Everybody Gets Cave Time

Read Psalm 142

Featured Verse: Psalm 142:1

“A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer. I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy. I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.”

We all prefer to live out in the sunshine of God’s grace, but from time to time we get the “cave” instead. “Cave time” is just core curriculum in the school of spirituality maturity. Call it whatever you want: the pit, the prison, the desert, the wilderness—the cave is basic training for believers.

Joseph had a prison; Moses had the desert; Jeremiah had a pit, Daniel had a den, Paul was in and out of jail so many times, like Motel Six, they “kept the light on for him.” Even Jesus had a wilderness. Oh, he got a cave, too. He once spent three days in one. If Jesus had “cave-time,” the cave won’t be optional for you. Every believer gets “the cave.”

What is the cave? The cave is a place of death, it’s where you die to self. The cave is the place of testing; it’s the blast furnace for moral fiber. The cave is where your mettle gets tested, your maturity gets revealed, your heart gets exposed! Put a person in the cave of distress, discouragement or doubt, and true character will show up. And if your brave enough to open up to the truth about you, the cave will reveal just how much work God still has to do to get you ready for great things. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Likewise, the cave is the place of separation. Not only does God reveal the true you in the cave, he also strips you of every misplaced dependency. (Deuteronomy 8:3) In the cave, God separated David from everything he had once depended on, and all that was left for David was God himself.

The cave was perhaps the most frustrating period in David’s life—but in hindsight, it turned out to be the most fruitful. That’s because the cave is also the place of forging. (Deuteronomy 8:4-5) The cave is where God breaks you down in order to build you up.

That’s what God does in the cave. And by the way, God does some of his best work in caves. It was there in the cave of Adullam that David wrote three of his most moving psalms—Psalms 34, 57 & 142, including our key verse: “I cry aloud to the Lord…I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.”

If you’re in a cave and you’re complaining to everyone else but God, you’re missing a great opportunity to pour out your heart to the only one who can do something about it. Good things always happen when you get honest with God. So try talking to him—and be patient, God does great work in caves.

If you doubt that, just remember that empty cave on the outskirts of Jerusalem. For three days, it held a crucified body. But God does great work in caves—best of which is resurrection. Perhaps that will change your mind about caves.

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
~C.S. Lewis

Romans 6: Give Me Chastity—Just Not Yet

Read Romans 6:1-14

Give Me Chastity—Just Not Yet

“Use your every part of your body as an instrument
to do what is right for the glory of God.”
(Romans 6:13)

Food For Thought… A six-year-old little girl burst through the door one afternoon, excited to tell her mother what she had learned in school that day.  “Mommy, guess what I learned today?” she blurted out.

“What honey” her mother replied.  “What did you learn?”

Pointing to her head, the girl began to describe her first official lesson in human anatomy, “Mommy, I learned about my parts.  I learned that this is my head, and it’s where my brains are.”  Then she held out her hands and her looked down at her feet, “these are my hands and my feet, and they help me to do things and to go places.”  Then she touched her chest and said, “here is my chest, and inside it is my heart.  And it keeps me alive.”  Finally, she put her hands on her tummy, and exclaimed, “and mommy, these are my bowels, and my bowels are a, e, i, o, u, and sometimes y.”

She got most of her parts right, anyway.  And that’s what Paul is calling us to do, to get our parts right by offering them every day in every way for the glory of God.

But do you?  Is your brain an instrument to do what is right?  Are the things that you allow your mind to dwell on the kind of things that will bring glory to God?  If your thought life were to be played out in living color on the big screen, what kind of rating would it be given: P? PG?  How about R?  What?  Really…you’d have to give it an X?  What about the kind of things you allow to come into your thinking?  Are those things—the TV shows you watch, the places you go on the Internet, the books you read—do they count as instruments of righteousness?

What about the things your hands do, or the places your feet take you?  Would Jesus be comfortable doing those things and going to those places?  What about your heart—have you closely guarded it, since it is the wellspring of life? (Proverbs 4:23) And your “vowels,” I mean, your bowels—what about what you take into your body?  It is the temple of the Holy Spirit, after all. (I Corinthians 6:18-20) How are you treating the temple, the dwelling place of God?  Are you treating the ol’ bod more like a temple, or a sewage treatment plant?

Paul’s point in Romans 6 is that we have been freed from the slavery of sin in order to live in the freedom of a different kind of slavery: slavery to the glory of God. We are to be instruments of praise and righteousness with every fiber of our existence:

“When he died, he died once to break the power of sin. But now that he lives, he lives for the glory of God. So you also should consider yourselves to be dead to the power of sin and alive to God through Christ Jesus” (Romans 6:10-11).

Have you consecrated every part of your body as an instrument of righteousness to the glory of God, or are there some parts that are still doing their own thing?  Far too many of us are like Augustine, who once prayed, “Oh Lord, give me chastity and continence, but not yet.”

Dedication and consecration are an either/or thing: Either you are, or you aren’t.  God wants you to be totally dedicated to him; fully consecrated in mind, body, heart and energies.  And he deserves it, particularly in the light of his costly investment of grace in your life.

You have been saved by grace—God’s unmerited favor.  You have been freed from the slavery of sin; you are no longer under the threat of death—all because of God’s rich and undeserved mercy.  You have been given the free gift of eternal life—all at Christ’s expense.  Even the faith to believe was supplied by God.  Don’t you think that in response, God deserves you to give “your whole body as an instrument to do what is right for the glory of him”?  Since God has graciously done all that, the least you can do is exert your will and consecrate your whole life as an instrument of praise.

Now I’ll admit, what I’m suggesting won’t be easy. In fact, it will be the toughest thing you ever do.  (See Romans 7:14-20 if you don’t believe me.) C.S. Lewis said, “The full acting out of the self’s surrender to God therefore demands pain: this action, to be perfect, must be done from the pure will to obey, in the absence, or in the teeth, of inclination.” St. Augustine finally got it; he surrendered his desires’s will to God, fully dedicating his wandering will to the glory of God.  Having experienced that spirit-renovation, Augustine made this observation:  “Will is to grace as the horse is to the rider.”

Will!  So the question is, will you? God has given you his grace.  Now mount up and get going!  Use your whole body—every part—as an instrument to do what is right to the glory of God.

“Just as a servant knows that he must first obey his master in all things,
so the surrender to an implicit and unquestionable obedience
must become the essential characteristic of our lives.”
~Andrew Murray

This Week’s Assignment:

  • Read Romans 6:1-23
  • Memorize Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
  • Compare Romans 6:21 with 6:23.  Do a cost-benefit analysis of the particular sin that you seem to struggle with on a recurring basis.

Psalm 142: Everybody Gets Cave Time

One Year Bible: II Kings 6:1-7:20, Acts 15:36-16:15; Psalm 142:1-7; Proverbs 17:24-25

Everybody Gets Cave Time

A maskil of David. When he was in the cave. A prayer.
I cry aloud to the LORD; I lift up my voice to the LORD for mercy.
I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.
(Psalm 142:1)

We all prefer to live out in the sunshine of God’s grace, but from time to time we get the “cave” instead. “Cave time” is just core curriculum in the school of spirituality maturity. Call it whatever you want: the pit, the prison, the desert, the wilderness—the cave is basic training for believers.

Joseph had a prison; Moses had the desert; Jeremiah had a pit, Daniel had a den, Paul was in and out of jail so many times, like Motel Six, they “kept the light on for him.” Even Jesus had a wilderness. Oh, he got a cave, too. He once spent three days in one. If Jesus had “cave-time,” the cave won’t be optional for you. Every believer gets “the cave.”

What is the cave? The cave is a place of death, it’s where you die to self. The cave is the place of testing; it’s the blast furnace for moral fiber. The cave is where your mettle gets tested, your maturity gets revealed, your heart gets exposed! Put a person in the cave of distress, discouragement or doubt, and true character will show up. And if your brave enough to open up to the truth about you, the cave will reveal just how much work God still has to do to get you ready for great things. (Deuteronomy 8:2)

Likewise, the cave is the place of separation. Not only does God reveal the true you in the cave, he also strips you of every misplaced dependency. (Deuteronomy 8:3) In the cave, God separated David from everything he had once depended on, and all that was left for David was God himself.

The cave was perhaps the most frustrating period in David’s life—but in hindsight, it turned out to be the most fruitful. That’s because the cave is also the place of forging. (Deuteronomy 8:4-5) The cave is where God breaks you down in order to build you up.

That’s what God does in the cave. And by the way, God does some of his best work in caves. It was there in the cave of Adullam that David wrote three of his most moving psalms—Psalms 34, 57 & 142, including our key verse: “I cry aloud to the Lord…I pour out my complaint before him; before him I tell my trouble.”

If you’re in a cave and you’re complaining to everyone else but God, you’re missing a great opportunity to pour out your heart to the only one who can do something about it. Good things always happen when you get honest with God. So try talking to him—and be patient, God does great work in caves.

If you doubt that, just remember that empty cave on the outskirts of Jerusalem. For three days, it held a crucified body. But God does great work in caves—best of which is resurrection. Perhaps that will change your mind about caves.

“We ought to give thanks for all fortune: if it is good, because it is good; if bad, because it works in us patience, humility, contempt of this world and the hope of our eternal country.”
~C.S. Lewis

Love—But Keep One Eye Open

Read II John

“I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in
obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the
beginning, his command is that you walk in love.”
(II John 1:5-6)

Thoughts… Love is more than just a feeling, although feelings of love are quite nice. The emotion of love is only a small part of the love equation. If you base your love on feelings and emotions, your love will be inconsistent and unpredictable—there one day and gone the next.

True love is much more than that. The highest expression of love is to obey the commands of God. And the commands of God are best summed up in the great commandment: To love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength…and to love your neighbor as yourself. (Mathew 22:36-40)

True love means to put God first. True love means to give your heart and soul in full devotion to the Heavenly Father. True love means to accept his Son, Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. True love means to fully commit your life to God’s purposes. True love means to lay down your life for other believers. True love means to share your faith with lost people. True love means to care about the things that God cares about. True love is all of those things, and more.

But true love is not naïve. True love does not mean accepting all things and all people. True love does not mean blind tolerance and unlimited inclusiveness. The truth is, there is evil in the world, and true love hates that evil. And since evil is at its best when it masquerades as good, true love requires great discernment and constant alertness. True love is required to oppose those who worm their way into the church with deceptive doctrines that have the potential to lead people away from the truth and thus destroy their souls.

That’s what John’s second epistle is all about. Though very brief, his letter is powerful and pointed. He is writing to the leader of the church, exhorting them to continue to love, but to love with an eye out for ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing that are penetrating the fellowship, seeking to devour the flock.

God’s call to love is the same for you and me as it was for these people to whom John wrote. We are to invest our lives in loving. But our love isn’t true unless it is willing to reject falsehood and oppose evil people, especially when both try to pass themselves off as good.

By all means, love—but keep one eye open!

Prayer… Father, give me a discerning love!

One More Thing…
“The safest road to hell is the gradual one—the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.” —C.S. Lewis

Now Listen Up!

Read Hebrews 2

“We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what
we have heard, so that we do not drift away.”
(Hebrews 2:1)

Thoughts… I flew to Chicago yesterday. Our takeoff was uneventful—thank the Lord. So was the landing. In fact, I would have to say that both takeoff and landing were quite boring, which, unless you are an adrenaline junkie, is the way sane people like them to be. I’m sure you would agree: Nobody wants an eventful experience on a flight!

I noticed that during preparation for takeoff, the flight attendant was dutifully calling us to pay attention to the safety instructions for enjoying a safe and pleasurable trip. She gave some warnings of what might happen if we neglected her directions and what we could do to survive if, perish the thought, disaster should strike. She didn’t actually use the word “disaster”, but I knew what she meant. “In case of a water landing” sounds so much more comforting than “in case we crash and burn!”

Any guesses on how many people were listening to her little speech? Zero, to be exact, except for me. I was taking copious notes of everything she said—not! Truth is, she might as well have been invisible as far as the passengers were concerned.

With such vital life-saving information being disseminated, why wouldn’t everybody be listening as if their very existence hung in the balance? Over-exposure to the message, I think, was the culprit in this case. Airline apathy has set in, and people just don’t pay attention anymore to these basic instructions before leaving earth.

Now here’s the deal: What we might get away with on an airplane, we must not be guilty of on the most important trip of our lives—our journey from here to eternity. That’s why the writer of Hebrews is pleading with us to pay attention! He is saying, “don’t you dare neglect so great a salvation!”

Are you paying close attention in your spiritual journey to the clear instructions and warnings that God has graciously provided for you in his Word, the Bible (Basic Instruction Before Leaving Earth)? Maybe you have heard those instructions so often that they no longer cause you to sit up and take notice. If you were honest, perhaps you would have to admit that apathy has set in, dulling your spiritual acuity and taking the sharp edge off your discernment toward the temptations and trials that can derail you on along the way.

If that is you, our verse today is calling you to not only pay attention, and not just to pay careful attention, but to “pay more careful attention.” Have you ever said to your child, or perhaps your parent said to you, “Now listen up…look at me when I’m saying this…repeat back what I’ve just told you…are we clear on this?” That’s what we’re being told here: “Let me have your undivided attention please…there will be a test…your spiritual life depends on this!”

Take a moment to go through your “takeoff instructions” today, being careful to pay very close attention. Check to see if there are any sins that need to be confessed, any promises that need to be claimed, any commands that need to be obeyed, any ministry assignment that needs attention, any person who needs your witness, or any relationship that needs to be healed.

Our plane is taking off soon, bound for heaven. So pay attention. Read and know your Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth—especially as it relates to your salvation. And make sure your seat belt is buckled, your tray table is in the upright and locked position, your seat back is forward…

And enjoy your flight!

Prayer… Lord, show me every area that needs attention for the flight home. On that day when we take off and reach our destination, I don’t want be unprepared in one single aspect of my life. Make me ready for the trip Lord, ‘cause one of these days soon, I’m coming home.

One More Thing… “If you continue to love Jesus, nothing much can go wrong with you, and I hope you may always do so.” — C.S. Lewis (one month before his death)

Thinking On Your Feet

Read Colossians 4

“Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most
of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full
of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may
know how to answer everyone.”
(Colossians 4:5-6)

Thoughts… Are you ready to share you faith at a moment’s notice? Many Christians would freeze up if that “moment” ever happened. The truth is, I have been there and done that—I had the perfect opportunity to share Christ, but I pulled my punches and missed a perfect opening to put in a good word for Jesus.

Paul is reminding us that we must stay alert to our main mission in this world, and that is to serve as ambassadors of Jesus Christ (cf. II Corinthians 5:17-21). We are not on this planet just to get a good education, find a good spouse, make a good living, live in a good neighborhood, drive a good car, have good friends, and go on good vacations every year. We have been put here to point people to a good God by telling them the Good News that they can be made right with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, live a life of purpose and when life is done, enjoy an eternal life that is light years ahead of being just merely a good life.

That is our mission. That is our main focus—or at least it should be. And we are to “make the most” of every situation in order to strategically align ourselves to get in a word with “outsiders” — since in reality, they unknowingly and subconsciously are looking for what we have already found. The Greek phrase for “making the most of every opportunity” literally means to buy up an opportunity for one’s self; to use everything and everyone as an advantageous opportunity; to see each moment as a strategic, crucial God-moment to extend his kingdom.

How can you do that? Paul gives several ways in the surrounding verses. First of all, ask God for opportunities. Verse 2 says, “Devote yourselves to prayer, being watchful and thankful.” Being and staying on mission requires being and staying on alert in prayer. Second, develop a kingdom mindset. How? Again, it involves prayer; specifically, prayer for kingdom advancement through the lives and ministries of others. Doing keeps your mind on the main reason you on are this earth. Verse 3 says, “And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains.” And third, make sure your message matches your mouth. A lot of believers blow any chance at an effective witness because their behavior has sabotaged the beliefs they are trying to share. Paul says things like “be wise in the way you act toward outsiders…let your conversation be seasoned with salt”, which represents purity of speech, and “full of grace”, which means full of God’s loving, redemptive truth.

“Make the most of every opportunity!” Paul is pleading with us to take advantage of every situation. We are to capture each moment. We are to be opportunistic for the kingdom’s sake every chance we get.

Whatever the Lord has planned for you today, it will include opportunities to advance his kingdom.

So be ready to think on your feet, and when there is an opening, put a good word in for Jesus!

Prayer… Father, keep me in a kingdom mindset all day long. And enable me to make the most of each opportunity to speak up for you!

One More Thing… “Jesus Christ did not say, ‘Go into the world and tell the world that it is quite right.’” —C.S. Lewis

Sweet Sorrow

Read II Corinthians 7

“I am happy, not because you were made sorry, but because your sorrow led you to repentance. For you became sorrowful as God intended and so were not harmed in any way by us. Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.”
(II Corinthians 7:9-10)

Thoughts… Thank God for pain. If we didn’t have it, we’d be in a world of hurts!

Pain is a gift from God, a gift nobody wants, but a sweet gift nonetheless. Why, because as Paul says, it leads us to sorrow. And Godly sorrow leads to repentance, and true repentance leads us to life.

Years ago there used to be a corny TV program called “Hee Haw”. I hate to admit it, but it was a family favorite—which tells you a lot about my family of origin. One of the skits in this show had a person come into the doctor’s office and describe to the doctor a place on their body that was hurting. They would say, “Doctor, it hurts when I do this.” Then the doctor would whack them upside the head and say, “Well, don’t do that!”

Dumb skit, great point! That’s what God says, “Don’t do that!” God in his grace has allowed us to experience pain, and our pain is meant to bring us to God. It is meant to cause us to look within and see where we have made missteps. It is meant to cause us to look without and see where we need to initiate change in our circumstances. It is meant to lead us look ahead and evaluate how we can steer our life in a more God-honoring direction.

If you are going through a painful episode right now, I would suggest that you thank God for it. Famed Scottish theologian and hymn-writer George Matheson once prayed,

“My God, I have never thanked Thee for my thorns. I have thanked Thee a thousand times for my roses, but not once for my thorns. I have been looking forward to a world where I shall get compensation for my cross: but I have never thought of my cross as itself a present glory. Teach me the glory of my cross: teach me the value of my thorns. Show me that I have climbed to Thee by the path of pain. Show me that my tears have made my rainbow.”

By the way, Matheson went totally blind when he was twenty years old.

Pain is the gift nobody wants, but it is still a gift. It will open your eyes to the real and lasting beauty that awaits you in God. So thank God for your pain, it may just turn out to be the best gift He has ever given you.

Prayer… Father, I have been guilty of rejecting the thorns in my life as contrary to your will for me. Sometimes I whine and complain about the discomfort they bring. Lord, help me to endure discipline as a soldier of the cross. Help me to embrace my enemies as gifts disguised. Use every discomfort, every blow, every disappointment, every difficult person as your divine chisel to make me into the image of your Son. There is no higher purpose for me than to be like Jesus. Do what it takes to conform me to his likeness.

One More Thing… “[Pain] plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul. —C.S. Lewis