You will have Trouble

Promises of God are certain things. When God says it, it is truth. So when God promises salvation through faith in His Son Jesus Christ, then we can expect salvation. When Jesus promises the gift of the Holy Spirit by our baptism into His Name, then we can be certain of that promise. If you are a Christian, you are receiver of certain promises. We know this to be true because of the One who promised.

And then there is the promise made here, a promise we would rather do without: “In this world you will have suffering.” It isn’t something that just happens. Suffering is not accidental. Suffering is a certain part of this life. Why? Because Jesus says so. So let no one us bewail our condition because we find our selves in suffering, as it we were not supposed to happem because we are children of God. Perhaps it is because we are children of God that we receive a greater share of suffering (nice, huh?) because of the bliss we will experience when we are called home to be with the Lord.

But with this promise of suffering comes a promise of peace. We know better. We know that this world is only temporary. We know that despite our 70-90 odd years we spend here, and it feels like an eternity, we know its really not, because we have already started living our abundant life, our eternal life, changed not in presence but in quality. We are living today, whether or not we suffer at present, in the Presence of the Lord God. He has already conquered everything in this world that matters. He is Lord of all. He is King of the Universe, and nothing, not even the fact that we suffer, escapes His notice. In this we have peace. Though we suffer, we do not suffer alone. We suffer before Him, being poured as as pure offerings of worship before Him. Let God be glorified in our weaknesses. Let us show to others that even though we suffer, we prove that our faith does not depend on good times. Our faith does not depend on blessing. Our faith depends on the sure and certain promises of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in Him alone is our faith.

Lord, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for Thou art with me. Thy rod and and thy staff, instruments both of leading and discipline, comfort me. You will show me where the boundaries are, and You will lead me to quiet waters and green pastures. Though I am beset on every side with enemies, You set a table before me. You provide me what I need, and I need not fear. Lord help me walk with You and not away from You when sorrows come. Let me not fear, but rest in the peace You provide. Lord, thank You for your eternal blessings. In Your Name I pray, Amen.

This Confidence

I have always been amazed at the audacity of the faith healers and the “name it and claim it” folks who just lay hands and pronounce the name of Jesus over people as if it’s some kind of magic formula. I can understand such confidence if In fact Jesus does want to heal a person. In fact, if Jesus wants to heal a person, does He really wait until some human being comes around to pray a prayer of healing?

This is bothers me about faith healers and those who claim to have the gift of healing. They always say they can hear from Jesus or the Spirit and know what God wants them to do or where to go. I have a hard time with it because that is an awful lot of inside information. Would God take us into His confidence, and only those equipped to hear Him? Why would God choose only certain people? Why not everyone And remove all doubt as to what He wants? Why speak to only a few? Is that how God works? God works in secret? No one can challenge the faith healer because he alone has heard the word. No one should doubt him because God spoke to him. I have trouble with this.

Maybe I am confessing my lack of faith. Or I just don’t get it. I thought God spoke to the prophets and the apostles and completed His revelation to them. I thought that completed revelation was compiled into one book, and that book was sufficient in itself to equip the man of God for every good work. Why is there a need for new revelations? Why does God need to continue to speak when He has already spoken? Am I missing something?

Is God’s word true or not? Is God’s will sufficiently revealed in the Bible, or does there need to be something more? Did the miraculous gifts end with the Apostles, or do they continue to this day? Can God choose to heal someone? Absolutely. Does He? Yes! But can I demand that God heal? Can I put myself in the place of God and say someone is healed? May it never be. I don’t know if the person is suffering because of unrepented sin, because of God’s punishment, because that person is being tested, or some other reason. How can I put myself in His place when it is His will they be tested for a time?

We see suffering as inherently bad. But it is suffering that produces endurance, and that is a gift of God. Should I go an pronounce healing and deny someone the blessing of endurance through suffering? Perhaps God has something better in mind that healing. We have such a skewed view of suffering. It isn’t evil. It just is. And it is a tool, especially for those of us in this privileged nation, for God to use to purify us and produce in us jewels worthy for His kingdom. When we see a slight headache as suffering, maybe we need to endure for a while, instead of asking for the healing.

Something you may notice in the Scriptures. Healing is almost never for the sole benefit of the ailing. It is most often a benefit and a sign to the community, who see the power of God at work and come to faith. Yet today, healings are rarely done outside the community of believers. Outsiders can only hear about the lame who walk again, and only rarely come to faith because of it. What changed? Do believers still need to be convinced? Hmmm.

If your faith depends on seeing signs and wonders performed in your midst, then you don’t really have faith. Faith is believing is something unseen, not something you see everyday. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Pray for healing, be confident that God wants the best for you, but leave it up to God to work out His will in you. As the Lord wills, so we will do. Stop demanding things from Him, and let Him work in you to the pleasure of His will. That is a mature faith. If God says it, we trust in it and believe in it. But always give room for God in your prayers.

Lord, I know many of us would like to be advisors rather than followers. In our limited vision, we think we know what’s best. Help us to see things as You do, help is to grow in our faith. For we walk by faith and not by sight. Help us follow You. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Blessed by Trial

Is that not the most ridiculous thing you’ve ever heard? Who is blessed by a trial? A trial is a challenging, faith-inducing affair with anguish of heart and soul. How could such a thing be a blessing? Yet the circumstances are not the blessing itself. The blessing comes in the perseverance that blooms because of the trial. Trial is merely fertilizer to the growth of the Christian. This was not in the brochure.

This is what Christianity such a hard sell. Yes you get eternal life and joy in Christ and love to the bottom of your soul, but, you will also have trouble in this world. Your whole life will be filled with trials that are designed to strengthen your faith. If I was an immature believer, I would be tempted to give up, tempted to throw it all away because I did not sign up for the crucible. I signed up for paradise. But a sword sheathed never knows it’s worth.

Christian, in this world you will have trouble. Do not marvel that the world hates you, because it hated Jesus before you. If you would turn to follow him, be prepared to suffer the insults of the unsaved. Prepare yourself for temptation to prompt you to lose your way or your love. Your chief enemy will not be the unsaved, but the unsaveable, the demons who prowl the earth seeking whom they may destroy. Satan himself prowls around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. You must always be on your guard, always prepared to defend your faith, before others and even before the judgment seat of your own heart.

The blessing doesn’t come from the trial, but from the perseverance you develop through it. God is seeking the tested and tried. He is seeking to test you and try you, so that you are a well-seasoned believer. God is glorified through our weakness, because by our weakness His strength is exalted. Does that sound weird? When we are weak, He is strong, because the mark of God’s power is most evident when it has nothing to do with us. This we glory in our weakness, our powerlessness, because He is able! We worship and glorify the One who saves. Despite our frailty, our seasoned spirit is what endures, and what God brings to Himself. Our flesh is as grass, here today and gone tomorrow. But our tested spirit, our blessed spirit is the precious pearl God seeks.

So when you are tested today, consider it all joy my brothers. God has counted you worthy of trial. The joy is in the testimony of a life saved by grace through all. May we praise and bless Him today!

Blessed Father, thank you for considering me worthy today to bear the name of Jesus into the dark places my trial takes me. Though my flesh and my mind are weary, I know that my strength comes from the Lord. He alone saves. And nothing in this world is so valuable as to make me want to cling to it more than You. May your grace and peace be with all who suffer today, for there is great suffering in this world. Help me to see them and encourage them. In Jesus’ Name, Amen!

Level Ground

I like level ground. Its so much easier to travel, but, it’s also pretty boring. If you’ve ever been on  a trip, traveling through hills and valleys, over rivers and even mountains is far more interesting than driving across long, level ground. My family and I had the chance last year to drive across Kansas on I-70. It is the very definition of level ground, and Kansas knows this. They’ve tried to spruce it up with several roadside attractions and tourist traps. I’ve not driven anything quite like it before.

So why would we want to Spirit of God to lead us across level ground? Simple. The same mountains and valleys that make travels interesting are the very things we want to avoid in our spiritual life. We’ve had the mountain-top experiences, and those are great, but we’ve also traveled through the valley of the shadow of death. Not so nice. In short, we would prefer the long, evening boring road led the Spirit to free us from the extremes of emotional and spiritual travel. That being said, we truly appreciate the highs and lows for those shape us to be who we are.

All of this is to teach us to do the will of God. I would much rather God teach me His will than have to force me along it. Let me learn by His gentle instruction than to have to be broken again and again until I listen. So as I live, let me learn what Your good, pleasing, and perfect will is.

Heavenly Father, I know I’ve messed up, and often. And often you have to teach me in ways I don’t like. Sometimes I have to take dark paths of sorrow and misery before I open my eyes enough to see the lessons you would have me learn. Help me Father to have open eyes and delight of heart when You bring me along Your will. Help me the path you would have me go, so that I will not wander but travel on the level ground you have prepared for me. Thank You Lord, In Your Son’s Name, Amen.

No Comparison

For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is going to be revealed to us.
Romans 8:18 HCSB

I can imagine brother Paul suffered quite a bit. If this had come from some fat cat stadium preacher, it would not sound believeable. But coming from Pauk, it makes sense. Paul nearly died suffering for the faith. In fact, some argue he did die outside of Lystra, having been stoned and left for dead. Have you ever had enemies that hate you so much they drag you out of town and throw rocks at you until they are sure you are dead? Yeah, me neither.

So when Paul says the sufferings of the present time cannot be compared with the joys of life to come, I can believe him. Many of us have been through some suffering. Whether it be physical pain, like a serious medical ailment, or it is mental anguish, like a family relationship that hurts the soul. We suffer a bit every day. We know what it is like to suffer. So we have a hard time imagine that there is no comparison. We have suffered much. How dare Paul belittle what we have been through. 

But you see, he suffered too. And yet in that same suffering, he caught a glimpse of those glories to come. It was precisely as he lay there, stoned to death, that some believe he was caught up to the third heaeven, and heard things that cannot be spoken as he describes in 2 Corinthians 12. It is similar to folks that I have talked too who describe their own journey to heavenly realms and come back. They describe the joys and glories of that place far more wonderful than can be put into words. And sometimes, despite their family and health and wealth on this side, there is a longing for that place that nothing on this side compares with.

I believe that brother Paul points to that experience for himself when he tells us there is no comparison. It will all be worth the struggle, the pain and the suffering of this present life. Paul hints here that if we truly knew what waited for us, no suffering would seem too great. There is comfort in this, since many of us have come through great suffering. 

Dear Heavenly Father, we come before you this morning with heads bowed, many of us in the midst of great anguish and sorrow of heart. We truly do not know how much more we can take, and would that you lighten our burden a bit so that we could brrathe. Brother Paul reminds us this morning of just how wonderful it will be in glory, and we cannot wait to see you face to face. But until then, we know we have a purpose and a plan to fulfill. Let us pray for strength for this journey, peace in our hearts, and hope for the world to come. If brother Paul was so inspired as to journey to Rome for the sake of the gospel, grant us that same inspiration to choose to follow you in our day to day. We pray these things in Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Power in Weakness

This is one of my go to verses. If God doesn’t heal you of that illness or infirmity, what then? Where do you go when God doesn’t take the pain away? Most people reject God, saying they’ve prayed and prayed and God hasn’t answered their prayers, or they feel dejected because they didn’t have enough faith to move this particular mountain. Is that how it works? We just send a prayer off to God and He is expected to meet our need, just like that? Does God have any say in the matter?

If God doesn’t heal you, does that make Him an unloving God? Does make Him harsh or cruel? Can God only be glorified and praised only if He meets your need exactly when you need it?

Then imagine Paul’s consternation at not being healed of his infirmity. Though no one is sure what his “thorn in the flesh” was, some suspect it was an issue with his eyes, based on Galatians. Paul prayed to have this thorn removed. Paul’s faith goes without question. He had the ability to heal others of blindness. Why didn’t God heal his? Did God not care?

But God did care. And God have Him an answer, the same answer He gives to all of us. “My power is made perfect in weakness.” What does that mean? It means God takes the long view. He knows this world is not our home. We have a new and glorious eternal body that awaits us where there will no suffering, crying, or pain. The purpose of this life is to prepare our souls for the next, not to enjoy all the pleasures. His power is made perfectly evident in our weakness, for the more powerful message of unshakeable faith comes from the voice of the tested, not the untested. The more powerful comes from the testimony, not the untried.

God’s message and purpose is to save the lost. The lost are better won by one who has been tested and finds his faith unshaken. That God is glorified in the midst of such terrible weakness is powerful testimony, and will many to their knees in repentance. I have been at the bedside of hospice patients who will make you weep because of their unshakeable faith. That is power perfected in weakness. That is the unmistakable power of God.

So the next time God doesn’t heal like you expect, be prepared. God may have other purposes for your illness. He may be disciplining you, or he just may be preparing you for a powerful testimony.

God bless you today!

Accomplished Wonders

What has the Lord done for you lately? When faced with the stress of in pending medical procedures, and the possibility of death, many of my Christian patients lose hope. Why? Because they are Christians. They aren’t supposed to suffer. God is supposed to bless them as His dear children. Isn’t that what the Scriptures teach? God won’t give you more than you can handle?

What I often find is that the opposite is true. God gives you more than you are accustomed to because in that you grow. You are given more than you can handle so you can rise to the challenge. When you run, you don’t run only what you’re accustomed to, but you challenge yourself, to improve your time and extend your distance. You take on more to get better. This too in regards to our faith. God challenges you to grow.

But God doesn’t send you through this trial unprepared. He reminds you of all the times He has helped you before when you thought you couldn’t take anymore. He reminds you of all the times you trusted and depended on Him and He proved Himself faithful in His promises. If there is anything that proves you will be blessed during this trial, is that God has been faithful in accomplishing His wonders in your life. He saved you from your sins He saved you from the worst consequences imaginable. He saved you from Hell. Do you think He can manage heart palpitations? Or cancer?

And as a wise man once told me, either way, we win. Whether we live or die. Don’t allow the fear of death to so consume you you are afraid to live. Jesus has already conquered death. Though it is still our enemy, we don’t have to be afraid it.

Yes. God will give you more than you can handle. He will do this to test your faith. He tests your faith to help you grow. But He will not do so without first blessing you and proving to you just how much He loves you already. And if you have been saved, you have received the greatest blessing of all.

God bless you today!

Faithful Promise

Heb 10_23.jpg
Hebrews 10:23
“He who promised is faithful.” What a contrast to the half-hearted promises we are used to receiving. I hate making promises myself because they become commitments I have to abide by. I try to be a man of my word, even if the consequences are inconsequential. If I say I am going to do something, I want to be known as one who will keep his word. It seems like a funny thing anymore. And becomes one of the more frustrating things when I hold that same standard to others.
This is especially important to my kids, who ask me to do or buy things for them all the time. Sometimes its little things like, “Look at this new video game I want to get” or “I really want to go to this birthday party.” If I say yes, I obligate myself to them to fulfill it because I want them to be able to trust me when I say I will. When my wife asks me to sweep the living room (because of excessive dog hair) then I agree to do it, I do it. And I don’t dare disagree with her. 🙂
But by the same token, I ask the kids to clean up their room or work on dishes or something else around the house. Sometimes they surprise me and actually do as they promised. Other times, even though they said they would get to it, it never gets done. That frustrates me because I end up having to it myself because its bedtime or the kids have another obligation they need to meet. A well-oiled machine we are not.
That’s why when God makes a promise, I believe He is faithful to keep it.
I am reminded of an individual last week I talked to said who said church attendance used to be a part of life, but have since ceased, because God doesn’t answer prayer. This individual had many reasons to be disappointed with God, including a family who had abandoned this person and a government assistance program that had cast this person aside. This person had said prayer had been faithful and often, but to no avail. This person felt God had abandoned them.
I speak with many people who suffer from a debilitating illness, but whose faith has not wavered. I speak with others whose faith is wavering now and need a reminder that God has helped them through many trials in the past. If God helped you through a terrible trial when you were 20 (like a car accident) and 29 (a family member’s suicide),  would God suddenly abandon you now at 45 with pancreatic cancer?
Something else we need to consider. God’s ways of help are not always what we expect. If you are thinking that God is going to give you exactly the kind of help you demand, you will be disappointed. We need to be reminded that we are not in charge. God does what He wants and God is supremely good. This life is only preparation for eternity, a proving ground if you will of who we are to be. Bad things do happen. But they only happen in this life. We have an eternity to enjoy the fruits of our labor. There will come a time when we are sitting by the Throne and we will reminisce about those days on earth when we thought all hope was lost. We will remind ourselves how foolish we were to ignore the ever-present God, how our sins dimmed our eyes. And then we will have a good laugh at our own expense because the pain of that day will vanish like a mist.
I wonder at that. We have so much more to live for than paychecks and fine homes, fancy cars and good jobs. All of this will be so dross when we find what has real value: faith, hope, and love. God has bigger goals for us than stock portfolios and advanced degrees. He calls us to higher things, a hopeful expectation of His presence. He is our greatest possession, for He is our God. There is nothing on this earth that has value compared to Him. And equal in value is our salvation, paid for by the very blood and body that God chose in His Son, who willingly endured the cross for our shame.
Christian friend, in this world you will have trouble. Don’t be surprised when suffering comes your way. But do not be deceived. This world is not all there is. There is still hope.
May God bless you today and all days as you walk with Him.

Listed as Safe from the Evil One

Wow. If there was ever s verse needed, it’s this one. Do you need a verse that guarantees your divine protection from the diabolos? The Evil One? The Devil? I know I don’t talk much about him here, so maybe a few words would be helpful.

I was talking a few days ago to an individual who remarked that God and Satan are the same person. Why? Because they are both blamed for the same things. Cancer. Catastrophes. Calamity. Either or both are often blamed. I get that. I’ve heard it. If a child dies, did God take it or did Satan poison it? Did God make that choice, Or the devil.

Christians have wrestled with these issues for hundreds of years. We still struggle with them. I believe that is on purpose. God demands that despite all we think about why bad things happen to good people, we have to practice faith in His Word. Science and philosophy are not going to help us. This is a region where faith in what God says and faith in the nature of a kind and loving God comes in. He calls us to this faith despite our emotions and our natural anger. Will we believe in Him even when it doesn’t make sense?

It seems Satan’s work is on the rise. The first three verses of 2 Timothy 3 are becoming more relevant with each passing day. How can we hope that God is still protecting us? Try to imagine a world where God didn’t protect us. Which world is worse?

I know by faith that God and the Evil One are not the same. God is good. And I believe good is stronger than evil. Because I believe God is stronger than Satan. To say otherwise is to imagine that Satan is co-equal with God. Satan did not and will never die for me. Satan has no love in his heart for anything but himself. Satan corrupts good people. If I as a human being can know right from wrong, to know the difference, then there is a difference. If I know that there is a good so good that I can never achieve it, how can I possibly know it? Surely there is a good God who gave that insight to me. In my heart, I want good to overcome evil. Why do I want that? Where did it come from? I believe it comes from a good God who placed that in me, because I am made in His image.

This worldview requires faith. It cannot be proved beyond the shadow of a doubt. Science nor philosophy is equipped to do this. It must be understood by faith. Fortunately, it is built into us to receive this by faith, because we are made in God’s image. A fact I also know by faith. Convincing others cannot and never will be accomplished through proofs and theorems. But it comes through lives changed, families healed and hope offered.

I apprehend by faith that God will protect me from the evil one. May God protect you today.

Discipline Training

How is your life enriched, made deeper and more fulfilling?

Some folks work on their lives by physical discipline, training their body to endure and become resilient, running, walking, weight training and exercise. In this way they find out more about themselves and deepen their ability set.

Others travel, often to as far as their skills and abilities will take them. Whether it be on the well-trod path of hotels and interstates, or deeper into the backcountry and wilderness. They discover much about the world and the creatures that live in it.

Others, like me, don’t get out much, so we read. We like to read, expand our mind’s limits, live someone else’s life for a little while, or deepen our understanding of the world around us, even the unseen world of the Spirit.

I can’t tell you which of these is better. I think we all need all three, and the many more options that are out there. But there is one area that I know no one wants any more knowledge about: suffering.

The Lord chastises those He loves, but He seems to have favorites, doesn’t He? I have heard some of the worst tales of woe a person can hear. Man’s cruelty to his fellow man knows no bounds. But hard times are not always evil done by others. Sometimes God chastises is for our good, giving us the oxgoads and the pricks instead of honey and milk. Have you ever made a decision without God and immediately regretted it? Took a job without holding it up in prayer and realizing you have made a terrible mistake? Joshua and the Israelites did that once when the Gibeonites deceived them. Joshua was so confident in the rightness if his decision the text says very pointedly that he did not consult God. The Gibeonites became servants, but were also a thorn in their side.

But the discipline of the Lord can also be preemptive, because He knows what’s coming, so he prepares us ahead of time with hardship. Like when Joseph was sent to Egypt by his brothers. What they intended for evil, God intended for good, through His slavery and imprisonment, Joseph learned and became Prime Minister of the most powerful country in the world. Why? So he could save his family from the coming drought. He learned through hardship the discipline needed for hard times.

Not everything you suffer from is your fault. In fact, I suspect the majority of it is not. I believe suffering can be punishment from God, but it it can also be training. It can be God punishing someone else and you are caught in the crossfire. It can be the evil of this world, through which God will see you through.

Whatever you are going through today, let us pray with you, not only to hear through it, but to learn from it, if there must be anything to learn.

In talking with many caught with medical issues after a long period of health, I’ve found that many blame God for their illness. They say, “I’ve been good. Why is God punishing me?!” My response is often, “Maybe God wants to know if you will love Him no matter what happens to you. Is God only worth loving when life is going your way? Does He deserve your praise only as long as He gives you what you want?” Many of us are learning the lesson Job: “Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him.”

I do not presume for speak for God, as He is fully able to do this for Himself. But may I suggest that the discipline of the Lord is always a good thing. It produces a harvest or righteousness and peace for those trained by it.

God bless you today!