Dr. Ben McWilliams - Life Stage Pastor at Christ Chapel Bible Church
“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.
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!!
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,
Dr. Ben McWilliams
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!
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,
Dr. Ben McWilliams
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