“Hold Fast To God” (Deuteronomy 13: 4, ESV) by Carley Evans

“You shall walk after the Lord your God.”

Jesus says, “Follow Me” to His disciples. He says to the paralytic, “Take heart, my son; your sins are forgiven.” (Matthew 9: 2) Some of the scribes accuse Jesus of blasphemy. So Jesus asks, “Why do you think evil in your hearts?” Then he turns to the paralyzed man, saying: “Rise, pick up your bed and go home.” (Matthew 9: 4, 6)

Jesus challenges us: “Which is easier, to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven, or to say, ‘Rise and walk’?”

“You shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.”

Jesus says, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins — and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” (Mark 2: 22)

Jesus makes us new creations and fills us with His Holy Spirit.

Jesus says, “There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.” (Mark 7: 14 – 15)

“Fear Him and keep His commandments and obey His voice.”

Paul writes for us to present ourselves to God as “slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification.” (Romans 6: 19) We are “set free from sin.” (Romans 6: 22) “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 6: 23)

Don’t walk in front of God. Step in behind Him, following in His footsteps — one at a time. Walk after Him, fear Him, serve him, obey His voice. Hold fast to God.

“Formed For God” (Isaiah 43: 11 – 12, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Fear not,” says God, “for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are Mine.” (Isaiah 43: 1) God declares: You belong to Him. You are saved; He has marked you with His Seal, the promised Holy Spirit. He says to you, “I Am the Lord your God, the Holy One of Israel, your Savior.” (Isaiah 43: 3)

“You are precious in My eyes, and honored, and I love you.” (Isaiah 43: 4) God tells you how much He loves you. You are akin to His Only Begotten Son. You have a place of honor in His house.

“Fear not, I Am with you.” (Isaiah 43: 5) Since the Mighty God is on your side, what have you to fear?

God says I Am going to say to the four corners of the earth — give up My people. “Do not withhold; bring My sons from afar and my daughters from the ends of the earth, everyone who is called by My Name, whom I created for My glory, whom I formed and made.” (Isaiah 43: 6 – 7) One day, you and I and all other believers marked with His Seal will be drawn together to stand in His glory.

“Also,” declares our God, “henceforth I Am He; there is none who can deliver from My hand; I work, and who can turn it back?” (Isaiah 43: 13) When God has done these works, no one is able to undo them. No one can turn back that which God has purposed.

“Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I Am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert…for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert to give drink to My chosen people, the people whom I formed for Myself that they might declare My praise.” (Isaiah 43: 18 – 21)

Since you and I are formed for God, let us praise Him. Amen.

“Refuge In A Desert” (Psalm 63: 1, ESV) by Carley Evans

Life here on earth is often like life in the desert — a life without water, without shelter, without the company of friends. David sings to God, “My soul thirsts for You, my flesh faints for You, as in a dry and weary land where there is no water.”

Despite this desert surrounding him, David beholds God’s power and glory. He sings, “Because Your steadfast love is better than life, my lips will praise You.” (Psalm 63: 3)

He claims that he will be satisfied as “with fat and rich food.” (Psalm 63: 5) His satisfaction comes as he “meditates on [God] in the watches of the night” or “looks upon [God] in the sanctuary.” (Psalm 63: 6, 2)

David is able to stand in the desert because God is his help, and “in the shadow of [His] wings, [he] sings for joy.” (Psalm 63: 7)

God’s right hand grasps David, holding him steady in the heat, weariness, and dryness of life.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him. He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken. On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. Trust in Him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before Him; God is a refuge for us.” (Psalm 62: 5 – 8)

“Perfect Peace” (Isaiah 26: 4, ESV) by Carley Evans

When I focus on the Lord, my mind is kept in perfect peace. As long as Peter keeps his eyes on Jesus walking on the water, he is able to walk on water, too. As long as I know my Lord is an everlasting rock upon which I am able to stand, I will remain there; and I will not fear the storms which rage about me. Peter only sinks when he loses his focus on Christ.

Peter throws his net out because Jesus tells him to do so. He doesn’t really expect results. Yet, Peter catches fish — so many fish. He catches fish because he trusts Jesus.

Miracles happen, even when I don’t expect them. I turn and see them, surprised and delighted that God loves me so much. He protects me; and my gratitude is palpable. In the ordinary chain of events which should result in disaster — but miraculously don’t, I see God’s hand.

I doubt that Peter, James, and John expect Jesus to transfigure before them on the mountaintop. I imagine they are pleased to be spending time with Him, time alone on a hike. But, I doubt they expect to see His face shine “like the sun, and His clothes become white as light.” (Matthew 17: 2)

So often, the ordinary turns extraordinary. God appears, fully evident to us. Peter, James, and John want to build three tents, and stay there! Thrilled to experience the full glory of God, they decide it is “good that we are here.” (Matthew 17: 4)

Better to carry that mountaintop experience with you — by trusting in the Lord. Keep your mind “stayed on” God; and He “will keep [you] in perfect peace.” (Isaiah 26: 3)

“Salvation In Two Steps” (Ezekiel 20: 43 – 44) by Carley Evans

Salvation in two straightforward steps here in Ezekiel: the first step is “and you shall loathe yourself for all the evils that you have committed;” and the second step is “and you shall know that I Am the Lord, when I deal with you for My Name’s sake, not according to your evil ways, nor according to your corrupt deeds.”God says, “As a pleasing aroma I will accept you, when I bring you out from the peoples and gather you out of the countries where you have been scattered. And I will manifest My Holiness among you in the sight of the nations. And you shall know that I Am the Lord.” (Ezekiel 20: 41 – 42)

“[You] shall not defile [yourselves] anymore with [your] idols and [your] detestable things, or with any of [your] transgressions. But I will save [you] from all [your] back-slidings in which [you] have sinned, and will cleanse [you]; and [you] shall be My People, and I will be [your] God. My Servant, David shall be King over [you], and [you] shall all have One Shepherd . [You] shall walk in My rules and shall be careful to obey My statutes…and David, My Servant shall be [your] Prince forever. I will make a covenant of peace with [you]. It shall be an everlasting covenant with [you].” (Ezekiel 37: 23 – 24, 26)

Recognize, accept your core unworthiness — your sin. Then, recognize, accept God’s willingness and ability to forgive and to make you His own.

“While He May Be Found” (Isaiah 55: 6, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Seek the Lord while He may be found; call upon Him while He is near.”

Jesus walks along the Sea of Galilee and sees two brothers, Peter and Andrew casting a net into the water in order to make their living as they are fishermen. Jesus says to them, “Follow Me.” (Matthew 4: 19) “Immediately they leave their nets and follow Him.” (Matthew 4: 20)

Jesus walks on, and sees two more brothers — James and John. They are mending their nets with their father. Jesus calls them. “Immediately they leave the boat and their father and follow Him.” (Matthew 4: 22)

Jesus sees a tax collector, Levi sitting at the tax booth. He says to him, ” ‘Follow Me.’ And leaving everything, he rises and follows Him.” (Luke 5: 27 – 28)

Jesus is right there, tangible. Each of these men has the opportunity to literally drop everything and follow Jesus when He calls them to do so. It is today. Tomorrow, Jesus may not pass by. He may not see them as they cast or mend nets or levy taxes.

“Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts.” (Hebrew 3: 7 – 8) “But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called ‘today,’ that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.” (Hebrews 3: 13)

Each of these men — Peter, Andrew, James, John, or Matthew — may not respond to Jesus’ call to “follow Me.” Instead, each may remain focused on the task before him: catching fish so as to provide sustenance, mending nets so as to meet family obligations, collecting taxes so as to support the local government and maintain society at large. Each of these men can look up at Jesus and say, “Not now. Tomorrow. Let me finish this. This is important. It’s irresponsible for me to just get up and leave this now. I’ll follow You tomorrow.”

Each may harden his heart through the deceitfulness of sin — sin is deceptive, often shaping itself as something noble, good, important, necessary.

Let us exhort one another to “hold our original confidence firm to the end.” (Hebrews 3: 14) Let’s respond to Jesus when He calls — today.

“As The Lord Wills” (Proverbs 27: 1, ESV) by Carley Evans

“Do not boast about tomorrow, for you do not know what a day may bring.”

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’ — yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this and that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.” (James 4: 13 – 16)

We call it self-confidence, confidence in our education, confidence in the marketplace, confidence in our plans; God — through Solomon and later through James — calls it arrogance, and that arrogance is equivalent to evil.

On the other hand, Jesus tells us, “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6: 34)

So, we are not to arrogantly state our plans for tomorrow as if we are in control of it nor are we to worry in anxiety about tomorrow since we are not in control of it. Instead we are to seek God first and trust Him to carry us through today and into tomorrow as He wills. And when we speak of tomorrow, we are to say: “If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.” (James 4: 15)

If the Lord wills, we will be alive tomorrow.

“Fools For Christ” (1 Corinthians 4: 10, ESV) by Carley Evans

A dear friend of mine is a street evangelist — a fool for Christ. On top of it, he is a fool for Christ in a foreign land. I know of others who wear cardboard jackets and stand on street corners or in the middle of college campuses or outside malls with big red lettering calling men, women, children to Jesus. Yes, these are also fools for Christ.

What better company to have — Paul, the ultimate street preacher — writes to the Corinthian church, “We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. To the present hour, we hunger and thirst, we are poorly dressed and buffeted and homeless, and we labor, working with our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like scum of the world, the refuse of all things.” (1 Corinthians 4: 10 – 13)

When Jesus sends out His twelve, He tells them to “go, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’ ” (Matthew 10: 7) He tells them to “heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, cast out demons.” (Matthew 10: 8)

Jesus also tells them to “give without pay.” (Matthew 10: 8) They are to take no overcoat, umbrella, or tent. They are to stay wherever they are welcome, and walk away from places and people who do not welcome them.

Jesus tells the twelve, “Whoever receives you receives Me.” (Matthew 10: 40)

Let those of us who sit in the especially comfortable pews of mega-churches, cathedrals, sanctuaries around the world pray for those who stand on street corners with cardboard witness.

“If they have called the Master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of His household.” (Matthew 10: 28)

“A Living Hope” (1 Peter 1: 3 – 5, ESV) by Carley Evans

“He has caused us to be born again to a living hope.” We are born again, just as Jesus says to Nicodemus, “Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ ” (John 3: 7)

“You, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation.” Our salvation is guarded by God Himself, via the power of His Holy Spirit who dwells within us.

“Therefore…set your hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 1: 13) Our hope is in the grace and mercy of our God and Father.

Our inheritance is presently “kept in heaven for [us].” This inheritance is “imperishable, undefiled, and unfading.” (1 Peter 1: 4) Our salvation is “ready to be revealed in the last time.” (1 Peter 1: 5) Our salvation is a future event. Presently, we are “obtaining the outcome of [our] faith, the salvation of [our] souls.” (1 Peter 1: 9) Yes, we are saved now; but our ultimate salvation is to be had in the future, outside of this limited time and space, in eternity.

In the meantime, “we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, grown inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.” (Romans 8: 23 – 25) Our hope is sometimes painful as we long for the other country, the better place, the close fellowship with God, the three in One.

And, “though you have not seen [Jesus Christ], you love Him. Though you do not now see Him, you believe in Him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory.” (1 Peter 1: 8)

“Safe” (Proverbs 29: 25, ESV) by Carley Evans

“The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the Lord is safe.”

Wow! How many times do you wake up in the middle of the night in fear of man? Or, struggle to sleep because of a ‘man,’ a person in your sphere who has — or appears to have — a great deal of influence on whether you eat or not? You are not in the trap yet, but it is certainly set. I imagine a bear trap with those iron claws which hold and tear the flesh, or a smaller, more subtle rabbit snare which holds and chokes away the air.

The struggle to escape the trap does the damage.

God, through Solomon, says: ‘Trust in Me. If you trust in Me, you will be safe.’

A promise so difficult for us to fully grasp. I don’t feel safe! I feel so vulnerable. So many things can go wrong, and do! How can the Lord say that I will be safe?

Paul writes, “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed in us.” (Romans 8: 18) And he reminds us, “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.” (Romans 8: 28)

Trust God — seek Him first, and He will keep you safe.