God’s Protection

“A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you.” Psalm 91:7
“God does protect us, except when He chooses not to.” Barry Reifel

There is a subtle under-teaching in the Church that if we follow Jesus, then our lives will be better than they were before. If we follow Jesus in this covenant relationship, then He will shield us from bad things happening to us and our family. This is not taught in Scripture, and is just not true.
It is true that our lives are better with Christ, but in the sense that He lives within us and helps us deal with the troubles that are bound to come. God protects every day of your life. Angels get bent wings because of us. But there are times that He does not protect and allows trouble to come. How are we different that others? I love the bumper sticker that says: “Christians are not better, they are just better off.” This allows us to be full of joy in spite of circumstances.

Paul teaches us to be “content in all weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties.” A follower of Christ’s circumstances are no better than anyone else. Paul suffered under trouble, hardship, famine and sword. Jesus went to the cross. When a hurricane hits Florida, it takes out the brothel as well as the church.
There is a book entitled “Things Fall Apart.” Because of sin, our bodies fall apart, and things go downhill. The word entropy defines this: a gradual decline into disorder. Look at your son or daughter’s bedroom and you will notice entropy. Things move down like an escalator from order to disorder. Things fall apart. Tim Keller says that Christians have been taught the idea that “if things don’t go right, I’m going to sue!” If you are a believer, please get rid of this idea.

God is in control. John Newton has a famous line: “Everything is necessary that He sends. Nothing can be necessary that He withholds.” When you really believe that God is in control, then you believe that everything does work together for good. Not each individual circumstances. But as Keller preaches: “The promise is that taken in the totality, your life will turn out for the good. Each bad patch does not turn out for good. The whole turns out for the good.” In Phil. 4:13, Paul teaches: “I can do all things in Christ who strengthens me.” The word “do” in the Greek means “I can take in stride”. A good translation would be: I can take in stride all things in Christ who strengthens me.” It does not teach that I can do superhero events like fly or leap tall buildings with a single bound. This teaches that because Christ lives in me, then when things fall apart around me, I can take it in stride. I can do this because I believe Christ is in control, and in the totality, these things will turn out for good.

Please share your ideas about His Protection in your life.

Suffering For Jesus

“Now I rejoice for what was suffered for you and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions for the sake of the body, which is the church.” Colossians 1:24

I couple of questions come to my mind as I read this verse: 1. What was lacking in Christ’s sufferings? 2. How does the suffering of Paul make up for this lack? 3. How does this apply to us today?
To answer these questions, we must step back and take a look at the Big Picture. If you read this passage in context, you see that Paul saw himself on a journey to deliver the Mystery to all men, “completing them in Christ.” (v.28) There was a concept at the time of Christ, that only special people should hear the Gospel or any teaching for that matter. Paul takes the rather courageous step to state that this Gospel is for all men, all women everywhere, not just for a chosen people. That’s the big picture.

This verse does not say that there was anything lacking in the atoning work of Christ. It says that when Jesus went home to the Father, there was still work to be done, but not work to complete the atonement. The atonement work is done once and for all on the cross. What Paul is addressing here is that Jesus Christ handicapped Himself by deciding to use the body of Christ to finish the work of getting the Gospel to the nations. There has been lots of suffering over the years to preach the Gospel to all the world.
Paul went through lots of suffering to get the Word out, but what he is referring to here seems to be his imprisonment. This allowed him time to write the letters that we have today! No imprisonment, probably no letter to the Colossians. So the answer to question 2 is simple that Paul’s suffering and imprisonment helps to complete the task of getting the Word to all people.

How does this apply to us today? My back is hurting today from an old automobile accident. But I do not get to use this pain and say I am completing the suffering of Christ. This applies to us today in our willingness to “suffer” inconvenience, embarrassment or getting a reputation as we try to share Christ with people around us. We do this in a loving, caring way, like one beggar showing another beggar where to find food.

What suffering are you encountering in your life because you are attempting to get the mystery out to others?

Strut Your Real Stuff

“But when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites…for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men.” Matthew 6:5

I ¬†have a distinct memory of my childhood. We were in church and two rows forward was a cute, four-year old girl standing next to her mother in the pew. It was before the service had started and she was smiling and waving at the people behind her. Her mom abruptly sat her down and said, “We’re in church!” The little girl started to cry, and the mother said, “That’s better.”

This still disturbs me. Why do we “dress up” for church? To be seen by men? Why do we sit up straight and act good? Does God care? God doesn’t care. He sees us the other 167 hours of the week. He knows we aren’t good and doesn’t want us to come shined up for inspection. He loves us just the way we are.

Church should be an extension of the rest of the week, where we honor God and put Him first. We must make “Sunday go to meeting” a “come as you really are” time. We are there to meet with our God who cleanses us, forgives us and strengthens us for the battle ahead. On our right and left are fellow soldiers who have been nicked and wounded in the fight we call life. To come to this healing service with a mask on delights the enemy. Masks prevent us from coming alongside of one another, praying for each other and joining together against the common foe.

There were a million things God could have said to Moses when he passed by him in Exodus 34:6-7. Notice and meditate on what He DID say: “As God passed in front of Moses, He said: “I am the Lord, the Lord. I am a God who is tender and kind. I am gracious. I am slow to get angry. I am faithful and full of love. I continue to show my love to 1000’s. I forgive those who do evil. I forgive those who refuse to obey. I forgive those who sin.”

Church is for sinners who need a Savior, not for the sanctified who want to show off their stuff.

Waiting = Strength

“They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.” Isaiah 40:31 (KJV)

“To approach God with only an incessant stream of words is a filibuster, not prayer.” Howard Macy

Everyone who wants to renew your strength, raise your hand. Everyone wants to renew their strength. People use vitamins, Gold’s Gym, yoga, and personal trainers to revitalize their lives.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

The opposite of waiting upon the Lord is running on your own strategies and energy: success is dependent on your brilliance. This is very, very, very fatiguing. It saps your strength. You are always on stage. The spotlight shines brightly. The worst part of this opposite way is that it gives temporary, temporal, fading results.

They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength.

How does this program work? You wait. “We consciously carve out an inner space of yielded tranquility. We hush the insistent noises of our hearts. In waiting we become wise enough to reject “staying busy” as a goal in life and learn how better to spend our energies. ” (Macy in Rhythms of the Inner Life)

You don’t start on a project until you hear God’s direction on which way to go. You seek His will, not your own. “Trust in the Lord will all your heart, and do not lean upon your own understanding. Acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will direct your path.” Proverbs 3: 5-6. You continue to work hard on the last thing you heard Him say, but the new project is put on hold until you have finished the first step: wait upon the Lord for His plan.

This renews our strength because the results are lasting, eternal and Kingdom focused. Also, perhaps God only renews the strength of those who are running the path He has set. The ones who are running on the wrong path, God wants them to run out of gas!

 

Hide & Seek

You will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart.  Jeremiah 29:13 (NIV)

One of my favorite games as a child was Hide & Seek. The fun for me was finding a place where no one could find me: under the boughs of the great Blue Spruce, behind the trash cans for up the oak tree. I was disappointed when I was found.

God continually seeks the hiding, and hides from the seeker. It’s a paradox. We hide in some great places: business, technology, even in our devotions. God does need some help from us. Spiritual receptivity is knowing enough to look for Him in all places, and to realize that He is looking for us. This “finding God” is a talent and can be increased with practice or lost by neglect.

It is not enough to read your Bible. We seek not to know the Bible, but God! Open your eyes and see Him in the everyday, as well as in the Scriptures. Sharpen this skill of knowing God.

If it has been a long while since you have experienced God, then change some disciplines, tighten down your spiritual habits, meet some new people. Just as a child who grows up without adults ends up with a social handicap, the follower of Christ who is isolated from the body has no hope of developing a full understand of the One who is “seeker of his soul.”

Unprofitable servants

“We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which was our duty to do.” Luke 17:10 (KJV)

Perspective is everything. Do you understand who signs the paycheck? We are yoked with the Master. He is not yoked to us. He drives us to the field we are to serve in. He guides us to become what He plans. He sits down to eat, and we serve him. This is all done in mutual love.

Pride sinks in. We start to think that our successes are our successes. We think that we deserve praise and rewards. We want to be esteemed in the eyes of the world. “You don’t work for the world, why expect its wages?”

Our wages are to do the bidding of Him who has called us. The kingdom of God comes first. We sit down to the table only when we are done doing the Master’s agenda. Jesus first. Others second. Me third. How few have caught on to this formula for happiness. Happiness is a by-product of focusing off self. Fulfillment only comes when we make ourselves the willing servants of God. We do this because He first loved us, and made us His sons.

A servant during Roman times at meals would stand against the wall, with his eyes glued to the master. The master would simply make eye-contact with the servant in order to communicate his wishes. Woe to the servant who was looking elsewhere for his instructions. We must keep eye contact with the Master to know the next order. Are you hearing His voice inviting you to come work alongside Him?