Tuesday, April 16, 2019

The Ultimate Display of Love

[Pilate] went again into the judgment hall, and saith unto Jesus, Whence art thou? But Jesus gave him no answer. (Jn 19:9)

He stood accused of a crime He didn’t commit, condemned already in the court of public opinion. Social networks, media giants, townspeople, soldiers, even religious leaders bought into the lies that’d been told about Him and turned violent in their hate. Riots broke out. Protests, screamed by angry voices. Those who’d stood by Him, hours ago, denied they even knew His name.

Punished unjustly and dragged, once more, before the judge, He was given a chance to offer a belated defense.

Then saith Pilate unto him, Speakest thou not unto me? knowest thou not that I have power to crucify thee, and have power to release thee? (Jn 19:10)

This was His moment, His comeuppance. Here, He’d deny the allegations and give proof of His lineage. He’d tell how He’d descended from kings, from great fathers in the faith. With fire in His eyes, He’d show them who they were messing with, and the crowd, currently clamoring for His life, would fall eternally silent.

We want a Savior with a sword in His hand, leading a massive army, but pressed to the wall, whipped until He bled, His garments torn, His name mocked, Jesus said nothing at all until Pilate flexed His government muscles. Commentaries agree that Pilate’s question was authoritative.

You refuse to speak to me? (CJB)

Jesus put him in his place. “Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above.” (Jn 19:11) He knew His life served a greater purpose than any selfish defense. That the victory He would have would come through humility. Through sacrifice.

He knew the power of His Words, that anything He spoke would come to pass. He’d explained this, many times in His ministry. (Mk 11:24) This spiritual principle came into play at its greatest, facing the cross. Whatever He might have said to protect Himself would have undone the display of love that sent Him forward toward a cruel death and a glorious triumph.

And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. (Php 2:8)

He didn’t take offense. He didn’t cast judgment. He didn’t make excuses or complain. He didn’t describe Himself and state His qualifications for being there. He didn’t even reply to Pilate’s question with something as simple as where He came from. Given the chance to save Himself, He didn’t talk at all. Because His words had already been spoken. His prayers made for you and me. (Jn 17) At that moment, “for the joy that was set before him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame.” (Heb 12:2)

To bring us into a New Covenant, a better Covenant, with better promises, and complete, whole, salvation. (Heb 8:6) Because He loved the world that much.

For consider him that endured such contradiction of sinners against himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds. (Heb 12:3)

Also:  Read my devotional this month at Crossreads, "Things Unspoken."

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

Friday, March 15, 2019

Be Different

Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.  (Ps 1:1)

We have not given this passage enough weight. It’s less “don’t make fun of him,” although it can mean that, and more, “don’t become one of them.” I like what the Barnes Commentary says:

We have here, then, a beautiful double gradation or climax, in the nouns and verbs of this verse, indicating successive stages of character. There is, first, casual walking with the wicked, or accidentally falling into their company; there is then a more deliberate inclination for their society, indicated by a voluntary putting of oneself in places where they usually congregate, and standing to wait for them; and then there is a deliberate and settled purpose of associating with them, or of becoming permanently one of them, by regularly sitting among them. (esword.net)

Ouch. That opens up a whole new idea. Doesn’t it?

Very rarely does anyone walk a straight, godly path and deliberately make a 180-degree turn and do something exceedingly wicked. Most of the time, it’s a slow descent. You pace yourself alongside and what your ungodly, unrighteous friends do becomes palatable. You make excuses to be there. Perhaps, you say you are “ministering” to them when, all the while, by standing, by sitting down, you change and now no one can see Christ in you at all.

Still, I think we don’t get the importance of this. It isn’t serious enough in our hearts.

Every place we go, every day, is a choice to walk after God or after the devil. Every emotion we give into, the curse word we shouldn’t have said but did, the anger we let loose on some passing driver who cut in front of us, our impatience in line at the grocery store … so many opportunities rise to look like everyone else.

But looking different, looking like the light of the gospel shines in us, takes work. Persistence. Determination. Spine.

And it’s a New Testament command.

Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty. (2 Co 6:14-18)

Come out and be separate. That’s part one. Stop associating with sinners. At your job, in your family, at school, when you vote. Warning:  When you separate yourselves, people won’t understand it. They’ll even make fun of it. And I’m not saying to be rude or unkind. We are to walk in love even with our enemies, but they should know why we’ve chosen not to be there, even if it’s unspoken. They see our choice to not go along, to stay home or do something else, not as condemnation (It is the Holy Spirit that convicts) but in the spirit of the love of God that makes us different. (Mt 5:44; Lk 6:27,35)

Touch not the unclean thing. Here’s part two that we’ve overlooked, and it goes hand-in-hand with part one. You can’t “come out and be separate” while clinging to what’s unclean, ungodly, and impure. And lest you think that sounds too religious, Paul gives several extensive lists of impure things, ranging from strife and jealousy to sexual sins.

Galatians 5:19-21
Romans 1:29-32
Colossians 3:5-8
1 Timothy 6:4-5

And he follows them with the same thought. We are different.

Galatians 5:22-23:  “But the spiritual nature produces love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Colossians 3:10:  “And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:”

1 Timothy 6:6:  “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

The passage in Romans 2 is poignant on this issue. Paul tells them, point blank, “You boast in the law while breaking the law and the name of God is dishonored through you.” (Rm 2:23-24) We are not under Old Testament law, of course, but we should never despise the grace of God with our behavior.

Similarly, Matthew 5:13-14 calls us the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We are cautioned to stay salty and to keep our lights lit. Let everyone know whose you are. That’s what it comes down to. Shine bright enough that everyone sees your good life, your kind character, as coming from God. And walk cautiously so that you stay that way. (Eph 5:15)

Deliberately, on purpose, with intent, be different. Be God’s kid.

>>Note: Don't miss my devotional in this month's Becky Combee Ministries, Inc., newsletter. "The Joy To Come" http://www.beckycombeeministries.com/PDF/Mar2019.pdf <<

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

Sunday, February 3, 2019

Unique, Marvelous Me

I will praise thee; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvellous are thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. (Ps 139:14)

There is no one like me. No one with my quirks and eccentricities. No one who reacts to pressure the way I do. No one who leaps at the joys that most excite me.

No one who remembers what I remember in the way I remember it. My lemonade bedroom, with its pink and yellow plaid curtains. The scary oak leaves that scratched on the glass at night and kept me awake. The trips to my grandmother’s house, the stories we shared, the chocolate bars, the giggles. No one laid under the Christmas tree, the way I did, and imagined the ornaments came to life.

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

There’s no one who attended classes at school exactly the same way I did. Oh, others were there, but they didn’t ride my bus and follow my schedule, trace my footsteps each day. No one held the same jobs I had in the same order for the same length of time. No one wore my wedding dress and walked the aisle in my shoes, nor became a mom to a beautiful daughter on the day, the hour, in the place I did.

I am unique, what makes me happy is totally mine. What upsets me, that’s mine, too, and in God’s eyes, everything that makes up “me” is marvelous.

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10)

I am also a work in progress. Every day that passes, every week, every month, every year, I struggle less with the things that used to trip me up. “Christ in me” is ever at work to clean out the junk and fill those wasted places with His presence, His wisdom. (Gal 2:20)

This gives me hope – that what bothers me today will be less tomorrow and even less the day after that. That, eventually, it won’t bother me at all. I will get angry less. I won’t give into frustration so often. I will pray more, praise continually, and become the best “me” possible.

Unique, marvelous me.

Yes, it is God who is working in you. He helps you want to do what pleases him, and he gives you the power to do it. (Php 2:13 ERV)

I don’t walk through life alone. When I fail, I don’t have to stay in that place of defeat. God loves and cherishes, He delights in, what He’s created. He delights in mercy. He gives grace for grace. (Pr 3:12; Mic 7:18; Jn 1:16) He helps me grow stronger, think purer, act kinder. To rejoice in my peculiarities as wonderful and precious. To overcome those that aren’t.

I’m not alone either. When God created Adam and Eve, Abraham and Sarah, King David, the apostle John … Every man or woman that has lived on this earth is just as rare and one-of-a-kind. He designed tall people and short people, people with blonde hair, red hair, small feet. He created Asians, Argentinians, and Aleutians. He made her love music, him excel at art. Jane enjoys cooking, James adores fast cars.

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

He made football fans, baseball players, Marines, fishermen, financial experts, real estate professionals, drama teachers, auto repairmen, fashion designers, sales clerks, boat captains. For all the careers and interests in the world, the things I like, the things I don’t, God has someone who fits right in, a life that’s not like mine. But totally perfect for them.

I don’t have to understand it. I should never judge it. I should always pray they’ll be the best at it. And wear my heart on my sleeve in gratitude that He made me – me. The daughter of a Bible teacher and a water department manager, sister to a mechanical engineer, granddaughter to a music minister, and a couple who sold vegetables. Me, a girl who writes books, love dachshunds, and takes pictures.

How marvelous is that?

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Small Things

Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. (Zec 4:10 NLT)

The temple lay in ruins for 20 years when this was spoken. Add to that a great deal of skepticism amongst the Jews, contempt even, that the new version would ever hold a candle to the first, and it seemed the work would never get done and definitely not satisfactorily.

Of this verse, one commentator states, “Despondency paralyses exertion, but hope stimulates and supports it. Despondency is never so likely to be felt as at the commencement of an undertaking, when there are few to support it and many to oppose it; when the beginning is so small as to excite the apprehensions of its friends and the derision of its enemies. The Jews who returned from the Babylonish captivity felt this when they applied themselves to the rebuilding of the temple.” (Biblical Illustrator)

I’ve been there, at the end of a difficult task-job-year, unable to see how the next one will amount to anything, my mind locked in despondency. Like the Jews in this piece of history, all I could see was what was behind me, the things I’d failed at. Not the first time they’d had this mentality. We read in Number 11:5 how, after a great, miraculous deliverance from Egypt, with amazing signs and wonders, they got caught up, mourning the bad food.

We can take an additional lesson from the life of Job. He’d been through much, said and done wrong things. God gave him a chance to repent and pray for his friends and the Scripture states, “The LORD blessed the latter end of Job more than his beginning.” (Job 42:12) The thing about hindsight is it only comes after you’ve survived something, whether that’s bad choices or bad circumstances. You can only compare the past to the future when you have a past to see. But God sees the bigger picture. He sees the end result—always.

That’s how endings work. A new beginning always follows, and whether its small or not, with God it promises abundance. Read the remainder of Zechariah 4:10, “For they shall rejoice.” They would rejoice at the majesty of the second temple. They had only to wait patiently to see it.

For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.  (Lk 1:49)

For thou art great, and doest wondrous things: thou art God alone. (Ps 86:10)

Small things are followed by great things. Wondrous things. We are sometimes too shortsighted to see them. We lack vision, and the Bible says without it “people perish.” (Pr 29:18) Vision requires faith. Whereas we want the whole image mapped out far in advance, faith rejoices in the small things. It is a grain of mustard seed when it begins, with the power to lodge birds in its branches after its grown. (Lk 13:19)

Faith looks at the first step, alone, then the next and the next. Buoyed by hope, outlined by patience, the whole process of growth and success is accomplished in peace, and soon what looked small has become great, and that was God’s goal for us all along. Abundant life, which came because even when things looked incredibly small and insignificant, we believed otherwise.

Note: For an additional devotional, check out this month's word at Crossreads: "Something New." 

"God isn’t interested in dredging up the past and sticking it all back together. He’s God of all things new."

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

Thursday, December 20, 2018

The Greatest Story of All Time

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.  (Matthew 2:1-2)

God sent a group of Gentile astronomers on a seven-month journey to testify of the birth of the Jewish Messiah. An unknown child, divinely conceived in an unwed girl, whose fiancé almost divorced her.

Amazing. Yet the story is greater than that.

These men were philosophers, historians say possible Medes (from Persia), living in a kingdom that had many false gods. Practicing magicians. Followers of astrology. But evidently well-read. They knew the prophecies, the Messiah is coming … to a people that aren’t yours, in a country you don’t live in.

You’ll know it when you see the star.

Not just any star. Not an aligning of the planets or some every-now-and-then comet that coincidentally showed up on that date. Uh uh. The Scripture says the star led them. A supernatural evidence of the greatest event in the history of mankind presented in a manner only men who studied the sky would understand.

Phenomenal. Incredible. Yet the story is still greater.

When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy.  (Matthew 2:10)

They came to worship. Not admire. Not coo-over. Not capture, kidnap, or destroy like Herod. They came to worship. Men from a place Mary and Joseph had never been, read words written hundreds of years before they lived, and trusted an unusual light to show them how to get there so they could worship.

With rejoicing. Do you get that? These men rejoiced to see a Savior, a deliverer, who wasn’t theirs. With exceedingly great joy. They weren’t just happy. They were “vehemently” happy. (G4970 Strong’s).

Over a boy without a crown, without an army. Who had no followers. He’d done no miracles, at that point. Oh, a handful of shepherds had listened to a choir of angels sing over him, or so the story circulated. Clearly not loud-enough that Herod had paid it any mind. Until these “wise men” showed up, he had no idea anything miraculous had happened at all.

And that’s a great part of the story.

God brought salvation to the earth right underneath the enemy’s noses. They couldn’t stop it, weren’t aware of it. They didn’t know what he looked like, who his parents were, just that he was Jewish and in Bethlehem. And they had to be told that by men from somewhere else. Men who listened to their hearts and went home another way, enabling Joseph and Mary to escape. (Mt 2:12)

This is no small story - Oh, yeah, these wise men showed up.

No way. This wasn’t a Sunday afternoon drive a few towns over to see the latest thing. This wasn’t gazing, ho-hum, at some nice Jewish family because it seemed like the stars were brighter over them tonight.

Do you think the God who parted the Red Sea, enabling men to walk through on dry land, a God who later destroyed an entire nation to give God’s chosen people a country would treat the birth of Christ as a secondhand event?

This was the greatest night in history, celebrated by those who listened and obeyed, so that the greatest act of all time could happen thirty-three years later, and give to “whosever believes” the greatest love possible.


--Note: For another Christmas devotional I wrote this season, visit "What Christmas Is About" on the Crossreads blog.

Suzanne D. Williams, Author

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Aw, God, Do I Have To?

Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? (22) Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven. (Mt 18:21-22)

I had a bad day. You know, one of those where even the dog doesn’t cooperate? Well, ‘round about 10 a.m., I exploded. I screamed at everyone within a two-mile vicinity. And regretted it afterward.

You know the drill. “I should never have … and now they will always think of me like …”

Regret is a good thing, though, because it got me thinking about forgiveness and repentance. “Lord,” I said, in a sort of prayer, “Seventy times seven is REALLY hard to do.”

It looks good on paper. As Christians, we should be all “turn the other cheek,” “love the unlovely,” etcetera. Except I’ve seen anger and offense creep into the church. Someone lit into me the other day over something trivial, and I was taken aback. But struck harder by the thought I was supposed to pray for them and move on.

And I don’t mean pray they’ll trip.

The Bible says, “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord.” (Rm 12:19) We love to quote that, picturing lightning bolts striking someone and God up there beating his chest, “Bwahaha!” Truth is, He’s more apt to show them mercy if they’ll receive it.

Fixing the other person is not our job.

I heard speaker, Joyce Meyer, say she spent years trying to fix her husband, Dave, only to realize it didn’t work and she was the only one who was miserable. This helped me with my own relationships. I am apt to blow up first then swim in my regret for several days. But if I let God handle the one who’s antagonizing me, if my prayer is, “Give me a clean heart, O God,” and not, “Let Sister So-and-so stump her toe,” I can place myself in the Holy Spirit’s control and overcome those awful moments.

Overcome them and defeat them. Because God’s instructions to us are tougher than simply not fighting back. God said to forgive “seventy times seven,” then He said to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you.” (Mt 5:44)

“Aw, God, do I have to?”

Yep. And notice, all of those things require ACTION on our part. To DO GOOD we must actually DO something. To BLESS someone, to PRAY for them, we must speak peaceful words. To show God’s love we must be the antithesis of everything our flesh and mind asks us to do. I heard a preacher say, “The nose doesn’t have to associate with the armpit,” referring to the body of Christ. So, take comfort that your prayer doesn’t mean you have to spend a day with Mr. Grumpy, it does mean we must seek to react differently. To actually crucify our flesh. (Gal 5:24)

And become like Jesus, who loved the least of men, but faced the devil in faith and power and won. We grow strong in Christ. Strong enough to love when, at that moment, it’s the last … the hardest thing we will ever do.

Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA

All Things

I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. (Php 4:13)

We expect everything in our lives of faith to be dramatic. We’re on a constant uphill struggle, an endless battle, slashing at the enemy on every side. We must cross rivers and climb mountains, our lives in constant peril.

There’s some truth to that imagery, of course. But our days are full of much smaller moments, everyday decisions that require wisdom and understanding to perform. Look back at Philippians 4:13 again – I can do ALL THINGS. That includes seemingly silly tasks as well.

But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.  (John 14:26)

We’re afraid to pray for those. But I can do all things because the Holy Spirit shall teach me all things. That’s profound . . . and comforting. When some new responsibility falls on my desk, even if I feel like I’m not smart enough, I know the One who is. This could be as simple as doing your taxes. Or maybe your teenage son or daughter needs help finding “x” on their algebra assignment. Maybe you promised to take a friend somewhere you aren’t sure you can find, GPS or not. Those are also “all things”.

And God is able to make all grace abound toward you; that ye, always having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work (2Co 9:8)

God cares about every part of our lives, no matter how trivial they may seem. He wants us to “abound” when we bake a cake for our mom’s birthday, when we call the cable company to straighten out our bill, when we take our car to be serviced and need to choose the right auto repair shop.

Sometimes it’s the small things that cripple us the most. We don our armor to fight giants, but take it off when it’s Uncle John asking for help to clear trees. Or to locate a baby gift for our cousin’s wife, who we don’t particularly get along with. Or the refrigerator needs replacing, but we have no idea what to buy.

I want to be sufficient in those tasks, too.

I’ve found, in my life, personally, that my need to shift responsibility onto others – a “you do it for me” attitude – never works out. Any time I think I can get him or her to take care of it, it’ll fall even harder on my shoulders, and those moments are when I pray, “I can do this through Christ.” I need supernatural strength to walk the dog some days, especially when it’s cold and windy and she’s decided to play.

I can do all things and have patience. I can do all things and understand how to fill out this form. I can do all things and find a perfect vacation rental within my budget. I can do all things and select the right doctor, hair salon, or lawn company.

All things includes all things.

And the Lord give thee understanding in all things. (2Ti 1:7)

Does a God who knows our soul, who saw us when we were made in secret, a God of such infinite detail to create the smallest part of us, abandon us when we need to change a flat tire? He’s only here for me when I’m slugging it out in some spiritual battle, but not when I’ve had an argument with my spouse? (Ps 139:14-16)

No, that’s when I need understanding the most. I know God is for me; therefore, who can be against me? Always. For everything. Even if today it’s as small as calling the electric company. God is with me for that, too.

What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us? He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? (Rm 8:31-32)


Suzanne D. Williams
Florida, USA