“The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23). We just came through a truly amazing Sunday with our guests from Chicago Tabernacle. I was especially blessed and moved while listening to the message Sunday morning. When I listen to a sermon, I try to stay “open” for a special word from the Lord for my own heart. The word that came to me was, “Don’t doubt God’s faithfulness.” The Scripture above from Lamentations proclaims God’s faithfulness and steadfast love (written by Jeremiah) in the backdrop of sorrows and tragedies which had befallen Israel. God warned them over and over, but they ignored Him and instead chose to do evil—which led to great suffering. But God is reminding His people that He hasn’t given up on them! There is a future for the people of God—even if the present may look bleak. Pastor Al brought out a story from his own family that I will never forget…and which I have already shared with others. He mentioned how one of his children, many years ago, was wandering away from God. This caused great pain to both parents (Pastor Al and Chrissy). Chrissy especially was distraught about this and sought God diligently. In the midst of her prayers, God spoke a word to her heart! She took this word and immediately shared it with her husband. God said to her, “If you worry, then I’m not faithful.” Wow, this is powerful! God wasn’t saying to her that He quit being faithful. He was challenging her to keep trusting His faithfulness in spite of what she did not see. God does not fail! However, if we choose to embrace worry, in essence we are saying, “God, You’re not who You say You are. You’re not faithful!” I received this word and thought about the challenges I face in life. I am just like you; I am tempted to doubt and complain when things don’t go as I expect. But then I look back and recount God’s consistent faithfulness. Then I ask myself, “Why should I choose worry when I can give myself to the Lord and receive His strength to trust. I can believe Him in the present because He has always been faithful in the past. By His grace, let’s declare, “Great is thy faithfulness!”
“To hear or not to hear.” This, to me, is the message of Jeremiah to the nation of Israel. The leaders and people had abandoned the Lord and His word and expected the same prosperity and blessing to which they were accustomed. However, judgment came as the Babylonians swept down from the north and destroyed the cities and scattered the people. Even after all this, amazingly, the people interpreted these judgments only through the filter of their own imaginations. Instead of acknowledging the Lord and humbling themselves, they dug deeper into idolatry. Here’s their response to Jeremiah: “We will not listen to the message you have spoken to us in the name of the Lord! We will certainly do everything we said we would: We will burn incense to the Queen of Heaven and will pour out drink offerings to her just as we and our ancestors, our kings and our officials did in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem. At that time we had plenty of food and were well off and suffered no harm. But ever since we stopped burning incense to the Queen of Heaven and pouring out drink offerings to her, we have had nothing and have been perishing by sword and famine” (Jeremiah 44:16-18). So, the people left God completely out of their circumstances! They interpreted their extreme trials as coming from displeasing “the Queen of Heaven.” By not listening to the Word of the Lord, they totally missed His will for them. As I read this from Jeremiah, I wondered about the many ways our country turns a deaf ear to and misinterprets His voice speaking to us. We feel the discipline of COVID…. We experience the trials of hurricanes, fires, and floods, and we suffer massive social problems. Yet, we so easily blame other countries, climate change, politics, or racism for all our issues. Don’t get me wrong…. I am all for making steps to improve our world. But lets’ get it straight. We need to repent and get right with God. Nothing else we do will ultimately succeed if we ignore Him. If this Pastor’s Pen received a wide reading audience, I’m sure most Americans would mock and call my thoughts “simplistic generalities of a Bible-thumping fanatic.” It really doesn’t matter if people listen to me. My prayer is for the people of our nation to turn and hear the Word of the Lord. When we hear right, we rightly interpret the signs of the times!
The popular idiom, “Home is where the heart is,” was coined by Roman philosopher Gaius Plinius Secundus. One need not stretch his or her imagination in an effort to conclude the gist or meaning of this phrase; it’s pretty straightforward. The people and or environment you long to surround yourself with most are usually located at the place you reside—your home. Therefore, it would be safe to say that your heart cherishes and values all which comprises the home (family, etc.) so much so that, no matter where travels may take you, a yearning to be back home is always prevalent. Our God, who is infinite and omnipresent, does not require a space or structure to call home. However, the Lord Jesus desires and yearns to reside within our hearts. The Psalmist proclaims “Lord, I love the house where you live, the place where your glory dwells” (Psalm 26:8). In this verse David is referring to the Tabernacle—where the Ark of the Covenant was located. But, as we have come to learn and understand, the Spirit of the Lord not only dwells within structures, He also seeks to make our hearts His home. This is the reason why directly after we confess our sins and repent, we invite the Holy Spirit to enter our hearts and minds so that we may be transformed from a temple (vessel) void of God to one in which He now resides. Have you made your heart available as a place the Lord can call home? When we take inventory of ourselves, will we find hearts filled with contempt, bitterness, despair, and hate? Or will we find “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control”? (Galatians 5:22-23). So, if home is where the heart is, then our hearts should be where the Lord’s home is. Having our hearts as a dwelling place for God’s Spirit and Word facilitates the mighty and miraculous work the Holy Spirit conducts in our lives. “Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11). I’m sure most of us, more than likely, would not want to go somewhere to which we were not invited. In this sense the Lord feels the same. As He desires to make our hearts His home, we must invite Him in with wide open, welcoming arms! Let us remind ourselves every day to ask God to make our hearts His home.
“Enoch walked with God; then he was no more, because God took him away” (Genesis 5:24). I love this statement concerning Enoch…he “walked with God”! In the Bible the word walk is associated with how we live. When you think about it, every day is more of a walk than a sprint or even a jog. We put one step in front of the other and proceed from one thing to another. Prayer is a special part of our walk with God. Sometimes people have asked me questions such as: “How much should I pray each day?” or “What if I don’t have time to sit quietly before God in prayer?” We need to be careful that we don’t approach God like a time clock. He’s not interested in us simply “doing our duty” and getting our prayers out of the way. The longer I live with the Lord, the more I understand prayer as living in relationship with God—not just a segment of time I spend in being still before Him. Please don’t get me wrong. I believe it’s vital to develop quiet time with God. In the morning I set aside time to seek Him in a quiet place. However, when I leave my quiet place, I don’t leave prayer behind. My daily devotionals teach me the importance of prayer being a mindset and fellowship with the Lord throughout the day. Walking with God is a life of companionship with Him, not just a “devotional time.” You can live in a spirit of prayer while doing the dishes, working on the house, or sitting in an office. The Bible is filled with promises for those who acknowledge God in a trusting relationship. Proverbs 3:6 says, “In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight.” God delights in leading His children into His paths. Our responsibility is simply to walk with Him in a state of constant “communion,” breathing out prayers and praises to Him as we walk around. Jesus told us the Father is looking for those who will worship in “spirit and truth” (John 4:23). God is searching for people who allow themselves to be real with Him. This Pastor’s Pen may seem quite elementary, but be careful that you don’t skip over the essentials and major in the small details of life. Love the Lord and walk with Him!