Christianity 201

February 16, 2018

When Life Overwhelms

Today we’re paying a return visit to Eric Bryant who posted this a few days ago. I’m not sure if was written before or after the mass shooting in Florida, but either way it’s timely. Perhaps you’re facing your own overwhelming situation. Click the title below to read this at source.

Hope When Things Seem Hopeless

My life is a rollercoaster. There’s a lot of sitting down and screaming.

Someone tweeted that last week. Quite profound, huh?!

Have you ever felt that way? Ever felt overwhelmed by life? Have either the circumstances around you or the conflicts within you ever made you feel hopeless?

What if I were to tell you that it’s when you are at your most helpless that you are in the best position to be helped?

What if I were to tell you that it’s when you are at your most powerless that you are in the best position to experience God’s Power?

The Scriptures tell us:

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly… – those living against God, those far away from God. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:6,8

That word “sinners” has been used and abused. You may have heard that word with a finger pointing at you as a kid. That word may be the very reason you struggle with believing in God or even connecting with a church.

Perhaps for a long time, you have had an aversion to organized religion.

Let me encourage you: you are in the right place. We have never been accused of being organized or religious!

The word “sinner” which has been used against us – used to put us down or keep us in guilt and shame is actually a beautiful word.

Jesus came for the sinners – the ones that have missed the mark, the ones who have made mistakes, the ones with regret.

If you are here and you are worried that I am excluding you. Don’t worry: you’re with us too.

There is so much hope when we acknowledge, we need help.

You cannot find healing unless you know you need to be healed!

But we forget that! We try to act like we have it all together, but that is exhausting and everyone knows we don’t!

So what do we do when we feel stuck? When we feel broken? When we feel hopeless?

Here is an amazing Truth:

The sun is shining even on a cloudy day.

The clouds may block the sun, but that does not mean the sun is not shining!

God’s love is like the sun – providing light and warmth and life – no matter how cloudy or foggy things may be right now.

Just because you cannot see it or feel it, does not mean it is not there. It means we have the opportunity to step in the realm of faith – a realm beyond what we see or feel.

You see, we all face disappointment. Who we become depends on how we respond.

Are you giving up because of the challenges you have faced?

Choose hope even when you don’t feel like it.

Hope is not an abstract idea. Hope is a person, and His name is Jesus!

Jesus’ death on a cross and resurrection from the dead is not just the Easter story. It is the Story!

When God walked among us. He taught with authority. He healed those needing healing. He forgave those needing forgiveness. Ultimately, He died on the cross And rose from the dead. In doing so, Jesus defeated sin and death.

Jesus showed God’s power over everything that is broken in this world!

What are you looking at for hope? If you are feeling hopeless, it may be the result of where your hope lies not in the one who Created us and loves us!

No king is saved by the size of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save.

You may not be putting your hope in an army or a warrior’s strength or a horse, but you may be putting your hope in a job or in your bank account or in a relationship. Nothing in this world can meet the eternal void we feel within, but the One who is Eternal can fill our deepest longings.

Hear this…

But the eyes of the Lord are on those who fear him, on those whose hope is in his unfailing love… – Psalm 33:16-18

There is one Hope bigger than anything we face, one Hope when we are hopeless and His name is Jesus.

You can trust God even when you don’t feel like it.

Paul was a devoted follower of Jesus. He started churches all across the Roman Empire just after Jesus ascended into heaven. He wrote letters to these churches – 13 of these letters make up our New Testament. In the midst of the amazing experiences he had, he also faced oppression, persecution, imprisonment, and betrayal.

Even still, notice his eternal perspective in the midst of terrible circumstances.

The Lord will rescue me from every evil attack and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom. – 2 Timothy 4:18

I like the first part! God, rescue me from all evil! Protect from all bad circumstances! Yet that’s not what Paul was saying. He was saying: no matter how bad things get on this side of eternity, no one can separate me from my Hope – from the One whose love will never fail, the One whose love lasts beyond this life!

You can Hope when things seem Hopeless. God can do the impossible;

One of the greatest spiritual mysteries Jesus reveals is this:

“Christ in you, the hope of glory.” – Colossians 1:27

When we say yes and follow Jesus the Same power that rose Jesus from the dead lives in you!

You are stronger than you feel you are!

You are more resilient than you think you are!

For Christ, the one Who Overcame sin and death lives in you!! He is our Hope!

When we lose someone we love, we can entrust them to the One whose love for us led Him to give up His life for us on the Cross!

When we have suffered abuse or oppression, we can rely on the One who was falsely accused, mocked, beaten, and on whose brow was shoved a crown of thorns!

When we find ourselves stuck in addiction or mired in regret, we can look to the One who faced temptation and never gave in!

When we find ourselves overwhelmed and overcome, we can look to the One who Overcame death and rose from the dead!

He has overcome and He is in us!

February 7, 2018

Trials and Tribulations on the Way

One of the most frequently used post tags here is “trials and tribulations.” These tags help direct search engines to articles even if the phrase isn’t specifically used. Here’s a best of scripture medley from articles.

II Cor 4:8(NLT) We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed. We are perplexed, but not driven to despair. 9 We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God. We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed. 10 Through suffering, our bodies continue to share in the death of Jesus so that the life of Jesus may also be seen in our bodies.

II Cor 4:16 That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day. 17 For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 18 So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

 II Cor 5:1(NLT) For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven, an eternal body made for us by God himself and not by human hands. 2 We grow weary in our present bodies, and we long to put on our heavenly bodies like new clothing. 3 For we will put on heavenly bodies; we will not be spirits without bodies. 4 While we live in these earthly bodies, we groan and sigh, but it’s not that we want to die and get rid of these bodies that clothe us. Rather, we want to put on our new bodies so that these dying bodies will be swallowed up by life. 5God himself has prepared us for this, and as a guarantee he has given us his Holy Spirit.

 II Cor 5: 6 (NLT) So we are always confident, even though we know that as long as we live in these bodies we are not at home with the Lord. 7 For we live by believing and not by seeing. 


Deut 31:6 (NLT) So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”


Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe …

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Psalm 107:1, 6-7, 19-20 (NIV)


“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God” (2 Corinthians 1:3,4).


Then He [Jesus] called the crowd to Him along with His disciples and said: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me and for the gospel will save it. Mark 8:34–35

Let us run with endurance the race God has set before us. We do this by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Hebrews 12:1–2


February 5, 2018

Look to God in the Middle of the Pain

Jeremy Serrano is currently the Pastor of Good Shepherd Lutheran Church in Concord, CA.  This is his third time here at C201. Click the title below to read this on his site.

Kyrie Eleison (Psalm 6)

I am weary with moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with weeping.  My eyes waste away because of grief they grow week because of my foes.  Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping. The Lord has heard my supplication; the Lord accepts my prayer” (Psalm 6:6-7a,8b-9 NRSV).

There are periods, sometimes long stretches, when all we can do is despair. We like the psalmist flood our bed with tears, drench our couches with weeping. We find ourselves in the mire of pain, hopelessness, and doubt about our current situation and we struggle with hope for the future. These low periods are not to be avoided. We need to enter into these places and deeply feel the pain of our circumstance. It is counterproductive to the well being our souls to cover over, push down, or ignore the darkness we’re in.

Jesus himself entered into despair before his crucifixion. He asked the Father, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me” (Matt 26:49). Jesus wanted out of his situation but in great strength acknowledged that God’s will comes first. But, his submission was not without pain. Scripture tells us, “In his anguish [Jesus] prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground” (Luke 22:44).

Let us never gloss over the fact that our Lord, God in flesh, was in anguish. “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted” according to Isaiah 53:7.

But, we must not hold on there. It is not healthy for our soul, nor is it productive for the Kingdom to stay in the trenches of hurt, doubt, and despair. Jesus himself entered into the darkest of humanities terrors, but he didn’t stay. He moved from death to life. His way forward is now a marked path. But, it’s not of our own volition that we come out from the suffering. We cry Kyrie Eleison, Lord have mercy, and because the Lords accepts our prayers, he will lead us out of it.

The hope that Jesus offers is that it will not always be this way. There will be an end to sin and their will be an end to the pain that sin brings.  In Jesus there is hope that we are not stuck but moving from death to life.

God, help me to look towards you in the midst of my pain.  Pull me out of the depths, and lead me to the way of your Kingdom. Amen.



Go Deeper:
(Wikipedia) – Kyrie, a transliteration of Greek Κύριε, vocative case of Κύριος (Kyrios), is a common name of an important prayer of Christian liturgy.

The prayer, “Kyrie, eleison,” “Lord, have mercy” derives from several New Testament verses, in particular:

  • In Development Matthew 20:30, 31, two unnamed blind men call out to Jesus, “Lord, have mercy on us, Son of David.”
  • Finally, in Mark 10:46, Blind Bartimaeus cries out, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me.”

Psalm 121:1 (CEB) I raise my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the maker of heaven and earth.

Hebrews 12: 2-3 (Message) Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

December 24, 2017

Sunday Worship

Despite the glaring omission of a key sign of God’s blessing, these two were “careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God.” In other words, they worshiped God in the middle of personal trial.

For some, Christmas is like this. It’s hard to suffer, to undergo trials, to grieve, etc. when everybody around you is pre-programmed for celebration…

One time our pastor considered the familiar story from Luke 1 of the angel Gabriel’s visit to Zachariah:

(MSG) 5-7 During the rule of Herod, King of Judea, there was a priest assigned service in the regiment of Abijah. His name was Zachariah. His wife was descended from the daughters of Aaron. Her name was Elizabeth. Together they lived honorably before God, careful in keeping to the ways of the commandments and enjoying a clear conscience before God. But they were childless because Elizabeth could never conceive, and now they were quite old.

Our pastor mentioned that for a woman, being married to a Levite (a descendent of Aaron) was enough to elevate your status in that community. And needless to say, being a Levitical priest was the equivalent of being a doctor or lawyer or senator/congressman/member of parliament. They had the pedigree. They had the position.

So in terms of status they had it all. But on top of that,

“They were both righteous in the sight of God, walking blamelessly in all the commandments and requirements of the Lord.” (vs. 6 NASB)

But one thing was missing. There was one thing they lacked.

Having a child was a sign of God’s blessing. And they were childless, and they were very, very old; too old for that situation to change. A rather odd incongruity, don’t you think? People back then did, though they probably whispered it, not wanting Z. and E. to hear.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught

(AMP) Matt 5: 45b …He makes His sun rise on the wicked and on the good, and makes the rain fall upon the upright and the wrongdoers [alike].

I get two things from this story-within-a-story.

First of all, everybody you know has some thing or things in their lives that are less than perfect. Less than complete. Less than fulfilling. You may see an individual or couple or family that appears to have it all together, but in fact, there are circumstances in their lives that break their heart(s). Financial challenges. Marital frustrations. Physical health problems that you don’t see. Children (or parents) or are estranged. A demoralizing job. Depression. Past regrets. Constantly comparing their situation to other peoples’ lives. (Maybe even yours!)

Elizabeth and Zachariah had it all, except for one obvious, glaring thing; something that in their case wasn’t hidden.

Everyone has something they live with.

You know what? Even when things are going relative well, everybody has something that humbles them. Everyone has something about which they are hypersensitive. Everybody experiences what it’s like to covet someone else’s gifts and abilities.

Maybe you can’t cook anything beyond making toast.
Maybe you can’t do your own tax returns.
Maybe you can’t land a basket when shooting hoops to save your life.
Maybe you’re short.
Maybe you’re short on cash all the time.
Maybe you are tone deaf and church services serve as a constant reminder.
Maybe you suck at open heart surgery.

We’re all terribly aware of our inadequacies. Maybe they aren’t as big a deal as some of the more serious challenges others face, but they haunt our prayer life and cause us to approach life with pessimism, cynicism, fatalism, resignation and defeat. In other words, the challenge to worship God through our circumstances and situations applies to everyone, not just the people facing the more frequently discussed giant mountains.

Secondly — and this is similar but different — living righteously and blamelessly is no guarantee that circumstances are going to change. It did for this couple, but that’s why we call it a miracle. Couples of advanced age don’t usually experience a pregnancy.

And I don’t for a minute believe that they were walking uprightly in the hope that God was going to do what He in fact did. That option had expired. They were both past their sell-by / best-before date when it came to progeny. They weren’t ‘giving to get.’

They were “careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations” (NLT) or “statutes” (ESV) because it was the right thing to do. It was who they were. It was their response to who God is. Their lives were lives of worship to God despite personal setbacks and frustrations.

November 4, 2017

The Lord Will Rescue His Servants

Today, our second visit with David Kitz who writes at I Love the Psalms. Recently he spent two days in Psalm 51, so if you’re familiar with David’s confessional Psalm and would like to read more about it, click either the title below or the mention of his blog in the previous sentence and look for the October 31 and November 1 readings. Today we’re in Psalm 34.

A Trouble Free Life?

Reading:  Psalm 34

(Verses 19-22)
The righteous person may have many troubles,
but the L
ORD delivers him from them all;
he protects all his bones,
not one of them will be broken.
Evil will slay the wicked;
the foes of the righteous will be condemned.
The L
ORD will rescue his servants;
no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned
(NIV).

Reflection
This final portion of Psalm 34 reflects David’s faith in a God who saves. He began this psalm with praise because he experienced the saving power of God. Now David states that the LORD delivers, protects and rescues. But for these words to be meaningful, the LORD must deliver, protect and rescue from various forms of trouble and adversity. There is no rescue if there is no danger. There is no deliverance if there is no oppression.

If you choose to follow the LORD, you are not guaranteed a trouble-free life. Jesus told his disciples, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Many of us believe that if we do our best to lead a good life, following the commandments as found in the Bible, God will exempt us from hardship and trouble. But Jesus, the sinless Son of God, did not have a trouble-free life. Why should we expect our lives to be trouble free? God has not promised me a trouble-free life; He has promised to be with me when trouble and adversity comes.

About three years ago a close friend of mine suffered a debilitating stroke. He lost his position as a teacher, his finances took a hit and he struggled mightily to get his mobility back. In an instant every movement became much more difficult for him—every step a monumental effort. Last week he made a startling confession. He said, “If I had it to do over, I wouldn’t go back. I wouldn’t return to my pre-stroke days. God has drawn me so much closer to Himself through this. I wouldn’t wish this on any man. But God has changed me and used me in new ways that wouldn’t have been possible unless this happened.”

All of us desperately try to avoid the furnace of affliction. It’s too hard—too unpleasant—full of things we cannot bear. But God meets us there. He bears us up on eagle’s wings. When our resources and abilities run out, He takes over. He becomes our help and our deliverer in ways we cannot fathom. God is present in times of trouble.

His promises are tried, tested and true: The LORD will rescue his servants; no one who takes refuge in him will be condemned.

Response: Heavenly Father, I can’t always see what is genuinely in my best interest, especially when that involves adversity. Be my sure help and protection in troubled times. May your unfailing love be with us, LORD, even as we put our hope in you. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen.

Your Turn: Has God met with you in a time of trouble? Do you know Him as your strength and rescuer in times of hardship and difficulty?


 

November 2, 2017

When Gratitude Shines in the Darkness

Clarke Dixon’s full-length articles return next week. In the meantime, this is a shorter one we had in the files which you hadn’t seen before.

by Clarke Dixon

Harvey, Irma, Maria, Abdulahi Hasan Sharif, “Ahmed H”, Stephen Paddock. These are names that have been associated with fear, sadness, and anger in recent days. Whether nature unleashing “natural” disasters, or humans being inhumane, these names can be added to a long history of names that have stirred up negative emotions. We can add to the list the names of various diseases that cause us to think of loved ones. Cancer, Parkinson’s, Diabetes, Alzheimer’s, it seems the list could go on forever. Yet, when the dust settles, something else bubbles up. Gratitude for the first responders. Gratitude for family and friends being at one’s side. Gratitude for complete strangers who have responded with help and aid. Gratitude to God for hope that holds firm in the midst of fear.

No matter the tragedy, eventually the emotions of fear, sadness, and anger make space for gratitude. To respond to the events of life with a range of emotions is not bad. But to be moving to new emotions is good. One is reminded of the words of the Psalmist:

Weeping may linger for the night,
but joy comes with the morning. Psalm 30:5 (NRSV)

In this Psalm, the Psalmist has an experience that many can relate to, namely, the experience both of God’s goodness, and seeming absence:

6 As for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I shall never be moved.”
7 By your favor, O Lord,
you had established me as a strong mountain;
you hid your face;
I was dismayed.. Psalms 30:6-7 (NRSV)

The Psalmist next makes an appeal to God in prayer and you can probably guess how the Psalm ends:

11 You have turned my mourning into dancing;
you have taken off my sackcloth
and clothed me with joy,
12 so that my soul may praise you and not be silent.
O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever. Psalms 30:11-12 (NRSV)

Joy and gratitude. With God in our lives these are always the emotions we can look forward to even if we don’t feel that way in the moment. With Christ’s grace and love keeping a firm grip on us through the hardest of trials, salvation will come. The Psalmist does not say he will give thanks to the Lord for the rest of his life. He says “I will give thanks to you forever.” That is a very long thanksgiving celebration!

Read more at clarkdixon.wordpress.com



Regular readers: Consider writing for C201. More info at our submissions page.


Choosing articles for C201; what we ask ourselves:

  1. Is this a blog to which I would want to refer readers to see what else the author has written about?
  2. Is the article rooted in scripture? Is God’s word the focus?
  3. Does the item present thoughts or ideas which dig deeper, beyond the obvious or superficial?
  4. How does the article contrast or complement what else is available here?

In addition to submissions we’re always looking for readers who can recommend suitable material.


 

August 9, 2017

Initially, Job Got It Right; But Then…

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:31 pm
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One of the consistently finest sources we have used here at C201 is Paul Tautges at the website Counseling One Another. Breaking our six-month rule, this is his twelfth appearance here. As always, click the title below to read this at source.

Four Reasons Job Stumbled

Job started so well. His faith was as invulnerable to Satan’s onslaughts as a turtle snuggled up inside its shell is to the frantic pawings of a dog. Job tucked his head and feet inside his faith in God and said, “The Lord gives, the Lord takes away. Blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Later, however, Job was rebuked by God for his complaining spirit. What went wrong? There are at least four reasons Job’s trust in God took a tumble. First, he listened to bad counsel.

Avoid Bad Counsel

If you are going to handle your calamity in a wise, God-honoring manner, you must ignore well-intentioned but unbiblical counsel. If Job’s counselors had been from the church in our era, they probably would have said, “Job, look at these terrible things that are happening to you. We have to break the generational curses that have power over your life. We have to cast out the demons of skin disease. You need to send 500 dollars to the faith-healer, I. M. Acharlatan, at Better-for-a-Buck Ministries.” People will say all kinds of crazy things to you when calamity strikes (“don’t worry, God didn’t know this was going to happen.” Really? now I am worried!). Don’t let their well-intended but unbiblical counsel trip you up spiritually and send you sprawling. To handle calamity, you must ignore unbiblical advice with a gentle smile and a thank you. People speak to you because they care; receive their counsel with a gracious attitude, but don’t let their unbiblical advice throw you into a tailspin like Job did.

Time Keeps On Tickin’

A second reason Job went off the rails was that he let the termite of time gnaw at his faith. According to Job 7:3, Job’s grief and the burning torment of his physical ailments had extended for months by the time his friends arrived. Job’s suffering felt eternal; the sheer duration of it was wearing him down. Like an eager marathon runner, Job bolted off the starting line of faith, but as the race of responding to his calamity stretched out mile after mile and day after day, Job’s faith began to stumble and stagger. Time is a killer in trials. Like Job, we start with strong faith, but as we tick off days on the calendar, turn over the page to a new month, eventually buy a new calendar for next year, and then a new one for the year after that, we can easily despair. Time makes trials hard.

The Expectations Trap

A third reason Job stumbled is he had false expectations of God. In chapter 29, Job listed his many accomplishments. For example:

  • He was a respected civic leader: “When I went out to the gate of the city … the old men arose and stood” (29:7–8).
  • He was adored by the poor and disadvantaged because of his philanthropy: “I was eyes to the blind and feet to the lame” (29:15).
  • In summary he declared, “My steps were bathed in butter, and the rock poured out for me streams of oil!” (29:6).

Because of his success and his great kindness to others, Job had built up some expectations—things he believed God owed him because he had been good. In chapter 30, Job had this flash of insight into his confused and angry heart: “When I expected good, then evil came; when I waited for light, then darkness came. I am seething within and cannot relax; days of affliction confront me.” (30:26–27)

Job’s summary is both pathetic and perfect: “When I expected good, then evil came” (30:26). The expectation that God owes me good if I have been good is dangerous because it leads to feelings of betrayal and anger at God. God, however, never promises endless good if we are a devoted mother, a patient father, a faithful taxpayer, or if we don’t run with the wrong crowd at school. To handle calamity rightly, Christians must avoid Job’s mistake of building up the expectation that “God owes me because I’ve tried to be good.”

The Shield of Faith

Finally, besides bad counsel, time, and expectations, there was one other reason Job stumbled: he lost his grip on the shield of faith. In chapters 1–2, Job was solidly entrenched behind an impenetrable barrier of faith in God’s wisdom—a perfect example of Paul’s teaching about the shield of faith in Ephesians 6. The soldiers of the ancient world often carried large shields. When enemy archers fired a volley of arrows, they ducked behind those shields and let the arrows harmlessly ricochet off. In Job 1–2, Job had done just that. Satan had fired a barrage of fiery darts at him, but the shield of Job’s faith had deflected them all. That’s how faith works: no arrow of Satan—no matter how hot or deadly—can overwhelm simple, childlike faith: “I’ll trust God whether I understand what he is doing or not.” In chapter 3, Job allowed the handle of the shield of faith to slip from his sweaty fingers. Rather than preoccupy himself with believing trust, Job allowed his thinking to be dominated by frustrated expectations and, later, by the disheartening, untrue accusations of his friends. In the Gospels, the man cried, “I do believe; help my unbelief” (Mark 9:24). In calamity, we must voice a similar cry to Christ: “I believe; rescue me from my doubt, fear, anger, and unbelief.”

For these reasons, Job stumbled. But, thankfully, that is not the end of the story. In heartfelt worship, Job returned to a fear-of-the-Lord-faith which enabled him to humbly walk with God the rest of his days.

[This post is a chapter excerpt from Joel James’ helpful mini-book, HELP! I Can’t Handle All These Trials. If you find yourself in the midst of a painful trial, or know a friend who is, you will benefit from reading Joel’s counsel from the life of Job.]

July 11, 2017

With the Eyes of Christ

Today we’re paying another visit to the site Weeping Into Dancing | Overcoming Difficult Trials. There have been no new posts on this page for several months, but we’ve always found this to be a source of great insights and today’s selection was no exception.

A Godly Perspective

A person’s perspective is an attitude and viewpoint. It can be positive or negative. A positive perspective sees the good in even the most painful and darkest of circumstances. A negative perspective will eventually lead to a hard heart, a root of bitterness, and a stagnant spiritual walk.

Perspective is an understanding that events, people, and circumstances are interrelated, and a positive perspective means we have the ability to see things from a larger frame of reference. A positive perspective means we are looking through the eyes of Jesus.

And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.Romans 8:28 (NKJV)

With the eyes of Christ we see the good in all people, even when confronted by rude, abusive, and angry people. With a Christ-like vision, we are less apt to judge and more likely to adopt a compassionate attitude. We will consider why actions and behaviors play out and hold our tongues and judgments for later.

When we consider the life of Jesus, we see he was a friend to prostitutes, tax collectors, and sinners. He was able to look past their mistakes or employment choices and see into the heart of the person. His love looked past all rebellion, greed, and lust and saw the desperation and need for acceptance and love in man’s heart.

The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’”       Luke 7:34 (NIV)

I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” Luke 5:32 (NIV)

As sinners, at some point we will act out, saying or thinking things that cause our Savior grief. One of these things occurs when we doubt the love of God. During difficult trials, our flesh cries out under the pressure and pain. Too often a man thinks, “If God loves me why must I suffer?” It is because of our sin and our need to be sanctified. The pressure of difficult times will bring the dross of our sin to the surface, enabling the Holy Spirit to remove it for our benefit. We are called to be like Christ.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” Romans 12:1-2 (NKJV)

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 2:5 (NKJV)

Sometimes we feel like mishandled clay in the hands of The Potter. Under intense pressure, we cry out and protest at every squeeze and pinch He makes. Then, when The Potter places us on His spinning wheel, life seems to spin out of control. No longer can we see clearly, for the world has become a blur. When the turning slows and comes to a stop, we feel the Creator’s hands lift us from the wheel. In fear, we tremble. Why? Because the heat of the kiln awaits us and we can not look past the future discomfort.

With the eyes of Christ, we see how The Potter has carefully placed us in just the right spot on his spinning wheel. As it whirls us around, we take note of how The Potter places both of His loving hands about us, molding us into a vessel of beauty and usefulness. We understand that our life is under His control, so we worry and fret not. When our Creator lifts us from the wheel and places us in the kiln, we welcome the heat. For it is in the fire that our beauty is enhanced, free of imperfections and strong.

Perspective helps when we are faced with adversity. Perspective was one reason Jesus was able to endure the cross. Without perspective, we follow our own natural inclinations. May God grant us eyes to see the good in every person and in every circumstance.

“Looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” Hebrews 12:2 (NKJV)

“There is a way that seems right to a man, but its end is the way of death.”  Proverbs 14:12 (NKJV)

July 5, 2017

When the Flood Waters Run High

Just two months ago, we introduced you to the website Dust off the Bible, which contains news, reviews, quizzes and a daily devotional. We thought we’d give you another opportunity to explore this excellent website. Click the title below to read this at source. (Often the passages are covered by two writers, which is the case today.)

Daily Bible Reading Devotional [Psalm 69:7-18]-June 28, 2017

Psalm 69:7-18

69:7 It is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that shame has covered my face.

69:8 I have become a stranger to my kindred, an alien to my mother’s children.

69:9 It is zeal for your house that has consumed me; the insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.

69:10 When I humbled my soul with fasting, they insulted me for doing so.

69:11 When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

69:12 I am the subject of gossip for those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love, answer me. With your faithful help

69:14 rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

69:15 Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

69:16 Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

69:17 Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

69:18 Draw near to me, redeem me, set me free because of my enemies.


Much like yesterday’s reading, this passage calls for the Christian to stand up for the name of Christ. This however, is a prayer that God would give strength to those who are enduring persecution and mocking for the sake of following after God. We cannot live this Christian life alone and we are not meant to. Jesus is always there to give us peace and strength, especially when are facing hard times.

The Psalmist here is recognizing that yes, there has been some very hard times for being a follower of Christ. He names how family no longer cares for him, the people around him gossip, even those who are at the lowest form of the social ladder, are making fun of him. The sacrifice to follow after Christ is great and costly. Yet, there is no cry about frustration and bitterness. There is a cry for strength and a means of being sustained as he goes through this.

Whenever we are mocked and questioned about our faith, let us remember that Jesus Christ endured the greatest form of mockery in spreading the Gospel. He was beaten, humiliated, spit upon, mocked and killed. Our strength comes from the one who has endured it all and we can rest assured that He will answer us during times of persecution and hardships. He gives strength to the weary, peace to the anxious heart and joy to the sad.


Sometimes, the storms are what make us seek God the most. They are times where we need to seek something outside of ourselves and our surroundings. We need a supernatural event. While we should encourage others to call on God daily, know that it’s normal to call on the Lord more in our times of need. In fact, this is what King David often did and that is why so many Psalms are written from a place of despair. However, there is no need to despair. God is listening to us already. He is listening before we even speak.

If you are in a place of need at this moment, go find a quiet place and pray the words of King David;

With your faithful help rescue me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Do not let the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the Pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Do not hide your face from your servant, for I am in distress–make haste to answer me.

Draw near to me, redeem me.

 

 

June 12, 2017

It’s Not An Easy Road

NLT Deut 31:6 So be strong and courageous! Do not be afraid and do not panic before them. For the Lord your God will personally go ahead of you. He will neither fail you nor abandon you.”

I thought of calling this “I Never Promised You A Rose Garden;” a song which one speaker once said should be in our hymnbooks!

Today we’re paying another visit to Paul Burleson at Vital Truth Ministries which also contains a poem written by his son who is also in ministry. This appeared on his blog in May; click the title to read it there. (Again, as we said last time, Paul likes capital letters and we decided to leave it in the original form.)

THERE IS NO GUARANTEE THAT THE LIFE OF FAITH WILL BE EASY!

For as long as I can remember some Christians, especially television preachers, have emphasized “victory, success, healing, and material blessings” as the path for EVERY believer who truly lives “by faith!” The only problem is that not only misses reality, it misses the emphasis of the scripture entirely. According to the Biblical materials the ONLY guarantee any of us have IN THIS LIFE is that God LOVES us and He will NEVER leave us nor forsake us. A Christian may be healed, but they might NOT be. A Christian may be materially blessed, but they might NOT be. A Christian may have a successful marriage, but they might NOT have one, because they have a partner that chooses, for whatever reason, to leave the union. Christians suffer at the hands of a brutal criminals. They sometimes find out they have a disease for which there is NO CURE or one that IS NOT cured. It isn’t that God can’t or even doesn’t heal some, but, the point is that He doesn’t do so EVERY TIME, even for those living by faith. They may receive bad news about their children. And on and on I could go.

But here’s the deal, our lives “in Christ” are built upon a much more solid rock than any circumstance that makes us comfortable with health, wealth and happiness being undisturbed. That rock is CHRIST HIMSELF and He will NEVER LEAVE US nor FORSAKE us and is coming to establish His Eternal Kingdom with a New Heavens and a New Earth!

What an eye-opener it would be for ANY of us as American Christians to be magically transported overseas to live among radical Islamists, massive poverty, and barren wastelands of dry, dusty earth. It might help us realize that when our Christian message of comfort revolves around material things as evidence of God’s blessings and favor, the way we’re thinking has been “materially” corrupted and no longer represents the true message of the Bible. [We have been blessed with ALL spiritual blessings IN CHRIST JESUS!] Just remember that if a message or truth any preacher brings CANNOT be lived out in ANY nation on earth, it isn’t scripturally true for this nation either.

A few years ago our son, Wade Burleson, wrote a poem and sent it to a family in the fellowship he pastors that was facing some horrible circumstances at the time. I found it yesterday and thought you might enjoy it as well. As Wade said back then,”Maybe God can use this poem to encourage you as these things happen in your life, or worse, as the answer to your prayers is exactly opposite of what you have requested.”

My Lord’s Guarantee

There are days you’ll hear news that burdens your soul.
Words will come that cause you to feel less than whole.
Those times are planned by Me for a special reason,
To give you My comfort in your particularly dark season.

I may not always make things perfect and secure,
But I will show you two things that are absolutely sure.
My unconditional love for you will never change or abate.
And your life is not in the hands of earthly chance or fate.

I have taken hold of you and supported you by My hand,
To ensure the evil around you will not forever stand.
Assurance of My love is found not in what you can see.
It is established in the personal faith you have in Me.

It may be that I designed this affliction to end with death.
For this reason you must trust Me with your every breath.
You came to this world with nothing but My love for you,
And it is this unfailing love that will see you through.

May 23, 2017

Paradoxes in the Upside Down Kingdom

We’ve linked before to the blog Don’t Ask The Fish at our other blog, but this is the first time for this devotional site, written by Dr. Tommy Kiedis to appear here at C201. There is some really great content waiting for you there. Clicking the title below will allow you to read this at source, where you can then navigate to some other great articles.

The Upside To Down Times

Our anxiety does not empty tomorrow of its sorrows, but only empties today of its strengths.  — Charles H. Spurgeon

The New Testament is full of paradoxes:

In his second letter to the Corinthians, the apostle Paul shares another anomaly for those who walk with God: There is an upside to down times. This is a truth Paul discovered while walking through some very difficult circumstances.

We don’t want you in the dark, friends, about how hard it was when all this came down on us in Asia province. It was so bad we didn’t think we were going to make it. We felt like we’d been sent to death row, that it was all over for us. As it turned out, it was the best thing that could have happened. Instead of trusting in our own strength or wits to get out of it, we were forced to trust God totally—not a bad idea since he’s the God who raises the dead! And he did it, rescued us from certain doom. And he’ll do it again, rescuing us as many times as we need rescuing. (2 Corinthians 1:8-10 The Message)

What happened to Paul in the province of Asia? Was there an attempt on his life? Did he suffer some punishing malady? No one knows for sure. What we do know is that Paul said, “it was the best thing that could have happened.” Why? Because God used the trying time to deepen Paul’s faith.

As Paul trusted God, he discovered that God (who raises the dead) would employ that power to rescue him again and again—as many times as he needed rescuing.

Amazing!

Where are you experiencing a “downer” in life? There is an upside to it. Like Paul you can say, “it was the best thing that could have happened.” This change in perspective occurs as you learn to trust that God really is working in your life in the midst of your challenge.

Sometimes it is hard to think of God at work when difficulties arrive. Anxiety, like some swashbuckling pirate, is making too much noise. But Spurgeon is right, “anxiety . . . only empties today of it’s strengths.” My task is not necessarily to fight the anxious thought, but to look to God through all the dust of emotions, to learn to rest in the fact that is there and that he is at work on my behalf — because he is!

Here’s an idea. Why not take something on your desk or work space and turn it upside down today as your reminder that God promises to bring an upside to your down times.

He has that kind of power. He loves you that much.

 

November 30, 2016

God’s Providence for His People

Today we’re paying a first-time visit to the blog No Condemnation. Click the title to read at source. (This Psalm appears in your Bible just a couple before the one we looked at yesterday, and is quite different.)

Let the redeemed tell their story

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever. Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story – those he redeemed from the hand of the foe …

Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He led them by a straight way to a city where they could settle.

Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave.
Psalm 107:1, 6-7, 19-20 (NIV)

Read: Psalm 107

Consider: A few days ago we looked at the problem of praying when the words just won’t come. This can be because the problem we are facing is so enormous, or potentially life-changing. It is in times like these that the Holy Spirit takes our unspoken words and groans, and intercedes to God on our behalf. Prayer in difficult times is generally more heart felt than prayer in easy times.

The story of the people of Israel is one of bringing their troubles before God and, once the immediate danger had passed, they promptly forgot and rebelled against Him. As a Christian you are unlikely to go into open rebellion against God, but do you remember or forget God’s providence once the danger you have been facing has passed?

I love the opening verses of Psalm 107 where it says: ‘Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story …’ (v2). It speaks to me of the providence of God and how he cares for and loves us, but it also speaks to me about my response to God’s goodness in my life. When God rescues you in your trouble (note: not from your trouble) are you forgetful, or do you want to thank God so much that your can’t stop talking about it? Are you willing to share details of God’s rescue with your close relatives, home group members, the wider church membership? I’m not advocating being so talkative about yourself that you very quickly become a bore. What I am advocating is the willingness to recognize God’s hand in your circumstances and thanking him first and foremost for this. As the psalmist puts it : Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good; his love endures for ever (v1). Having first thanked God, we should then be willing to share with others what God has done for us.

Look again at Psalm 107 and some of the words the psalmist uses to speak of God’s providence for his people. He uses words like redeemed, delivered, led, saved, healed and rescued. All these speak so clearly of God’s love.

Don’t let the fact that the immediate danger has passed prevent you from thanking God and telling others about his providence in your life. You never know who is going through similar circumstance to yourself, who needs to hear your words of encouragement.

Pray: Father, forgive us for being so quick to forget your goodness to us. May we remember to thank you and also to share with others what you have been doing in our lives. Amen

Every blessing.

 

September 10, 2016

God is not the Author of Hurt and Pain

Today we pay a return visit to the blog of Justin Petrick Ministries. Although he doesn’t seem to be writing frequently at present, there are some great articles there on file. As always, don’t read the posts here, click the title below to read at the author’s website or blog.

God Doesn’t Author Hurt and Pain

I do not know about you, but it can be easy for me to attribute hurtful and painful past experiences to the hand of God. Why do you think that is? Why do we blame God for our hurts and pains? Why is it easy for us to derive a perverted sense of peace when something happens to us that causes us hurt and pain, by saying that God is the author of it or even that He has ‘allowed’ it?

When we look back at God’s original design, the Garden of Eden, it is perfection. The Garden of Eden, also the place of perfect relationship with God, was not only a garden of perfect provision, but physical, emotional, and mental stability, or peace. Why would we think that God deviated from this plan of His or reverted to a plan B, when man chose to sin rather than to stay in perfect communion with Him?

I don’t think He did. And being that God’s original design was perfection, I do not believe that God orchestrates pain and hurt for us to experience or to grow and mature us. There is a drastic difference in our hurts and pains turning out for our good or God using hurts and pains to grow and mature us (Romans 8:28) compared to believing He is the author of hurts and pains. Let us look at this Biblically:

Jeremiah 29:11 (NIV): For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

Harm is emotional, mental, or physical distress, so to speak. God would never put you into a position to harm you mentally, physically, or emotionally. It is not His original plan of perfect love, nor is it in His perfect, loving nature for He is a God of love (1 John 4:8).

raThe Hebrew word for ‘harm’ in Jeremiah 29:11, is ‘ra`’ (רַע), and means “bad, malignant, unpleasant, displeasing, worse than, sad, unhappy, hurtful, wicked, misery, calamity, distress, adversity, injury, wrong, etc.”.  To many of us, these characteristics fit experiences that we believe God orchestrated or allowed to happen.

But what is interesting, is that this word “harm” comes from the root word ‘ra`a`’ (רָעַע), which means “evil”. And we know in James 1:13 that God will not test or tempt us with evil, or with ‘ra`’ (רַע) (experiences characterized as bad, malignant, unpleasant, displeasing, worse than, sad, unhappy, hurtful, wicked, misery, calamity, distress, adversity, injury, wrong, etc.).

Evil is the absence of a loving God, it is the absence of love; a void of love. Being that God is love (1 John 4:8), evil is the absence of God or His presence, ability, character, or nature. Evil is the absence of His plan. There is no hurt and pain in God’s love nor in His plan for you. It is not in His nature. He is not the author of evil. He is the restorer. He is the rescuer, the shelter, the rock. He builds up what has been broken down. He takes our hurt and pain and turns it into wholeness and victory, confidence, wisdom, and knowledge.

The things in our life that bring us hurt and pain are characterized by the plan of Satan, not God:

John 10:10 (NIV): The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Satan comes to steal health, marriages, families, jobs, security, stability, etc. He wants you to doubt God, doubt the power and design of His love for you and your life. He wants to steal the Truth and the Life, the Word, from your heart. In fact, he wants to speak lies into you about God’s nature, His very heart.

Another reason we know God does not orchestrate hurts and pains, is because He is moved by our hurts and pains, or infirmities.

Hebrews 4:15 (KJV): For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

God is moved by how you feel. When you feel hurt, manipulated, lied to, cheated on, let down, bailed on, forgotten, etc., it moves the heart of God! He feels your pain!

In fact, God is so moved by our iniquities that it is what killed the body of Jesus. Jesus died of a broken heart. One of the greatest verses that gives us physiological, medical insight into the death of Jesus is John 19:34:

John 19:34 (KJV): “But one of the soldiers with a spear pierced his side, and forthwith came there out blood and water.”

When you think about someone being stabbed, one would expect to only see blood come out similar to a deep cut, just more of it.  John obviously thought it was important to mention that not only blood flowed from when the solider speared Jesus, but water as well.  And he was correct.  This small piece of information is very important.

We know that when blood sits, the red blood cells naturally separate from the plasma, which looks like water or is the watery part of your blood, giving the appearance of blood and water flowing as John stated. So, where was this blood and water able to sit? The heart, which is what the solider punctured when he speared Jesus.

There is a membrane that surrounds the heart called the pericaridal sac.  When a heart ruptures, blood leaks from the heart and fills the pericardial sac and while it sits, blood will separate from the plasma.  Jesus did not die of asphyxiation, but of a broken heart when He took the sins and sickness of the entire world on Him (John 1:29).

Isaiah 53:4 (KJV): Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.  But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

This is how much Jesus loves you, to willingly take on so much sin and pain that it literally broke His heart.  This is why He is moved by the feelings of your infirmities. He bore what you are going through today when He was crucified on the cross. This is the nature and love of Jesus Christ.  He has literally sacrificed His body and heart that we might have life with Him for eternity.

This is the magnitude of His love, and it blows my mind when I really think about it, about how much pain and agony is in the world that was placed in Him, all for the simple reason of Him justifying us through this selfless act of love, that we might be conquerors over everything that caused Him to die of a broken heart.  This is how much He loves YOU.

God is not the one that orchestrates pain and hurt. He is the one that gives you the ability to overcome hurts and pains so that you may live life in His fullness and joy (Psalm 16:11).

 

September 8, 2016

When Things Go From Bad to Worse

clarke-dixon-picby Clarke Dixon

Ever get the feeling that it is all downhill? That things are going from bad to worse? Or that life could be captured by an expression I grew up with, one said best with an Irish accent: things are “worser and far badder.” It might be health, it might be finances, it might be anything or seem like everything. Whatever it is, it is not good and not getting better. Ezekiel chapter 17 captures a time when God’s people are experiencing things going from bad to worse. It is a “riddle,” or allegory, so let’s quickly cover some of the key moments:

  • In verses 3 and 4 there is an eagle which takes a top branch of a cedar from Lebanon and plants it in a different land. This represents the Babylonian control over Judah and Jerusalem with the resulting deportation of about 10,000 people to Babylon, among whom was Ezekiel himself. This was done to weaken God’s people in order to keep them under Babylon’s thumb.
  • In verses 5 and 6 we find the planting of a vine which stretches toward the eagle. This represents Babylon letting the people of Judah carry on with life, though weakened, so long as they remain loyal to Babylon.
  • In verses 7 and 8 the vine stretches instead to a second eagle. This represents the rebellion of Judah under King Zedekiah, and the seeking of help from Egypt against Babylon.
  • In verses 9 and 10 we learn that the vine will be easily uprooted and destroyed. This represents the utter destruction of Jerusalem and a second and much larger deportation of its people.

This is a bad to worse moment for God’s people. It is bad enough when they are under Babylon’s thumb. Much worse that Jerusalem is to be destroyed and the people exiled. This was “worser and far badder.” Perhaps you can relate.

As we learn from verses 11 to 21, this story could have turned out better. Had the people listened to the prophets who encouraged patience as Babylon’s subjects, they would not have faced such destruction. Things would not have been great, but they would not have gone from bad to worse.  And had the people been listening to God all along, things would have turned out much better from the get-go. There are times that things get “worser and far badder” for us because we are not listening to the Lord. Things can go from bad to worse because our decisions go from dumb to dumber.

But there are also downhill moments not caused by any particular spiritual or moral failure, but rather because of a general spiritual and moral failure. Since Adam and Eve were banished from the Garden we have been humans living in a fallen world. A lady once told me that she thought the devil was out to get her, and her faith must be so terribly weak because no amount of prayer would touch her sore feet. I asked if perhaps her feet were sore as a result of walking on them for 95 years. We Christians are prone to the aging process along with the rest of the world. We do share in our humanity which means sometimes things go from bad to worse though the troubles can not be traced to any specific bad decision on our part.

With all this negativity and “worser and far badder” thinking, is there any good news? Yes, it comes in verse 22:

22 Thus says the Lord God:
I myself will take a sprig
from the lofty top of a cedar;
I will set it out.
I will break off a tender one
from the topmost of its young twigs;
I myself will plant it
on a high and lofty mountain.
23 On the mountain height of Israel
I will plant it,
in order that it may produce boughs and bear fruit,
and become a noble cedar.
Under it every kind of bird will live;
in the shade of its branches will nest
winged creatures of every kind.
24 All the trees of the field shall know
that I am the Lord.
I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it. Ezekiel 17:22-24

Here God Himself plays a role in this allegory. This story is not over until God intervenes to write the final chapter. Whatever eagles were swooping around threatening to be the undoing of God’s people, God is the last and greatest eagle. Though God’s people seemed to be at the mercy of the seemingly more powerful powers of Babylon and Egypt, in fact all powers are at the mercy of the Lord. As our passage says “All the trees of the field shall know that I am the Lord.” This represents all the nations which of course would include Babylon and Egypt. The once mighty eagles have had their wings clipped and sprouted leaves. They will know their place.

Whatever powerful eagles are swooping around us, God Himself is the last and greatest eagle. We tend to think that history is written by the powerful, and that our own lives are at the mercy of the powerful. Cancer is powerful. Ageing is powerful, addictions are powerful, hurtful people are powerful. These and the like seem like soaring eagles and we feel like mere twigs in their presence. God Himself is the last and greatest eagle. He sets the story according to His sovereign and loving purposes:

I bring low the high tree,
I make high the low tree;
I dry up the green tree
and make the dry tree flourish.
I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it. Ezekiel 17:24

Most importantly, Ezekiel 17 points to the reason for our confidence in God and His love. It points to Jesus. He is the sprig from verse 22. He is the topmost branch of the line of David. He is the one who ensures a future through his death and resurrection. So when if feels like things are going from bad to worse, whether it is you own doing or not, with Jesus it is not your undoing. Because God in Christ kept His promise of Ezekiel 17, even death when it may hover over us like an eagle, or rather like a vulture, does not write the final chapter for us. A diagnosis of cancer may feel like the end of the world. It is not, it is a different world, and a temporary one. Parkinson’s may feel like the end of the world. It is not, it is a different world, and a temporary one. Alzheimer’s may feel like the end of the world. It is not, it is a different world, it is a temporary one. Death itself may feel like the end of the world. In Christ it is not, it is the next step toward the world our Lord has prepared for us. Take your pick of diseases or troubles, they all seem like mighty eagles now, but the Lord is returning, they will find their proper place. Such things as threaten to be our undoing now, He will undo! 

I the Lord have spoken;
I will accomplish it. Ezekiel 17:24

Are things “worser and far badder?” In Christ the best is yet ahead.

all scripture references are taken from the NRSV

Clarke Dixon is a Baptist pastor in Ontario, Canada; read more at Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

November 24, 2015

Having a Plan of Attack

Today we’re introducing Carol Hatcher who we’ve linked to at Thinking Out Loud before, but not here at C201. We’ve borrowed not only her writing today, but also a graphic image; nonetheless we hope many of you will send her some link love by clicking the title below to read this on her blog, Sheep to the Right.

Preparing a Plan of Attack

There are two ways to do just about anything – carefully plan or wing it.

Most of the time, I’m a carefully-plan-it kind of girl. I love making lists. I used to write out menus by the month. When planning a vacation, I’ll spend hours online finding the best places to stay, recommended stops along the way and highest rated restaurants. When my kids have a birthday, you can be sure I will create a Pinterest board and hunt the Internet for the cutest party ideas.

When I’m presented with the opportunity for a date night, I search movies and read reviews. I poll Facebook friends for best places to eat and search my closet for just the right outfit.

But somehow when it comes to my prayer life and dealing with those situations that seem impossible, I find myself winging it. Satan will throw me a curve ball, and I wildly swing my bat hoping to make contact.

Today, as I was reading in 2 Samuel about David trying to defeat the Philistines, I found good advice for creating a battle plan to overcome the obstacles in my own life. First David asked God, not his friends on social media, for direction. (Ouch. Let’s move on.)

“…so David inquired of the Lord, and he answered…” 2 Samuel 5:23 NIV

David asked God first IF he should attack the Philistines and then HOW he should attack. God responded, “Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the balsam trees.” (2 Samuel 5:23) The Hebrew word used in this verse for “circle around” is sabab. It means, “To go around, surround, encircle, engulf.” It can also mean, “to change direction, to be surrounded, to change.”

FullSizeRender 3

God gave David a plan of attack, but he gives us that same plan. When trials come our way, often we come straight at them and are knocked backwards from the blow because we aren’t prepared. Instead, we need to establish a plan of attack for any obstacle – for your failing health, for your marriage that grows stale, for your mounting bills and empty bank account, for the addiction you’ve been hiding, for the loss of your closest friend.

Friends, it’s time we fight back God’s way. We need to sabab our issues with prayer. Circle them. Engulf them. You see, because its only through prayer, praise and thanksgiving that we can “change direction.” You are not defined by the series of events that have happened in your life.

You are not defined by your diagnosis, your divorce, your size, your upbringing, your financial status or your education.

You are who God says you are. And He says you are chosen. (John 15:16) You are an heir. (Galatians 4:7) You are part of a royal priesthood. (1 Peter 2:9)

Satan will try to distract you and get you off your game. Don’t let him. He’ll tell you you’re not good enough. Don’t believe his lie. Be ready, friends. Arm yourselves for the battle by preparing your plan of attack. You see, in the woods that day when God told David to sabab, or circle around, He also told him to listen for the sounds of marching in the tops of the trees, “because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army.” (2 Samuel 5:24 NIV)

Don’t be shaken. Don’t be afraid. The Lord your God, the Sovereign Creator of all things will fight for you. Put on your armor and sabab. The battle has already begun.

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