Fully supplied

divine power

His divine power has granted to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us to His own glory and excellence, by which He has granted to us His precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.  2 Peter 1:3-4

God’s divine power has given us everything we need for our lives and our path to godliness.  When we take a hold of this we are fully supplied, in other words.  The Christian life isn’t about just accepting a bunch of doctrinal creeds that we nod our heads in agreement to.  It is a power to be experienced and a divine power that saves us and changes us.  In 1 Corinthians 4:20 Paul wrote, “For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.”  And in Ephesians 1:19-20 he prayed that we would know this power in our lives, the same power that rose Jesus from the dead.

What we need to get through this life and to be godly comes from relying on God’s divine power, not our own striving.  According to Peter, this power comes through the knowledge of God.  That is, the more we get to know God, the more we are able to access this power.  Some people want more of God’s power so they can heal others or do big things for God.  But here it implicates that we get more of God’s power so we can be godly and have what we need for this life.

As we get more godly and get life figured out, it isn’t so that we become great somehow, but it is for God’s own glory and excellence.  We become like John the Baptist, who got people ready for Jesus, introduced them to Him, and then got out of the way.  He didn’t look for his own glory or legacy, only that which would point to Jesus.  The more we walk in this divine power, the more humble we become.  The less credit we get and the more Jesus gets.  And it’s okay.

Peter indicates that our knowledge of God’s divine power comes through grabbing onto His precious and very great promises.  We get to know God’s character through actually doing something because we believe in those promises.  Maybe that’s where we move from less talk and more action.  If we believe the promise of James 1 that if we lack wisdom we can ask for it, then we will ask for wisdom and actually expect an answer.  If we believe the promise of Philippians 4:13 “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength,” then we will actually do the things that God has put on our hearts to do–without fear or hesitation.

When we grow in the knowledge of God and put that knowledge into action, we become more like God and less like our flesh driven self.  That’s what it means to partake in the divine nature.  In other words, we are changed to wanting more of God and less of ourselves.  This will lead us away from the corruption of the world and from our sinful desires.  

I want more of God’s power.  It is easier to talk about what God can do than to actually get out and do something He is prompting me to do.  Right now I am trusting God, along with a small group of people, to establish a halfway house for women once they get out of jail or prison.  It is so difficult to continue walking with Jesus if women go back into their old environment, or if they really don’t have a place to go.

We are believing that God is in this, and now it is time to take action.  We have looked at three different houses, but none of them seem to be ‘the one.’  We are also trusting God for a supervisor to live there, that could hold them accountable to a different way of life and to keep them safe from old ties.  This involves both a larger money and time commitment on our parts, and it is scary.  We are standing on promises such as the ones in Isaiah 58 that talk about spending ourselves on the poor and the oppressed,  the hungry and the afflicted, and then we will see our light rise in darkness and  healing break forth like the noonday light.

God, may we grow in accessing this power through getting to know You better.  May we take a promise a day to stand on and then to actually do something that requires faith in You and power from You.  May we grow to be more like You and less selfish and small minded, and to put away the sinful desires that wage war against our souls.  I can’t wait to see what You will do for the glory of Your great and excellent name!


What’s your superpower?

spiritual gifts.png

As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies–in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To Him belong glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.  1 Peter 4:10-11

 

This little passage is about spiritual gifting, which is the empowerment by God to do things for the kingdom. There is a difference between doing things that we are naturally good at and doing something by gifting, leading and enabling power of the Holy Spirit.  I have been naturally good at sports and music, and in my younger years would do much of both without much need of the courage and gifting of the Holy Spirit.  But there is a supernatural gifting that comes from God, by His Holy Spirit, that has been called your “spiritual gift.”

There are many varieties of this spiritual gifting, with lists in Ephesians 4:11-12, Romans 12:2-7 and 1 Corinthians 12:4-11.  They are things like teaching, giving, hospitality, wisdom and discernment, preaching, evangelism, administration and showing mercy.   When Jesus comes into your life, He gives you abilities from His Spirit so that you can serve Him and build up the church.  And He expects you to use it for His glory.

No Christian can then say, “I’m not good at anything; I have nothing to offer.”  That is a lie from Satan, or a ploy of your flesh to be a slug.  As sure as you have the Holy Spirit in your life, you surely have a gifting of some sort.  

There are two ways of looking at this gifting:

That every believer has at least one of the listed gifts.  Your task would be to discover what that gifting is.  One way of discovering this is to get out and try things.  And, just like someone who shoots baskets in his driveway was meant to take those skills and be a part of a basketball team, your gifts are meant to be fleshed out in the church.  

 When there are opportunities to serve and you do something, you may find that some things are in your wheelhouse, and others just aren’t.  And, you may do something like help out with Sunday School or take part in the worship team, and people may tell you how that really touched them.  You may feel the working of the Holy Spirit when you tell others about Jesus, and you know those words didn’t come from your own head.  A pattern will soon follow of things you are drawn to doing, and of seeing God work through that.

That the gifting of the Holy Spirit in your life is varied, depending on the need of the moment.  If I am filled by the Spirit and am walking in the Spirit, being led to do something and I do it, the Holy Spirit’s power will work through me.  There are times when God has led me to do something that is totally out of character for me, but I know I must obey and do it, and God works.  

Here is an example of this:  One time I was at a prayer meeting with several other churches in our area.  The pastor leading it urged us to think about someone we could share the love of Jesus with, and to ask God how to do that.  As soon as he said this, a mom from school came to my mind.  As we bowed to pray, I had a flash of an image of me standing at her door with two bags of groceries in my hands.  She had been having some troubles with drugs and getting caught.  It would have been more comfortable to me to have her in my jail Bible study, but to walk up to her door with groceries was not in my comfort zone.

After work the next day, I knew that this was when I should do this.  Her house was right across the street, so it was easy to know if she was home or not.  There were cars in the driveway, so this was the time.  As I stopped at the stop sign, the choice was there: if I turned right I would go home, left to the grocery store.

“Okay God, I’ll just drive to the grocery store…okay God, I’ll go in, but I don’t know what to buy for them.”  I sensed God tell me, “Just buy what you would buy.”  So I went my usual route, but got double of what I would get.  As I got to the check out, I told the clerk, “I need paper bags, and all of this has to fit in two bags.”  That’s what in my  “mini vision.”   So I fit them snugly in and set off for her house.  I prayed that God would give the words to say why I was there.  I didn’t have a script prepared.

When I got to the door with the bags in my arms, she came to the door and said, “What are you doing?”  Her living room had several people in it, so we walked into the kitchen and said, “I just wanted to let you know that God loves you.”  She gave me a hug, I talked with her and the guests for a few minutes and I left.  I am still waiting for the opportunity to tell her more about Jesus, and I have this gut feeling that one day it will come.

This was a one time working like that.  I was obeying  the leading of the Spirit, and trust that God worked through it.  If God is leading you to do something, just do it with the courage and the strength that He provides.  

“We are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  Ephesians 2:10


What time is it?  It’s always ten to two

…But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, it is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.  When He was reviled, He did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.    1 Peter 2:20-23

1 Peter was written to Christians who had been scattered because of persecution.  Throughout this book, Peter gave a lot of advice, inspired by the Holy Spirit, about how to live in the midst of tough times.  In 1 Peter 2:11 he called the believers “sojourners and exiles.”  That’s who we are.  This world is not our own.  

We probably aren’t relocated because of our faith like the first century Jesus followers, losing our homes and jobs.  But our society is getting darker, and that day could be coming.  The day I’m speaking of is what Jesus followers around the world have experienced for centuries–persecution because of our faith in Jesus.

Peter wrote that if you suffer for doing wrong, you should endure it.  But it is another thing to suffer for doing the right thing.  This could mean losing much for doing the right thing.    And it could mean a lot of other more severe things as the times grow darker and the hatred of Jesus continues to ramp up.

When I was in graduate school at a state university for counseling, in order to finish the Master’s program we all had to write an assigned ‘position paper.’  The questions were ones like, “What, in your view, is the problem of man?” and “How are we different than animals?”  My professors were clearly secular and some voiced strong sentiments against God.  I knew that I must answer the questions from the Christian perspective, and I also knew it wouldn’t go over well.

One of the professors left a message the minute she read my paper, “In no uncertain terms, get God out of it.”  Another professor, my advisor, claimed to have lost my paper.  This was before the days of computers.  I stood my ground and my paper was eventually was passed through, against the professors’ strong feelings.  I’m glad to report a good outcome, but I must be ready to take stands that don’t turn out as well.

many-and-few.jpgIn the Old Testament, when Moses sent twelve spies into the Promised Land to check it out, ten came back with a bad report and only two said that, with God on their side, they could take on the giants.  It was ten against two, and the ten won out.  I’m here to say that it is always ‘ten to two’ when you follow Jesus.  We are are vastly outnumbered by those go against God, versus those who look at giants and see a giant God behind them.  Matthew 7:13-14 talks about this, saying that the road to following Jesus is hard, the gate is narrow, and only a few find it.  ‘A few’ means less than what we even think when it is time to stand up and be counted.

Be ready to suffer for Jesus.  He showed us the way and He calls us to follow in His footsteps.  Jesus didn’t use deceit to avoid the cross, and when He was treated horribly, He didn’t strike back, or threaten the persecutors.  Instead, Jesus “continued entrusting Himself to Him who judges justly.”

We must not get revenge, use the methods of the world to win, or lash out in any way.  Instead, we must continue to do good, standing in faith that God is standing with us, entrusting ourselves to God, who judges justly.  Don’t be shocked by people hating you because they hate Jesus, and don’t crumble under the push back, recanting  your faith.

ten to two

Don’t be surprised when you are standing alone and the crowd isn’t cheering for you.  It’s always ten to two.

 

 


Rescued from Hopelessness

 

abundant life.jpgKnowing that you were ransomed from the futile ways (the empty way of life)  inherited from your forefathers, 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.  1 Peter 1:18-19

In 1978 Kansas released the song “Dust in the Wind.”  It’s kind of a fun sing along song, but yet it reflects the emptiness of life, “Just a drop of water in an endless sea…”  King Solomon kind of said the same thing in the book of Ecclesiastes.  He was the wisest man, had tons of money and wives and stuff, but yet he concluded it was all “a chasing after the wind,” in Ecc. 2:17.  

I was struck by this futility when hearing of an old friend who would go to her dad’s grave every year to pour a can a beer on his grave in remembrance of him.  On her way out from the cemetery, she got into a serious car accident.  It made me think of the futile and empty ways of trying to make life have meaning.   

But with Jesus, life takes on a new meaning, or He gives meaning and value for the first time.  Things go from black and white to color.  In John 10:10 Jesus declared, “I have come that you might have life, life to the full.”  And in John 14:6 He said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”  Jesus came to give us life, meaning to life, abundant life, and a value of life that we can’t know apart from Him.  

Everyone tries to figure out life’s meaning and value, with the questions of ‘where did I come from, why am I here, and where am I going?’  When you begin to embrace the Bible and its world view, you can see that you have been created by God, the events of your life have meaning and value, and coming into a relationship with Jesus gives you eternal life.  

This was made possible by the precious blood of Christ.  Jesus shed His blood on the cross so that we could be redeemed, or ransomed from the futile ways of life that we inherited.  To be ransomed is to have a price paid to get you back from a kidnapper.  Our soul napper is Satan, who took us captive in our sin to do his bidding.  Jesus paid the bounty with His blood to buy us back from Satan and to set us free to enjoy this life that is abundant and joy filled.  Jesus rose again to demonstrate that He is the Son of God,  with power to conquer sin and death.  We must claim this personally, asking God to forgive our sin, crying out in belief that Jesus came from God, died for us and rose again and living a life given over to Him.

Last night I was reminded of the truths of 1 Peter 1:18-19 as I sat with women from our County jail in a Bible study.  Two women cried in despair as they described the troubles of their lives, of the struggles of addiction and of how they didn’t think that life has any purpose to it.  They listened as we talked about the hope that God proclaims that comes from finding life in Him.  

Oh God, may they find their hope in You, and may they be rescued from their empty way of life that has brought such pain.  Thank you that you have saved me from a hopeless life and that You have given me meaning to life, with the glorious hope of eternity with You.  Thank you Jesus, for redeeming me with Your precious blood.

For He has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.  Colossians 1:13-14


The voice of the enemy vs. the voice of truth

voice of truth

Submit yourselves therefore to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  James 4:7

 Do you ever get these voices from somewhere within that nag at you, or remind you of dumb things you have done?  And, do you ever have things happen and someone else comes at you with the voice of the enemy?  For me, it’s echos of the words of the ‘mean girls’ that I grew up around, or the insults of one of my brothers putting  down at every chance.    And there are others close to me, that when times of stress come, that say the words of the enemy.  They say things that I don’t need to hear, things that pull me down, and are words of anger and blame.

This is not what God thinks of us.  God calls out to us words of truth about ourselves, about those around us, about our past, and about His plans for us.  In fact, Zephaniah 3:17 that He “exults over us with loud singing.”  God quiets us with His love and sings songs over us because He loves us.

The voice of the enemy lies, taunts, and casts seeds of doubt. In Isaiah 36, there is the account of where Sennacherib, the king of Assyria, was taunting the Jews and King Hezekiah.  In Isaiah 36:14-18, Sennacherib sent messengers to taunt the people of Judah: “Do not let Hezekiah deceive you.  He cannot deliver you!  Do not let Hezekiah persuade you to trust in the Lord…when he says ‘The Lord will deliver you,’ don’t believe him.”

Satan and his demons will tell you the same lies, either taunting your thoughts or through the statements of others.  They are things like, “The Lord doesn’t love you…He doesn’t hear your prayers…Look at you–you’re a mess.  Who do you think you are?”  1 Peter 5:8 describes Satan as an adversary who “prowls about like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour, and John 10:10 as the thief who steals, kills and destroys.

Our response:  In Isaiah 36:21 we find, “But the people remained silent and said nothing in reply, because the king said, ‘Do not answer him.’”  Don’t negotiate with terrorists.  Don’t answer Satan and get into a debate.  Speak truth out loud.  John 8:44 tells us “Satan was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with truth because there is no truth in him.  When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”  

Learn fighting words.  Jesus told Peter who said that He must never go to the cross, “Get thee behind me Satan,” in Matthew 16:23.  We must tell Satan the same thing.  As James 4:7 states, “Resist the devil and he will flee.”  Tell him to get lost in the name of Jesus.  Revelation 12:10-11 calls Satan the accuser of our brothers who accuses them day and night before God, but they conquered him by the blood of the lamb and the word of their testimony.  If you have called out to God to redeem your past, it is covered by the blood of the lamb.  Speak what God has done out loud, and don’t give Satan any hidden secrets to blackmail you with.

The voice of the enemy condemns.  Satan will whisper lies about you not being forgiven, that God promises are for everyone else but you, that you don’t deserve God’s love, that you’re nothing but a schmuck…When you believe those lies and have nothing but self contempt and anger, he’s got you right where he wants you.  You may think that whatever bad happens is because it’s your fault, or that you deserve only calamity, that things will never work out, that something bad is lurking and you live with fear, worry and untrusting thoughts.

Because you believe those words about yourself, if you do, then you are quick to say those things to others when the pressure is on.  Matthew 12:35 reports, “The good person brings good things out of the good stored up in him and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.”  I’m not calling you evil, but if you don’t kick those thoughts out of your innermost being, that’s what comes out.

Immerse yourself in truth that sinks into what you truly believe about yourself.  Psalm 51:6 says, “Behold You delight in truth in my inner being, and You teach me wisdom in the secret place (or secret heart).”  If I kick out the lies of the enemy in the core of my being and store up God’s truth about myself, about others and about the character of God–that’s what will come out in times of pressure.  When a toothpaste tube is squeezed, what is inside comes out.

The voice of truth, words from the Bible, tells us:

  • I will never leave or forsake you.  Hebrews 13:5
  • We are His masterpiece, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God has prepared in advance for us to do.  Ephesians 2:10
  • There is no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus.  Romans 8:1
  • Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.  Romans 8:35
  • If you confess your sin, God is faithful and just and will forgive your sin and cleanse you from all unrighteousness. 1 John 1:9
  • We can do all things through Christ who gives us strength.  Philippians 4:13
  • God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but of power, love, and sound judgment.  2 Timothy 1:7

This is a great song by Ellie Holcomb, called “Fighting Words.”  Check it out:

 


What does it look like to be a Christian?

faith in action

If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.  Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world.  James 1:26-27

James gets straight to the point of what it means to be doers of the Word and not just hearers.  He uses the words ‘religious’ and ‘religion.’  Those are words we try to avoid as Christians.  We want to emphasize that we are resting in what God has “done” for us via Jesus and the cross, not what we “do” to be acceptable to God.  But James dives in, using the words and then telling us three things that  true ‘religion’ should include:

  1. Our tongues must be bridled.  In James 3:8 he writes, “no human being can tame the tongue.  It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.”  But God can tame our tongue, through the power of His Holy Spirit.  A Christian, then, is someone who “walks by the Spirit and does not gratify the desires of the flesh,” (Galatians 5:16).  If we name the name of Jesus, our speech must be controlled by the Holy Spirit as a pattern.  If we aren’t marked by walking in the Spirit, then we are fooling ourselves about our true relationship with Jesus.  James calls our faith ‘worthless.’    In fact, so do the people around us.   Ouch.
  2. Our time is spent visiting orphans, widows and those afflicted.  Doing those things doesn’t ‘save’ us.  But going out of our way to help those who can’t help themselves is a byproduct of our salvation.   Because I belong to Jesus, my heart should break with what breaks His heart.  Orphans and widows must be at the top of the list for James to specifically mention them.  Many other places include the poor and the oppressed on God’s list for us to care about, including Isaiah 58 and Matthew 25:31-46.
  3. Our lives are marked by being unstained from the world.  The Amish use this as their proof text for living in a cloister without lights and machinery.  Are we supposed to become Amish?  In John 17:15-16 Jesus prayed, “I do not ask that You take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”  The question is how to really be ‘in’ the world but not ‘of’ the world.  In James 4:4 James called us adulterous people, saying “Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?  Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”  

Lord, bridle my tongue and control me with Your Holy Spirit.  Put Your agenda on my heart so that I go out of my way to bleed for widows, orphans and the afflicted.  Show me where I am standing on the wrong side with my affections.  I do not want to be an adulterer, nor do I want my faith to be worthless, shallow and self centered.  Move me by Your love and Your power today.

 


Here’s My Heart Lord

Know this, my beloved brothers; let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.  James 1:19-20

Both Ephesians 4:31 and Colossians 3:8 command us to put away anger, wrath, malice, slander and obscene talk, as well as clamor (chaos or drama).  I suppose all of those cousins of anger keep us from being good listeners.  Go back to James 1:4.  In the ESV it reads, “Let steadfastness (perseverance, endurance, patience)  have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete…”  

That means we have to let, or to allow, God to do His work in our lives.  We also have to let go of resentments, bitterness, our tendency to get revenge and to back stab.  We’ll look first at how to let God do the work in us that leads to righteousness, and enables us to be quick to hear and slow to speak, as well as slow to anger.

  • James 1:21 gives us our first clue: “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word, which is able to save your souls.”  The ‘implanted Word’ is the Bible at work in our lives.  It is able to save our souls, according to this verse.  We are to receive it with meekness, which is another word for humility.  We get the implanted Word from preaching, sound teaching and from our own reading and studying.  All of this needs to be aimed at applying its truth to our hearts and lives.  That’s where humility comes in.  Instead of hearing a sermon and thinking, “My sister should hear this,” we must listen for ourselves and ask God what it is that He wants us to implement.
  • 2 Timothy 2:22 commands us to, “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”  If you try to get rid of a bad habit without putting a good habit in its place, you are bound to fail.  We are to chase after righteousness and hang with people who do the same.  Don’t be a companion of fools.  Pursuing righteousness involves monitoring all of the music, tv shows, movies, books and things in your environment.  Instead, spend your time reading Godly books, worship music that lifts up Jesus, and fellowshipping with like minded people.  Pray and ask to help you to find them.

Now for how to ‘let go of’ the things that we are to put away.

  • Do a fierce moral inventory and see who and what you are holding on to bitterness and resentment about.  Give them to God, asking Him to forgive you for holding onto the bitterness and then forgiving the person who wronged you.  Ask God to show you if you have “anything against anyone.”  Bitterness fuels drama and forgiveness fuels a peaceful heart.  Forgiveness enables you to walk away from drama and backstabbing.
  • Do a clean sweep in your house and life.  Get rid of things that keep you from pursuing righteousness, burn them if necessary.  End bad relationships as gracefully as you can.  Do the hard work of finding new friends and  hobbies.
  • Embrace God’s forgiveness.  Psalm 103:12 promises, “As far as the east is from the west, so far does He remove our transgressions from us.”  Corrie Ten Boom has said that God throws our sins into the deepest part of the ocean and puts a ‘No Fishing Allowed’ sign on it.  Don’t get bound up in anger against yourself because of things in the past.  Do what Paul urged in Philippians 3:13, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead.”  If Satan reminds you of your past, you remind him of his future!

This song is a cry for God to do a work in our lives.  It’s so good.  Click on the link:

Here’s My Heart, Lord by David Crowder

 

 

 


More on God’s Grace (I just can’t get off of it!)

Job 42-5.jpg

I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You (and I repent).  Job 42:5

I led them with cords of kindness, with the bands of love and I became to them as One who eases the yoke on their jaws, and I bent low to them and fed them.  Hosea 11:4

There is a facet of grace that has been tumbling around in my mind, calling out to me to put words to it.  ‘Chesed’ is the word in Hebrew that speaks of God’s grace in terms of deliverance from enemies, affliction, or adversity.  It denotes enablement, daily guidance, forgiveness and preservation (from allaboutgod.com).  

When God does something in us, or for us, that we couldn’t do for ourselves, that is His grace.  In Titus 3:4-5 it starts with, “When the goodness and kindness of our Savior appeared, He saved us.”  This kindness and goodness doesn’t stop once we become a Christian, it carries us throughout our lives.  It keeps appearing, sometimes in very difficult or unexpected situations.

I was talking with an old friend about how things have been going.  He had told me a few months ago that his son and his brother were both struggling.  His son had only been married less than two years when his wife decided that she didn’t want to be married anymore.  Her father and mother’s relationship hadn’t been good and it ended poorly.  So her conclusion was, why stay in a bad marriage to have it end like that?  He has been waiting at least nine months for this marriage to come back from the dead, waiting with the control really not being with him at all.  As time goes on, the prospect of restoration fades.

My friend’s brother has been a pastor of many years.  Less than a year ago he revealed that he had been having an affair for several years.  Now his wife and children won’t talk to him and have refused his pleas for forgiveness.  He has lost pretty much all he has known for the last thirty years and lives in a crummy apartment back in his small hometown, helping out with their mother who has dementia.  He too waits for God to show up and do something that he can’t do.

Remember the woman who had been bleeding over 30 years?  She pressed through the crowd just so she could touch the hem of Jesus’ robe (Mark 5:25-34). She thought something like, “I will throw myself at His feet, shamelessly asking for help.”  And Jesus helped her, He did not send her away.  When God does appear with His goodness and kindness and speaks to your desperate situation, it is radical.  That’s when Job said, “I’ve heard of You, but how I’ve seen You.”  In other words, “I used to sing ‘Amazing Grace,’ but now I have met amazing grace.  I can sing of it first person.”

I have known others whose lives have been ripped apart and rebuilt into something completely different, who have a testimony of God’s grace that is riveting.  In the process of unwanted interruptions, God brings us to Himself and it deepens our relationship with Him, bringing about pure gold.

That was my thought about the son and brother who have professed knowing Jesus most of their lives.  They have heard about grace, but when God’s kindness and mercy show up and fix their unfixable situations, they can say, ‘now grace lives with me.’  And their Christian lives will explode into directions they never could have plotted out.  Just when God will do that, I don’t know.  But because of His ‘chesed,’ I know He will.

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God leads us with cords of kindness and bands of love, bending low to ease the yoke on our jaws.  Jesus appears with His goodness and kindness and saves us from our troubles, or at least gives us a ‘new normal’ with the strength that comes from Him to handle whatever yoke that is on our jaws.

 


Need wisdom?

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If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him.  But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed in the wind.  For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.  James 1:5-8

A dear co-worker’s family has been going through some upheaval with her husband’s job.  It has been a three month roller coaster and they have faced several forks in the road where each choice would take their family down an entirely different path.  He lost over ten pounds in the process because he was so worried he couldn’t eat.  My word to both of them was this passage: if you need wisdom, ask for it and God will give it to you.

Her response was to say, “I guess we haven’t prayed about it.”  How easy it is to name the name of Jesus, but yet not apply Proverbs 3:5-6, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your steps.”  The husband’s response when I shared the James 1 verses with him was interesting.  He shook his head like he was smacked by the verse and asked, “would you say that again?”  It seemed like such a different idea to him to think that if he needed wisdom to simply ask God and He’ll give it to you.

James tells us that God gives wisdom generously to those who ask.  That’s a great promise.  When he declares that God will give us wisdom to all without reproach, that  means that God doesn’t find fault, he won’t rebuke or criticize us.  I hate telling someone about something that happened or is happening and they jump in with criticism that starts with, “You should have…” or “Why didn’t you…”  God promises that He will give us His wisdom generously and He won’t tell us how stupid we are for getting into that jam in the first place.

James  also gives us some conditions to our asking for wisdom.  We are to ask in faith, without doubting that God is listening to us, that He cares, or that He can actually do something about our situation.  It’s like bringing an umbrella to a prayer meeting calling out for rain.  We need to come to God believing that He can do anything, without ‘hedging our bets.’  That indicates that we bet on both sides just in case God doesn’t come through.

James calls that double minded faith, saying that such a person will not receive anything from the Lord and even calls them ‘unstable.’  Having a half-hearted or not-all-in faith sounds like that in God’s eyes it doesn’t amount to much.  James 1:7 also tells us that such a person will not receive anything from the Lord.

So when you need wisdom, ask God for it.  He gives it generously to anyone who asks, without criticizing or casting blame.  But ask in faith, being all-in when it comes to trusting God.  To my co-worker, stop trying to figure things out on your own.  You say you believe in God, so now it’s time to trust Him, do things His way, and place your life in His hands.  When you do, ‘you’re in good hands,’ as the All State commercial rings out.

 


What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

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Count it all joy, my brothers and sisters, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.  James 1:2-4

I didn’t have a very good week.  The  first day of my much awaited month off  started with an extreme gallbladder attack, though I didn’t know what it was for a day.  Day two involved having it removed.  Day 5, I hit a deer, smashing our car and causing the airbags to go off.   Our deductible from our health insurance will cost up to $8000 out of pocket.  

Different versions use the words perseverance, endurance and patience instead of steadfastness.   So, be joyful when troubles come your way, and be steady, persevering, patient, and not crumbling like a cheap card table.  Somehow our trials and troubles, given their full effect, will make us mature, perfect, complete and lacking nothing.

In 2 Corinthians 1:8-9, Paul said that they thought they were going to die and didn’t think they could endure.  But then he said it happened so that they would not rely on themselves, but on God who raises the dead.  Paul was saying there was a purpose in his suffering, which was so that he wouldn’t rely on himself, but on God.  I’ve been saving extra money away, dreaming of retiring from my job which has gotten more grueling for several reasons, including me getting older.  And in a snap that money goes toward something  else.  Perhaps God wants me to rely on Him and not my own resources.  

God also wants to produce in us  a wholehearted faith.   He values that so much that He may, in His love, take away all the other things that we might be tempted to rely on.  In my case, maybe it was money.  God’s aim is that we grow deeper and stronger in our confidence of Him, knowing that He’s all we need.

Finally, God wants our faith to be strong.  Being joyful when troubles come is a reaction that is counter our own emotional response.  Being steady and unwavering because God is our refuge in times of trouble can be a showcase for those around us to see His life at work in us.  Satan stood before God saying that Job’s faith was really because he was so rich and prosperous.  God responded by making a wager that if all of the stuff was gone, Job would still worship Him.  Job proved that his faith wasn’t built on all of the stuff, but that he worshiped God because God is worth it.   

Job’s faith was strong because God planted it in him, just like He did in Moses and the other Hall of Famers, and just like He does in us.  He will grow and build our faith, even protect it.  Jesus told Peter that in Luke 22:31-32: “Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”  

So take heart in your trials, making them a source of your joy.  God will use those troubles to cause us to rely on Him, and to show us that He’s all we need.  When we let God do His work in us through our struggles, He grows us.  God protects our faith even when we are sifted like wheat by Satan.  And in the end, it is “He who keeps us from falling and will present us blameless before the presence of His glory with great joy.”