Distracted Allegiance

Distracted Allegiance

By Pat Knight

Some winters in the northeast are longer and harsher than others. At the beginning of April, we watch for signs of thinning ice. When there is a winter-long depth of more than three feet of solid ice, melting takes considerable time. One morning the sunrise illuminated the sky just enough to expose ripples on the lake water. Water? The previous night there was still ice jammed into the cove. Now, there were only a few slivers leisurely floating.  

Later that morning, I noticed the cove nearly filled with large, flat, chunks of floating ice. Earlier the lake was exposed and moving, like pieces of a shattered mirror. Now the impression was one of mini-icebergs. We were familiar with the phenomenon: ice in the larger part of the lake breaks up, and the wind blows it into the cove, where it is trapped. When I first noticed the cove devoid of ice, the timing was perfect. I had peered out the window a mere moment after the ice collapsed beneath the surface. Then later, more ice floated into the cove from the large, open lake.

Our relationship with our heavenly Father is comparable to the shattered ice floes that blow into the cove. Some days we walk closely by His side, and other days we withdraw, preferring self-reliance, slowly replacing dependence on our Lord. God never moves. It is His desire to be an integral part of our lives, guiding and directing. If anyone moves, God is not the one to depart. It is our spiritual wanderlust that pulls us away from a consistent walk with our Lord.

God created us for communion with Him. “And our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ” (1 John 1:3). Just imagine! The supreme God of the whole universe desires to walk and talk with us. We serve a loving, patient God, who “is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9b).

If you have ever been in the presence of someone who has lost a contact lens, you know instinctively that all activity stops abruptly. Feet remain glued to the floor, as eyes scour the surrounding area for the tiny disc. With far more intensity, God searches for the soul distracted from His care. “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to Him” (2 Chronicles 16:9). God pours His love and strength into the person completely yielded to Him, who forsakes self-reliance to fully rely on God.

Historically and repeatedly, the children of God ignored Him. He punished His rebellious people who disobeyed covenantal laws by worshiping false gods in the form of idols. God is merciful. “The Lord Himself goes before you and will be with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you” (Deuteronomy 31:8). God loves us and extends mercy just as lavishly as He did the wandering, rebellious Israelites of centuries ago. 

We tend to blindly follow other people, whereas, we are commanded to imitate God, not man. He sets the standard. “I the Lord do not change” (Malachi 3:6). We are assured God’s promises will apply forever, perpetually affirming our importance to Him. “Jesus replied, ‘Anyone who loves me, will obey my teaching.  My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23). God not only abides within our hearts, He knows us more completely than we are familiar with ourselves.

We are nothing apart from our status in God. He elevates us as His children, showering us with an eternal gift as joint heirs with Christ. “The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now, if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:16-17). All things belong to Jesus, but He graciously shares His inheritance with believers.

If you were notified by an estate attorney that you have been designated to inherit a glorious kingdom, what reaction would you display? I am assuming you would be excited and incredulous. And yet, as joint heirs with Christ, we are assured of an inheritance in heaven forever and ever. Now, those are the kind of riches about which we kick up our heels and celebrate. But, do we? What will it take to convince us, that in God’s eyes, we are so loved and our company so desired, that He plans to spend an eternity with us?

In view of our value to God, He sent His pure, sinless Son to earth to ultimately die for us. “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man 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” (Romans 5:7). There have been isolated recorded instances in history where one person substituted his life for another, but “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One—is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). God’s forgiveness through Christ’s atoning sacrifice is impartial, with worldwide application for those who receive Him by faith. No sin or crime is too egregious for Him to forgive, substituting eternal death for life everlasting in heaven with Him.

Jesus was not only physically tortured during crucifixion, but He suffered an unprecedented emotional burden, carrying the sins of the entire world on His shoulders—past, present, and future. Jesus Christ substituted His perfect life for our sinful ones. You were redeemed with “the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19). If crucifixion were required for each of us to atone for our personal sins, there would be few crosses dotting the horizon. Let us not minimize the gift of life bought with the blood of Jesus.

Can we exclaim with the psalmist, “‘the Lord has done great things for us, and we are filled with joy’” (Psalm 126:3)? Because God loves us with immeasurable love and sacrifice, why do we, like the ice in the cove that moves on a whim, act so inconsistently in our relationship to our Lord? The cove ice is blown by the wind, producing an unsettled surface. “The one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (James 1:6). Let us be reminded of the source of our power and saving grace. God craves our nearness, so why do we resist?  “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you” (James 4:8, NKJV).

Welcome Tammi Rhoney!

I am happy to announce the addition of a new writer to my team. Tammi Rhoney and I met online years ago when we both wrote for the same chronic illness site, as did Pat Knight.

Like me, Tammi lives with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), and because she is also homebound much of the time, she appreciates being able to minister to people through her photography. She also writes for a couple of other sites.

Tammi loves Jesus, butterflies, bird watching, photography, sewing and stenciling. Her favorite seasons are spring and fall. She is an avid bird watcher and enjoys taking photos of wildlife and flowers. Tammi and her husband Todd live in North Carolina with Mini, their miniature dachshund.

Be looking for Tammi’s first post in the next couple of weeks!

Welcome to my blog, Tammi! I look forward to sharing your writing with my readers!


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

9 Ways to Guard Your Personal Relationship with God

Today I’m sharing from Crossway.org.

9 Ways to Guard
Your Personal Relationship
with God

by: David Murray

Time and Energy Required

Like all healthy and satisfying relationships, our relationship with God needs time and energy. But giving time and energy to our relationship with God actually increases free time and energy because it helps us get a better perspective on life and order our priorities better, it reduces the time we spend on image management, and it removes fear and anxiety.

Here are some things that have helped me to keep my personal relationship with God personal and avoid falling into the trap of relating to him only through my ministry to others:

1. Guarded Time

I try to guard personal Bible reading and prayer time as jealously as I guard my own children. I keep my 6:20 a.m. appointment with God each morning as zealously as if it were an appointment for kidney dialysis.

2. Undistracted Mind

In a survey of eight thousand of its readers, desiringGod.org found that 54 percent checked their smartphones within minutes of waking up. More than 70 percent admitted that they checked email and social media before their spiritual disciplines.1 I agree with Tony Reinke, who commented, “Whatever we focus our hearts on first in the morning will shape our entire day.” So I have resolved not to check email, social media, or the news before my devotional time, as I want to bring a mind that is as clear and focused as possible to God’s Word.

3. Vocal Prayers

As I always pray better when I pray out loud, I like to find a place where I can do so without embarrassment. Hearing my own prayers helps me improve the clarity and intensity of my prayer. Also, I cannot cover up a wandering heart or mind so easily when I pray out loud.

4. Varied Devotions

Sometimes I read a psalm, a chapter from the Old Testament, and a chapter from the New. Other times I read just one chapter or part of a chapter and spend longer meditating on it. Or I may read through a Bible book with a good commentary. Though the speed varies, I do try to make sure that I’m reading systematically through both testaments and not just jumping around here and there.

Read the rest here.

He fires the starting pistol, then runs alongside you

Today I’m sharing from Love Worth Finding.

He fires the starting pistol,
then runs alongside you

BIBLE MEDITATION:

Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…. Hebrews 12:2a

DEVOTIONAL THOUGHT:

Faith comes from beholding the Lord Jesus Christ, from looking at Him. If we will look to Jesus, He will be the author and finisher of our faith. The word “author” in the Greek literally means “example,” “leader,” or “originator.” Jesus is the example of faith, but He’s also the originator of our faith.

You see, all the other heroes of the faith mentioned in Hebrews 11 can cheer us on, but they’re not our chief example. Only Jesus is the One who never sinned, who never failed. The more you behold the Lord Jesus Christ, the more you’ll find out He is the author and finisher.

He’s the one who originates the grace. He’s the one who fires the starting gun. He’s the goal toward which we run. He is the coach who runs alongside us and gives us courage and strength to run the race.

ACTION POINT:

It is Jesus all the way. If you want faith, fix your eyes upon Jesus Christ. Keep “looking unto Jesus.” Your faith will grow. You’ll be greatly strengthened for your race.


You can also read this devotional here.

Our Weakness: God’s Strength

Our Weakness: God’s Strength

“All power is given UNTO ME in heaven and in earth.” —Matthew 28:18

“Be strong IN THE LORD, and in the power of his might.” —Ephesians 6:10

“My power is made perfect in weakness.” —2 Corinthians12:9 (R.V.)

THERE is no truth more generally admitted among earnest Christians than that of their utter weakness. There is no truth more generally misunderstood and abused. Here, as elsewhere, God’s thoughts are heaven-high above man’s thoughts.

The Christian often tries to forget his weakness: God wants us to remember it, to feel it deeply. The Christian wants to conquer his weakness and to be freed from it: God wants us to rest and even rejoice in it. The Christian mourns over his weakness: Christ teaches His servant to say, “I take pleasure in infirmities; most gladly will I glory in my infirmities.” The Christian thinks his weakness his greatest hindrance in the life and service of God: God tells us that it is the secret of strength and success. It is our weakness, heartily accepted and continually realized, that gives us our claim and access to the strength of Him who has said, “My strength is made perfect in weakness.”

All our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use. This power flows into us as we abide in close union with Him. When the union is feeble, little valued or cultivated, the inflow of strength will be feeble. When the union with Christ is rejoiced in as our highest good, and everything sacrificed for the sake of maintaining it, the power will work: “His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.”

The lessons these thoughts teach us for practical life are simple, but very precious. The first is, that all our strength is in Christ, laid up and waiting for use. It is there as an almighty life, which is in Him for us, ready to flow in according to the measure in which it finds the channels open. But whether its flow is strong or feeble, whatever our experience of it be, there it is in Christ: All power in heaven and earth. Let us take time to study this. Let us get our minds filled with the thought: That Jesus might be to us a perfect Saviour, the Father gave Him all power. That is the qualification that fits Him for our needs: All the power of heaven over all the powers of earth, over every power of earth in our heart and life too.

The second lesson is: This power flows into us as we abide in close union with Him. When the union is feeble, little valued or cultivated, the inflow of strength will be feeble. When the union with Christ is rejoiced in as our highest good, and everything sacrificed for the sake of maintaining it, the power will work: “His strength will be made perfect in our weakness.” Our one care must therefore be to abide in Christ as our strength. Our one duty is to be strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Let our faith cultivate large and clear apprehensions of the exceeding greatness of God’s power in them that believe, even that power of the risen and exalted Christ by which He triumphed over every enemy (Eph. 1: 19-21). Let our faith consent to God’s wonderful and most blessed arrangement: nothing but feebleness in us as our own, all the power in Christ, and yet within our reach as surely as if it were in us. Let our faith daily go out of self and its life into the life of Christ, placing our whole being at His disposal for Him to work in us. Let our faith, above all, confidently rejoice in the assurance that He will in very deed, with His almighty power, perfect His work in us. As we thus abide in Christ, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of His power, will work mightily in us, and we too shall sing, “JEHOVAH is my strength and song: IN JEHOVAH I have righteousness and strength.” “I can do all things through Christ, which strengtheneth me.” Andrew Murray

You can read this entire teaching here.


Taken from Abide in Christ, Day 28, “As Your Strength.”

Are You Completely Surrendered to God?

Today I’m sharing from The NIV Bible blog.

Are You Completely Surrendered to God?

You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.
I have seen you in the sanctuary
and beheld your power and your glory.
Because your love is better than life,
my lips will glorify you.
I will praise you as long as I live,
and in your name I will lift up my hands.
I will be fully satisfied as with the richest of foods;
with singing lips my mouth will praise you.
 —
 Psalm 63:1-5

Are you seeking great things for yourself, instead of seeking to be a great person? God wants you to be in a much closer relationship with Himself than simply receiving His gifts—He wants you to get to know Him. Even some large thing we want is only incidental; it comes and it goes. But God never gives us anything incidental. There is nothing easier than getting into the right relationship with God, unless it is not God you seek, but only what He can give you.

If you have only come as far as asking God for things, you have never come to the point of understanding the least bit of what surrender really means.

Read the rest here.

Songs in the Night

I have the fun privilege of announcing that Pat’s new book, A FEAST OF JOY, is now available for purchase! FEAST OF JOY is Pat’s third book of devotionals in which she connects real-life situations with Biblical truths. Pat’s writing is so vividly descriptive that you will easily imagine yourself present in each story. She sprinkles pertinent Scripture references throughout her writing to help you apply the verses to your own life. Her writing is sure to inspire and teach you more about how to live daily with joy no matter what your circumstances may be. Below her post, I have placed links to online booksellers where you can buy FEAST OF JOY.

Songs in the Night

By Pat Knight

The evening was still and peaceful. Only the water’s rhythmical lapping against the shoreline was detectable. Suddenly, out of the silent night, a cacophony of sounds erupted, as if a celestial baton signaled nature to commence a disharmonic concert. The large, common loons were the first to warm up, with mournful, eerie cries. The vocal wail usually opened the birds’ evening conversation, followed by yodels and hoots for social interaction. As their powerful voices were propelled across the waters, human listeners were privileged to peer into the private verbal world of the prehistoric loons. Their variety of strident sounds comprised night choruses. At times, the loons’ calls were eerie; at others, musical. But they always pierced the tranquility of the night, shocking listeners with sudden exclamation and impetuous strength.

As if on cue, perching owls began to softly but persistently hoot, the tone increasing in intensity with mating calls, vociferous and overbearing to human ears. Then, when the imaginary baton snapped the animal world to attention, the plaintive wails produced a rackety, raucous ensemble of dissonant notes. With no attempt to harmonize, neighboring dogs and an occasional coyote chimed in. It was increasingly more difficult to merely listen to the developing discord of sounds. I had the growing urge to leap through the front door, yelling my own primitive, obnoxious sounds, to add a little more confused clatter. It was then I was reminded that there are no clashes in nature. Just as God created the improbable blending of conflicting color hues to form beautiful blankets of wildflowers on land, so the animal kingdom comingles with songs in the night.

Praise to God is the ultimate expression of worship.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:1-2; 4-5).

Interestingly, God does not specify that we sing hymns of praise with perfect pitch or with trained voices. Our mass of vocal tones may reach God’s ears as discordant, just as we detect the animal concert. Of utmost importance to our Lord is our praise and gratitude, glorifying His name.

King Agrippa I (Herod) seized and imprisoned the apostle Peter, who was kept heavily guarded by four soldiers at all times. Peter prayed in prison, while in their homes, fellow Christians fervently petitioned God for his release. Assured of a guilty conviction, the night before Peter’s scheduled trial he was asleep in prison, chained between two soldiers. Guards stood at his prison door. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared, shining light in the dark dungeon, reflecting the glory of God. With immediacy, the angel jostled Peter awake and persuaded him to get up. As Peter stood, the chains spontaneously fell from his wrists. The angel instructed Peter to get dressed and follow him out of prison. They walked past guards without incident. The prison doors opened to them, as the angel escorted Peter the length of a city street and disappeared, leaving the disciple to mentally grasp the full ramifications of the miracle that had just occurred. “Peter admitted, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen’” (Acts 12:11). When Christians pray, God graciously answers, often with miraculous results.

The early Christian church grew exceptionally fast numerically and in faith, in spite of rabid persecution. Jesus had taught them while on earth that if they had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, “‘Nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20). The early Christians had embraced Christ’s teachings and were witnessing miraculous outcomes. When believers join in prayer, there is no limit to what God will accomplish in their lives, individually or collectively. God’s promises have not changed in centuries: His supreme power, like that which resurrected His Son from death, is available to each of us. “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2b-3).

God is neither a puppet provider nor a magician, who caters to our every materialistic whim and desire. But, if we have sincere, pressing needs in our lives, God listens to our requests, and He promises to respond positively, if the petition conforms to His will.

 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need”
(Hebrews 4:16).

Dorcas, an excellent seamstress, spent her days performing good deeds, helping the poor and sewing garments for the needy. As soon as her death was reported to the disciples, Peter traveled to her hometown of Joppa. The sight he witnessed was one of devotion and friendship: local widows readily displayed the clothing Dorcas had made for the desperate. Many recipients were in prayer for her recovery. Peter understood the loss of Dorcas’ love and good works to the community. When he prayed for her still life to revive, Dorcas immediately sat upright in response to the powers endowed on Jesus’ disciple. Her friends still talked about her miraculous healing days later, and many people believed in the Lord because of Dorcas’ life and her revival from the dead. Prayer by one or a multitude of people produces magnificent results. 

What a wonderful, unique privilege we are granted as children of the King! Our words are music to God, who separates the cacophony of sounds to create individual clarity from believers around the globe, all searching for Him at one time. Unlike the animal and bird calls that produce nighttime pandemonium, those seeking God approach the throne of grace with pure motives, making a joyful noise.


You can find FEAST OF JOY at:
Amazon
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Xulon