Jesus in the Days of Our Youth

 

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Remember also your Creator in the days of your youth, before the evil days come and the years draw near of which you will say, “I have no pleasure in them” – Ecclesiastes 12:1

The older I get, the more the wisdom in this passage resonates. I continue to enjoy my years, but when trouble hits, I am glad I have known Jesus since I was young. In these moments, I can look back and see how faithful he has been, and I know He always will be trustworthy.

There is great joy looking back on the springtime of my life when everything was fresh and new, and I recall walking with Jesus. So often, the hymns and songs of my younger days fill my heart with joy. Not because the contemporary Christian music from the 80’s and 90’s was so wonderful (most people question my music choices when I turn it on), but because I can see my younger self, and remember who I am and, most importantly, I remember my Savior.

It is easy to lose yourself in this world, even as a believer, but in the words of Andrew Peterson, when you get lost, stick to the old roads, and they will lead you home. This is a blessing only those who have walked with Jesus for many years will understand. I know the Lord has other benefits for those called later in life, but those who experience the wisdom of this verse, rejoice.

Lord, Thank you for calling me early in the day. When the days are evil, I will look to you and remember the long road we have traveled, and I know you will always be faithful. If there is anyone still in their younger days reading this, may your Spirit move them to heed this passage, even if they do not yet fully comprehend its importance.

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A Sobering Reminder

 

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So Saul died for his breach of faith. – 1 Chronicles 10:13

These are sobering words. A man who was anointed as king by the Holy Spirit did not follow the ways of the Lord and died because of it. We must be careful, for our enemy is seeking whom he may devour.

Are we vigilant in the things of God, paying attention to the snares around us? Too often we are not as diligent as we should be. We expose ourselves to many dangers, and there are genuine and dire consequences that can come from it. Take heed lest you fall.

Lord, You are our only hope: our Strength, our Shield, our Rock, and most importantly our Righteousness. Keep us when we cannot keep ourselves. Protect us when we are blind to the dangers that surround us, and especially those that we see yet, in our sinfulness, are still drawn to them. 

Father, be glorified in us today in the work we have to do, in our family lives and relationships, and in our ministry to others. For you are worthy. We love you, Jesus.

Thanksgiving, Gratitude, and Leanness of Soul

thanksgivingOh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good! Psalm 106:1

We often talk about the benefits of being thankful this time of year, but it is also important to look at what can happen to us if we are not. Psalm 106 begins by calling the people of God to praise and thanksgiving. The following 12 verses continue by reminding them of God’s great and merciful works. How He showed His power and set them free from the slavery in Egypt, parted the Red Sea to get them to safety, and covered their enemies with water. As they remember God’s goodness toward them, we see thanksgiving flowing from grateful hearts as they recognize the Lord and His mighty works.

Then, a few verses later, we find a drastic change as we are told how they soon forgot His works and did not seek His counsel. Later, when they were in the wilderness, they began to lust for the pots of meat they had in Egypt and began to test God in the desert. As they started to demand meat, as if the Lord had not given them something they deserved, we find this in verse 15, “And He gave them their request, but sent leanness of into their soul.

The Lord had granted them their fleshly desires, which was meat in the form of quail, but the meat did not satisfy them. The more they ate, the more it left them empty, and for some it even caused disease. Ingratitude works much the same way. When we think that we need something more than what God has already given us or has promised to provide, we tend to find that when we get what we desired, our longings had deceived us. The reason for this is because we should be feasting upon God, through His word, in remembrance of all He has done on our behalf. When we begin to forget God, and ingratitude begins to set in, it doesn’t matter what we receive, we will still want more. If God and His great mercy are not enough to fill our hearts with gratitude, nothing will.

Gratitude flows freely from a heart that is full of God, mindful of His great works, and aware of His grace to such unworthy and sinful creatures. The sinner, who hungers and thirsts after righteousness and has been filled by the justifying work of Christ, can find themselves in any harsh situation that this life has to offer and still have hearts that rejoice and are full. However, the one who forgets God’s great works toward them and begins to think they deserve something more can be in the most pleasant of all earthy positions but will live with souls which are lean.

The same Gospel that saves us from our wretched condition is the same Gospel that will fill our souls with joy for all eternity. We are never to forget how great His love is for us, that we should be called sons and daughters of God. To go about our lives without this at the center of who we are, will bring a leanness to our souls that will never be satisfied by anything else we try to put in its place.

This Thanksgiving, if your heart has been forgetful of God’s great love and works toward you, or if you find yourself unsatisfied with what the Lord had done for you, it is time to seek His face and remember His goodness. Do not let one more day go by without spending time in His word and calling out to Him in prayer. The most excellent holiday meals will not cure the leanness of soul which accompanies ingratitude toward God, and if you have remembered your God and your heart is full of Him, then any lack you face this holiday will not be able to empty the joy and gratitude which fills your soul. Godliness with contentment is great gain.

May all our hearts burst forth with gratitude toward our great God this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving,

D. Eaton

Make a joyful shout to the Lord, all you lands! Serve the Lord with gladness; Come before His presence with singing. Know that the Lord, He is God; It is He who has made us, and not we ourselves; We are His people and the sheep of His pasture. Enter into His gates with thanksgiving, And into His courts with praise. Be thankful to Him, and bless His name. For the Lord is good; His mercy is everlasting, And His truth endures to all generations. Psalm 100

Finding Hope in Weakness

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And he [Samson] was sore athirst, and called on the LORD, and said, Thou hast given this great deliverance into the hand of thy servant: and now shall I die for thirst, and fall into the hand of the uncircumcised? Judges 15:18

It seems that many times when we have been strengthened by God and have done something great for the Lord, we soon afterward find ourselves confounded by our weakness. That is why this passage about Samson is so encouraging. Here is a man that, by the strength of God, defeated many of the enemies of Israel, and then, moments later, finds himself about to die from the lack of something as simple as water. When God gives us some sort of victory in doing His work, it is easy to begin to see ourselves as stronger than we really are. So the Lord often allows situations to arise that keep us dependent upon Him. We often thank the Lord for His grace in times of triumph, but how often do we forget to thank Him for our times of defeat. If all things actually work for the good of those that love Him, then grace comes in many forms. It comes in strength, but it also comes in defeats by showing us our weaknesses.

When we are on top, it is easy to begin to think that this is where true life and happiness are to be found. We start to crave more of it. Success breeds the desire for more success. Until, if God does not show us our weaknesses, we begin to think that this is what we need to be happy. We start to believe that this is what life is about, and without it, contentment starts to disappear. In weakness, Christ calls out to us and says, don’t find your hope and peace in the good or the bad times, find it in Me, I am your salvation. Experiencing weakness has a way of shaking from our hands many of the earthly things we think we need because, through grace, it causes us to set our eyes on eternity, by realizing that we are not invincible.

I can remember one beautiful summer night we had a barbeque with the family. It was one of those times when you are usually at peace enjoying the cool summer evening. But this particular night I was miserable. I had been suffering from a chronic illness for some time. I didn’t know if I would ever have enjoyment again, but I remember at that moment, a thought came to me about finding my sufficiency in Christ. It didn’t matter if, through suffering, I would ever enjoy another moment of this life. I have Christ! What else do I need? Our real victory is not found in the conditions of this life, even if our victories are Godly. Our victory is found in Christ.

When the Lord opens up the hollow place, like he did to give Samson water, and the truths of Christ’s sufficiency begins to run toward us, we find ourselves revived even when the land is still parched.

D. Eaton

Prayer: The Forerunner of Mercy – Spurgeon

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“Thus saith the Lord God; I will yet for this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do it for them.” -Ezekiel 36:37

Prayer is the forerunner of mercy. Turn to sacred history, and you will find that scarcely ever did a great mercy come to this world unheralded by supplication. You have found this true in your own personal experience. God has given you many an unsolicited favour, but still great prayer has always been the prelude of great mercy with you. When you first found peace through the blood of the cross, you had been praying much, and earnestly interceding with God that He would remove your doubts, and deliver you from your distresses. Your assurance was the result of prayer. When at any time you have had high and rapturous joys, you have been obliged to look upon them as answers to your prayers. When you have had great deliverances out of sore troubles, and mighty helps in great dangers, you have been able to say, “I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”

Prayer is always the preface to blessing. It goes before the blessing as the blessing’s shadow. When the sunlight of God’s mercies rises upon our necessities, it casts the shadow of prayer far down upon the plain. Or, to use another illustration, when God piles up a hill of mercies, He Himself shines behind them, and He casts on our spirits the shadow of prayer, so that we may rest certain, if we are much in prayer, our pleadings are the shadows of mercy. Prayer is thus connected with the blessing to show us the value of it. If we had the blessings without asking for them, we should think them common things; but prayer makes our mercies more precious than diamonds. The things we ask for are precious, but we do not realize their preciousness until we have sought for them earnestly.

“Prayer makes the darken’d cloud withdraw;

Prayer climbs the ladder Jacob saw;

Gives exercise to faith and love;

Brings every blessing from above.”

-Charles Spurgeon-

A Shepherd’s Christmas

sheperds-christmasAnd all who heard it wondered at the things which were told them by the shepherds. – Luke 2:18

Why did the angels appear to shepherds when their testimony did not count in a court of law, and what would it have been like to hear the shepherd’s witness after the angels appeared and they saw the child? Though we don’t exactly know what they said, it may have been something similar to this:

There we were out in the middle of a pasture, and all the sheep were sleeping. Then, all of the sudden, the sheep began to stir. At first, we didn’t know what was happening. Then we saw them, the angels who had come to tell us that born this day in the city of David, was a child who is Christ the Lord. The long awaited Messiah.

For thousands of years the prophets have been prophesying His coming, but what I find amazing is that, when it happened, the angels came to tell us: shepherds. Why would God announce it to us? We are not the priests or the holy ones of Israel. Most people despise us, and see us as unclean and not worth anything. The only thing I can think is that this Messiah is willing to save anyone, even those like myself, the dirty and despised. God Himself was born today and the angels came to tell us!

What is most humbling is what the prophet Isaiah said. He said, the Messiah will be “wounded for our transgressions, and bruised for our sins: and it will be by His stripes that we will be healed.” I’m not sure what all this means, but to think that this little child whom I just saw, is the one who is going to redeem His people and that He has even come to redeem people like myself, only makes me love Him more. His name is Jesus, and He will save His people from their sins. Maybe that’s why when I saw Him, all I could do was bow down in joyful adoration.  Some people may only see a child, but I see my Savior and my King.

Make sure you tell everyone He’s here. The Messiah has come!

D. Eaton

The Pain of Childbirth & the Joy of Christmas

 

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The lights glow softly, the Christmas music plays, and wondrous thoughts of the birth of our Savior fill our minds. What a blessing it is for the believer who still finds childlike joy at this time of year.  Being “grown-up” is a bit over-rated, because being “grown-up,” according to the world, usually entails a constant stiff upper lip and a cynical heart.  Now there are times to be stout, to conceal your emotion, and be a bit guarded, but too often these virtues can be turned into vices. Just as there is a time to be immovable, there is also a time to be moved. There are things should stir our hearts and move us to childlike wonder, and the birth of Jesus is one of those things. Especially when we consider it in light of the curse and the resulting pain of childbirth.

Sin is our greatest enemy, and it has been ever since the fall. In our natural condition, with hard hearts, we are the makers of our own demise. We despise what is good, and we love that which will hurt us; we are prone to our own destruction. What is worse, is that we are continually heaping upon ourselves the wrath of a holy and just God who will not let any sin go unpunished. The thought of such things should cause us to tremble.

If this were where the story ended, there would be no hope for any of us, but as we know, in the garden after the fall, God promised that He was going to provide a seed who would be the remedy for our sin (Gen 3:15). What is often missed is the fact that right after this promise, He also pronounced a curse upon mankind for their sinful act of rebellion. One aspect of that curse was that God Himself was going to cause children to be brought forth in sorrow (Gen. 3:16). Why would God do such a thing after such an incredible promise?  Of all the female creatures upon this earth, it seems that humans have the greatest sorrow during childbirth, but this sorrow is not without hope. Every time a woman grieves during the pain of childbirth, it is to be a reminder of the curse and the seriousness of sin. The same applies when we experience the pain in our work (Gen. 3:17). It is a proclamation of our depraved condition, but that is not all it is. It is also a gesture of God’s love for His people because He does not want us to evade the knowledge of our sinful condition and neglect the promised seed.

As Mary gave birth that night in a dusty stable, she undoubtedly lamented in pain. Any of us who have spent time pondering that night and have thought of the cold ground upon which she lay, without comforts of home, have heard her proclamation of the tyranny of sin. In sorrow she gave birth, but the Child was to be the death of her sorrow, and even the death of death itself. Like Rachel giving birth to Benjamin, she may have had the desire to call Him Benoni, the son of her sorrow, but the Father, God Himself, had already declared Him to be the Son of His Right Hand. His name was to be Jesus, for He was to save His people from their sins.

Christ, God incarnate, had entered our sin-riddled world. From his first breath, He was to be known as the Man of Sorrows, and He would endure it all because of His great love for us. All we like sheep have gone astray, but as Christ suffered the sorrows of this fallen world, He never faltered in His righteousness. He then, like a lamb, went willingly to the slaughter, never once opening His mouth in protest. Without fail, He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and by His stripes, we are healed.

If this Christmas season is passing you by, and the thoughts of our Savior have not yet moved your heart to adoration through the Spirit’s work, may the meditation of our great God and His gospel invigorate our sin embattled hearts and produce once again the childlike wonder of the Christmas season. Through faith, He is the joy of our salvation.  Though sorrow may still be a part of living in this fallen world, you can have joy in the knowledge that any sins over which you mourn, and any sorrows you face, have been conquered by the child who was born in the manger: Jesus Christ the Lord.

Merry Christmas

D. Eaton

 

In Preparation for Christmas

Image result for Christian ChristmasIt is that time again. Thanksgiving has come and gone, and many have already frantically begun to prepare for Christmas. The sales are plentiful, the shoppers are swarming, and the decorations and music add warmth everywhere you visit. The preparation has begun, but none of it can compare to the preparation that took place for that first Christmas. Take a moment to imagine what it would have been like to live during a time when they didn’t know the name of the coming Savior.

In preparing for Christmas, our hearts will be helped by meditating on what it must have been like for those of the household of Israel who had been waiting for the Messiah. It all started immediately after the fall when God told Eve that there would be a seed that would have His heel bruised by the serpent, but that same heel would ultimately crush the serpent’s head. Already, God had promised a remedy for the spiritual death they had brought upon themselves and all subsequent generations, and also for the physical death that was working in their bodies at that very moment.

As time went on, God’s people were taught many things about the future one who was going to redeem them from the wages of sin. To name a few, they were told that He was going to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2), He would be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14), and He would speak in parables (Ps. 78:2-4). Along with that, He would be hated without reason (Ps. 35:19), He would be spat upon and stuck (Is. 50:6), and He would be pierced (Zech. 12:10). He would do it all to save His people by being a substitute for them in order to make atonement for their sins (Is. 53:5). Then in the darkest hour, He would walk victoriously out of the grave (Ps 16:10, Ps 49:15).

The prophecies progressively revealed details regarding the coming Messiah, and although His Children did not fully understand them, they gave them hope, but having the promise of a Messiah who was to redeem you from the grip of sin is not the same comfort as having that redemption finished and calling upon his name. Those among the Hebrews who truly believed must have continually wondered longed to know His name. Jacob wrestled with Him in His pre-incarnate form, yet when Jacob asked Him His name He said, “Why is it that you ask about My name? (Gen. 32:29),”and the mystery continued. Later, Samson’s father Manoah spoke with Him, and though he did not fully understand at the moment with whom he was speaking, he also asked Him His name, and the response was “Why do you ask my name, seeing it is wonderful (Judges 13:18). All of these events were shrouded in mystery, for the name was not to be revealed until the fullness of time.

With such wonder, hope, and speculation, they lived for thousands of years, including an approximately 400-year period following the prophet Malachi where God seemed to be silent. That all ended, however, the day an angel of the Lord appeared to young Mary and said, “You will conceive and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.” His name would be Jesus, and He would save His people from their sins! The wait was over. Sinful humanity was to be redeemed, and the one who was to do it was going to be named Jesus!

Oh, how we have sung His name for thousands of years. How long we have known the only name under heaven by which man can be saved. How long it has filled our hearts with joy. We have not only known His name and His teachings, which are an endless supply of light and life, but we have also known Him personally because He is still with us today and will be with us always, even unto the end of the world.

He bore our sorrows and carried our grief. He took upon Himself our sins, thus putting an end to the condemnation that the law demanded, and He imputes to us His righteousness, making us co-heirs in the inheritance that He so rightly deserves, and we most certainly do not. None of the rapturous joys that fill the believer’s heart would be the same, had it not been for His birth in that lowly stable when God himself took on flesh.

It is easy to be swept away by all the trappings of the season, but the believer must not lose the infinite worth found in Christ in all the paltry tin of secular add-ons. As you prepare your home this season, be sure preparation is made to spend time with your Savior through meditation on His word and prayer, for no heart is as full as the heart that is filled with Christ.

May the Lord bless you this Christmas season!

D. Eaton

Tending our Pleasant Plants

Because thou hast forgotten the God of thy salvation, and hast not been mindful of the rock of thy strength, therefore shalt thou plant pleasant plants, and shalt set it with strange slips: In the day shalt thou make thy plant to grow, and in the morning shalt thou make thy seed to flourish: but the harvest shall be a heap in the day of grief and of desperate sorrow. – Isaiah 17:10-11

The world in which we live is full of distractions that pull us away from our Savior. The lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life can easily ensnare us causing us to place our focus somewhere other than our Lord. The problem lies in the fact that when we take our eyes off Christ and put them on the things of this world, we find that all or labor and work is in vain.

There are several interesting things pointed out to us in this passage. This first one is that when we forget the God of our salvation and are not mindful of the rock of our strength, what we begin to focus on will, in fact, be pleasant. As this passage indicates, we “plant pleasant plants,” Turning our attention away from our God will always seem pleasant at first. We find something that brings us joy and pleasure, or at least we hope it will bring us joy and pleasure, and we begin to put our time and effort in that direction. We must realize, however, that the slips we plant are strange. Slips in this context were plant cuttings that would be put into the ground to bring forth growth. When the passage calls them strange, it carries with it the idea that they are foreign. Foreign to what God would have us be growing in the soil of our lives.

The passage goes on to say that we shall “make” the plant grow, and the seed to flourish. This shows us that hard work and effort go into tending these plants. Crops that are planted in areas where the climate and soil are not fit for them, will not flourish without special care, and so we begin to place our efforts on growing this crop. As the passage seems to indicate, we may even see some success. Our diligence with these pleasant plants will spring forth a harvest, which may even bring us some temporary satisfaction, but the passage goes on to warn us that it will not last. In the day of grief and of desperate sorrow it will be a heap, offering us nothing of real value.

What is the aim of your life? Where are your hope and strength found? Do you spend all your time taking care of worldly concerns? Are you always focusing on worldly success and the pleasures it can bring, without remembering the God of your salvation?

If so, we have perverted our way, and we are living for earthly things which will end up being a heap that will be destroyed when trouble comes, and trouble will eventually come. Without doing all things for the glory of God, our pleasant plants will leave us empty, and we will cry out “vanity of vanities” when it is all said and done.

Let us serve the living God like those who are willing to suffer affliction with the people of God if necessary, and be done with the passing pleasures of sin (Heb. 11:25). When we do this, we exchange a mirage for a fountain flowing with living water, because in the rock of our strength, we will never be let down in the time of trouble. For nothing we do in Christ will be in vain.

D. Eaton

Fulfill the Ministry

See that you fulfill the ministry that you have received in the Lord. – Colossians 4:7

“Fulfill the Ministry.”  Paul initially said this to Archippus, but was this a warning or encouragement? Since we do not know much about him, it is hard to tell. Some have suggested that Archippus was the first pastor to the Laodicean’s. He may have been negligent in his duties, to which Paul would have been admonishing him by saying, “Get to work and do what you are supposed to do.” He also may have been faithful to his call but in a difficult place. Paul may have been encouraging him by saying, “press on in your good work, the Lord sees and will reward.”

Regardless as to whether this was a warning or an encouragement, these words apply to every believer. God has called us all to bring Him glory with our lives. This command applies to whatever vocation He has called us, as we live as ambassadors for Him in this fallen world. We are to work heartily as unto the Lord. Never go back to working for riches, popularity, fame, or even personal peace. Fulfill what He has called you to do for the Kingdom of God. Bring Him glory in all of it.

Maybe the Lord is calling you to a particular ministry that you have been resisting. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps you have been doing what you have been called to do, but the things of the world are starting to catch your eye. Fulfill the ministry. Perhaps the Lord called you to a specific ministry, and you have been diligent in doing it, but now you are growing weary in well doing. Fulfill the ministry.

There is so much more for us than we can see. Never forget that you have been raised with Christ, your life is hidden in Christ, and glory will be experienced at His return. Work heartily as unto the Lord. Remember, we do not live to please men. Christ is preeminent, not them. Live for His glory. Do it heartily, not grudgingly. Know why it is important and work hard to get it done. Whatever you do, redeem the time for the days are evil. Work should be work as unto the Lord, recreation should be recreation unto the Lord, and rest should be rest unto the Lord.

Wherever you may be today, may the Lord use this short devotion to encourage you to press on. May it remind you that this world is fleeting and our time is short. May it remind you to make sure this day is dedicated to your Savior, for tomorrow is promised to no one. Most importantly remember that He is with you and will give you the strength you need to fulfill the ministry.

D. Eaton