“And another angel came and stood at the altar with a golden censer, and he was given much incense to offer with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne, and the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, rose before God from the hand of the angel. Then the angel took the censer and filled it with fire from the altar and threw it on the earth, and there were peals of thunder, rumblings, flashes of lightning and an earthquake.” (Revelation 8:3-5)
Everyday God’s people are doing mighty things in and for the world: They pray.
God hears and gathers their prayers, fashions these into a thunderbolt, and strikes the earth with it.
The earth shakes. Lives are changed, the sick are healed, blind eyes are opened, lepers are cleansed, the prisoners are set free, the hungry are fed, and the poor are enriched. Storms are stilled, light shines in the darkness, life bursts forth from the tombs, and dead bones now live!
“Prayer reenters history with incalculable effect. Our earth is shaken daily by it.” (Eugene Peterson)
Let us pray!
“Following Jesus is not a skill we acquire so that we can be useful to the kingdom (the Essene way). Following Jesus is not a privilege we are let into so that the kingdom can be useful to us (the Caiaphas way). It is obedience (‘my Lord!’). And it is worship (‘my God!’).”
– Eugene Peterson, THE JESUS WAY, p. 242
There are those who follow Christ in order to get blessings from God. Of course, they stop following once tragedy strikes or the blessing doesn’t arrive as expected.
Then there are those who adopt a managerial approach to following Christ. Their goal is to become productive and successful in the Christian life. So they focus on discipleship trainings, various church programs and activities, and formulas and strategies on how to pray so as to get your prayers answered, how to be victorious in this or that area of your life, how to study the Bible for maximum profit, etc. Results are what is important and finding and utilizing the right spiritual techniques is the key to getting results.
Then there’s the Jesus way, which is simply following where Jesus leads without overthinking and over-managing it. Peterson says, “When Jesus says, ‘Follow me’ and we follow, we don’t know where we will go next or what we will do next. That is why we follow the one who does know.”
But Jesus himself says it best:
“The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” (Mark 4:26-29)
Let’s follow Jesus. Let’s keep it simple!
“In proportion as the sanctification of a believer advances, his real happiness advances with it” (Octavius Winslow)
“Man’s holiness is now his greatest happiness, and in heaven man’s greatest happiness will be his perfect holiness.” (Thomas Brooks)
We pursue happiness in the wrong way. We run after success, money, fame and pleasure, and once we have these they turn into ashes in our hands.
Holiness, on the other hand, carries with it a peculiar enjoyment – the kind only heaven can give. Pursue holiness and you gain joy that thrives even in the midst of affliction. Mere happiness cannot do this; it wilts at the first whiff of unfortunate circumstances.
Sometimes I worry about money. Well, to be honest, sometimes is not accurate. Many times (though not most of the time) I worry about money. There are bills and debts to pay, and sometimes business is slow, and I worry that the income won’t be enough to cover this week or this month’s payables.
That’s when I remind myself of Philippians 4:19, which to my mind is the sovereign cure for financial worry:
“But my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.”
I have a loving, caring, and stupendously rich God! He knows my needs and he’s promised to meet them.
Worry, go away!
Believe it or not, pain can be a gift.
A terrible gift, to be sure; but a gift nevertheless.
Now it is the sufferer’s task to unravel the mystery of how her pain can be a gift. And if she is not able to do so, to commit herself to the Lord who makes all things beautiful in His time.
Sometimes the Lord sends suffering in order to cure an inward corruption.
The sorrow that suffering produces serves as medicine to dissolve the rage or pride or some other wickedness that dwells in the hardened heart.
It softens the heart and produces compassion within.
In God’s hands suffering is the chisel by which he carves a beautiful saint out of plain marble.
We often blame God for our sufferings, not knowing that by means of the pain he is actually healing our souls and creating a work of art.
The greatest political events take place in the church.
Empires have fallen. Kingdoms have crumbled into dust. Kings and rulers have died and are forgotten. The church of the living God marches on.
Jesus joined no political party, held no political position, and more or less steered away from the political controversies of his day. But he built a kingdom that will never end; and to him every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.
And now he reigns in the hearts of his people who gather to praise his name, to hear his Word, and to obey his law. As a result, true change takes place — change that sweeps across time and space and lasts throughout eternity.
This is the highest and the truest and the most effective politics of all.
Mighty are the events taking place in the church, earth-shattering and world-changing in their consequences: praise, preaching, prayer, repentance, love, and obedience! The world notices it not, but the very configuration of the heavens is being changed as the church kneels down to pray. Multitudes of angelic beings rejoice, filling the heavens with roars of joy and the thunderous noise of relentless clapping, over one sinner who repents at the preaching of the gospel.
No wonder the Enemy does all he can to undermine the church. Be that as it may, the Lord of the church has decisively defeated him.
The church is where the action is!
Thus, I say, God deals with his saints in great variety; some shall have all their bones broken, when others shall have only the gentle strokes of the rod. We are in the hand of mercy, and he may deal with us as seems good to him; but for our parts, great sins ought to be attended with expectations of great depths and perplexities.
(John Owen, An Exposition of Psalm CXXX)
God, being merciful, does not deal with us according to what our sins deserve. He remembers that we are but dust. Nevertheless, he does chastise us for our sins. Even so, in his inscrutable wisdom, he treats his children differently. Some who have sinned greatly he rebukes gently and allows them to recover their peace in him without the great difficulty that others have in trying to recover themselves from their backsliding. Others he treats more severely, allowing them to wallow for a long time in the depths of the misery that may justly be considered as the consequence of their sins. This might seem discriminatory, but God has his reasons, and it is not for us to question his wisdom.
At the end of day, however he deals with us, we trust that he disciplines us according to his love and wisdom, and the result of it all is that we shall come forth as gold.
“Let us hear the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. For God shall bring very work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it be good, or whether it be evil.” (Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 KJV)
You can’t be blamed if the impression you get from reading Ecclesiastes is that “Everything is vanity” must be its theme. But when you reach chapter 12, there seems to be a great reversal of this theme. Instead of “Nothing matters,” this time everything matters because God will judge everything you do. The fact that God is there and will judge everything we’ve done makes everything we do significant. Our lives and actions are meaningful because there is a God who will evaluate all these and will stamp his seal of approval (or disapproval) upon all that we’ve done. If so, we have to make sure we’re ready to face him on judgment day.
“God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation everyday.” (Psalm 7)
God can and does feel anger, but it is a righteous anger consistent with his righteous character. The Bible depicts God as a being who has emotions, but these emotions are under his control. If ever he becomes angry it is because he chooses to be. It is in this light that we should understand the biblical passages that describe him as being provoked by our sins. Being omniscient, he is not caught by surprise by them; nevertheless, he is genuinely provoked and his anger is genuine as well.
“If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword.” (Psalm 7)
The threat is real and should not be taken lightly. In 1 Kings ch. 16, because Baasha provoked the Lord God of Israel to anger with his idols, the Lord destroyed all his house (i.e., family) through the hand of Zimri, in accordance with what the Lord spoke by Jehu the prophet.
Do we take the Lord’s anger lightly? Do we provoke him to anger?
Lord, forgive us for the many times we have provoked you to anger. Help us to fear you with a holy fear. Amen.