Devotion of the Week | Pearls of Promise

Do You Follow at a Distance? By Lisa Burkhardt Worley

I’m an over-cautious driver. One lesson I learned in Driver’s Ed years ago was to leave at least two car lengths between me and the car ahead. When I see brake lights, I start slowing down. But following at a distance is not always the best practice, especially when it comes to our Christian faith.

For years, I followed Jesus at a distance, as I was too caught up with climbing the ladder in my chosen field of television. I believed in Jesus and had prayed a prayer to receive Him as Savior in high school but fell away for seventeen years once I went off to college. Bible reading, prayer and church were more the exceptions than the rule.

I was not unlike many who scattered when Jesus was arrested, then crucified. His own disciples fled when their Rabbi and Mentor was hauled away by authorities. During one of Jesus’ trials at the high priest’s house, Scripture says Peter “followed at a distance” and later denied knowing Jesus.

After he died on the cross, Luke 23:49 says, “But all His acquaintances, and the women who followed Him from Galilee, stood at a distance, watching these things.”

I’m wondering today, “Do you still stand at a distance, or are you a close follower of Jesus Christ?”

My own life transformed when I quick lagging back in my faith, and chased after Jesus. Today, there’s nothing I desire more than experiencing the power of the resurrection daily through a close, intimate relationship with the Savior whose sacrifice on the cross was a game changer for mankind.

What happens when we cut the distance between us and Jesus?

In Luke 24, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary, the mother of James and other women drew near, by going to the tomb with spices for Jesus’ body. They encountered two angels.

When Peter quit running away and ran back to the tomb to see for himself that Jesus’ body was no longer there, he was later used as a mighty man of faith and was the first to deliver the Gospel message through the power of the Holy Spirit.

When two men walking on the road to Emmaus, drew near to Jesus in their thoughts, and contemplated the meaning of the empty tomb, Jesus appeared to them.

Things happen when we quit following at a distance. We run head on into the Savior of the world.

Do you need more victory in your life? Are you tired of doing things your way with subpar results?

Then move from the periphery into Jesus’ presence. Discover what others have found when they drew near to the resurrected Christ: supernatural encounters, direction, peace and fulfillment. These are fringe benefits of the resurrection, gifts from Jesus at Easter. We just have to move closer to open them.

Come near to me and he will come near to you. (James 4:8).

Finally, I See Who God Created by Dr. Lynnette Simm

I heard it said, those who are called are never uncalled. That statement really struck me because I’ve been in a season of transition these last few years. I went from a hands-on mother and college professor to an author and ministry volunteer. My last child will be entering college this fall, and I have been searching for what the Lord has for me now.

I have always felt called to help others. Others have said, I have a nurturing heart, yet I always doubted how my empathic nature could serve the Lord. I tried to be the kind of mother that my daughters could always come to with anything and feel unconditional love. I have tried to be the college professor that had high expectations for her students yet understood the individual and cared about them. As a wife, I’ve wanted to be good, supportive partner while pursuing life as me.

Yet it’s that “life” as just Lynnette, servant to the Lord, that I have not figured out. What do I have to offer the Lord? I weep easily. I get overwhelmed quickly. I struggle with depression and anxiety. I am insecure. I lack patience. I could go on and on. However, what I have learned in these transitional years is that the Lord wastes nothing.

He doesn’t waste one day. Constantly He gives us experiences to learn and grow. It’s in the little things like taking the trash to the curb so my husband doesn’t have to. It’s organizing my daughter’s closet so she learns how. It’s calling my college daughter and listening to her as she details every moment of the last five hours since we texted earlier. It’s taking time to share pray requests and invite others to come and fellowship together. It’s taking that late-night call from a friend whose daughter is just entering into the teenage years. It’s time to comfort my mother when she’s sick. So many moments I had thought were wasted because I was not doing something for the Lord’s kingdom. God knew who He created when He made me Lynnette. He knew the daughter, sister, wife, mother, friend, and servant I would become.

I now know the Lord created me with special skills that only I can share. The Lord gave me experiences that I can draw on to comfort, encourage, and love on others. I have learned and continue to learn who the Lord created in me. I do not know all the Lord has for me or where my life with Jesus will take me, but I know He does. Finally, I am secure in who I am. I am His.  

Romans 8:28-30 (NIV) says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

If you are feeling like you don’t know what you’re doing in this world, or what you’ll do next, look no further than to the one who created you. God knows the plans He has for you. Call on Him, seek Him and He promises to be there for you.

Finally, see who God created YOU to be.

What is your Tower of Babel?

Strengths. We all have them; however we get into trouble when we don’t realize where those strengths originated.

This week I was reading in Genesis 11 about the Tower of Babel. At one time the whole earth had one language and one speech. That would eliminate the language elective at school! However, this convenience from God was abused. The people decide to organize, build a city, as well as a tower that would reach the heavens. In other words, they wanted to be like God.

They took advantage of their advantage.

That didn’t make the Lord happy. He said, “Indeed, the people are one and they all have one language, and this is what they begin to do; now nothing that they propose to do will be withheld from them” (Genesis 11:6). It didn’t take the Almighty long to thwart the man-made plan. He confused the language and scattered the people all over the earth. That area of land was later called “Babel,” for obvious reasons.

Fast forward to Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit makes His grand entrance. After hearing the roar of the “rushing mighty wind” from heaven, a crowd gathers, made up of Jews from other nations. On a normal day, it would sound like babbling coming from the large gathering, due to the different tongues represented. Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, is at the pulpit, presenting his first sermon, post-resurrection. Miraculously, everyone can understand what he’s saying in their own language, and for a moment, there’s no more babbling. A miracle!

As I compared these two passages side-by-side, I realized that the first time God confused the language because the people used this gift to glorify themselves, not God. They wanted to be like God. In Acts, it was God who received the glory, glory the people of Babel tried to steal from him, when he chose to “un-confuse” the language for a moment and make the Gospel message understandable to all. It would be like taking a trip around the world and comprehending everything that is said in every country. It would be supernatural—no other way to explain it.

Have you ever tried to build a Tower of Babel? In other words, Have you ever glorified yourself rather than God?

This past week, I caught myself building a tower. I wasn’t recognized for something I work very hard at, and began to tell a person about all the time I spend doing it. Brick-by-brick, I was listing every task I complete each week—babbling and building my tower up, but my tower looked more like the Leaning Tower of Pisa than a strong tower. The glory should have gone to God. I should have humbled myself, knowing that any giftedness I possess comes from above, and whatever I do, “I do it from the heart, as something done for the Lord and not for people” (Colossians 3:23).

When we start boasting, we’re stealing the glory from the One who should receive all the glory. We’re building a tower.

Don’t get me wrong. It’s good to press into our giftedness.

It’s perfectly fine to realize who we were created to be.

It’s acceptable to appreciate the way we were designed.

But we did not make any of this happen. It’s all God’s doing.

He is the strong tower.

We are his beloved creatures.

He should be exalted (Psalm 150:6).

Today, I want to give God all the glory for who I am, for everything he’s allowed me to accomplish, and for the creative gift he entrusted to me. I know I am nothing without Him.

Lord, whenever I start to build a tower, please tear it down. AMEN.

(LBW)

Invisible Pain by Dr. Lynnette Simm

For much of my life I didn’t think people would like me, let alone love me, if they knew me. All my mistakes, guilt, and shame that I harbored kept me isolated from true relationships. I suffered with depression and anxiety that attacked and crippled me. I didn’t think anyone else could, should, or would understand those things. I suffered for years in the prison I created, feeling invisible in the world.

When I did share my pain, some people would say, “Get over it.” “Forgive and forget.” Others would say, “You don’t need medical help or medications so it’s not that bad.”  

Rejected and dismissed, I would wrap up my wound and try to hide it, but it was bleeding out. Sometimes the wound would begin to heal, but then I would rip the scab off in order to gain attention. Other times someone else would unintentionally or intentionally poke at my wounds or rip the scab off. A vicious cycle would ensue of hiding, festering, and then sharing, only to be rejected again. I was utterly alone as the cycles became closer in frequency and stronger intensity.

Then, on the brink of losing everything I reached out in desperation and God was there. I began my Christian counseling and learned that I was not alone. For years I worked on finding my voice. I learned to lean on the Lord, and not others, to heal me and validate me. As I slowly became confident in who I am, I began to open up to my inner circle of family and friends. Slowly, I shared my past invisible pain and the healing I received once I was forgiven in the name of Jesus Christ. I took that pain and turned it into compassion and forgiveness. Deep abiding peace and joy began to fill my life and my relationships grew in ways I never could have dreamed.

I am not alone. Nearly everyone has a hurt/wound that is invisible. Pain that comes from abuse, rejection, humiliation, illness, or just life. Wounds that no one sees, but God knows. He sees all of us and loves us.

Seek Him and He will change your life.

“So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

Where Do You Go With Deep Anguish?

Have you ever experienced deep emotional anguish that threatened to take you down?

I have a friend who suffered a health scare recently, and a friend of a friend who lost her son unexpectedly this past week. In both scenarios these women might be angry at God and ask questions like: “Why did you let this happen?” “What purpose is there in this?”

While my “dark night of the soul” pales in comparison to these two situations, it happened after my move to North Texas fourteen years ago. After living in a South-Texas community where I was considered a leader and was known because of my days on television, I went to a place where I was unknown, and in some ways shunned because I was in seminary. I felt like I lost my identity. I was lonely. I hadn’t discovered my new purpose. I could hardly put one foot in front of the other as I trudged from class-to-class at school. It is a miracle that I finished my degree.

So how did I break through this deep anguish?

When lost, we always have to go back to the Word of God to see how our perfect Teacher, Jesus, handled his deep pain.

Jesus Trusted God Despite the Circumstances.

Jesus knew the cross was coming and with the disciples nearby, was spending his last moments of freedom in prayer at the Garden of Gethsemane. He prayed, “Father, if it is your will take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Jesus trusted that this was a part of a bigger plan, even though he had to die to accomplish it.

Jesus Was Strengthened Through Prayer.

When we’re mad at God, prayer may be the last thing we want to do, but it is the first place we should go. After Jesus prayed, Luke 22:43 says, “Then an angel appeared to Him from heaven, strengthening Him.” Have you ever seen someone go through a difficult trial yet they had an incredible peace? That is a peace that only comes through prayer, and perhaps after the prayer, the Holy Spirit provided the comfort they needed. It’s not hard to fathom that God also sent one of his angels to strengthen them. There is an unseen world surrounding us.

Jesus Asked Others to Pray for Him.

Often times, these periods of deep anguish are too much for us to handle alone. We have to ask trusted friends to pray with us, and for us. When Jesus rose from his time of prayer, He found the disciples sleeping. Were they just tuckered out? No, Luke 22:45 says they were sleeping because of their own sorrow. And what did Jesus say to them? “Why do you sleep? Rise and pray lest you enter into temptation.”

It is tempting to stay in bed, pull the covers over our heads, and retreat from the world when pressed down by deep anguish, but God wants us to be proactive. He desires for us to reach out to others for help and press into Him through prayer, so He can guide us out of the thick fog to a place where the sun is shining in our life again. He doesn’t want us to feel alone in the journey.

In my case, the Lord introduced me to a friend and prayer partner. We spent many days on our knees praying over all that was troubling. It was a powerful time of prayer where we saw God’s hand on both our lives, as well as our family’s lives. I began to see the scenario from His perspective. I realized he allowed this time of isolation so I’d spend more time with Him, and to prepare me for a new calling as a minister to women. He had to tear away the old Lisa where everything came easy, to the new Lisa who relied on God for everything.

Are you going through deep anguish? Trust God. Spend time with Him. Remember how He’s brought you through difficult situations in the past. Life is hard, but the Lord wants to love you through it.

“And I said, ‘This is my anguish; but I will remember the years of the right hand of the Most High. I will remember the works of the LORD; Surely I will remember Your wonders of old.’”

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