Paul’s “But”

S and SHow has your personality changed since you were a teenager or in your early 20s. The younger a person is, the more likely they are to be carefree, adventuresome, lighthearted, and/or jovial. In most instances life sends sticks and stones which over time have a cumulative effect often resulting in “the straw that broke the came’s back” where the person isn’t near as lighthearted, jovial, or carefree. Some get so beaten down by life’s sticks and stones they become morose. Consider what Paul wrote…

2 Cor 4:7 We have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live (Christians) are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

Afflicted in every way… BUT! Perplexed… BUT! Persecuted… BUT! Struck down… BUT! Those are four really big “buts,” about which I’d like to make a suggestion. Everything in this passage is FROM God which the Christian experiences in participatory passivity! Let me explain.

Vs 7, “The surpassing power belongs to God and not to us is a huge foundational statement for this passage and daily living! THAT the events of 4:8-12 take place in the Christian means GOD is providentially and sovereignly doing it Himself (“It is God at work in you to will and accomplish His good pleasure.”). In 4:11-a the Christian is “given over” to difficulties… which means it is done TO them, outside their will and choosing.

Being given over contrary to the Christian’s preference is for a another God ordained reason… for Jesus’ life to be “Manifested in our mortal flesh” (4:11-b). The things that happen TO believers are so that GOD, JESUS, and the SPIRIT will be glorified… magnified… and honored! Our life is not about us! It is about honoring God.

As long as we keep in our puny little heads that the things that happen are about us RATHER THAN GLORIFYING GOD, we will be frustrated in life. However, when we embrace life events are to glorify God, then our sufferings are transformed into joy.


The Problem With Preaching

There are several young preachers that I pray for and try to encourage regularly.  For today I thought I’d pass this along for contemplation by more than just the P.I.T guys (Preachers In Training).  CLICK HERE for “Young Preachers (Part 1)”

This quote is from a book I’m reading, “Feed My Sheep: A Passionate Plea For Preaching.”  Dr. Al Mohler writes the following in regard to the proclamation of The Word (From the Kindle edition):

Furthermore, this line of work has a nasty way of getting you into trouble.  It seems that the more faithful one is in preaching, the more trouble one encounters.  Why?  You did not come up with the Word.  This is not your opinion.  It is not something you are saying in order to offend people.  You are simply preaching it.  After all, that is your assignment.  So you preach the truth, and the next thing you know you are on the front page of the papers.  You are the subject of gossip for the deacons and their wives; even the youth group is up in arms over what you said.  Conflict and controversy are always hard, and they tend to be correlated to faithfulness in preaching.  The harder you work at it, the greater the risk.

One of the things I press upon younger men going into the ministry (Especially those who will preach) is this… “You have been called to a life of suffering.  You have been called by God to endure hardship and difficulty.  You signed up for it.  Therefore do not be surprised when you are maligned… misunderstood… given a rough time… and at times persecuted.  It WILL happen… and it is God’s will that it happens.”  In closing consider the words of Paul from  2 Timothy 1…

8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord, nor of me his prisoner, but share in suffering for the gospel by the power of God, 9  who saved us and called us to a holy calling… 11 … I was appointed a preacher and apostle and teacher, 12  which is why I suffer as I do. But I am not ashamed, for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that he is able to guard until that Day what has been entrusted to me.

The Lord Gives And…

After all seven of Job’s children were killed and all his worldly riches taken, it is written in Job 1:20-22…

Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshiped. 21 And he said, “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked shall I return. The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord.” 22 In all this Job did not sin or charge God with wrong.

What has the Lord given you?  According to James 1:17 and 1 Corinthians 4:7, everything you have!  That would include…

Your salvation… life… family… job… intellect… retirement account… friends… food… seeing eyes… hearing ears… a beating heart… lungs that work… a house… food… car… etc ad infinitum.

Now, what does God have the right and power to take away?  Anything He desires to.  Why?  Because He is God.  That would include…

 Your life… family… job… intellect… retirement account… friends… food… seeing eyes… hearing ears… a beating heart… lungs that work… a house… food… car… etc ad infinitum.

There is only ONE thing God will not ever take away, nor can we lose it.  Did you notice the ONE thing left out of the second list from the first one?  Salvation!  That is the ONLY thing that cannot be lost by any Christian.  EVERYTHING ELSE is on the table and can be taken from us.

When we are satisfied that having Jesus IS our everything, losing anything or everything else won’t destroy us.  But when a person loves anything more than Christ… and loses it… they will be destroyed from the inside out.

I leave you to contemplate what is written in Colossians 3:1-4…

If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2  Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. 3 For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

When Your Day Blows Up (Part 2)

Yesterday was a hypothetical conversation between a person asking God why their day went bad.  The hypothetical Q & A were nothing near what is recorded in Scripture when a person’s life really did blow up!  Consider a conversation a person had with God and worship Him.

Job (Demanding An Answer)…

Job 31:5 “If I have walked with falsehood and my foot has hastened to deceit; 6 (Let me be weighed in a just balance, and let God know my integrity!) 7 if my step has turned aside from the way and my heart has gone after my eyes, and if any spot has stuck to my hands, 8 then let me sow, and another eat, and let what grows for me be rooted out. 16 “If I have withheld anything that the poor desired, or have caused the eyes of the widow to fail, 17 or have eaten my morsel alone, and the fatherless has not eaten of it… 19 if I have seen anyone perish for lack of clothing, or the needy without covering, 20 if his body has not blessed me, and if he was not warmed with the fleece of my sheep, 21 if I have raised my hand against the fatherless, because I saw my help in the gate, 22 then let my shoulder blade fall from my shoulder, and let my arm be broken from its socket. 35 Oh, that I had one to hear me! (Here is my signature! Let the Almighty answer me!)

God (Confrontational)…

Job 38:2 “Who is this that darkens counsel by words without knowledge? 3  Dress for action like a man; I will question you, and you make it known to me. 4 “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. 5 Who determined its measurements—surely you know! Or who stretched the line upon it? 6 On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone, 7 when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? 16 “Have you entered into the springs of the sea, or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been revealed to you, or have you seen the gates of deep darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the expanse of the earth? Declare, if you know all this. 34 “Can you lift up your voice to the clouds, that a flood of waters may cover you? 35 Can you send forth lightnings, that they may go and say to you, ‘Here we are’? 36 Who has put wisdom in the inward parts or given understanding to the mind? 37 Who can number the clouds by wisdom? Or who can tilt the waterskins of the heavens, 38 when the dust runs into a mass and the clods stick fast together?  Job 40:2  Shall a faultfinder contend with the Almighty?  He who argues with God, let him answer it.

Job (Repentant)…

Job 40:3 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 4 “Behold, I am of small account; what shall I answer you?  I lay my hand on my mouth. 5 I have spoken once, and I will not answer; twice, but I will proceed no further.”

God (In Job’s face)…

Job 40:7 “Dress for action like a man;  I will question you, and you make it known to Me. 8 Will you even put Me in the wrong? Will you condemn Me that you may be in the right? 9 Have you an arm like God, and can you thunder with a voice like His? 10 “Adorn yourself with majesty and dignity;  clothe yourself with glory and splendor. 11 Pour out the overflowings of your anger, and look on everyone who is proud and abase him. 12 Look on everyone who is proud and bring him low and tread down the wicked where they stand. 13  Hide them all in the dust together; bind their faces in the world below. 14 Then will I also acknowledge to you that your own right hand can save you.

Job (Broken)…

Job 42:1 Then Job answered the Lord and said: 2 “I know that You can do all things, and that no purpose of Yours can be thwarted. 3 ‘Who is this that hides counsel without knowledge?’ Therefore I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know. 4 ‘Hear, and I will speak;  I will question you, and you make it known to me.’ 5 I had heard of You by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees You; 6 therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes.”

Given the above, I really don’t think we want to get into a Q & A with God about “Why?” or what’s “fair!”  Consider further what is written in Scripture…

Romans 9:15 For He (God) says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion. 18 So then He has mercy on whomever He wills, and He hardens whomever He wills. 20 Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21 Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honored use and another for dishonorable use?

Daniel 4:34 His dominion is an everlasting dominion, and His kingdom endures from generation to generation; 35 all the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, and He does according to His will among the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and none can stay His hand or say to Him, “What have You done?”

Isaiah 46:9 Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like Me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all My purpose,’ 11 calling a bird of prey from the east, the man of my counsel from a far country.  I have spoken, and I will bring it to pass; I have purposed, and I will do it.

Count It ALL Joy?!

This is a followup to yesterday’s post (CLICK HERE).

“Count it ALL joy my brethren WHEN you encounter trials of various kinds…” (James 1:2).  That applies when… Your business is failing, your family is falling apart, your future is uncertain, people lie about you, you have a tough day… week… month… year, and when the circumstances of your life are completely out of control.  THAT is when (As Christians) we are to be joyful.

That is not Pollyanish… looking at the world through rose-colored glasses… living in a state of denial nor BLIND FAITH.  It is truth from personal experience.  By experience I know what it is like to not know if your child is going to live or die… I know what it’s like to have people doing everything they could to run you off… I know what it’s like to have family situations so dire you are at a complete loss as to what to do… I know what it is like to be uncertain how to pay your bills… I know what it is like to lay in bed, for days to weeks, looking at the ceiling… crying your eyes out… wondering why God seems to be ignoring your plea for deliverance.

And while all that is going on James 1:2 seems to be a slap in the face to all your human senses… present experience… and reality.  But I affirm from experience that James 1:2 IS TRUE AND IS POSSIBLE AND takes place by God’s grace.  Here’s a brief recounting of my journey to see how James 1:2 has been true in my life…

First… I reaffirmed that regardless of what circumstances present to me… I know God loves me.  He proved that on the cross.  John 3:16, 1 John 3:1.

Second… I reaffirmed that God is 100% sovereign over all things… all people… and all situations.  He IS God!  Isaiah 46:9-10.

Third… I reaffirmed that God is providential.  Always has been… always will be.  Daniel 4:35-36.

Fourth… I reaffirmed that “Just because I don’t see how something can be good doesn’t mean it isn’t good.”  Proverbs 3:5.

Fifth… I reaffirmed that “To live is Christ, to die is gain.”  Philippians 1:21.

Sixth… I continued to pray according to Philippians 4:6-7.

Seventh… I continued to worship God because He alone is worthy of worship… (I spent a lot of time in personal worship).

Last… I reflected on these things: A) God always wills my ultimate good {Romans 8:28}; B) God controls every test {1 Cor 10:13}; C) Nothing… NOTHING… can separate me from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus {Ro 8:39}; D) God works everything according to His good, gracious, & loving will {Ephesians 1:11b}.

I determined (By God’s grace) that these truths will inform, control, and direct my thinking and how I process life… for God’s glory!  Oh… and I have to remind myself of these things often…

God, Please… Not That!

This is a hard saying… who can accept it?  The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write the following in Philippians 1:29

For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in Him but also suffer for His sake.

Suffering, hardship, difficulty, and persecution are gifts from God… to every believer… to glorify Him.  That may not be a popular truth, but that doesn’t make it any less true.  The last thing we want to believe is that it is God’s will for EVERY Christian to suffer for Christ’s sake.

Suffering for His sake means…

Publicly and privately trusting God while your heart breaks over difficult family issues…

Refusing to succumb to bitterness and revenge when you and/or your family have been wronged…

Joyfully accepting a “No” answer to your prayer from God that disappoints you in your humanity…

Realizing that it is God’s will for your lifelong dream not to come true… and still be joyful…

Rejoicing when God will is the exact opposite of you thought was His will…

Being content when God places you where HE wants you rather than where you had hoped…

Being able to encourage others and continue in ministry even though your heart & life are filled with life altering struggles…

Being able to choose to be mistreated and in God’s will rather than enjoy briefly the fleeting pleasures of sin

Knowing in the depths of your heart that whatever you go through now will be more than rewarded by God… one day… for eternity.

This IS a hard saying… however… “It is He that is at work in you both to will and accomplish His good pleasure.”

God willing… tomorrow I’ll try to make a few suggestions about joy in the midst of adversity.

God Finishes What He Starts

Note: I received this devotion from a friend and have rewritten/edited it slightly to reflect my own thoughts. Thanks Mark! 

God finishes what He starts… especially when we don’t understand, are confused, or wonder what is going on.  Consider Mary…

Luke 1:26-33, “In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27  to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Greetings, O favored one, the Lord is with you!”  29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying, and tried to discern what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.” ESV

Mary found favor with God but that did not mean success, power, money or fame.  It meant she would suffer ridicule and gossip.  It meant the man she was engaged to marry would come close to turning away from her – which meant sending her away to have her baby.  This meant both she and the baby would be marked for life as immoral.  It ended up maning she gave birth in a stable, with donkeys and cattle as witnesses.  Then she would have to flee with her husband to Egypt for fear of the baby being killed.  It meant that she would watch her first born son suffer and die on a cross.

But through her pain, Mary‘s son would be the only hope of the world.  Through her pain would come the One who would provide salvation to all who will accept it.  Through her pain, God would illustrate His infinite love for mankind.  Through her pain, God accomplished His plan.

If you are a believer in Christ, God has a plan for your life… but the road that follows His plan is often hard.  Most of us require a large amount of “polishing” before we become a shining reflection of Jesus.  We have many, many rough spots that God must smooth out before we can reflect Jesus to the world in the way that He wills.  Before we can accomplish His will, we have to be educated through His Word and the “School of Hard Knocks.” But, like Mary, through our pain, He makes His glory shine to the world around us.

If you are a believer, you have been favored by God.  That doesn’t mean life will be smooth sailing but that God will do whatever it takes to make you more like Christ.  So if life is rough, be patient.  Praise God that you have found favor with Him.  And marvel at what He does with you in order to carry out His plan.

Ephesians 2:8-10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”