Day 17: The Christian Culture

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

Our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone.

Scriptures of the Day:

Philippians 2:19-21

“19 I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you. 20 For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. 21 For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.”

Hebrews 12:14-15

“Pursue peace with everyone, and holiness, for without it no one will see the Lord. 15 See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God, that no one be like a bitter root springing up and causing trouble, and through him many become defiled.”

Sometimes our hope can be stolen from an unlikely place. Paul is not mincing words in this passage. To say that all the believers except Timothy sought after their own interests is astounding. Of course this is one verse of many and Paul often spoke with great encouragement about the believers he was working with. Perhaps in this season in particular, he did not “feel the love” from the believers surrounding him.

I confess I have wanted to avoid this topic, but it has played such a big role in my healing as well as in my suffering. It is the elephant in the room that we want to avoid, but needs to be discussed in the hope of healing hearts who have been wounded by spiritual abuse or the Christian culture gone awry.

The first time I stepped into a church that was alive with joy and hope and fervent praise it felt like coming home. This is what it was all about – coming together and rejoicing in this new hope we had found. Church has been rather boring growing up – I did not know the LORD and we rarely went to church.

But then God saved me and I went to an amazing church (http://www.gracecov.org/), unlike any I had ever been to. There were exciting times serving in campus ministry, helping to start a church plant and serving on the worship team. Sweet, vibrant times of discipleship, fellowship and growing in the LORD.

When I was persecuted for my new faith, church was a refuge, the believers all surrounded me and it was family. Sometimes you wish you could bottle up the joy you have from one church experience and open it up from time to time when needed.

The church can serve as a great catalyst and cultivator of hope, but it can also serve as a place of great pain.

The pain is worsened by the fact that church is a place where we come for hope – a place where we know we are all accepted by Christ – but not necessarily by other Christians. When a Christian sins, it just hurts worse. It is not expected, but maybe it should be.

When we understand that the church is a place filled with sinful people, we clear up our disillusionment with the church. There is no perfect church and people sometimes can be prideful, selfish, legalistic, used as tools by the enemy.

Sometimes when life crushes our hope, we run to people or to the church as our refuge. This can be a source of inspiration, but it can also be a place of great stress and sorrow.

When my children and I were suffering greatly, we felt isolated and judged at church. The church simply did not know how to handle our situation. At the time it was very painful, but now I understand that they were just ill-equipped. Sometimes people meant well and sometimes they tried to manipulate us. It really messes with your mind when the body of Christ is not very godly. But God.

Jesus brings healing and opens our eyes to realize that our hope cannot be in people, or in a church. It has to be in Him alone. As we walk through life and encounter seasons that threaten to destroy us, we need to be in God’s word foremost and to find like-minded believers who will stand with us. The others who seek to kick us when we are down, or judge us self-righteously – we can forgive them and realize they are misinformed and focused on earthly matters. Sometimes we, too, are small-minded and need grace.

The Holy Spirit can help us to get over our shock from snubbing, gossiping, jealousy, anger and rejection that come from believers. All of us are desperate for the grace of God and need to keep the main thing the main thing – being a beacon of hope to the world that desperately needs Jesus.

The church is not perfect, but the bride of Christ is indeed beautiful. Christ redeemed her and He will complete the work He has begun in her. Letting go of the judgements of man and embracing the acceptance we have in Christ offers a hope that never ends.

Stay where you are planted and help encourage the culture within your church to be one that pleases God. This song by Twila Paris is such a reminder of Who the church is. How Beautiful. Love one another – Christ bled and died for us all.

Lord, help us to keep our hope in You alone. Everything else disappoints, but You never do! Help your church to rise up and be loving and accepting, able to provide the hope You have given so abundantly.

Mundane Monday: Myth Busters

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

In our quest for knowledge, which began back in the Garden of Eden, we must guard our hearts to only seek after the knowledge God wants us to have.

Scripture of the Day:

1 Timothy 1:3-4

3 “As I urged you when I was leaving for Macedonia, stay on in Ephesus to instruct certain people not to spread false teachings, 4 nor to occupy themselves with myths and interminable genealogies. Such things promote useless speculations rather than God’s redemptive plan that operates by faith.”

Romans 16:17 

“Now I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and obstacles that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Turn away from them.”


Conspiracy theories and so-called, “secret knowledge” tantalize the souls of those not grounded in truth.

In our quest for knowledge, which began back in the Garden of Eden, we must guard our hearts to only seek after the knowledge God wants us to have.

He never wanted us to have knowledge of evil and certainly not to believe in falsehood and be deceived. But many will come and try to deceive the elect – if that were possible. I love those words. Certainty of our calling in God. We don’t have to be deceived or fall away. In fact, nothing can take the gift of salvation away from us.

We have got to be in our word diligently, though, filtering through all the knowledge we are given to see whether it is from the LORD or not. This filtering applies not just to doctrinal truths within the Christian church, but also to worldly predictions from Nostradamus, astrologists and other false religions. Even further, information we receive and believe about those around us.

We need not be a gullible people – even as it pertains to the influence of the devil trying to sway us away from truth as regards the people in our lives. Knowledge puffs up, but we can discern its fruit. Does the knowledge we receive agree with the word of God? Or in our relationships – does it tear others down?

We should not even entertain any ideology or premise about a belief without confirming it in God’s word. In addition to watching our doctrine and life closely, this same standard should be applied with the precious people we serve God with in the body of Christ. To consider wrongful character of another person based merely on fleshly suspicion, gossip or jealousy is being a tool of the devil to dismantle His bride. Such knowledge does not come from God. It couldn’t.

We who are in Christ have the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth. What a gift. We don’t have to be prey to the enemy’s attacks. We don’t have to believe every myth or every vain imagination. We can be myth busters and preserve truth in our churches, homes, politics, relationships and every area of influence we have. The voice of the enemy can be persuasive and loud, but if we will but put the helmet of salvation on and His Word as our belt of truth, we will see correctly.

God is able to guide us into all truth if we ask Him, and He delights to give wisdom to ALL who come to Him.

God help us to see clearly and to defeat the myths and lies of the enemy with Your truth.

Thoughtful Thursday: The Pity-less Party

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Inspirational Thought of the Day:

We are more blessed than we deserve.

Scriptures:

Job 9:1-4 (ESV)

“Truly I know that it is so: But how can a man be in the right before God?  If one wished to contend with him, one could not answer him once in a thousand times.  He is wise in heart and mighty in strength —who has hardened himself against him, and succeeded?”

Proverbs 19:3 (NIV)

“A person’s own folly leads to their ruin, yet their heart rages against the LORD.”

Life is an amazing gift from God. Yet many people never really live the abundant life that Christ meant for us to have.  What keeps us from a full life?  Ourselves.

Life can be exhilarating and a bummer sometimes, if we are honest.  The roller coaster ride of flat tires at inconvenient times, an award for a job well done, terminal illnesses, healing, reckless accidents, miraculous protection, unemployment, a new job, unfaithfulness, loyalty, rebelliousness, obedience . . . and the list goes on and on . . . can be no fun at all for us less adventurous types.

To think that life would be great if we never experienced pain is flawed, however; for the pain is a vivid reminder of how blessed we were to have had moments without suffering in the first place.  When we made a mess of things all by ourselves, the consequences for our sin point us to our need for our Savior, which leads ultimately to that perfect, abundant, eternal life.

So how do we wreck abundant life in Christ if we did not cause our own demise?  Our response.  How we accept, deny, respond in anger or blame others or God – sets the course for whether or not we will walk in the joy that Christ has for those Who are His.

I get it, believe me, I do.  When other people’s sins cause immense pain and horrible consequences.  I have been there, done that, and still feel the effects.  There have been moments of horror, anguish, PTSD, shock, disbelief in my life – but at the end of the day the LORD would bring me to a singular truth that I could not argue with – I am doing better than I deserve.

Every time I try to argue with myself about that truth, when I somehow feel I have been unjustly treated (and it might be the case), I finally relent and realize it is folly to even attempt to play the self pity card when the truly Perfect One didn’t.  He did not deserve to suffer for my sin or anyone else’s, but He WANTED to.  This was not because he enjoyed suffering – no, He cried tears of blood in anxiety over His choice, but He chose it nonetheless, because comfort was not His God and the salvation of our souls was His mission which He did not falter from.

Don’t get me wrong.  There are tremendous burdens that seem completely unbearable, that make us lean into God hard.  When we see others hurting, we have an opportunity to be the hands and feet of God – not just to dismiss their suffering.  But in that comfort, it is in vain if we do not point them to the Healer Who is able to help us handle every let down.  But perhaps our expectations, when placed in reality, help us to take notice and be grateful when things go well.  Why is it that I did not get sick?  Why is it that I can see this amazing gift from God at all?  What an amazing grace is ours.  Such understanding this is that we can turn away from our behaviors that hurt the heart of God and thank Him instead.

Lord, forgive us when we get mad or disappointed when things don’t go our way.  Your ways really are the best.  Give us eyes to see and ears to hear.

Truthful Tuesday: Whose Lead Do You Follow?

Whose lead do you follow

Romans 8:5

“For  those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.”

We’d all like to think that we are led by the Spirit and are making decisions that are wise, but often we do not see the spiritual realm all around us, affecting our thoughts and actions.  The impact of flesh versus spirit affects our lives and those around us.

The choices we make moment by moment are filtered by our mindset which is impacted by many factors in our environment.  Evident in our choices about what we eat (ugh . . . chocoholic confessions here for me), to the clothing we wear, the words we say and the attitudes we have toward other people, we have impressions or feelings that bombard us constantly.  If we are not careful and discerning, we can allow our perception or someone else’s opinion to affect our own behavior.

One main way this flesh is played out is how we treat one another.  Rejection of others who aren’t like us is common in the world, but unfortunately, it also happens at church. People shun others or just plain old don’t like other people who are made in the image of God.  Where does this come from?  If it is not from God, then the answer is obvious, but all too often we do not stop to consider why we don’t like someone.  We might all have different personalities, but we ought to love one another so the world can see that body of Christ is indeed different.

The truth is we are more apt to be carnal than spiritual beings and when we are spiritual, we often get in the flesh and think it is us who are righteous, when Christ alone is our righteousness.

While this is a humbling truth, maybe it can provoke us to be aware of our thoughts and behaviors.  Do they honor God?  Are they of the Spirit or of the flesh?  If we could grab a hold of this reality, Christians would turn this world upside down with godly lives and choices that no longer appear hypocritical, unconditional acceptance and love instead of judgment and forming cliques.

Pleasing self or others and seeking acceptance from God’s creation does not compare with living for the audience of One.  Like Paul, we will have to battle the flesh, but staying in the battle is far better than not recognizing the battle of the flesh versus spirit in the first place.

Lord, may You increase and may we decrease.  Help us to recognize the things that are from You and the things that are not and to walk in the Spirit.

 

Twelve Days of Christmas Day One: Life

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Job 33:4

“The Spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.”

Psalm 139:14

“I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well.”

One of my favorite Christmas songs is “The Twelve Days of Christmas”. At first blush, this song seems rather carnal and materialistic, but the original intention was a vivid example of our lives hidden in Christ.

Although we can complain that Christmas items are out at stores right after Thanksgiving, the early church began the Christmas celebration a  month out and then the timing for the commemoration of the Twelve days of Christmas was celebrated from December 25th through January 6th, leading up to the Epiphany.

These Twelve Days of Christmas are purported by some to be an esoteric code for Christians to remember their beliefs, to others a traditional song reminding us of the Wise men who came and brought gifts all those years ago, and to still others, a secular song with no inherent meaning at all.

But for the early church to set aside a month to celebrate the birth of God is a reminder to us that we can also benefit from this tradition.  Not a month just to be busy, but time to reflect on the significance of what Christ did for us.

Arriving at a perfectly historically accurate understanding of the purpose of the “Twelve Days of Christmas” might be impossible, but perhaps a new tradition is in order.  As a catalyst for sincere praise in this season of giving, over the next twelve days this blog will reflect on twelve amazing gifts that God has given us as we lead up to Christmas.  Day one . . .

On the 1st day of Christmas, our Creator gave to us “Life“.  The complexity of the creation of mankind blows my mind.  From the tiniest cell packed with DNA, to the hairs on our head, eye color, stature, personality – to every detail God lovingly placed in each of His children – our God is awesome, a genius; thoughtful and loving.

This gift of life is often painful, challenging, joyful; a wild mix of emotions.  But to feel is to live.  Each day a gift, whether it was a day filled with trouble that sent us running to our Father, or a day filled with bliss that caused us to be filled with gratitude, every day has a purpose in the scope of eternity.  The “good”, the “bad”, however each moment is assessed by man – ALL of it is used by God miraculously woven into our lives for His glory and our good.

As we come to kneel before our King this Christmas and consider afresh this gift of life, what is the greatest gift we bring now to our Creator, but to offer our lives back to Him in worship?

Lord, thank You for life.  Sometimes it hurts so terribly bad and we wonder how You could ever take such a mess and make it beautiful, but somehow You do.  Lord, thank You for every day of this life and help us to offer each day back to You in sincere gratitude and worship.

Worshipful Wednesday: Praising Our Vindicating God

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Psalm 135:1-5, 13-14

1 “Praise the LORD! Praise the name of the LORD! Offer praise, you servants of the LORD, 2 who serve in the LORD’s temple, in the courts of the temple of our God. 3 Praise the LORD, for the LORD is good! Sing praises to his name, for it is pleasant! 4 Indeed, the LORD has chosen Jacob for himself, Israel to be his special possession. 5 Yes, I know the LORD is great, and our Lord is superior to all gods. 13 O LORD, your name endures, your reputation, O LORD, lasts. 14 For the LORD vindicates his people, and has compassion on his servants.”

In this passage, David is speaking to God’s people here – His servants who serve in His temple.  If ever anyone needed encouragement, it is those who serve in God’s temple.

My heart breaks when I see injured people traumatized by a misunderstanding, conflict or by someone else’s actions.  All the more when this happens within the walls of the church.  Sometimes we, the church, get so wrapped up in doing what’s right that we are in the wrong.

I’ve been there.  In the most devastating time of my life, when I sought refuge in my church – I found I was silenced, instead.  The enemy is a master at concealing things that need to be brought to light so people can heal and move on.

In the name of being above approach and not gossiping, the silence is deafening and sins can be glossed over.  But the lack of addressing the elephant in the room will only cause it to become larger, still, morphed into something even more devastating.

The sheep are harassed and helpless, and oftentimes those who minister to the sheep bear burdens that are heavy.  But the beautiful secret weapon shared in this Psalm is for everyone.

The Psalmist reminds us to focus on what matters – praising God.  Unless God’s people refuse to tolerate religiosity and utilize our most powerful tool in the face of strife and troubles: praising God in the midst, we will be nothing more than a club; a group of people gathering together.

Those who know God and are informed about His awesome deeds are reminded in this passage to sing praises to God.  Catalysts for our praise are reflecting on His character, His miraculous deeds and His faithfulness. Praising Him is our greatest calling and strength.  We must refute anything that would distract us from this great purpose in our lives – glorifying God in the church and in our personal lives.

You see, there is something intrinsically powerful about worshiping God. We cannot truly praise the LORD without Him revealing motives that need to be exposed.  We cannot come sing to the One without conviction rising if we are attempting to hide something from the One Who sees all.  It is in praising Him that we are delivered and walk in forgiveness and freedom. It is in praising Him that we are vindicated form the enemy’s accusations, set free to no longer focus on the temporary things of this world.

No matter what goes on around us or where we serve God – in the temple or in a secular post, we will all face burdens that only God can lift.  Perhaps the sweetest truth in the lives of His children is that He notices us – and not just sees our inner turmoil, but He has compassion on His servants and vindicates them, all for His glory.

Curiously, the act of worship and praise is not solely for God, for it is while we all praise God together that He works in our hearts, exposing darkness and drawing us nearer to Himself.

Lord, thank You for the gift of praising You.  We need to worship You. Purify our hearts and Your bride, Lord.  All for your glory.

A Season of Thankfulness: Day 5 – Nothing is Wasted

Ecclesiastes 1:8-10

8 All this monotony is tiresome; no one can bear to describe it: The eye is never satisfied with seeing, nor is the ear ever content with hearing. 9 What exists now is what will be, and what has been done is what will be done; there is nothing truly new on earth. 10 Is there anything about which someone can say, “Look at this! It is new!”? It was already done long ago, before our time.

If this world is all we have to live for, perhaps Solomon’s insight would ring true, but not so for the believer.

To a parent changing diapers and attending to screaming kids with snotty noses, seemingly mundane chores become a holy work, changing our character and molding us into His image.  Selfishness is washed away as we are absorbed in the well being of others.

To a farmer striving to yield a bountiful harvest yet confronted with the brutal realities of drought or a flood, reliance on self dissipates and a dependence on the God over all becomes paramount.

To the family head, struggling to make ends meet, waiting for the next paycheck or provision to come and overcome by bill collectors, faith begins to blossom in the midst of hardship.  Insight is formed, revealing that provision was not to be chased after in the first place.  God is our Provider.

To church leaders dealing with complaining sheep, their work becomes a holy endeavor as God changes their heart and perspective toward the people God calls them to minister to.  They discover that this calling is for God’s glory and not their own, not about them at all.  Offenses are dismissed and concern is raised for the offended one, instead.

To the sick who wonder if God cares at all, He shows the need for spiritual healing and uses the affliction to draw us nearer. He becomes our comfort in the midst of pain and humbles us to depend on Him.

To the wounded, broken heart, shattered by another’s sin – God sees you.  Even this is not wasted in His hands.  Instead of death, if we hope and wait on Him, He will turn our greatest sorrow into a thing of beauty.  Suddenly our eyes are opened to realize that a human being was never supposed to be our joy or our life.  Hoping in fallible humans is idolatry and temporary, but hoping in our living, loving God is eternal.

Everything is vanity apart from God, but everything done in Him has a purpose.  All of the wearisome repetitiveness and burdens of this life are working something great for those who will see more deeply. Thank God that we serve a God where nothing is meaningless and nothing is wasted.  He uses it all.

Solomon was the wisest man and yet he chose women who ultimately turned his heart from God and cursed the next generation.  Big consequences for someone who had allowed his blessings to become his snare.  Boredom replaced gratitude and awe over all that God had provided.

Mundanity has its purpose, after all.  Satisfaction was never meant to be fulfilled completely apart from Christ.  In the endless pursuit of meaning and happiness in a world that could never deliver that quest, we finally end up at His feet, where we were always meant to be.

Lord, all of the tasks, burdens, joys and sorrows are ultimately serving Your purpose in our lives and in this world.  Give us Your eyes and understanding and the wisdom to walk and chase after You, not the things of this world that always disappoint us.  Thank You for being our sovereign God who wastes nothing.

Truthful Tuesday: Exposed in His Presence

Photo Credits: julieamarxhausen.wordpress.com

Photo Credits: julieamarxhausen.wordpress.com

Leviticus 10: 1-3

Then Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu, each took his fire pan and put fire in it, set incense in it, and presented strange fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them to do. 2 So fire went out from the presence of the LORD and consumed them so that they died before the LORD. 3 Moses then said to Aaron, “This is what the LORD spoke: ‘Among the ones close to me I will show myself holy, and in the presence of all the people I will be honored.”  So Aaron kept silent. 

Leviticus 11:44a-45

“For I am the LORD your God and you are to sanctify yourselves and be holy because I am holy… 45 For I am the LORD who brought you up from the land of Egypt to be your God, and you are to be holy because I am holy.”

Nothing is hidden from the LORD.  It is folly to try to conceal anything in the first place, but we easily go astray and are deceived into thinking we can rationalize our unfaithfulness and make it acceptable in the sight of the One Holy One.

He is the same God today – still Holy in a new covenant.  He still wants our first fruits, our best – and is worthy of such an offering.  Somehow we buy into the philosophy that this amazing God of grace will wink His eye at our futile attempts because we “tried”.  It is this lukewarm washed down mentality that condones sin as being what is common and yet there is a cry in our souls that we are to seek to be Holy as He is Holy.  He who gave His very best, His only Son, expects such a sacrifice from those Who would receive such a mighty gift.

Aaron’s sons, Nadab and Abihu were serving the LORD.  Not sure what the strange fire was, but it was straying from what God commanded.  What a privilege it is to serve in God’s house.  Not because of position, but because of His incredible redemption – taking rebels steeped in self and sin and changing them to humble servants, seeking to do His will.  So what happened?  How did Nadab and Abihu stray?  Were they placed there in a position that they were not qualified for because of relationship?  Did they have accountability?  There is not much that I detest more than seeing one of God’s children failing spiritually.  The ensuing disillusionment for many affected is devastating – all over choices made to gratify self instead of pleasing a Holy God.

The example of Aaron’s sons terrifies me because I want to be found faithful but see the same capability in myself. Corruption is the natural course for us all, apart from accountability, the grace of God and the fear of God firm in our hearts. Could this sin have been avoided?  We can try to blame Dad, but his sons were all grown up by this point.  Maybe something was lacking in their training and they could have filled a two-part series on Oprah about the struggles of being PK’s.  I don’t know, but I do know that we have no one to blame for our own faithlessness other than ourselves.

In the struggle of humanity, His grace is still available to all who would reach for it.  The problem is we often do not see our need of it.  The lavish grace and blood spilled out on our behalf was not so we could just be saved and live apart from Him, but His pure, Holy sacrifice serves as a vivid reminder of the depravity of our soul when left to our own devices.  It cost HIm His life.  Back to Aaron’s sons.  They were there, offering sacrifices – right in front of them the reality of sin’s consequences – blood spilled out to cover sins – and it became merely ritual to them, something they could do their way.

This same attitude is in the church today.  Elements of the church service are fought over as different perspectives over how each aspect of our worship service should be done.  Wow, has the body of Christ missed it big time.  It is all about Him. How can we reveal His love and glory to those coming, hungering for more of Him?

In our desire to serve God and share His salvation with a lost world, we can easily get lost and forget in the midst of our programs and plans that we still serve a Holy God.  Familiarity with the church service can become religious dogma, but God is watching to see who acknowledges Him and His holiness in the midst of our routine.  Maybe routine is a distraction that can cover our nakedness before the LORD.  It is easier to go through the motions than to lay our hearts transparent before Him to do surgery.  Don’t get me wrong – order in our services is a framework that can really glorify God, but God help us to never allow that framework to become mere duty.  Nothing is routine with Him and He wants to fill our churches with His presence.

This weary world is spiraling out of control.  Judgment is coming and it starts with us – with God’s church.  The time to quarrel about techniques and perspectives is over.  The days are evil.  We must be all about cooperation and God’s glory. If we rend our hearts and set aside trying to sanitize our waywardness and instead expose our desperate need for a Holy God, in that beautiful place is liberty and true worship of our King.  He reveals our sin that we might confess our sins and find incredible mercy in His presence.

Mundane Monday: The Measure of Our Strength

1 Thessalonians 3:2-5

2 “We sent Timothy, our brother and fellow worker for God in the gospel of Christ, to strengthen you and encourage you about your faith, 3 so that no one would be shaken by these afflictions. For you yourselves know that we are destined for this. 4 For in fact when we were with you, we were telling you in advance that we would suffer affliction, and so it has happened, as you well know.  5 So when I could bear it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter somehow tempted you and our toil had proven useless.”

Acts 14:21 22

“They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, 22 strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said.”

Psalms 34:19

“Many are the afflictions of the righteous, But the LORD delivers him out of them all.”

2 Corinthians 4:8-11

“We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.  For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.”

2 Corinthians 12:9-10

“And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong.”

“You do not determine a man’s greatness by his talent or wealth, as the world does, but rather by what it takes to discourage him.”  Jerry Falwell

The early leaders of the church were not wooing new believers to their meetings with promises of donuts and coffee, nor making their time of worship more appealing with seeker sensitive or culturally relevant ideologies.  In fact, they promised affliction and hardships for those who recognized their need for a Savior and chose to place their faith in Jesus Christ.

Wow.  Hardly seems like a way to share the Gospel to us today.  Our society longs to make things easier – in fact, we worship at the altar of comfort and ease.  Now, I am not saying we cannot offer pleasantries to make the Gospel attractive to unbelievers, but the power of the Gospel is enough and the Word of God is living, active and powerful.

I confess that I have worried about new believers doubting their new faith when troubles enter in.  I want to protect them, but realize that God is better suited for that role than I am.  And when new believers see other believers who have weathered difficult storms and glorified God in the midst, that witness speaks volumes more than any program ever could.

Jesus promised that we would have troubles and demonstrated how to walk through them in victory.  Genuine faith does not mean we will not have times of fear or of great sorrow, but it does mean we have One Who walks with us through life’s tragedies and triumphs, breathing grace into our souls.

If our faith is so fragile that we doubt the very goodness of God when life hurts,  we have been deceived and been lulled into a superficial faith based on the idolatry of pleasure.  But if from that place of fragility we look upward and ask God to strengthen us, we become overcomers in Christ.

Authentic faith is not easily shaken when the storms blow, nor crushed by sorrows.  It is a quiet confidence that stands up to fear and bears burdens firmly trusting in God’s promises, even when it hurts. God mercifully died for us, chose us for salvation and will not leave us when the wind blows.  He loves us and we can trust Him.  Perhaps our view of suffering might be altered in the midst of God’s enablement through it.

Affliction surprisingly offers a promise.  That we will be more like Christ, that we will be comforted by God Himself.  That we will know and understand Him more.  That, when we have been tested we will come forth as gold.

Lord, give us Your perspective and understanding.  Our lives are Yours.  Every blessing and every hardship we pour out at Your beautiful feet.  Blessed be Your perfect, awesome Name.

Thoughtful Thursday: Hidden Treasure – Our Prized Possession

Proverbs 7:1-2

“My child, keep my words and treasure up my commands in your own keeping.  2 Keep my commands so that you may live, and obey my instruction as your most prized possession.”

Proverbs 2:4-5

“If you seek it like silver and search for it as for hidden treasure, then you will understand the fear of the Lord and find the knowledge of God.”

Luke 12:34

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

Colossians 2:2-3

“My goal is that their hearts, having been knit together in love, may be encouraged, and that they may have all the riches that assurance brings in their understanding of the knowledge of the mystery of God, namely, Christ,  3 in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.”

We can go our entire lives searching for treasure – what our hearts long for.  Yet all the while it is right in front of us, sitting on a shelf, gathering dust.

Imagine finding a treasure and looking at it and taking just one piece of the treasure out, then leaving it there.  The treasure would not benefit us and would not be shared with anyone else, either.  In this fast-paced world, we can step over the greatest treasure and miss it, if we are not careful.

What are the various gems in this treasure chest?  Understanding.  Why is it that our eyes were opened to be able to comprehend what God has done?  Knowledge.  Adding to our understanding, more and more knowledge of Him and the ability to see our sins and His grace.  Wisdom. Knowledge applied and used for God’s glory.  Peace. Souls at rest no matter what is transpiring around us.  Salvation.  The penalty for our sins removed – our guilt stains washed away! Communion with God. being able to fellowship with Jesus and go to Him anytime.  Forgiveness.  All of our guilt washed away.  Grace.  Strength to live for Jesus.  Healing.  Changed hearts and minds yielded to Him, delivered from the burdens of this world.  Assurance.  The sweetest jewel – assurance that we will be with Him for all eternity lasts longer than any temporary treasure on this earth.

On and on the precious gems to be found.  To some the Bible is a book of rules, void of life.  To those who have recognized it’s worth, it is the greatest gift God has given to us.  Boundaries set to free us, counsel to comfort us, His word a lamp to guide us.

To be able to know the God of this universe and fellowship with Him is the greatest treasure given to mankind, but often we accept what is more tangible as a substitute and miss out on the gold He has for us.  No where else will we be able to find such a treasure, that supplies all our needs to each individual.

Lord, we delight in You!  Thank You for the treasure of Your most precious Son!  Help us to seek You without ceasing and to daily,moment by moment bask in your Word.