VIDEO Reaching Beyond Our Grasp

Where there is no revelation [or prophetic vision], the people cast off restraint… —Proverbs 29:18

There is a difference between holding on to a principle and having a vision. A principle does not come from moral inspiration, but a vision does. People who are totally consumed with idealistic principles rarely do anything. A person’s own idea of God and His attributes may actually be used to justify and rationalize his deliberate neglect of his duty. Jonah tried to excuse his disobedience by saying to God, “…I know that You are a gracious and merciful God, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness, One who relents from doing harm” (Jonah 4:2). I too may have the right idea of God and His attributes, but that may be the very reason why I do not do my duty. But wherever there is vision, there is also a life of honesty and integrity, because the vision gives me the moral incentive.

Our own idealistic principles may actually lull us into ruin. Examine yourself spiritually to see if you have vision, or only principles.

Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp,
Or what’s a heaven for?

“Where there is no revelation [or prophetic vision]….” Once we lose sight of God, we begin to be reckless. We cast off certain restraints from activities we know are wrong. We set prayer aside as well and cease having God’s vision in the little things of life. We simply begin to act on our own initiative. If we are eating only out of our own hand, and doing things solely on our own initiative without expecting God to come in, we are on a downward path. We have lost the vision. Is our attitude today an attitude that flows from our vision of God? Are we expecting God to do greater things than He has ever done before? Is there a freshness and a vitality in our spiritual outlook?

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

We all have the trick of saying—If only I were not where I am!—If only I had not got the kind of people I have to live with! If our faith or our religion does not help us in the conditions we are in, we have either a further struggle to go through, or we had better abandon that faith and religion.  The Shadow of an Agony, 1178 L


Most Misinterpreted Passages of the Bible: Prov. 29:18 “Where there is no vision. “

Noticing Nature

Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Matthew 6:26

A friend and I recently visited a favorite walking spot of mine. Climbing a windswept hill, we crossed a field of wildflowers into a forest of towering pines, then descended into a valley where we paused a moment. Clouds floated softly above us. A stream trickled nearby. The only sounds were birdsongs. Jason and I stood there silently for fifteen minutes, taking it all in.

As it turns out, our actions that day were deeply therapeutic. According to research from the University of Derby, people who stop to contemplate nature experience higher levels of happiness, lower levels of anxiety, and a greater desire to care for the earth. Walking through the forest isn’t enough, though. You have to watch the clouds, listen to the birds. The key isn’t being in nature, but noticing it.

Could there be a spiritual reason for nature’s benefits? Paul said that creation reveals God’s power and nature (Romans 1:20). God told Job to look at the sea, sky, and stars for evidence of His presence (Job 38–39). Jesus said that contemplating the “birds of the air” and “flowers of the field” could reveal God’s care and reduce anxiety (Matthew 6:25–30). In Scripture, noticing nature is a spiritual practice.

Scientists wonder why nature affects us so positively. Maybe one reason is that by noticing nature we catch a glimpse of the God who created it and who notices us.

By:  Sheridan Voysey

Reflect & Pray

Since nature isn’t God, and vice versa, how do you think He can be seen through it? How can you take a few minutes today to notice His care through His creation?

God of heaven, earth, streams, and birdsongs, I worship You today.

Sunday Reflection: Security in God

To get the most out of this devotion, set aside time to read the Scripture referenced throughout.

Do you at times feel lost and alone? Life can push us so close to despair that we might forget God is always with us. Though Jesus tells us, “In the world you have tribulation,” His message doesn’t end there. He also said, “But take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33). Our King of Kings, the conqueror over death, promised never to abandon us (Matt. 28:20). Why, then, do we continue to feel isolated? And what can we do about it?

Scripture can help correct our perspective—each time God’s people cry out for relief and assurance, we’re confronted with the truth that God alone is our refuge. In the words of the psalmist, “Under His wings you may take refuge; His faithfulness is a shield and wall” (Psalm 91:4). When we find ourselves in the midst of suffering, we can turn wholly toward God—allowing Him to shelter us in His love. We can trust that He hears our cries and is working all things for our good (Rom. 8:28).

Think about it
• Read Psalm 91, changing the language to first-person, i.e., “Under His wings [I] may take refuge.” Repeat anytime you feel worried this week. How does this change your outlook?

Two Mothers

“And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.” (Luke 1:46-47)

Two Jewish ladies, each carrying children recently conceived, met to discuss their circumstances. Perhaps billions of mothers, before and since, have had similar encounters, but since this meeting between Mary and Elizabeth was so special and precious, perhaps we can all profit by its study.

The first thing we notice is that their conversation turned immediately to God, to praise of Him for His goodness and grace. No doubt each one experienced all the common difficulties and discomforts of these months but chose instead to dwell on their blessings and the greatness of God.

Mary especially, in the discourse introduced by our text, burst forth in a torrent of praise, singing of the virtues of her Savior and reveling in His grace (vv. 46-55). He had chosen her despite her unworthiness. Her present misunderstood circumstances were not in view at all, just her precious communion with her Lord and His gracious dealings with mankind. In all these things, she “rejoiced.”

Note that there is no hint of doubt in her song, neither is there a shrinking back from His holiness. In these verses are no fewer than 15 quotations from the Old Testament. Mary knew God’s Word well and sang it back to Him. Furthermore, she sings in humility, not calling herself “mother of God,” as some do today, but sings of “God my Saviour.”

These two mothers provide a model for each of us, especially those blessed with childbearing. May each encounter focus on Him, not just on temporal events. May our fellowship be centered in Him and in His Word, not just with friends or family. May prayer and praise burst forth from our lips, not just idle conversation. May we know all the joy and confidence of Mary and join in her song. JDM

New Wine in Old Bottles

Matthew 9:9-17

THE synoptic Gospels record in detail the call of Matthew the publican and the dinner that followed in his home. The story of his call is brief but sufficient. Our Lord passed by and said, “Follow Me,” and he arose and followed Him. If Jesus had been aiming at popularity, He would never have summoned this despised tax-collector to be one of the twelve. But our Lord saw in him the writer of a Gospel, and present station meant nothing. It is significant that Christ called a busy man.

The call was followed by dinner at Matthews house, where the scribes and Pharisees were offended at His eating with publicans and sinners. He answers with irony. The publicans know they are sick and have availed themselves of the Great Physician; the Pharisees think they have no need of Christ. He declares that He came to call sinners to repentance and not the righteous, not meaning that the Pharisees were righteous but, since they thought themselves so, He did not expect them to welcome Him. It parallels His statement in John 9:39: “For judgment I am come into this world, that they which see not might see; and that they which see might be made blind.” “The rich He sent empty away.”

Our Lord justifies His action by quoting Hosea 6:6: “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” How we need to go and learn experimentally what much of the Word means! How terrible to be a stickler for form and observance and know not that love and mercy without which religion is but a hollow farce!

Then followed the question about feasting and fasting, why John’s disciples fasted and Jesus’ disciples feasted. Our Lord compares Himself and His disciples to a bridal party. When the Bridegroom has gone, it will be time enough to fast. Notice it is the disciples of John who raise this question instigated by the Pharisees; how readily the devil uses any apparent rift among disciples to further his own ends! Our Lord’s skillful answer cast no reproach on John’s disciples, yet vindicated His own.

Then He uses the figure of new cloth on an old garment and new wine in old bottles—skin bottles, of course, being in mind. In other words, the practices of John’s disciples were suited to his teaching and so were those of Christ’s disciples, and any attempt to mix them or graft the practices of one upon the other would be harmful. To patch up the Judaism of John with the new observances of Christ would make a mongrel mixture. The new practices, the greater liberties of Christ’s disciples, befit the new dispensation. Luke adds a peculiar statement (5:39): “No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new; for he saith, The old is better.” Do not expect men long accustomed to Judaism to change overnight. We must not expect too sudden a change to new doctrine. Here is a warning to all who have no patience with tradition and want immediate and “straightway” acceptance of new truths. Be patient: in due time the new wine will become old. Nothing is more needful than that we shall be considerate of those who have long cherished another viewpoint. We can be too hasty with them, and we must not demand instantaneous overnight sympathy with new practices. Practice must bring familiarity, and in due time the new wine will taste better.

The High-Water Mark

For Your faithful love is as high as the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches the clouds.—Psalm 57:10

Let us consider an important aspect of God’s nature and character—love. There are at least three things that are told us in Scripture concerning the nature of God.

First, “God is spirit” (Jn 4:24), which means He has no visible substance.

Second, “God is light” (1Jn 1:5), which means no darkness can dwell in Him. In Scripture darkness stands for sin, death, and so on.

Third, “God is love” (1Jn 4:16), which means that the energy which flows out from His being is that of infinite, eternal beneficence.

When John wrote the words “God is love,” it was no slick statement, since it was the first time in history that the phrase had been used in that way. People had believed God was love and had speculated about His benevolence, but now the categorical statement was laid down for all to behold. These words, in my judgment, are the high-water mark of divine revelation; nothing more needs to be said, for nothing greater can be said.

I often create a mental picture for myself of the angels peering over the battlements of heaven as John wrote these words. And then, when they had been written down, I imagine them breaking into rapturous applause and saying to each other: “They’ve got it. They’ve got it! At last they see that God is love.” A sigh of deep satisfaction and great joy would have filled the portals of heaven in the knowledge that the greatest truth about God was now finally made crystal clear. The implied was now inscribed.

Prayer

Father, I am so thankful that You have demonstrated categorically that the greatest thing about You is love. My heart gladly rests upon that glorious fact. I look forward to exploring it forever. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

Further Study

Jr 31:1-4; Jn 3:16; Rm 5:8

What did the Lord appear and say?

How did He demonstrate this?

The Search for Justice

Isaiah 1:17-18

Isaiah 1:18 has long been a favorite text for evangelistic sermons. These are great words to sound in the ear of every sinner who is hungry for forgiveness: “‘Come now, let us reason together,’ says the Lord. ‘though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall be like wool.'” But this verse has an added dimension in its context. God’s people need to “seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow” (1:17).

I believe that God’s people today are still deficient in the area of social justice. We too have neglected the fatherless and the widow. We too have failed to stand alongside the oppressed. We too must come under God’s awesome judgment for our complacent, self-satisfied religion. But, thank God, we too receive His invitation to reason with Him, to discover why the concern for justice must lie at the heart of our Christian life and witness.

It is the calling of every Christian to be holy, to reflect the very character of God. And it is the character of God which gives us reason for our involvement. Our God is not aloof and distant, untouched by human suffering. From the burning bush God said to Moses: “I have indeed seen the misery of My people in Egypt… I am concerned about their suffering” (Exodus 3:7). Our holiness must go far beyond a concern for our personal piety. Our hearts should burn with a love for justice; our consciences should be troubled about the suffering in our world.

Just as the character of God gives us the reason for our involvement, so the incarnation of Christ guides us as to the manner of our involvement. The Word becomes flesh, infinity dwindles to infancy, the hands that flung stars into space are nailed to a cross. God deals with sin and suffering and injustice, not by force, but by the power of costly, redemptive love.

This is the kind of involvement to which we too are called. Jesus still gives to the Christian both the mandate for his involvement and the manner it which it should be undertaken: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant… For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:43).

Chick Yuill, The Salvationist Pulpit