“If the Lord is the shepherd who leads the flock, goodness and mercy are the two sheepdogs that guard the rear of the flock. Psalm 23:6 says, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…” Goodness and mercy. Not goodness alone, for we are sinners in need of mercy. Not mercy alone, for we are fragile, in need of goodness. We need them both.”
“Goodness and mercy. If that duo doesn’t reinforce your faith, try this phrase: “all the days of my life.” What a huge statement. Goodness and mercy follow the child of God each and every day. Think of the days that lie ahead. What do you see? God will be at your side. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me—not some, not most, not nearly all—but all the days of my life.”
Some days it feels like goodness and mercy are way behind me. It seems as if there is no goodness going on at all and mercy can’t catchup with me. The security I want, and need is not in sight. What to do?
F. LaGard Smith says in Meeting God in Quiet Places that we use “Why not join with the psalmist in joyfully proclaiming. ‘I will say of the Lord, He is my refuge and my fortress, my God in whom I trust’? With God on our side, there is no terror too great, no illness that can’t be faced, no calamity that can’t be overcome. Gargoyles---whatever ours may be-----are empty and powerless. They cannot save. By sublime contrast, our God is alive, and in the shadow of His sheltering wings we can rest secure.”
When we have these feelings of insecurity, it’s time to stop, think about these psalms and then ask the Father to wrap His loving arms around you to get you through whatever is causing these feelings.
Max Lucado’s Daily Devotional
F. LaGard Smith – Meeting God in Quiet Places – 1992 - Harvest House Publishers – used by permission
We tend to hold the twelve apostles in high esteem. After all these men were handpicked by Jesus. God approved of them. Most of them deserve the esteem. If you dig deeper, you’ll find that they were no better or no worse than you and me. They were common men with faults and short comings.
Peter, a fisherman, was strong-willed and courageous man; however, at times he was quick to speak, impulsive, and impetuous. He denied Christ three times, when Christ told him to come to Him on the water Peter sank because of his lack of faith. He was long winded. (Many preachers are) Peter and Paul clashed at times over the best way to serve.
Andrew, the brother of Peter, was the first called by Jesus. He was a fisherman with no know outstanding characteristics but was a faithful preacher of the gospel of Christ.
James and John were brothers and also fishermen. They both had stormy personalities. They were easily angered and quick to judge enemies of Christ. James and John were both very close to Christ. One commentator described them as Momma’s boys because of her request that one sit on the right hand and the other on the left-hand of Christ.
Phillip and Bartholomew are often mentioned together because they were close friends. It is believed that Phillip was slow to come to Christ but did influence Bartholomew once he was convinced of who Christ was.
Thomas was referred as “doubting Thomas” because he was so slow to believe in Christ. He also needed to see the scared hands of Christ before he would believe He had arisen from the dead.
Matthew was a tax collector and not well thought of by the people. Tax collectors were considered filth. One commentator described Matthew as self-absorbed.
Very little is known of James, the son of Alphaeus.
There is not much recorded of Thaddeus.
The only recoding of Simon is his initial listing as one of the twelve called to be an apostle.
We all know who Judas was and his betrayal of Christ. He called Christ friend and betrayed Him with a kiss which was despicable.
Matthias was chosen to replace Judas but not much is recorded about him.
These ordinary men were those Christ chose to spread the word and make disciples. Overall not an impressive bunch to be entrusted with spreading the word. None of the twelve already held high office which could be used as a jumping off place. No writers like Max Lucado, no public speakers with the talent of Billy Graham just ordinary men who once they became believers were dedicated to their mission. Christ equipped them with what they needed.
These men may have been ordinary men but they a had a fierce will to serve God. They were willing to suffer for Him. Some were beaten and jailed for preaching the word. Some historians believe that several were martyred because of their service to God. Christ predicted Peter’s death in John 21, and many believe he was crucified upside down. In Acts 12:1-2, Herod had James put to death by the sword. Many believe he was beheaded. Some believe that Andrew, Phillip and Bartholomew were also crucified. John was exiled for his preaching.
Most of us are ordinary people and must work to make disciples of Christ. My excuse is that God did not give the talent to do this work. I lean towards 1 Corinthians 12:4-7 ESV “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” When I first went through sales training over forty years ago, this was described as “call reluctance”, you don’t feel comfortable with making contact.
Then I read Hebrews 13:21 ESV “Equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
Southside is emphasizing evangelism with Win One In Twenty-one. As Jeff speaks about personal evangelism or making disciples, listen carefully. I have a decision to make. Am I going to use Hebrews or 1 Corinthians as my basis for decision. I need to pray. How about you?
By Max Lucado with my thoughts added
“How did Jesus endure the terror of the crucifixion? He went first to the Father with his fears. He modeled the words of Psalm 56:3: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in you.” Do the same with yours. And be honest; do what Jesus did. Open your heart. And be specific; Jesus was. “Take this cup,” he prayed. Share the details. God has plenty of time, he has plenty of compassion, he doesn’t think your fears are foolish or silly. He knows how you feel, and he knows what you need.”
“In the case of Christ God did not take away the cross, but he took away the fear. Who’s to say he won’t take away your fear? Please, don’t measure the size of the mountain; talk to the One who can move it. Hope is just a look away. Now, what were you looking at?”
I believe at times we expect God to take away the object of our fear. If he doesn’t, we do not consider Him to have given us a blessing. Think about what Max is saying. Pray that He will help us deal the fear. If he does not take away the object of our fear but helps us to deal with the fear, we may grow and learn to deal better with the next fear.
Focus on Psalm 23: The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. 2 He makes me to lie down in green pastures: he leads me beside the still waters. 3 He restores my soul: he leads me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake. 4 Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me. 5 Thou prepares a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anoints my head with oil; my cup runs over. 6 Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
Think about it: “Going to church doesn't make you a Christian, any more than standing in a garage makes you a car.”
Daily Devotional by Max Lucado
“When tragedy strikes—whether personal, national, or global—people wonder how God could allow such things to happen. Is God really in control? Can we trust him to run the universe if he would allow this? It is important to recognize that God dwells in a different realm. God said to Isaiah, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).”
“How vital, then, that we pray, armed with the knowledge that God is in heaven. And he has chosen to bend near toward earth to see our sorrow and hear our prayers. Though we may not be able to see his purpose or his plan, the Lord of heaven is on his throne and in firm control of the universe and our lives.”
I understand and agree with what Max writes in his devotion! BUT at times it is difficult to understand and accept the tragedies we experience. What is the purpose of His plan for that child dying? People are struggling and dying every day from Covid. Through my work with CASA I see so many children neglected or abandoned by their parents. The cause is drug use. There are three former CASA boys and at least one father in jail. I greatly appreciate what God does for all of us but at times I have no understanding of His plan or purpose for these people. It takes every ounce of my faith and trust to hang on.
Kay was pregnant with our third child when she lost the baby early in the first trimester. After the physician performed the D&C, he informed us that something was definitely wrong with the baby. Neither of us felt that we were equipped to take care of a special needs child. We were OK with God’s plan for that baby but …..
I worked for a company that lost 292 people on September 11, 2001. Employees were housed in both towers. Gary, from the Memphis office, was in a conference room where the first plane hit. The following February regional managers were brought to New York for meetings. One afternoon we had the opportunity to tour the spot where the towers once stood. We were then taken to a photographer’s studio where he displayed more than a thousand photos he had taken on 9/11. One of those pictures will always be with me. In time lapse photos, a man stood on the ledge crossed his arms over his chest and leaned forward until he fell off. The tour buses drove us by New York’s Bellevue Hospital where refrigerated trailers were end to end still trying to identify body parts. Why God? What possible purpose can You have for this?
God is on His throne. He allows life to happen. Even though we may not understand His mind, the only way to make it through life is to have faith and trust. If we can’t accept Isaiah 55 and go ahead then life will be even tougher. Pray for God’s help in finding peace in your life!
First, thanks Cameron for your thoughts on your post. They are great!
When tragedy strikes—whether personal, national, or global—people wonder how God could allow such things to happen. Is God really in control? Can we trust him to run the universe if he would allow this? It is important to recognize that God dwells in a different realm. God said to Isaiah, “Just as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts higher than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).
How vital, then, that we pray, armed with the knowledge that God is in heaven. And he has chosen to bend near toward earth to see our sorrow and hear our prayers. Though we may not be able to see his purpose or his plan, the Lord of heaven is on his throne and in firm control of the universe and our lives.
We ask God, “Where are you taking me? Where is the path?” And he doesn’t tell us. Oh, he may give us a hint or two, but that’s all. If he did, would we understand? Would we comprehend our location? No, we’re unacquainted with this jungle. So rather than give us an answer, Jesus gives us a far greater gift. He gives us himself.
Does he remove the jungle? No, the vegetation is still thick. Does he purge the predators? No, danger still lurks. Jesus doesn’t give hope by changing the jungle; he restores our hope by giving us himself. And he has promised to stay until the very end. “I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). We need that reminder. We all need that reminder, for all of us need hope.
The will of God prevails. In great contests each party claims to act in accordance with the will of God. Both may be, and one must be, wrong. God cannot be for and against the same thing at the same time. In the present civil war it is quite possible that God's purpose is something different from the purpose of either party -- and yet the human instrumentalities, working just as they do, are of the best adaptation to effect His purpose.....
Most of the world is focused on the birth of Christ now and then at Easter the focus turns to His death. People will attend church services on both of these occasions and feel good about their relationship with God/Jesus. It seems an appropriate time to think about our relationship with God and Christ in light of what’s being celebrated.
Everything in our lives revolves around relationships. Our marriage, children, other relatives, friends, work relationships, etc. Working at relationships is a fulltime effort if you want to cultivate and maintain them.
When asked about their relationship with God people answer “yes, I believe in God”. Just because you believe that God and Jesus exist does not mean you have a relationship with them! I believe you exist, but we probably don’t have a relationship. Think about your relationship with the One who brought you into the world, gives you blessings, sacrificed His Son for you and finally will decide where you spend eternity. Is He not worthy of a very close, loving and obedient relationship? Is His Son who suffered immeasurable for you not worthy?
The professional counselors write that a good relationship with others is made up of the following: understanding, strong foundation of respect, love, honesty, loyalty, trust and strong communication. Communication is the key according to them! I’ll add that working at the relationship is very important as well.
What efforts are needed for a good relationship with God? The religious writers recommend the following characteristics so do an inventory of your efforts for a relationship with God. I’ve added a couple. As you read these take an inventory of your efforts.
First, decide you want a relationship with Him! Being ambivalent about God does not work for Him. Revelation 3:15-17 NIV - 15 “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” If your attitude is “I’m giving all I’m willing to give!”, then take a step back and think about your attitude towards God. This statement implies you have more to give to the relationship but are unwilling and not committed!
Love, honor and respect Him. - Deuteronomy 6:5 ESV “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.” Do you? Is He your priority? He expects to be. Would your spouse feel like you valued the relationship with him or her if you treated them the same way you treat God?
Pray -Talk to Him. Just as with any other person in your life, communication is essential to strengthening your relationship with God. I Thessalonians 5:17 NLT– “Never stop praying.” Yes he knows what’s in your mind, but He wants to hear from you, frequently. If you do not talk with your spouse, your relationship is not likely to be a good one. It’s the same way with God. At one time I believed formality was required when I talked with God. Now I am very respectful but not as formal. Open your heart and let him know in your words. He can deal with whatever is on your heart.
Obey God's commandments. John 14:15 ESV - “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” People have a tendency to pick the commandments they are comfortable with and discard those they don’t like. Jesus did not say to choose the commandments with which you agree but made a flat statement to obey all! Never think that God’s commandments are outdated and not relevant in today’s world.
Study the scriptures – Study of the scriptures is God’s way of communicating with us.
2 Timothy 2:15 – NIV “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth.” If you do not make Bible study a regular habit how can you grow your relationship with Him?
Listen for Him – Listening to God Psalm 37:7-9 ESV – “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him;”. F. LaGard Smith wrote in Meeting God in Quiet Places: “The peace of God comes to us when we use the quiet times in our life to turn our hearts over to God so that He can prepare us for whatever struggles we face.”
Trust Him! Have faith in Him! God does not always answer our prayers the way we want but He wants our trust. It’s not always easy to trust especially when you lose a loved one, lose your job and income, can’t pay bills and put food on the table. How can I trust Him when bad things happen? Why must these things happen? I have no answers other than to pray for peace through Him. Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”
Mr. Smith spends part of his life living in England. He watches hot air balloons floating over the skies in the village of Cotswold. He compares in Meeting God in Quiet Places his trust in God to being in the basket of the balloon: “From my youth I have happily committed my trust to an unseen God. Even now, in most cases, I am truly a willing passenger. And so far the flight has been, if not always smooth, at least accompanied by an abiding sense of security. Over the years, I have been through storms and calm, through ups and downs; through the heartache of broken relationships, the passing of loved ones, the tears of defeat, the fear of loneliness, and the discouragement of my fallibility. But somehow I keep flying. Somehow he lifts me higher. In the safety of his gracious providence he carries me over the rough times and shares with me the joys of a life lived by faith.”
“I confess that there are times when I find faith in God to be as confining as the basket hanging beneath the balloon. Sometimes I can’t understand why I always have to be in his basket, or why I always have to do everything his way. Yet every time I truly turn my life over to God, I invariably forget the basket and find myself concentrating on the beauty. When I let God’s invisible power take control, I am dependent, but oddly free. I am no longer in control, yet I am safe and secure in his leading.”
“Nothing can surpass the reality that settles in on us when we reach the point with God where we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in control. When we really know that we have nothing to fear! When we take that confident step and actually get in the basket! It is then, when we have let go of everything that holds us back, that we will know true freedom. And beauty. And breathtaking heights of exhilarating joy!”
Show gratitude to Him - Psalm 86:12 – “I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.” God wants us to be thankful to Him even in the bad times. Always remember even though things may not be going your way, He is there.
Max Lucado writes on gratitude: “Gratitude gets us through the hard stuff. To reflect on your blessings is to rehearse God’s accomplishments. To rehearse God’s accomplishments is to discover his heart. To discover his heart is to discover not just good gifts but the Good Giver. Gratitude always leaves us looking at God and away from dread. It does to anxiety what the morning sun does to valley mist. It burns it up.”
Be content with Him and His blessings– I do not do well with whinners and I do not imagine God does either. LaGard Smith writes in Meeting God in Quit Places: “In our discontent and greed, we miss what Jesus wants to teach us about true joy. How could we ever be discontented with things here on earth if we put our affections on things above? In view of eternity, what is there to really to worry about in the here and now?
Those who can’t live with godly contentment in the here and now will miss out on the joys of the here and then. Heaven itself would disappoint them!”
How did you do on the inventory? Be honest. It’s not that you won’t fail Him at times but is your whole heart in your efforts to cultivate and maintain the relationship?
Allen Jackson writes in Standing Firm about how we came about our relationship with God and Jesus. We cannot inherit our relationship from someone else but must choose to build the relationship. He asks “Is your relationship with Jesus one you feel you inherited , or is it one you have established for yourself?
Mr. Jackson continues to write about the Pharisees and Sadducees: “We, too, can be outwardly religious and not believe in God. We can sit in church, carry a big Bible, and know every song, and yet have no relationship with Jesus. Let’s examine our hearts to ensure our desire is not to put on a religious show, but to be a friend of Jesus.”
Max Lucado writes in Just Like Jesus: “Our relationship with God is exactly that– a relationship. His invitation in Psalm 27:8 is simple. ‘Come and talk with me, O my people.’ And our response? Lord, I’m coming! We abide with him and he abides with us.”
“Psalm 119:105 says in everything, His word is a “lamp unto our feet.” It’s not a spotlight into the future, but He gives enough light to take the next step.”
“Our “Glory Days” are such because we learn to hear God’s voice telling us to turn this way or that way. Isaiah speaks of it in chapter 30, verse 21. “Your own ears will hear him. Right behind you a voice will say, “This is the way you should go.” Wait until God speaks before you act. Be patient and monitor your impulse. If you feel a check in your heart, heed it and ask God again. Consult God in everything!”
“God rewards those who seek Him. Not those who seek doctrine of religion or systems or creeds. Many settle for these lesser passions, but the reward goes to those who settle for nothing less than Jesus himself. And what is the reward? What awaits those who seek Jesus? Nothing short of the heart of Jesus.”
“God’s love never ceases. Never. Though we spurn him. Ignore him. Reject him. Despise him. Disobey him. He will not change. Our evil cannot diminish his love. Our goodness cannot increase it. Our faith does not earn it any more than our stupidity jeopardizes it. God doesn’t love us less if we fail or more if we succeed. God’s love never ceases.”
Our relationship with God is an investment in our life now and after death. It’s not that we earn heaven through our relationship but I’m confident what no relationship with Him will get us! God bless you in your efforts to build and maintain your relationship with Him!
Max Lucado, Just Like Jesus: Learning to Have a Heart Like His – 1998 – Word Publishing – Used by permission
Allen Jackson – Standing Firm – 2018 - Intend Publishing – Used by permission
Meeting God in Quiet Places written by F. LaGard Smith – 1992 - Published by Harvest House Publishers Eugene, Oregon 97408 - Used by permission
As a child, I had my own concept of fairness. A spanking was unfair! Well, not every time. My mother telling me how disappointed she was in me was really playing dirty. Taking away what I judged as rights which were actually privileges was totally unfair. My father’s and mother’s response to my charges of unfairness was the classic, “life is not always fair, accept that and move on.”
As I matured, I accepted that people were sometimes unfair and learned to live with it. I still struggled with God’s fairness. He is God so He should always be fair! In the fifth grade my good friend, Jerry, died. He and his father were shooting roman candles around Christmas time. Jerry’s father held the candle by the stick to light it. Jerry copied him only to have the stick fire back into his abdomen. He was treated at the emergency room and released. A few days later Jerry died from an infection. As I looked at Jerry lying in the casket I thought “Why God?” Jerry’s death was totally unfair!! By my standards God had failed in the fairness department!!
Webster’s definition of fairness as an adjective is in accordance with the rules or standards; legitimate. As an adverb means it is without cheating or trying to achieve unjust advantage. We each have our own version and standards of fair.
Webster’s definitions don’t always match ours. We develop our own set of standards from life’s experiences. We at times even try to judge God’s fairness by our own standards. Do we have a right to judge God’s fairness? No, He’s God! He is the standard! God should not and cannot held to our standards.
Jesus is God’s son, and He did not try to judge God’s fairness. In the face of the awful death He was facing, He did ask God to deliver Him but there was no charge of unfairness. There was no whining. Jesus knew that whether it was fair or not he had to endure for our sakes!
Recently I experienced the God is “unfair” attitude with one of my CASA boys. I asked him and the foster parent at the end of our visit if we could pray. The foster parent said “yes” but the boy gave an emphatic “NO”. God had let his Nana die. Nana had taken care of him and acted as his parent. That was unfair and he wanted absolutely nothing to do with God. He is angry with God, the foster parent, me and you if you met him!
Since that meeting I’ve thought about how I could answer the teenager to hopefully help him. I have struggled for a long time with the charges that God is unfair. So what should I say to people who have that attitude? Sometimes it just takes a great deal of faith and trust to live with God’s ways. Accepting God’s decisions can be very difficult, and our faith is the one thing that pulls us through.
The author, Daniel Darling, from NRB wrote an article Is God Fair? Maybe Not, but He's Right. Mr. Darling writes about the parable in Matthew 20 where the workers that came in the last hour of the day received the same pay as those that started work the first hour. As you read what he has to say, think about your attitude.
Mr. Darling: “Sadly, many Christians in America, walk around feeling as though they’ve been cheated. They ask questions like, “Why can’t I be healthy like others?” or “Why does God allow him or her to be married?” or “Why couldn’t have I been born into a wealthy family?”
“Unfortunately, the church itself has become an unwitting accomplice in this unbiblical thought process. We’ve tried to market Christianity as the better alternative, where life will be more successful. This may be true, but we must realize that Christianity is not about benefiting and taking and getting more of what we want out of a cosmic, vending-machine God. It’s about worshipping a God who has given us far more grace than we deserve. It’s about following the example of Jesus in sacrificing for the good of others.”
“We should view everything we’ve got in life as a gift from God, not complain when things don’t go our way. Because thankfully, we don’t have a God who is fair, but a Heavenly Father who is always right.”
“Grace gives us the proper perspective on life’s seeming injustices. As hard as it is to fathom, the most tragedy-struck Christian has tasted overwhelming amounts of God’s grace. More than even that soul deserved.”
“So if we were to be completely honest, we wouldn’t want God to be fair. If He was, then He wouldn’t have sent Jesus to pay for our sins and we would be bound for a hopeless eternity. And He wouldn’t walk beside us daily, giving us strength. He wouldn’t extend His hand of forgiveness when we fail.”
“Instead, we should be glad we serve a God who is right. Because we’re not getting what we deserve. Nobody who walks this earth is. Instead, we’re getting something far greater. His grace.”
Recently, I quoted a prayer from Allen Jackson where he says to God “you’ve never failed me.” Can you say Amen to that? I try to say that but do not always make it. We need to practice what Mr. Darling writes, keep our perspective and have the same attitude as Mr. Jackson.
“Faith is not the belief that God will do what you want. It is the belief that God will do what is right.” ― Max Lucado, He Still Moves Stones: Everyone Needs a Miracle – Used by permission
Daniel Darling, NRB Is God Fair? Maybe Not, but He's Right. Used by permission.
Standing Firm Allan Jackson - Intend Publishing – 2018 – Used by permission