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Thursday, October 27, 2016

Overwhelming Power

I understood something that I had read several times before yesterday.  Ever happen to you?  You read something in the Word that you have read a hundred times and suddenly the tumblers fall into place and you see.
Overwhelming Power
Look at 2 Kings 7:6.  You know the story.  Elisha has taken Elijah’s place with a double portion of his spirit.  He is in Samaria.  Aram has Samaria under siege.  There is no food.  The residents resort to cannibalism.  Not a PG type of story.

Elisha tells king that on the next day there will be an abundance of food.  The king’s officer does not believe it.  The next morning four lepers go to the Aramean camp and find it completely deserted.  Why, reread 2 Kings 7:6.

The Lord caused the Arameans to hear a sound of chariots, chariots that were not there.  He caused them to hear a sound of horses, horses that were not there.  The sound of a great army, that was not there.  They ran.  They also made irrational decisions.  They left their horses and donkeys which would have allowed them to leave faster.

The Lord controlled what they heard.

The Lord led them to make irrational decisions.

Think of that.  Our Lord can control what people hear.  He can control what people see, 2 Kings 6:17.  That may be a reality that informs your prayer for those to whom you minister and those whom you are praying would come to Christ.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

More Strength in Suffering

Yesterday I suggested that the reality of our place in God’s kingdom is one of the certainties that allows us to have peace in the midst of suffering, tribulation.
There is another.

It is who we worship and on whom we are dependent, God.  Specifically, it is about who God is in actuality.

We read in Psalm 139,several aspects of God’s nature and character that guides His interaction with us and the path of our lives.

First in Psalm 139:1 – 6, we read that there is nothing that God does not know about our lives.  He knows our path in detail, He scrutinized it.  There is nothing that comes into our lives that is not known by God.  His knowing implies as well His sovereignty over those events.

1 Corinthians 10:13 also implies that sovereign control.  He limits what comes against us to what He knows we can endure.  He knows what we can endure with absolute certainty.

Those truths conspire to suggest that we can trust Him with all that comes into our lives.  Trust Him absolutely and completely.

There is more about His sovereignty that I will share tomorrow.  It is somewhat of a mind blower.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Strengthened in Suffering

A couple of days ago we looked at the certainty of suffering.  Paul wrote to the Thessalonian believers in 1 Thessalonians 3:2 – 3, in order to strengthen their faith by reminding them that he, Paul, was destined to suffer.  On the surface one could wonder how that strengthened their faith.
Strengthened in Suffering
Paul often says that he is imitating Christ.  Christ led Paul in this.  Look at John 16:33.  Christ, speaking to the 11 and by extension us, tells us that He shares what He shares so that we can have peace.  Then He states that we are going to have tribulation in this world.  Which again could raise the question how that knowledge engenders peace.

I have just begun to work through this.  I wonder if the peace that Christ is offering is that certainty of the resurrection and our place in His kingdom.  It seems that one of the themes throughout the New Testament is His call to us to put His kingdom first, Matthew 6:33.  Paul picks this up in Philippians 3:20 – 21.  We are citizens of His kingdom.  We are not primarily citizens of the country that issues us our passport.  We are to put His kingdom first.

Our peace, our strength in facing whatever resistance, persecution, suffering, or tribulation may lie in the fact that ultimately it is His kingdom that prevails.  Our peace is that we will be secure in that kingdom.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Certainty of Suffering

I live in an area in which many teach that to know Christ is to be assured of healing, to live a materially prosperous life that it is just a matter of how much faith one has.  Those who hold and teach this, seem to have missed or have ignored several passages of Scripture and additionally defined success and prosperity differently than the Bible presents it.
Certainty of Suffering
One example is 1 Thessalonians 3:2 – 3.  Paul is writing the Thessalonian believers reminding them that they strengthened and encouraged their faith by reminding them that they would be afflicted, would suffer, and that it was their destiny to experience this.

Paul tells us in 2 Timothy 3:12 that if it is the case that we wish to live a godly life, we will be persecuted.  Paul is only repeating what Jesus said.  Look at John 15:18, the world hates Christ, so it will hate those who follow Him.  There are many more passages.

Bottom line?  This journey we started to follow Christ is consistently, passionately, and fully resisted by the enemy of our Lord.  Revelation 12:17 tells us that the dragon is committed to war against those who obey God and hold to the testimony of Christ.

So if you are following Christ.  Suffering is assured.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Thankful for Struggles?

For the past year the Lord has had me in school, prayer school.  It started about this time last year.  I was reading 2 Thessalonians 1:11 – 12.  I was struck by the types of things Paul was praying for believers.  I used his model and found myself wondering what else he prayed, which lead to putting a prayer card together that I put in my journal.
Thankful for Struggles?
I mentioned a couple of days ago that I was confronted in my prayer by my attitude in a difficult situation.  That lesson continued today.

I was in Psalm 111.  Look at verses 3 – 4.  God’s works are described a splendid and majestic.  There are times, and the last week has been one of them, that I find it difficult to agree.  But that is what the text says.  Psalm 139:3 tells us that the Lord scrutinizes our path and our lying down (click on this sentence in this post: He analyzes our path as closely as a civil engineer would use a nested sieve to analyze aggregate in a concrete mix.).  So when someone we love is struggling with a disease or another situation, it is not something that took God by surprise.  He knows and knows in detail, further, He has a reason, a splendid and majestic reason.  We may not see it.  I certainly do not in the things that are facing my family.

Praying through that this morning I was taken to Philippians 4:6 – 7.  You probably have that passage memorized.  There are two instrumental statements in the passage:

  • by prayer and supplication
  • with thanksgiving

The two phrases are structurally connected.  The implications seem to be that our prayer and supplication needs to be supported by our thanksgiving for God’s involvement in all of the things that we are facing in our lives.  Including cancer.

That led me to ask – and I am struggling with the answer – do I have to get to the place where I am thankful for what I am praying for God to remove for my prayer to be effective.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

The Foundation of Leadership

We are picky about who we choose to lead us.  We look for the most qualified.  The one who has the best resume.  We look for good schools, a great track record.  We surmise that great training will produce great results.
The Foundation of Leadership
It is the same in our churches.  We want men who have been to seminary.  Who did well.  Some fellowships covet advanced degrees, it sounds better if their leader has a Dr. in front of their name.

Then there is God’s way.

Look at David.  Specifically look at Psalm 78:70 – 72.  David wasn’t recruited from the B schools or the T schools he was taking care of sheep.  He wasn’t a scholar.  He was a shepherd.  He wasn’t handsome, he was ruddy.  He spent most of his time outdoors.  Outdoors with stinky, dumb sheep.

In God’s estimation that is what prepared him to lead God’s people.

Wonder how we got the idea that degrees were better?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Journey Through Incredible Pain

For the past six years I have written here most days.  This month has been the exception.  There are a number of reasons for that.  I have been traveling.  Members of my family and I are struggling with various forms of cancer as well as other significant health issues.  One such situation has consumed most of my emotional and spiritual reserves in the past few days.  Another has also been challenging requiring some of the travel.  Frankly, I just haven’t felt like writing.
Journey Through Incredible Pain
Yesterday, I spent most of the afternoon in prayer about one of these cases.  There are two lives at stake.  Multiple difficult issues – such that when I have shared the details with close friends it renders them speechless.

I am not all that good at prayer.  Especially, protracted prayer.  However, I was impressed that I needed to try.  It was hard work.  Really hard work.

This morning was the Monday study, we were in 1 Samuel 3.  I shared what was happening with the men there with the same result, speechless.

I got home and started my time with the Lord.  I had passages I was supposed to read, but it was if the Lord was not through with me from yesterday afternoon.  Matthew 5:6 and Psalm 42:1 came to mind.  As I prayed and processed those passages several things came to mind.

The question was when have I invested that much time and emotion in just seeking His righteousness?  When have I hungered for Him as I hungered for this healing?  When have I wept over my sin as I have wept over this cancer?  I want what His sovereign power can provide, am I satisfied with Him?

Tomorrow morning five of us are looking at 1 Samuel 3 & 4.  This afternoon I was finishing up my prep for that study.  I observed that Israel did the same thing.  They used the ark as a talisman in battle.  They wanted victory over their enemy, not so much did they want Him.  They did not even bother to ask.  They just brought the ark into battle.  The Philistines response to them in 1 Samuel 4:7 – 8 was the appropriate response.  They recognized the latent idolatry of Israel’s action.  They were afraid of the mighty gods.

I am cut to the quick by this.  He is enough, but I find myself longing for more… hopeless.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Good Question

A friend of mine asked me a question a couple of weeks ago.  He has asked me that question before, but it is a good one and beard repeating.

As we were ending our conversation he asked me, "What is the Lord teaching you know that you thought you already knew?"

I have an answer.

In August I was in the middle of a project in another country.  I was meeting with people in underground churches.  We were going through several topics.  The first day the conversation was lively.  I did not understand it because it was in a language that I do not speak.  I was working through a translator.  I would ask a question and the room would erupt with them talking back and forth.  

The next day tough, they were not reacting the same way.

My primary gift is exhortation.  Feedback is my life blood.  The second day, I wasn't getting any.  I was working though this in my journal and trying to figure out what was going on.  The Lord essentially asked me why I needed the feedback.  The clear message was, "Obey me."  It is more important for me to do what He had led me to do than get the response that I thought I needed.

For the past few weeks I have been in conversations with a Christian organization that indicated they wanted my help with part of their ministry.  It is a part that I have been equipped to deal with for the past 40 years.  The process was proceeding rapidly and a few days ago just stopped.  

Same reaction.  I was working through that in my journal and asking the Lord to bring a resolution to the process.  "Why?" He asked.  As I thought through that I realized that I wanted them to follow through with engaging me to help them to validate me as useful.  

He reminded me that He was all of the validation that I need.

I thought I knew that already.  Still learning.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

The Lord Loved

We read in Acts13:22 and 1 Samuel 13:14 that David was a man after God’s own heart.  We have already seen that he was a man of prayer.  But he was far from perfect.
The Lord Loved
Read the Psalms that David wrote (David is specifically noted as the author of Psalms 3 to 9, 11 to 32, 34 to 41, 68 to 70, 51 to 65, 101, 86, 103, 108 to 110, 124, 122, 133, 131 and 138 to 145.  He is also credited with Psalms for which he is not specifically noted as the author, chief among these is Psalm 119).  You will note that in many cases David seems angry with God and tells Him so.  But then halfway through the psalm David begins to praise God.  There is a lesson there.

But David was a man.  He took more wives than he should have.  He murdered Uriah to cover up his adulterous affair with Bathsheba.  You may have done some stuff of which you are ashamed but I would bet David has you beat in the sin department.  The result of the affair with Bathsheba was a son whom the Lord took.

But then we read one of the more amazing passages in the Word of God, 2 Samuel 12:21.  David and Bathsheba have another son, and the Lord loved him.  Think of all of the mess that David made.  Based on what Christ said in Matthew 5:31 – 32, this is technically still an adulterous relationship, but God loved the son that was born out of this sin.  So much that He had Nathan tell David to name the boy, Jedidiah, beloved of the Lord.

David, the man who is described as one after the heart of God, a flawed human.  God, one who loves those who are flawed.  This is a great story in which we get to participate.