Devotional: Abide With Me

Abide with me: fast falls the eventide;
the darkness deepens; Lord, with me abide:
when other helpers fail and comforts flee,

help of the helpless, O abide with me.

Abide with Me is a familiar hymn that Henry Francis Lyte penned while battling tuberculosis. What a thrilling prayer request: for God to abide with us always, and even more so when the “darkness deepens” or “other helpers fail.” But what does it mean for God to abide with us?

It says in John 15:9, “As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love.” To abide in Jesus’ love means to abide in Jesus because Jesus is love. In the gospel, Jesus lays out three benefits of abiding in him. First, abiding in Jesus means that the love of God is present in us, and, as a result, we can love like Jesus. Like most things, this is much harder than it sounds. Jesus loved unconditionally and without judgment.

Second, abiding in Jesus and loving like Jesus creates the byproduct of joy. We become joyful and joy is present when Jesus abides with us and when we abide in Jesus’ love.

Later in “Abide with Me,” Lyte mentions the dimming of earth’s joys:

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;
Earth’s joys grow dim; its glories pass away;
Change and decay in all around I see;
O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

In life, sometimes joy is hard to find, especially when disappointments and setbacks are the order of the day and God seems far or prayers seem unanswered. It is difficult to keep one’s joy when there is no hope, or the walls seem to be caving in all around us.

Nehemiah 8:10, however, reminds us that the joy of the Lord is our strength.

Third, abiding in Jesus means that we are anointed to bear fruit that will last. Jesus says, “You did not choose me but I chose you. And I appointed you to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last, so that the Father will give you whatever you ask him in my name” (John 15:16).

The proof is in the pudding. What fruits are you bearing? A good tree does not bear bad fruit. Jesus is serious about his disciples bearing fruit. Good fruit. Fruit that will last.

Like Lyte, if we acknowledge our helpless state and ask Jesus to abide with us, teaching us to love like him, we can joyfully sing out in confidence:

Hold thou thy cross before my closing eyes;
shine through the gloom, and point me to the skies;
heaven’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;
in life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

Amen

 

Linda Sitterley
Pastor
Eugene, Oregon

May 2021 Prayer Guide

God is a God of the present. God is always in the moment, be that moment hard or easy, joyful and painful.” ― Henri Nouwen

Join us in corporate prayer this month as we thank God for the good work he includes us in. Click the image below to download and print the May Prayer Guide, celebrating how God is working in and among our fellowships around the world.

Devotional: Eagles in Flight

30 Even youths shall faint and be weary,
and young men shall fall exhausted;
31 but they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength;
they shall mount up with wings like eagles;
they shall run and not be weary;
they shall walk and not faint.
Isaiah 40:30-31, English Standard Version

The Philippine eagle is an endangered species and one of the largest in the world. The one I saw was being cared for in captivity, but I can only imagine what it must be like in its natural habitat, flying freely, strong and able to rise above the storms. The image of a soaring eagle is used in this popular verse in Isaiah 40, to describe how God renews those who wait on him.

People do not normally want to wait. Waiting usually feels like one is being tied down, hindered or delayed. In verse 31, the term wait comes from the Hebrew word qavah, which means to bind together as by twisting. Imagine plaiting together strands of cord to produce a rope. This brings an interesting perspective to our waiting. We are being told that as we wait, we are to entwine ourselves with God. We abide in him, even as he abides in us. Waiting is not a passive act, but one wherein we come together with the Lord.

It is also important to remember that it is the Lord whom we wait upon. We hope in the God who is good, who is for us, and who is able. As we wait on him, we bind ourselves to the divine source of inexhaustible strength, which renews us as we keep going.

In this verse, the prophet Isaiah was providing comfort to the people of Israel, who were longing for consolation and freedom. It was a long and difficult wait.

Our present-day journey is also full of delays and detours – some are minor inconveniences while others are difficult, life-altering challenges. What do we do when we find ourselves feeling lost, helpless, or unsure of what lies ahead?

The exhortation to us is the same. Wait on the Lord. Seek him, cling to the everlasting God who never grows weary and allow him to renew you. Waiting time is not wasted time. May this assurance liberate us as we wait and help us withstand the hardest circumstances, overcome the deepest disappointments, and soar above the fiercest storms. When we wait on the Lord, we are like eagles in flight.

Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for being our comfort and our hope in the midst of life’s delays. By your grace may we trade our fears for your faithfulness; our tiredness and inadequacy for your sufficiency. As we receive your peace, may we also pass this on to others in their waiting time. In Jesus’ name, amen.

Eugene Guzon Headshot By Eugene Guzon

 

Devotional: Lord, Help Thou Mine Unbelief

Notice this account of one of Jesus’ post-resurrection appearances:

Thomas, the one called Didymus, one of the Twelve, wasn’t with the disciples when Jesus came. The other disciples told him, “We’ve seen the Lord!” But he replied, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands, put my finger in the wounds left by the nails, and put my hand into his side, I won’t believe.” After eight days his disciples were again in a house and Thomas was with them. Even though the doors were locked, Jesus entered and stood among them. He said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here. Look at my hands. Put your hand into my side. No more disbelief. Believe!” Thomas responded to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus replied, “Do you believe because you see me? Happy are those who don’t see and yet believe.” (John 20:24-28, CEB)

By the Spirit, our risen, ascended Lord is with us always, and through his presence extending to us his peace (shalom), even in the most trying circumstances. Given that reality, I have a question: do we, trusting in Jesus, receive that peace and so live into it? I suppose we’d all have to answer, “sometimes.”

Imperfect as we all are in trusting in (believing in) Jesus, there are times we doubt the reality of his presence. At those times, perhaps we, like Thomas, want a physical sign to prove Jesus is with us. Or perhaps we are like the father of the demon-possessed son who Jesus reached out to help, yet the father cried out to Jesus, “I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24, ASV).

Yes, there are times we need Jesus’ help to overcome our unbelief (the weakness of our human faith). At such times, demanding a physical sign rarely helps. (I say “rarely” since God sometimes does give such signs.) However, most of the time, God reminds us in prayer and through Scripture of Jesus’ faithfulness, inviting us to rely on him to do what we are incapable of doing.

The answer to our weak faith, is not to try to gin up more (just try harder!), and not to insist that God give us a physical sign as proof he can be trusted. No, the answer is to look to Jesus, God’s ultimate sign, and trust him as our representative High Priest to do something quite amazing—believe for us. Yes, Jesus, who in his representative humanity perfectly and fully trusts in God, shares that trust (his faith) with us. And so in times of doubt (which we all experience) we can go to Jesus in prayer:

Jesus, help me in this time of doubt. Allow me to believe that you truly are the risen Christ. Help me see how you are present with me today in this circumstance. Lord, grant me your faith. Grant me your peace. Lord, I believe, help thou mine unbelief. Amen.

 

Ted Johnston

by Ted Johnston
Grace Communion Seminary faculty member

Devotional: God of Second Chances

Jonah 3:1-5: Then the word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time: 2 “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.” 3 Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. 4 Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” 5 The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

The book of Jonah is a story about second chances. For the Ninevites, yes, with God delivering them from destruction out of his abundant love. But also a second chance for Jonah himself.

By the time we encounter Jonah in chapter 3, he had received God’s command to go to Nineveh and call them to repentance. We know he was unwilling to preach the message of salvation to Israel’s enemies, that he had run away from God, was caught in a storm, thrown into the sea, and swallowed by a great fish. But God delivered Jonah and here we see the word of the Lord coming to him a second time.

God wanted Jonah to be part of his redemptive work. Not because he could not accomplish it without Jonah, but because he was also concerned with restoring Jonah’s heart. God was not deterred by Jonah’s disobedience. Instead, God pursued him, saved him from death, and gave Jonah the commission anew: Go and proclaim the message I give you.

From Jonah’s story, we see that despite our shortcomings, stubbornness, and begrudging heart, the Lord can still use us in his work of saving and transforming lives. In the midst of the uncertainty and suffering around us today, we recognize the need for people to receive the hope of salvation and to experience God’s kindness and mercy in tangible ways.

If you think you are not good enough for God to use – not ready enough, loving enough, or “holy” enough – think again. If you have been in ministry but you have grown lukewarm or fallen short, God is not done with you yet. Take the chances you are given. We all have a role to play in bearing Jesus to the world – where is he telling you to go?

Prayer: Thank you Lord, that you are not limited by our shortcomings to fulfill your purposes. Create in us an obedient and compassionate heart to proclaim the gospel and be expressions of your relentless love to those in need.

 

 

By Joyce Tolentino
Mandaluyong, Philippines

Devotional: The Sparks of Disagreement

“As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” (Proverbs 27:17)

Twice in the past week two people have quoted this verse to me and pointed out the reality of iron sharpening iron. This verse, which is often quoted in sermons, article and books, is often used in reference to people spending time together in a connect group or in fellowship together. “How can we grow together unless we spend time together, after all, iron sharpens iron…” We often think in terms of rubbing off on each other—sharing the good things with each other.

What we fail to focus on is that when iron sharpens iron, friction occurs and sparks fly. The truth is, iron sharpening iron is not always a pleasant experience. People disagree with you. People get upset with each other and sparks fly. Things are sometime said that shouldn’t be said—or in a manner or tone that is less than graceful. Tempers can raise, voices can raise, friction occurs and sparks fly. And this is what the Scripture is telling us. These things are part of growing together in grace and truth.

Relationships are important for many reasons. They help fill a basic human need and they give us opportunity to love and share life with others. Relationships without friction and sparks might not be as healthy as one might think. It may surprise some to hear that Cheryl and I have disagreements. (Tongue firmly implanted in cheek.) She is not a mini-me and I am not a mini-her. We are two different people with different backgrounds, who grew up in different environments, who had different learning experiences and who—hold your breath—have different opinions about things. As a result, in some of our discussions friction occurs and sparks fly. And not every disagreement ends in perfect peace, we simply agree to disagree. However, and this is vital, we choose to not be disagreeable. There is a significant difference. Our goal is to love each other, to grow in our marriage, to understand each other better. Neither one of us is disagreeable—defined as being unfriendly and bad tempered. In our 36 years of marriage we have experienced iron sharpening iron, and I can say with conviction that I love Cheryl much more now than I did when we first married; she can say the same.

There are two other verses in Proverbs 27 that reinforce this principle.

  • “Better is open rebuke than hidden love.” (Verse 5)
  • “Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.” (Verse 6)

Healthy relationships grow when we listen and seek to understand why someone disagrees—when we focus on the other rather than on the disagreement. Relationships grow when we try to see things from another’s point of view and choose to not be offended when someone doesn’t immediately agree with us or struggles to understand our point of view.

I would suggest that God is never put off when we disagree—and let’s be honest, we often do. Why didn’t you heal this person? Why didn’t you answer that prayer? Why didn’t I get that job? God, I disagree with your decision. God, I wish you weren’t so far removed from me. God, why don’t you take care of these people who bother me? God why aren’t you more involved?

The Psalms are full of David asking those very questions of God. God why didn’t you.., why won’t you…, why aren’t you… These questions don’t bother God because they are part of the friction of iron sharpening iron. David might not agree, we might not agree, but we are not being disagreeable.

And here’s the key: When it comes to our relationship with Father, Son and Sprit, God is always the one doing the sharpening. But notice, he does it by becoming like us. He becomes the iron that will sharpen us. He rubs off on us. He seeks to make us stronger, sharper, better. And while some of that sharpening causes friction, and there are sparks, we know the end result is good. In the end, we are sharpened into what God intends us to be.

Prayer: Lord, thank you for loving me enough to not be concerned about the friction and the sparks in our relationship. Thank you for dedicating yourself to mold me into whatever it is you want me to be. Thank you for putting up with my disagreements, and patiently helping me see things your way and to trust you. I may not like the friction and the sparks, but I know they are the result of your unconditional love. Thank you!

 

Rick Shallenberger
Regional Director USA, North Central

 

 

April 2021 Prayer Guide

“To pray is to accept that we are, and always will be, wholly dependent on God for everything.” ― Timothy Keller

Join us in corporate prayer this month as we thank God for the good work he includes us in. Click the image below to download and print the April Prayer Guide, celebrating how God is working in and among our fellowships around the world.

Devotional: The Sufficiency of Christ

Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God. (2 Cor 3:5).

Paul, in his attempt to defend his right to be a minister for the gospel, highlights a significant point that all Christians will do well to heed. He boldly proclaims that the sufficiency of his credentials to serve in the ministry is Jesus Christ himself. He does not appeal to his Hebraic pedigree or his rabbinic tutelage under Gamaliel but rests his confidence solely in Christ. Far from boasting in any kind of self-sufficiency that comes from within himself, he attributes any and all of his accomplishments as a result of the working of God in his life.

What credentials do we appeal to when we may need to prove our discipleship or spirituality? Do we tend to get blinded by our own achievements and success that we are unable to see the need for continuing divine direction and sustenance? God’s call, whether to be a disciple of Christ or a leader in Christ’s ministry, cannot be fulfilled in our own strength. Christ reminds us that “without me you can do nothing.” We do not have the sufficiency in ourselves. God’s power has no limits when he is acknowledged and invited to be our strength.

On the other hand, do we only see our insufficiency? Do we tend to get so discouraged by our lack and brokenness that we pull back and may be tempted to do nothing? Then, we need to recognize the enabling strength of Christ that empowers even in human weakness. May God grant us the humility to see that in our self-sufficiency we are nothing, as well as the confidence that, in our nothingness, we can still accomplish in the sufficiency that is from God.

Prayer: Our ever-loving Father, grant us the humility to see the futility of our self-sufficiency so that we may seek you and find strength in you. Give us also the confidence in Christ that we may step out in faith and accomplish in your name’s sake though we are but nothing. Amen.

 

 

By Danny Zachariah
National Director India
Regional Director Sub Continent India