God’s Thoughts

LORD you have done such great things! How deep are your thoughts! PSALM 92:5

God’s thoughts are not our thoughts, nor are they even like ours. We aren’t even in the same neighborhood. We’re thinking, Preserve the body; he’s thinking, Save the soul. We dream of a pay raise. He dreams of raising the dead. We avoid pain and seek peace. God uses pain to bring peace. “I’m going to live before I die,” we resolve. “Die, so you can live,” he instructs. We love what rusts. He loves what endures. We rejoice at our successes. He rejoices at our confessions. We show our children the Nike star with the million-dollar smile and say, “Be like Mike.” God points to the crucified carpenter with bloody lips and a torn side and says, “Be like Christ.”

The Great House of God

The Next Steps to Growth

Ephesians 4:14-16

Yesterday’s devotion covered three steps to Christian growth: renewing our minds through Bible reading, confessing sin, and repenting of that sin. Today we will look at three more factors that will build us spiritually.

Any believer—whether mature or new to the faith—would be wise to receive godly counsel. I have seen some great men and women take a terrible plunge away from God because they were too proud to admit weakness. The Lord sees us as we truly are; we lack the ability to view ourselves objectively, which is why it’s important to have a friend who will be completely honest about our faults and mistakes. A godly counselor won’t be critical or condemning but rather will prove to be loving and kind.

We also grow spiritually when we serve God by serving others. At times this may mean ministering to someone who tends to bring out our worst qualities. Getting involved in his or her life, though, can help us learn patience, acceptance, and love.

One additional step is to respond properly to pain and difficulty. We all wish our greatest growth came during the calm times of our life. But the truth is, we make the most spiritual progress when we face adversity. Focusing on the Lord instead of on the source of our heartache is the appropriate response.

So the question is, Do you really want to move ahead in your Christian walk? To do so requires time, attention, and commitment. But if you choose to journey down God’s pathway to growth, you can expect to become more like Christ every day.

What’s in a Name?

“Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar, and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.” (Daniel 1:7)

Peoples in ancient times—especially the Israelites and their implacable enemies, the Babylonians—placed great importance on the names given their children, desiring that their very names constitute a testimony to their character and to the convictions of their parents.

The meaning of all these names is very significant. Each of the four had been given by their parents a name honoring the true God, but the Babylonians wanted them to be identified with one of the false gods. Daniel (“God is my judge”) was assigned the name Belteshazzar, which meant “favored by Bel.” Hananiah (“Beloved of the Lord”) became Shadrach (“illumined by Rak,” the sun god). Mishael (“Who is as God?”) was called Meshach (“who is like Shak,” the Babylonian Venus), and Azariah (“The Lord is my help”) became Abednego (“servant of Nego,” the god of fire).

These godly young men no doubt bitterly resented these new names. Nevertheless, they did not make an overt issue of this matter, knowing they would forfeit their opportunity for a substantive spiritual witness if they took a belligerent stand on superficialities. When the opportunity came for a real stand against these false gods of Babylon, as in the case of Nebuchadnezzar’s image and the fiery furnace for Daniel’s three friends, and the decree of Darius and the lions’ den for Daniel, they did give a true and uncompromising witness, and God honored them for it. In our own witness today against modern paganism, we need constantly to remember that form is secondary, but substance is vital. Our personal names are of only less importance, but it is vital that our stand and conduct honor the name of Christ. HMM

Lead me in a plain path

“O Lord, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walketh to direct his steps.” (Jer. 10:23.) “Lead me in a plain path.” (Psalm 27:14.)

MANY people want to direct God, instead of resigning themselves to be directed by Him; to show Him a way, instead of passively following where He leads. —Madame Guyon.

I said: “Let me walk in the field”;
God said: “Nay, walk in the town”;
I said: “There are no flowers there”;
He said: “No flowers, but a crown.”

I said: “But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din”;
But He wept as He sent me back,
“There is more,” He said, “there is sin.”

I said: “But the air is thick,
And fogs are veiling the sun”;
He answered: “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”

I said: “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say”;
He answered me, “Choose tonight,
If I am to miss you, or they.”

I pleaded for time to be given;
He said: “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in Heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide,”

I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said: “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”

Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He;
And I walk in a light Divine,
The path I had feared to see.
—George MacDonald.

And the Lord shewed me four carpenters

“And the Lord shewed me four carpenters.” Zechariah 1:20

In the vision described in this chapter, the prophet saw four terrible horns. They were pushing this way and that way, dashing down the strongest and the mightiest; and the prophet asked, “What are these?” The answer was, “These are the horns which have scattered Israel.” He saw before him a representation of those powers which had oppressed the church of God. There were four horns; for the church is attacked from all quarters. Well might the prophet have felt dismayed; but on a sudden there appeared before him four carpenters. He asked, “What shall these do?” These are the men whom God hath found to break those horns in pieces. God will always find men for His work, and He will find them at the right time.

The prophet did not see the carpenters first, when there was nothing to do, but first the “horns,” and then the “carpenters.” Moreover, the Lord finds enough men. He did not find three carpenters, but four; there were four horns, and there must be four workmen. God finds the right men; not four men with pens to write; not four architects to draw plans; but four carpenters to do rough work. Rest assured, you who tremble for the ark of God, that when the “horns” grow troublesome, the “carpenters” will be found.

You need not fret concerning the weakness of the church of God at any moment; there may be growing up in obscurity the valiant reformer who will shake the nations: Chrysostoms may come forth from our Ragged Schools, and Augustines from the thickest darkness of London’s poverty. The Lord knows where to find His servants. He hath in ambush a multitude of mighty men, and at His word they shall start up to the battle; “for the battle is the Lord’s,” and He shall get to Himself the victory. Let us abide faithful to Christ, and He, in the right time, will raise up for us a defence, whether it be in the day of our personal need, or in the season of peril to His Church.

Ask, and it shall be given you

“Ask, and it shall be given you.” Matthew 7:7

We know of a place in England still existing, where a dole of bread is served to every passerby who chooses to ask for it. Whoever the traveller may be, he has but to knock at the door of St. Cross Hospital, and there is the dole of bread for him. Jesus Christ so loveth sinners that He has built a St. Cross Hospital, so that whenever a sinner is hungry, he has but to knock and have his wants supplied. Nay, He has done better; He has attached to this Hospital of the Cross a bath; and whenever a soul is black and filthy, it has but to go there and be washed. The fountain is always full, always efficacious.

No sinner ever went into it and found that it could not wash away his stains. Sins which were scarlet and crimson have all disappeared, and the sinner has been whiter than snow. As if this were not enough, there is attached to this Hospital of the Cross a wardrobe, and a sinner making application simply as a sinner, may be clothed from head to foot; and if he wishes to be a soldier, he may not merely have a garment for ordinary wear, but armour which shall cover him from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. If he asks for a sword, he shall have that given to him, and a shield too. Nothing that is good for him shall be denied him. He shall have spending money so long as he lives, and he shall have an eternal heritage of glorious treasure when he enters into the joy of his Lord.

If all these things are to be had by merely knocking at mercy’s door, O my soul, knock hard this morning, and ask large things of thy generous Lord. Leave not the throne of grace till all thy wants have been spread before the Lord, and until by faith thou hast a comfortable prospect that they shall be all supplied. No bashfulness need retard when Jesus invites. No unbelief should hinder when Jesus promises. No cold-heartedness should restrain when such blessings are to be obtained.