The Eye-Opening Christ
As they talked and discussed these things with each other, Jesus himself came up and walked along with them; Luke 24:15
Following the crucifixion, Cleopas and his companion were on the road that led home to Emmaus. That’s when ‘Jesus himself came up and walked along with them.’ Their hopes lay buried in a tomb; their faith had turned to doubt. So what did Jesus do? He held a Bible study!
‘Jesus took them through the writings of Moses and all the prophets, explaining from all the Scriptures the things concerning himself’ (v. 27). Jesus knows that when you’re walking the road of doubt, you need to get into His Word and get it into you. When you do, three things happen:
1) Your eyes will be opened. ‘Then their eyes were opened and they knew Him’ (v. 31). There are things you will only see when God reveals them to you through His Word. That’s why Bible reading must be one of your highest priorities.
2) Your heart will burn. ‘They said to one another, “Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us?”’ (v. 32). When you put God’s Word to work and begin to walk out its precepts, it will energize you and change your life.
3) You’ll want to tell everybody. ‘They rose up that very hour and returned to Jerusalem, and found the eleven and those who were with them gathered together, saying, “The Lord is risen indeed”’ (vv. 33-34).
You say, ‘But I’m timid, and not very good with words.’ When you truly fall in love, you’ll find a way to express it. So today look for an opportunity to tell someone what Jesus has done for you.
Heavenly Father, help me share with others, in words and actions, the hope I have in You and what You have done for me! In Jesus’ Name, Amen
If the LORD delights in a man’s way, he makes his steps firm; Psalms 37:23
The Psalmist writes, ‘The steps of a good man are ordered by the Lord, and He delights in his way. Though he fall, he shall not be utterly cast down; for the Lord upholds him with His hand’ (vv. 23-24). Observe: 1) God delights in the fact that you’re willing to step out in faith and try. 2) He doesn’t guarantee that you won’t stumble, but that ultimately He won’t let you fail. 3) When you feel like you can’t go on, He will uphold and strengthen you. What more could you ask for? Now, God never changes, but life does. So you must be ready to adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Sam Walton, the founder of Walmart, is credited with having been a visionary leader. His dream was to provide value to customers in order to improve their lives. But he was notorious for changing plans and abandoning strategies that didn’t work. Sam’s son Jim Walton admitted, ‘We all sniggered at some writers who viewed Dad as a grand strategist who intuitively developed complex plans and implemented them with precision. Dad thrived on change, and no decision was ever sacred.’ What good is a well-planned strategy if it doesn’t yield good results? To quote Winston Churchill: ‘However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results.’ God is more committed to the vision He’s given you than you are. But when He leads you in a new direction, you must be ready to follow Him. Like Israel in the wilderness, when the guiding cloud moved they had to move with it. The same goes for you. So, be flexible.
Heavenly Father, help me get, stay, and be flexible with all that life throws at me – and with doing Your will, In Jesus’ Name, AMEN
Growing Through Discouragement
“But now, Lord, what do I look for? My hope is in you. Psalms 39:7
Here are four suggestions to help you survive and grow through upheavals such as an unexpected job loss, the death of a loved one, a failed marriage or a serious health issue: 1) Admit how you feel. That doesn’t mean sitting around wallowing in negativity; it means trusting God enough to acknowledge how you really feel. Pretending things are fine when they’re not, makes it harder to get back up. We all have down times. The Psalmist asked God to help him cope with despondency (Psalms 42-43). And at one point Paul was under so much pressure he ‘despaired even of life’ (2 Corinthians 1:8). 2) Identify the source. Discouragement often comes on the heels of a setback or disappointment. Did something you set your heart on fall apart? Were your hopes unrealistic to start with? Did somebody let you down? Or is your dejection coming from a generalized feeling of burnout? 3) Talk with a trusted counselor. Solomon said, ‘The more wise counsel…the better your chances’ (Proverbs 11:14). Don’t let pride prevent you from opening up to those who will listen empathetically and respond wisely. Talking to the right people can lessen your sense of isolation, and also pave the way for others who are hurting to do the same. 4) Be open before God. He, not fate or circumstances, gets to write the last chapter. Maybe He’s trying to teach you something or redirect your energies. David said, ‘Lord, where do I put my hope? My only hope is in you.’ When your hope is in God, He replaces discouragement with confidence so that what you’re going through can become a path to spiritual growth.
Heavenly Father, thank You for being with me and carrying me through times of discouragement. In Jesus’ Name, Amen
When Prayer Is Hard Work – Part 2
Come near to God and he will come near to you. Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. James 4:8
We all want what successful people have; we’re just not willing to pay the price they paid to get it. When you see someone with sculpted abs and a well-toned body, they probably spend time sweating in a gym. There’s a reason Paul talks about ‘laboring…in prayers’ (Colossians 4:12). When you pray, you must be passionate, persistent and positive, expecting good things from God. You’ve got to put your heart into it and believe God will do what He promised. It’s not easy to fight off distractions and focus on Him. Don’t expect your fleshly nature to co-operate; it comes to the place of prayer kicking and screaming. And don’t expect your intellect to cheer you on; your self-sufficient nature will always choose prayer as a last resort. But God will urge you, and draw you into His presence. ‘If you draw near to Me, I will draw near to you.’ An unknown poet wrote: ‘I got up early one morning, and rushed right into the day. I had so much to accomplish, I didn’t have time to pray. Troubles tumbled about me, and heavier came each task; “Why doesn’t God help me?” I wondered. He answered, “You didn’t ask.”…I woke up early this morning, and paused before entering the day. I had so much to accomplish that I had to take time to pray.’ Many problems can be resolved, or avoided altogether, when you take time to pray and include God in every part of your day.
‘Oh what peace we often forfeit; oh what needless pain we bear; All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer’ (Joseph M. Scriven: 1855).
When Prayer Is Hard Work – Part 1
Epaphras, who is one of you and a servant of Christ Jesus, sends greetings. He is always wrestling in prayer for you, that you may stand firm in all the will of God, mature and fully assured. Colossians 4:12
Paul writes, ‘Epaphras, who is…always laboring fervently for you in prayers.’
Sometimes praying for others feels like ‘laboring’. Once you understand and accept that, not having ‘tingling sensations’ when you pray won’t discourage you. You can smile and tell yourself, ‘This is the way the Bible says it will be sometimes.’ G. Campbell Morgan said, ‘A man may offer a prayer, beautiful in diction and perfect in the number of its petitions. But if it gives him gratification afterwards, that prayer cannot have been truly prayed.’ What did he mean? Simply this: you’ll feel good after you’ve prayed, but your goal isn’t to feel good about the fact that you have prayed, or that you felt particularly good during the process. Observe: 1) Prayer is a duty. It’s like going to work. You do it because it’s a commitment, and because of the rewards it brings. 2) Prayer is a discipline. The old-timers used to talk about ‘praying through’. Through what? Through wandering thoughts, through fatigue, through fears, and every other form of resistance and distraction. When you enter the ‘prayer zone’, Satan will fight you at every turn. But when you stand in the name of Jesus, the powers of darkness will retreat and you’ll prevail (John 14:13-14). 3) Prayer is a delight. It won’t happen every time, but if you’re faithful to the place of prayer there’ll be times when your whole being will be conscious that God is present, answering your prayer and giving you guidance. And even when the answer isn’t completely clear, you’ll leave His presence saying, ‘Now I have peace about it.’
Heavenly Father, help me “wrestle in prayer” for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen