Tag Archives: Mindset

You’ve lost that loving feeling

first love

I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for My name’s sake, and you have not grown weary.  But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first.  Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.  If not, I will come to you and remove your lamp stand from its place, unless you repent.  Revelation 2:3-6

Jesus gave John messages for seven churches in Revelation 2-3 when He appeared to John in a vision.  This message was for the church in Ephesus.  Paul helped to establish that church thirty or forty years before this, and he wrote the book of Ephesians as a letter to them.  Jesus was telling them things that they had that were commendable, and also some things they needed to repent of.  

Let’s take a look at the commendable things first.  They were enduring trials patiently for the sake of Jesus.  Secondly, they did not grow weary of standing firm, nor did they give up.  This tells me that God sees us when we labor on, doing the right thing, and  taking heat from others.  We might think that no one else notices, or wonder if it is worth it.  The resounding answer is that God sees and He will reward us for our endurance.  He sees both individuals and churches.

Lately I’ve been struck with the idea of doing things that are a secret between God and myself.  In Matthew 6:1-2 it says, “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in Heaven.  Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others.  Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.”

 There are many awesome things that God has done in my life.  If I never get to tell anyone about them, it’s okay.  That can be our little secret.  I know God sees me and He knows what I am doing and enduring for the sake of His name.  My reward will come in the end from the One who sees me.

Now for the negative:  They had lost the love and zeal that they once had for God.  He didn’t say, “That’s okay, you did a lot of good things when you were younger.”  No, He called them to repent.  To repent means to admit that losing that intensity of devotion is sin, and then to return to the devotion that you had earlier on.  It means a change of heart and a change of actions.  

It could be tempting to live your Christian life in fits and starts.  That means you have good stretches and you have bad ones.  According to this, you need to repent of the bad ones and return to the first love that gave you the drive to follow the Lord wholeheartedly, serve others and be involved in things for the sake of His kingdom. Jesus told the Ephesians that if they did not repent, He would remove their lamp stand from its place.  That means that there were consequences for their dwindling love for Jesus, or just going through the motions.  It is the same for us today.

A friend was referring to someone else who was in a “spiritual funk.”  She said, “Maybe he’s just tired of trying to save the world.”  That could sound like a good excuse for allowing someone to continue in their funk, but according to this, it’s not okay.  We can’t have good sounding excuses before God.

It’s time for a gut check: Have you abandoned your love and passion for Jesus?  If so, repent and return.  Make choices to go in the opposite direction and do it today!


The Overcomers

overcomers

Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for He who is in you is greater than He who is in the world…For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world.  And this is the victory that has overcome the world–our faith.  Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  1 John 4:4 and 1 John 5:4-5

John was writing about false prophets, lying spirits and antichrists that deny that Jesus lived in the flesh and rose from the dead.  That’s who he was saying that we have overcome.  Why?  Because we’re on the power side, the winning side.  The false prophets and lying spirits are from the world and the world listens to the lies.  But we are from God.  God is greater than Satan, greater than false notions and ideas about what is going on and what we need to do.  And He is in us, so that makes us overcomers.  To be an overcomer means to prevail, to conquer or to win the victory.  It also implies that we face a battle.

Do you feel like an overcomer?  Or are you weighed down by the many things from life and from ‘the world’ that pull at you?  We are overrun with ‘fake news’ that makes you wonder what is true and what isn’t, and who’s lying and if there is anyone out there that isn’t involved in deception.  In our daily lives we encounter mockers, haters, obstacles, and internal struggles of all kinds.

The good news  to anchor our souls in is the fact that God is on the throne.  And through faith in Him we can experience joy, freedom and victory.  Our faith isn’t just a random, fuzzy faith: “As long as you believe something sincerely, that’s all that matters,” or “Everything is all the same, just under a different name.  You just need a higher power of some sort.”  1 John 5:5 counters that with this truth:  Our faith must be in Jesus Christ who is the Son of God.

In Acts 4:12 it says that there is “No other name under Heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”  That name is Jesus.  Don’t believe anything else, no matter how sincerely you think they are okay to blend into your life.  Everyone has to leave some belief system to follow Jesus.  Further, Colossians 2:9-11 declares, “For in Christ the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.’  (NIV)

Jesus is the top dog, with all of the power.  Don’t settle for anything less by doing what Colossians 2:8 tells us: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.”  When you place all of your trust in Jesus, you will have the power to overcome whatever comes your way.  

You don’t have to fear, nor do you have to resort to your old way of getting things done.  Maybe you used to use anger or some sort of manipulation to get what you want.  Now, you commit your situation to God and let Him do His work.  You may have been consumed with worry, thinking that somehow through your fretting that things would change.  Now you pray.  Or, you might have taken things into your hands to control, taking charge over others to make them comply to get things done.  With Jesus in your life, now you only concern yourself with your matters and leave God to work in other people’s’ lives just like He has in yours.

You are from God, you have overcome and you will overcome future problems through faith.  You have placed your faith in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.  Through that you have a power to see God work in situations that look hopeless, and to use you for His glory in ways you could never have dreamt of on your own.

 


Where the rubber meets the road

rubber meets road.jpg

We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers and sisters.  Whoever does not love abides in death.  By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.  But if anyone has the world’s goods and sees his brother in need, yet closes his heart against him, how does God’s love abide in him?  Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.  1 John 3:14, 16-18

John makes several statements in his book that have to do with figuring out whether you really have passed from death to life, or that you have Jesus.  I have been in settings throughout my life that urge people to simply pray a prayer, commonly known as the sinner’s prayer, and that is the proof that you are now a Christian.  In 1 John, John never mentions a prayer.  Rather, he mentions keeping God’s commandments, not practicing sin, and having love for others as ways to know that Jesus is really at work in our life.

Today’s verses are tough ones.  I gulp as I read them because I have a letter sitting next to me from someone who habitually asks for money.  I have left the letter sit, not quite knowing how to proceed.  I struggle with the adage, “If you give a man a fish…”  I want her to learn to fish and not be dependent.  Yet, this says if I have the world’s goods, which I do, then I can’t close my heart against her.  I can’t say I love God and not be generous when and where I can.

John also says in chapter 3 that we can’t hate anyone if we are a Jesus follower.  Are there people that you change walking routes if you see them coming?  I must confess that I do that occasionally.  It is time to examine my heart.  John asks the question, “How does God’s love abide in us?”  That is a good question to let rattle around in our heads.

How does God’s love abide in us?   In my job I can get so jaded by the demands of people, which as a principal includes kids, teachers and parents.  I have many people manipulating, blaming, making excuses, calling me many expletives and even sueing.  I can sit stoically while someone on the other side of my desk cries, usually in an attempt to control me.  I get it when Jesus said we are “to be wise as serpents and innocent as doves,” in Matthew 10:16.

Yet I must find a way to keep God’s love in my heart.  And I must keep a passion for His kingdom and His glory to fuel me.  I’m guessing your workplace and living space encounters aren’t much different, though the details may vary.  There are some passion fuelers that we need to make a consistent part of our lives:

  • Have consistent time in God’s Word and in prayer.   It has to be complete with a “so what?” question, that leads to application.  Our love for God, and our ability to be equipped for every good work, comes through getting grounded and centered by Him.  Jesus had to go away and pray to the Father, and consistently went to the ‘lonely places’ to do so.  If He needed it, so do we.
  • Following the model of passionate saints.  I love biographies of missionaries and of people who have done great things for God.  I find that the writings of those who lived before the 1970’s (just a ballpark date) to have a stronger metal that we do now.  My all time favorites include biographies of Jim Ellliot and the other four men who gave their lives in Ecuador, Amy Carmichael, David Brainerd, Gladys Aylward and Dr. Helen Roseveare.  
  • Worship music.  You have to weed through some of the Christian music that is a little too ‘me’ centered, but there are great songs of the faith that can fuel your passion for God and passion for others.
  • Find people who need Jesus to minister to.  One time I was giving a talk on Matthew 22:29, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God.”  Someone asked how they could get their kids to not tune out to the Bible, Sunday School or church because they think they know all of those stories.  Ya da, ya da, ya da.  My quick response, so quick that I think it was from God, was to suggest that they go as a family to find people who haven’t heard about Jesus and minister to them.  Having the opportunity to tell women in jail about Jesus and the good news of forgiveness and peace with God fuels my passion.  Ask God to lead you to someone, and He will.

Back to our verses for today, “Let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.”  1 John 3:18.  May God’s love and your passion for Him fuel you today.

*Image from The Bear and the turtle – wordpress.com

 


The Day of the Lord

cosmic disturbances.jpg

But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed… But according to His promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.                                2 Peter 3:10, 13

 

This is a big topic that many people have of a lot of different views on.  It is the topic of Jesus’ return and the events surrounding it.  I could call this “The Day of the Lord for Dummies” as I don’t get technical, but offer a simple explanation of end times events using a face value interpretation of prophetic passages.  This is just dipping our toes into the water on all there is to say about Jesus’ return.  Peter spent most of chapter 3 telling us about this day of the Lord.   Let’s check out some of the things that he describes.

Four things about the Day of the Lord from 2 Peter 3:

The Day of the Lord  (DOTL) will come like a thief .   Peter describes the coming of this day being like a thief.  Paul used the same description in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-5, For you yourselves are fully aware that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.  While people are saying, ‘There is peace and security,’ then sudden destruction will come upon them as labor pains come upon a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.  But you are not in darkness, brothers, for that day to surprise you like a thief.  For you are all children of light.  

The day of Jesus’ return will surprise those who do not know Jesus, the children of the night.  Like a thief, it will sneak up of them and catch them ill prepared.  But not us, for we are children of the light.  This means that there are signs that we can look to for a heads up.  Those signs are detailed in Matthew 24.  Matthew 24:15 says, When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.  That is one definitive sign with a sequence of events to follow, listed in Matthew 24:21-31.

The heavens and the earth will be burned up.  2 Peter 3:7 tells us, By the same word the heavens and earth that now exist are stored up for fire, being kept until the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.  That means that the earth, as we know it, isn’t going to be around for another million years or so.  While we still need to be good stewards of its resources, the day of the Lord includes the earth being burned by fire.   A non Christian friend asked me to read the book, The Road.  It is a post nuclear world with a few scavengers left fighting to survive.  I told him I knew that wouldn’t happen because that’s not the way the Bible says it will happen.  

As you read the book of Revelation, you will find what God says really will happen.  This DOTL is one continuous chain of events that includes plagues and destruction of all sorts.  Revelation 6:12-17 describes the beginning of the DOTL, with the sun becoming black as sackcloth, the moon turning blood red and the stars falling to the earth.  It culminates with a battle between Jesus and Satan, and (spoiler alert) Jesus wins.

When Jesus appears on this DOTL, believers will be taken to Heaven.  This isn’t explicitly talked about in 2 Peter 3, but 2 Peter 3:7 describes the DOTL as “the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly.”  That’s not us.  Matthew 24:29-31 describes the cosmic disturbances of Rev. 6 and 2 Peter 3, but includes the fact that “the angels will gather His elect from the four winds.”  The word ‘rapture’ has been used to describe this event.  I prefer to call it ‘the gathering.’  Others refer to this event as ‘parousia’ which is a Greek word used for Jesus’ appearing.

There will be a new earth after the DOTL.  The heavens (sun, moon and stars) have passed away with a roar, burned up and dissolved.  The earth will have been trashed with locusts on steroids that eat everything up, the waters having been turned to blood, 100 pound hailstones pounding the earth and the battle of Armageddon piling up dead bodies everywhere.  Before Jesus sets up His millennial kingdom centered out of Jerusalem, there will be this new habitable planet, along with the heavenly bodies  (see also Isaiah 66:22).  

Again, many different Christians have a variety of views of how things will transpire surrounding  Jesus’ return.  My attempt is to take prophetic Scriptures at face value, matching up both Old and New Testaments passages up against each other and laying out a sequential scenario.  When we get to the book of Revelation, there will be more to chew on!

Therefore, beloved, since you are waiting for these, be diligent to be found by Him without spot or blemish, and at peace.  2 Peter 3:14

*Image by Crossriver

 

 


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!


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.

 


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.”