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Tag: Inspiration

When the Path Isn’t Clear – Keep Going

Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ, let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, (2) Of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. (3) And this will we do, if God permit.
Hebrews 6:1-3 

Every young child while visiting with aunts or uncles or other extended family is inevitably asked the question which he probably doesn’t have a clue as to the real answer. What do you want to be when you grow up? I had my definitive answer sometime around the year 1970. I was going to be a fighter pilot in the US Air Force. Now that decision may have been influenced by the odor of Testor’s plastic model glue while assembling my 1/64th scale model of the F14 Tomcat. I spent many hours in the library reading all I could find about my newly chosen career. But alas all my plans were soon dashed to pieces when I read that one of the requirements for fighter pilots was having 20/20 vision. And so it was that my half blind right eye crushed my dreams and pushed me back into the same position as the rest of the nine year old kids I knew; not a clue.

Photo by eberhard grossgasteiger from Pexels

Eventually I did settle into a career path, one that I have enjoyed for the most part. Being a bit rebellious in my younger days while choosing the starting point of my path I encountered many twists and turns which probably made the journey more difficult than it needed to be. “Learn by doing” was my philosophy. With each step of the way I learned new things and found ways to use what I had learned from my experiences to boldly accept and conquer new challenges. The difficult experiences quickly gave me opportunities to lead and teach those coming up behind me. While leading and teaching presents its own set of challenges it is also provides the most satisfaction.

Our Christian journey, like our career path, can take many unexpected turns and run into difficulties. Those turns and difficulties, and the times we just don’t know which way to go, can stagnate us. We think God isn’t speaking or giving us direction so we just sit down and wait. At the end of the day how much reward, how much fruit, will be there if we just wait? Nothing. On our workplace job we are usually expected to keep doing what we are told until we are told to do something different. We can’t expect to clock in each morning and expect someone to come retrain us for some unknown task. Our Christian path is no different. “Learn by doing” should be the way of life for every Christian.

In chapter 6 of Hebrews the writer tells us to leave the principles of the doctrine of Christ and go on to perfection. That doesn’t mean abandon or turn from the doctrine of the gospel of Christ. It means we have all we need to serve Christ the moment we receive Him as our Lord and Savior. We cannot sit down to learn all we think we need before we put our hand to the task. The word perfection in verse 1 means equipped for duty. We are given that perfection the day the Holy Spirit takes up residence within us. We still need a quiet time each day to read and meditate on God’s Word but waiting cannot be an option. Time is short and the fields are white unto harvest.

Learn by doing. “And this will we do, if God permit.”

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Looking Forward to Our Rest

“There remaineth therefore a rest to the people of God.”

Hebrews 4:9 KJV

Webster’s defines rest in several ways. A few of them are freedom from activity or labor, peace of mind or spirit, to be free from anxiety or disturbance, and a rhythmic silence in music.

Hebrews 4:9
Hebrews 4:9

We can see examples of all these definitions in God’s Word. God rested on the seventh day after His six days of work of creation, (Gen. 2:2). We can have peace of mind and be free from anxiety when we “Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for him”, (Psa. 37:7a). Jesus is resting at the right hand of the His Father, a brief rhythmic quiet intermission between His finished work on the cross and His triumphant return to claim His church bride and destroy the enemy, (Psa. 110:1).

But for us, those who are the people of God, we have a rest that “remaineth”, one to look forward to. How do get to that rest? A work must be done, and energy must be exhausted for a rest to be applicable. It cannot be called rest if no work has been done beforehand.

What is this work? Jesus said “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:” (Matthew 28:19). All nations means all countries around the globe, but it also includes our next-door neighbor, our family members, our co-workers and classmates. Nations are made up of people. All nations means ALL people.

How long must we work before we reach our rest? Jesus also said, “And the gospel must first be published among all nations.” (Mar. 13:10). Man’s life is but a vapor, that appears for a little time, and then vanishes away. We must work tirelessly to publish the gospel to all people while we still have breath. Only then will our work be complete, and we may enter into our rest.

Gracious Father, thank you for the promise of rest when my work is complete. Give me strength today for the tasks You have planned for me. In Jesus’ name I humbly pray. Amen.

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Honoring God Through Adversity – Part 2

Christine Gorman, a noted medical science writer said this in an article in Time Magazine, in the July 28, 2003 edition, Perhaps because their brains are wired differently, dyslexics are often skilled problem solvers, coming at solutions from novel or surprising angles and making conceptual leaps. … It may also be that their early struggle with reading better prepares them for dealing with adversity in a volatile, fast-changing world.”

Just as the dyslexic’s analytic skills are strengthened through his early struggles, the Christian’s faith is strengthened through adversities. God prepares us for the greater trials by teaching us to look to Him in the smaller problems. Can you name one biblical character that did not go through some sort of trial or adversity?

God uses His Word to prepare us for each day and for what lies ahead. The Bible is full of examples of people serving God through various trials. God simply calls us to obedience. Nowhere did God say “do this but wait until it’s safer” or “do this but wait until they stop the persecution” or “do this but wait for a more convenient time.”

Did God tell Moses to go bring His people out of Egypt, but first wait and watch for Pharaoh to be in a good mood? No, of course not. When God gives a commandment He means now–no matter what we have to face to accomplish it.

There are many important reasons to stay steadfast in honoring God through adversity but let us focus on the three primary ones based on different biblical scenarios.

Photo by Eyasu Etsub on Unsplash

1.) Faithfulness during an adversity prepares us for what lies ahead.

In the book of Daniel, chapter 6 we find the familiar story of Daniel and the lion’s den.Daniel was held captive in Babylon. He no longer had the freedom he enjoyed in Israel. He, no doubt, was in adverse circumstances, through no fault of his own. But Daniel never gave up what God had called him to do. He still prayed three times per day just as he did before he was taken prisoner, and he made no secret of it. God blessed him for his faithfulness by moving him to the highest position in Babylon, just below the king. That didn’t sit too well with the Babylonian princes and governors who were under his authority. They conspired together to trick king Darius into signing a decree which would certainly have Daniel sentenced to death for simply continuing in his faith.

Daniel 6:10
“Now when Daniel knew that the writing was signed, he went into his house; and his windows being open in his chamber toward Jerusalem, he kneeled upon his knees three times a day, and prayed, and gave thanks before his God, as he did aforetime.”

 Continuing to serve through adverse or even dangerous circumstances requires us to spend more time in prayer and meditation in God’s word. We need to allow our Father to draw us into a closer relationship with Him. That’s where we find peace and contentment that only He can give us, and the greater level of faith we need to be a steadfast servant in times of trials. That greater faith gave Daniel the boldness to remain unwavering even in the face of almost certain death. God rewarded Daniel’s persevering faith by keeping the lion’s mouths closed that night. His endurance not only kept him safe that night, but God also used Daniel’s faithfulness to turn the heart of King Darius.

Daniel 6:25-27
“Then king Darius wrote unto all people, nations, and languages, that dwell in all the earth; Peace be multiplied unto you. I make a decree, That in every dominion of my kingdom men tremble and fear before the God of Daniel: for he is the living God, and stedfast for ever, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed, and his dominion shall be even unto the end. He delivereth and rescueth, and he worketh signs and wonders in heaven and in earth, who hath delivered Daniel from the power of the lions.”

2.)Faithfulness during the trial gives confidence to other Christians around us.

Simply put, we need each other. We need God to watch over us, we need Jesus to save us, we need the Holy Spirit to guide and comfort us, but we also need our church body to encourage and build us up. God’s word tells us in 1 Thessalonians 5:11; “Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do.”
What better way is there to encourage one another than by being a steadfast example of faith during our adversities?

Paul wrote in Philippians 1:13-14 “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Young’s Literal Translation says it this way; “more abundantly bold—fearlessly to speak the word”

Paul was in prison when he wrote this, preaching to whoever he came in contact with. He was writing letters to the churches he started, to give them encouragement, instruction, and even admonishment. Wherever he was, he committed himself to be a godly example to those that looked to him for guidance.

One example that I can look back on was a Sunday School teacher I had years ago. He made a powerful impact on me by his faithfulness during a difficult time. His infant grandson had passed away unexpectedly and the funeral was on a Saturday afternoon. It was certainly a heart-breaking circumstance for him and his daughter. He would not have been questioned by anyone in the class if had asked someone to fill in and teach for him the next morning. But no, he was there, and delivered a well prepared lesson as always. My respect for him was greatly multiplied that day. I was challenged that day to strive for a higher level of steadfastness in my own faith.

3.) Faithfulness during the trial will manifest our trust in the sovereignty of God to unbelievers.

This one is the most critical reason to honor God during the adversity.

(Ezekiel 24:1-2) “Again in the ninth year, in the tenth month, in the tenth day of the month, the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, write thee the name of the day, even of this same day: the king of Babylon set himself against Jerusalem this same day.”

God set up King Nebuchadnezzar to put Jerusalem under siege as a punishment for their rebellion against Him. In verse three, the parable begins of the boiling pot to describe the state of Jerusalem and the impending judgment they were about to receive for their rebellion against God. At one point He compares them to the bloody scum that rises to the top of the boiling pot of meat that was not properly cleaned. The pot is then emptied of the good meat and set back in the fire to burn off the filthy scum, a way of cleansing the pot. The pot here represents the city of Jerusalem and the improperly prepared meat is the rebellious and sinful people.

As God prepares Ezekiel to deliver His message, He also puts him in a trial as well. The key verse in this chapter here though is verse 16 – “Son of man, lo, I am taking from thee the desire of thine eyes by a stroke, and thou dost not mourn, nor weep, nor let thy tear come.” (Ezekiel 24:16)

You may have lost a spouse or someone else very dear to you and know firsthand how difficult it would have been for Ezekiel to keep his emotions hidden. Ezekiel was to be an example to the people by showing his trust in God’s wisdom and sovereignty, no matter the circumstance.

Ezekiel 24:24-27 Thus Ezekiel is unto you a sign: according to all that he hath done shall ye do: and when this cometh, ye shall know that I am the Lord GOD. (25) Also, thou son of man, shall it not be in the day when I take from them their strength, the joy of their glory, the desire of their eyes, and that whereupon they set their minds, their sons and their daughters, (26) That he that escapeth in that day shall come unto thee, to cause thee to hear it with thine ears? (27) In that day shall thy mouth be opened to him which is escaped, and thou shalt speak, and be no more dumb: and thou shalt be a sign unto them; and they shall know that I am the LORD.

If we are always complaining about our circumstances or what is going on in the world then we can’t be a believable witness for Christ. Our job is to manifest the hope we have in Christ, to let our light shine. We make Christ attractive to those around us by staying steadfast in our faith during the adversities and trials that most people would find hopeless. When we commit ourselves to honor God, He will use us to bring hope to a lost and dying world.

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.”

Matthew 5:16

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Honoring God Through Adversity – Part 1

Merriam Webster defines adversity this way;

“a state or instance of serious or continued difficulty or misfortune” 

It is further derived then from the Middle English adversite, which means “opposition, hostility, misfortune, hardship”  

I think we all understand what adversity is after what we have seen in the world during the last few years. We have either lived it or felt it through someone we love. Adversities can either make us get serious about our prayer life or drive us further away from God depending on our attitude. We all go through trials sometime in our life. Some folks it seems have much more than others. But we can be assured that God is able to use each trial we go through to increase our faith and ultimately bring glory to His son, Jesus.  

“Why do we even have these trials?” you may ask. Adversity comes about in our life from three different sources.

 

Photo by Naassom Azevedo on Unsplash

Firstly, God sometimes creates a trial to test our faith, such as when He commanded Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. I can’t imagine placing any child on an altar to take its life as a willing sacrifice. Thankfully, God does not put trials on us greater than we are able to bear without providing a means of escape.1 God provided a substitute sacrifice for Abraham, a way to escape this trial, because he was obedient to God’s command. And because of Abraham’s faith and obedience during this trial, we are still blessed today.  

Genesis 22:17-18 (17) That in blessing I will bless thee, and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the stars of the heaven, and as the sand which is upon the sea shore; and thy seed shall possess the gate of his enemies; (18) And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed; because thou hast obeyed my voice. 
“all the nations of the earth” That’s us today. When we get to heaven we need to tell Abraham how grateful we are that he was obedient in that trial.

Secondly, adversities can come our way from attacks by someone else or even Satan himself, through no fault of our own. Job is a well known example of this type of adversity. Poor old Job probably never knew while he was here on earth what caused his horrible trial. He also didn’t know that his story would be told for thousands of years to come. How often have we been comforted by Job’s story when we face things we don’t understand? Through his story we can see the sovereignty of God. He reminds us that God is not taken by surprise by the circumstances that so easily upset us. God is fully in control of the situation and already has a plan for how He will use it to strenghten our faith, if we simply stay steadfast in our obedience to Him. 

The third way that adversities attack us is where I think we see God’s great mercy and grace most clearly. Sometimes we just bring on the adversities ourselves. We know that disobedience or rebellion will get us in trouble. But sometimes, we get a little to comfortable with our abilities and start making decisions, big and small, without seeking guidance from the Holy Spirit. We may be okay for a while, but eventually we’ll make a wrong decision that gets us in trouble.  Thankfully, God knew before the foundations of the world about our times of rebellion, our times of disobedience, our times of simply ignoring His divine guidance. Therefore He made a plan to bring us through those times of self-inflicted adversities and make something beautiful out of the messes we make. The story of Jonah is an example of God using a rebellious and disobedient servant to show His power over the sea and a big fish. Even with Jonah’s bad attitude God still used him to bring a wicked city to repentance.  

Adverse circumstances can sometimes make us want to throw up our hands and quit. If we allow them, struggles and trials can move us away from God. Many times when problems arise our instinct is to try to fix them. As Christians though, we know that we need to allow God to fix our problems. But then our sinful nature comes out  again,  and we tend to try to figure out how a problem should be fixed and then we pray for God to fix it our way. Anyone else besides me guilty on that one? That doesn’t ever really work out does it? The problem with that way of thinking is that when we can’t see any way to fix a problem then we don’t bother asking God because we don’t know how to tell Him how to fix it. That puts us in dangerous territory. Even if we do continue praying, we aren’t surrendering our all to Him and any prayer is hindered because we aren’t dealing with the trial. I know from painful experience that God will let us just wallow there until we’re ready to surrender the problem to Him and trust Him to do whatever He wants to with it. When we do finally surrender, God first works on our heart to root out our rebellious and prideful nature. Then He might change our circumstances, or more likely He makes us realize that we are safe with Him no matter what trial we are in. The size of our adversity is insignificant compared to the size of our God.  

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 

James 1:2-3 (English Standard Version)

Next week in Part 2 we will look at three benefits from the adversities we endure. 

 

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Treasures

As I get older I have less and less attraction for material possessions. Oh yes, there was a time that I sought after the faster cars, the finer house, antiquities with their decorative novelty, and many other treasures the world could offer. But there came a time when those things required just too much time and energy to maintain, not to mention space to display or store them. Maybe I just realized that none of those things really matter on the eternal scale.

There are some treasures though that we want to hang on to for some sentimental reason, ones that stir up memories of hopes and dreams of days gone by. One of my elementary school classmate friends is struggling through the burdensome task of cleaning out her parents house, the house she grew up in, to prepare to put it on the market. Both of her parents are in nursing care and with their declining health she knows they will never need that old house again. She made an interesting discovery while going through the various objects in the home. Her mother had written notes, some with markers directly on the object, and some with paper notes taped to the objects, describing in just a few words where they came from and what made them memorable. What foresight this dear mother had in making sure the precious memories she had would someday be passed along to her children so that maybe they would last just a little while longer.

There are a few things however that have come into my possession that I will cherish until the day that I leave this world. On the last Sunday in July of 2005 I taught my first Sunday School class lesson. The title of the lesson was “What is Hope?” and the scripture text was taken from Ezekiel chapter 43. Still today I tend to shy away from public speaking and I’m sure that day I was a basket case of nerves. But that afternoon whatever fears I had of knowing whether or not I was serving within God’s will were completely and utterly wiped away.

That Sunday afternoon we stopped in to visit my aunt, my dad’s youngest sister. I had not told her that I was teaching that morning for the first time and had not yet mentioned it when she told me she had something to give me. What she placed in my hands drove solidly home the lesson I taught just a few hours before. A little black Soul Winner’s New Testament. I had received several of the little Gideon Testaments in my life before then, but what made this one special was when I opened it to the presentation page. On that page, I saw my name written in a familiar handwriting style I will never forget, that of my Pa-Pa. He had intended to give me this Testament on February 5th, 1974, thirty one years earlier. I don’t know what happened that he was unable to give it to me then but I’m claiming that it was just God’s perfect timing.

Pa-Pa passed suddenly in 1977, just a few weeks after my fifteenth birthday. He was a man that showed unconditional love to all his grandchildren. He was a fair and honest man but sadly I don’t remember him ever going to church or saying anything that would give an indication of faith. I do remember the story of a couple men coming to invite my Pa-Pa to come to church. He gave them the same excuse that I’ve heard when I’ve witnessed to people and I’m sure many of you have, “I wouldn’t fit in with church people. I can’t give up my drinking.” And the answer they gave him still breaks my heart when I think about it. They told him that it was okay, they liked to drink a little too. Pa-Pa told them if that’s the kind of hypocritical church men they were that he wanted no part of it and promptly ran them out of his yard. Sad story, yes, but when my aunt placed that little book in my hand, on that particular day, and I read who scribbled my name on the presentation page, a hope gushed forth in me that could only come from my heavenly Father. Maybe my Pa-Pa had trusted Jesus, and he certainly had a desire for me to know Jesus. Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew chapter seven said this, “Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.” This treasure, this little black Soul Winner’s Testament with my name written on the first page, was my Pa-Pa’s “good fruit”. In this treasure I have hope.

Jesus taught in Matthew chapter 6, verses 19-21 that the treasures we collect on earth are only temporary, that decay would one day take them from us. He taught that we should put our efforts to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven”. We can do that by living our life in surrendered obedience to God. Earthly treasures, those material things we want to hold on to, can stir up a sense of ungodly pride if we’re not careful.

God does however ordain or allow earthly treasures in order to accomplish His divine plan and to provide peace and hope within the hearts of His children. The Ark of the Covenant for instance, taught Israel to reverence God by representing His presence in their midst. It was still a temporary treasure, crafted by man’s hands according to God’s instructions. God instructed Joshua to set up the twelve stones to be a reminder to future generations of how He heaped up the waters of the overflowing Jordan river to provide a safe passageway into the promised land. And I believe, God’s watchful eye and caring hands were on a tiny sprout which would one day grow into a towering tree to be cut down and used to make the paper on which a pocket-sized soul winner’s Testament would be printed; because He loved a filthy, wretched sinner like me so much that He wanted to give me assurance that I was in His will at that particular moment on that last Sunday afternoon in July of 2005.

The greatest treasure that we can possess here on earth however is not something made with hands. We cannot touch it, we cannot see it, but it provides a comfort and assurance that all the treasures of the world could never provide. That is the treasure of salvation, a gift from God, by His grace, through faith in Jesus Christ. I think Paul said it best in his second letter to the church in Corinth;

But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7)

Therefore take comfort in God’s boundless supply of the treasure of His salvation and grace through His Son, Jesus Christ.

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