Jesus Led Me All The Way

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Do you cast all your cares on God, knowing that he cares for you—and not only cares, but is competent to carry you all along the way? Do you know that God is sovereign over you—even the smallest details of your life are within his control? Whether you do or don’t does not diminish the fact that God is leading you all along the way. There is no question: God has taken charge of you.

Going Deep // Focus: Numbers 33:38-39

While the Israelites were at the foot of Mount Hor, Aaron the priest was directed by the Lord to go up the mountain, and there he died. This happened in midsummer, on the first day of the fifth month of the fortieth year after Israel’s departure from Egypt. Aaron was 123 years old when he died there on Mount Hor.

Do you trust God to watch over every day of your life? Do you believe that he is involved even in the minute details of all your moments? Can you relax about tomorrow, knowing that it is securely in God’s hands? Do you cast all your cares on him, knowing that he cares for you—and not only cares, but is competent to carry you all along the way?

Whether you do or not doesn’t diminish the fact that God is leading you all along the way. There is no question: God is in control of you. Even the day of your death is foreknown by God, which means that you will not live a day longer, nor die a day sooner than what your Creator will permit. We see that in Numbers 33 when God invited the High Priest of Israel, Aaron, up to the mountain to take back the breath of life that the Creator loaned him on the day Aaron was born. And in a very real sense, in the realm invisible to the human eye, when it comes time for you to die, God will invite you to give back what he loaned you—the breath of life—and he will exchange it for eternal air that will never be reclaimed from your lungs.

Yes, when you wing your flight to realms of day, this your song through endless ages: Jesus led me all the way. Praise his holy name!

King David offered this amazing insight about the Creator’s sovereign care over his life in Psalm 139:2-3, 7-12, 16,

You know my sitting down and my rising up;
You understand my thought afar off.
You comprehend my path and my lying down,
And are acquainted with all my ways…
You have hedged me behind and before,
And laid Your hand upon me…
Where can I go from Your Spirit?
Or where can I flee from Your presence?
If I ascend into heaven, You are there;
If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there.
If I take the wings of the morning,
And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea,
Even there Your hand shall lead me,
And Your right hand shall hold me.
If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,”
Even the night shall be light about me;
Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You…
And in Your book the days fashioned for me,
They all were written,
When as yet there were none of them.

As David prayerfully, worshipfully exclaimed, “such knowledge is too lofty for me!” (Psalm 139:6)

God is in charge of you, whether you are conscious of it or not. So why not practice awareness of the presence of God in your moment-by-moment life? It is better than carrying the weight of the world around on your shoulders!

Going Deeper With God: Reprint the above verses taken from Psalm 139, and read them morning, noon and night every day this week. Practice awareness of God’s presence and declare his sovereign control over you. It is the best way to live.

And Now, A Message From Our Sponsors About Mold

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

God sometimes allows, perhaps even causes, difficulties in our lives as a sort of stress test of the strength level of our trust. Difficult circumstances quite often reveal if our heart trusts him or not. Why does God allow hardship? Simply because there is nothing more precious to God than a trusting heart—and that is something he can’t create that; we have to offer it to him. So at times he will allow that which reveals our trust, or lack thereof, in hopes that we will see it and do something about it.

Going Deep // Focus: Leviticus 14:33-34

Then the Lord said to Moses and Aaron, “When you arrive in Canaan, the land I am giving you as your own possession, I may contaminate some of the houses in your land with mildew.

For several chapters in Leviticus—and now through several devotional blogs from yours truly—we have waded through what seems like an endless list of defiling afflictions that could possibly come upon the Israelites, both bodies and buildings, and regulations the Lord required for ritual purification from these very afflictions. As I have mentioned before, you may have been tempted to skip these readings; I certainly have. And I’ve got to tell you, if you think reading them is difficult, trying writing an uplifting devotional thought about them. Poor me!

Okay, enough of the self-pity. Now, how do we pull anything worth applying out of Leviticus 14? Why is any of this important to us when we live in a time where we have resources—medical preventions and cleaning products—to remediate molds, mildews and their odors? Most of all, why would God put a mildew, or as other translations say, a spreading mold in a house? Yes, that is exactly what the text says in Leviticus 14:34,

I may contaminate some of the houses in your land with mildew…. (New Living Translation)

I put a spreading mold in a house… (New International Version)

I put a case of leprous disease in a house… (English Standard Version)

Certainly this qualifies as one of those head scratchers, of which there are many in the Old Testament, if not outright one of the hard sayings of the Bible. So let me take a shot at what is going on here. Here are three possible explanations for God sending a spreading mold into a home:

One, God is sovereign. Simply put, God can do what he wants, when he wants and with whom he wants. Now a statement about God sending a spreading mold may shake our confidences in a kind, benevolent, caring and loving Deity, but it shouldn’t. God will never violate his own character. So even when there is no humanly satisfying explanation of the what and why that God has done, we can know that there is more to the story, even though only may God know it. By the way, even though God’s sovereignty over sending molds may be a little disconcerting, overall, the sovereignty of God is one of the most comforting and cherished doctrines about our Lord that the Christian has.

Two, sometimes God sent mildew as a form of judgment. In Amos 4:9 God tells the Israelites, “I struck your farms and vineyards with blight and mildew. Locusts devoured all your fig and olive trees. But still you would not return to me.” We don’t talk about the judgment of God much these days, especially any kind of Divine punishment other than the final judgment, but God does step in from time to time with a variety of discomforts that are pleading reminders for people to repent and return to him. In this light, this doctrine of God is also a comfort to us, for Divine punishment is also a Divine pleading from a merciful God who takes no delight in judging people he loves.

Three, God sometimes allows, even causes, difficult things in our lives as a stress test of our trust. When bad things happen, are we going to trust him? Hardship has a way of revealing what is in our hearts. Arguably, Deuteronomy 8:1-5 is the defining word on this:

Be careful to follow every command I am giving you today, so that you may live and increase and may enter and possess the land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors. Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the wilderness these forty years, to humble and test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep his commands. He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your ancestors had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord. Your clothes did not wear out and your feet did not swell during these forty years.  Know then in your heart that as a man disciplines his son, so the Lord your God disciplines you.

A pure and loyal heart that completely, continually trusts God is the most precious gift that we can give to God. He can create everything else that would bring pleasure to himself, but since he has created you with the freedom to choose whether you will love and trust him or not, the offering of your heart brings him joy like nothing else. And while he can’t make you do that, he can show you whether your heart is right or not. And like a good and wise parent, that is why he brings tests into your life: so that you will know what is in your heart. In that sense, hardship is the paternity test of your trust. And when it is obvious that trust is lacking, you can do something about that.

Which of these three explains Leviticus 14:34? We don’t really know; maybe all three. But for sure, what you and I can grab onto and apply is the last reason: More than anything else, God wants our trust! I love how Brennen Manning put it in his book, Ruthless Trust:

The splendor of a human heart which trusts that it is loved gives God more pleasure than Westminster Cathedral, the Sistine Chapel, Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the sight of ten thousand butterflies in flight, or the scent of a million orchids in bloom. Trust is our gift back to God, and he finds it so enchanting that Jesus died for love of it. …Unwavering trust is a rare and precious thing because it often demands a degree of courage that borders on the heroic.

Why does God send spreading molds? I don’t really know. But what I do know is that he longs for your trust!

Going Deeper With God: Want to make God’s heart swell with joy? Offer your heart in trust to him right now.

Useful Idiots

ThanksLiving: 365 Days of Gratitude

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain his brothers had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. He recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

Going Deep // Focus: Genesis 45:5

Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.

Useful idiots! With all due respect (it’s odd that we use that term when we’re about to disrespect someone!), that’s what I would call Joseph’s brothers. Or I could clean it up a bit and call them unwitting but useful instruments in God’s hands.

Twenty plus years after they had sold him into slavery, the brothers are now standing before Joseph, and they don’t even recognize him. They have been blinded by two decades of thinking he had long since died, their perspective jaded by the haunting fear, endless guilt and corrosive shame of what they had done. (Genesis 44:16) Finally, when Joseph’s identity is revealed, the brothers expect him to exact revenge, make them pay dearly and do to them what they had done to him.

But Joseph was cut from a different cloth than these lousy brothers. His submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain they had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. Joseph recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God is revealed three times as he discloses himself to his brothers with words to this effect: “Don’t beat yourself up; it was God, not you, who sent me here. You had a plan and God had a plan, and God’s plan trumped yours. You were simply unwitting but useful instruments in his hands.” (Genesis 45:5,7,8). Joseph’s brothers might have been idiots for selling him into slavery twenty plus years before, but they were useful idiots in the hands of the Providential Ruler of all mankind.

The bottom line to Joseph’s story is that God is in control. He turns what is meant for evil to our good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. He is in control! He is the Sovereign God of the universe, the Providential Ruler over the affairs, big and small, of all mankind, the Incomparable One who works all things for his glory.

And here’s the kicker: He works all things not only for his own glory—but for your good! That’s right—for your good. Now why would the Sovereign, Providential, Incomparable One bother with little old you? Simply because you’ve surrendered your life to him; and when you did that, you, perhaps even unwittingly, signed up to be on his sovereign benefits plan.

So here’s the deal: If you have a few idiots making your life difficult, just remember, in God’s hands they are useful idiots.

Going Deeper With God: Here is a prayer you might want to offer today: “Sovereign Lord, today I express my trust that you will use what was hurtful to me for your glory and my good. I will refuse to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root in my spirit. Rather, by faith I will choose to see you actively at work in me.”

Not To Worry

Making Life Work
Read: Psalm 31
Focus: Psalm 31: 5, 15

“Into your hands I commit my spirit…My times are in your hands.”

In God’s hands—that’s a great place to be. David’s belief that God would take care of him through the thick and thin of life gave him the necessary fortitude to make the journey with the kind of sweet spirit and deep faith that earned him the appellation, “a man after God’s own heart.”

Of course, Jesus knew what David knew: That even in the midst of the most horrible, torturous suffering possible, the cross, he was squarely in the competent and caring hand of his Heavenly Father. And at the end of his suffering, when he had completed the task of redemption and satisfied God’s righteous wrath by bearing the full punishment for the sins of mankind, he, too, committed his spirit into God’s hands. (Luke 23:46)

When you truly understand that you are always within the sovereign and loving Father’s competent care, like Jesus and David, you can lay your worries down and rest in peace. Just knowing that nothing will touch you that doesn’t first pass through his hands provides a sense of peace and security that most people never dream possible. Knowing that all the days of your life, from beginning to end, have already been laid out in God’s mind births a rare and priceless confidence that overcomes all of life’s fears—even the fear of death that is at the bottom of most of the neurosis that plagues the godless.

In another psalm, Psalm 139:16, David wrote,

All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

Knowing that God has completely planned out your life from beginning to end, that he is watching over each detail and every circumstance of your existence with great love and care, that you will not die a day sooner nor live a day longer than what he has foreordained, and that he will fulfill every good purpose in you, ought to give you the kind of confidence and courage to live your one and only life to the fullest and to the glory of God.

__________________

“Oh, that I may learn my utter helplessness without Thee, and so by deep humiliation be qualified for greater usefulness.” (Henry Martyn)

 

Making Life Work: What is the safest place in this crazy, unpredictable world? In God’s hands! Why not commit, or recommit, your spirit into his hands. Once you’ve placed your life squarely in those Better Hands, you can truly enjoy the passing of time!

Can God Do That?

Reflect:
Exodus 7:3-4

“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.” ~Exodus 7:3-4

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last instance in the Bible that doesn’t fit neatly within our theological box. That God would harden Pharaoh’s heart messes with our sophisticated sensibilities about God, namely that he is a safe, kind, benevolent and loving Deity who would never raise someone up just to throw them down.

What are we to do with this difficult part of the Bible? It would be so much easier to deal with if it just appeared once, a vague Scriptural anomaly, but it doesn’t. Not just once and then swept under the rug, this statement about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart appears ten times here in Exodus and yet again in Romans 9:16-18? Obviously, the Bible doesn’t try to hide this just because it is difficult to explain or because it makes us uncomfortable. No, it is unavoidably here for us to grapple with.

On the one hand, there are some that would have it that God was simply responding to what was already in Pharaoh’s heart, thus relieving God of any responsibility in the matter of hardening the king’s heart in order to justify destroying him. On the other hand, there are those who would quite bluntly declare that God created Pharaoh exactly for the express purpose of destroying him in order to bring glory to himself.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between.  The fact is, God does involve himself in the details of man’s affairs in order to bring about his sovereign plan, and he is well within his unimpeachable righteousness to align those who are his enemies for utter judgment so that his great power might be displayed in all the earth. Pharaoh is Example A of this. Yet at the same time, we must note that Pharaoh was duly warned that his stubborn refusal to obey God would result in judgment. (Exodus 4:23) We also find that the hardening God brought about in Pharaoh’s heart was, interestingly, matched by Pharaoh hardening his own heart: Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20, 27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15).

Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart. God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.

What does that tell us?  Simply that God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.

Does that make this uncomfortable piece of Scripture any easier to swallow?  No—and yes. No, it will always shake that comforting image of a loving, safe God.  Yes, we can lean into the track record of God’s loving omniscience and righteous omnipotence, and along with the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:33-36, declare with utter certainty in the face of mysterious passages like this,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Yes indeed, glory to God forever.  Soli Deo Gloria!

“Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent.” ~J.I. Packer

Reflect and Apply: Jonathan Edwards, considered to be America’s greatest theologian, wrote, “In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” Reflect on that statement; then ask yourself, “How am I doing in my part?”

Useful Idiots

Reflect:
Genesis 45:5, NLT

“Don’t be upset, and don’t be angry with yourselves for selling me to this place. It was God who sent me here ahead of you to preserve your lives.”

Useful idiots!  With all due respect, that’s what I would call Joseph’s brothers.

Twenty-two years after they had sold him into slavery, the brothers are now standing before Joseph, and they don’t even recognize him. They have been blinded by two decades of thinking he had long since died, their perspective jaded by the haunting fear, guilt and shame of what they had done. (Genesis 44:16) Finally, as Joseph’s identity is revealed, the brothers expect him to exact revenge, make them pay dearly, and do to them what they had done to him.

But Joseph was cut from a different cloth than these lousy brothers. His submission to the sovereignty of God allowed him to see the pain they had inflicted not merely through his own perspective alone, but through a perspective that saw God working through their evil actions. Joseph recognized that in all the circumstances of life, big and small, good and bad, God had been inexorably bringing the currents of his personal history to a providential conclusion.

In all of life’s circumstances, big and small, good and bad, God is inexorably bringing the currents of your personal history to a providential conclusion.

Joseph’s submission to the sovereignty of God is revealed three times as he discloses himself to his brothers with words to this effect: “Don’t beat yourself up; it was God, not you, who sent me here. You had a plan and God had a plan, and God’s plan trumped yours.  You were simply unwitting but useful instruments in his hands.” (Genesis 45:5,7,8). Joseph’s brothers might have been idiots for selling him into slavery twenty-two years before, but they were useful idiots in the hands of the Providential Ruler of all mankind.

The bottom line to Joseph’s story is that God is in control. He turns what is meant for evil to our good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. His is in control!  He is the Sovereign God of the universe, the Providential Ruler over the affairs, big and small, of all mankind, the Incomparable One who works all things for his glory.

God turns what is meant for evil to your good, extracts glory for himself even in the most impossible circumstances, and no matter what, always, always, always fulfills his sovereign purposes. His is in control!

And here’s the kicker: He works all things not only for his own glory—but for your good! That’s right—for your good. Now why would the Sovereign, Providential, Incomparable One bother with little old you? Simply because you’ve surrendered your life to him; and when you did that, you, perhaps even unwittingly, signed up to be on his sovereign plan.

So here’s the deal: If you have a few idiots making your life difficult, just remember, in God’s hands they are useful idiots.

Prayer… Sovereign Lord, today I express my trust that you will use what was hurtful to me for your glory and my good. I will refuse to allow bitterness and unforgiveness to take root in my spirit. Rather, by faith I will choose to see you actively at work in me.

Can God Do That?

Essential 100—Read:

Exodus 6:28-30, 7:1-11:10

“But I will harden Pharaoh’s heart, and though I multiply my miraculous signs and wonders in Egypt, he will not listen to you. Then I will lay my hand on Egypt and with mighty acts of judgment I will bring out my divisions, my people the Israelites.” ~Exodus 7:3-4

This isn’t the first, nor will it be the last instance in the Bible that doesn’t fit neatly within our theological box. That God would harden Pharaoh’s heart messes with our sophisticated sensibilities about God, namely that he is a safe, kind, benevolent and loving Deity who would never raise someone up just to throw them down.

What are we to do with this difficult part of the Bible? It would be so much easier to deal with if it just appeared once, a vague Scriptural anomaly, but it doesn’t. Not just once and then swept under the rug, this statement about God hardening Pharaoh’s heart appears ten times here in Exodus and yet again in Romans 9:16-18? Obviously, the Bible doesn’t try to hide this just because it is difficult to explain or because it makes us uncomfortable. No, it is unavoidably here for us to grapple with.

On the one hand, there are some that would have it that God was simply responding to what was already in Pharaoh’s heart, thus relieving God of any responsibility in the matter of hardening the king’s heart in order to justify destroying him. On the other hand, there are those who would quite bluntly declare that God created Pharaoh exactly for the express purpose of destroying him in order to bring glory to himself.

Perhaps the truth lies somewhere between.  The fact is, God does involve himself in the details of man’s affairs in order to bring about his sovereign plan, and he is well within his unimpeachable righteousness to align those who are his enemies for utter judgment so that his great power might be displayed in all the earth. Pharaoh is Example A of this. Yet at the same time, we must note that Pharaoh was duly warned that his stubborn refusal to obey God would result in judgment. (Exodus 4:23) We also find that the hardening God brought about in Pharaoh’s heart was, interestingly, matched by Pharaoh hardening his own heart: Ten times God hardened Pharaoh’s heart (Exodus 7:3; 9:12; 10:1,20, 27; 11:10; 14:4,8,17) and ten times Pharaoh hardened his own heart (Exodus 7:13,14,22; 8:15,19,32; 9:7,34,35; 13:15).

What does that tell us?  Simply that God, whose will and whose ways are inscrutable, is within his absolute sovereignty to bring about what he desires in human affairs—including hardening a ruler’s heart; yet man is never without personal responsibility in surrendering to the sovereign rulership of God.

Does that make this uncomfortable piece of Scripture any easier to swallow?  No—and yes. No, it will always shake that comforting image of a loving, safe God.  Yes, we can lean into the track record of God’s loving omniscience and righteous omnipotence, and along with the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:33-36, declare with utter certainty in the face of mysterious passages like this,

Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God!
How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!
Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor?
Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them?
For from him and through him and for him are all things.
To him be the glory forever! Amen.

Yes indeed, glory to God forever.  Soli Deo Gloria!

“Man is a responsible moral agent, though he is also divinely controlled; man is divinely controlled, though he is also a responsible moral agent.” ~J.I. Packer

Reflect and Apply: Jonathan Edwards, considered to be America’s greatest theologian, wrote, “In efficacious grace we are not merely passive, nor yet does God do some and we do the rest. But God does all, and we do all. God produces all, we act all. For that is what produces, viz. our own acts. God is the only proper author and fountain; we only are the proper actors. We are in different respects, wholly passive and wholly active.” Reflect on that statement; then ask yourself, “How am I doing in my part?”