and forgiving of others, even if undeserving?

_Dear God, we praise for your loving kindness toward us from the pit we have dug for ourselves or have suffered from misfortune. Thank you for having our back with your love and compassion to buy us back. May we be willing to show the same redeeming actions toward people in our lives.__

Throughout This Day: Thank God for his provision of all we need for both life and godliness. Celebrate his lovingkindness, his generosity, and his grace!

Romans 12:1-5

God’s kindness is demonstrated by the fact that He doesn’t leave us in the condition we were in before salvation. Throughout our life, the Lord uses certain tools to shape us into the image of His Son.

God’s Word. We grow in Christ when we spend time reading the Bible, because Scripture is like food that nourishes our soul (Matt. 4:4). Yet sadly, some Christians rely only on the Sunday dinner of the Word served up by a pastor. 

Prayer. We learn to depend on the Lord by coming to Him with our needs and concerns as well as our praise and gratitude. As we regularly draw near, our intimacy and love for Him grows. Instead of seeing prayer as a duty, we’ll realize our time with the Lord has become a delight. 

The Church. The body of believers is another important factor in our transformation because that’s where we learn to love one another.  It’s also where we find encouragement, receive biblical instruction, and experience accountability.

Our culture has no shortage of worldly voices and pressures that fill minds and influence behavior. But when we intentionally schedule time for God, His Word, and His people, He does His transforming work in our life.

Awake, O north wind, and come, O south wind! Blow upon my garden, let its spices flow.

 Song of Songs 4:16

Anything is better than the dead calm of indifference. Our souls may wisely desire the north wind of trouble if that is to become the means of our sanctification. So long as it cannot be said, “The Lord was not in the wind,” we will not shrink from the most wintry blast that ever blew upon plants of grace.

Did not the spouse in this verse humbly submit herself to the reproofs of her Beloved, only entreating Him to send forth His grace in some form, and making no stipulation as to the peculiar manner in which it should come? Did she not, like ourselves, become so utterly weary of deadness and unholy calm that she sighed for any visitation that would brace her to action? Yet she desires the warm south wind of comfort too, the smiles of divine love, the joy of the Redeemer’s presence; these are often mightily effectual to arouse our sluggish life. She desires either one or the other, or both, so that she may but be able to delight her Beloved with the spices of her garden. She cannot endure to be unprofitable, nor can we.

How cheering a thought that Jesus can find comfort in our poor feeble graces. Can it be? It seems far too good to be true. We may even court trial or death itself if by doing so we gladden Immanuel’s heart. O that our heart were crushed to atoms if only by such bruising our Lord Jesus could be glorified. Graces unexercised are as sweet perfumes trapped in the bottle: The wisdom of God overrules diverse and opposite causes to produce the one desired result and makes both affliction and consolation produce the grateful aroma of faith, love, patience, hope, resignation, joy, and the other fair flowers of the garden. May we know by sweet experience what this means.

THE LAST WORD

“My name will be great among the nations, from where the sun rises to where it sets…” says the Lord Almighty.- MALACHI 1:11A

It’s not unusual for people who are knowingly reaching the end of their lives, or the end of a phase of life, to desire an opportunity to share some final words. They may wish to give words of blessing to their surviving family members or acknowledge how other people have helped them get through life.

The book of Malachi is God’s last word in the Old Testament. Scholars believe that it was one of the last books of the Jewish Scriptures to be written before the 400 years of prophetic silence that preceded the Messiah’s coming.

In this verse, Malachi reminds God’s people that everything God does is meant to bring him honor and fame. Not fame in the modern sense of being a media sensation, but fame in the eternal sense of furthering his kingdom and bringing glory to himself. That is God’s desire in all events — past, present, and future.

In other words, God is working today to extend his grace and mercy to all humanity. The people of Israel couldn’t fathom that, and Jesus’ disciples were often confused by his ministry to non-Jews like the Samaritan woman at the well. But if they recalled Malachi’s prophetic words, they would be reminded that God’s name would be great beyond his chosen people.

God, help me to see your glory and pray for your kingdom to come as Jesus instructed us.

Throughout This Day: Take your eyes off of the troubles of our time and look to God. He is at work, drawing people to himself in order to build his kingdom. What a glorious thought!

A few thousand years ago, the young shepherd David stepped forward to fight Goliath. We often speak of this story as a reminder of the young man’s bravery, even when the odds were against him. But David’s bravery—and success—came from His deep faith in God. (See 1 Samuel 17). And this faith helped him go on to become a successful warrior and king.

The Lord gave David many responsibilities during his reign, and he endured numerous trials—some due to his own sin. Through it all, the king returned to God again and again in humble dependence and repeatedly proclaimed his trust in the Lord’s faithfulness.

God calls us to abide in this kind of relationship with Him. In seasons of trial or abundance—and we’ll likely experience both, even simultaneously—we can cling to Him and trust that He is the source of all courage, perseverance, and abiding joy.

THINK ABOUT IT
• What do you do when you’re facing a challenge? How does your relationship with God factor into the choices you make?

My hope is from him.

 Psalm 62:5

It is the believer’s privilege to use this language. If he is looking for anything from the world, it is a poor hope indeed. But if he looks to God for the supply of his needs, whether temporal or spiritual blessings, his hope will not be in vain. He may constantly draw from the bank of faith and get his need supplied out of the riches of God’s loving-kindness. I know this: I would rather have God for my banker than all the Rothschilds.

My Lord never fails to honor His promises; and when we bring them to His throne, He never sends them back unanswered. Therefore I will wait only at His door, for He always opens it with the hand of abundant grace. At this hour I will turn to Him afresh.

But we have “hope” beyond this life. We will die soon; and still our “hope is from him.” May we not expect that when we face illness He will send angels to carry us to His bosom? We believe that when the pulse is faint and the heart is weak, some angelic messenger shall stand and look with loving eyes upon us and whisper, “Come away!” As we approach the heavenly gate, we expect to hear the welcome invitation, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”1 We are expecting harps of gold and crowns of glory; we are hoping soon to be among the company of shining ones before the throne; we are looking forward and longing for the time when we shall be like our glorious Lord—for “We shall see him as he is.”2

Then if these are your hopes, O my soul, live for God; live with the desire and resolve to glorify Him from whose grace in your election, redemption, and calling you safely ”hope” for the coming glory.

1) Matthew 25:34
2) 1 John 3:2

OFF THE EDGE

It was you who set all the boundaries of the earth…- PSALM 74:17

Guinea pigs are smart…most of the time. They are cave dwellers in the wild so they have developed a natural fear of edges. They learn quickly to live within their boundaries.

Every evening, I let mine romp on the couch for an hour or so as I watch a mystery on TV. He hops, skips, waddles, and chortles…but when he comes near the edge, he usually halts.

One night, I got up to get a drink of water and he “followed me” ― right off the edge. He cowered, too frightened to come to me. I scooped him up and held him until his tiny heartbeat settled.

He learned his lesson, though. The next night, when he got near the edge of the sofa, he squeaked and crawled onto my lap for security and comfort.

You see where this is headed, right? We all have boundaries. Our laws give us the freedom to move within the realms of society. God’s commandments give us hedges of protection and guidance for behavior.

Sometimes we like to live on the edge, though. Perhaps we are tempted to ignore the rules and follow someone or something, even if it goes against our grain. And we fall.

Here’s the good news. God is there to pick us up. His lap is always available for one more person to crawl into for comfort. He is our security, our strength, and shelter. Always.

Praise God for the boundaries he sets, and for his boundless love.

Lord, thank you for sheltering me in your law and love. Help me live in the freedom of your boundaries and never be afraid to come to you for comfort when I stray. Amen.

Throughout This Day: Thank God for the boundaries he has given us through his commandments. Invite him to show you if there are any boundaries you are crossing as you go through the day, so you can quickly withdraw from any dangerous ledge.

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