Imaginary Roadblocks

“God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness” ~2 Timothy 1:7

I’m 37 and not married. 

I’m married but can’t have children.

I don’t know who my mother/father is.

I am not clever or articulate.

I am short and  chubby.

I didn’t invest my money and now I am living on a minimal income. 

I made bad choices and I am a loser.

These are imaginary roadblocks and those who hold these ideas think they are losers, failures; they think life has passed them by and the Lord is not playing fair with them. They believe if these so-called problems were rectified, life would be so much better. They would be satisfied and content. Not true.

Many years ago I was at a conference led by a Catholic priest. During one of the classes he said, “You cannot listen to your feelings. We all have them but you cannot allow them to lead your life. Feelings are neither right nor wrong, they just are!”

At first I rejected his statement as ridiculous. But after a few hours of ruminating, I realized he was correct. Feelings are just that, feelings. Let’s go back to the list above. Each of these statements are tied in to feelings. For example, I’m 37 and not married. Possible feelings: “I am never going to find the right guy and enjoy family life. What is wrong with me?”

I don’t know who my father is. Possible feeling: “I am a loser not knowing who my father is. I have no sense of identity.” Another person may say, “I know who my father is and he was a terrible, mean-spirited, drunk who caused great sadness and fear in our family.”

If we focus on what we don’t have, we allow those pesky feelings to rule our lives. A man was overheard to say on the day of his college graduation, “I am so frustrated. I missed graduating with an A average by just a couple of grade points. I feel like the whole experience was a bust!

Another graduate who held a great celebration party just graduating college, cannot understand the other person’s attitude. They would think it strange to find disappointment in such success. Feelings can take you down.

2 Timothy 1:7 “God has not given us a spirit of fearfulness, but one of power, love, and a sound mind.”

Pause a moment. God. The creator of everything says He has not given us a spirit of fear but one of power, love and a sound mind! That is a promise. Do we believe it? Or do we allow our feelings to trample on this promise?

Fear sneaks in right behind doubt and we fall apart. The what-if’s come roaring in followed by I’m not worthy and we reach for our well-worn loser hat and slink down the road, muttering, “I knew it was too good to be true. I knew it wouldn’t last.”

Guess what we are actually saying? “God is a liar!” Shocking isn’t it. Of course we never utter those words but that is what we secretly believe. 

“I’d never call God a liar,” we shout pounding on the table. “That would be ridiculous and just wrong.” However, when we read 2 Timothy 1:7 and allow fear to tear life from our grasp, we are proclaiming loudly that it is not true. Faith in Christ brings new life, life built on the foundation of God’s love, grace and mercy. The unifying element which ties this all together is forgiveness, God’s and ours. Reading His Word, talking to him openly (known as prayer), brings God-given results in every situation, no matter how we feel!

We must resist our negative feelings and “rely on the power of God, who has saved us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace, which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began.” 1 Timothy 1:8-9

God’s Gifts!

February 14, 2021

“It is the Holy Spirit who is the source of them all” ~1 Cor. 12:4

I remember it so well as though it happened recently. I attended a growing church and was a novice photographer. I wondered if I could capture the joy and exuberance of my fellow worshipers as they sang and praised the Lord. To accomplish this, I needed an additional zoom or telephoto lens. I prayed and asked the Lord to show me how to find such a lens within my budget. 

It was a week or two later that a man in the congregation stopped me after church and said, “I have a gift for you. The Lord put it on my heart to give you all my camera gear!” The following weekend I met him at his home and he gave me two cameras and four lenses. He told me that he was spending too much time with photography instead of with his family and God directed him to give it all to me. I received his gift with joy!

And what about our relationship with The Holy Spirit and His free gifts to us? Do we gladly receive them with eager expectation as I did with the camera gear? Or do we hem and haw, wondering what gift we may have or if we have a gift at all. This question is easily answered in 1 Corinthians 12. If we believe the Bible to be God’s Word then our question regarding Spiritual gifts is answered in Corinthians.

Verse 1: And now, brothers, I want to write about the special abilities the Holy Spirit gives to each of you, for I don’t want any misunderstanding about them.

Now we know the Holy Spirit gives each of us special abilities (gifts).

Verses 4-7: Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 7The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church (Body of Christ).

How wonderful, the Holy Spirit is the source of all of God’s Gifts and—He displays God’s power through us as a means of helping the entire Christian Church! How powerful and essential. Am I still a doubter? Or do I trust God. It’s all Him. There is no begging, no pleading on our knees night after night. God freely gives gift to benefit the Church.

Verses 8-11: To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. 9He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick. 10He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. 11It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.

Contemplate these gifts: giving wise advice; studying and teaching; special faith; power to heal the sick; performing miracles; power to prophesy and preach; discerning evil spirits and God’s Spirit; speaking an unknown language; power to understand what the unknown language says.

These gifts are beyond our human efforts which is why the Holy Spirit “gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.” The key is, He gives us spiritual gifts. God is the originator and the Holy Spirit is the dispenser. 

When my friend said he was giving me all his camera gear, I was thrilled and filled with anticipation. Once I unwrapped the gift, so to speak, I put it into action quickly, becoming familiar with how it all worked; learning everything I could about each piece of equipment. So should we be concerning God’s gifts—filled with anticipation, walking in faith. Verse 7, above says, “The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church (Body of Christ).”

Global Warming

Image by Parabol Studio via Shutterstock.com, with elements furnished by NASA

Global Warming: The Real Thing!

The Second Letter of Peter; Chapter 3

In 2006 Al Gore was the narrator and brain child of the movie, An Inconvenient Truth, whose focus was the impending destruction brought about by global warming. Apparently Mr. Gore did not realize just how accurate his prognosis was, according to this chapter in 2 Peter.

1-2 This is my second letter to you, dear friends, and in both of them I have tried to stimulate your wholesome thinking and refresh your memory. 2 I want you to remember what the holy prophets said long ago and what our Lord and Savior commanded through your apostles.

3-4 Most importantly, I want to remind you that in the last days scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires. 4They will say, “What happened to the promise that Jesus is coming again? From before the times of our ancestors, everything has remained the same since the world was first created.”

5-7 They deliberately forget that God made the heavens long ago by the word of his command, and he brought the earth out from the water and surrounded it with water. 6Then he used the water to destroy the ancient world with a mighty flood. 7And by the same word, the present heavens and earth have been stored up for fire. They are being kept for the day of judgment, when ungodly people will be destroyed.

Present heavens and earth stored up for fire

8-10 But you must not forget this one thing, dear friends: A day is like a thousand years to the Lord, and a thousand years is like a day. 9The Lord isn’t really being slow about his promise, as some people think. No, he is being patient for your sake. He does not want anyone to be destroyed, but wants everyone to repent. 10But the day of the Lord will come as unexpectedly as a thief. Then the heavens will pass away with a terrible noise, and the very elements themselves will disappear in fire, and the earth and everything on it will be found to deserve judgment.

Never lose sight of the eternal world

11-13 Since everything around us is going to be destroyed like this, what holy and godly lives you should live, 12 looking forward to the day of God and hurrying it along. On that day, he will set the heavens on fire, and the elements will melt away in the flames. 13But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.

14-16 And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make every effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in his sight. 15 And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him— 16 speaking of these things in all of his letters. Some of his comments are hard to understand, and those who are ignorant and unstable have twisted his letters to mean something quite different, just as they do with other parts of Scripture. And this will result in their destruction.

17-18 You already know these things, dear friends. So be on guard; then you will not be carried away by the errors of these wicked people and lose your own secure footing. 18Rather, you must grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. All glory to him, both now and forever! Amen.

Yes, it is true, the current heavens and earth will pass away in a violent ball of flame. But then, God will speak into existence new heavens and earth for us to dwell in forever. Until that day, verse 14 explains our orders, “And so, dear friends, while you are waiting for these things to happen, make very effort to be found living peaceful lives that are pure and blameless in His sight.”

Why would God do this? Read verse 7, above. By His Word God made the heavens and earth. And by His Word, He will enact a day of judgment when ungodly people will be destroyed.

What Happens If My Life Falls Apart?

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart” ~Proverbs 3:5

The usual way of things in Christianity is that a person prays to accept Jesus into their lives and He gladly forgives their sins and they begin their new Christian journey by attending a church.

Along the way, as the person reads the Bible, learns to pray, attends Bible studies and experiences the joy of giving to others, a subtle little extra creeps into their lives. This is the doctrine of “if’s”.

  • If you tithe regularly (and give love offerings beyond tithes), God will be very pleased and His pleasure will play out in more money and things for you.
  • If you maintain your faith in God during the most difficult trials, He has wonderful materialistic rewards waiting for you just around the corner. God loves giving His followers lots of worldly things to make them happy.
  • If you check your brain at the door, use your emotions as a guide, and always ask other Christians what they think you should do with your life, God will reward you greatly; Usually with a form of prosperity to show his gratitude.

The list can go on, including many more damaging ideas often perpetuated on people who sincerely wish to not only follow the Lord but use their lives as a source of light in this dark world. The problem with this line of thought is that it is a blend of God’s truth and human error. The results of following this path are always the same: failure and confusion.

God’s rewards are wrapped in His promise of forgiveness of sins and eternal, everlasting life with Him. God DID NOT send Jesus to die on the cross of Calvary so all who believe in Him will not only have everlasting life but lots and lots of wonderful things on earth.

If we believe God’s love will be shown to us through material blessings, job promotions, healthy lives and unlimited happiness, then what happens when our lives fall apart? How can we be at peace with burdensome debt, being passed over for promotion, imprisonment for our faith, disease or death?

Proverbs 3:5-6. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart. Never rely on what you think you know. Remember the Lord in everything you do and He will show you the right way.”

Proverbs 16:2-3. “All a man’s ways seem right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the motives. Commit your activities to the Lord and your plans will be achieved.”

Many people tend to view the Bible and God’s promises through a filter of material possessions and success. Therefore, as we read verses like Proverbs 16:3, we assume God is referring to material prosperity. We get together and agree among ourselves that God has promised success in all our plans. When this does not work out, we are confused and discouraged. Our faith in God is in danger, especially when we see the world or even fellow Christians prospering.

James 1:5. “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should pray to God, who will give it to you; because God gives generously and graciously to all.”

James 3:17 “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.”

Philippians 4:6-7 “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Our lives on earth will always have challenges and problems. Such is the fabric of our imperfect lives as we await our release from planet earth. However, in the midst of our trials and tribulations, the peace of Jesus Christ is ours if we choose to walk in it. Eternal rest and joy beyond compare await. 

1 Thessalonians 4:16-18  “For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the Christians who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth, will be eight u p int he close to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.”

Do All Roads Lead to Heaven?

“You must be born again”  John 3:7

Years ago, down in the South, two children were going at it on the grassy front yard; yelling, scratching and pulling hair. After several minutes of this mayhem, the front door opened and their mother called to them in a melodious, magnolia-infused voice, “Y’all play sweet now.”

Many people seem to think that this scenario represents God’s attitude toward us. After all, He wouldn’t want to offend or insult any of His creations would He? Or would He?

“God helps those who help themselves” is one quote attributed to God which, if followed, makes us equal partners with God. We work hard at helping ourselves and God comes along to give us a reward and a pat on the back. God becomes our buddy, our helper, who is anxious that we should have whatever we want. This idea of God is non-threatening and easy to get along with. After all, God is love! Right?

John 3:16  For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life.

“Familiarity breeds contempt” is an old quote not heard much anymore. However, it speaks truth to most relationship situations. For example, when we read the Bible verse, John 3:16 over and over, year in and year out the words lose their power. We become contemptuous of what God is saying through this easily spoken series of words: “God loved the world so much he gave his only Son, so if we believe in him we won’t die!” Cool.

If all roads lead to God then why in the world would God have given His only Son to die for all people everywhere? What would be the point of such a drastic measure if every religious belief system leads people to God?

Consider the harsh reality of the words in John 3:16—He gave his only Son. Gave his only son? Did God give Jesus something? How serious is this? If you know history at all then you probably know that Jesus was falsely arrested, beaten nearly to death and then forced to drag his own cross through the streets—to the place of his death—where nails were driven through his hands and feet, attaching him to the cross. Yes, large spikes driven through his already torn, bloody and ripped flesh. A sledge hammer was used to pound the spikes through his hands and feet. This represents God’s love!

Because the world is so familiar with those words, “God loved the world so much…” we have come to a place of treating them with little respect or comprehension. God loves you and I so much that He put the sins of all the world on His only Son, Jesus. Jesus became sin for you and me. My sins are forgiven when I understand that Jesus died for them. Truly beyond our human understanding. However, I have faith that it happened. And my faith has transformed my life…both now and forever.

So, is God our buddy who is not really too worried about what road we take to heaven? Not really. Why would God bring Christ to the world to die as a sacrifice for sins and then casually say, “Hey, don’t worry about your faith or belief. It’s all good.”

All roads do not lead to the same destination. Neither in this world or the next.

Matthew 7:13-14  Heaven can be entered only through the narrow gate! The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide enough for all the multitudes who choose its easy way. But the Gateway to Life is small, and the road is narrow, and only a few ever find it.

Acts 4:12  Salvation can be found in no one else. Throughout the whole world, no other name has been given among humans through which we must be saved.

John 14:6  Jesus answered, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

Ephesians 2:8-10  Because of his kindness, you have been saved through trusting Christ. And even trusting is not of yourselves; it too is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good we have done, so none of us can take any credit for it. It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.

Romans 10:9-10, 13  For if you tell others with your own mouth that Jesus Christ is your Lord and believe in your own heart that God has raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in his heart that a man becomes right with God; and with his mouth he tells others of his faith, confirming his salvation. Anyone who calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.

So then, do all roads lead to heaven? No! However, God has done everything possible, including the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, the Christ, to provide a way for us to spend eternity with Him. Faith in Christ brings forgiveness and eternal life.

Hope Springs Eternal

Sitting in their third-floor apartment, the couple dreaded what awaited in the mailbox below. Either a check sent from a friend in California, or the reality of an eviction. They were befuddled and discouraged. Neither had jobs yet but knew in their hearts that God had given them the stamp of approval to move to Oregon. 

 Their friends were mostly perplexed when they said, “No, we don’t have jobs and don’t know yet where we will live, but God has promised us that He will provide all our needs. Just like He told Abram to move to a land that He would show him, He has said the same to us.” And now what of their former testimony? What will their friends think of God who they said would be their provider?  

Well, it was time to face the mailbox, to see if God chose to provide through a restaurant owner in California. He was too agitated to go so she trekked downstairs alone. As soon as she entered the apartment, he knew the check had not arrived. His final hope flew out the window. He was crushed. Devastated. Discouraged. She hated to see her husband like this. Her normally upbeat, encouraging, man of faith was sitting head-in-hands on the couch, lifeless.  

Shaking his head back and forth, he muttered, “What will we do now? What happened to God’s promises, His provision?” And then it happened, slowly his head raised up, his eyes focused and he said, “I’ve got to remind myself of Gods promises to us. What does His word say about who we are, who He is in our lives, and that He will provide for us. I must come against this feeling of failure and discouragement and take courage from God’s words to us. Oh, forgive me Lord. Let me remind myself of your precious promises that never fail or fall short.”  

And that was it. He leaped off the couch, headed for his bookshelf and took his Bible to the dining room table. And there he sat until he was washed from head to toe with God’s never-failing promises and words of encouragement. And some of them that spoke to his heart were as follows:  

And by the time the rent was due again, his wife was employed. And another month later, he was starting a new job too. “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.” Hebrews 11:1 

What Is God’s Will?

 “Whoever does God’s will is my brother and sister and mother.” ~Mark 3:35 

Many Christians spend countless hours on their knees, begging God for an idea as to His will for their lives. Thousands of sermons have been preached, books written and website columns produced, advising believers of the 10 best steps to finding His will (often there is a fee for the book or website subscription).  

Considering the extreme measure God has taken for our forgiveness and eternal salvation (death, burial and resurrection of Jesus), is it reasonable to think He would hide His will for our lives? Would God take a perverse pleasure in watching us grovel around begging Him to reveal His purpose and direction instead of joyfully directing our lives to follow a path He alone has created just for us? No secret password needed fellow Christians, God reveals aspects of His will sprinkled throughout the Bible—His love letter to us.  

Just as a building needs a foundation for support, God has provided the necessary spiritual support to guide us into the understanding of His will. He gave us the Holy Spirit.  

John 14:16-17, 26  ~And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you.  

John 14:26  ~But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. 

1 John 2:27  ~You have received the Holy Spirit, and he lives within you, so you don’t need anyone to teach you what is true. For the Spirit teaches you everything you need to know, and what he teaches is true—it is not a lie. So just as he has taught you, remain in fellowship with Christ. 

Romans 12:1-2  ~And so, dear brothers and sisters, I plead with you to give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you. Let them be a living and holy sacrifice—the kind he will find acceptable. This is truly the way to worship him. Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. 

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18  ~Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you who belong to Christ Jesus. 

Colossians 1:9-10  ~So we have not stopped praying for you since we first heard about you. We ask God to give you complete knowledge of his will and to give you spiritual wisdom and understanding. Then the way you live will always honor and please the Lord, and your lives will produce every kind of good fruit. All the while, you will grow as you learn to know God better and better. 

So you see, God has provided everything we need to hear His voice, and live according to His will. Romans establishes steps that open the door for the realization of His will in our lives: 

1. Give our bodies to God as a living and holy sacrifice which is true worship. 

2. Don’t copy the world (be separate). 

3. Let God transform our thoughts which gives birth to the understanding of His good and pleasing and perfect will for our lives. 

I call out to God, “Oh God, show me your perfect will for my life.” 

God replies, “Always be joyful. Never stop praying. Be thankful in all circumstances!” 

2020 Recap!

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on Pexels.com

I’m not one for writing an Annual Letter. So this is not one. Rather it is an end of year journal entry of sorts. As Leann works diligently in the kitchen, preparing her special magic cookie bars (she does not like the descriptive name, magic) for friends and neighbors, I am sitting at one of our portable tables in the living room, listening to Ottmar Liebert’s, Poets and Angels © 1990 album. Ottmar plays the acoustic guitar.

He is playing O Holy Night now: “Oh, night divine, Oh, night when Christ Was born. Christ is the Lord! Oh, praise His name forever; His power and glory evermore proclaim!”

According to the seemingly endless stream of news and information available, we’ve had a challenging, life-altering 2020 replete with natural and viral disasters. We are running out of money, hope, reason and solutions. Life seems to suck at this point since the formidable Pandemic has quarantined us with masks and social distancing.

“Masks don’t work. All we are doing is breathing the same air in and out. We are suffocating ourselves,” some say.

“Masks are essential to preventing the spread of this virus. Anyone caught without a mask will be punished for not caring about their fellow man (or woman),” say others.

In addition to Covid, our summer brought raging wildfires across much of the West. And wild those flames became, consuming homes in record fashion, deterred by nothing designed to help. Caravans of families climbed into  cars and trucks filled with special memories and headed for safe havens as the flames intensified. and overpowering clouds of smoke filled the air, attacking our respiratory systems. Oh God, help us. We cannot last in this calamity. Is this the end times God? Are these our final days?

As it turned out, these were not the Biblical final days for all mankind. Perhaps a foretaste. Certainly worse than many of us anticipated. As the warnings grew more urgent and threat levels reached evacuation stages, we found ourselves overcoming our fear and grabbing a few worldly possessions and jamming them into the car after we called a friend who had space for us outside the danger area. 

Driving away from our home brought temporary relief and hope. Silent prayers were constant in my mind. And then I had a strange thought. What if God is not sending a rescue ship to whisk us away to a better place where the sun is shining, the air is pure and flowers abound. What if this becomes a more serious trial and greater tribulation which brings us to the brink of death? Will I praise God for this? Will I proclaim how wonderful my Savior is in the midst of total destruction? After five days, the calamity lessened, so I am not sure what I would have done. As the days passed, I prayed for strength to undergo whatever trial He set before me. I really meant it.

Time passed. Life slowly resumed as before the fires. With one major exception: Coronavirus! Otherwise known as COVID-19, which stands for coronavirus disease of 2019.

Raging fires. Worldwide pandemic. Financial ruin. Businesses forcefully closed. Schools are closed. Wearing masks mandatory and an increase in thoughts of suicide. The government has newfound powers to control life.

“Since the coronavirus arrived, depression and anxiety in America have become rampant. Federal surveys show that 40 percent of Americans are now grappling with at least one mental health or drug-related problem. But young adults have been hit harder than any other age group, with 75 percent struggling.” (The Washington Post).

Is there any hope at all? The answer seems to be a resounding, NO! Not really. But that is not true. Hope is as close as your heart calling out to God: “Lord please save my soul. I am lost, confused, frightened and full of fear.” What does the Bible have to say about our hope?

Romans 8:31-39  “If God is for us, who can be against us? Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword?

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

In case we’ve allowed fear of fire, financial ruin, and covid to send us into a downward spiral of depression, remember these verses, these promises of God that He will always be with us and absolutely nothing can separate us from Him.

Isaiah 41:10  Don’t be afraid, for I am with you. Don’t be discouraged, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you. I will hold you up with my victorious right hand. Don’t be afraid, for I am with you.

Weakness!

“I am glad to boast about my weaknesses!” Apostle Paul

Apostle Paul: “Three times I begged the Lord to take (his thorn in the flesh) away. Each time He said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8-10 NLT 

Rediscovering this section of scripture this morning pierced my heart! Re-reading these words of Paul also reminds me of the incredible patience and mercy of the Lord. He knows how much patience and mercy are necessary in my life daily. Thank you, Lord.

How can I show strength in weakness, Lord? I ask. A man needs to be strong to face the world and its hardships and obstacles. Men have to show strength as an example to those they lead; their families and children. Men stand with shoulders squared, heads up and eyes fixed on the prize, the future, their success. It seems to me that weakness has no place in a man’s life.  

Then slowly, as a distant light becomes evident after a long, dark tunnel, I  realized that God’s weakness is not the same as man’s; that His weakness is stronger than man’s strength. And, finally—God’s weakness, the weakness described and displayed by the Apostle Paul, is far removed from the image we conjure up. 

2 Corinthians 13:4  “Although he was crucified in weakness, he now lives by the power of God. We, too, are weak, just as Christ was, but when we deal with you we will be alive with him and will have God’s power.”

2 Corinthians 6:4. “In everything we do, we show that we are true ministers of God. We patiently endure troubles and hardships and calamities of every kind.”

Philippians 4:11-13 “ I have learned how to be content with whatever I have. I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. For I can do everything through Christ, who gives me strength.”

The Apostle Paul learned an important secret; and that is trusting that God will provide as He sees fit. Paul learned how to be content with any circumstance. As we read Paul’s description of depending on God for everything, we may bristle a little at the idea of not taking care of everything ourselves. But how can we demonstrate our faith in the Lord, appearing weak to onlookers, without trusting in Christ? 

“The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith, and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.” ~George Muller

Covid Christmas

Luke 2:9-12 And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the  glory of the Lord shone around them; and they… | A christmas story, Lds  art, Bible pictures

“She wrapped Him snugly in cloth and laid Him in a feeding trough” Luke 2:7

This will be the world’s first Covid Christmas. Instead of families driving and flying across the land to spend a precious weekend or week together, sharing those special moments around the table that is laden with bowls and platters of all our favorite foods, we shall be limited to another couple or, depending on your state, a maximum of seven people.

It’s not fair, we think, after all, it’s our own family and we wear masks and keep social distances. The fear of spreading this virus has ruined the most special time of the year. 

But has it? Has it really? Or are we like a child, pouting because we can’t get our way?

Although not every family celebrates the birth of Christ as the central focus of Christmas, any family considers this a special, loving, hopeful time of year. An opportunity to come together with friends and family. For some, a time to take food to others less fortunate, sharing delicious plates and bowls of nourishment in the name of love; the name of Christ.

The actual birth of Christ seems to have been less than festive with less than perfect circumstances. God decided His Son, the Messiah, the Savior of the world, should be born in a stable, in a feeding trough, in anonymity. And, in keeping with God’s often mysterious ways, He sent an angel to announce Christ’s birth to a few shepherds out in a field. 

Imagine, if you will, a few isolated men, watching over their flocks, accustomed to a solitary existence, perhaps sitting around a fire cooking dinner when this happened, “Then an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified!”

Scared out of their wits, they hear the angel say, “Don’t be afraid, for I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people: today a Savior who is Messiah the Lord, was born for you in the city of David. This will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped snugly in cloth and lying in a feeding trough.”

As the shepherds are processing what the angel said, God dazzles them further, “Suddenly there was a multitude of the heavenly host with the angel praising God and saying: Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace on earth to people He favors!

These men had never seen such a magnificent display of God’s power and yet, judging by their response, it seems they had processed this astonishing event well.

“When the angels had returned to heaven, the shepherds said to each other, “Let’s go to Bethlem! Let’s see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.

“They hurried to the village and found Mary and Joseph. And there was the baby lying in the manger. After seeing him the shepherds told everyone what had happened and what the angel had said to them about this child. All who heard the shepherds’ story were astonished, but Mary kept all these things in her heart and thought about them often. The shepherds went back to their flocks, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen. It was just as the angel had told them.” ~Luke, Chapter 2

Today, more than 2,000 years after Christ’s birth, God is still speaking to His followers and giving us encouragement, even if it is anonymously out in a field somewhere. Covid has changed most of the world but cannot alter our faith in Christ the Savior. Let us celebrate His birth this Christmas.