JESUS TURNS

My mouth can get me in trouble.  At least I blame my mouth, but I know that I thought it before I said it.  It’s interesting that Jesus says our words come from the overflow of our hearts. (Matthew 12:34)  It’s not really my mouth that gets me in trouble, but it’s my sinful heart being revealed.  We try to hide so much in our hearts, but those things are really not hidden.  In fact, the Scriptures tell us that we don’t really know our hearts because we’re deceived by them, but God knows them. (Jeremiah 17:9-10)  What is the answer to this dilemma?  I believe that the Lord showed me an answer as I was reading the other morning.  The following passage is what I read.  Please read it through to the end.

“Then they seized him and led him away, bringing him into the high priest’s house, and Peter was following at a distance.  And when they had kindled a fire in the middle of the courtyard and sat down together, Peter sat down among them.  Then a servant girl, seeing him as he sat in the lights and looking closely at him, said, ‘This man also was with him.’  But he denied it, saying, ‘Woman, I do not know him.’ And a little later someone else saw him and said, ‘You also are one of them.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I am not.’ And after an interval of about an hour still another insisted, saying, ‘Certainly this man also was with him, for he too is a Galilean.’ But Peter said, ‘Man, I do not know what you are talking about.’ And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. And the Lord turned and looked at Peter. And Peter remembered the saying of the Lord, how he had said to him, ‘Before the rooster crows today, you will deny me three times.’ And he went out and wept bitterly.” Luke 22:54-62

The account of Peter denying Jesus is so sad and we may be tempted to think, “I would never do that”, or “How could he do that after living with Jesus?”, or “Shame on Peter!  I just don’t get it!”.  The truth is, we are all capable of this sin. Have you ever been in a crowd who were speaking badly about Jesus, or the church?  How did you respond?  It’s a lot easier to be quiet in these situations, isn’t it?  By our silence, we are denying Jesus and are just as guilty as Peter.  So, what really struck me was how Jesus turned and looked at Peter after his third denial.  Their eyes met.  As I read this, my mind began to make pictures of the eyes of both Jesus and Peter.  Our eyes can say a lot without us speaking a word.  What did their eyes say that day?

PETER

His eyes were full of shame.  Can you see it?  Can you feel it?  He may have had tears in his eyes and a downcast look.  Although Peter and Jesus looked at each other, Peter may have looked away quickly in shame.  We don’t know these things, but as we think about sin in our own lives, we can certainly identify with shame.  The shameful eyes are devoid of hope.  Shame has taken over and hope is a distant thought.  Peter went out and wept bitterly.  He could feel the guilt and shame of denying his Savior.  If I were Peter, I would never forget that look from Jesus as the rooster crowed.

JESUS

His eyes were full of love, compassion, and sadness.  Can you see it?  Can you feel it?  Jesus always responds out of his love and compassion.  Earlier in Luke, Jesus spoke with Peter telling him about his denial.  The most important part of this exchange is, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.  And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” Luke 22:31-32  Jesus had already prayed for Peter to not fail but also let him know that after repentance, he would be of great help to other believers.  Jesus’ eyes were reminding Peter of his love and his prayer for him.  Jesus has caring eyes.

Our Lord is the same today as then.  He never changes.  He knows our hearts and loves us still.  When we sin against him, he causes us to feel guilt that leads to repentance. The biggest thing I take away from this is Jesus turns, not away from us but toward us.  Sin doesn’t keep him from turning.  He always lives to intercede for us. (Romans 8:34) When my mouth (really my heart) gets me in trouble, I can be sure that Jesus turns toward me and gives me the look to drive me to repentance.  “And the Lord turned and looked…” Luke 22:61a  That’s how much he cares for his children!

UP, UP, AND AWAY!!

I had the joy of going on a vacation in the Hocking Hills of Ohio.  What beautiful scenery!  The hiking was good and not too strenuous.  I stayed in a cabin and it was clean and comfortable.  There were many deer in the area and I was greeted me in the front yard by one.  Can you picture all of this?  It is the scene of a nice quiet, peaceful, relaxing vacation.  But I guess I wanted more so I called and reserved a place on the Hocking Hills Canopy Tour.  So, at 69 years old I was outfitted with helmet, harness, and cable for zip lining.  We traveled at least 8 zip lines in the tree tops.  The longest one was over 500 feet and the rider went 35 miles an hour.  I was the rider and I was traveling that fast.  Zip lines weren’t the only things to get us from one tree to another.  There were also cable bridges which would swing back and forth.  Yikes, what was I thinking?

While on this tour, I was always thinking about placing my hands in the right position.  There were thoughts of the beauty of woods from the treetops as well.  The tour guides told us to look around while traveling on the zip line but I kept my eyes ahead to see the landing place.  Landing was important to me.  I didn’t really look until I felt safe on the platform.  The tour guide made sure to catch me if I was going too fast to land.  It brought me joy to see his smiling face at the end of the line each and every time.  Would I do this again?  Probably.  Why?  I don’t know. 

Life, for the follower of Christ, is like traveling the zip line.  There are many things to see along the way but the finish line is the important focus.  In fact, we read in the Scriptures about where our focus should be.

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” Colossians 3:2

“…let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…” Hebrews 12:1b-2a

Our lives are to be lived now with eternity in view.  We need to keep our eyes on the finish line.  Jesus has already zipped through this life on our behalf. I think of my tour guide who zipped before us.  He made sure to be ready to catch us as we came to the end of the line.  He got there first, which showed that it was possible and safe.  That’s what Jesus has done.  He has gone before us in this life and lived it perfectly because we aren’t able to.  He is now interceding on our behalf to the Father.  We can keep our eyes on him and trust him because he knows the line we will be zipping on in this life.  Our eyes, at all times, need to be on our guide and the eternity waiting for us.

I’m also reminded of the tour guide who stayed behind to help us step off the platform.  He made sure we were securely fastened and then waited for the one who had gone before to let him know it was safe for us.  Our brothers and sisters in Christ are represented by him.  We are to encourage one another by making sure we have what we need to live life reflecting God.  Is there someone who needs to be harnessed to the Word of God?  We can help her to see her need by pointing her to the Word.  Our lovingkindness in helping others take hard steps in life will go a long way.  Life is hard and we need others to help us who have their eyes on Jesus.

Those swinging bridges were harder for me to cross than the zip line.  I didn’t like the swinging and I was tempted to keep looking down as I crossed.  It was actually better for me when I put my eyes up and looked at the destination.  Satan loves when we keep our eyes on the circumstances in our lives.  As we focus on the situation, we can lose sight of the finish line.  We need to look up and see Jesus, who has suffered for us.  He’s at the finish line waiting for us.  The temptation to look to the right, left, or down is one we have to fight as we seek to keep our eyes looking up to our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Was zip lining on my bucket list?  Not really, because I don’t have a bucket list.  I do have a finish line and only God knows when I’ll cross it.  What I do know for sure is, that when I cross that finish line, my Savior will catch me and usher me into eternity with him.  Let’s encourage one another to keep our eyes on him as we live the life he has given us! 

WHAT’S IN A NAME? I AM! – PART 2

Two words we use very often are “I am.”  These words are usually followed by other words describing our role in life or our position in our job or our family heritage.  We say these things so that others will understand us better as they get to know more about us.  There is an identification we make with our roles, jobs, or family when we add the words, “I am.”  Sometimes we just say our name, “I am Laurie Denise” by way of introduction.  Our name doesn’t really say too much about our character, which is one of the reasons we follow up the introduction with the other “I am” mentioned above.  There is one who says, “I AM” is his name, his character, and all that he is.  This one is God!

Our God is I AM which means he’s the self-existent one!  He is the Great I AM!  He is singular, existing without anyone or anything else.  He lives; He remains; He continues.  He came to Moses and introduced himself as I AM WHO I AM!  God told Moses to go to the children of Israel and to tell them, “I AM has sent me to you.” (Exodus 3:14b) God gave himself this name.  There will never be a time when he will need someone or something other than himself to exist.  His name is forever. 

“I am the LORD; that is my name; my glory I give to no other, nor my praise to carved idols.”  Isaiah 42:8

The word LORD is used as Yahweh, I AM, or the self-existent one.  His glory is for him alone, not us.  He is to receive all the glory, praise, and adoration we can give to him.  There is no carved idol or idol of our heart that even comes close to being self-existent!   All idols will fail but I AM will never fail, never change, and will fulfill all his promises and purposes.  He is all sufficient for his children.

What about Jesus?  He is God and his name is also I AM.  John records a couple of times when Jesus says his name as I AM.  The first is found in John 8:48-58.  The Pharisees were accusing Jesus of having a demon.  He spoke to them concerning those who keep his work, never seeing death.  They were very upset by this and began to speak of their father, Abraham.  Jesus ends this exchange with the following,

            “Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was I AM!”  John 8:58

Jesus honors the Father and seeks God’s glory, not his own.  He keeps the Word of God and loves others well.  He is not about himself but about others.  Jesus declares that he is I AM, the self-existent one!  He is the all sufficient Savior.

The second instance John records Jesus declaring to be I AM is in John 18:1-11.  This is the account of the arrest of Jesus in the garden.  He asked whom they were seeking and they said Jesus of Nazareth.  He answered, “I am he.” (John 18:5b)  John then gives us more information in the following verse,

“When Jesus said to them, I AM he, they drew back and fell to the ground.” John 18:6

When those who were going to arrest Jesus had come face to face with who he really was, KA-BOOM, they fell down.  This is awe and reverence for who Jesus really is.  This brings about humility in those who realize the truth which leads to a recognition of sin in the presence of the Great I AM!  We, too, need to be in awe and reverence of our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  He is all sufficient for every area of our lives.

God doesn’t need to follow his I AM with anything because he’s everything.  We need to fall back and recognize who he really is and the benefits of knowing him as his child. 

Let’s marvel together how the Great I AM chose to humble himself by becoming a man who died a gruesome death alone for us.  There is none GREATER!

“The name of the LORD is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Proverbs 18:10

What’s in a name? – Part one

We were all given a name when we were born by our parents.  They searched and discussed names until they came to an agreement of what to call you.  If you’re like me, then you’ve wondered what made your parents name you what they did.  I asked my mother many years ago the reason I’m named Laurie Denise and yet she called me Denise.  Her answer was that she named me after a singer-actress from the late 40s, Denise Lor.  The reason she didn’t name me Denise Laurie is that she didn’t like the way it sounded.  Parents have opinions about names and those influence the resulting moniker for you.  When my husband and I named our children, I remember rejecting the name he liked for our daughter because I knew someone with that name.  I didn’t consider her a very nice person and didn’t want that reminder around me.  Parents have reasons for the names they choose.  The names given to Jesus throughout the scriptures have reasons as well.  In this series we will seek to understand some of the names given to Jesus and how that should affect our lives. 

There may be some of us who have suffered teasing or ridicule from others because of our name.  Sometimes the effort to make the name of the child be unique causes others to respond with finger pointing and bullying.  You have probably suffered this yourself or know of someone who has.  I remember how in my high school the last name of one particular student became the putdown for others.  The name was used as a description of not measuring up to the crowd’s opinion.  This is hard.  It hurts.  Jesus suffered for his name.  In fact, as followers of Christ we have the privilege of suffering for the name of Jesus. 

“…they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go.  Then they left the presence of the counsel rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name.” Acts 5:40b-41

These verses are describing what Peter and the apostles were going through after Jesus’ ascension to heaven.  Here’s what it teaches us.

  1. The name of Jesus is cause for joy in the midst of suffering.  Reminding ourselves of Jesus’ name and who he is can bring us joy.  It doesn’t take the suffering away but the reminder of why Jesus suffered for us will bring about joy.
  2. The name of Jesus is cause to choose right even when told to do wrong.  The apostles were told by the governing body to no longer speak the name of Jesus but they didn’t obey!  They spoke the name of Jesus and called others to follow him.  Jesus said to go into all the world and preach the gospel.  This can’t be done without speaking his name. 
  3. The name of Jesus may mean we’ll have to be dishonored so that he isn’t.   The jokes, sarcasm, slander, gossip, bullying, and laughing may be things we must endure for the name of Jesus.  We know Jesus, who he is, what he’s done, and what he continues to do on our behalf.  We can persevere for his name.

“But the Lord said to him, Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.” Acts 9:15-16

This is said to Ananias concerning Paul.  The Lord had chosen Paul to reach others with the gospel of Jesus Christ.  He is our example.  We learn…

  1. We are to carry the name of Jesus.  As followers of Christ, his name is our identity.  Jesus lives through each of us as we follow him and obey his command to love.  Not only is he our identity but we are called to carry his name to others.  We wear it and we share it!
  2. We will suffer for his name.  This may not be uplifting to us because no one likes to suffer, but as we’ve seen in the previous verses, it is a privilege to suffer for him.  His name deserves honor and we are not to forsake it.

“Then Paul answered, What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart?  For I am ready not only to be imprisoned but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Acts 21:13

Paul had been pulled aside by those who loved him in order that they might convince him to protect himself and not go to Jerusalem.  They knew he would be arrested but Paul was willing to do what God had called him to do. He’s our example.

  1. We can’t always protect others from suffering.  We want to especially protect the vulnerable.  The idea of a child going to a remote part of the world to spread the gospel can be a hard one.  Suffering will most certainly be a part of a choice like that.  The name of Jesus is worth the suffering and our efforts to protect will be fruitless.
  2. We need to be willing to suffer for Christ and allow others to do so as well.  The willingness of Paul to go to Jerusalem when he knew prison awaited him was all about the name of Jesus.  He wanted to spread his name.  The suffering was not considered as something from which to run away.  It takes prayer and dependence on Christ to be willing to suffer for his name’s sake.

Our name is important to us but there is no name more important than Jesus.  His name means Savior, something we can never achieve.  Because he is Savior, we can suffer for his name with confidence.  One day, and maybe soon, this will happen,

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth.”  Philippians 2:10

I’VE FALLEN AND I’VE GOTTEN UP!

Embarrassment is so much a part of our thinking, isn’t it?  We want others to think the best of us and certainly don’t want them to see us do something stupid!  However, there are times in our lives when we do things by accident that still cause us embarrassment.  Last night was that night for me.  I was scheduled to do the closing interview for my current intern in front of the those who attended our Summer Fun Night!  That’s no big deal to me. I’ve talked in front of many people on many occasions.  I’ve said some embarrassing things in some of those times. Actually, I didn’t even realize what I said at the time I was saying it!  There are those who do remember those times and now it causes us to laugh a great deal.  My embarrassment has become a source of fun! But then there’s last night!

I looked at the schedule of events and then looked at our emcee for the evening, it was time for me to go up to the front of the gym.  I stood up and began my first step and my foot caught on the purse strap hanging out from under my chair.  I started to fall and there was nothing I could do to stop it.  I landed all my weight on my left knee with my head in the lap of one of the ladies sitting across from me.  I sat up for a moment then moved my knee. It moved, so I got up to continue on my trek to the front.  At that moment there were people all around me wanting to know how they could help.  One particular person said to me that I fell gracefully.  I’ll take that as a compliment.  I was just relieved that I didn’t rip my pants.  The more people who came to my rescue, the more embarrassed I was.  How could I have fallen like that in a crowd of people?  People saw me!!

People see us.  We can’t get away from that fact!  They see us in many different situations and make conclusions from what they see.  I was sure many were thinking some of the following:

            “Boy, is she ever clumsy!”

            “You know she’s over 60, brittle bones!”

            “How stupid was that to put your purse under your chair!”

Our minds can run away with us when we’re embarrassed.  We begin to make scripts of what is going on in the minds of others.  Even though we don’t know what they’re thinking, we’re pretty sure we do.  Then we judge others by what we think they are thinking!  The result is embarrassment about who we are and what we did rather than thoughts of good toward others.  This is not how the Lord wants us to respond.

Accidents happen to all of us.  We fall, hit a car with our car, drop a glass, or spill our milk.  Our lives are filled with opportunities for embarrassment.  The Lord looks at us and wants to see how we handle each one.  Do we begin to think negative thoughts about others?  Do we just want to withdraw from life?  Do we get angry and allow it to spill out in to every aspect of our lives?  We have choices on how to handle it when we’re not measuring up to what we think we ought to be.  The choices are as follows:

  1.  God has not left the building.  As I fell to the floor, God was there!  He hadn’t left me alone so I would fall.  He promises that, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5b In our most embarrassing moments we have to remember God.  We get so large in our thinking that we crowd out thoughts of God.  We MUST be aware that he MEANS what he says.  He is with us!
  2.  I’m not perfect.  I can say that I know I’m not perfect, but I don’t really mean it.  When I do something like fall in front of people, my mind tells me that I should have been able to walk without falling.  I’m strong and agile.  I’m healthy for my age.  I shouldn’t fall! This is not truth.  The truth is I’m older and not as steady on my feet as I used to be.  The truth is, “So we do not lose heart.   Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.” 2 Corinthians 4:16 My body is wasting away which puts me closer to eternity!  I need to rejoice in the eternity to come for me because Jesus, who was perfect, lived and died in my place.
  3.  Gratitude is crucial!  When I fell, I allowed my embarrassment to miss all the people who wanted to help and ease my pain.  I said “thank you” but my embarrassment was overruling my gratitude in my mind.  We need to always be looking for what God is doing through others on our behalf.  He gives us so many people to be grateful for in our lives.  We can’t allow embarrassment to overrule gratitude.

Today I’m grateful for all those who came to my rescue.  They wanted to help me and that is so encouraging.  The body of Christ is to rub shoulders together, helping and lifting others up.  I got up but if I hadn’t been able to, there were many who would have picked me up.  I heard three times last night that I fell with grace.  I know that it was the grace of God given to me as I fell. May we each allow God’s grace to override our embarrassment as we look forward to that day of no more shame!

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part four

THE KNOWLEDGE OF GOD HELPS

It always amazes me at how quickly I can forget God is with me.  When life’s winds blow in my face, I feel those more than I think of God.  Let’s face it, we are all infallible!  We are not perfect and it shows up the most in the trials of this life. Our desire for comfort, relief, and happiness seems to overrule the truth we know about God.  How do we prepare for this battle against truth when we suffer?  Our preparation takes place in everyday life.  This has been a season of strong winds for me.  This season has brought about many changes in my life and many opportunities. As we face the strong winds of disappointment, discouragement, pain, and sorrow, God sees opportunities for us to grow in him.  We can be preparing each and every day for strong winds that may come our way.  Here’s how we do it!  WE PURSUE A KNOWLEDGE OF GOD!

  1.  The Word of God is our food!

We must feed our belief. It’s easy to say “I believe”, but when the winds of the life hit us in the face, we’re empty.  The way we feed our belief is to be in God’s Word each day seeking to learn who God is.  It’s this pursuit that helps us when suffering comes.  Satan wants us to curse God and forget about his presence.  We must fight Satan with what we know to be true about God.  The problem is we won’t know these things if we are not in his Word seeking him.  Sometimes we focus on God’s Word as words for us to live by, all about us.  The truth is, the Word of God is all about him.  “…seek, and you will find…” Matthew 7:7b Jesus reminds us to seek him.  Don’t wait until life is hard, seek him now in preparation for what is to come!

2. Knowing God is HOPE!

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope:  The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.  The Lord is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him.” Lamentations 3:21-23

This is a portion of scripture written by Jeremiah, who was struggling with rejection from his own people.  He had been through much suffering and yet, in the middle of it, he preaches to himself about God.  He could do this because he knew God’s character. Bringing to mind who God is when we are suffering can help us to have hope.  As I was sitting in the hallway of the hospital after my husband had been rushed back into the operating room to have fluid from his heart drained, I needed to preach to myself.  I was so grateful for the character of God.  The sermon I was preaching was God’s sovereignty and goodness.  He knew, and He is good!  Those two things sustained me as I sat in ignorance of what was happening.  What was worse is they forgot I was there and didn’t come and tell me anything!  This made the time seem slow and full of anticipation.  But God is good and sovereign. He wanted me to learn to wait, and rely fully on him.  Know God’s character and believe; that’s hope!

3. Knowing God is TRUTH!

“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  He is the true God and eternal.” 1 John 5:20

Our God is the one and only true God!  There is none like him!  When suffering comes upon us, Satan wants us to doubt our true God.  The biggest thought is that God doesn’t really care or is not involved in my life.  But God is true to his word and we know he will never “leave or forsake” his children.  When I was in the hallway alone, the truth was, I was not alone.  Did I have to remind myself of that?  Absolutely!  Knowing that God is truth and all he says is true encompasses what we have to believe.  As followers of Christ we must know the truth and be set free from the lies being thrown at us by our enemy.  I’ve thought about this since my husband’s heart attack.  It would have pleased Satan for me to throw in the towel and allow the changes in our circumstances to weigh me down.  This could have become my life as a victim of the winds of life.  I know God is truth and I can trust all he has said about himself and about me.  That’s what I hold onto each and every day.  Jesus said, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:32  How do we know the truth?  We eat the food of the Word daily, which is truth and will give us hope!

The winds of life may blow in our faces but we can withstand them as we pursue knowing God.  In fact, these winds may turn into a tornado or hurricane in your life but knowing God will remind you how he is greater than even that!  Our calling is to get fat on the Word of God so that we will know the hope and truth that will guide us in this life.  Pass the chapter and verse, please!

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part three

PREPARATION FOR THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE

How do we prepare for the battle we don’t know is coming?  How do we know what to expect in the midst of suffering?  What are we to do when suffering hits, and Satan tempts us to give up or be angry?  We have established in this series that God is sovereign and good.  I’ve had the opportunity to preach this to myself recently.  About three weeks ago, my husband had a major heart attack.  Once again, suffering is brought into my life as I’m teaching and writing about the subject. When it happened, it was like the phone call that changes your life in an instant.  My life was changed and everything was put on hold.  This part three had to wait for four weeks to be written, but I’m glad for it.  The whole armor of God is our preparation as we realize we have it and need to rely on the strength it provides.

“Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might.  Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil.” Ephesians 6:10-11

  1.  Our strength comes from the Lord’s might!

We are not invincible!  We are not superhuman!  The truth is, we are frail individuals who need direction and strength from our creator.  This is not something we always agree with because, “hey, I got this!”  As I watched my husband struggling with the pain of a heart attack, I felt strong.  This was not my strength, but God’s.  I knew it was bad but I could actually feel the Lord’s presence as I called 911.  The strength of the Lord was with me at this desperate time.  Now, as I look back, I recognize it.  There were times in the days ahead when I had to remind myself of his strength in order to move forward.   We never learn to the point of completion while on this earth.  This was obvious to me in the days ahead.

“Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace.” Ephesians 6:14-15

  • Our stand is in the truth and righteousness of the gospel!

Standing, for a long period of time, can be difficult.  We begin to look for a chair in which we can sit.  We want relief for our legs and feet as they have been in one place too long.  When suffering comes, we are called to stand in the midst of it, even when it’s long and hard. This standing has a firm foundation: the gospel.  As followers of Christ we have the righteousness of Christ to help us to stand when we really want to fall down. When my husband was in the hospital, there was one night in which I spent a few hours in prayer and praise to the Lord.  It was in the middle of the night and I was thinking I wouldn’t be able to stand so I sought the Lord in prayer.  He led me to the Psalms where I spent time reading.  It was just what I needed.  God never leaves us to stand alone.  He gives us his truth and his righteousness to stand on!

“In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; and take the helmet of salvation, and sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication.”  Ephesians 16-18a

  • Our hope is in the Word of God and God, Himself.

So many times we think like the world thinks in that we wish and hope for what we want or think is best.  When it doesn’t happen we respond in disappointment, anger, or sadness.  The truth is our hope needs to be in God himself.  To know how much we can be confident in our hope in him, we must seek to find out more about him from his word.  It was so tempting in the hospital to put my hope in the doctors or the nurses or the medicine.  So much is happening so fast with medical issues that our focus can be on those in front of us.  It was easy to forget the bigger picture.  But God reminded me to hope in him alone when there was an emergency procedure taking place on my husband’s heart.  It was a whirlwind of activity in the room but God gave me peace in himself.  I had to acknowledge him, placing all my hope and trust in his care of my husband.  He is the hope in all circumstances on which we can depend. 

As followers of Christ, we have the armor of God.  We have to utilize what we’ve been given.  We have been given all we need for life and godliness. (2 Peter 1:3) Our problem is we allow our suffering to overshadow what we’ve been given.  The suffering becomes greater than the armor of God. There is a spiritual battle we face each day.  Satan wants to use our suffering to tempt us away from the Lord.  Don’t let him do that!  Remember you have the armor and God!  Satan doesn’t have a hold on you, God does!

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part two

 Suffering is not an encouraging topic, but one we should talk about as followers of Christ. There is much for us to learn as we suffer in this life.  We can learn more about God and ourselves.  When we’re suffering we can be tempted by Satan to turn from God and trust in ourselves.  He uses tactics that appeal to us as he seeks to turn our hearts from our true Lord and Savior.  In today’s blog, we’ll be looking at ways Satan tempts us when we are weak and vulnerable.  We need to be prepared for these tactics and fight against the temptation so that we don’t give into it.

  1.  Satan plants doubts in our minds about God and his word.

“…He said to the woman, Did God actually say!” Genesis 3:1b

Do you hear the doubt that is being planted in this question? Eve gave into this doubt and so do we.  When there is something we are determined to do but it goes against God’s Word, we often try to convince ourselves that God didn’t mean what he said.  We can find reasons for lies, inappropriate words, shameful actions, and broken relationships.  Our reasons will not line up with God’s Word but that doesn’t stop us.  Because we say to ourselves, “that’s not what God actually is saying.”  How do we fight this temptation?  We fight by knowing the truth and then living by it.  Our minds should be filled with the truth of God’s character.  It is this truth that will get us through our temptation.

  •  Satan appeals to our weakness.

“And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. And the tempter came and said to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread’.”  Matthew 4:2-3

Jesus was led to the wilderness to be tempted by Satan.  He hadn’t eaten for 40 days and nights.  Therefore, hunger was his weakness.  Satan sought to tempt him where he was physically weak, his hunger.  This is how Satan tempts us too.  He looks for our weaknesses and then tempts us in that weakness.  If we are a people pleaser, he keeps bringing to mind other people and what they think of us.  As Satan does this, we may begin to make up a scenario concerning others that is not true.  We then act on our untruth rather than the truth.  How do we fight this temptation?  We fight by knowing our own weaknesses.  Then we seek to grow stronger in our weaknesses by believing the truth about the circumstance and God.  We must believe that, “…when I am weak, then I am strong.” 2 Corinthians 12:10b The strength here is referring to the grace of God which overflows to us in our weakness so that we can follow him.

  • Satan appeals to our desires.

“So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes…” Genesis 3:6a

It is so easy for us to desire what we see, and Satan knows it.  He tempts us as we see things we want.  We see, we think of, we covet, and then we sin.  This is how Satan uses the desires we have to bring us to sin.  Our desires can become overwhelming to us.  So much so that we will convince ourselves that God really does want us to have that brand new car when, in reality, we can’t afford it.  How do we fight this temptation?  We seek to make our desires line up with God’s desires.  Our desires will line up when we delight in God and who he is and what he has done. 

  • Satan appeals to our pride.

“…and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate…” Genesis 3:6b

We want to be more.  We want to know more. We want to be the best in all we do.  Our pride pushes us to have the best and be the best.  Satan knows this and used it as he tempted Eve.  He said, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Genesis 3:5 Can you recognize what Satan did here?  He appealed to Eve’s pride in herself.  She could be better; she could be like God, the creator.  Who wouldn’t want to be like God?  We give in to temptation to be like God all the time.  In fact, we take over the throne and want to the be “god” of our life!  We think we know best and begin to follow our own leading rather than God’s.  How do we fight this temptation?  Our lives need to be lived humbly by always remembering that we’re not the one in charge. Humility happens when we quit trying to be something we’re not and accept who God has made us to be. 

When we suffer, we need to be aware of Satan’s tactics so that we can fight against them.  He wants us to doubt that God even cares about us when we suffer.  This is not true.  We need to remember the truth and allow it to set us free from the darts Satan throws at us.

“No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.”                          1 Corinthians 10:13

THE SPIRITUAL BATTLE -SUFFERING AND SATAN’S DEVICES – Part one

Suffering is part of the life of everyone who breathes on this earth.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a believer or not; we all suffer.  Our suffering can be in the areas of relationships, health, sin, or the results of a natural disaster.  We can suffer emotionally, physically, mentally, and spiritually. The suffering we face can be a primetime for Satan to tempt us.  We must be aware of this by knowing the reasons why this is so.  In this blog series, let’s look at suffering, Satan, preparation for battle, and the knowledge of God. We will begin with the reasons our suffering is a great time for Satan to target us.

  1.  Suffering brings about fragility. 

If you’re like me, you never want to be thought of as fragile.  We consider being fragile a negative trait. Let’s think of being fragile as a result of how we are in the midst of suffering.  We may be physically worn down, mentally not sharp, or emotionally spent!  Suffering causes us to realize that we are not as strong as we thought we were.  We need someone greater than us to help us through our struggles. We need Jesus Christ.  “But he said to me, My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness” 2 Corinthians 12:9a  This verse reminds us that, in our weakness, God will give us grace and his power takes over.  This is what we need but this is not always where we turn.

In our fragility we are prime targets for temptation.  We are weak and so we listen to intrusive thoughts which tempt us to turn from God.  In this state, during suffering, we may decide that God is responsible for our suffering.  Once that happens we tend to look elsewhere for help in our fragility.  Satan is very aware of our suffering and how we are handling it.  He comes at us with lies about God.  This is a number one device of his.  He has used it from the beginning when he said to Eve, “Did God really say?…” Genesis 3:1  When we are weak, we are more prone to listen to the thought that God is not really who he says he is. We must choose to believe who God is and of our need for him when we are fragile.  We need him when we suffer.

  • Suffering brings a desire to escape.

I’m fairly certain no one likes to suffer.  As the scripture reminds us, we love ourselves naturally.  This causes us to want relief from any suffering we may go through during our lifetime.  We want to escape it.  We want it to be over. This is really a normal human reaction to suffering.  The problem with this thinking is that it can become the goal.  We have to remember our goal needs to please God in whatever we go through or whatever we do.  (2 Corinthians 5:9)  If we make our goal escape or relief, then we are very open to temptations from Satan.

What happens is that we consider things like “if I do this or that”, or “maybe I’ll just give up”, or “life isn’t fair so I’m out of here”.  These thoughts do not chase after the goal of pleasing God.  In fact, these thoughts are more in line with erasing God from the equation.  When we do that then we are in a dangerous position. We are actually more vulnerable to Satan’s attempt to make God less than who he is. 

Suffering is hard! No one likes it!  We have to be prepared to go through suffering with the goal of pleasing God firmly planted in our minds. This doesn’t mean we don’t feel the suffering, but it does mean that, in the midst of it, we trust God.  He is the only one who can get us through whatever challenges we face.  Let’s ask ourselves these questions when we are tempted to give in because we are fragile and want it to end.

  1.  What do I know to be true about God right now? Spend some time thinking about God’s character and take time to write it down.  Apply his character to your situation.
  2. What do I remember about God’s work in my life?  If you’ve lived more than 5 years, you can look back and see how God has worked in your life.  In this remembrance, you’ll find hope.  He is the same God!
  3. How can I please God in the midst of this suffering?  Answering the first two questions is actually part of the answer for this question.  But, you need to go farther and realize what it would look like for you trust God wherever you find yourself. 

 “So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him.”             2 Corinthians 5:9

SENSE OF HUMOR? OR SOVEREIGNTY?

Teaching the Word of God is one of my passions.  I’m very much alive when I’m studying the Word and seeking to impart the information I’ve learned to others.  It’s my privilege to teach, on Wednesday evenings, a group of ladies at our church.  The subject matter may change but the foundation doesn’t.  God has so much to teach us and we’ll never really comprehend all of it while we are here on this earth. My subject for this quarter is suffering.  It’s a huge subject and the Scriptures have much to say about it.  My topic last Wednesday would have been “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.”  I say, would have been, because I was not able to teach that class.  The reason?  “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.”

I love God and his ways.  I don’t always understand them, but I love how he works out all things.  At times I think he must have a great sense of humor as his purposes are fulfilled in our lives.  God doesn’t operate in my convenience, but for his glory and my good.  My good is not always what I would call convenient.  It was Saturday morning at 3:00 a.m. when I woke up with my heart in AFib.  It was beating way to fast resulting in me being hot, then cold.  I coughed. I bore down.  I used a cold cloth.  Nothing was bringing my heart back to normal.  At 7:30 a.m. I went to the bathroom only to lay down on the floor because I couldn’t sit up.  I was lightheaded and felt faint.  By 8:00 a.m. I had my husband call 911 and was taken by ambulance to the hospital with a heart rate bouncing around from 160 to 190.  They worked on me with medication until noon and it finally righted itself.  This was not in my plan.

Was this God’s sense of humor?  After all, I’m teaching a class on suffering and in the fourth week, I’m in the hospital.  That’s suffering all right!  Was God smiling as he watched me walk through this situation?  I actually hope he was smiling at me as I sought to follow him well.  This was his sovereign plan all along.  In the fourth week of study, I would live through the sovereign plan of God for me, even though I didn’t like it.  Are we called to like God’s plan?  No.  Are we called to change God’s plan?  No.  Are we called to live out God’s plan?  Yes!  

Let me share with you what God has shown me in this week that I’ve been set aside.  He’s always up to something in our lives and this week was no exception. 

  1.  I’m not in control.  God has wired me to be in control of my life.  That old firstborn tendency comes flying through in so many areas.  It’s easy to make sure I study, pray, read, clean house, wash clothes, exercise, eat right, and reach out to others.  But I can’t control my heart rhythm!  The Lord is the only one who can truly heal my heart rhythm.  I was praying for him to correct it before I had to call the ambulance, but in his sovereignty, he didn’t.  I needed to be totally dependent on him and allow him to use who he would in order for my heart to be right.  I needed prayer!  “…pray for one another, that you may be healed.” James 5:16b  My church family began to pray and it was those prayers that sustained me throughout this journey.
  2. I don’t have to understand everything.  This is quite typical for me.  I want to know the details and the reasons.  My thought is if I know, then I’ll understand and then accept whatever is happening.  Yeah, that’s not really the truth!  The confusion of the moment is just what I need to force myself to be utterly dependent on God who is never confused.  He is always well aware of every thing and every reason.  I needed to trust!  “Be not wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord, and turn away from evil.  It will be healing to your flesh and refreshment to your bones.” Proverbs 3:7-8  My wisdom is foolishness in comparison to God’s wisdom.   His wisdom sustains in the midst of confusion.

I’m still walking this journey as I deal with medications and side effects.  However, I can remember these two lessons as I move forward;  I’m not in control and I don’t have to understand everything.  God’s sovereignty in my suffering gives me such comfort because he is at work.  He never stops working for the best in my life to make me like Jesus. 

“Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty, for all that is in the heavens and in the earth is yours.  Yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.”  1 Chronicles 29:11