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Never, Never, Never, Never Give Up ~ Winston Churchill

11 Apr

This morning God took His scalpel to me and I responded by prostrating myself on the floor in repentance and empowerment.

Ok, back up a step.  You see, I’d ignored Winston Churchill’s and God’s instructions to fight the good fight.  To never give up.  We’re told in Nehemiah 4:14:

I looked [them over] and rose up and said to the nobles and officials and the other people, Do not be afraid of the enemy; [earnestly] remember the Lord and imprint Him [on your minds], great and terrible, and [take from Him courage to] fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your homes.

I had stopped taking courage from our great and terrible Lord regarding a family member and was experiencing extreme lethargy in my prayer life as a result.

God is great (all the time) and terrible, which means to be feared, that we should stand in awe of Him, and that He is to be  reverenced, honored, and respected.  And this God empowers us to FIGHT.

The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. 2 Corinthians 10:4

I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people,  and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. Eph. 1:18-21

Never, never, never, never give up.  Fight the good fight!

What is Your Mood Today?

20 Mar

One thing doesn't change

Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods.  For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes.  I know that by experience.

Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable:  but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable.  This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway.  That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue:  unless you teach your moods “where they get off,” you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. –C.S. Lewis Mere Christianity

Ahab went home in a black mood, sulking over Naboth the Jezreelite’s words, “I’ll never turn over my family inheritance to you.” He went to bed, stuffed his face in his pillow, and refused to eat. 1 Kings 21:3b MSG

Have you ever gone home, stuffed your face in your pillow, and refused to eat?  Or left the house skipping because of a de-lovely breeze, colorful sunrise, and chattering morning birds?  Our days are greatly affected by our moods, which are by definition changeable; but there is something that is unchanging:  God and His love for us.

But I have trusted in Your faithful love.  Psalm 13:5

Just today I was reading about Dietrich Bonhoeffer who struggled with melancholy all of his life.  But.  He believed in God and His love.  And so can we!

True North

18 Mar

Photo courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org

I read the book “Young Man and the Sea” to my class recently, and this paragraph struck me:

Trust your compass. That’s another thing my dad was always saying. Trust your compass because you can’t trust your instincts in the dark or the fog. Without a compass a man will steer himself in a circle, nine times out of ten. Give up on the compass and you’re lost for sure.

In Ecuador, they call the correct direction for life true north.  Jesus is our true north and it’s soooo, soooo easy to forget. Trust your compass. Trust His Word.

Jesus told him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  John 14:6a

Thinking Eternally, Living Fearlessly Part 6

12 Mar

The light comes out in our words.

We, having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written: “I believed and therefore have I spoken” — we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus shall raise us up also by Jesus, and shall present us with you. For all things are for your sakes, that, through the thanksgiving of many, the abundant grace might redound to the glory of God. 2 Cor. 4:13-15 KJ21

We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! 2 Cor. 4:13-15 MSG

I like the boisterousness of the Message version of these verses.  We’re not keeping this quiet, not on our lives!

If we die to ourselves and stop being egocentric we will be able to have an attitude of faith.  We will be able to walk by faith and not by sight.  (2 Cor. 5:7)  Faith is being available to God’s faithfulness.  Having faith that 1) We have the treasure of Jesus Christ in these earthen vessels, 2) That He is with us in times of trouble, and 3) Dying to ourselves is the key to thinking eternally, we can shout out, “I believed it, so I said it.”

Verse 15 says that all things are for our sakes.  What does this mean?

  1. All of these problems and pressures we’ve looked at in 2 Cor. 4:8,9 will work change in us if we allow them to.  The enemy sends problems to squash us like grapes and God works them for good in our lives. (Rom. 8:28)
  2. The grace of God spreads to more people through our problems.  As we experience problems, believe in Him, and speak of our belief, the light comes out in our words and God’s grace is spread to others.

Are you willing to look at problems as opportunities–both for you and for those in your life?

Eternal thinking leads to peace.

 

POWs in Your Life?

28 Feb

Gene DeBruin: American Hero

When I lived in Ohio, I learned the story of Gene DeBruin from his brother, Jerry, and my friend, Jerry’s wife, Nancy.  Gene was a POW in Laos during the Viet Nam War, who heroically accompanied his Hong Kong Chinese cell-mate during an escape attempt because his cell-mate was too weak to escape by himself.  This selfless decision would guarantee that Gene never made it home.

How many of us have POWs in our lives?  Our POWs may not live in bamboo cages, but they are just as much prisoners as Gene DeBruin.  Our POW might be a wayward child, spouse, or even parent.  It might be a lost friend or family member.  It might be someone in the claws of addiction.  It might be someone who’s turned from God due to disappointment or hypocrisy in the church.

But God says, “Even if a giant grips the plunder
and a tyrant holds my people prisoner,
I’m the one who’s on your side,
defending your cause, rescuing your children.  Isaiah 47:24,25

“Defending” means to to strive and both physically and with words.  We know that God is all-powerful and that He created the world with His words.

“Rescuing”  means to save, deliver, to save from moral troubles, and to give victory to.  God gives victory!

The strength of the enemy does not matter.  We only need to know that God is stronger.

Coming to Grips With Hope

9 Feb

Verily, verily, I say unto you, That ye shall weep and lament, but the world shall rejoice: and ye shall be sorrowful, but your sorrow shall be turned into joy.  John 16:20

Jesus often uses the word verily before making statements that are controversial or difficult to believe.  When He repeats verily it was an indication to take special note of the statement that follows.  (By the way, this would make an interesting Bible study–doing a concordance search of all the times Jesus used the word verily.)  The word verily is the word amen in Greek.

The word “amen” is a most remarkable word. It was transliterated directly from the Hebrew into the Greek of the New Testament, then into Latin and into English and many other languages, so that it is practically a universal word. It has been called the best known word in human speech. The word is directly related — in fact, almost identical — to the Hebrew word for “believe” (amam), or faithful. Thus, it came to mean “sure” or “truly”, an expression of absolute trust and confidence. (Online Bible Greek Lexicon)

In context of John 16:20, Jesus is speaking of His crucifixion and resurrection.  He knew that it would be difficult for his followers to believe that He would come back from the grave and so He called attention to the trueness of His statement by repeating the word verily. Truly, truly, he said.  So be it, so be it.  This is really going to happen!! Listen up!!!  As a result of His resurrection and ascension we have a living hope:

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.  1 Peter 1:3

This living hope is vigorous and alive and is restored as we meditate on the resurrection moment by moment in our lives.  Allowing hope to be extinguished goes against our nature as members of God’s family.  We must pray for hope to be sparked and renewed when it seems to flicker out.

Fear of Loneliness: Part 3

6 Jan

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.  Luke 9:23

Are we willing to journey with Jesus or is He simply tacked on to our lives like some sort of insurance rider?  To deal with loneliness or the threat of loneliness we need to take up his cross daily.  We need to die deeply.  We need to come to a place of acceptance, not as fatalists, but as people who accept that God can work through the events of our lives for good.

We have been shown the way of acceptance on every page of the life of Jesus.  It sprang from love and from trust.  He set His face like a flint toward Jerusalem.  He took up the Cross of His own will.  No one could take His life from Him.  He deliberately laid it down.  he calls us to take up our crosses.  That is a different thing from capitulation or resignation.  It is a glad and voluntary YES to the conditions we meet on our journey with Him, because these are the conditions He wants us to share with Him.  Events are the sacraments of the Will of God–that is, they are visible signs of an invisible Reality.  These provide the very place where we may learn to love and trust.  Heaven waits for our response. — Elizabeth Elliot

Did you catch that?  “Events are the sacraments of the Will of God.”  Does that ever give me a different take on my loneliness!  Let’s walk sacramentally through the events of today with Christ.

2 Days ’til Christmas

23 Dec

I saw in the night visions, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a son of man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him.  And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom one that shall not be destroyed.Daniel 7:13,14

We’ve discussed often how our worries are a sign of our distrust of God and how as we move from distrust to trust in different areas of our lives the worries melt away.  This is not a condemning thought, but it should make us take a good look at our struggles with worry to identify where we are trusting other sources over God.  This is a fluid issue in our lives.

True confessions time.  It’s always been easy for me to trust God with money.  When I was a new Christian, God showed me a few examples of his provision and I’ve been able to rest in that area until recently.  My monthly medicine bills are quite large–even here in a 3rd world country where the meds are quite a bit cheaper than in the states–but we have great insurance through my job.  You’re probably thinking, well of course it’s easy for you to trust God for money.  The point is that to go back to the states I’d need to trust God for all that, and the enemy keeps whispering to me that it will never work:  You’ll NEVER live near your grandchildren because there are no jobs in Florida and even if you got jobs your pre-existing conditions probably wouldn’t be covered and even if they were the deductible would be too much . . .”  You get the idea.  I’m having trouble trusting God as my provider.

I’m reading a great book called Running Scared by Edward T. Welch and he had an eye-opening thought for me about faith:

In the kingdom of God, the King has made extravagant promises to us–promises of protection, liberation, and peace.  We respond with our allegiance, which we typically call faith or trust.  The essence of faith is not that we trust without evidence but that we choose sides:  In whom do we trust?  Our allegiance to the kingdom of God is nurtured by the very words of God, especially as they are spoken by King Jesus, and it is demonstrated in our obedience.  And since God’s laws are a systematic expression of his character, we become more like the King when we keep his laws.

Jesus.  King of Kings.  Lord of Lords.

Selah.  Stop and think about that.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 3 — Faith in God

1 Dec

I love mystery books.  I say mystery books and not mysteries, because I like to know that the mystery will be solved.  I don’t like loose ends.  I hate it when I see part of a drama on the streets and don’t know what happened afterwards.  Although God is a mysterious God who works in mysterious ways, he has tied up the mystery.  The mystery is Christ.  Christ is “the mystery of God,” but no longer hidden, but manifested and meant for us to know to the fullness of our capacity.

I want you woven into a tapestry of love, in touch with everything there is to know of God. Then you will have minds confident and at rest, focused on Christ, God’s great mystery. All the richest treasures of wisdom and knowledge are embedded in that mystery and nowhere else. And we’ve been shown the mystery! I’m telling you this because I don’t want anyone leading you off on some wild-goose chase, after other so-called mysteries, or “the Secret.” Col. 2:2-4 The Message

As we pass through stage 2 faith, where our faith in faith system is dismantled by a loving God, we have the privilege to enter stage 3:  A mature faith in God no matter what happens.  Job reached that point.  He repented for his conditional faith, for his bartering,  and recognized God’s immensity.  (Job 42:1-6)

For now we are looking in a mirror that gives only a dim (blurred) reflection [of reality as in a riddle or enigma], but then [when perfection comes] we shall see in reality and face to face! Now I know in part (imperfectly), but then I shall know and understand fully and clearly, even in the same manner as I have been fully and clearly known and understood [by God]. 1 Cor. 13:12  Amplified

Christ is the fulfilment of the mystery and as we gaze at Him, we become more and more trusting and content and rested and fearless because of His amazing love, grace, mercy, and holiness.  He is in us.  We are in Him.  He is under us, above us, and around us.  We are important to Him.  Not as a group, but as individuals.  He wants us to grow in Him and have a mature relationship with Him.

Mike Erre says,

“We don’t like mystery because mystery forces us to trust and wait and be patient.  Mystery is painful.  Mystery and patience are certainly not the American way.

Faith in God is the kind of faith that says, ‘It doesn’t matter if God answers my questions or removes my pain.  I am content with him.” — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 132, 130

If Jesus is the mystery, look for the clues.  The clues that He loves you.  Today.  And.  Tomorrow.

3 Stages of Faith: Stage 2 — Faith in Faith Dismantled

29 Nov

The problem with what I call bartering faith or conditional faith and what the author of The Jesus of Suburbia, Mike Erre, calls “faith in faith” is that it is an immature faith.  For our faith to become mature, we need to stop relying on a bartering system with God and begin to rely on God himself in order to enter into true faith-rest.

In order to achieve a mature faith–in which we walk fearlessly KNOWING that God always knows what’s best for us–we need to have our works righteousness system dismantled.  And God so lovingly does that for us so we can grow.  We need to follow in Job’s footsteps and say, Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him. (Job 13:15a)

God purposely introduces paradox, mystery, tension, and suffering into Job’s life in order to dismantle the religious system Job had set up.  Everything Job had hoped to gain through his religious performance (what we are calling “faith in faith”) was lost.

God sometimes, it seems, lets our systems crash, not because we’ve done something wrong but because he has something better for us.  — The Jesus of Suburbia pp. 127-128

I know many people who are casualties at this stage of faith development.  People who think they do not deserve suffering because they are good Christians and go to church  and perhaps even tithe.  People who turn away from growth because they like the simple bartering system.  (i.e. I give God something; He gives me something.)  God does not want to barter with us, He wants us to trust Him for who He is not what He gives.  He is not Santa Claus leaving coal or gifts in the stocking hung by the mantlepiece.  When our “faith in faith” systems crash, it gives us the opportunity to seek Him, to gaze at Him, to grow in Him.  To trust, not fear.