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February 2007
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April 2007

Handling Adversity

If you faint in the day of adversity, your strength is small.  - Proverbs 24:10 (NKJV)

What is adversity to you?  Is it represented by obstacles in your way, relationship issues or loss of control?  It can come from without or within and can come in various levels of difficulty.  However it comes, it usually isn't a very welcome visitor.  I think it can mean different things to different people, but at its core, adversity is really just something that gets in the way of how we believe our own perfect worlds should look be. 

Job was no stranger to adversity.  We don't have to read very long in the book of Job to see the onset of the trouble that befell him.  By the end of Job 2, we see that he had lost his family, his wealth and his health.  From Job's own mouth he says:

For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, And that which I was afraid of is come unto me. Job 3:25

Job had no clue as to why he had just lost everything.  He had no idea of the spiritual "contest" going on between God and Satan to prove that Job was a man of fine character.  So far, we haven't seen Job curse God for his trouble even though in his grief he was obviously declaring that he wished he had never been born. He has in fact been a good subject for the "test".  Job, contrary to what Satan had been thinking, loved God for who He was, not for what God gave Him.  This is a definite sign of spiritual maturity.   When all was taken away from Job, he still loved God. 

What is the thing you most fear?  How would you react should that worst fear come upon you?  We know we've all had our share of adversity.   Let me throw out a few principles to think about and apply to our own lives.

1) Adversity provides opportunity to shine.  If we never had to endure hardship, we would never have a chance to let others see our light in the darkness.  After all, isn't it easy to be the "perfect Christian" when things are going our way?

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; - Philippians 2:14-15

2) Adversity provides opportunity for growth.  If our faith is never challenged, our faith would never grow.  Just like an athlete must train to achieve greater proficiency in his or her sport, so we must "train" through the trials of life.  The key is to not waste the opportunities put in our path, but to take each trial and ask ourselves what God want us to learn from it.

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  - Romans 5:3-4

3) Adversity provides opportunity for God.  When we don't have enough strength to go on, but refuse to give up because we trust in God's provision for us, it is then that we see the glory of God working through us.  Our weakness provides God the greatest avenue for God to work in our hearts and lives.  While sometimes painful - after all, who wants to be brought to their knees, anyway? - it is always for the best...for God's glory and not our own.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness.  Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. - 2 Cor 12:9

 


Dear Father,

Thank you for being so perfect, so good, and so patient with me as I work through the tests you have placed in my life.  Forgive me when I'm not so thankful for them as I know I should be and help me to persevere without complaining so that I can shine for you.  I want You alone to be my glory and my strength.   Amen.


Cycles

Have you ever noticed that the whole world is made up of cycles?  Our planet is in orbit around the sun, causing the cyclical pattern of the seasons in our years. Our earth spins round and round daily, giving us a cycle of sunrises and sunsets, day after day, year after year.  History has shown that our cultures cycle through seasons of prosperity and drought, sin and holiness.  Our very lives consist of ups and downs in our years, months and days.  Nothing, and none of us are exempt as we keep pressing on through time.

I finally finished the first  big "season" of Jewish history in my trek through my bible's pages. In recent months, I've seen good after bad king in the pages of the Kings and the Chronicles. I've seen the nations of Israel and Judah turn from good to bad to worse to good in its reverence of God, following its many various kings.  I've seen Israel and Judah cease to exist as nations because of the judgment of God.  Yet, at the end of "day", after God has decided in all of His sovereignty that the Jews had been in exile long enough, He stirs in the heart of a gentile king the desire to have His house rebuilt.  (2 Chr 36:23)  The return to Jerusalem of the Jews begins again and another cycle starts.

Where are you in your life "cycle"?  Are you up? down? somewhere in between?  If you are down, there is a new day for you too - a return to "Jerusalem".  The "up" is inevitable...eventually.  This morning as I look out my window on this beautiful almost spring but unseasonably warm day, I see that my maple tree is starting to bud.  A new season is upon us.  The red robins are back in town and we can just sense that spring is just around the corner after the harsh winter we just had.  Yes, life is full of cycles.  At least knowing this, we can know that things won't always stay the same.

To "cycle" through:

1) Where are you in your life's cycle?  Are you stuck?

2) Who do you rely on through the down parts?  Is it God or is it a person, job, ministry, etc.?

3) Do you fully believe that God will pull you through?  If not, why not? 


God Will Make A Way

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.  But God does not take away life; instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him. (2 Sam 14:14 NIV)

Do you ever feel like "water spilled on the ground"?  Do you ever feel estranged from God or perhaps just distant because of busyness, sin, or other distractions?  If so, what do you do to find your way back to life - to God?

Like water spilled on the ground, which cannot be recovered, so we must die.

Yes, we must all die.  After all, dying is a part of life.  Physical death is inevitable.  However, as I ponder this verse in light of my life experiences and biblical examples, I propose that "death" occurs in more ways than just the physical, and at multiple times in our lives.  Our lives are but cycles of ups and downs, successes and failures, "life" and "death".  If we aren't careful, our successes can keep us away from God because we feel we don't need Him.  To me, the times I have really "lived" have come when I've been in a state of total dependence on God - when I have "died" to my own selfishness and acknowledged that I am nothing without God in my life.  How do you need to "die" so that you may really "live"?

But God does not take away life; ...

God is truly the giver of life.  Contrary to popular belief in the non-christian realm, living a life for God does not mean that you will have all of the fun in your life taken away.  I think of the times I've talked to unbeliever about a relationship with Christ and many times the reason they don't want to make a decision to accept Christ as their Savior is because they aren't ready to give up their current lifestyle.  A life lived for God rather than for our own desires is so much more rewarding.  Yes, we may have to give up some things, but God replaces them with so much more.  How has God given you new life?

... instead he devises ways so that a banished person may not remain estranged from him.

God has devised the ultimate "way" for us to come to Him in His son, Jesus.  Jesus is THE way, and their is no other that we can have eternal life, basking in God's presence.  Without Jesus paying the price for our sins on the cross at Calvary, we would all be in eternal torment after our physical deaths, separated from a God who loved us but who could not be with us because of our choice not to accept His way. Have you accepted God's way or are you relying on your own?  Click here if you have any questions.

Fellow Christian, are you feeling estranged or maybe just distant from God in your current life season?  Are you feeling a little uninspired?  You don't have to remain there.  God's way for you is through His Word and through prayer.  If we can change our priorities and take the time to be with Him, He will draw near to us. (James 4:8)  He will take us from our desert place and restore our souls.  God has indeed made a way. 

Remember ye not the former things, neither consider the things of old.  Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.  (Isaiah 43:18-19)


Understanding - The Goal of a Teacher

In my CBS bible study lecture this week we were presented with the following quote by Pastor David Guzik:

Understanding needs to be the first goal of any preacher or teacher.  When I stand to teach God's people, there are some things that I always need to remember:

  • If you leave knowing five helpful hints to a better life, but do not have a greater understanding of God's Word, I have failed.
  • If you leave having been amused by humor, entertained by anecdotes, or captivated by dramatic stories, but do not have a greater understanding of God's Word, I have failed.
  • If you leave motivated to action, or praying a prayer, but it is not based on a greater understanding of God's Word, I have failed.
  • If you leave admiring me, but do not have a greater understanding of God's Word, I have failed - and will be accountable before God for my failure.

These words resonate with me for many reasons as I'm sure they probably do with you too.  We've probably all been to a church service before where we've left without a deeper understanding of God's Word.  Sometimes it is our fault because we have too much "stuff" going on in our own little brains to pay attention.  Other times it is because too much emphasis was placed on the nonessentials.  I am convicted personally as well because I so much want this blog to be a place where people can leave with a greater understanding of God's Word.  If I have not helped you, dear reader, do just that, then I feel that I have failed.

The LORD God hath given me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary: he wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth my ear to hear as the learned.  (Isaiah 50:4)

I want to speak that word in season to whomever is weary and needs some comfort along life's journey.  I want to speak that word in season to whomever might need a little push to achieve all that God wants for them.  My prayer is that by pointing those in need to the Savior through God's Word, that I can equip them to not only help themselves in their current and future situations, but to help others also.  We all need each other, don't we?  Let us all make helping others understand the Word of God better as our goal.  That, is essential.

Lord, give me the wisdom to write the things You would have me to say that would edify Your people so that they would have a better understanding of You and Your Word.  Give me compassion and patience and the words to say so that I can always direct others to You.  Point out to me when I fail You so that I can quickly get things right again and continue on the path You've made for me. Amen.


A Prayer of God's Word

Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few.  Ecc 5:2

Today I would like to take the time to pray.  I mean, really pray.  Will you join me?  What we're going to do is pray through an acronym, P.R.A.Y., that I use to really ensure that when I pray I'm praising God, asking for forgiveness and yielding all of my requests to God's will, not mine.  Are you ready?  Oh, and guess what?  The words of our prayer today will all be scripture.  We may have to change a few words around to make our prayer in the first person about God, but our words will be few. 

Dear Lord...

Praise

Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of our holiness.  (Ps 48:1)

The mighty God, even the LORD, hath spoken, and called the earth from the rising of the sun unto the going down thereof. (Ps 50:1)

The earth is the LORD's, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein.  For he hath founded it upon the seas, and established it upon the floods.  (Ps 24:1-2)

Repent

The LORD is nigh unto them that are of a broken heart; and saveth such as be of a contrite spirit.  (Ps 34:18)

Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting. (Ps 139:23-24)

Wash me throughly from mine iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin.  For I acknowledge my transgressions: and my sin is ever before me.  Against thee, thee only, have I sinned, and done this evil in thy sight... (Ps 50:2-3)

Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. (Ps 50:9)

Ask

Hear my cry, O God; attend unto my prayer.  From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: lead me to the rock that is higher than I. (Ps 63:1-2)

Shew me thy ways, O LORD; teach me thy paths.  Lead me in thy truth, and teach me: for thou art the God of my salvation; on thee do I wait all the day. (Ps 25:4-5)

Teach me thy way, O LORD; I will walk in they truth: unite my heart to fear thy name. (Ps 86:11)

Rejoice the soul of thy servant: for unto thee, O Lord, do I lift up my soul. (Ps 86:4)

Yield

Be thou exalted, O God, above the heavens: and thy glory above all the earth; (Ps 108:5)

Know ye that the LORD he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. (Ps 100:3)

Praise ye the LORD.  O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever. (Ps 106:1)

Thy kingdom come.  Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. (Mt 6:10)

AMEN.


Keeping It Simple

I'm keeping it simple today. No in-depth analysis of why I need to rely on God's strength instead of my own.  No soul searching as to why I am the way I am (or why others are the way they are) and why we really have so much trouble trying to be exactly who God wants us to be.  The bottom line is this.  Jesus loves me.  Jesus loves all of us.  The bible tells us so.

Jesus loves me! this I know,
For the Bible tells me so;
Little ones to Him belong,
They are weak but He is strong.

Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
Yes, Jesus loves me!
The Bible tells me so!

We don't have to earn His love.  We don't have to be perfect to receive His love. 

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

But God demonstrates his own love for us in this:  While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8 NIV)

And the One who loves us is good to the core. 

The LORD is good, a strong hold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him.  (Nahum 1:7)

If we know nothing else in our Christian walk, we must know these two things - that God is good, and that God loves us.  When trials come into our lives, we may be too overwhelmed to pray.  We may feel defeated.  Satan may even try to bring us down with his little lies inside our heads of how we aren't worthy for God's service anyway.  But if we can go back to these two simple truths, we can stand when the winds are swirling around and the rain is beating down upon us.  Our good God loves us more than we can imagine.

So is the song "Jesus Loves Me" really just a children's Sunday School song?  To me, it is much more than that.  I personally love and appreciate this song now more than I ever did as a child.  Yes, Jesus loves me.  For the Bible tells me so. 

 


Helping God?

Do you ever think that God needs your help?  Let me put this another way.  How much of a planner are you?  Are you constantly active, trying to make things happen on your time or do you make your best effort at a "plan" and then sit back and wait for God to take care of the rest (timing, resources, etc.).  How much do you pray?

I think to some extent at various times in our lives we are all guilty of trying to help God work His plans for our lives.  Unfortunately when we get impatient or prideful and try to "help", we often do so at the peril of God's best wishes for us. In 2 Chronicles 25, King Amaziah was no different.  He wanted to "help" and was cautioned otherwise.  Fortunately for him, he listened...this time.

Once Amaziah was well established as king, he decided it was time to go fight the Edomites.   He was able to organize a massive army of 300,000 men from Judah and Benjamin.  However, he still saw the need to hire an additional 100,000 men from Israel.  This is where Amaziah thought he would "help" God.  This is when God spoke to Amaziah through a prophet.  Let's take a look.

"But a man of God came to him and said, "Oh king, these troops from Israel must not march with you, for the Lord is not with Israel - not with any of the people of Ephraim. Even if you go and fight courageously in battle, God will overthrow you before the enemy, for God has the power to help or to overthrow." (2 Chr 25:8-9 NIV)

APPLICATION #1: We need to choose our alliances carefully.  Remember that God isn't "with" everyone.

APPLICATION #2: God can open or close the door to any plans we have for our lives.

At this point in our chapter, Amaziah heeded the advice of the man of God, but only after he questioned God's plan.

Amaziah asked the man of God, "But what about the hundred talents I paid for these Israelite troops?"  The man of God replied, "The Lord can give you much more than that." (2 Chr 25:9)

Alrighty then.  I get the point.  And so did Amaziah.  He let the troops go, went to battle and won, God's way. This leads us to my final application.

APPLICATION #3: God doesn't need our help.  Think about it.  Why would God in all of His infinite majesty need us?  If we would stop meddling in God's business He will show us His glory and give us much more than we ever dreamed possible.

So in closing, for you personally today...

  • What are you trying to "help" God to do?
  • In what area of your life are you trying to fix/achieve on your own, rather than waiting for God to come and take over?

Remember, that God doesn't need our resources.  He can do much better than us.


The Conclusion

The conclusion.  Sounds so final doesn't it? No, I'm not concluding this blog, rather in fact, I feel as if I've just gotten started.  I'm just getting started with a lot of things lately.   I'm getting to know new people at my new church.  I'm starting work on a website -okay, someone else is helping me with that, because as you know, I'm inept. In April I will be starting a class that may lead to my becoming a certified life coach.  Like I said, I've got a lot of things in the works.  Lately, the thing I'm the most thrilled with is the look of my new blog design.  Thanks, Jules, for sifting through my thoughts and coming up with a look that captures my intent! 

Beginnings are great, but with each beginning, we must still keep in mind the "end" that God intends for each of us.  From God's Word...

Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter:  Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this is the whole duty of man. (Ecclesiastes 12:13)

King Solomon in all of his wisdom summed up our God-given purpose perfectly didn't he?  We can participate in all of the ministry we can handle. We can do all of the fun family things we can stand.  We can feed the hungry and help the downcast.  But we must make God's main point, the main point of our lives.  We must fear God and keep his commandments.  Pretty simple, huh?

God's truth is seldom complicated. However, no matter how simply stated it may be, it is not always that simple to apply. It takes discipline to keep God's commandments.  It takes a deep desire to get to know God on a level where we can not only love Him for His goodness, but respect Him with a healthy fear. 

So, in conclusion, what are you doing today to get to know God better?  How are you going to go about better keeping God's commandments?  Here are some suggestions to just keep it simple:

1) Get into the Word of God.  Daily.

2) Get into the Word of God with a friend who can hold you accountable to "getting into it" and to perhaps help you to understand it better.

The bottom line is always the same, isn't it?  We can't know God if we don't know God's Word.  We can't obey God if we don't know God's word.  Just remember, we don't have to be bible scholars, we just need to make an honest effort and do the best that we can.  The end.   


My Daddy's Bigger Than Your Daddy

"...We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you." - King Jehoshaphat, 2 Chronicles 20:12 (NIV)

What do you do when you find yourself in an insurmountable situation?  Do you fret and worry? Call a friend?  Complain to your spouse? Cry? Or maybe, just maybe...do you pray?  Tucked away inside the second book of Chronicles we see an incredible story of fear, faith, freedom and festivity.  The situation was seemingly insurmountable, but through prayer and faith in the One who can deliver, the people ended up being overcomers rather than being overcame.  Please join me in the story. 

The Fear

And all the men of Judah, with their wives and children and little ones, stood there before the LORD. - 2 Chronicles 20:13 (NIV)

To set the stage, we find King Jehoshaphat and all of Judah coming before the Lord in a panic because they had just found out that the Moabites, Ammonites and some of the Meunites had come to make war on them.  (2 Chronicles 20:1-3).   The King's prayer was a fairly simple "Help!"

The Faith

After the king reminded God that He was indeed powerful and faithful and we saw all of the Judah waiting with tear-streaked faces for God's answer, God Himself gave Jahaziel some encouraging words to pass on.

He said, "Listen, King Jehoshophat and all who live in Judah and Jerusalem!  This is what the LORD says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army.  For the battle is not yours, but God's...Tomorrow march down against them...You will not have to fight this battle.  Take up your positions; stand firm and see the deliverance the LORD will give you..." (2 Chronicles 20:15-17)

Pretty good encouragement from God, don't you think? Now all they needed to do was execute the plan!  Basically, Judah just needed to believe that their "Daddy" was bigger than those who wanted to fight them.

The Freedom

Guess what?  God delivered.  The people went down to fight, praising God all the way, and they didn't have to lift a finger against the encroaching armies.  Because as they began to sing and praise, God caused the armies to kill off each other!  God wasn't kidding when He said that the battle was His! (2 Chronicles 20:20-23)

The Festivity

Can you imagine the emotional rollercoaster that these people had been on?  One minute they were fearing for their very lives and the next they were watching their enemies being destroyed before their very lives.  And when they went down after the fighting was finished to take a look, here is what they found:

And when Jehoshaphat and his peole came to take away the spoil of them, they found amoung them in abundance both riches with the dead bodies, and precious jewels, which they stript off for themselves, more than they could carry away: and they were three days in gathering of the spoil, it was so much. (2 Chr 20:25)

Not only did God deliver, but he doused them with glittery goodness!  Does anyone understand why men going to battle would be carrying with them precious jewels?  I can't even wear my wedding ring when I play golf! :)  You get the picture.  God is very, very good.  And they lived happily ever after.

TO TAKE HOME:

There are lots of great things to take out of this passage of scripture to apply to our own lives.  So before you go, can you think about the following?

1) What situation in your life do you currently see as an insurmountable challenge?  Is it a new ministry, a looming project deadline, or a problem area?  Have you released it to God?

2) Assuming you have given God your challenge, how is He telling you to proceed?  Are you listening and heeding His instruction?

3) Looking at your situation, how will your life look once you've arrived on the other side of the "hill"?  If you can't see any positive outcome, ask God to show You what He sees!

4) Do you believe that God is bigger than your problem?  If not, why not?