Being made strong

The Bible says, “When I am weak, I am made strong.” (2 Corinthians 12:10)

A piece of steel can’t say that.  When it fails…. it fails and people get hurt or even die.  And it’s final.

When we are weak, in a particular area of life, we also can experience hurt and pain as well as a variety of other emotions.  This weakness can hurt us and others around us.  Yet, in our deepest weakness, Jesus reminds us that in our weakness we are made strong.

When we come to the end of ourselves and turn to Jesus for our strength, understanding, and power, he will give us what we have need of in the moment.

As a cyclist, I know if I want to complete an event that is extremely difficult, I must train.  I must get myself prepared and ready to accomplish whatever it is I want to do.  Without the proper training, time, nutrition, and encouragement, I will not be able to do what I set out to do.

Finishing doesn’t happen overnight.  I plan for it.  I train for it. I suffer for it.  I get frustrated when setbacks come my way.  And, yes, things get in the way.  This year I got sick just 4 weeks before the event I was training for all year.  My body was in good shape but my mind was not.  I showed up to the event in shape physically – not mentally.  You have got to have both to reach your objective.  Even the best encouragement couldn’t help me overcome my own self doubts in my head.  I was there to do the 80 mile ride and settled for the 50.  The 50 was no cake walk with over 3500 ft of climbing – with one of the climbs over 8 miles long.  I completed a lesser ride but I did what I my mind said I could do.

I look around my life these days and I see many of the same fears and feelings I have had pretty much all of my life.  I’m not sure why I keep fighting these same things over and over.  Maybe I get tired and let my guard down.  I allow the stuff of life to get to me.  And, yes, Satan knows me well and knows when I am on a good track and uses individuals and circumstances to send me down from time to time. During ALL seasons of life, I must remember to surrender to Jesus….. hear his words “Come to me…”

I’ve been in training as a Christian for many years.  Too often, I still feel like a newbie.  Even so, I, just as you, need to heed the words of Jesus, “Come to me…”

“Come to Me…” (Matthew 11:28). His word come means “to act.” Yet the last thing we want to do is come. But everyone who does come knows that, at that very moment, the supernatural power of the life of God invades him. The dominating power of the world, the flesh, and the devil is now paralyzed; not by your act, but because your act has joined you to God and tapped you in to His redemptive power. (My Utmost for His Highest, Oswald Chambers, November 4).

Advertisements

Obedience

God, teach me lessons for living so I can stay the course.  Give me insight so I can do what you tell me- my whole life one long, obedient response.  (Psalm 119:33-34, The Message)

As I begin to write, I had to have a conversation with my 7 year old on obedience and respect.  She has an old iPhone that she has kept up with for about 4 years now.  No, she doesn’t have wireless service but she does get to use it like an iPod.  I have been very impressed at her ability to keep up with it and to not break the screen.

How does this relate to obedience?  Well, I had a conversation with her this morning about not walking around the house watching and listening to her “kid shows”.  I explained I don’t want to hear it today.  So, as I begin to write, she walks past my room with it playing.  Literally – all I typed before this happened was the word obedience.  I turned around and called her back and had another conversation about it.  (Side note:  I do like all the times she walks around the house playing and singing Hillsongs, “Oceans” at the top of her lungs!)

This week I made a step of obedience myself.  I have been praying about this for over a month.  Really? Yes really!  I sat around for the past month and prayed whether or not I would be obedient.  Sounds silly, stubborn, and disobedient – all at the same time – I know.  And, yes, I do and did deserve the same conversation from Jesus that I had with my daughter this morning.

It gets better than that prayer.

I actually called one of my life-long friends from seminary.  Fortunately, he didn’t answer the phone.  I called looking for him to give me permission to be reasonable and logical about this thing I was praying about…. bottom line I was looking for him to tell me (without him knowing) I was looking for him to give me permission to delay my obedience.  Think I will call him back today to apologize for something he has no idea he was almost a party to… Honestly, I don’t think he would have given me the permission or encouragement for me to delay my obedience.

My wife and I sat down that same night, held hands, and prayed.  Immediately, I did what I had been “praying about for a month.”  Two days later, God intervened in a situation to let me know He had heard me and was with me.  A direct answer to another prayer that has been ongoing for the past month.

Honestly, as I sit here and contemplate this week.  I can see all of the situations before me and see them all as layers connected to the same onion.  Obedience is the key to the layers being able to be peeled back.

This morning I am reading Rick Warren’s daily devotional and he also is writing on this same subject!  (I love how the Holy Spirit works through things I read to confirm His leading in my life).  The first paragraph reads,

God smiles when we obey him wholehartedly.  That means doing whatever God asks without reservation or hesitation.  You don’t procrastinate and say, “I’ll pray about it.”  You do it without delay.  Every parent knows that delayed obedience is really disobedience.

Well, you don’t have to hit me over the head…. but I do love the confirmation of God at work in my heart and my life.  For that, I am wonderfully thankful!!

Faith-filled living does require action.  And, oftentimes, that action is at the center of obedience.  So, today, walk in obedience and do what He is leading you to do.

Nourishment for others

Difficulties and trials… don’t you get tired of them? 

I do. 

I have learned through my many trials that there is much more I need to learn.  And that there is much more to share with other people.

The book of James begins with a talk on trials:

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4, The Message).

I like the wording here, “…your faith-life is forced into the open…”  How often do we hide our “faith-life”? God will easily draw that life out of us through a time of trial.  What if we just lived naturally the faith-filled life all the time in obedience – would God have to send us through so many trials? 

Sometimes trials come just because there is something God really wants to teach us. 

Several years ago I began going through a tough time of testing… it was at the beginning of what seemed to be about three years of testing and trial.  At the very beginning, I recall one of my friends, a pastor non-the-less, ask me, “What sin are you committing to cause this trial?” 

Huh? 

Why would God choose trials as a classroom? 

You can always recognize who has been through the fires of sorrow and received himself, and you know that you can go to him in your moment of trouble and find that he has plenty of time for you. But if a person has not been through the fires of sorrow, he is apt to be contemptuous, having no respect or time for you, only turning you away. If you will receive yourself in the fires of sorrow, God will make you nourishment for other people.  My Utmost for His Highest, June 25.

There are hurting people all around us who experience trials of all sorts.  Many of these people do not have the hope of Jesus Christ… how are they going to make it through unless we go to them and become nourishment for their souls?

Growing like Peter

Following God will always be one of the greatest acts any person could ever do. Too often when one tries to follow God in obedience others ridicule and tear down… judge whether this or that is a “wise” thing or not. The sad part is that more often than not it comes from “brothers and/ sisters” in Christ. Jesus experienced this himself from Peter. Jesus’ response to Peter was, “Get behind me Satan.”

One of the pressures a believer in Christ will face is the “approval” of those watching. The approval each Christian is to seek is that of God… and that approval can only be found in His Son – Jesus. Unfortunately, as humans we desire that nudge from others who affirm God’s working in our lives. Sometimes to the point of not moving unless all around agree or approve. Sometimes God just says, “Do this thing.” Our only response should be to obey.

Sometimes when we set out in following God’s dream for our lives we discover that the decision we’ve decided to make is not the right one (or the best one). In light of eternity, that’s alright. God’s grace is more than any of us could ever dream. It’s through making mistakes we get to know God… after-all that’s what He desires… for us to know Him. Think about the exchange between Jesus and Peter referenced above. Peter got to know God, His purposes, and His plans through his speaking out against His plan. We get to know Him when we do the right thing too… but for some reason it’s through those trials in life that the knowledge gained sticks with us all the more.

I’ve made some decisions in life (I’m sure have appeared to others as dumb… not well thought out moves.) But that’s ok… even though I’ve had to learn some tough lessons… I think I have come to know God in a much richer and deeper way. I’m still learning and growing in following Him. Even today as I pray through things on my heart… I’m getting to know Him

We should never think as though we have messed up God’s plan in anyway for having made a decision that may seem rather ridiculous to others. It just may be that those things that seem foolish to everyone else was indeed what God wanted all along.

Peter expresses what he came to know of God in 1 Peter 4:12-13, 19,

Dear friends, don’t be surprised at the fiery trials you are going through, as if something strange were happening to you. Instead, be very glad – because these trials will make you partners with Christ in his suffering, and afterward you will have the wonderful joy of sharing his glory when it is displayed to all the world… So if you are suffering according to God’s will, keep on doing what is right, and trust yourself to the God who made you, for he will never fail you.

 

 

An unguarded moment (pt 2)

Yesterday I wrote about “an unguarded moment” in my life.  That moment took place in the early Spring of 2000.  I catch myself sometimes thinking a lot about times that have gone by.  It’s interesting to me that my children do the same.  Just the other day one of them made the comment that she was glad she didn’t see Extreme Makeover Home Edition on Sunday because it would have made her cry.  She misses her friends and the times she had in Albuquerque.

2 Corinthians 5:7 reminds me today that we are to “walk by faith and not by sight.”

It’s real easy to get caught up in the emotions of the past.  Whether those emotions are good or bad they can hinder us from what God is doing now… especially if those emotions are the focus of our lives.  Any of us, if not careful, can take a moment from the past and allow it to control our present and our future.  It’s easy for my thoughts to go back and revel in the days I hold real dear to me on a spiritual level.  But if I am not careful I will miss what God is doing today.

I know God worked in me in the past.  My life is a testament to that.  He is working today… He’s doing a new work for a new time.  I’m trying to grasp and understand where He is at work now and how I need to be available.

My guarded moment eight years ago happened for a reason.  God needed to step in at that time to give me a reality check.  Oswald Chambers puts it this way today:

God will give us His touches of inspiration only when He sees that we are not in danger of being led away by them.  We must never consider our moments of inspiration as the standard way of life – our work is our standard.

That day I was in danger of taking myself out of a situation God wanted me in.  Had I taken myself out of there prematurely His complete work would not have been done.  You see, one of the electrical engineers came to me one day while working there and told me: “I hear you are a preacher.  Let me tell you we need your influence around here.  I’ve been praying for more godly people to come and work here.”

I had never met him before that day.  I also found out in that conversation he had been supporting one of the other ministries I was doing.

Never be surprised when God shows up in an unguarded moment.  Keep your eyes on Him.  God is there in the mundane just as He is in the great moments of inspiration.  There is not a decision to be made in our lives God can’t take and work for His glory… if we “walk by faith and not by sight.”

Would I have denied Christ?

I’ve debated whether I should write about this or not.  The debate is over and I have chosen to write about it.  It’s going to be difficult to keep it short.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Peter today.  He did so much as a disciple and follower of Christ.  So much is written about all he has done.  He gets made fun of for a lot of the bone-headed things he did.  The one thing that I have been thinking about today is Jesus’ statement to Peter that he would deny Jesus 3 times that day.  I have wondered what really went through his mind and emotions that led him to deny Christ. 

I had an experience this weekend that my good friend Joel brought to my attention that was not much different than Peter’s denial. 

Our church held what I hope will be the First Annual Egg Drop.  I missed the entire event while I was out at the back entrance to the park directing traffic.  When the Sheriff’s deputy showed up to help with traffic – as people were beginning to leave – I began to walk back to the football field where the egg drop took place.

As I made my way to the field, I encountered several people who had just attended the festivities.  I heard comments like, “Needed more planning.” “Next year don’t let the adults on the field.” “Thank you!!  It’s amazing that you all would do this for the community.” “My child only got 2 eggs… this was ridiculous.” “Fine job…”  That last comment was not a happy one… it was with much sarcasm and anger.  I didn’t realize it until I laughed and smiled and started to say thank you.  I listened and asked questions of this individual.  Apologized and told him I would relay his comments to the leadership.

As I made my way to the stage, all I wanted to do was take off my yellow t-shirt that labeled me as a volunteer.  I didn’t want to hear any more comments like that one.  I was a little un-nerved by that last individual. 

I think everyone was rather overwhelmed by the event.  There were some 5,000 people there.  Way more than what was anticipated.  After we loaded up the gear that was on the trailer Joel pulled with his vehicle we headed off to unload and drop off the trailer.  We were debriefing the day.  I was hearing really for the first time what all happened while I was still out at the street directing traffic. 

I told him how at one point I wanted to take off my volunteer shirt so I wouldn’t have had to hear anymore comments like the last one.  Joel reminded me of Peter and his denial of Christ prior to the crucifixion.  When he made the comparison internally I froze.  And the thought of that has stayed with me all day today.

I’m reading Erwin McManus’, The Barbarian Way and am being challenged.  I highly recommend this book!! McManus states, “God’s will for us is less about our comfort than it is about our contribution.  God would never choose for us safety at the cost of significance.  God created you so that your life would count, not so that you could count the days of your life.” (44-45).

After telling you the story of what I experienced at Saturday’s Egg Drop – I still wonder what would I have done if I had been wearing Peter’s shoes.  Would I have denied Jesus?  Would I have wanted to take off that which labeled me a follower of Christ?  Would I have wanted to walk a much easier road than the one chosen for me?  I want to live a radical life for God… but how far am I really willing to go?  Is it just to the point of being uncomfortable?  Has my faith become “civilized”?

I’m reminded of Galatians 2:20 where Paul states, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”(NJKV). 

The Message reads, “I identified myself completely with him.  Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ.  My ego is no longer central.  It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God.  Christ lives in me.  The life you see me living is not ‘mine,’ but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  I am not going to go back on that.

Paul was marked by Christ.  100% identified with Jesus.  He was known without shame or compromise as a follower of Jesus!  He chose the dangerous road.

I’m thankful for the insight Joel brought my way on Saturday.  It’s been a tough lesson to learn.  God wants nothing less than my full unashamed attention… for me to be identified with Christ.

%d bloggers like this: