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

FLOWERS OF GRACE

Our Spring Tea was held on March 20th at Cornerstone Baptist Church.  If you were unable to come, the following is the message of God’s grace that was presented.

“And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”  2 Corinthians 9:8

Flowers, we all love them.  They are colorful and filled with aroma.  They are great decorations and bring a smile to our faces.  It’s always a special day when we receive flowers.  Recently, I received a beautiful bouquet without the sender’s name.  The message was “you are much loved and appreciated.”  What a wonderful uplifting gesture someone made to me!  Flowers say “I care.”

When we receive flowers, it’s a bit like the grace of God.  We didn’t do anything to earn the flowers.  They have been sent out of the love of someone’s heart.  God’s grace is like that; it’s his favor given to us, totally unearned.  Our theme verse says that God is able to make all grace abound to you.  To abound means to exist in great quantities.  We’re going to look at this word grace as an acrostic today.  This won’t even touch how wonderful and awesome grace is, but I hope it helps.

G – Great

When we think of something that is great, we may think of size or presence.  We determine what is great.  Sometimes we want to be great in another’s eyes or even in our own.  I remember when I was 12 years old, I thought it would be great to see the Beatles.  I heard they were coming to the Olympia stadium in Detroit.  I knew when the concert was, but my parents didn’t buy me a ticket, so I couldn’t go.  However, I did walk around in my yard thinking it would be great to see their plane go overhead.  It wasn’t long before there was a plane flying over and I looked up and waved to the greatness that I was sure was in it!  Yes, in that day, people thought the Beatles were great, but were they?  The truth is they were humans with many flaws.  The only great one is God.  He is great and good.  Because of this he has shown great favor to us as a sinful people.  He has made it possible for us to have a relationship with him through the sacrifice Jesus made on our behalf.  Jesus lived perfectly and died perfectly in our place taking all of the wrath of God against our sin for us.  This grace is greater than anything else we could imagine.

R – Righteous

God’s grace is righteous.  This means that it’s always right, good, and true.  When God, in his great grace, sent Jesus to this earth to live in our place, He lived a righteous life.  Jesus never sinned.  He never had an oops, sorry moment.  He did this for us because of God’s great grace, which is always righteous.   When we believe in Jesus and accept him as our Savior, his righteousness is given to us!  Now that’s something we don’t deserve.

A – Always Available

God’s grace is always available. There are many things in our lives that we want to always be available.  When we turn on the kitchen tap, we expect water to flow.  When we go to the grocery store, we expect there to be toilet paper on the shelf.  But as we have learned last year, these things are not always available.  Sometimes I think we think relationships will always be available.  We can begin to take people for granted.  It may be we put off going to see someone or contacting them by phone, text, email, or letter.  People are not always available.  I remember how I took my mom for granted.  I was able to call her when I had questions, and she had the answer.  Then the day came when I didn’t call her very much because I decided her attitude irritated me.  Life had changed for my mom and me.  She wasn’t available in the way I wanted her to be.  I responded in the wrong way at first, until I discovered she was sick.  We can’t always be available but God can and is.  He desires for us to approach him so that he can pour out his favor on us.  I needed God’s grace to accept that mom was no longer the mom I wanted.  His grace helped me to come to a place of acceptance.  He never holds back his grace.  It is always available to his children.

C – Ceaseless

God’s grace never runs out.  There’s never any reason to yell “who took the last grace?”  You know what I’m talking about…those cookies that are delicious and you know there’s one left.  Yet, when you go to get the last one, it’s gone!  Who took the last cookie?  You see everything in this lifetime ceases.  One day our very life will cease.  We will be no more and only memories will remain.  Sometimes we live as if we’ll never die.  But the truth is we will, and when we do we’ll stand before our maker, the Lord God.  We will have to give an account of our lives all the good, the bad, and the ugly.  But remember God’s ceaseless grace. If you have accepted Christ by his grace, then you have no worries. As you stand before the Lord God, it’s Christ’s righteousness that he sees.  His grace is ceaseless, eternal, it covers you at the end of life.

E – Encompassing

God’s grace totally surrounds us.  There are no gaps or holes in God’s grace.  It surrounds us completely to grant us favor in every area of life.  It reminds me of a hug, a good hug where you put your arms totally around someone.  In that moment you’re surrounding them with your love, encouraging them, holding them up, or being the shoulder they need to cry on.  God’s grace surrounds us that way.  It goes way beyond a hug but it is God’s hug offered freely to us.

God’s grace was great, righteous, always available, ceaseless, and encompassing to me when my stepfather passed away in June 2020.  This man had been in my life for 57 years so he was my dad.  One day he thought a wall was being built by his neighbor.  He was standing outside demanding me to see something that wasn’t there.  These hallucinations were very real to him.  It’s as if his mind broke at that moment and there wasn’t any reality left.  This began a whirlwind of a downward spiral for him.

God’s grace – that I lived on the same street as my dad and could go in the middle of the night if needed.

God’s grace – that his doctor called me back every time I called him, even though he was on vacation with his family.

God’s grace – my stepsister was able to come and stay for the last two weeks of dad’s life and help me.

God’s grace – whenever I called, my brother came and moved furniture so that dad would be safe, made hospital runs with me, and found the middle of the night no problem.

God’s grace – the doctor gave us the option of taking him home in the midst of COVID on hospice rather than a facility.

God’s grace – the hospice workers were beyond helpful and supportive to my sister and I who were weary.

God’s grace – strength to endure light sleep and light meals through the three weeks of care for dad.

God’s grace – friends who did my shopping, brought much needed Tim Horton coffee, and remembered my birthday in the midst of this.

God’s grace – even though I sleep very sound, I heard all movements in the night my dad made so I was able to get up and keep him safe.

God’s grace – my sister and I were able to hold my dad’s hand for his final breath.

God’s grace –  that there were so many people praying for us as we went through this hard time.  His grace was asked for on our behalf and he delivered it over and over again.

I received a fresh bouquet of flowers of his grace every moment during that time.

God’s grace brings the dead in sin to be alive in Christ at the moment of salvation.  As a Follower of Christ grace abounds in our life during our service and suffering.  God always gives us all we need for this life!  I have experienced this, and I know many of you have too.  Let’s choose to look for the flowers of grace at every turn!

 

GOD IS IN THE UNKNOWN

My ducks need to be in a row.  I have a friend who says the same thing as I do.  We don’t like it when one of our little ducks veer off to the right or left.  The ducks, of course, represent our plans.  We plan and want it to go the way we want it to go.  The problem is, we don’t always know everything, but we think we do.  There are always twists, turns, and bumps in our roads.  God promises to go with us as we navigate all the twists and turns, but we still like to know they are there.  In the Scriptures, there are many times we are reminded that God is in the unknown.

NOAH

“But Noah found favor in the eyes of the LORD.  Make yourself an ark of gopher wood.”  Genesis 6:8, 14a

The people of the world were corrupt, and it grieved the heart of God.  He decided to do away with them all, but Noah found favor before God.  Noah was given grace by God because that was God’s choice.  The command God gave to Noah was to build an ark.  Can you imagine building an ark on dry land?  Noah must have had many questions about what was going to happen.  He followed God and was obedient to him in the process of building this ark.  Do you think Noah knew what was going to happen?  It was all unknown, but we know God was in it.  God made sure of Noah and his family’s safety during the flood that destroyed all the rest of mankind.

MOSES

“Come, I will send you to Pharaoh that you may bring my people, the children of Israel, out of Egypt.” Exodus 3:10 

What an awesome task God gave to Moses!  He was to go into Egypt and tell Pharaoh to let God’s people go.  These people were slaves and of great worth to the Pharaoh because of the work they were doing for him.  Moses and his brother Aaron met with Pharaoh, not knowing what God was going to do.  Do you think they were fearful?  It was all unknown, but we know God was in it.  God’s people were released from slavery.

JOSHUA

“Moses my servant is dead.  Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.” Joshua 1:2

An unknown land and an unknown people lay ahead of Joshua on the other side of the Jordan river.  He was to lead these people over the Jordan and to the land of promise.  What were the people like in this land?  Could they defeat them?  It was all unknown, but we know God was in it.  God’s people were victorious when they followed him, and they were given the land.

IT WAS ALL UNKNOWN, BUT WE KNOW GOD WAS IN IT.

The above statement is repeated in our examples from the Scriptures.  We can say this because to those who were living it at the time, all was unknown.  But we have the benefit of knowing God was in each and every situation, working things out for his glory.  He is always at work, and he hasn’t stopped now.  He is still working.  We all have unknowns in our lives.

Perhaps there’s a new job on the horizon.  Although it looks so good, there’s so much about it that is unknown.

Maybe, a move to another state where you don’t know anyone.  You desire to move, but there’s so much about it that is unknown.

You may have just received a diagnosis that has caused you great concern.  The medical personnel are great, but there’s so much about it that is unknown.

The college has become too expensive, and you have to transfer over to one that costs less.  The education will probably be the same, but there’s so much about it that is unknown.

Each one of these scenarios call for putting ducks in a row.  We want to know!!  The situations have twists, turns, and bumps which we would like to avoid.  The unknown is scary– just as it was for Noah, Moses and Joshua.  How does God want us to handle the unknown?

“Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.”  Psalm 62:8

When all around us is unknown, we can know that God is in it.  We are told here in Psalm 62:8 to trust the Lord at all times, which would include those that are unknown to us.  What is so encouraging is the second part of this verse!  We are called to pour out our hearts to God, knowing he is our refuge.  God wants us to let him know our worries, fears, dread, and hesitation concerning the unknowns in our lives.  He is our refuge, our shelter, and protection.  We can trust God with each and every duck on the path because he knows what lies ahead, even when we don’t.

Cry out to God and let him know your concerns for all your little duckies! Then put your trust in him because he is trustworthy.  We can depend on this:  God is always in the unknown.

HOW DO I HANDLE DREAD?

The experience of dread is one we have all tasted.  If we were to compare it to an actual taste in our mouth, it would be bitter.  What makes dread so bitter is revealed to us in the definition of the word.  Dread is “to fear greatly, be reluctant to do something, or apprehension of something in the future” (Dictionary.com). The association of fear and reluctance to do something, go somewhere, or make changes in our lives is dread.  It can be associated with anxiety as we rehearse the dread over and over in our minds. The result of these thoughts will be bitterness toward the reasons we have dread.  If we are thinking about making a job change because the company is closing, we may be bitter toward the company as we dread the change. We may become bitter against a person who we see as the instrument of the change we dread.  How can I handle these thoughts of dread?  What is causing me to fear?  What are the thoughts I keep having that fuel this dread?  Does the Scripture have anything to say about dread?  Let’s look at a couple of examples.

The Egyptians

“But the more they were oppressed, the more they multiplied and the more they spread abroad.  And the Egyptians were in dread of the people of Israel.  So they ruthlessly made the people of Israel work as slaves and made their lives bitter with hard service, in mortar and brick, and in all kinds of work in the field.  In all their work they ruthlessly made them work as slaves.”  Exodus 1:12-14

Remember the sons of Jacob who sold their brother, Joseph, into slavery.  He ended up in Egypt and became the right-hand man of Pharaoh.  Eventually the brothers needed food and had to go to Egypt to get it.  After that, there is a family reunion when Jacob and all his household go to Egypt to live with Joseph.  God had orchestrated this in Joseph’s life in order to save many people.  The King of Egypt loved Joseph and welcomed his family.  After Joseph died, his family continued to grow in number, but a new king began to rule over Egypt.  This king didn’t know Joseph.  He had no idea about Joseph being instrumental in saving the people of Egypt during a famine.  All he could see was that the people of Israel continued to multiply, and he was afraid.  He dreaded the possible takeover by these people.  He chose to handle his dread himself.  Here’s what he did.

  1. He became ruthless with the people.
  2. He made them his slaves.
  3. He made them work at hard labor in all areas.

So what we see is that the king of Egypt dealt with his dread by becoming a mean taskmaster.  He thought he could control the Israelites this way.  However, this didn’t really relieve his dread because the people continued to multiply.  He had to change what he was doing and became more ruthless and even killed their young sons.  This is not the way to handle dread!

You may be saying but I would never enslave or murder anyone because of my fear and dread. Maybe not, but our goal is the same as Pharaoh’s, we want to control the situation.  In trying to control we’ll choose to manipulate, avoid, or fret about our circumstance.  All of these choices will lead us to bitterness when the circumstance doesn’t change.  Our way doesn’t work!

Jesus

“And he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and knelt down and prayed, saying, ‘Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me.  Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.’ And there appeared to him an angel from heaven, strengthening him.  And being in an agony he prayed more earnestly; and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”                   Luke 22:40-44

Jesus is our example of how to handle dread.  He was full of dread before the crucifixion.  He was going to become sin for us and bear all of God’s wrath against our sins.  The Father was going to turn away from him because of our sin.  These were very grievous conditions for Jesus.  He didn’t want to do it and was looking for another way.  We can learn from him as we look at what he did do.

  1. He prayed.  The Son of God, part of the Trinity, got down on his face and he prayed.  When was the last time you got down on your face and petitioned God?  There are a few times I have done this in my life and from that humble position, the Lord revealed things to me in a different light.  When Jesus prayed, it was not just a “God bless” prayer, he prayed from his heart of dread and anguish.  We need to pray earnestly and humbly.
  2. He prayed three times. Our dread needs to be something we pray about more than once.  We can’t lift it to God and then walk away.  As we bring it before God and share our emotions with him, he begins to work even through that.  God wants us to present all of our concerns to him.  If it’s still a concern, then present it again.  Talk it out with your Father who loves you as many times as you need.
  3. He yielded to God’s will. Jesus prayed concerning his dread but he always spoke of his awareness of God’s will.  He was aware of God’s will and he was desirous to do God’s will and not his own.  When we dread, our first instinct is to just change the situation, but that really isn’t the answer.  Jesus knew the answer, and that’s always God’s will.  God has a purpose for the something you are dreading.  He will see that purpose through, and we can follow kicking and screaming or yielding.  Jesus shows us yielding is the answer.
  4. He was obedient. After Jesus prayed this prayer, he was arrested.  He knew he was headed for death on the cross to redeem those who would follow him.  He walked the road to Calvary.  We must be obedient to follow Christ in the midst of our dread.  What do we need to change in order to be obedient?  Maybe just our outlook which should be trust in the Lord, rather than dread and fear.  Jesus was obedient to death, even death on a cross.

Egyptians or Jesus??  What example will we follow today?  The road Jesus took was hard and ours may be too. We know we don’t walk the road alone.  Jesus has gone before us, walks alongside of us, and protects our backs.

 

 

 

SPEECH: FOOLISH OR WISE?

The Proverbs have much to say about our speech.  We all know that the words that come out of our mouths can get us into trouble and hurt others.  We all have a problem with taming our tongue.  The book of James spends a great deal of time on this topic.  It is the hardest area in our lives to control.  Let’s take some time and see what the Proverbs have to say about speech.

The Speech of a Fool

“A fool’s lips walk into a fight, and his mouth invites a beating.  A fool’s mouth is his ruin and his lips are a snare to his soul.”  Proverbs 18:6-7

  1. A fool stirs up trouble.  We can use our words to be aggressive by speaking out against others.  We may be very defensive when someone tries to help by correcting some of the things we’ve said.  We may speak in an argumentative way in order to get our thoughts heard.  All of these interactions can stir up trouble between people.
  2. A fool speaks thoughtlessly. This is something we can all struggle with as we speak before thinking.  Sometimes it’s because we want our opinion to be made know; so we’ll interrupt and blurt it out.  Other times, we have no consideration for the one who is suffering and may give a pat answer to a complex situation.
  3. A fool is divisive. This happens when we interrupt with rash, irritating comments.  Our opinion is the only one that matters, and we don’t really care about others.  This is an invitation to others to respond in anger to us.
  4. A fool is trapped by his own words. When we lie to others, we can become entangled by our lies.  There comes a point when we can’t keep the lies straight anymore.  Who did I tell that to?  We may lie so much that others soon don’t believe anything we say.

The life of a fool is not one we should be living as followers of Christ.  Our speech needs to reflect our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ.  Let’s focus on what the Proverbs have to say about the speech of the wise.

The Speech of the Wise

“The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.  Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.”  Proverbs 16:23-24

  1. Wise speech begins with a wise heart.  Our desire is to have a wise heart that motivates our speech.  The wisdom we have comes from God as we ask him for it.  We also gain wisdom as we read the Word daily, adding to our knowledge.  The wise heart is so important for us because it causes us to be careful with our words.  The words we say will be more focused on a desire to help others than on ourselves.  A wise heart will keep us from blurting out whatever comes into our minds.
  2. Wise speech persuades others toward truth. As followers of Christ, we are called to give warnings to those who are wandering from the truth.  We are called to speak the truth in love to our brothers and sisters.  We will use pleasant words of encouragement, comfort, and challenge in order to help others.
  3. Wise speech is always about others. We are to speak with the other’s best interest in mind.  This is vital for the growth and benefit of our brothers and sisters.

“Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding.  Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.”  Proverbs 1:27-28

  1. Wise speech will be restrained. As followers of Christ, we are to think before we speak.  We are to engage our brain and consider what we will say.  This will keep us from blurting out hurtful words.  This is the wisdom of self-control.  When we act in a controlled manner with our speech, we will know when and what to speak.  We will also be even-tempered or have a cool spirit as our proverb says.
  2. Wise speech will, sometimes, be no speech. We all need to learn when to be quiet.  It’s interesting that even a fool is thought wise when he is quiet.  It’s important to be quiet, especially in order to listen well to someone.

The life of wisdom is one we should be living as followers of Christ.  Our speech needs to be wise and will be so as we strive to grow in the wisdom and knowledge of the Scriptures.

Let’s take some time and evaluate our speech with the following questions.

Am I a good listener?  Do I really care about what someone is saying to me?  Am I more concerned with my reply to someone?  Do I speak with the other’s best interest in mind?  Do I seek to honor God with my speech?  Do I talk about God?  Do I encourage the truth in others and in myself? What do I need to change in my thoughts and my speech in order to look more like Jesus?

Wow!  What a task God has given us to speak into each other’s lives!  Who are you speaking to?  Who are you listening to?

 

WAITING ON THE LORD

What is it about waiting that drives us all crazy? Waiting means we can’t get what we want when we want it.  Waiting means we have to put patience into gear.  None of us like to do that!  We have so many things we use so that we don’t have to wait.  The microwave oven or the Instant Pot will have our dinner done in minutes.  The internet gives us information after the push of a button.  We don’t even have to watch the opening credits of a movie because we have fast forward.  We hate to wait, but God calls us to wait over and over in the Scriptures.  Does this mean he’s not in the 21st century?  Is he not aware that we don’t like to wait?  What really does he want from us in asking us to wait?  Let’s take a few moments and look at some of the Scriptures which contain the “wait” aspect.

  “Wait for the LORD; be strong, and let your heart take courage; wait for the LORD!” Psalm 27:14

As we present our requests to God in prayer, we should be anticipating his involvement in the request, always looking for his answers.  However, we get impatient and may even begin to try to solve issues ourselves, rather than waiting on the Lord.  This verse tells us there is a result from waiting – strength and courage.  As we wait on the Lord, our dependency and trust in him will grow, which results in strength and courage to endure.  The waiting on the Lord is not a time of passivity, but one of involvement in trusting the character of God.

“Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him.” Psalm 37:7a

Waiting is hard enough, but now the Scripture adds to “be still.” Why is being still so hard?  We only do it when it’s convenient for us, like when we are in front of the TV, or reading a book, or sleeping. The struggle to be still is real and affects us all, not just children.  We have to utilize our self-control in order to be still.  It can be so hard to be still as we listen to a sermon, and yet we can spend the rest of the afternoon on the couch playing video games.  We are very picky about when we are still, aren’t we?  Rather than thinking about our bodies moving, we need to think about our minds.  Our minds need to be still and rest in God’s work in the situation we’ve brought before him.  The racing mind of “what ifs” needs to be still and wait patiently for the Lord to work.

“For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him.” Psalm 62:5

Now we’re told to wait in silence, really?  I can’t even complain about having to wait.  It’s easy to complain about being in line at Burger King longer than five minutes because fast food should be fast!  We are not to complain about waiting on the Lord.  The Lord’s time table is different than ours.  He knows best and acts for our best interest.  We can trust him and need to remind ourselves that he is our hope.  Our hope doesn’t disappoint us (Romans 5:5).  The hope we have in the Lord is confidence that he is always working on our behalf.  We can really quiet ourselves and wait on the Lord because this is our hope.

It’s so true about waiting none of us like it, yet all of us are called to do it.  There must be something good about waiting.  In these three verses, we found out that waiting can lead to strength, courage, calmness, trusting, and hope.   So how do we combat the urge to give into impatience?  Once again, we use the Scriptures to give us the answer.

“Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations.  I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10

We need to surrender our will to God’s will.  We need to surrender what we consider our rights and follow God.  He is God!  We are not!  The idea that most of us live with is that we deserve this or that, but the truth is, we don’t deserve anything but hell.  God, in his mercy and grace, has seen fit to rescue people to call his own.  As a follower of Christ, you are one of those people.  Our recognition of God and his position is key to our being able to wait.  We are called to be still and KNOW that he is God.  This is an intimate knowledge of who God is and what that means to each of us.  The stillness and the waiting will happen when we focus on knowing God for who he is.  We are not to make him in our image, but we are made in his.  He is the creator, sustainer, and deliverer.  The more we know him, the easier it is to wait on him.

As you wait for your Instant Pot to cook your chicken breast, thank God for always hearing your prayers and acting in his time.  The chicken will taste better, guaranteed!

 

 

EVERYDAY LIFE AND GOD’S PRESENCE

It’s just another day with all the ups and downs of life.  As you move through the day, there are so many times you wonder if God is really with you.  Sure, you’ve said you believe he’s always there, but do you?  When the utility sink is overflowing with water onto the basement floor because you forgot to change the lint filter, is God there?  As you are driving down the street trying to focus with screaming kids in the back, is God there?  Maybe it’s the grocery trip when everyone forgot their masks and you have to stop at CVS to purchase new ones for the third time this week.  Is God there?  Everyday life is not always “normal” or “easy”.  Things happen which grab our attention and cause us to wonder, is God really here?  What can we do in order to remember God is here?  What can we do to find peace in the midst of chaos?

  1. God’s presence is relational. 

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”  1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

As followers of Christ, we can’t be separated from relationship with God.  When God saved us and made us his – No One – not even we ourselves, can separate us from him.  In John 10:29, Jesus says, “My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.”  God himself, keeps us in relationship with him.  Therefore, we can communicate with him at all times no matter where we are or what we’re facing.  Our communication with him should be constant because he is always with us and is always listening to us.  We need to remember to cry out to God in those everyday moments that are difficult. There are things, even in the difficult everyday moments, for which we can be grateful.

  1. Grace is always present because God is present.

“The Lord is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth.” Psalm 145:18   

 “My grace is sufficient for you…” 2 Corinthians 12:9a

The Lord is always near because he is all around us.  When we call on him, we are assured he is right there with us.  He hears us and gives us grace.  He always provides the grace we need when we need it.  Grace is always available.  God is everywhere and so is his grace.  We need to ask for grace for the difficult everyday moments we face.  This grace is his favor which actually helps us to endure the difficulty.  Look for his grace.  Be aware of his presence by seeking to see his provision for you in the midst of disaster.

  1. God’s power is always present.

“And it is God who establishes us with you in Christ, and has anointed us, and who has also put his seal on us and given us his Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee.”  2 Corinthians 1:21-22   

“for God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

God’s presence is with us because we have his Spirit within our hearts.  He doesn’t leave us and we are his temple or his dwelling place.  He is the Spirit of power.  This power within us can be the source we draw on when everyday life becomes too much to handle.  He’s plugged in and we have to turn ourselves onto his power and help.

These are the thing to remind ourselves of so that we remember God’s presence with us.  We need to be thinking about God, and realize that how we handle the everyday things of life is a reflection of who he is.  Are we a good reflection or not?  It’s easy to let the water on the floor or the screaming in the car or the trip to CVS be all consuming.  It’s the tyranny of the urgent that we allow to get in the way of the truth of God’s presence in the midst of the storm.  Maybe, it’s that we think God doesn’t care about these things we face every day.  We can be assured he does care.  Jesus came to live the life we couldn’t live for ourselves.  He faced hardships, relational challenges, discouragements, rejection, and so much more.  He went through these things perfectly because he knew we couldn’t.

“For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”  Hebrews 4:15

The above verse tells us, in no uncertain terms, that God cares about every part of our lives.  We see that there is sympathy for us in our situations.  He always cares and is always present to help us in our time of need.  So, what can we do?  We can remember the truth about our Lord and Savior.  When he says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” in Hebrews 13:5, we should believe him!

 

 

BOOK REVIEW – A LOVING LIFE – BY PAUL E. MILLER

This is another book review of a book that I read twice.  I enjoyed it both times and continue to be challenged by the contents.  The complete title is A Loving Life, In a World of Broken Relationships.  You can see where the challenge has come from in that our world is full of broken relationships. What part of that brokenness is our part?  The author, Paul Miller, takes time to explore love in the book of Ruth.  The truth he reveals about love is challenging.  It has caused me to ask myself, “Am I really loving well?”

The first chapter begins the same way the book of Ruth does by introducing the subject of suffering.  On page 19 Paul Miller states, “…suffering doesn’t create love, but it is a hot-house where love can emerge.”  As the interactions between Naomi, Ruth and Orpah take place, we are very aware of the suffering these three widows are experiencing.  We see how Naomi has love for them and wants them to return to their people so that they can marry and have children.  But Ruth won’t go and displays love for Naomi which includes a commitment to God.  What kind of love is this?

This is hesed love.  God loves us with a hesed love.  This is described for us on page 24 as a “commitment with sacrifice”, “one-way love”, “without an exit strategy”, and “stubborn love”.  Ruth loves Naomi in this way.  The Lord loves us this way.  I’m to love others this way.  Are you getting the challenge?  Even as I write this, once again, I feel the weight of not doing this well.  We could stop right here and seek to display this in our love but there’s so much more to challenge us.

As the development of the book of Ruth continues, Paul Miller shows how love is part of lament, not based on feelings. The death of ourselves is part of living this love out.  We can see how Ruth continues to display this type of love for Naomi throughout the book.  She continues to put Naomi and her needs before her own.

            “Hesed love is a determination to do someone good, no matter what, to be faithful to a covenant regardless of its impact on you.  It wills to love when every fiber in your body screams run.” Page 34

We see this displayed by Naomi, Ruth, and Boaz in the book of Ruth.  They are a reflection of God’s love to one another.  How can we display and maintain this type of love to others?

  1. Get to know God.

We deepen our love of God not by direct pursuit of God, but through the good work of love, where we enter the gospel and the pattern of Christ’s life becomes our pattern…As we enter a life of love, we get to know God.” Page 138

God wants to be known by his children.  I am so encouraged by this quote, which really is saying to us, it’s not enough to read the Bible and pray every day.  We have to put sacrificial love into practice.  It’s not good enough to just know about it.  As we put this love into practice, we get to know God more.  This is a hard calling but one in which we will grow to be more like Christ who has loved us sacrificially.

  1. Hope in God’s Sovereignty

“If God is guiding the pilgrimage, that gives us the hope to endure in love.” Page 128

God is sovereign.  He is in control of all things.  He knows how hard it is to live the life of love in relationships with people who are just like us.  We are all sinful and selfish but we are called to love.  Our hope is that God is aware of the challenges and uses them to grow us.  When the relationship seems hopeless, we can have hope in God to use our sacrificial love for his glory.

  1. Trust in our Redeemer, Christ

“Redeemers own the problem; the weight of the other person’s life falls on them.” Page 115

Jesus paid the price for our sins on the cross.  His blood was the payment required and God accepted it.  As a follower of Christ, he is my redeemer and I belong to him.  Everything I face in this life, he carries for me.  I’m free to love others well because Christ has loved me well.  Christ’s love for me didn’t stop at the cross but continues today as he walks with me down difficult roads.  His loving care for me gives me the ability to love well.

There’s so much in this book to commend.  It’s a great study of the book of Ruth.  The challenge to love well is the weight of it.  At the end of the book, the challenge to love well is still front and center.  It has caused me to think about my love for others again as I read it.  I highly recommend this books to you and pray God will give us the grace to love well.

            “You simply can’t beat love.  You can’t out-humble it.  You can’t suppress it, because you are always free to love no matter how someone treats you.  If others are putting nails through your hands, you can forgive them.  If someone is shouting curses at you, you can silently receive them.  Love is irrepressible.  Faith and hope will one day pass away, but not love.  Love is forever.” Page 156