The Sojourner’s Trust :: Readers’ Choice

The last sentence has been the zinger for me for the last few months! The over-arching question asked, “What do you really want out of life?” is one I’ll be bringing up with a granddaughter! — Barbara

Readers’ Choice (Originally published January 25, 2017)

Do not rush after the planned work; trust that the time to finish it will be given sometime, and keep a quiet heart about it.

― Annie Keary

Scripture: Genesis 26.3

Sojourn in this land, and I will be with you and will bless you, for to you and to your offspring I will give all these lands, and I will establish the oath that I swore to Abraham your father.

Reflection: The Sojourner’s Trust
By Elisabeth Elliot

What do we really want in life? Sometimes I have the chance to ask this question of high school or college students. I am surprised at how few have a ready answer. Oh, they could come up with quite a long list of things, but is there one thing above all others that they desire?

One thing have I asked of the Lord,” said David, “this is what I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life.” To the rich young man who wanted eternal life Jesus said, “One thing you lack… go sell everything.” In the parable of the sower Jesus tells us that the seed which is choked by thorns has fallen into a heart clogged with the worries of this life, the deceitfulness of riches, and the desire for other things.

The apostle Paul said, “One thing I do: forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”

A quiet heart is content with what God gives. It is enough. All is grace. Response is what matters. Remember that our forefathers were all guided by the pillar of cloud, all passed through the sea, all ate and drank the same spiritual food and drink, but God was not pleased with most of them.

Their response was all wrong. Bitter about the portions allowed they indulged in idolatry, gluttony, and sexual sin. The same almighty God apportioned their experiences. All events serve his will. Some responded in faith, most did not.

God came down and lived in this same world, as a man. He showed us how to live in this world, subject to its vicissitudes and necessities, that we might be changed—not into an angel or a storybook princess, not wafted into another world, but changed into saints in this world. The secret is Christ in me, not a different set of circumstances.

*Abridged from The Elisabeth Elliot Newsletter, March/April 1995.

The Refrain
Happy are the people whose strength is in you; whose hearts are set on the pilgrim’s way.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Judges 9 (Listen – 8:22)
Acts 13 (Listen – 7:36)

The Lord Be With You :: Readers’ Choice

 I love how this separates God’s presence from success and his absence from failure. How many of us need to shed the circumstantial “god” for the reality of Christ. — Jason

Readers’ Choice (Originally published February 8, 2017)

Since the Lord was with him there he was comforted; it would be infinitely better to be there with God than on the throne of Pharaoh without God.

― Charles Haddon Spurgeon

Scripture: Genesis 41.14

Then Pharaoh sent and called Joseph, and they quickly brought him out of the pit.

Reflection: The Lord Be With You
By Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)

Scripture frequently sums up a man’s life in a single sentence. Here is the biography of Joseph sketched by inspiration: “God was with him”—so Stephen testified in his famous speech recorded in Acts.

Observe, however, that the portraits of Scripture give us not only the outer, but the inner life of the man. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks upon the heart; and so the Scriptural descriptions of men are not of their visible life alone, but of their spiritual life. Here we have Joseph as God saw him, the real Joseph.

Externally it did not always appear that God was with him, for he did not always seem to be a prosperous man; but when you come to look into the inmost soul of this servant of God, you see his true likeness—he lived in communion with the Most High, and God blessed him.

Furthermore, “The Lord was with Joseph,” but it did not screen him from temptation of the worst kind: it did not prevent his mistress casting her wicked eyes upon him. The best of men may be tempted to the worst of crimes.

The presence of God did not screen him from slander: the base woman accused him of outrageous wickedness, and God permitted Potiphar to believe her. You and I would have said, “If the Lord be with us how can this evil happen to us?” Ah, but the Lord was with him, and yet he was a slandered man.

The divine presence did not screen him from pain: he sat in prison wearing fetters till the iron entered into his soul, and yet “The Lord was with him.” That presence did not save him from disappointment. He said to the butler, “Think of me when it is well with thee”; but the butler altogether forgot him.

Everything may seem to go against you, and yet God may be with you. The Lord does not promise you that you shall have what looks like prosperity, but you shall have what is real prosperity in the best sense.

*Abridged and language updated from A Miniature Portrait Of Joseph by Charles Haddon Spurgeon.

The Request for Presence
Show us your mercy, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Judges 8 (Listen – 5:08)
Acts 12 (Listen – 3:49)

Placing Trust in God :: Readers’ Choice

This post was a needed reminder of the idols the Lord had revealed to me that were in my life. And how good, gracious, and patient God is with me. And how his goodness and kindness made me want to turn away from my idols and to him for my identity, value, and worth. — Daniel

Readers’ Choice (Originally published May 10, 2017)

We say with our mouths that we believe in him, but we live with our lives like he never existed.

― Dr. Martin Luther King

Scripture: Psalm 56.11

In God I trust; I shall not be afraid. What can man do to me?

Reflection: Placing Trust in God
By Dr. Martin Luther King (1929-1968)

There is something wrong with our world, something fundamentally and basically wrong. I don’t think we have to look too far to see that. I’m sure that most of you would agree with me in making that assertion. And when we stop to analyze the cause of our world’s ills, many things come to mind.

We begin to wonder if it is due to the fact that we don’t know enough. But it can’t be that. Because in terms of accumulated knowledge we know more today than men have known in any period of human history. I think we have to look much deeper than that if we are to find the real cause of man’s problems and the real cause of the world’s ills today. If we are to really find it I think we will have to look in the hearts and souls of men. (Lord help him.)

We must remember that it’s possible to affirm the existence of God with your lips and deny his existence with your life. (Amen, Preach.) The most dangerous type of atheism is not theoretical atheism, but practical atheism. (Lord have mercy.) And I think, my friends, that that is the thing that has happened in America. That we have unconsciously left God behind. Now, we haven’t consciously done it; we have unconsciously done it.

The materialism in America has been an unconscious thing. Since the rise of the Industrial Revolution in England, and then the invention of all of our gadgets and contrivances and all of the things and modern conveniences—we unconsciously left God behind. We didn’t mean to do it.

I decided early (Oh yeah.) to give my life to something eternal and absolute. (All right.) Not to these little gods that are here today and gone tomorrow, (Come on.) but to God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Amen, Amen) Not in the little gods that can be with us in a few moments of prosperity, (Yes.) but in the God who walks with us through the valley of the shadow of death, (That’s right.) and causes us to fear no evil. (All right.) That’s the God. (Come on.)

Go out and be assured that that God is going to last forever. (Yes.) Storms might come and go. (Yes.) Our great skyscraping buildings will come and go. (Yes.) Our beautiful automobiles will come and go, but God will be here. (Amen.) Plants may wither, the flowers may fade away, but the word of our God shall stand forever and nothing can ever stop him.

*Abridged from Dr. Martin Luther King’s, Rediscovering Lost Values. Audio (30:25)

The Request for Presence
Let them know that this is your hand, that you, O Lord, have done it.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Judges 7 (Listen – 4:39)
Acts 11 (Listen – 3:52)

Rushing to Hell :: Readers’ Choice

I find this comforting. — Michelle

“(C.S.) Lewis depicts the damned as rushing insistently into their hells, despite the efforts of God to persuade them not to.” — Douglas Beyer.

Michelle is praying for the salvation of a family member. Join her today in prayer. — John

Readers’ Choice (Originally published May 24, 2017)

All Hell is smaller than one pebble of [the] earthly world.

―C.S. Lewis

Scripture: Psalm 78:11

They forgot his works and the wonders that he had shown them.

Reflection: Rushing to Hell
By Steven Dilla

Hell is distance from God; heaven is intimacy with him. It is a mistake to talk about hell as a problem in need of a solution—as if each of us has been left alone to earn our own way out of such desolation and hopelessness. The reality, as unsettling as it may be, is that humanity finds itself rejecting the solution to hell which has already been provided—Christ himself.

“The doors of Hell are locked on the inside,” C.S. Lewis says in The Problem of Pain“:

I do not mean that the ghosts may not wish to come out of Hell, in the vague fashion wherein an envious man ‘wishes’ to be happy: but they certainly do not will even the first preliminary stages of that self-abandonment through which alone the soul can reach any good. They enjoy forever the horrible freedom they have demanded, and are therefore self-enslaved.

In his work Seeing Hell through the Reason and Imagination of C. S. Lewis, Douglas Beyer summarizes, “The saved go to a place prepared for them, while the damned go to a place never made for men at all. To enter heaven is to become more human than you ever succeeded in being in earth; to enter Hell, is to be banished from humanity.”

Yet because of our pride and brokenness we reject not only the place prepared, but the One who prepared it. Beyer sees this theme pervasively in Lewis’ work. He concludes, “Lewis depicts the damned as rushing insistently into their hells, despite the efforts of God to persuade them not to.”

Christ is God’s magnificent effort—not only to persuade, but to sufficiently meet every need, answer every longing, and fulfill every hope. It is in Christ that we find not merely the solution to our greatest problem, but also everything we need to thrive in life and flourish for eternity.

“The blessed,” Lewis concludes, “forever submitting to obedience, become through all eternity more and more free.”

A Reading
Jesus taught us, saying: “Enter by the narrow gate, since the road that leads to destruction is wide and spacious, and many take it…”

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Judges 4 (Listen – 3:57)
Acts 8 (Listen – 5:10)

This Weekend’s Readings
Judges 5 (Listen – 4:36) Acts 9 (Listen – 6:05)
Judges 6 (Listen – 6:15) Acts 10 (Listen – 5:49)

The Necessity of The Spirit

We pause Readers’ Choice today to take a closer look at a common thread in today’s readings in Judges and Acts. Readers’ Choice will resume tomorrow. — John

Scripture: Acts 7.55
But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God.

Reflection: The Necessity of The Spirit
By John Tillman

Many times in Judges, the Israelites rebelled over the course of one generation and from the next generation a Judge would rise up to save them. But not the first Judge, Othniel. He had been there the whole time.

Othniel was already a great hero of Israel. He had every advantage and privilege available to him at that time. He was wealthy from his military conquests. He was part of an influential family. He was a seasoned military leader. He even had a strong spiritual heritage, being from the family of Caleb, a mighty hero of faith. But despite this, Israel suffered and Othniel could not save them. Until God’s Spirit came on him.

Othniel may have been a great leader and a great warrior. But it was the Spirit of God, not Othniel or his skills that saved Israel. In Othniel’s day, the Spirit of The Lord coming on a leader was a miraculous event—something that rarely happened. But in our case the miracle has already occurred. The only thing keeping us from accessing the Holy Spirit is…us.

Jesus promised the Holy Spirit and told the disciples that it is to our benefit that he leave and the Spirit come. But the benefit may not be something that looks like victory to the world. In Acts today we read of Stephen, who was filled with the Spirit and spoke with power and was stoned to death.

Othniel and Stephen are two men touched and led by the Spirit of God to very different outcomes from the world’s point of view—one a victor and one a victim. In many ways, the Kingdom perspective of their situations is the reverse of the worldly outcome.

Othniel seems to have won a great victory, until you read a few verses on and 40 years later, Israel is back in the same predicament. Stephen seems to have lost everything, until you read a few chapters and discover in 40 years that the church he died for was spread across the known world by one of the very men who helped put him to death.

We need the Spirit in our lives not because our skills, our wealth, and our influence cannot accomplish things of significance, but because what is truly significant is often hidden, like a treasure buried in a field, and we must follow the Spirit, forsaking all else to find it.

The Concluding Prayer of the Church
Renew in my heart, O God, the gift of your Holy Spirit, so that I may love you fully in all that I do and love others as Christ loves me. May all that I do proclaim the good news that you are God with me. Amen.

– From 
The Divine Hours: Prayers for Summertime by Phyllis Tickle.

Full prayer available online and in print.

Today’s Readings
Judges 3 (Listen – 4:30)
Acts 7 (Listen – 8:49)

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