Christianity 201

November 18, 2017

The Woman Who Jumped the ‘I Need a Miracle’ Line

Once again we’re back with Carol Hatcher whose blog is titled Sheep to the Right.

When Someone Gets in Front of Your Miracle

He was desperate.

Yet in that despair came a glimmer of hope. He’d heard stories of the one they called Teacher. He’d never seen any of the miracles, but there was talk of him healing the sick and even raising the dead.

So with a modicum of faith, Jairus went in search of Jesus to help his daughter. When Jairus found him, the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanied synagogue leaders such as himself, crumbled as he fell at Jesus’ feet. In despair he cried, “My little daughter is dying. Please come and put your hands on her so that she will be healed and live.” (Mark 5:23 NIV)

So Jesus went.

The Bible states it simply. Christ didn’t ask questions. He didn’t give instructions for the disciples to pass out tracts while he ran on his miracle errand. He just went.

Jairus must have been thrilled. I imagine him trying to move briskly in the direction of his home suppressing the urge to break into a sprint. But there were all those people. I would have run, shoving men and women as I went. Shove now, apologize later. There was a life at stake after all.

Then this woman showed up – hoping for a miracle of her own. The embarrassment over her “unclean” condition was perhaps what motivated her to touch Jesus in secret. She probably thought, I’ll keep my head covered and just touch his clothes. He is so powerful, even the fibers woven to adorn his body will be enough. No doubt, she intended on slipping out of the crowd as soon as she was healed, but Jesus was aware of her presence.

He knew that power had gone out from his body. (v. 30)

Who touched me?” Christ asked, wanting to look upon the face of the woman with such faith.

Let’s freeze that moment and talk a minute about those around Jesus and what they were thinking. We know the disciples were thinking their Lord was loco (crazy). The Bible doesn’t tell us their tone, but one can only imagine.

After Jesus’ question, their response was, “You see people crowding against you, and yet you can ask, ‘Who touched me?’” (v. 31) I can almost see the sarcasm dripping from the words.

What I want to know is what is Jairus doing? This man is desperate for his daughter to be healed and is afraid she is going to die. If it were me, I might have been silent on the outside, but I’d be screaming on the inside, “Let’s go! Okay, okay. She’s healed already – besides the fact she totally jumped in the ‘I need a miracle’ line. Let’s go!”

Back to the situation at hand.

In terror, the woman came forward and collapsed at Jesus feet. The same feet Jairus gazed upon mere minutes before. Her story came spilling forth, and instead of criticizing her, Jesus said, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.

But before Jesus can even finish speaking these words, some men from Jairus’ house approached Jairus with the nightmare he had been trying to avoid. “Your daughter is dead. Why bother the teacher anymore?”

Can you imagine the agony? He succeeded in getting Jesus to come only to have his daughter die before they could arrive. Once again, the Bible is silent on Jairus’ response, but we can infer from Jesus’ next words that Jairus was upset.

Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, ‘Don’t be afraid; just believe.’” (v. 36)

Can I share with you the words that struck me? “Ignoring what they said…”

How many times have you heard the worst? Perhaps the doctors have given no hope. Maybe your family laughed when you shared your dream. You thought you heard the voice of God, but now you are not so sure.

Take Jesus’ advice – ignore what they said. Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

Sometimes in order to achieve the impossible, we have to disregard the obstacles. When God is in it, all things are possible.

You see, Jesus went on to Jairus’ house, telling the people there the girl was asleep. And guess what the people did? They didn’t fall down and worship. They didn’t even run in her room and place a mirror under her nose. Instead, “they laughed at him.” (v. 40)

But Jesus went into her room and brought the child back to life. She got up and had a fruit snack. (Just a guess. Dried figs would qualify as a fruit snack, right?)

So today I ask what impossible task are you facing? Perhaps you need to ignore the discouraging words and the laughs.

Then don’t be afraid. Just believe.

October 6, 2017

Priorities and Prayers

Today we’re reconnecting with Melissa Turner at Tin Roof Sky. She doesn’t post often, but she has great insights. There are two posts for you today. Click the titles below to read at source.

Priorities

“But he’s already made it plain how to live, what to do,
    what God is looking for in men and women.
It’s quite simple: Do what is fair and just to your neighbor,
    be compassionate and loyal in your love,
And don’t take yourself too seriously—
    take God seriously.” Micah 6:8 (MSG)

Recently, my good friend Google alerted me that there was an accident ahead on my route to work. My daughter and I had to take an alternate route through a residential section.

She was marveling at the sizes of the houses we passed. (Probably because our own humble abode comes in at well under 1000 square feet). I told her that as adults, we have to decide how much house we NEED versus how much we WANT. We have to prioritize, and make sure we’re meeting the needs of ourselves and our family, without going overboard in an attempt to impress someone or fill a hole in our own selves.

Above all, I told her, our priorities need to line up with God’s.

He hasn’t made a mystery of what’s important to Him. In Micah 6:8, He says He wants us to be fair, be just, be compassionate, and be loyal. Oh yeah, and to be humble before the Lord, instead of thinking too highly of ourselves.

God makes it sound so simple, doesn’t He? Yet we constantly have to be reminded of His priorities, as the ones the world offers try to invade and take over.

Let’s reassess today. Let’s make sure that what we’re doing, for Him and for others, lines up with His words. Let’s set an example for our families and the world around us by the way that we order our lives.

Express Delivery

“In the evening his disciples went down to the sea, got in the boat, and headed back across the water to Capernaum. It had grown quite dark and Jesus had not yet returned. A huge wind blew up, churning the sea. They were maybe three or four miles out when they saw Jesus walking on the sea, quite near the boat. They were scared senseless, but he reassured them, “It’s me. It’s all right. Don’t be afraid.” So they took him on board. In no time they reached land—the exact spot they were headed to.”
John 6:16‭-‬21 MSG

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:

We serve a God of suddenly. 

Sometimes, our deliverance takes awhile. God is waiting on us to “get it,” to work though a process, to grow to a certain point.

Other times, He shows up and shows out. He comes in and like a the supernatural being He is, saves the day in one fell swoop.

Now, I don’t know why He chooses to make us wait sometimes, and delivers instantaneously others. I don’t know why some people get miraculous healings that doctors can’t explain, and others get their healing on the other side of Glory. What I do know is that God not only has the totality of our lives in view, but everyone else’s as well.

I want all my prayers to be answered “jiffy quick” as my Pastor’s wife is fond of saying. I want Him to bend the laws of gravity, time, and space for me every single time. But I have to remember that He is in charge, not me. And whether He snatches me up out of my problem, or works His plan out through my waiting, He will give me whatever I need at that exact moment.

 

January 17, 2017

Healing and Testing

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:34 pm
Tags: , , , , ,

Today we’re paying a return visit to Atlanta pastor and author Charles Stanley and the broadcast organization, InTouch Ministries. As we did last year, we’re bringing you a two-for-one special because the articles are shorter. We’ve grouped two together I think make a good fit. Each also includes an audio reading of the same material.

When God Does Not Heal

NLT Prov 3:3 Never let loyalty and kindness leave you!
    Tie them around your neck as a reminder.
    Write them deep within your heart.
Then you will find favor with both God and people,
    and you will earn a good reputation.

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
    do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
    and he will show you which path to take.

In Touch - Charles Stanley“Why would a loving heavenly Father allow His children to go through terrible trials and experience sorrow?” We can understand the reason that this is a common question—it can be baffling when the all-powerful God of love seems to stand by silently while painful things happen to His followers. Where is He during personal tragedies, natural disasters, financial crises, and other times of heartache?

The Word of God is the only place we can find the real answer. Even so, today’s reading can be hard to understand or accept. One might read James’s exhortation to be joyful in the face of trials and think, Count me out! Difficulties and joy just don’t seem to go together—that is, unless we understand God’s perspective of what life is about.

When James spoke of joy, he wasn’t referring to a cheery, frivolous feeling. Rather, he was talking about an inner sense of calmness, peace, and confidence in the Lord. He wasn’t telling us to feel happy about our trials but to know, as we go through them, that God is up to something good in our life. Our attitude during the struggle will determine what shape we’re in when we come out on the other side.

When our faith gets tested, the end result is endurance; being aware of this gives us hope and strength. What’s more, the Bible promises God will use trials for our good, so we don’t need to be afraid or anxious.

God’s desire is to bless you, not destroy you. Adversity can make someone feel like a victim, but as followers of Christ, we can choose to be victors!


Testing Builds Endurance

Dear brothers and sisters,[Gk brothers] when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing.

“Why would a loving heavenly Father allow His children to go through terrible trials and experience sorrow?” We can understand the reason that this is a common question—it can be baffling when the all-powerful God of love seems to stand by silently while painful things happen to His followers. Where is He during personal tragedies, natural disasters, financial crises, and other times of heartache?

The Word of God is the only place we can find the real answer. Even so, today’s reading can be hard to understand or accept. One might read James’s exhortation to be joyful in the face of trials and think, Count me out! Difficulties and joy just don’t seem to go together—that is, unless we understand God’s perspective of what life is about.

When James spoke of joy, he wasn’t referring to a cheery, frivolous feeling. Rather, he was talking about an inner sense of calmness, peace, and confidence in the Lord. He wasn’t telling us to feel happy about our trials but to know, as we go through them, that God is up to something good in our life. Our attitude during the struggle will determine what shape we’re in when we come out on the other side.

When our faith gets tested, the end result is endurance; being aware of this gives us hope and strength. What’s more, the Bible promises God will use trials for our good, so we don’t need to be afraid or anxious.

God’s desire is to bless you, not destroy you. Adversity can make someone feel like a victim, but as followers of Christ, we can choose to be victors!


Link for the second devotional is found in the archives section, click to 1/13/17

October 31, 2016

Reading the Classics: Anselm of Canterbury

The Bible emphasizes using your intellect…

So what shall I do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will also pray with my understanding; I will sing with my spirit, but I will also sing with my understanding. I Cor 14:15

He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind‘ -Luke 10:27

…but warns against being captivated by philosophy:

Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ. – Col. 2:8

Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the pointless discussions and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge. I Tim 6:20

(underlining added)


anselm-of-canterburySt. Anselm? Who is he? Wikipedia informs us that,

Anselm has been called “the most luminous and penetrating intellect between St Augustine and St Thomas Aquinas” and “the father of scholasticism”, Scotus Erigena having employed more mysticism in his arguments. Anselm’s works are considered philosophical as well as theological since they endeavor to render Christian tenets of faith, traditionally taken as a revealed truth, as a rational system.

Angus Stewart notes, “If Bede is the most historical, and Wycliffe the most biblical, Anselm is the most philosophical of English pre-Reformation thinkers.” Some Christians hesitate to read philosophy, either because they feel the genre is foreign, or too academic; or because they associate Christian philosophy with its secular counterparts.

His writing was often vertical in nature, and so I’ve classified these as prayers. (A similarity between this, and the vertical worship writing in our modern church music is worth observing.) You’ll also note in bold face below a particular quotation for which he is often remembered.

Writing at the turn of the 12th Century, he is revered by Anglicans and Catholics alike; the former for his position as Archbishop of Canterbury, the latter for his perspective on Mary.

Dialogues (Socratic method of teaching; this one clearly supporting limited atonement)

Gomaro: You speak often about “the elect.” How are they redeemed?

Anselm: Through the satisfaction of Christ, for this is why God became man.

Gomaro: Why then do unbelieving infidels go to Hell?

Anselm: They are punished for the great debt of their sins.

Gomaro: If their sins were punished on themselves, they were not satisfied by Christ, since it would be incongruous for the infinitely wise God to satisfy for sins twice.

Anselm: Reason does demand that it is either punishment or satisfaction for sins, but not both.

Gomaro: Then Christ did not make satisfaction for those who are in Hell, but only for the elect?

Anselm: I see no way of opposing you.

Quotations:

God does not delay to hear our prayers because He has no mind to give; but that, by enlarging our desires, He may give us the more largely.

Remove grace, and you have nothing whereby to be saved. Remove free will and you have nothing that could be saved. (attributed to him)

Let no worldly prosperity divert you, nor any worldly adversity restrain you from His praise.

God often works more by the life of the illiterate seeking the things that are God’s, than by the ability of the learned seeking the things that are their own.

In this way, then, the Lord Jesus ought not to have undergone death because He alone [among men] was innocent; and no one ought to have inflicted death upon Him; nevertheless, He ought to have undergone death because He wisely and graciously and usefully willed to undergo it.
De Veritate

Prayers:

“O God, let me know you and love you so that I may find joy in you; and if I cannot do so fully in this life, let me at least make some progress every day, until at last that knowledge, love and joy come to me in all their plenitude. While I am here on earth let me know you fully; let my love for you grow deeper here, so that there I may love you fully. On earth then I shall have great joy in hope, and in heaven complete joy in the fulfillment of my hope.”

“I acknowledge, Lord, and I give thanks that you have created your image in me, so that I may remember you, think of you, love you. But this image is so obliterated and worn away by wickedness, it is so obscured by the smoke of sins, that it cannot do what it was created to do, unless you renew and reform it. I am not attempting, O Lord, to penetrate your loftiness, for I cannot begin to match my understanding with it, but I desire in some measure to understand your truth, which my heart believes and loves. For I do not seek to understand in order that I may believe, but I believe in order to understand. For this too I believe, that “unless I believe, I shall not understand.

So truly, therefore, do you exist, O Lord, my God, that you can not be conceived not to exist; and rightly. For, if a mind could conceive of a being better than you, the creature would rise above the Creator; and this is most absurd. And, indeed, whatever else there is, except you alone, can be conceived not to exist. To you alone, therefore, it belongs to exist more truly than all other beings, and hence in a higher degree than all others. For, whatever else exists does not exist so truly, and hence in a less degree it belongs to it to exist. Why, then, has the fool said in his heart, there is no God (Psalms xiv. 1), since it is so evident, to a rational mind, that you do exist in the highest degree of all? Why, except that he is dull and a fool? — Proslogium

“My God, I pray that I may so know you and love you that I may rejoice in you. And if I may not do so fully in this life let me go steadily onto the day when I come to that fullness …Let me receive That which you promised through your truth, that my joy may be full.”

Thus you are just not because you give what is owed, but because you do what is appropriate to you as the highest good.
 

Sources:

AZ Quotes, Brainy Quotes, About.com, Inspiring Quotes, Catholic Fire

 

May 27, 2016

How Do You Like Your Eggs?

CEV Luke 11:11 “Which father among you would give a snake to your child if the child asked for a fish? 12  If a child asked for an egg, what father would give the child a scorpion? 13  If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?”

Luke 11 12So is your answer scrambled? Over easy? Sunny side up? Omelette? Hard boiled? Poached?

A few days ago we ran an excerpt from the book Why Pray by Dr. Spiros Zodhiates, published in 1982. Today I want to quote from several sections of the book dealing with verse 12 above, starting with an observation:

Though Matthew and Luke mention the bread and the fish, Luke alone adds the third section of the questions which asks for an egg to eat with the bread, and mentions a dead scorpion as the evil substitute — a poisonous creature, curled up, that was never eaten after it had been killed. (124)

There are undoubtedly people reading this who feel that at times they’ve asked God for something they felt was desirable, and were given something quite undesirable. There are examples of this in scripture also.

The Egg the Disciples Wanted

You remember that the disciples came one day to Jesus and asked for the establishment of His literal Kingdom on earth. They also said, “Master, we would like some special positions in Your Kingdom.” …

…Did the Lord disappoint them? Very much so. They probably felt that He had given them a “scorpion,” a deceptive fulfillment of His promise. Christ crucified on the cross was not what they had envisioned at all. The egg of hope that their fond imagination had been hatching brought fort the scorpion of the cross to their Master, and shame and persecution to themselves. But afterwards, when their eyes were opened by the Holy Spirit, they saw that all that Christ had promised them had been fulfilled, that God had indeed given them what they had asked, and in a higher and more lasting form than that which they had expected.  (131)

The Egg that Jesus Asked For

Our Savior Himself prayed three times for what could not be given to Him. And when he asked for an “egg,” a seeming scorpion was offered — the cup from which He shrank with dread in Gethsemane. But He got God’s best answer He yielded His will, saying “Father…not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42) and an angel came an strengthened him (v. 43.) (137-138)

The Egg Paul Asked For

When the Apostle Paul prayed three times that the thorn in his flesh might be removed, and it was not, don’t you think the answer he got, “My grace is sufficient for you” (II Cor 12:9) was a far better thing than if the thorn had been actually taken away? Of course it was; for the removal of the thorn would have been a temporary relief, leaving behind no abiding results, and would have been a blessing to Paul alone… (137)

The Wrong Type of Egg

Our “asks” to God are often misplaced. The KJV version of James 4:3 says we “ask amiss.” The NASB clarifies, “You ask and do not receive, because you ask with wrong motives, so that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Very often people ask for a serpent’s egg thinking it to be a hen’s egg. They ask for health and prosperity, but that may only drive them away from God. Rather than helping them it might harm them…People are often mistaking what is good for them, and asking God for things which, if they were granted, they would curse Him. (132, emphasis added)

The Egg that Multiplies

Sometimes if we want an egg, we have to strive for it. The egg in that case would most surely hatch, and, if it is well taken care of, will mostly likely produced a hen that will multiply eggs from which to feed our hunger…

…Prayer is not always effective at once… the egg has to grow, to be formed from the smallest beginning to have its materials collected and prepared, before it can be given to us. And we ourselves must be prepared to enjoy and digest the egg so that it may become part of our being and build up our life.  (139)


I was also reminded of a few other texts:

…your Father knows exactly what you need even before you ask him!. (Matthew 6:8 NLT)

These things dominate the thoughts of unbelievers, but your heavenly Father already knows all your needs. (Matthew 6:32 NLT)

The takeaway today is that your heavenly Father loves you and whatever he gives you and whatever it looks like, it’s not a scorpion.

 

 

April 10, 2016

It’s All About God!

•••by Russell Young

Modern Biblical teaching, at least from a western perspective, has become focused on mankind and the blessings that have been promised to him if he would only “believe.”  The consequence of this focus is weakening the church and distorting the truths about God.

It is not uncommon to hear “believers” lament the fact that God is not answering their prayers; after all He is a good and faithful Father who loves them unconditionally and wants the best for them.  The “love’ and the “best,” of course are according to their own understanding.   Contemporary song writers don’t hesitate to exuberantly express that God “adores” them and how “pleased” He is with them.  In their thinking God’s grace has assured them of a place in His Eternal Kingdom.

God created and They (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) created for Their good pleasure or according to Their plan and interests.   When His original creation was completed, He “saw” (advised Himself, approved) all that He had made and declared it to be “very good” (Genesis 1:31); it pleased Him.  This original creation state is the one on which God rested His approval.  Concerning man, it is revealed that man had been made in God’s “image.” (Genesis 1:27) That is, man had been created in God’s moral likeness, pure and regular in all his thoughts and imaginations.

When the focus is taken from the Creator and put on man, the believer allows himself all kinds of permissions and allowances; God does not.  Paul wrote that the believer is to work out his own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12) and that he is to be once more conformed to image of the Son of God. (Romans 8:29) The focus of teaching needs to shift back to the promotion of reality.  God is loving and merciful but he is also, holy, Sovereign, and King.

“Believers” who rest in their determination of their love for God and His for them need to reflect more fully on teachings concerning the New Covenant.  The writer of Hebrews has made it clear that many are still living on “milk, not solid food” which is teaching about righteousness. (Hebrews 5:12-6:3) The Lord said that, The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John.  Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached and everyone is forcing their way into it.  It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the law.” (Luke 16:16, NIV)

Permissive TeachingTeaching that permits an eternal hope without satisfying the heart of God is deceptive.  God’s “love” does NOT nullify the law and His requirement for holiness on the part of those who will dwell with Him.  Adam and Eve were created holy and those who will dwell with Him must be holy. (Hebrews 12:14) No one will be able to “force” his way into His Kingdom.

The bulk of modern theology has taken the focus of the believer’s attention from God and onto himself.  The message so misrepresents the truth that many are prepared to disown God because of His failure to bring “good” into their lives.  He is seen as the all benevolent Father abounding in love and in blessings allowing the nature of those expected blessings are determined by the heart of man and his perceived needs.

It is no wonder that the world is confused about the Christian faith.  When “believers” go about living according to the desires of their flesh and in the interests of the world and fail to experience their expectations from a loving God, their faith ends up proven false according to their understanding of God’s goodness.  God expects His people to love Him with all of their heart soul and mind (Matthew 22:37) and to be humble before Him.

As one retired pastor has written, “We gladly portray a gospel of God’s love and forgiveness, but neglect or downplay, or water down if you like, obedience, confession, repentance.  This message virtually ignores the ongoing work of the cross.  The Holy Spirit makes it clear in numerous passages that God wants, and is looking for a holy people, a pure ‘Bride’ for His Son, nothing else; not a harlot, living for the things of Egypt, but a pure and righteous ‘Body.’”

Those who allow promises of God’s grace and mercy to cover rebellious and disobedient hearts and who ignore His holiness are living in the deceptions of the Evil One.  It’s ALL about God!  Creation was for His good pleasure.

February 25, 2015

Everybody’s Got a Troubled Heart

Our post title alludes to Bruce Springsteen’s song Hungry Heart. Some have written about the spirituality that people feel at his concerts. But the truth of the lyrics of this song is certainly appropriate to today’s devotional. People think that some of their friends or people in their church have everything so together, but if they were to peel back the layers, they would see that everybody’s got a hungry heart, a hurting heart, a troubled heart.


 

It’s Wednesday which means today’s post is by Canadian pastor Clarke Dixon. Click the link in the title below to read at source, or better yet, if you have the time, listen to the audio of the full sermon at this link. (Choose the sermon titled “Trouble.”)

Trouble!

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” John 14:1 NRSV

This is a verse with no relevance to any of us as we all have perfect lives, right? We all have perfect health, perfect relationships, and perfect families, and so no troubles, and no troubled hearts. Well truth be told there are many things that can cause our hearts to be troubled. In fact, even if the situations of our lives are not troubling, we can still experience a troubled heart as we fret over situations that may never happen. Troubled hearts are a relevant topic for us all.

Troubled hearts are a relevant topic for the disciples in our passage. He has already told them that one of them would betray him, one of them would deny him, and all of them would fall away from him. Oh, and he would be killed. One can only imagine the kind of thoughts that would be troubling the hearts of the disciples as Jesus is arrested, falsely accused, beat up, mocked, and executed. They might obsess over how they had failed Jesus. They might obsess over the possibility that Jesus had failed them. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.”

But that is Friday and Saturday. Sunday comes and Jesus rises from the dead. That should be the end of all troubles, right? Wrong, following Jesus’ ascension to the Father, persecution breaks out against the Jesus followers and it does not go well for them. Study history and you will find much suffering for many Christians. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me.” Or as one Bible scholar translates it: “Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.”

But shouldn’t things always go well for those who worship God? Should not their prayers be answered? Isn’t God fixing things? Many well meaning Christians believe that yes, God does fix everything for the true believer, and yes, God does answer every prayer of a good Christian. So if things are broken in your life, or prayers are not being answered; confess more, pray more, be a better Christian.

But what does Jesus say? What did Jesus say to the disciples when thing were about to go oh, so wrong? “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God, keep trusting also in me.” He does not say “now that you are following me, your life will be pain free,” but “do not let your hearts be troubled.” You do not say such a thing unless you know trouble is coming. He does not say “I have now fixed everything,” but “keep trusting in God, keep trusting in me.” You do not call for trust unless you know someone needs to wait. He does not say “today you will be with me in paradise,” but “I am going to prepare a place for you.” Well he did tell one believer that paradise would be his lot that very day, but we all know what came next.

Truth is, we are still living in a messy world. No matter how good a Jesus follower we are, no matter how deep our prayer lives are, no matter how all-encompassing our confession of sin is, we still live in a messy world.

Genesis chapter three outlines the result of the fall. The last time I checked, a Christian woman is as likely to experience pain in childbirth as any other. A Christian farmer needs to work just as hard as any other farmer to produce a potato. And all through history, Christians have been as likely to die as anyone else. This is the mess we live in. As we live in this mess we sometimes would rather treat the symptoms than seek the cure. Jesus does not promise to be a pill that will take away pain. He promises to be the lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. Jesus meets our greatest need. He fills our biggest hole. He cures our greatest illness. He lifts us up from our hardest fall. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.” Every pain we feel as a Jesus follower is temporary. Jesus dealt with our eternal problem.

But someone will object: “God does fix every problem in our lives in the here and now. If you are experiencing trouble, it is because you are not a good enough Christian.” But are you willing to say that to the apostle Paul?

with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches (2 Corinthians 11:23-28 NRSV)

Paul responded to all these troubles, not by blaming himself or God, but with trust: “I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us” (Romans 8:18 NRSV)

Someone else will object: “God answers prayers with miracles, and if you are not receiving them, that is because you are not good enough.” I believe God does miracles today. But I also believe that miracles today serve the same purpose as the miracles of Jesus recorded for us in the New Testament. They point people to the fact that the Kingdom of God is near. They point to the fact that Jesus is the One through whom the Kingdom comes. Notice that in the New Testament, Jesus did not fix every problem of every person in every place. He still doesn’t. God does miracles, but He does not hand them out like candy. The Christian, no matter how devout or righteous, still lives in a messy world. A miracle is not the cure for a troubled heart. Trust is. “Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.”

I once took a girl sailing on Chemong Lake. Not being very windy we decided to drop the anchor and go for a swim. If you know Chemong Lake you will know that the middle of the lake is the best place to go swimming for all along the shores are icky, slimy, gross weeds. It came time to head in, and so I got back into the boat. My friend tried to do likewise, but failed. I tried to get her in, but to no avail. So she swam for a bit while I sailed alongside, until she became too tired. With my friend being too tired and my being too weak I had to do something. So I threw a line from the back of the boat and I towed her in. Now do you remember those weeds all along the shoreline? If you could have heard the screams of this poor girl as I pulled her through the weeds! The point is this. Don’t be surprised by the weeds. Trouble will come, even upon the very best Christian. But when they do, don’t let go of the rope. That God in His grace and love will get us to the shore is a sure thing.

“Do not let your hearts be troubled. Keep trusting in God. Keep trusting in me.”

August 13, 2013

More Love Than You Can Imagine

NIV Isaiah 49:14 But Zion said, “The Lord has forsaken me,
    the Lord has forgotten me.”

15 “Can a mother forget the baby at her breast
    and have no compassion on the child she has borne?
Though she may forget,
    I will not forget you!
16 See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands;
    your walls are ever before me.
17 Your children hasten back,
    and those who laid you waste depart from you.
18 Lift up your eyes and look around;
    all your children gather and come to you.
As surely as I live,” declares the Lord,
    “you will wear them all as ornaments;
    you will put them on, like a bride.

We’ve taken you to the blog Faith Rises several times. This one appeared a few weeks ago under the title Can a Mother Forget?

Sometimes when we’ve been praying for something for a very long time, we begin to lose heart, and wonder if the answer will ever come. I know exactly how that feels. I remember praying and praying for God to work a miracle in my life, and sometimes, I felt that God had forgotten about me and my situation. Of course we know that God sees us always, and knows everything about our lives, but still, it is true of us as humans, that we sometimes think that our situation may not be as urgent to God as we would like for it to be.

This is so not true!

At one of my lowest points, the LORD gave me a verse which comforted me and reassured me, and to this day, this verse is very near and dear to my heart. In Isaiah 49:15-16, the Lord says, “Can a mother forget her nursing child?… Yes, she might, but I have not forgotten you… I have you engraved on the palms of my hands; your walls are continually before me.”  This is how I understood what He was saying to me through this verse:

1. “Can a mother forget her nursing child?” – Naturally, the answer to this question would be a resounding, “No.”  We all know how attached a mother is to her newborn baby, and so we understand the significance of this question. But…

2. “Yes, she might,” – Although it would seem impossible for a mother to forget or abandon her newborn child, it has happened, as unbelievable as it would seem, sadly, it has been the case for some mothers. But…

3. “I have not forgotten you” – God is saying that His love and care for us is even greater than a mother’s love. Infinitely greater. How so?…

4. “I have you engraved on the palms of my hands” – Here, I pictured the palms of my Savior’s Hands, which still bear the nail scars, pierced for me… And then…

5. “Your walls are continually before me.”  My situation and the circumstances that surround me, are continually before Him! Oh, Glory to God!!

Here it is in a nutshell…

God loves you, more than you can imagine, He has not forgotten you, and  your situation is continually, always, before Him.

Hold on.  :)


…This picture and scripture were also found at Faith Rises, and I couldn’t resist sharing it here:

A Secluded Place

April 27, 2013

When God Doesn’t Say Yes

Six months ago we introduced you to WhyTheology,  the blog of Troy Medley. This look at the book of James appeared as part of a series of Lent readings.  Click here to read this one, and the click around to see more of the series.

Text
KJV Below (Link to NIV)

13 Is any among you afflicted? let him pray. Is any merry? let him sing psalms.

14 Is any sick among you? let him call for the elders of the church; and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord:

15 And the prayer of faith shall save the sick, and the Lord shall raise him up; and if he have committed sins, they shall be forgiven him.

16 Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

Comment
The main thrust here is that no matter what our circumstances, happy or sad, troubled or free, we should be in communication with God because it “availeth much.” However, this passage does raise some issues. What about the times I prayed in faith and the sick weren’t healed? Do I simply have to wait until they are “raised up” on the last day?

On the one hand it is tempting to say that our prayers merely change us, but not God (I think C.S. Lewis said something similar), but that doesn’t seem to be the case with this passage. Here, it seems that our prayers do accomplish something. That it is important to bring others into the prayer and fervently pray. So how do we reconcile the disconnect?

I don’t know for certain, but I have an idea. I think of it like I think of my relationship with my (still very young) children, after all, Jesus taught us to think of God as our Father. Now, when my kids ask me for something, I will do everything in my power to get it for them (or do it for them), at least most of the time. This doesn’t mean I didn’t have other plans, I very well may have and they were good plans, but there are certain aspects of those plans that can be done other times, or the particular aspects of which may be open to change (you want Strawberry Jelly instead of Grape? no problem).

Yet, other times it is not in my children’s best interest for me to fulfill their requests. If they want another cookie at dinner, sometimes I need to say no because the sugar makes it hard for them to sleep, and they’ve really had a large meal. Sometimes it’s even trickier. For example, my daughter likes to get herself stuck in places and ask for help. Sometimes, I leave her there for a bit because a) she really can get it out and its good for her problem solving skills, or b) she needs to face (at least briefly) the consequences of her actions, or c) sometimes I’m doing something else.

Now, I’m not suggesting God is ever busy doing something else, but I am suggesting that, in some way, perhaps a way we can’t see or even begin to comprehend (my kids don’t understand the complexity of sugar and how it affects sleep and future health issues), but that doesn’t mean it’s not for their betterment. Remember, we have a full eternity with God coming up, that’s the ultimate benefit of prayer. Sometimes, it may be in our best interest, in a way we can’t begin to fathom yet, for God to say “no,” even for our fervent prayer. Yet in that prayer, the “no” is still for our betterment.
Question
Have you ever had God say “no”? What might that situation look like if you put it in terms of a young child to a parent who says “no”? Do you think that our relationship with God can still be improved through the “no” answers that God gives to our prayers? In what ways?

January 5, 2013

Two-For-One Special

This is one of the most recent posts at Everyday Bible Blog. I appreciate that Brandie, the author doesn’t stop with a single passage, but is willing to explore two quite different themes in a single day!  Sometimes we are too easily satisfied and ‘check the box’ that Bible study is over for the day, when God wants us to spend more time. I also like the idea that she is taking a personal inventory as she reads her Bible, allowing the passages to illuminate her spiritual condition.

Click the title below to read at source, there is a wealth of great study material there.

The Lord’s Prayer (How to Pray); Right Thinking and Quick Tempers
Luke 10:38 – 11:13

In Luke chapter 11 verses 2-4, we are given the Lord’s prayer.  This is the second time so far that I have read the Lord’s Prayer in the bible – the first being in Matthew 6:9-13.  Jesus is responding to a disciple’s request to learn how to pray when Jesus tells him the Lord’s Prayer.

Jesus then tells his disciples that persistence is key when praying.  Jesus gives an analogy about a man who knocks on another man’s door late in the evening.  Eventually the man answered the door and granted the request.  Jesus says the following in chapter 11:

 9 And so I tell you, keep on asking, and you will receive what you ask for.  Keep on seeing, and you will find.  Keep on knocking, and the door will be opened to you.

10  For everyone who asks, receives.  Everyone who seeks, finds.  And to everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.

I have the feeling that these verses get misused often, as an indication that you can get, well, anything your heart desires.  I would first like to point out that the parable that preceded these verses involved a man who needed bread to feed a guest.  The request was urgent enough that the man just kept knocking — he needed that food so his guest wouldn’t go hungry.  This was a prayer for provisioning, which the Lord WILL provide those who ask.  It might come in the midnight hour but it will come.   

As far as prayers for other things go, I believe that your prayers must align with the will of the Lord in order to be answered.  The Lord knows an infinite amount more than we ever do.  Sometimes we are pray for something with our whole heart; something that we think is in our best interest; something that we think aligns with the will of God; yet we don’t receive it.  In those cases we just have to trust the Lord has our best interests in heart.  Many times, later in life, you finally see a blessing in the fact that X thing didn’t happen, even though you prayed so hard for it.  It’s at those times that catch a glimpse of the glorious beauty of the Lord’s plan for you life.  So consider every unanswered prayer to be a blessing.

Proverbs 12:15 – 17

15  Fools think their own way is right, but the wise listen to others.

16  A fool is quick-tempered, but a wise person stays calm when insulted.

17  An honest witness tells the truth;  a false witness tells lies.

I initially thought verse 17 was a bit … erm, obvious?  But then I realized, maybe someone doesn’t know what a false witness is.  Now if someone asks me, “What is a false witness?”  I can say “a false witness tells lies” and point out where it is defined in the bible instead of the dictionary. Pretty nifty, eh?

It is the first two verses of this reading that really catch my attention.  The subject is Fools — and fools are taught about all throughout the bible.  It is a bad thing to be a fool, it is the opposite of being wise.  It carries death while wisdom carries life.  So I have learned to pay attention to all the bible says about fools. 

Verse 15 really draws me in, because I have a big problem when it comes to thinking my way is right.  I tend to do a lot of research, research about everything and anything.  When someone needs an answer, I have it, right there.  If someone tries to tell me otherwise, I can point out in an instant where that is wrong.  Pretty foolish, eh? 

Today I re-read Proverbs 3:3:7-8.  Those verses tell us not to be impressed with our own wisdom, and that listening to others will give us healing for our whole body.  Pretty powerful stuff, don’t you think?  I really need to work on stepping back and not immediately throwing an answer at someone.  I need to learn to be humble and see what I can learn from another person, instead of only relying on what I can learn for myself.

As far as verse 16 goes, I try not to be quick tempered.  My temper has calmed down a lot over the years.  I still have plenty of room for improvement, though.  I am going to try to a silent chant when I start to get prematurely angry: “A fool is quick-tempered.  A fool is quick-tempered.  A fool is quick-tempered.”  Wish me luck — or better yet, wish the other person luck!

October 12, 2012

You Don’t Have Because You Don’t Ask

John 14 : 14 (NIV)  You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

John 16 : 23 (NIV) In that day you will no longer ask me anything. Very truly I tell you, my Father will give you whatever you ask in my name.

John 16: 24 (NIV) Until now you have not asked for anything in my name. Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete.

John 16: 23-24 (The Message) “This is what I want you to do: Ask the Father for whatever is in keeping with the things I’ve revealed to you. Ask in my name, according to my will, and he’ll most certainly give it to you. Your joy will be a river overflowing its banks!

We are commanded to go to God with our needs — our prayer petitions — and leave them before him. But what are our expectations of what happens next?

There are many people who believe that God’s intervention in the affairs of humankind are an extreme rarity. The world is simply what it is, and that is the answer to the question, “If God… why all the suffering in the world?” We live in a fallen world where there is bound to pain and sorrow; flood, fire and famine; doom, defeat and despair.

(That was a cheery paragraph; I’ll have to remember that one.)

There are other people who believe that God certainly hears our prayer requests and that this is the end in itself: That God wants to be in communication (or fellowship) with us. He wants us to tell us when and where it hurts. He wants each situation to bring us back to him. He wants us to come to him when we are ‘burdened and heavy-laden.’

Still others believe that while God’s intervention is rarity, miracles do exist; they just don’t happen every day. We’re talking about genuine miracles here, not things contrived for the glare of the television lights or the crowd in the arena. 

Further up the ‘hope’ ladder are those who would say, ‘God is positive disposed and favorably inclined to give us what we ask.’ Why this doesn’t happen may be related to the complexities of other situations we can’t see, or a lesson that we need to learn before the answer comes. But absent those factors, God’s default position would be to give us what we come to him asking.

And there are those who believe that God is constantly orchestrating more details in the lives of his people than anything we can possibly imagine; that there are constantly situations where God is even giving us ‘answers to requests we haven’t made;’ or that life consists of many seen and unseen coincidences, defined as, “Coincidence is when God chooses to remain anonymous.”  This view ranges from the dramatic holding on to the hope of healing even when doctors say the situation is incurable; to the trivial belief of some that God is truly willing to intervene in life on Planet Earth so that you will get a parking space next to the mall entrance.

…Parking spaces notwithstanding, I fall into the latter camp. I have to pray believing that my prayer is not only making a difference in me, but also in the situation. Regardless of statistical odds or past prayer performance, I have to go to him with an ultimate faith that he is willing and able to execute deliverance from whatever situation is pressing in. This is the faith of children; what it means to ‘come as a child,’ and it’s a faith that is not double-minded, but believes without doubt (See James 1:8 and 1:6 and Mark 11:23) and without wrong motivation (see James 4:3).

(Deliverance is a better way of defining the situation. If you are praying for money for a specific need you are praying for a deliverance from poverty with respect to that financial issue.)

…The greatest danger I see is in not asking at all. Not coming to God to bear our souls and cry out for help or mercy because the petitions we brought before him last month were not answered in the affirmative. I believe God will respect our tenacity in prayer; our willingness to go to him even in the absence (so far) of the answers we sought before.

He longs to see faith that is lived out in a concrete assurance of things not apparent (Hebrews 11:1).

PW

 

 

 

August 31, 2012

A Frowning Providence

Is it just me or is the body of Christ wrestling more deeply these days with the issues of hard times, suffering, disappointment, unanswered prayer, adverse circumstances? Here’s another perspective on the subject from Kevin White at the blog Mere Orthodoxy, where it appeared under the title,  A Loving Father and Difficult Gifts.  As always you’re encouraged to click the link and read at source; C201 readers will enjoy this particular blog.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!” — Matthew 7:7-11

The power of this passage is the very perversity of the image it draws. How strangely cruel would a man have to be to give a destructive non sequitur instead of life-giving food? “Ha! That isn’t a rock-hard crust on that bread; it’s a ROCK!”

But I think Jesus means to press us into a corner here. He is encouraging us to pray, to seek from God what we need and to trust his provision. Trusting in the Father’s provision is one of Jesus’ great themes. It is why he has just called our attention to the birds and the lilies, and commands us not to worry about how our needs will be met. But this passage comes in the same discourse in which Jesus promises his followers great suffering and grief. Far from being an overlooked reality that undermines Jesus’ point in the passage, I suspect Jesus intends to push us into the tension between the promise of God’s goodness and the rocky and snakish things he sends our way.

God can seem alien to us at times, even cruel. His understanding exceeds our own far more than a human father’s exceeds that of the youngest child. His ways are infinitely more unsearchable than that of a dad who holds his kid down to receive a shot. Indeed, we would know hardly a thing about God unless he revealed it to us.

So sometimes, it is hard to see the goodness in what Cowper described as “a frowning Providence.” And yet, a key part of God’s self-revelation is that he watches his people, neither slumbering nor sleeping. Like a nesting hen, sheltering the hatchlings. He is a loving Father who gives good gifts. And yet the world is full of snakes.

This difficulty is made worse when we just don’t understand what is happening. When friends and family suffer. When natural goods, rightly desired, are placed out of reach. When we see that one of the greatest impediments to our flourishing is staring at us in the mirror. It is hard to see how a loving Father can be watching over all of that.

Instead, it is easy to covet, easy to resent. It is easy to say that it is all wrong, and should not be happening. Not in the sense of, “it is a fallen world and I long for paradise,” but in the sense of “what kind of God could allow this?” Or to wonder if our concerns are too small for God to notice. For the Christian, that attitude is doubly false, since Jesus Christ himself, “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief,” says that God pays mind even to the fall of a sparrow.

And yet, there is an odd thing about invoking God’s providence in difficult times. It is a classic piece of bad comforting to simply tell someone, “God is in control.” Even so, recognizing, resting in, and/or wrestling with God’s control over circumstances can be a powerful form of reassurance. Why the disconnect?

I think it is because the trite statement is a shortcut. In some ways, it merely restates part of the presenting problem. How is this bread and not a stone? Too easily, it skips all the messy business of “rejoice with those who are rejoicing, mourn with those who are mourning.” It skips straight to the pithy takeaway and moves on.

Part of the answer is that we live in a sinful and fallen world. The restoration of all things is not here yet. All accounts will be settled, but we have at best a foretaste of that reality. Some of our suffering comes from our own bad decisions, or from our own weakness and limitation. And much more comes with living in a world that is systemically corrupted and distorted by sin and the curse that it brought.

But short of blind, questionably pious, fideistic leaps, how can we trust that God does work all things for good, for those who love him? In part, because of that very apostolic word I have just paraphrased.

In larger part, because in the whole sweep of Scripture we see, again and again, God’s way of using bewildering events, evil deeds, and questionable human motives to advance his good and graceful plan for history. It is easier to name the major, storied heroes of the Bible who weren’t born to grieving, childless parents. God used wicked nations to chastise and purify his people. In short, we see the beginning and middle of God’s story of the world, with hints and previews of the story’s end and the glorious sequel to come.

But more fundamentally, we can trust the Father because the Father sent the Son. God is no longer simply a distant, alien presence, unsearchable and unknowable. God became one of us. The Son of God suffered scorn and loss and frustration. He even, at the critical moment, wrestled with the Father’s will. And submitted to death, a death he had the power to prevent and the love to endure. He stared down an unjust and horrible death, foreseeing it as God and quivering before it as a man, and said, “not my will, but Yours be done.” For his ultimate glorification, and to ransom us as his prize. To give us the gift of the Holy Spirit, who Jesus called an even greater comforter than himself! And on the last day, to raise us back to glorious life in a renewed world.

And so we can trust, because God claimed the worst portion. We can cry desperately like the Psalmists, we can wrestle like Jacob, we can weep like Jeremiah, but trust as Jesus did. Trust in a good Father, even if we cannot understand what gifts we are being given, or why.

Because God is a loving Father, and even his difficult gifts are perfect.

March 20, 2012

Trusting in God’s Plan

Microblogging consists of posting very short thoughts and quotations and usually many, many  pictures.  There are a number of Christian microbloggers who use the Tumblr blog platform. Today’s thoughts and graphics are from Spiritual Inspiration. I encourage you to bookmark the blog for when you need a quick spiritual lift. Each one of the graphics and text that follows is independent of the others, but these seemed to form a common theme.

“I do not count myself to have apprehended; but one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead” (Philippians 3:13, NKJV)

We all go through disappointments, setbacks and things that we don’t understand. Maybe you prayed for a loved one, but they didn’t get well. Or maybe you worked hard for a promotion, but you didn’t get it. You stood in faith for a relationship, but it didn’t work out. One of the best things you can do is release it. Let it go. Don’t dwell on it anymore. If you go around wondering why things didn’t work out, all that’s going to do is lead to bitterness, resentment and self-pity. Before long, you’ll be blaming others, blaming yourself, or even God. You may not have understood what happened. It may not have been fair. But when you release it, it’s an act of your faith. You’re saying, “God, I trust You. I know You’re in control. And even though it didn’t work out my way, You said, ‘All things are going to work together for my good.’ So I believe You still have something good in my future.”

There is power in letting go of the past and the frustration of trying to figure everything out. When you release your questions, you are saying, “God, You are in control. I trust You.” And when you put your hope in God, that’s when He can heal your heart and lead you forward into His path of blessing.

“Then the LORD said: ‘I am making a covenant with you. Before all your people I will do wonders never before done in any nation in all the world. The people you live among will see how awesome is the work that I, the LORD, will do for you’ ” (Exodus 34:10, NIV)
If you’re going to reach your highest potential in the natural, you will need to have supernatural doors open for you that you cannot open on your own. You’re going to need promotion, good breaks, divine connections and God’s favor greater than what you’ve seen in the past.

God said in Exodus, “I will perform great wonders that I have not done anywhere before in all the world. People will see what great things I can do because of the awesome things I’m about to do for you.” Think about that for a moment and let it take root in your spirit. God is saying, “I’m going to do something awesome in your life.” “Awesome” means “astounding, remarkable, overwhelming, breathtaking.” The key is found in the very next verse; it says, “Obey what I have commanded.” God’s ready to do His part, and we have to do ours. When we do things God’s way, we get God’s results. When we follow His Word, He promises to bless us with life, health, peace and joy. He promises to do what has never been done before!

“With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the LORD our God, to help us and to fight our battles.” (2 Chronicles 32:8, NKJ)
In scripture, the enemy was coming against Hezekiah, causing him all kinds of trouble, trying to keep him from his destiny. But Hezekiah didn’t get all upset. He just kept abiding, being faithful and putting God first. In Second Kings 19, God said, “Hezekiah, I myself will come against this enemy. He will receive word that he is needed at home, and I will cause him to want to return and he will be defeated.”

Notice that when you abide in Him, the Creator of the universe says, “I myself will come against your enemies. I myself will come against that sickness. I myself will come against those who oppose you.” It says God is the one who caused Hezekiah’s enemy to turn around. That means God can cause that unfair boss to take an early retirement. God can cause that neighbor that’s giving you so much trouble to decide to pack up and move. God can cause that classmate to be transferred to another school.

Today, no matter what’s coming against you, keep pressing into God. Put His Word first place in your life. Honor Him in all that you do. Let Him fight your battles and bring you into the land of victory He has prepared for you!

all pictures and text:  Spiritual Inspiration

January 10, 2012

Believing Prayer

Today’s devotional reading is by Robert Moon, who happens to the husband of the author of yesterday’s post.  In many ways this is very similar to yesterday’s theme.  It appeared at the blog Musings by Robert under the title Prayer Memo.

II Thessalonians 1:3 We ought always to give thanks to God for you, brothers, as is right, because your faith is growing abundantly, and the love of every one of you for one another is increasing.

Paul in his introduction greets the brethren with encouraging words but I want to emphasize the words “Your faith is growing abundantly or exceedingly.” Faith is all there is for the believer.

By faith we are saved, and receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit, if your denomination allows it. By faith we approach GOD in every way whether in worship or in prayer. We use our faith to accomplish great things for God, and stand when victory is slow in coming.

I don’t know exactly know how to say what I’m going to say. and that is one of the hardest things to get by, is when we pray and then miraculously the answer comes. Then at another time, we pray and it seems like the heavens are closed. The door to answered prayer is shut tight and our exercise of faith can’t get the door to budge. Confusion attacks us with questions, and we mull over without a conclusion.

Having had to deal with this phonemon many times I have learned a few things, and there are still a few questions I am working on. If one is not careful they can get lost and spiritually weakened when this happens; but when properly understood this is the time for faith to flourish. This is the time to continue to give substance to our requests.

Hebrews 11:1Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

There are many things that hinder answered prayer, one of which is praying prayers we shouldn’t pray. Some prayers involve other people, and we forget that GOD deals with each of us individually, and it is not our place to control other people. There are myriads of reasons for seemingly unanswered prayer, and one of the most difficult one is time, waiting until the time is right in GOD’S eyes and not ours.

It is good to have a scripture in mind with a promise of answered prayer before I pray, and yet the answer is not always apparent. When this happens I never allow this to affect my relationship with the Father for faith in HIM comes far ahead of faith for things. Learn this secret when praying whether successful or not, allow your faith to grow exceedingly in GOD for this is what James 1:3 was talking about “You know that such testing of your faith produces endurance” and that is truly important.

I have heard of mothers who prayed for their children for many years and some have died before their prayer was answered. It would have seemed to have been an ineffective prayer effort but in reality it was victory.

Always keep in mind we are at war with the forces of evil and must always be armored up as in Ephesians 6:13 Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything to stand and having prayed, stand until GOD answers or says otherwise.

I believe in GOD!  I believe GOD!

~Robert Moon

December 29, 2011

What Happened During That Long Walk?

In John 21:25 we’re told that if everything Jesus did was written down, there isn’t a library big enough to contain it.  Okay, I paraphrased that verse a little.  But the point is we’re often given snapshots of the beginning and ending to a story, but left to fill in the middle.  Such is the case in the story today, though I had never considered a “missing middle” until I checked in, as we do on a regular basis, with Jon Swanson at the blog 300 Words a Day.  He called this, Living Between ‘I Will’ and ‘I Have.’

We struggle with goals. We read that telling people your goals is dangerous. It can give you the buzz of affirmation without having to do the hard work. Having goals is fine. But keep them to yourself.

But this isn’t a story about goals. This is about a walk captured in the Bible, but never described.

Jairus had a dying daughter. He went to Jesus. Jesus started coming to his house. Jesus was distracted by a different miracle. And then someone says, “never mind, she’s dead. Leave him alone.”

Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid; just believe and she will be healed.” The next thing we read is that Jesus arrives at the house.

Between those sentences, between “she will be healed” and Jesus arriving was a very long walk for Jairus. We aren’t told the distance of the walk. It probably wasn’t more than a few hundred steps. But any of us in the middle of emotional devastation know that the distance in our hearts has little connection to the distance for our feet. Throughout that walk, his daughter was dead.

“Just believe” was all that Jesus told Jarius to do. We often turn that into some kind of measure, and we think that if we believe enough amazing things will happen. If they don’t happen, it’s our fault, because we didn’t believe enough. In this case, believing was simple. It just meant walking with Jesus all the way home.

We don’t know what they talked about, or if they talked. Was Jesus silent? Did he ask Jairus about his daughter’s favorite foods? Did he talk about the 1969 Mets?

No idea. Apparently, it doesn’t matter for us. But Jairus walked home with Jesus, ignoring the apparent certainty of her death.

Not every child is raised. But every promise is kept.

~Jon Swanson

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