TAKE TIME TO PRAY

A Prayer Devotional by Dr. Ben McWilliams
“Take Time to Pray” are weekly devotional reflections by Dr. Ben McWilliams. Ben serves at the Life Stage 6 Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church in Fort Worth, Texas. He also leads the intercessory prayer ministry called “Mondays with the Master.” He is a dear friend and mentor. I am delighted Ben has granted me permission to share “Take Time to Pray” as a regular feature.

Royalty - May 19, 2022

1 Peter 2:9: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of God who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light.”

It is so like the Apostle Peter to note a Christ Follower’s rich spiritual legacy in such a sparseness of words. We are a chosen people, royal priests, a holy nation of people possessed by our Creator and Redeemer God. We are a very special people in God’s eyes. We are royalty!! Bring on the perks! Let me enjoy my royal privileges! Where’s my throne? Before I get too far afield in my fantasies, I must remember that God’s Kingdom is filled with stewards and servants. The only throne room is already occupied by God and Jesus. All others are there to serve Kingdom purposes. Yes, in God’s eyes He has gifted me with the office of a royal priest. The Old Testament made it very clear that priests were chosen by God…and…they were chosen to serve, not to be served. Their calling was a high one. It also was a sacred one! The priesthood came with responsibilities that were non negotiable. The sole privilege that came with the priesthood was the honor of serving Jehovah God. When done faithfully and with an obedient spirit, God’s blessings and peace filled their own soul.

Unfortunately, today the term royalty is associated with rank, privilege, and a life of ease surrounded by a small army of servants to attend one’s every whim. Once again, God’s way is infinitely higher than fallen humankind’s self-centered ways. As a royal servant priest for God, I do have the responsibility and privilege to worship and serve my Creator. I am tasked with sharing the hope that fills my heart. I am to share with others how my Redeemer called me out of eternal darkness and into the Light of His living Word. My priestly duties include praying for all manner of Kingdom causes to come into their full fruition. I have the joy of extolling His holiness, love, and mercy. I have the incredible gift of being loved by my Abba Father who fills me with His Holy Spirit. In short, I have the best “job” in the universe!!

Heavenly Father,

How great is Your love for me!! Thank You for allowing me to be a royal priest. What loving trust must be in Your heart to confer such a high calling upon Your servant. Holy Spirit, help me to always serve my Savior with full obedience and honor. May my joy be made complete in fulfilling this sacred calling. For Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Lessons Learned - April 27, 2022

Proverbs 1:5: “Let the wise hear [and see] and increase in learning, and the one who understands obtain guidance…”

Not long ago I was wandering about on some ranch property looking for some old cedar fence posts. Why fence posts? And why old, discarded ones? What possible use could be found for them? Most likely they were wasting away in brush piles awaiting their turn to be burned. Sure enough, that’s where I found just what I was searching for…a massive old corner post largely obscured beneath a pile of dead cedar trees. After some effort, I managed to get it back to my workshop. Appearances to the contrary, experience had taught me its value. Its lifeless, dead gray color peppered with decay, obscured its possibilities. It was a seedling when the American Civil War began. It had anchored a long stretch of fence for many decades while also serving as a gatepost. It had served its purpose well. Its usefulness was over, so into the burn pile it went. But was this old post really useless? As a fence post…yes. But when seen from a different perspective…no!

In the hands of the craftsman, its inner beauty is known and only waiting to be purposefully revealed. The old worn-out wood could be given a new life. Its aged beauty skillfully revealed. A new purpose and usefulness unexpectedly gained for the benefit of many. But how? While it would never again serve as a corner post, it could, and would, serve as a beautiful bowl. A bowl snatched from the burn pile and quietly rescued from the fate consigned to the worn-out, forgotten, and largely invisible things of this world. The decay and rot are carefully removed. The holes and scars are skillfully patched. The weathered wood is restored with oil, brilliantly accenting the hidden beauty of the gnarled and twisted wood grain. The resulting transformation is stunning! It is almost something from nothing!

I think my point is obvious. Before knowing God and receiving His divine touch, my life had much in common with that lifeless old corner post. The world swirled about me with little notice of my existence, much less my potential worth or that I might prove of value to someone. I was consigned to the forgotten and invisible of the world. Then God reached out and gave me new life…
• He gave me eternal worth and purpose
• My Heavenly Father gave me the gift of knowing Him
• He became my Abba Father…I His beloved child
• He carefully crafted me to serve in His Kingdom
• He taught me long obedience and perseverance
• He called me to be a guardian of His truth, rightly dividing right from wrong
• He filled me with Himself and His love for all people
• His continual filling allows me to empty myself into other’s needs

That is how an old corner post was rescued from the burn pile and transformed into a beautiful bowl. The Holy Spirit wondrously filled this bowl with His anointing and wisdom, graciously gifting it with the high calling of a servant’s bowl…one to be continually filled and emptied in the service of its maker.

Abba Father,

Thank You for never giving up on Your children! Thank You for rescuing each one of us from the burn piles of life. I praise You for gifting each of Your followers with dignity and eternal purpose. Thank You for the great honor of being a servant’s bowl…a bowl filled with divine love and power to meet other’s needs…a bowl of eternal Kingdom worth! Grant that my bowl may always be overflowing with Your goodness and mercy. For Your glory and in Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Contentment - April 20, 2022

1 Timothy 6:6-8: “But godliness with contentment is great gain, for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content.”

Contentment. We all seek it. Everyone senses its absence. Yet where do we find it? And if found…how to keep it? All humanity daily faces the conundrum of true contentment. God has designed humans to thrive best in the comfort and security of a deep emotional and spiritual contentment. This need has been described as a vacuum that must…and will…be filled with something as an attempt to achieve a sense of well-being. Contentment is the foundation of a purpose filled life. It is the rudder that steers our lives through life’s storms and into the shelter of the waiting harbor. It is the peace that passes all understanding. Contentment is at the heart of a well-lived life.

The world’s dysfunctions can ultimately be traced back to the root cause of discontentment. The classical seven deadly sins [lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, envy, pride] and all their progeny would not exist apart from discontentment. Just as contentment is a choice, so it is with discontentment. I am not forced by my circumstances to remain in a state of discontentment. And certainly, neither can adversity force me to give up my state of contentment. Life’s “slings and arrows” can cause sorrow, loss, grief, disappointments, and endless difficulties. But these are for a season, not an eternity.

In the Apostle Paul’s words, “But godliness with contentment is great gain…” He, who literally lived moment by moment while in constant danger of being tortured or murdered or starved or imprisoned, could honestly proclaim that He had “…learned in whatever situation I am to be content.” Note…”I am” to be content. This spiritual contentment is not elective. I am to choose contentment…not necessarily happiness, nor satisfaction, nor passivity…but contentment within my spirit. Since I have Jesus as my Savior, I also have the eternal hope which has the power to trump all discontentment that, at times, will inevitably seep into my soul. This is the godliness that Paul indispensably pairs with contentment. He consistently chose to follow Christ’s command to, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things [life’s essentials] will be added to you.”

The question remains: Am I willing to trust my Savior’s promises rather than my own means to achieve lasting contentment? I pray daily for the faith to do so.

Abba Father,

Forgive me when I allow myself to be overcome by discontentment. Strengthen my faith so that I can rest confidently in Your promises to meet all my true needs when I seek after Your righteousness and Your Kingdom. Teach me how to choose contentment, no matter the surrounding circumstances. Fill me with the joy of an obedient spirit. Thank You for calling me to be Your child. In Jesus name,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Fragrances - April 14, 2022

Fragrance is a wonderful word for springtime! After a long winter’s sleep, all creation awakens with a renewed energy…an energy that produces a lush bouquet of fresh fragrances. Some are lavishly rich, others less so, while a special few are subtle and enticing. Together they proclaim and celebrate new life! As it is with the physical creation, so it is with the spiritual dimension of God’s creation. It certainly is not incidental that Easter is set amid earth’s annual spring awakening. God could have chosen any season He desired. Before ever the foundations of the earth were laid, God had already chosen springtime as the theater in which humanity’s redemption was to be played out. Sovereignty excludes happenstance, the coincidental, or the fortuitous. No, just as God had declared at creation, the entirety of creation was to be seen and understood as eternal signs of His Presence and goodness. As such, light had to penetrate the darkness!! “Let there be light.” God had taken the first step in His redemptive plan.

Despite the flawless beauty of their surrounding creation, the insatiable lust for ever more control of their lives, became the trap which ensnared Adam and Eve in a rebellion against God. Their sin filled the whole creation with the “fragrance” of death and decay. The spiritual darkness of death and sin reigned throughout the earth and all that was in it. But God…sent His only begotten Son into the darkness and death to be a light. He was the Light of salvation to all who would receive Him, to all who would believe in His name.

His name is Jesus! He loves us, and gave Himself up for us, as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. He willingly chose obedience to His Father, an obedience to an excruciating and humiliating death on a Roman cross. Why? So that I, and everyone else who calls on His name, might have the gift of eternal life. Sin demands that physical life must end in physical death, but Christ imparts eternal spiritual life to all who will receive Him. His bodily resurrection three days later, destroyed the eternal reign of sin’s darkness and death. “The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Nor will it ever do so again! My sincere prayer is that all who read this will truly choose the fragrance of “life” over the fragrance of “death”. We all wear one or the other.

2 Corinthians 2:15-16: “For we [Christ Followers] are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance of death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life…”

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for giving us the Light of the world. Forgive me when I fail to share the fragrance of eternal life with those bound with the fragrance of death. Holy Spirit, please pour out Your aroma of life and forgiveness onto all who are crying for help. Open their spirits to receive this gracious gift of love. I ask for a spirit of revival to spread across the darkness of our world. May it pierce the deepest darkness with the Light and fragrance of eternal life. May the harvest be bountiful! In Your power and for Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Freedom's Paradox - April 7, 2022

2 Peter 2:16: “Live as people who are free, not using your freedom as a cover-up for evil, but living as servants of God.”

As an American, I have been blessed with unparalleled freedoms. But to be truthful, I have not always used these precious freedoms wisely. As a part of fallen humanity, I have very often chosen to use them in a negative sense…as a “freedom from” rather than as a “freedom to”. Simply put…I prefer to follow the desires of my heart rather than the urgings of my conscience. Certainly, not all my desires, in and of themselves, are necessarily bad, wrong, or evil. Yet, as a whole, these choices may well take my life in a direction which is opposed to that which God desires for me. As my creator, He has specifically designed me for His purposes. Purposes which are integral to His Kingdom plans.

Purposes which, if I am willing to embrace them in His strength and for His glory, will bring me immense joy and a deep contentment. However…there is a cost involved in choosing to resist exercising my “freedom from” and instead embracing my “freedom to”.

From a spiritual perspective, one’s freedoms can quietly and deceptively lead one straight into bondage. Bondage is a polite word for slavery. Do I own my “stuff”, or am I owned by it?? Hence the paradox of freedom. Am I consciously trying to use my freedoms positively to choose the greater good for others…and somewhat paradoxically…for my own ultimate good? Or am I yielding to the urgency of the present, as I make my choices primarily to satisfy my self’s longings? This tension is ever present! I find great wisdom and direction in this short passage from John.

John 8:31-32: “So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you abide in My word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

Abide in Christ! Such a simple command. Yet, when tried, one finds this to be an impossible task. And yes indeed, apart from the indwelling Holy Spirit, I will never consistently achieve this state of obedience. Abiding in God’s truth allows it to serve as my spiritual compass. It gives me the guidance, encouragement, and strength to escape “from” the clutches of spiritual darkness and the false freedoms which self so covets. Denying self is requisite to gaining the freedom “to” serve Christ and others as He bids me do. Again…the great paradox of true freedom demands that I willingly surrender my temporal freedoms in exchange for the eternal freedoms found only in the Son of God as my Savior. Paradoxically, as I deny self and accept the role of bondservant to Jesus, will I then be truly set free!

John 8:36: “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”

Dear Jesus,

Thank You for freeing me from the clutches of the false freedom of sin. Thank You for granting me the way to experience true eternal freedom. Empower me to serve You and Your Kingdom and truly experience the joy of my salvation. I ask for the strength to continually abide in You as You fill my spirit to overflowing with Your goodness and mercy. Help me to obediently say no to selfish freedoms and yes to the real freedom found only in Jesus Christ. In Your

Strength,
Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Holding Hands - March 31, 2022

People holding hands with each other. Such a common activity. One which is seldom consciously noted. But consider its significance! A mother holding her toddler’s hand as they approach a busy street intersection. Or perhaps two sweethearts just trying to become one as they lovingly clasp each other’s hands while strolling in the park. Maybe it’s a pair of venerable old saints gently holding each other’s hands as they do their best to keep each other from falling on a perilous step! Hand Holding is integral to humanity’s daily life. It is never optional in a healthy community! The following verse from Isaiah gives us valuable insight concerning “holding hands”.

Isaiah 42:6a: “I am the Lord; I have called you in righteousness; I will take you by the hand and keep you…”

This verse is taken from the first of the several “Servant Songs” which are found in Isaiah. They are descriptive prophecies of the coming Messiah. These passages offer an intimate look into the relationship between God the Father and His Son, Jesus. In many ways, it reveals the emotional preparation and commissioning of the Christ as He is to become a covenant of grace offered for the salvation of all who will accept Him. He must leave the Father’s side, take on the humble form of a man, face continual rejection of His ministry, and ultimately become sin for all humanity as He is brutally crucified. No one…not even God’s Son…could enter such an assignment in their own strength, much less successfully complete it.

Both God and Jesus understood this. God, as any good father would do, promised His Son, “I will take You by the hand and keep You.” Do not miss the cosmic significance of these simple words!! Jesus certainly didn’t! Throughout Jesus’ earthly ministry, He continually referenced this Paternal promise. I can do nothing apart from my Father; I speak only what my Father tells me; His continual impassioned prayers to His Father; His radical obedience to His Father; and ultimately, Christ’s total trust in His Father’s promise, “to hold His hand and to keep Him”. It is impossible to fully understand the depth of such costly love shared between God the Father and God the Son…much less that they freely offer the same to any who are willing to accept it.

Anyone who will willingly deny self, and choose to accept Christ as their Savior, is adopted into “sonship” with God. Spiritually speaking, we become sons and daughters of God. And, as children of God, we have all the promises of God the Father. His love, His protection, His provision, His strength, His peace…all are ours. In a word, God has promised, “I will take you by the hand and keep you.” Whose hand are you holding?

Abba Father,

How precious is Your promise to never leave nor forsake Your children! You have promised to meet all our true needs. You have pledged to continue ever faithful in Your fathomless love for each one of Your children. Father, please forgive us when we forget You and stray into perilous waters. Take us by the hand and gently lead us back into the safe harbor of Your Presence. In Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Sovereignty - March 17, 2022

Isaiah 46: 9b-10; 11b: “…for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose…'”

“…I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.”

This passage from Isaiah is written to remind the Israelites that God alone is sovereign. The prophet, Isaiah, is purposefully contrasting the many “gods” of Babylon with Jehovah God. He scornfully describes the Babylonian idols as
impotent, so impotent that they must be carried on the backs of beasts of burden and other livestock. They are totally worthless in carrying their worshippers’ burdens. Furthermore, these false gods can’t even prevent themselves from being carried into captivity!! So…just why did Isaiah have to repeatedly point these “obvious” facts out to the less than observant Israelites? Other than for the occasional sacrifice, these idols made no demands upon their worshipers. They were free to live as they wished. And so they did! But when troubled times came their way, the Israelites found these idols to be useless.

God, through Isaiah, rebukes them with this admonition: “Remember this and stand firm, you transgressors, remember the former things of old; for I am God…” Basically, God is once again telling His people, that He alone is sovereign. He is imploring them to recall the many times that He has delivered them from other troubled times. Then God gives a perfect definition of sovereignty. Spend some time pondering this definition of sovereignty given from God to His people. Few things could be more instructive and encouraging for any Christ Follower. When difficult times appear, as they surely must, little else provides as much hope as recalling that we have a burden-carrying sovereign God who loves, protects, and provides for His own. But…these Godly benefits come with a cost. A willing obedience to God!! While we can not be perfect in our obedience, we can certainly make it a top priority! And we can intentionally be on guard against false “gods” snatching first place from our Savior.

Proverbs 23:17-18 is a wonderful spiritual antidote: “Let not your heart envy sinners, but continue in the fear of the Lord all the day. Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.”
In troubled times, there is indeed, a sure hope for the obedient Christ Follower!!

Abba, Father,

What a wonderful Father God You are to Your people!! You are always there to help us in our times of trouble. You carry us when we are simply too weary to continue. Your hope sustains us when we reach the end of our strength. I praise You for Your sovereignty! I praise You for Your forgiveness when I find myself envious of others. Thank You for loving me. Thank You that You have a purpose for my life and will lead me through it for Your glory and my joy. In

Jesus name,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Cease Striving - March 10, 2022

Psalm 46:10: “Cease striving and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” (NASB)

I don’t know about you, but I certainly know that I can find myself exhausted by all the ceaseless activities, events, and unfolding dramas which the world is continually churning out. This weariness steals my strength, my peace, and certainly my joy. The relentless strife, with its accompanying companions of worry and fear, most certainly take their toll on my spiritual life as well. I fall into the habit of letting these worldly distractions gradually erode my time spent in God’s Word. This, quite predictably, diminishes my faith in God’s sovereignty…and my ability to trust that He really does have it all under His perfect control!! Ever find yourself in these straights? If you have, Psalm 46 is a great place to spend a few minutes to help regain one’s spiritual balance.

This Psalm is only eleven verses. But my, how powerful they are!

“God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore, we will not fear though the world gives way.”
When God is my refuge, I do not have to be drowned in fear. When He is my strength, I can resist the temptation to yield to despair. When God is my helper, I am enabled to help others paralyzed by anxiety over their present set of troubles. When I truly rest in the unassailable faith found only in Jehovah God, I can quietly stand firm though the earth seems to be giving away.

“The nations rage, the kingdoms totter: God utters His voice, the earth melts…”

“He makes wars cease to the end of the earth; He breaks the bow and shatters the spear; He burns the chariots with fire.”

This highly figurative poetic language paints a vivid picture of a sovereign God who is totally in control. Wars do not catch God off guard. Rulers who begin them are under the “delusion” that they are totally in control of their own circumstances and decisions. Though cloaked in the impenetrable mystery of God’s sovereignty, He alone determines the outcome of these evil conflagrations…when they begin and when they end. He alone has the absolute authority to redeem them for His predetermined Kingdom purposes. To bolster my faith, I close with the closing verses of the psalmist:

“Cease striving and know that I am God, I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth. The Lord of hosts is with us…God…is our fortress.”

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for loving Your children. Forgive us when we forget Your love and fall prey to anxiety and fear. Strengthen our faith. Refresh our hope. Continually remind us that You alone are our impenetrable fortress. Fill us with a contagious hope which we can freely share with all whom we find in despair. We praise You! We exalt You!

We love You!

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Forsake Not - Feb. 23, 2022

Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us [as Christ Followers] consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting [encouraging] one another, and so much the more as you see the Day [Christ’s return] approaching.” NKJV

Hebrews was written to show the surpassing preeminence of Christ. This preeminence is perfect in all aspects of the Creation. There are no exceptions!! The author of the book of Hebrews systematically lays out the justification for the truth of Christ’s preeminence. In chapter 10, he basically summarizes the culmination of Jesus’ salvation work on our behalf. The author contrasts the incomplete work of the law with the ultimate and final atoning sacrifice of Christ…perfect in all aspects. He details an amazing number of blessings and benefits which are showered upon the faithful Christ Follower. Then, it’s as if the author, fully realizing the richness of our heritage in Christ, must stop and encourage us to fully receive and immerse ourselves in these precious spiritual gifts. Indeed, this section of chapter 10 begins with the word, “Therefore…”. In effect, he is saying…pay attention, do not waste these blessings, remember them, be obedient, assemble together, the time grows short, the Day is coming, take care of each other!!

Here is a brief list of some of the specific blessings noted in Hebrews chapter 10:
• Jesus is our perfect High Priest
• Our hope is in Him, not ourselves
• The former veil of sin which separated us from God has been torn asunder by Christ’s atoning salvation work on our behalf
• Christ Followers are now declared holy through the shed blood of Jesus
• We are forever free of the need to offer sin sacrifices for our forgiveness
• We are sealed for eternity by the indwelling Holy Spirit
• The Lord’s laws are inscribed on our minds and in our hearts
• Through Jesus’ completed work on the cross, God choses to remember my sins and lawless deeds no longer…Hallelujah!!!
• God has given me unlimited access into His Presence…and the quiet confidence to seek Him
• My heart has been rendered clean from an evil conscience
• The Holy Spirit has filled Christ Followers with a certainty in their hope in Jesus Christ

The list is endless…but I pray that your hope in Christ is more firmly established than ever! The author of Hebrews closes this chapter with the firm admonition to “…not through away your confidence, which has a great reward.” If we endure, we will receive all that has been promised to us. May it be said of our own generation of Christ Followers that, “…we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” And certainly, one of the best ways to remain faithful is by, “…not forsaking the assembling of our selves together…” that we may continue to “stir up love and good works” as we encourage one another to patiently persevere in loving obedience to God.

Dear Jesus,

What a price You paid for my freedom from slavery to sin. You freely chose to love me while I was yet a sinner, redeem me with Your death, and open the doors of heaven to me with Your resurrection. Forgive me when I fail to remember the depth and costliness of Your eternal love for me. Holy Spirit, fill me with Your power. Enable me to faithfully endure all resistance in serving others in Christ’s name. Help me to joyfully remain certain of my hope in Jesus Christ’s finished work on my behalf. In Your strength and for Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Forsake Not - Feb. 23, 2022

Hebrews 10:23-25: “Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. And let us [as Christ Followers] consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting [encouraging] one another, and so much the more as you see the Day [Christ’s return] approaching.” NKJV

Hebrews was written to show the surpassing preeminence of Christ. This preeminence is perfect in all aspects of the Creation. There are no exceptions!! The author of the book of Hebrews systematically lays out the justification for the truth of Christ’s preeminence. In chapter 10, he basically summarizes the culmination of Jesus’ salvation work on our behalf. The author contrasts the incomplete work of the law with the ultimate and final atoning sacrifice of Christ…perfect in all aspects. He details an amazing number of blessings and benefits which are showered upon the faithful Christ Follower. Then, it’s as if the author, fully realizing the richness of our heritage in Christ, must stop and encourage us to fully receive and immerse ourselves in these precious spiritual gifts. Indeed, this section of chapter 10 begins with the word, “Therefore…”. In effect, he is saying…pay attention, do not waste these blessings, remember them, be obedient, assemble together, the time grows short, the Day is coming, take care of each other!!

Here is a brief list of some of the specific blessings noted in Hebrews chapter 10:
• Jesus is our perfect High Priest
• Our hope is in Him, not ourselves
• The former veil of sin which separated us from God has been torn asunder by Christ’s atoning salvation work on our behalf
• Christ Followers are now declared holy through the shed blood of Jesus
• We are forever free of the need to offer sin sacrifices for our forgiveness
• We are sealed for eternity by the indwelling Holy Spirit
• The Lord’s laws are inscribed on our minds and in our hearts
• Through Jesus’ completed work on the cross, God choses to remember my sins and lawless deeds no longer…Hallelujah!!!
• God has given me unlimited access into His Presence…and the quiet confidence to seek Him
• My heart has been rendered clean from an evil conscience
• The Holy Spirit has filled Christ Followers with a certainty in their hope in Jesus Christ

The list is endless…but I pray that your hope in Christ is more firmly established than ever! The author of Hebrews closes this chapter with the firm admonition to “…not through away your confidence, which has a great reward.” If we endure, we will receive all that has been promised to us. May it be said of our own generation of Christ Followers that, “…we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.” And certainly, one of the best ways to remain faithful is by, “…not forsaking the assembling of our selves together…” that we may continue to “stir up love and good works” as we encourage one another to patiently persevere in loving obedience to God.

Dear Jesus,

What a price You paid for my freedom from slavery to sin. You freely chose to love me while I was yet a sinner, redeem me with Your death, and open the doors of heaven to me with Your resurrection. Forgive me when I fail to remember the depth and costliness of Your eternal love for me. Holy Spirit, fill me with Your power. Enable me to faithfully endure all resistance in serving others in Christ’s name. Help me to joyfully remain certain of my hope in Jesus Christ’s finished work on my behalf. In Your strength and for Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Too... - Feb. 16, 2022

1 John 2:15-17: “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world…the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life…is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Too. A common and simple little word. But don’t be fooled! That second “o” adds a world of weight to its impact. This added gravitas, especially in the spiritual realm, has eternal significance. “Too”, as commonly used, adds an extra measure of emphasis to whatever subject is being referenced. Often, this extra measure of attention is excessive in proportion to the value or benefit which one ultimately can attain in return. Simply stated…in the end, one has bet on the wrong horse!! Spiritually speaking, a person has been distracted from the eternal reality and to their detriment, have heavily invested in the temporary things of this earth.

Yes, we live on this earth and are surrounded by very visible, but temporal entities. Remember…God created the earth perfectly. He intended for humans to relish its beauty. We were to flourish, enjoy its perfect bounty, and to be its stewards. But…we were never to worship creation nor to be distracted by any portion of its glorious goodness. We were formed from the dust of the earth and given the breath of life by our Creator. Why? Primarily to enjoy our special relationship with Him forever, as we walk with Him, commune with Him, and obey His commands. Sounds like a perfect scenario. What could go wrong? Humanity was given a free will, without which, we could never freely choose to love and serve our Heavenly Father. This wonderful gift was soon tarnished by distractions. We became too focused on our desires…of the flesh, of our eyes, of the pride of possessions. We allowed self’s desires to drive our choices. So often, we have chosen the temporary to the detriment, and even loss, of the eternal. Throw in sin’s penchant for deception and disordered desires, and we have the perfect trap for the spiritually inattentive.

We can avoid this dilemma by wisely choosing to be “too” obedient to God’s every command…even those I may not like. We can allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into an ever deeper “too” great a love for our Lord and Savior. We need to practice the spiritual disciples “too” much. Meaningful relationships and accountability with fellow Christ Followers, intentional prayer asking for God to allow us to see true reality through His eyes, and filtering all our desires through the grid of God’s Word, are some essential ways to avoid the trap of loving the temporal distractions “too” much. “Too” is not a bad word…but its use must be carefully guarded! When I err on the side of loving God “too” much, it’s hard to go wrong!!

Heavenly Father,

Please help me to love You too much. Allow me to see this fallen world so clearly that I will be able to resist the siren song of loving it too much. Holy Spirit, teach me to clearly see the eternal reality with all its promises of mercy and grace for those who will accept You as their Savior. Give me a holy hunger and thirst for the things which You have set before me. May I be totally satisfied with them and not be distracted by the temporal things of this world. In Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Overtaken - Feb. 9, 2022

Deuteronomy 28:2: “And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you obey the voice of the Lord your God.”

Blessings!! Few there are who brazenly choose to reject them. Most are all to glad to get them. Yet few are willing to pay the price to receive them!! Why is this so? Obedience to God’s Word is the stumbling block. Without the intentional keeping of God’s commandments…a full outpouring of blessings is blocked. To be very clear, we can never earn these blessings, they are not our birthright, nor is God obligated to give us His blessings. In large measure, God’s blessings are conditional even though they always flow from His unconditional love. God’s blessings can be a bit more complex than expected!

The context for the above verse from Deuteronomy, is found in Moses’ valedictory speech to the less than obedient Israelites as they are on the brink of entering the Promised Land. Please remember…this entrance has been delayed for four decades by their chronic disobedient spirit. Moses has just finished reciting an incredible host of God’s blessings with which He so wishes to enrich their lives, their faith, and their entire nation. The Israelites are all on board…or so it seems. But both God and Moses know the true spiritual state of their hearts. The disheartening truth…most are simply not willing to pay the price to be so blessed of God! I am not nearly so harsh in my judgment of them as I once was. As I better know the dark recesses of my own soul, I fully realize that I am often to be found among their members.

Throughout God’s Word, blessings and obedience are inextricably bound!! A revealing conversation between God and Cain is found in Genesis 4. Cain is loudly complaining to God about the “harshness” of his penalty for having killed his brother, Abel. God reminds Cain that if he had “done well he [and his sacrifice] would have been accepted”. Yet despite Cain’s wanton sins, God still gave him blessings…though far fewer than if he had chosen “to do well”. So it is, in the last chapter of Revelation, as Jesus reminds all readers, “Blessed is the one who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book.”

Dear friends, the pathway of yielded obedience is still the one which allows God to have His blessings come upon and to overtake us in our daily lives. God never demands perfect obedience. But He does expect me to honor Him with my intentional commitment to obey Him, to love Him, to love others, and to serve Him as fully as I can. I am not to serve with the intent to receive. My motivation is to be grounded in His love. All else flows from this living water. God will always bless His obedient child…as He chooses, when He chooses, and as He knows what is best for me. As you are out and about serving and loving God, be on the lookout! God’s blessings will quietly and surely come upon and overtake you when they are least expected, but most needed!!

Abba, Father,

Forgive me for expecting to be blessed on my own terms. Grant me the patience to allow You to bless me, since You alone know what is best for me. Strengthen my faith to rest easy in Your perfect and steadfast love for me. Holy Spirit, open my eyes to see the countless blessings which are continually washing over me. Teach me to receive them with a gracious heart which is full of gratitude. May I have the joy of sharing these blessings with those about me which are in sore need of them. For Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

A Steadfast Anchor - Feb. 3, 2022

Hebrews 6:19: “We have this [hope] as a sure and steadfast anchor of the soul…”

With perhaps the exception of sailors, I doubt that many people ever consider the merits nor the necessities of anchors. On those rare occasions when anchors do come to mind, they are usually seen in a negative light. You know…like anchored to a frustrating job, or maybe entangled in a toxic relationship, or just plain weighed down by too many demands and responsibilities. Life can, and does, pose endless scenarios where one feels tightly bound…or anchored…to circumstances from which they can find no escape. Hope is nowhere to be found!! The opposite side of the coin is no better. When gales abound in my life, and I find myself at their mercy, being helplessly driven toward unknown dangers, I then, am sorely in need of a proven anchor.

As Christ Followers, we are never guaranteed immunity from life’s difficulties and storms. Yet, God has given us an astounding promise of hope! His promise is backed by two immutable conditions. The first, is God’s unchangeable Word. Once given, it stands for all eternity…no exceptions. The second condition is no less than Christ’s completed work on the cross. His obedient death on the cross gained direct access…through our prayers and the Holy Spirit… to our Heavenly Father and to our beloved Savior. Yes, at times, the storms will rage, and life’s problems will seem to over-whelm us. But unlike those with no hope, we have a steadfast anchor for our soul. One which will always see us through any tempest that threatens to dismay or to destroy. The one who is securely resting in the safe harbor of God’s promises, has a steadfast anchor of the soul that can never fail. Guaranteed!!

Heavenly Father,

Thank You for loving and caring for Your children. We are, without doubt, a needy family! Thank You for Christ’s loving obedience which purchased my direct access to a steadfast anchor for my soul and a safe harbor for my life. Forgive me when I forget Your unfailing love. Please forgive me when I complain. Help me to continually have a grateful spirit for all Your daily provisions which so enrich my life.

In Your strength and for Your honor,
Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Songs in the Night - Jan. 27, 2022

Psalm 42:8: “By day the Lord directs His love, at night His song is with me…a prayer to the God of my life.” (NIV)

Though each translation seems compelled to slightly alter the wording of this short verse, I think the above arrangement best captures the intent of the psalmist. This well-known psalm begins with the sincere cry of a soul in the throes of a spiritual desert. A soul that is desperate for the quenching of their thirst which can come only from a living God. The context of the psalm clearly indicates someone who has previously known the joy of God’s comforting presence…the richness and fullness of a well-nourished soul. Yet, circumstances have changed. For this anguished soul, this is no longer the case! We find one who feels alienated from a silent God…a God who no longer seems to care or hear. Worse yet, those surrounding this beleaguered soul, are quick to sense the deep distress, and rather than consolation, offer taunting and ridicule, instead. Ever been there?? You may well be there at this very moment. Certainly, at some point in our spiritual pilgrimage, we have all been there! The question then becomes, “What can we do to escape this dreadful condition?”

We remember that our Savior has promised never to abandon nor leave the forsaken and the broken-hearted. He has not and He never will!! We choose to remember the past faithfulness of our living God. We keep crying out to Him. How so? Certainly, one tested and proven method is prayer…keeping our thoughts, and needs, and focus firmly fixed on Jehovah God. This allows us to keep our problems in a more realistic context. Also, we can sing!! Whether we fill like singing is immaterial. We are continually reminded (commanded) to praise God. By the way, praising God is never optional!

Please carefully reread Psalm 42:8. Did you notice who is the giver of the songs? Who is the one who “directs His love” to His own? And when are the songs lovingly and graciously sent? Finally, what does God reckon His songs to be? While we are trapped in our miseries, our Almighty Lord is intentionally directing His love to His hurting child. In our darkest hours of need, our God is sending His songs of remembrance and praise to fill our parched spirit with solace and comfort. In God’s sovereignty, He has equated these songs of praise as “prayers to the God of my life”. God is far from remaining distant, unhearing, and unloving when we are in the depths of our miseries. He sends us His songs in the night to be a bridge over the chasm of our miseries so we can reach His soothing and healing mercies.

Abba, Father,

Forgive me when I fail to remember all the continual mercies which You pour into my soul. Thank You for sending Your songs of remembrance and comfort to me in my darkest hours of need. Thank You for counting these songs as precious prayers that ascend to the very Throne Room of heaven. Help me to keep singing praises to my Lord and Savior…no matter my circumstances!

For Your glory and in Your strength,Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Pondering - Jan. 13, 2022

Pondering

Psalm 111:2: “Great are the works of the Lord; they are pondered by all who delight in them.”

Ponder is seldom used these days in ordinary conversation. While there are numerous reasons why this is the case, I strongly suspect the main cause lies in the torrid pace of our contemporary lifestyle. To ponder is to reflect, meditate quietly, consider deeply, weigh all the facts, dwell on, and even to wrestle with a given condition or set of facts. Looking closely at these many synonyms, reveals a commonality that can be rather startling to our restless society. These activities require a dedicated intentionality! We as a culture, are accustomed to an incessant barrage of data…some good, some not, but all of which we feel obligated to sort out in some fashion or another. The inevitable consequence…system overload!!! And when systems crash…oh my…all manner of stress, dysfunctions, and frustrations ensue. What often follows is a formless, but all encompassing, sense of foreboding which quietly robs us of our peace; steals our joy; and can even leave us with a continual sense of dread. God never designed His children to flourish in this restless and hostile environment!!

Christ Followers are certainly to remain active in culture. We are called to be its salt and light. We are called to minister to those whom God places in our paths. We have never been called to sequester ourselves from the world. Instead, we are commanded to visit the sick, minister to those in jail, and to clothe those in need. Yet…countless more times, Scripture commands us to study God’s Word, to meditate on it regularly, to hide it in our hearts, or to spend time in prayer with our Savior. In short…live a balanced life. Our ability to respond obediently to Christ, is in direct proportion to how well we have learned and internalized God’s Word in our hearts. We could say…how well we have pondered, meditated, reflected…and yes, even wrestled with those troublesome passages.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, must have been overwhelmed with the aged prophetess Anna’s and old Simeon’s mysterious proclamations concerning her six-week-old son. Mary had yet to come to grips with the unexplained events surrounding his birth…and now a simple Temple visit only compounded the mysteries. Mary’s response was key: “But she treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart”. From the very beginning, God was mercifully preparing Mary for the coming crucifixtion of Jesus.

Friends, I urge each of us to regularly follow this gentle admonition from an old and beloved hymn:
“Ponder anew what the Almighty can do, Who with His love doth befriend thee.”

Abba, Father,

You have promised to never leave nor forsake Your beloved saints. Yet, in our busyness, we so often fail to spend appropriate time pondering all that You are, what You have promised, and how You are continually interceding on our behalf. Forgive us our thoughtlessness! Help us to learn to keep our lives centered in Your Word. Help us to slow our lives down so that we can always be attuned to Your Spirit’s leading. Teach us to ponder well Your whole Word with its life-enhancing truths. In Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

A Thrill of Hope - Dec. 23, 2021

A Thrill of Hope

Please enjoy this recording of, “O Holy Night”, done by my 17 y/o granddaughter.

It is her Christmas gift to Sharon and me.
We wish to share this with all who need “a thrill of hope” during this troubled Christmas season.

“Oh Holy Night” – Eleanor Morrow

In His Strength and for His Glory!!
Merry Christmas!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Pressing Onward - Dec. 15, 2021

Pressing Onward

Philippians 3:13b-14: “But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”

Forgetting what lies behind. Straining forward to what lies ahead. These two phrases are peculiar enough in their own right! But when wrapped in the apostle Paul’s sense of determined urgency, they beg to be carefully examined to better understand their intended significance. For starters, Paul is clearly contrasting his response to past actions with those that yet lie in the future. His mindset is determined, clearly a continuing one, and has a purposeful ending in sight. He is intentionally choosing not to rest on his past spiritual history, neither failures nor achievements. Instead, Paul chooses to continually heed God’s calling him to an obedient lifestyle. We are to remember, with constant gratitude and praise, all the many wonderful works God has completed in our lives. Yet, we are never meant to dwell in them! Christ Followers are always to be actively engaged in our Savior’s Kingdom endeavors. This is another of the many Christian paradoxes…” the already, but not yet” tension that we struggle with daily.

So, just what should we be leaving behind??
• My forgiven sins
• My times of spiritual slothfulness
• The times of lost opportunities to serve my Savior
• The many unresolvable times when I have been hurt by others
• Those spiritual victories that tempt me to be prideful
• Anything…that hinders my progressive spiritual growth

And what should I be straining toward??
• More precious time with my beloved Savior
• More grace to forgive others, just as I have been forgiven by Christ
• More opportunities to be a comforter to those in dire need of God’s healing comfort
• More people with whom to share God’s love and His salvation
• More joy in a continuing long obedience to the Holy Spirit’s guidance
• More of Christ and less of me

In this passage, Paul is sharing his approach to finishing the Christian journey well. We are neither to forget the past work of God in our lives, nor are we to dwell there as if we had already completed the process of spiritual maturation.
Instead, we are to intentionally press forward into the goal of becoming conformed to the image of Christ. There is to be no retirement from an active Christian life!!

Heavenly Father,

Thank you for the apostle Paul’s challenge to finish our life in active pursuit of the call to become ever more like our beloved Savior. Thank you that we are already one with our Savior! We ask for Your help in staying the course, finishing the race well, and bringing glory to Jesus Christ. Fill us with an obedient spirit. Grant to us an everlasting desire to serve You well. Strengthen our faith as we strain forward to the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. In Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Harmony - Dec. 1, 2021

Harmony

Romans 12:16: “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight.”

Harmony. We all wish to have it…but at what cost?? The apostle Paul astutely recognizes that our desire for tranquility and peace, is largely to be achieved by our responses to the surrounding background dissonance that permeates so much of our lives. Again, Paul wisely reminds Christ Followers to can our pride and to lose the habit of thinking ourselves to be overly clever and full of wisdom. But just how are harmony and its lack, related to pride? For starters…these two conditions are polar opposites. They cannot, shall we say, harmoniously co-exist! Everyone recognizes overt pride. While we tend to recoil from its overt state, how quick are we to sense its subtleties, its pervasiveness, or its certain disturbances of peaceful relationships. Paul goes another step. He cautions those who are Christ’s disciples, to be aware of these disturbing habits and to consciously avoid them. How so? We are never to be wise in our own sight! Elsewhere, scripture clearly commands us to never exalt ourselves…not even a little bit…but to trust that to God’s purposes and timing. In due course, God will exalt His children. He has promised to do so!!

Paul’s final instruction to the Roman Christians is found in verse 16: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” Not an easy assignment! Yet, in the power of the Comforter, doable. A harmonious spirit is largely dependent on my choosing to follow God’s twin commands…avoiding prideful behavior and actively living peacefully with others. The coming holidays will provide a wonderful opportunity for all of us to practice these most basic relationship skills.

Let Colossians 3:12-14 be our closing prayer:

“Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you must also forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”

In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Casting Off - Nov. 17, 2021

Casting Off

Casting is one of those utilitarian words which is mostly used unthinkingly. It is generic enough to use most anytime one thing is being put aside or separated from something else. A ship casts its mooring lines from the pier to allow it to be untethered and free to move out to open water and journey onward to its next destination. Old, unused, or simply worn-out articles of clothing are cast into the trash or perhaps into a recycle bin. Then we have the memorable phrase,
“The die is cast!” A numbered cube is tossed and whatever is to be is set irrevocably into motion…win or lose.

The biblical use of the word, “cast” or “casting” encompasses all these various hues of meaning. Psalm 55:22: “Cast your cares on the Lord and He will sustain you; He will never let the righteous fall.” I don’t know about you, but as attached as I am to my many “cares”, truthfully, most of them are shopworn and need to be tossed away! They only serve to moor me to the docks of anxiety, worry, or fear. While I’m tethered to these docks, I’m not free to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit and to be fully obedient to God’s commands. My life is meant to be a journey of joyful service to my Savior, not a permanent anchorage caused by a disabled spirit. And speaking of casting the die, what a magnificent and irrevocable set of promises are given to those who choose to cast their cares on the Lord…He will sustain us and never let His righteous ones fall.

1 Peter 5:7: “Cast all your anxiety on God because He cares for you.”

Abba, Father,
How much You love Your children!! We fret over, we cling to, and we refuse to cast our cares and anxieties onto Your sovereign providence. We choose to be bound to them and their disabling ways. Forgive us! Strengthen us! Enlarge our vision to see through Your eyes and Your promises. Teach us to freely cast our burdens onto You…and to fully trust You to carry them.
In Your strength and for Your glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Whose Eyes? - Nov. 3, 2021

Whose Eyes?

Matthew 6:22-23: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!”

Eyes are often used as a metaphor or symbol representing a portal through which one chooses to view the world. A broader understanding of this metaphor can be seen as a person’s overall viewpoint…or in a word…their worldview. We all have one. The only question then becomes…do you really know what your worldview encompasses? Simply put, one’s worldview is the philosophic or conceptual lens through which you receive, process, and respond to the surrounding world. It’s the very bedrock foundation on which you have built your daily life. It informs your every desire and decision. One’s underlying worldview is deeply entrenched in their psyche…largely hidden from their conscious awareness. Parts of our worldview are intentional, while other parts are largely, and unconsciously, absorbed from our cultural interactions. For virtually all of us, some parts of our deeply held worldview, pose quite a shock, when we occasionally catch a glimpse of them unexpectedly surfacing.

So how do we go about familiarizing ourselves with our own worldview? As always, God’s Word is the single best starting point!! When we ask the Holy Spirit to square our whole worldview with the whole of Scripture…we are in for quite the ride! There will be lots of editing, unlearning, relearning, some resistance, and, in the end, a great deal of joy. This is to be an intentional life-long commitment. I close with two verses from the New Testament.
1 John 2:16-17: “For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and the pride of life—is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever.”

Ephesians 1:17-18: “…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him, having the eyes of your heart enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which He has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints…”

Truly…whose eyes do you choose to see the world through??

Lord God,

Thank You for not leaving Your children totally grasping about in a sin-darkened world. Thank You for the gift of the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation, which opens the eyes of our heart when we call on You. Please give us an unquenchable desire to fill our hearts and minds with the light of a clear understanding of Your pathway to righteousness and joyful obedience. May we always seek to see with Your eyes and not our own. In Your strength,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Lavish Love - Oct. 20, 2021

Lavish Love

For those who have spent much time reading God’s Word, a certain caution must be exercised to prevent the subconscious “editing” of long familiar scriptural passages. As an ancient adage admonishes, “Familiarity tends to breed contempt”. With the Bible, this is more of a complacency or comfortableness, that readily allows one to skim across the surface of verses without truly seeing or comprehending the richness of their layered meanings. One must read with intentionality, if the verse’s context and the surrounding matrix of supporting passages is to be properly understood. I think this tendency toward inattentive reading is readily illustrated by the numerous, well known verses proclaiming God’s love for His followers. I find myself seeing the word “love”, assume that, “God loves me…this I already know”, and then fail to carefully note just how or why it is, that “God loves me”!!

I have chosen a few verses, which hopefully, will give a deeper insight into the how and why of God’s unfathomable love for His children. God’s love is never passive, incidental, or thoughtless. It is preordained, intentional, and full of purpose! It is eternal!! And it is lavish…lavish beyond description!!! Please read the following selection of verses in a meditative fashion, asking the Holy Spirit to open your heart and mind to the extravagance of God’s love for each of His own.

Genesis 1:27: “So God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.”

Psalm 139:16: “Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in Your book were written, everyone of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.

Romans 5:8: “…but God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Ephesians 3:17-19: “…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith…that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Revelation 21:3-4: “And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God. He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”

Our Father God,

How lavish is Your love for humanity!! It is far beyond our comprehension…yet…Your Word continually assures us of its eternal reality. Thank You for loving me!! Thank You for giving my life a kingdom purpose, one that allows me to obediently respond to Your loving kindness showered upon my very existence. Holy Spirit, please help me to see the Father’s love at work in my life, to never take this perfect love for granted, and to actively share His love with all whom You place in my life’s journey.

In His strength and for His glory,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Sparrows and Lilies - Oct. 13, 2021

Sparrows and Lilies

If you are like me, I’m quite sure that you do not spend much time contemplating such seemingly arcane subjects as the common sparrow and the lilies of the field. For most of the year, living in this part of Texas makes it very difficult, to find much of anything blooming in our water starved pastures…much less beautiful lilies! And let’s face it, unless you are an avid “birder”, I doubt you can even remember the last time you saw a sparrow, much less tell me which species of sparrow and whether it was a male or female. For the record, there are six different species of sparrows which regularly inhabit all or various habitat niches scattered throughout our state. Most people, at best, would give the general description of sparrows as being small brown birds of little significance…and if you have a bird feeder near a window from which you enjoy watching the different birds tussling for their share of food, you most likely would add that sparrows are mostly a nuisance. Sparrows can be fiercely defensive of “their” perceived territory!! As beautiful as lilies are, few can flourish in the harsh conditions of an overlong Texas summer. Several native species of mostly small, and botanically speaking, insignificant lilies may successfully produce a brief fragile blossom before disappearing for the bulk of the year. It’s little wonder, sparrows and lilies are rarely thought about!!

I find the descriptors used to note the sparrows and lilies’ purposes, significance, and often their futile efforts to flourish, uncomfortably similar with those so often used to describe fallen humanity. We are fiercely grasping of what we consider to be “our” rights and “our” property. Whole masses of our society have been deemed “insignificant” and consigned to the barest margins of society or to oblivion. Only the few “privileged” who are momentarily perched at the top of humanity, seem to enjoy the fruits of their labor. Yet for the observant student of Scripture, sparrows and lilies were the very examples used by Jesus, to rivet attention, to the prominence of God the Father’s watch-care over all His creation. In God’s eyes, there are no insignificant flowers nor creatures nor persons!! None whatsoever!!
In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, He extolled the beauty of the common lilies. Though their “life” span was brief, their delicate radiance was loved by their Creator, who graciously provided for their very existence and purpose. Later in Matthew, Jesus again, sharply reminded His followers that even though two sparrows were daily sold for a pittance, not one of them would ever fall to the ground without the Father’s notice.

Christ’s conclusion: “Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

Heavenly Father,

How often I find myself fretting about “my” rights, “my” significance, or “my” life. Forgive me for forgetting the inestimable price with which You value all Your children. Our ransom was nothing less than Your Son’s becoming sin, obediently yielding to death by crucifixtion, while fully trusting His Father to raise Him from the dead, and to return Him bodily to sit at Your right hand in the throne room of heaven. Should I trust You less?? Please forgive me when I do! Open my eyes to see Your perfect watch-care and provision for every plant, creature, and human carefully placed in the preciseness of Your sovereignty. All glory, honor and dominion are Yours!!

In the name of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ,

Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Unblemished - Sept. 22, 2021

This is, beyond all doubt, a peculiar title for a devotional! It causes us to squirm a bit at the thought that we may not be unblemished…at least not as much as we prefer to think we are. For me, a brief glance into the nearest mirror quickly dispels all doubts! But I am not thinking about the physical. It’s those “inner” blemishes…those times when I choose to let self, have the reins of my life…or I cleverly maneuver to put self, first, just to make sure that I get my fair share, or whatever else that self wants…you get the idea. Generally, no one, but an unblushing narcissist will have the temerity to truly think they are perfect, faultless, and blemish free.

Given fallen humanity’s state, one should not be surprised that God’s Word weighs in on this matter of imperfections from a variety of fronts. Starting with Moses and Aaron…a pair of deeply blemished characters…we find God instructing them on the intricacies of the first Passover, including the sacrifice of a year-old male lamb that “must be without blemish”. As we well know, by the long and checkered history of the Israelite people, from that time onward, their corporate sin had to be atoned for by the yearly sacrifice of an unblemished lamb. A perfect, holy, and “unblemished” God could never accept any less!! 1 Peter 1:18-19: “…knowing that you [each Christ follower] were ransomed from…futile ways…not with perishable things such as silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot.” This is the cost of our becoming unblemished in God’s sight! I so often forget what eternal value and depth of love Jesus has for His saints, who collectively form Christ’s eternal bride…His Church. Ephesians 5:27 succinctly clarifies His love for His bride: “…so that Jesus might present the Church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.” For the Christ Follower…these verses are talking about you!!

I close with Colossians 1:22: “But now God has reconciled you by Christ’s physical body through death to present you [Christ Followers] holy in His sight, without blemish and free from accusation…” For the Christ Follower…we are indeed, reckoned as unblemished in our Heavenly Father’s sight. When those inevitable times of doubt or feelings of failure or seasons of spiritual despondency seek to rob you of spiritual peace and hope…gently remind yourself of how God sees His redeemed saints…”unblemished”…through the finished work of Jesus Christ!!

Abba, Father,

Thank You for washing me in the precious shed blood of Your Son, Jesus Christ. How incredibly gracious is Your love for each of Your children. Lord, You know that I do not feel “unblemished”, that I stumble and fall far short of what I wish to be, that so often I choose selfish ways that do not honor You. Yet, in Your great love and forgiveness, You have declared that for all eternity, even this very minute, that as Your redeemed child, I am seen as holy, reconciled without accusation, and as unblemished! Praise Your holy name!! Father God, grant to me the constant desire and strength to live in this eternal truth.

In Jesus name,
Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

Spiritual Amnesia - Sept. 1, 2021

Psalm 38:8-10: “I am feeble and crushed; I groan because of the tumult of my heart. O Lord, all my longing is before You; my sighing is not hidden from You. For my heart throbs; my strength fails me, and the light of my eyes—it also has gone from me.”

Have you ever felt this way? Especially when times (the moment) seem overwhelming or hopeless or even inexplicable? Of course…at one moment or another…we all have! There are times when this complex of emotions seems to be the appropriate option. This past year’s troublesome woes certainly have not been the worst in history…but for many of us, this historical nicety matters little. We have all lost family, friends or suffered through our own health issues, or have had our faith in a holy, perfect, and loving God assaulted or shaken in some fashion or way. In short, we have all been caught up in a “moment” in life that was far beyond our own “self-sufficiency’s” ability to comprehend or to manage. The result is very often a “spiritual amnesia”!! When under unrelenting duress, one shifts into a survival mode with its inevitable tunnel vision, and the jettisoning of all non-essentials. This is the classic “fight or flight” mindset. In certain circumstances, this may well be a life-saving strategy.

However, this is not the case with our spiritual lives. Rather, God repeatedly admonishes His followers to remember His promises of steadfast love, His Word filled with evidence of His faithful provisions for His own, and to remember the many times that He has delivered you from difficulties when no one else could or would. We are always to hold dear the promise, “God never forsakes nor abandons His own”. He never has, never does, never will!! God does not want His people to ever suffer from any form of “spiritual amnesia”. When we forget God’s great works of deliverance in our lives, we soon “forget” His intense love and steadfast faithfulness. With time, God’s commands will grow burdensome and neglected. The end result…we drift from God, we lose our keen desire to serve Him, and worst of all…we forget His story of redemption! In essence, we become trapped in the “moment” and lose sight of where we are in God’s eternal “story”. A vibrant spiritual health demands that I keep my focus squarely on God’s story of His Creation/Man’s sin and fall from grace/Christ’s Redemption and ultimate return for His Bride (His faithful Church). It’s a non-negotiable and eternal story that has and will involve every person that has or ever will live on this earth.

Jesus’ disciples offer us a prime example of “spiritual amnesia”. They had traveled with Him throughout Galilee, as He was “proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and affliction among the people”. They had heard Jesus preach His magnificent Sermon on the Mount to the enthralled masses. It seems that later that same day, they were present as Jesus instantly healed Peter’s mother-in-law of her febrile illness. Hours later, the disciples found themselves in a boat on the Sea of Galilee, with Jesus, sound asleep from exhaustion. The problem: an unexpected and vicious windstorm was swamping their boat faster than they could bail…they were sinking!! In a panic, they woke Jesus up, pleading with Him to save them from drowning. His response seems harsh…asking them why they were afraid, and then rebuking them for their faithlessness. Jesus rebuked the storm, immediately bringing a great calm. The disciples were left wondering, “What sort of man is this, even the winds and the sea obey Him”! This is a classic example of “spiritual amnesia”!! Before you are tempted to stand in judgement on their lack of faith, how often do we, in the heat of the moment, suffer from our own case of “amnesia”, muttering to ourselves, “Where is Jesus, when I need Him?”

Yes, we must attend to these crisis moments that abruptly intrude into our lives…randomly sowing discord, disorientation, and dismay throughout our “well-ordered” lives. But we must not let these amnestic “moments” long distract our focus on the “story” with its Divine capacity to reorder, reorient, and restore His followers to the proper spiritual perspective. We must never forget who Jesus is!! He is the eternal “story” that encompasses all the “moments” of my life. As Christ Followers who have become one with Him, His Divine story of victory, becomes our own victorious story!! Never let “spiritual amnesia” rob you of this amazing reality!

Heavenly Father,

Forgive me, when, in the midst, of difficult circumstances, I fail to remember that You have promised to never abandon nor forsake me…no matter what!! Holy Spirit, help me to live in the promised peace and hope and awe that the disciples experienced day in and day out, as they walked with Jesus. Never let me forget Whose I am, and the price paid for my life. Bring, to mind, daily, that You have chosen to allow me the greatest privilege of all…to live daily in service to You and under the pavilion of my Savior’s love…walking moment by moment in Your eternal story.

In His Strength,
Amen!!!

Dr. Ben McWilliams
BenM@christchapelbc.org

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