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A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his teaching the islands will put their hope.”Isaiah 42:3-4

smoldering wickOur family loves to go camping every opportunity we can. There’s something about hooking up the camper and heading into the woods to get away from it all, even if for only a couple days. On one such camping trip we stopped at the gift shop of the campgrounds we would call home for several days.

While we all love camping, my daughter enjoys it the most. She like the conveniences of a full service campground with playgrounds and pools, but she is equally enthralled with escaping to the remotest places in the world (our world anyway) to enjoy the barest of facilities.

On this particular occasion she saw a fire-starting kit complete with flint and steel. Now, mind you, I am NOT a Boy Scout. My idea of starting a fire in remote areas is making sure my Aim & Flame is fresh and ready to go! However, we bought the kit and proceeded to our campsite to start the fire that would cook our supper.

The task was quite a challenge for one novice and a young child. We tried over and over to get the flame started. A couple times we got a small piece of leaf to smolder but time and again it would die out and we’d have to start over. I confess to you that we gave up. Hunger proved more of an incentive than rustic living!

When Isaiah was writing to the nation of Israel they were a tired nation. Largely due to their own rebellion, they were suffering under enemy rule as God’s judgment of their idolatry. They were tired. They were full of hopelessness. They saw no easy solution to their problems. Many died never seeing the deliverance promised them.

Later, Matthew would quote Isaiah in his gospel. Not many things had changed for Israel. They were still a people under bondage. They were still a people in hopeless despair. They were economically depressed, politically oppressed and religiously distressed. Then Jesus came.

Isaiah’s description of the Messiah was just what the people needed in his day, during the time Jesus walked this earth and today as well.

We need a Savior who will understand the delicacy of a smoldering wick. We need a Savior that understands our fragile condition. We need a Savior that realizes that just one more puff of wind may put an end to our ability to cope.

As we feel the life ebb from our emotional souls it’s easy to look for the easy solution, to look at what I like to call the three R’s of life: Religion, Riches and Relationships. The problem is that we have learned, or are learning the hard way that none of these help. All of them may seem to fan the flame for a time, but eventually they snuff us out.

Jesus didn’t come to snuff out our flame. He didn’t come to break us into submission. This God that can calm the storm; this God that hangs the stars in their place; this God that casts out demons, is also a God of gentleness. He comes to shore us  up in our weakness, to fan the flame that has all but died out in our souls.

Regardless of what is attacking you now, realize that Jesus Christ came to gently, but firmly rekindle the flame within you. It may take time, but he has all the time in the world.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you this morning for the power you showed in the storms of Galilee; how you healed the sick, the lame and those hounded by demons. Most of all, Lord Jesus I thank you that in my weakest moments when I feel the flame of my hope about to be snuffed out, you come to me to fan the flame once again in my soul. Amen.

“Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.” 2 Corinthians 1:21-22

In Old Testament times Shepherds would often poor oil over the heads of the sheep in their flock. Insects and lice would often burrow deep into the wool of the sheep and, if they burrowed into the ears of the sheep they could kill them. The slippery oil made it impossible for the insects to get near the ears and protected the sheep from harm.

Not only did the oil protect, it also soothed the insect bites that the sheep endured. As a result, anointing became a symbol of blessing, protection and empowerment. This meaning was also passed on into daily life. Whenever one was anointed it brought with it the idea of healing or of empowerment. Oil also carries the meaning of being chosen.

Each of the kings of ancient Israel was anointed to show God’s special favor and choosing. Jesus was said to have been anointed by His Heavenly Father with the Holy Spirit as a sign that he was God’s chosen, the Messiah, the Savior of the world.

Oil, of course, offers no special power of its own. It is symbolic of the source of all power, the King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Master designer of the universe. Paul writes, in 2 Corinthians 1:21-22 that, “He who establishes us with you in Christ has anointed us!

The fact that we are anointed by God should encourage each of us. Not only do we have the promise of strength in adversity because we are established by God. We are protected and healed because we are his chosen ones!

Established and anointed. Strengthened and protected. Chosen and healed. Anointed for eternity.

King David was anointed by Samuel as King long before he ascended the throne of Israel. During that waiting period he was threatened, misunderstood, accused falsely and rejected. Eventually however, the promise associated with the anointing came true.

What are you hoping for? What struggle seems to great to endure? What is sapping the strength from your body and robbing you of sleep? Remember, during those toughest times of your life, that you are God’s anointed. There is nothing you can do to deserve this anointing. All you have to do is accept it.

PRAYER: Father God. I praise you today for the reminder that I am your anointed one. I am protected and healed by the oil of your love and have hope for my future because you have chosen me. Empower me to live in the strength of that anointing. Amen.

Even before he made the world, God loved us and chose us in Christ to be holy and without fault in his eyes. Ephesians 1:4 (NLT)

“We won’t really know until we open him up and have a look inside.”
Imagine the feeling of a parent or spouse as they hear those words. Perhaps you don’t have to imagine. You may have been the one in the waiting room praying, worrying, hoping. Trusting God helps, but it doesn’t take away the knot in the stomach.

Even though the tests medical science has come up with are amazing, there is still an element of ‘surprise’ once the surgery begins and the surgeons look inside. Often they don’t really know how to ‘heal’ the situation until they are in the process of the surgery.

Many times we assume that our Heavenly Father is like the surgeon. He sees us and the problems we have. He sees the wound of our souls and has a rough idea of what he will do to make us ‘whole and usable’ for his purpose. He begins the surgery of our heart, but doesn’t really know what will happen until he gets inside of us. His actions are determined by what he discovers inside. Our healing is dependent on discovery.

Viewing God as some great surgeon with scalpel in hand is contrary to the picture that the Bible paints. Even the best of surgeons are dependent on what they see in the present and what they’ve seen in the past. The Father sees your future. The Father sees you in your entirety. He sees your physical limitations, your emotional make-up and your spiritual struggle, and after all that, he chose you!

He isn’t surprised by your addiction. He isn’t surprised by your anger. He isn’t surprised by your struggle with pornography or worry or financial demise. He saw your divorce coming before the earth cooled. He knew all about you and still he chose you.

Not only did he see your present before you saw your past, he sees your future as well. A surgeon looks at your physical condition and determines your prognosis. With the Father your prognosis is dependent on Jesus Christ and what he did for you on the cross. The empty tomb of Christ is a symbol of what the Father thinks of you. Resurrected. Perfect. Eternally blessed. Ready for heaven. Established as his dearly loved children.

PRAYER: Father God, I never tire of the reminder that you loved me enough to choose me even though you knew my weakness. Thank you that your love is based on the person of Jesus Christ and not the mortal soul I am. I’m eternally grateful for the truth that I’m chosen by you. Amen.

Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The earnest prayer of a righteous person has great power and produces wonderful results. James 5:16

A young mom sits alone in the waiting room, waiting for the doctor’s report. Her husband is 1,000’s of miles away. She’s alone. She’s scared. She’s worried for her baby. She earnestly pleads to her Lord Jesus for healing. Moments later the doctor enters. The look on his face tells her the answer. She breaks down in tears as he gently explains the baby’s last moments of life on earth.

A dad tucks in his young children. He looks at the clock. “Where is she tonight? Why hasn’t she called? She promised this wouldn’t happen again. How can she do this to her kids, to me?” He goes to the living room and kneels by the couch and prays, once again, for her. Her unfaithfulness to him hurts, but her unfaithfulness to the kids and to Jesus hurts even more. Earnestly he prays for her safety and for her deliverance. Hours later she comes home drunk, and it’s obvious she’s been in another man’s arms, again.

Pastor Smith listens for the clock to chime. Late again. He wonders where she is. Doubt and worry lead to anger. “Why God? Why can I see you work so strongly in the lives of those in the church and not her? Why do the prayers of her mother and me for our own daughter go unanswered? What has caused her to make these choices that are so radically different from her brother and sisters?” His prayer is interrupted by a door bell. A squad car sits in the driveway. Not again.

It’s been a brutal fight. She’s come to realize why some parents steal their kids to protect them from an angry abusive spouse. All the signs have pointed to her request for her kids to spend less time with their dad have been positive. She has her church praying, her family praying. She’s prayed for his change of heart as well. Then the judge reads the verdict. Her heart melts as the tells the kids the verdict and holds them through terror filled sobs.

Although these stories are fictitious they happen every day. Good people praying earnestly for loved ones. Righteous, faith-filled, Jesus loving moms and dads, pastors, teachers and auto mechanics. Every walk of life. Every denomination. Every country in the world. Praying to a God they trust and believe in for answers that never happen. Where are the wonderful results? Where is their loving Father when they need him most?

Some, to be sure, look at these things as being the final straw. Some turn from him, or blame themselves, or act out in anger. But the person of faith accepts God at his word. Were their words prayers of faith? Yes. Were they asking selfishly? Not from a human perspective anyway. Faith isn’t about believing God answers prayer. Faith is about trusting and accepting God’s answer when it goes against every thing we’d hoped for.

PRAYER: Father God, my prayer today is for my brothers and sisters. For those of us who struggle with our faith from time to time because our prayers aren’t answered as we’d hoped. Help us to trust your answers as best when they seem to be the worst. We know you are a God of hope. We love you. We trust you. Help us grow in that trust. Amen.

If we are not faithful, he will still be faithful, because he must be true to who he is. 2 Timothy 2:13 (NCV)

I sat across the desk from the young woman who, through her tears, shared her story. He’d cheated on her once, while they were engaged. Got caught red-handed so to speak, but they worked through it. She’d decided she loved him enough to forgive him. She believed his tear-filled confession. Her trust in him slowly returned and they were married.

Now, six years later and with two adorable children at home, he once again came to her for forgiveness. He’d met a woman. They’d slept together. He regretted that decision and wanted to ‘come clean’ and be the dad, husband and lover she deserved. She didn’t know if she could go on this way. She wasn’t sure that she could ever trust him again.

I’ve knelt with a man at the altar (a different story). He’d called and asked to meet at the church. I found him in tears sitting at the altar. Three times in the past year he’d gone home with a woman that wasn’t his wife. Someone he’d picked up at the bar. There wasn’t any love, just lust. No relationship, just a desire on the part of both parties to ‘have a little fling’. Now, he had to come clean. His wife had no knowledge of what was coming. They’d been together for nearly 20 years. Four great kids, a successful business and for all appearances, a good wholesome family.

These were ‘good people.’ They were active in our church. They taught Sunday School and greeted visitors. The man went home to his wife and confessed his sin. They went to counseling and the last I heard were completely restored in their relationship. The marriage of the young woman, I’m sad to say, ended in divorce. Too much damage. Too many wounds. .

I don’t tell these stories as a post against marital infidelity, although I certainly could. These stories, which I imagine are played out a thousand times a day, awakened in me a new understanding of the passionate relationship with have with Jesus.

Being unfaithful to your lover hurts. It hurts your lover. It hurts you. It’s a family breaker. While there are, thankfully, many stories of families that have endured the devastation of infidelity, many aren’t able to overcome the hurt, the distrust, the anger.

We all have affairs in our relationship with Jesus. Times in each of our lives when we make decisions that are directly contrary to what he desires of us. Sometimes they are flippant ‘flings’ that catch us unaware. Sometimes they are well-thought out decisions.

The point is this. Regardless of how many times we disappoint Jesus, he will never say enough. No matter how many times we fail to live for him, he will never say ‘I don’t love you anymore’. He knows we’ll fail him…again. He knows we’ll reject his love. But because of who he is, he can never turn his back on us.

If you truly love someone, you will do whatever you can to keep from hurting that person. If you truly love Jesus you will do whatever you can to keep from hurting him. These life stories I shared beg the question each of us must ask: “How have I had an affair with other lovers (lust, money, desire, fame) and hurt my Jesus?”

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I do love you. I realize that I’ve let you down so many times. I don’t know how you can possibly love me after I’ve done so many things against you. Thank you for your forgiveness and grace. Empower me to live to please you and not myself. Amen.

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