I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for You alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
Many children fight sleep, begging to stay up just a little longer, while many adults eagerly count the hours until bedtime. When sleep does not come to the tired, the simple advice of counting sheep may keep our minds occupied from worrying, but counting fluffy creatures does not always lead to sleep. Sleep is relaxing, resting, and letting go. We pause our doing and become still. God in His grace has created us to need sleep and it can draw us closer to Him. Our need for sleep, along with our need for food and water, reminds us of our frailty and His strength.
God never sleeps (Psalm 121:4). He is limitless and has no need of sleep. He delights in drawing close to us and giving us more of Himself and His peace. Whether you sleep through the night or struggle to sleep, God is with you. Tonight, when you lay down to sleep, take a moment to prayerfully give your burdens to God, thanking Him for sleep and the tangible reminder that we can let go and trust Him.
They slumber sweetly whom faith rocks to sleep. No pillow so soft as a promise; no coverlet so warm as an assured interest in Christ.
Charles Haddon Spurgeon
Ezekiel 23 – 24
Behold, God is great, and we do not know Him; nor can the number of His years be discovered.
Our minds jump into overdrive when we encounter obstacles, tension or conflict: We frantically search for a solution by getting as much information as we can. We consider our resources and weigh our options as we scurry toward a solution.
When the twelve spies entered the Promised Land their mission was simple: discover what they could about the land God had promised to give them. But somewhere during their excursion, they forgot. They stopped looking through the lens of God’s power and focusing on their own. When the ten spies declared that they could not take the land, they were partially right. In their own strength they did not stand a chance. Only Joshua and Caleb began with God’s power in mind. They remembered God’s faithfulness and made decisions from this starting point. God had parted deep waters before them, provided food from the sky, and guided them by a pillar of light at night and a supernatural cloud at day.
While we may not be conquering a land, we have the same choice when faced with problems and obstacles. Will we start with God’s faithfulness and power in mind?
I have held many things in my hands, and I have lost them all; but whatever I have placed in God’s hands, that I still possess.
Ezekiel 21 – 22
Why We Work
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast.
Not all employers are happy with a generation of young employees who were raised receiving “participation trophies” for being on an athletic team. Older generations were taught that showing up and doing one’s best was normal—a responsibility not deserving of a trophy.
There is a parallel in the Christian life. There are things expected of us as Christians. But we do not receive the “prize” of salvation for doing those works. Scripture makes it abundantly clear that we are saved “by grace . . . through faith,” not by works. Young athletes can take pride in the trophies they win for hard-fought victories. But if we were awarded the prize of salvation for our works, our pride would be a problem. There is only one “work” that has ever earned salvation—the death of Christ out of obedience to the Father. But His death did not earn Hissalvation; He didn’t need to be saved. Instead, His death earned salvation for us. And our works are an imitation of His—our gratitude for His obedience.
Work hard for Christ! But work for the right reason—a “Thank You” for the gift you have received by faith.
The church is a community of the works and words of Jesus.
Ezekiel 18 – 20
by Charles R. Swindoll
Is that a great answer or what? Is this a great woman? She's had only a few moments to consider what Mordecai had told her, a brief slice of time to weigh his counsel. It was all she needed. She is determined to make a difference, no matter what the consequences to her personally: "If I perish, I perish. If a guard drives a sword through my body, I die doing the right thing." She has changed from fear to abandonment and faith, from hesitation to confidence and determination, from concern for her own safety to concern for her people's survival. She has reached her own personal hour of decision and has not been found wanting.
Do you recall when young David was asked by his father to leave the sheep and take some food and supplies to his brothers who were fighting the Philistines at the valley of Elah? When he got there, he found the giant Goliath roaming the battlefield, taunting and blaspheming the God of Israel. When he learns what is going on, he says, in effect, "Let's do something about it." And his older brother, Eliab, laughs and says sarcastic stuff like, "Oh, so you're going to be the big-time hero, huh? How are all those little woollies doing while you're out here on the battlefield with us?" Remember young David's answer? "Is there not a cause?" (1 Samuel 17:29 KJV). Shortly thereafter he whips out his slingshot and downs Goliath with one smooth stone.
"Of course there is a cause!" David implies, if not in words, at least in his actions: "What are you doing sitting around in your tents with your knees knocking? There is a giant out there who hates the cause of the living God! What are you men doing standing here? Our God will fight for me. And if I perish, I perish."
Esther realized the same thing. She realized there was an enemy out there, not only of her people, but more importantly, of the living God. And as soon as that realization seized her awareness, the softness of the palace became uncomfortable.
"Enough of the easy life," said Esther. "It's time to put my name on the line. I am Jewish, and I believe in the living God. I'm ready to stand alone for my people. And if I perish, I perish."
"Is there not a cause" in your heart and mind?
Excerpted from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.
Together, Forever, on the Streets of Gold: City of GoldAnd the city was pure gold, like clear glass. . . . And the street of the city was pure gold, like transparent glass.
Revelation 21:18, 21
Historically, gold has been the most valuable store of wealth and the most malleable. It can be hammered so thin that it actually becomes transparent. Gold reflects yellow and red light, allowing green and blue light to pass through its transparency.
Recommended Reading: Revelation 21:18-23
Perhaps that is a clue to why the New Jerusalem will be made of gold “like clear glass.” Since the glory of God will provide the light for the city, and the Lamb of God will be its light (Revelation 21:23), perhaps the transparency of the golden city is what allows the light of God to shine throughout its gigantic dimensions—a cube 1,400 miles on each side. It is not just the transparency of gold that accounts for it being the substance of the city but its worth. The image of the city as a golden city is another way of saying it is the most valuable place on earth.
It is a shame that so many on earth pursue wealth that will pass away, when an eternal city of gold is theirs for the believing. Don’t confuse temporal with eternal value.
In the streets of that new Jerusalem above, none shall ever complain that others have too much, or that they themselves have too little.
Thomas Brooks, The Crown and the Glory of Christianity
Read-Thru-the-Bible: Ezekiel 13 – 17
A Stolen Bible
Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered.
Ramona grew up in a troubled home. Her mother was a Christian, but her father was an abusive alcoholic. As a young adult, Ramona made many unwise choices, married multiple times, and descended into drug and alcohol abuse. One night at the Pagoda Hotel in Hawaii, she saw a Gideon Bible in one of the drawers and she took it home with her. About two years later, she started reading it. “After reading a while,” she said, “it was like the words on the pages came to life and opened my eyes. God cleansed me of the anger and resentfulness. He set me free.” Her life changed so dramatically that she forgave her father, cared for him in his latter days, and had the joy of leading him to Christ before his death.1
The grace of God is a shaft of light that can penetrate any darkness, illumine any heart, and brighten any life. God’s arms are open to receive us always—regardless of where we’ve been or what we’ve done.
How blessed we are to find and receive the forgiveness of God!
Believe in God’s instant forgiveness. How long does it take you to forgive your child? Time is not considered in forgiveness. The estrangement of a lifetime may be forgiven in the twinkling of an eye.
F. B. Meyer, in Steps Into the Blessed Life
Ezekiel 5 – 8
The Best Laid Schemes
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the LORD, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.
Poor Donald Pugh. He was very upset over the unflattering photograph of him released by the Lima, Ohio, police. He appeared overweight and puffy. Pugh was so unhappy he sent them a much better picture of himself—which led to his arrest. It reminds us of the line by poet Robert Burns: “The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry.”
Our schemes often go awry. God’s never do. Look back over the course of your life. If you’re a child of God, you’ll undoubtedly see how God opened doors, closed doors, directed and redirected, ruled and overruled, and led in paths of righteousness for His name’s sake.
In Jeremiah 29, the Lord told the exiles in Babylonian refugee camps to trust the Lord, for His plans for them were good and He would give them a future and a hope. The plans we make for ourselves are far exceeded by God’s plan for us. So trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths (see Proverbs 3:5-6).
When we want to know God’s will there are three things which always concur: the inward impulse, the Word of God, and the trend of circumstances.
F. B. Meyer
Ezekiel 1 – 4
To Build a Fire
Praise the LORD from the earth, you great sea creatures and all the depths; fire and hail, snow and clouds; stormy wind, fulfilling His word.
Author Jack London wrote a tragic short story called “To Build a Fire” about a man who froze to death on the Yukon Trail because he couldn’t get his fire lit or keep it burning. It’s an illustration of a world that has forgotten to worship.
A lot of churches are like big stacks of waterlogged firewood that will never catch fire on their own. The big backlog of church membership has grown cold and the coals have nearly gone out. The fire in many churches is burning low. God is looking for men and women to serve as kindling wood; and if He can set them on fire, He can bring about revival to the church and set the world on fire with the Gospel. He is looking for true worshipers.
Kindle a fire of worship in your heart and let the Holy Spirit fan it to flames. God cannot be brought down to us; we can only direct our hearts of worship upward to Him. Let’s join the writer of Psalm 148 saying, “Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord from the heavens; praise Him from the heights!”
Yes, friends, love God extravagantly. Thank Him profusely. Worship Him lavishly.
Vernon M. Whaley in “Called to Worship”
Lamentations 3 – 5