Tag Archives: Encouragement

I’ll never, no never, no never forsake!

Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised.  For, ‘Yet a little while, and the Coming One will come and will not delay; but My righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.’  But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls.  Hebrews 10:35-39

The title is the last lines to one of my old favorite hymns, “How Firm a Foundation.”  The soul that on Jesus hath leaned for repose, I will not, I will not, desert to his foes;  That soul, though all hell should endeavor to shake, I’ll never, no never, no never, forsake!   (Bernhard Schumacher, 1931) The writer of Hebrews could have written that hymn.

Hebrews is filled with calls to persevere in our faith, and warnings about what will happen if we don’t.  In Hebrews 6:11 we find, We desire each of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.  There the writer called them sluggish, in Hebrews 5:11 he called them “dull of hearing.”  

And the writer says, if you don’t stop drifting (2:1) and neglecting your salvation (2:3) and forsaking the assembling of yourselves together (10:25), you are going to be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin and fall away from the living God (3:12–13).  Those are big warnings.  If you drift, play around with sin, don’t pursue holiness, and aren’t growing in grace, this is a wake up call for what we call “carnal Christians.”  

Hebrews 10:39 tells those carnal Christians that if they shrink back in their faith they will be destroyed, causing me to discard the word ‘Christian’ from the description.  This would be a deception, perhaps causing such people to think that they could and would eventually get their acts together. In other words, that thinking would be a mark of someone who is not really saved at all.

On the faith side, for those who do not shrink back in their faith, there is great reward.  In order to do this, you will need much endurance. In other words, the Christian life is not a cake walk.  Difficult times are to be expected. Don’t think that you are going through something unusual if hard times hit because of your Christian faith.  

In Luke 21, as well as other places, Jesus told of how we will be brought before kings and governors for His name’s sake.  We will be delivered up even by parents, siblings and friends and some will be put to death.

Luke 21:19 encourages, By your endurance you will gain your lives. And Paul stated in Acts 14:22: Through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God.  So get your endurance gene sharpened!enduring faith

A mark of saving faith is that it endures because God will give you the grace and the strength to endure.  That is what will give you the courage to sing “I’ll never, no never, no never forsake.” We are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but are of those who have faith and are preserved–no matter what.


Accepting Christ is just the beginning

If you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the gospel…So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.  Colossians 1:23; 2:6-7 NIV

This is just my pet peeve, so allow me to get it off my chest.  Then maybe I can move on from it. I can’t tell you how many sermons I have sat through that the application point is, “So, if you haven’t accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior, now would be a great time to do that…”  I am not against pressing for a decision when the gospel is preached, don’t get me wrong. Repentance and faith in Christ are a big deal, not just for those who have never placed their trust in Jesus, but for all of us.

Here is where I struggle:  I want the application points to be brought to the point of growth, not just to stop at accepting Jesus.  Parents don’t just have babies and say, “Well, my job is done. You’re on your own now kid.” No, that would be absurd.  Birthing a child is just beginning. So it is with the Christian faith. Now it is time to continue in our faith, to be established and firm, to be rooted and built up in Jesus.  We need to help each other learn how to be established and firm in the faith, and to put our faith into practice.

The “Great Commission” verses of Matthew 28:18-20 tells us to go and make disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe (obey) all that I have commanded you.  The whole idea of making disciples reaches beyond simply making a decision for Christ.  The application points of sermons then should reflect what it looks like to be established and firm, rooted and built up in Christ, strengthened in the faith, and overflowing with thankfulness.

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With that in mind, the following are some of my application points of what that would look like:

  1. Established and firm.  Hebrews 12:1-2 urges, Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  There are a few things in that passage.  One is that being established and firm means to get rid of any known sins and weight in our life.  No sin habits, no hidden sins, no bad habits, no questionable things–put them aside. This Christian life is a marathon, not a sprint.  It calls for endurance. Just like a die hard runner has a whole different lifestyle (no sweets, early morning runs, geared for the long haul), so must we be.  
  2. Not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Hebrews 12:2 tells us to fix our eyes on Jesus.  That is one way to stay steadfast and strong. Encouragement is another way of staying the course.  Hebrews 10:24-25 states, Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.  The root of encourage is courage.  We meet together to give courage to one another.  Sermons are a way of speaking courage into the body of Christ, to say “Stay strong and don’t give up–you are on the right track.”  The more we see evil amping up in our society, the more we need to depend on this because the more outnumbered we will be.
  3. Rooted and built up in Him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught.  Psalm 1 is a marvelous psalm that gives the contrast between the one who does not stand in the way of sinners and the one that does. His delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law does he meditate day and night.  And he will be like a tree planted by the streams of waters that brings forth its fruit in its season.  Its leaf does not wither and in all that he does he prospers.  The godly feeds on the Word of God, delights in it, and his roots go down deep.  When the storms come, he stands strong. He bears fruit. “As you were taught,” connotes that this grounded person takes advantage of godly teaching, which includes Sunday school, regular church attendance, small groups and personal Bible study.  “And in all he does, he prospers.” That’s a promise of a blessing.
  4. And overflowing with thankfulness.  In Romans 1:21, Paul wrote that when things fell apart being unthankful was to blame: For although they knew God, they did not honor Him as God or give thanks to Him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.  It is the start of the downward spiral.  On the opposite end, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 Paul commands: give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.  If you want to know God’s will in your life, start by giving thanks in all of your circumstances.

My application is this:  Take a look at these four areas and pick a couple of things, maybe just one to work on.  If you have been grumbling a lot lately, pick #4 and list out all of the things you have to be thankful for and start giving thanks.  If you have some sin habits you need to shed, get rid of them now. Ask God to search your heart and spotlight what it is that is grievous to Him and hurting you.  

May you continue in your faith, established and firm, not moved from the hope held out in the Gospel.  Just as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in Him, established and firm, strengthened in the faith as you were taught and overflowing with thankfulness!

 


First things first

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead that in in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  Colossians 1:15-18

When I was in college there was this cult, “The Way International,” that was sweeping the campus.  This was in the late 70’s, so it was a while ago. They would prey on vulnerable students with the pick up line, “Do you want abundant life?”  Then they would invite them to a weekend retreat for $250 and brainwash them. Their main book was “Jesus Christ is NOT God.”

Two gals on my dorm floor were getting sucked in.  They hadn’t gone to the weekend retreat because they didn’t have $250, but they went to their so called Bible studies.  I kept saying, “It’s a cult. Get away.” I was like 19, so not a fully developed brain…I went with them to one of their meetings.  Of course, people from “The Way” drove and it was a snaggly route all over the city, in the dark. They went through this programmed Bible study, so to speak, and sang a couple of strange hymns, and one of the people spoke in tongues of some sort.  As soon as the meeting part was over they broke out wine and started downing it, which I thought was strange.

The other two young women and I were the only non-groupies in this apartment.  I was sitting on the floor chatting when one of the leaders asked me what I thought about the study.  I launched into a complete monologue about why Jesus had to be God, not taking a breath because I knew they would break in and this was my only chance.  The person who asked me was standing and I was sitting. He snapped his fingers and within seconds the whole group was standing encircled around me.

I kept talking, going through Colossians 1, John 1 and Hebrews 1.  Then I went through Romans 3:23, Romans 5:8 and Romans 6:23. As soon as I finished, they nodded silently not saying a word.  No one spoke a word in response. We were there for at least another half an hour and no one talked to me, only to the other two students with me.  As I look back, I’m fortunate that we got home that night! The good news is that the two young women that came with me joined my dorm Bible study and quit going there, which was my intent.

Colossians 1 proclaims the glorious truth that Jesus Christ IS God and He is the king and Lord of the universe.  After Jesus rose from the grave, He was alive on the earth for 40 days. He then ascended into Heaven.

He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high and from there He upholds the universe by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3).  Colossians 1:15 tells us that Jesus is the image of the invisible God, Hebrews 1:3 words it that He is the exact imprint of His (God’s) nature.  

Moving on in Colossians 1 it says For by Him all things were created.   In other words, Jesus created everything.  John 1:3 tells us the same thing: All things were made by Him, and without Him nothing was made that has been made.  So get this “Mother Nature” thing out of your vocabulary.  It is a slap in the face to Jesus every time you say it! He made everything and is behind what takes place in nature.  In Him all things hold together.

All things were created for Him.  Everything, even Satan and demons.  They were created to bring glory to Jesus.  Have you ever thought of it that way? They are under Jesus’ authority, so whether we can wrap our minds around it–they are Jesus’ pawns.  World leaders were created for Jesus, mosquitos were, everything.

Jesus is the head of the church.  If we diss the church, then we are disrespecting the head of the church, which is Jesus.  The church is the agent which God has chosen to carry His great name and to fulfill the great commission.  It is not perfect, but it has a perfect head. Ephesians 1:22-23 tells us, God placed all things under Jesus’ feet and appointed Him to be head over everything for the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills everything in every way.  

foam fingerSo that in everything He might have the supremacy (first place).  You wouldn’t say to your spouse, “You’re in my top five.”  Same with Jesus. Jesus must be our number one. If you put Him first, according to Matthew 6:33, everything else will fall into place.  I’ll never forget when the Arizona Cardinals won the Super Bowl and they stuck the microphone in front of Kurt Warner asking him how he did it.  He said, “First things first. I want to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” He now has a ministry called “First things first.”

That should be all of our taglines.  

 


Headed in two completely different directions

Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who live according to the pattern we gave you.  For as as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ.  Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things.  But our citizenship is in Heaven. And we eagerly await a Savior from there, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Philippians 3:17-19

When I turn on the news and see those who rant against those who might want to cutopposite directions.jpg back abortion rights or other “freedoms,” I start to wonder if they are ranting because they are really enemies of the cross of Christ.  If someone stepped out of the crowd and asked the question, “What do you think of Jesus and the Bible?” I wonder what their answer would be.

For some, I fear that it would be that they are indeed enemies of the cross and of Christ.   …I remember sitting across the table from an old friend from college. He happened to very involved in a gay lifestyle.  He looked at me and said, “I’m all f—ed up. What can you tell me that could help me?” He seemed desperate for a turn around.  I told him about Jesus and how He rescues sinners and changes lives. Jesus did it in my life, and He could do it in his.

This friend’s response was, “When I asked for your opinion, I wanted your personal opinion, not your religious opinion.”  I explained that they were the same. He said that he didn’t want to have anything to do with Jesus.  

…A co-worker was furious because her pastor had put crosses on the lawn of her church, dozens of them, to represent babies that had been killed from abortions.  He then gave the children’s sermon about why life is precious and said that abortion is taking a life. She just couldn’t understand why he would bring up that topic in church.  I asked what she thought the Bible had to say about abortion and if that had any play in the issue.

She stopped and thought, and basically said that she would have to decide whether the Bible had any authority over her life or not.  She hasn’t been back to that church or any other church since then.

…In another situation, I was in graduate school for counseling and the requirement to finish was to write a position paper.  There were specific questions to answer as guidelines for this paper. The professors said that they couldn’t ask us to change our position, but we had to be consistent in whatever position we stood on.  The questions were ones like “What, in your opinion, is the problem of man?” and, “How are we different than animals?” It went on from there.

I couldn’t answer the questions any other way than from a Biblical point of view.  It was back in the days before cell phones and emails. When I turned my paper in, there was a voicemail from one of the professors on my home phone by the time I got home.   In a mean voice, she said: “In no uncertain terms, get God out of your paper.” I knew I couldn’t take God out of my paper, but I also knew I needed this to finish my Masters program.  I prayed, changed the opening line to the middle of the paragraph and resubmitted it.

The interesting thing was that there was an attempt, it seemed on two professors parts, to then lose my paper.  I had to have a showdown in one of their offices after his night class to retrieve it. He denied having it, although the other professor said he did.  I said I couldn’t leave until I had it. He said, “I said I didn’t have your paper, I don’t have it.” He tried to shut the door, but I put my foot out to stop it.  He had stuff piled everywhere. I looked down, and there was my paper on the top of the pile right in front of me.

“Oh, lookie there,” I said.  “Just what I needed. Thanks a lot, and have a great night.”  

***Colossians 1:21 states, Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior.  Some people know that they are God’s enemies, others don’t. In John 16:3 told the disciples that people would put them out of the synagogues thinking that they were doing God a favor.  The Pharisees were God’s enemies, but they thought they were His representatives, speaking for Him and helping Him out.

Paul tells us in our power verses what the underlying motives of those who are enemies of the cross of Christ: their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, their glory is in their shame.  Their mind is on earthly things. It is because they don’t know Jesus. Their eyes are blinded. They are pointed in a completely different direction than Jesus followers are. I think about the people that don’t know Jesus and I want to weep.  I want them to know Jesus and not to perish. They need to hear there is another way.

Our citizenship is in Heaven and we eagerly await a Savior from there.  Paul started by saying, Join with others in following my example, and take note of those who follow the pattern we gave you.  In other words, don’t look at the people who hate Jesus as your role models and examples.  Spend your time around those who pattern their lives after Jesus. Copy them. Keep your eyes on the prize and run with others who have their eyes fixed there.

Fellow Jesus followers will encourage you when the times get tough, they will stand with you when the enemies of the cross close in, and run with you toward Jesus.  What a day that will be when we see Him! Keep that picture in your mind. It is a glorious one.

 

 


Putting Jesus front and center

I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.  For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ.  Philippians 3:8

When I first got out of college and graduate school, I thought I was ready to take on the world.  I had a few years of schooling under my belt and God had done some pretty wild things in and through me.  They were ‘wild’ good and I was wanting to share them with anyone I could.  The funny thing was that no one seemed to care.  They weren’t running up to me asking me how much I knew, wanting to know what God had done in my life, all the places I had been…

I’ve always said that the maturity path is: in your twenties you think you know everything, in your thirties you don’t think you know anything, and then after that you have a pretty good sifting of what you do and don’t know.  BUT, I’ve missed the point.  At least according to Philippians 3:8.  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.  It never was.  Maybe somebody should have told me that back in my twenties, and maybe they tried and I couldn’t hear it.  It should have been about Jesus all along.

Paul said it in Philippians 3:  I used to brag on myself all of the time.  If anyone could do anything, I could do it better.  But now I count it as rubbish compared to knowing Jesus.    I started to figure this out a few years ago after reading a cool old book called They Found the Secret by V. Raymond Edmonds (1960, Zondervan).  He was the President of Wheaton College and he compiled stories of famous Christians from the early to mid 1900’s.  They were people who knew God and who did things for Him.

There is the story of one guy that really changed my thinking about just waiting to tell people about myself and what God has done in me–and turning that around to just talking about Jesus.  His name is Ian Thomas.  He said that he learned, Only as I related situations to Jesus did I find that He undertook.  As soon as I related a situation to myself, He retired into the background…That is the secret; it is so simple!  Just to relate everything to the Lord Jesus, and take our hands off–to stand back and say, ‘I thank Thee, Lord, this is Thy situation! (page 140)

Picture it:  Jesus is with you and you’re talking about Him.  He stays front and center and He’s free to work, and stuff happens.  People are drawn to Him, lives are changed, and the things you are trying to do actually go ten times smoother than usual.  You don’t draw attention to yourself, just to others and point to Jesus whenever you can.  But then you start talking about yourself and Jesus withdraws into the background.  He isn’t free to work, and the opposite is true.  Things don’t go as smoothly, the cult of “you” is formed, and you’re the only member.

Ian Thomas had said earlier in his testimony, I tried to make up with noise what I lacked in effectiveness and power (page 137).  The less we put our confidence in Christ, and the more we put it in ourselves, the more we need the “noise.”  We may be seeking effectiveness and power, but looking for it through the noise of our personality, skills, technology, loud music, or whatever else we take pride in other than Jesus.

So I’m better than I used to be.  I don’t try to jump in with stories about myself, or ‘one garbage-can-1260832__340.jpgup’ someone else’s story.  In fact, if people ask me about myself, I’m quick to try to bring it around to what Jesus has done or to get out of the limelight.  Maybe I’m in the ‘Paul club’ now, where I count all my stuff as rubbish just so I may gain Christ and be found in Him. At least I hope so.

 


The River of God’s Delights

They feast on the abundance of Your house, and You give them drink from the river of Your delights.  For with You is the fountain of life; in Your light do we see light.  Psalm 36:8-9

I am in earlier stages of studying through the Gospels chronologically.  As I embarked on this, I prayed that God would do a fresh work in me, that He would surprise me new things as I took another walk through the life of Jesus.  I love the song by Meredith Andrews, “The Gospel Changes Everything,” with some of some of its words:

The Gospel changes everything, the turning point in history, even now it’s changing me from who I was; The story of my Savior calls me to the wonder of the cross, The Gospel changes everything and it is changing me…

Jesus changes everything, there is no greater mystery, that God would come to rescue me from who I was; The kindness of my Savior calls me to the wonder of His love; Jesus changes everything, and He is changing me!

I was pleasantly surprised this last week as I felt God answer my prayer, bubbling up within me.  I have been setting my alarm an hour earlier to spend more time with Him in the mornings, and quite often lately as I’m going through the Gospels He just puts things on my heart.  I was at our State capitol this last week to receive an award for our school.

The small group that I was with was walking to dinner the evening before and there was a gentleman talking loudly to himself on the street corner.  He caught my attention.  As I was eating, I had way more food than I needed and God brought the man to mind.  I stopped eating and asked for a to-go box.  I told my party that I hoped the man would be there on our walk back to the hotel.  They too had extra food and I thought they might follow suit, but didn’t.  But they did help watch for the man as we walked.

 

thank you river of delightsI couldn’t spot him and I was dashed.  But as I looked, there came another street person, a woman.  I stopped her, touched her gently on the shoulder, and asked if she would like some food.  She smiled broadly, took it and said, “Have a blessed evening.”  I walked away so happy inside, knowing that this was something that bubbled up from what I had just read from the Sermon on the Mount that morning.

 

God had put it on my heart, and the joy I experienced was from the river of God’s delights.  The neat thing is that God doesn’t just give us water, He establishes in us a fountain of living water that bubbles up from within. I don’t have to conjure this up, or vow each day to “be a nicer person,” He does it through me as I drink deep from Him.

*Image from Google Images

 


Know God, Be Strong, Take Action

daniel knew his GodBut the people who know their God shall stand firm (be strong KJV; rise up) and take action (do exploits). Daniel 11:32b

This verse is in the context of Daniel foretelling what is going to happen in the “end times,” which is a period of turmoil before Israel will be restored to its former glory and Jesus will sit on the throne in Jerusalem.  In the middle of much conflict and extreme evil there is a big “but.”  It is a light in the middle of the darkness: “BUT the people who know their God will stand firm and take action.”

David knew it when he rose up as a shepherd boy and took on Goliath.  He said in 1 Samuel 17:37: The Lord who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.  Then in verses 45-47 You come to me with a sword and with a spear and with a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, the God of the armies of Israel, whom you have defied…I will strike you down that all the earth may know that there is a God in Israel, and that all this assembly may know that the Lord save not with sword and spear.  For the battle is the Lord’s and He will give you into our hand.

We need this same moxy today!  I am encouraged when I read headlines where people are in perilous situations or do big things and give glory to God.  One such example was this last week when Tammie Jo Shults landed the Southwest Airlines flight April 17 safely after an engine blew midair.  Though one passenger was sadly lost on the flight, the other 144 faced the same plight, but she safely landed the plane.  Tammie Jo was quoted as saying that “God sent His angels to watch over us,” in a Charisma News article of April 18.    A Christian, Tammie Jo reports that she gets opportunities to witness for Christ on almost every flight.  This time she got an opportunity to stand firm and take action.  The biggest thing that the news reports commented on was her calmness.

The idea is being ready for action, ready to be used by God.  There are three characteristics that I want to highlight about those who know God and are ready for action:

  1. They  understand the times and know what to do.  In 1 Chronicles 12:32 that is how the men of Issachar are described: Of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do, 200 chiefs , and all their kinsmen under their command.  This takes discernment.  It takes watching the news and current events, sifting through all of the political bickering, posturing and flat out garbage–and then knowing what to do.  Discernment comes through prayer and Bible study more than through watching TV and being on the Internet.  In Habakkuk 2:1 he declares, I will take my stand at my watch post and station myself on the tower, and look out to see what He (God) will say to me.
  2. They have boldness and an undying energy in the Lord.  In 1 Chronicles 12 there is a description of David’s mighty men.  It details the mighty men who helped him in war.  They were bowmen who could shoot arrows and could sling stones with either the right or the left hand.  They were experts with the shield and the spear, whose faces were like the faces of lions and who were a swift as gazelles upon the mountains.  They crossed the Jordan in the first month, when it was overflowing all its banks and put to flight all those in the valleys, to the east and to the west.  Now those are exploits!  God isn’t looking for an army of physical warriors today, but He is looking people with that same boldness and spunk.   He has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of boldness, courage, and ‘Go ahead punk, make my day’ mentality.  If we can have that kind of attitude for the things of the world, let’s have it for God.  Don’t let the enemy wear you down!
  3. They dream big dreams, and then do it.  Those are the kind of people I like to be around.  Paul declared, I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, in Philippians 4:13.   I’m trying to catch myself every time I tell God that I can’t do something, including “I can’t take this anymore.”  No–I can do all things if He gives me strength.  And God will if that is what He wants me to do.  David stepped forward when no one else would.  He was in the right place at the right time, and it was God’s place for him and God’s time.  God, give me Your dreams.  Put them on my heart.  Place me around dreamers.  Keep the ‘no’ people far from me.

May you know God, be strong, rise up and take action.  And may you impact our generation for Him.

*Image from zh-cn.facebook.com

 


Keeping Our Heart Safe

 

 


Of Eagles’ Wings and High Walls

They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.  Isaiah 40:31

Those who wait for the Lord.  What does it mean to wait for the Lord?  Have you ever run ahead of God?  Maybe you were too impatient to let Him work out His plan, so you took matters in your own hand, and you ended up with a mess.   If you did, how did it work out?

Waiting on God means that we apply Psalm 34:5, Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him, and He will act.  It is trusting God to direct your steps, praying to Him and waiting for an answer before you act.  It is also daily coming to God to ask His opinion on your day, not just going in your own energy and strength.

Shall renew their strength.  Paul said in Colossians 1 that his goal was to teach and admonish everyone with all wisdom so that everyone would be mature in Christ.  In verse 29 he gives away a little secret, “struggling with all of His energy, which works so powerfully within me.”  This meant that Paul had to put a lot of time and his own energy into reaching others for Jesus, but He did it with Jesus’ strength and energy.

That is a big secret.  The only way we can live the Christian life successfully is to let God live it through us via the Holy Spirit.  Usually we don’t figure this out until we come to the end of ourselves, like through some sort of disabling injury or disease, or loss of a job or some situation where we are in over our heads.

Save yourself a lot of trouble and figure it out now! Philippians 4:13 reads I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength, not I can do all things because I have so much strength. Come to God daily and ask for Him to give you His strength and wisdom for the day. Don’t rest in your own strength, wisdom and resources. They will quickly fail. If they don’t, you’re just full of your own pride, and that’s another issue.

They shall mount up with wings like eagles. The Holy Spirit is a part of the trinity.  He is God’s personality and His job is to teach, convict, and guide us.  His job is also to empower us, according to Acts 1:8, You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you shall be My witnesses… The Holy Spirit gives us the power not to sin, the power to set our mind on Heavenly things and not on ourselves, and He gives us the power to mount up with wings of eagles.

They shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Many days when I’m already worn out and I just got out of bed, I find myself praying these verses.   Psalm 18:29 says, For by You I can run against a troop, and by my God I can leap over a wall. Claim God’s strength to equip you to do what He has called you to do.  It’s funny that on those days when I’m driving to work with no energy and I’m calling out for it, when I’m driving home on those same roads, I’ll think: “I made it!”  I’ll marvel that God did it, not that I did it.  He’s that kind of a God.

receive His strength.jpgI pray that God would give you His energy and strength.  I pray that God would give you His power, wisdom, creativity and equipping for the day.  May you mount up with wings like eagles and may you run and not grow weary. In Jesus name today may you leap over a high wall.

 

 


White Spaces

You shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that He might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not.  And He humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know.  Deuteronomy 8:2-3

Have you ever noticed that God isn’t in a hurry?  If I were to create or work out a story of mankind, I don’t think I would include 400 year gaps of time, like where the Israelites stayed in Egypt between Joseph’s death and Moses’ exodus.  Nor would I have another 400 year time of silence where no prophet spoke between Malachi and John the Baptist.  The wilderness wanderings of Moses and the children of Israel might get shortened to maybe five years, and Jesus would have gotten to Bethany before Lazarus before he died, not after.

But I’m not God, and as Isaiah 55:8-9 tells us, our ways are not His ways and they are as white spacefar apart as the Heavens are above the earth.  He works slowly and deliberately for a reason.  Deuteronomy 8 lets us know it is a part of our growth process: to humble us, to let us know what is lacking in our character, to get us to learn to keep God’s commandments, and to cause us to hunger for God and God alone.

In JD Greear’s book Jesus Continued (Zondervan 2014), our women’s Sunday School class is on the chapter of “When You Can’t Feel God.”  He calls the gaps of time that you experience silence from God “white space.”  It’s the space in the Bible between one part of the story to the next.  It’s the space between the call of God and the fulfillment of the dream.  It’s also the white space of singleness; the white space of sickness; the white space of finishing out a prison sentence; the white space of unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations.

A Biblical example would be the time between when David was anointed king and the time he actually took over as king.  There were a few years in-between, and quite a bit of drama.  It’s easy to lose hope in the interim and doubt yourself or doubt God.

This white space time can be terribly confusing and the hardest part of life to endure.  Greear’s encouragement is not to waste the white space.  It reminds me of the story of Gracia Burnham.  Gracia and her husband Martin were kidnapped by Abu Sayyaf rebels while on an anniversary trip in the Philippines in 2001.  They were in captivity for over a year.  On an episode of “Locked Up Abroad” Gracia told of this harrowing time.  The interviewer asked if it had changed her in any way.  She stopped and said something to this effect: “It has made me kinder and more forgiving.  I hope it has changed me.  Otherwise I have wasted 375 days in the jungle.”  I don’t want to waste my jungles either.

It was while I was reading Jesus Continued the first time through in the summer of 2015 that God showed me the meaning behind a big white space in my life.  Up to that point it was terribly confusing and just a dangling question mark for me.  I had felt a yearning or a “call” of God for missions when I was in college.  I certainly had a heart for ministry, if not missions.  I went to this big missions convention at the University of Illinois at Urbana twice with 20,000 other students.  Whatever capacity God would lead me to, I knew I needed to finish college, get some experience and Bible training, and then go.

Once I finished my second year of graduate school with a Bible degree I thought, “this is finally it.”  I had pursued different missions boards and landed on one to apply for a three year stint overseas.  I was accepted and went to their candidate school in Wheaton, Illinois.  In the middle of this three week missionary and pre-missionary gathering, the green light shifted to a flashing red light with no advanced notice.

Part of it had to do with the leadership.  They really didn’t communicate with me as they said they would and any time line that they set up where they said they would talk, they didn’t.  I waited patiently at first, less patiently as time went on and as the weeks and then months went on from there, until  I gave up.  My attempts to figure things out weren’t met with solid answers and I went into an emotional spin for at least three months, if not longer.

As I tried to get a word from God, He was putting things on my heart about returning to my home state of Wisconsin, to a small town, working in a church full time, in the denomination I last was a part of in through college.  I was living in South Carolina, on Hilton Head Island, and from there God moved me to the south shore of Lake Superior, in the middle of the winter–a very brutal winter.  But it was with an old friend from college who was a pastor of a smaller church who needed a youth director.

That was over thirty years ago.  I went from working in that church for five years, to feeling led to working in a school setting, which I have been doing full time for 26 years.  The “call to missions” that has continued to ring in my heart has been that white space, with a few other details surrounding it.  In the middle of most of that time, I was single and wondering what God was up to.

While reading the chapter in Jesus Continued, God helped me connect the dots, in an act of grace.  Check out this passage in Ezekiel 3:5-9: For you are not sent to a people of foreign speech and a hard language, but to the house of Israel–not to many peoples of foreign speech and a hard language, whose words you cannot understand.  Surely, if I sent you to such, they would listen to you.  But the house of Israel will not be willing to listen to you, for they are not willing to listen to Me: because all the house of Israel have a hard forehead and a stubborn heart.  Behold I have made your face as hard as their faces, and your forehead as hard as their foreheads.  Like emery harder than flint have I made your forehead.  Fear them not, nor be dismayed at their looks, for they are a rebellious house.

It was like He spoke it straight into my heart.  This was the great “ah hah” for me, the answer to my white space.  I was fulfilling my call to missions by being right where I am.  God didn’t send me to a people with a foreign speech and a hard language.  If He did, they would have listened to me.  Instead, He sent me to my own people in my own home state.  And they aren’t willing to listen because they have a stubborn and rebellious heart.  I can vouch for that.  It has been a time of much spiritual warfare and little fruit, many hard hearts and little response.  In response to this, God has given me a face as hard as their faces and a forehead like flint.  I can take what they dish out, and more.

Why the white space and the difficult assignment?  Just as Deuteronomy 8 says: to humble me, and to show me what is in my heart so that I know I need God and I dare not trust in myself.  It is also that I might learn to obey God and to hunger for Him as my true daily bread over and above anything else.

May God fill in the blanks on your white spaces and may you learn the same lessons of humble dependence.