Servant Leader

“Speak, your servant is listening” 1 Samuel 3:10

As men we grow and change, learning the traditional rules taught in our society; rules of manly behavior. We must learn to be strong. Learn to face our fears. Learn to strive for success and learn to reject signs of weakness. Those signs manifest themselves in showing our emotions, seeming weak, failing to grab hold of what is ours and wrestling it away from any other contenders. Men are supposed to be formidable foes!

But as Christian men, we must re-learn our manly roles and follow the true manly example, Jesus Christ, who broke the mold of manliness by becoming a servant-leader when He said, “Whoever wants to be a leader among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must become your slave. For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve others and to give his life as a ransom for many.” ~Matthew 20:26-28

Another rugged example of a man was the apostle Paul who described himself in Romans 1:1 as, “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus”.

Later, in 2 Corinthians 12:8-10 Paul describes a situation common to all of us, he is asking God to take away a nagging problem that frustrates him greatly. God’s answer is surprising: “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it 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.”

God’s answer and Pauls subsequent explanation are total opposites of how we all handle our problems and expect God to rescue us. Often, we secretly expect our Heavenly Father to quickly and lovingly step in and demolish our problems, dust us off and smooth out the road ahead. After all, He is the God who wants to bless us and make life easier. Or so we may think. 

The apostle Peter joins Paul in clarifying our position in Christ in 1 Peter 5:5-7: “In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you, dress yourselves in humility as you relate to one another, for “God apposes the proud but gives grace to the humble. So humble yourselves under the mighty power of God, and at the right time He will lift you up in honor. Give all your worries and cares to God, for He cares about you.”

In the Gospel of John, Jesus says: “Those who care nothing for their life in this world will keep it for eternity. Anyone who wants to serve Me must follow Me, because My servants must be where I am. And the Father will honor anyone who serves Me.” John 12:25-26

Trusting God to guide our lives, save our souls and reserve a place with Him in eternity requires faith and obedience. It also requires that we give up our areas of strength so He can work through our weakness as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians: “When I first came to you, dear brothers and sisters, I didn’t use lofty words and impressive wisdom to tell you God’s secret plan. For I decided that while I was with you I would forget everything except Jesus Christ, the one who was crucified. I came to you in weakness—timid and trembling.”  1 Corinthians 2:1-3

It is difficult for us to intentionally walk in weakness, trusting God to give the strength we need. We’ve spent many years attempting to work out whatever problems come our way. But God wants us to give that up and trust in Him because His power works best through our weakness.

The Struggle

The Struggle 

July 24, 2021

“I decide one way, but then I act another” Romans 7:15 

The clever college professor got the attention of his class when he declared, “Whatever you do, do not think of a pink elephant”, knowing that it was now the one image dancing around in their minds. Our thoughts are powerful and sometimes controlling. Jesus addressed our thought life when he said, “everyone who looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Thoughts are the stimulus of the pornography industry. Our fantasy lives are much stronger than our actual lives. 

The daily struggle we have as followers of Jesus is with our thoughts, as Paul explains in the Book of Romans: “I decide one way but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.” (Romans 7:15-16) 

Even though a law or command may seem to work on the outside, it’s the inner battle of our mind that acts as a rudder, controlling thoughts and, if not stopped, actions. Thus our constant struggle. Who will rescue us from this dilemma? Jesus is our rescuer and the blood of Jesus has taken every sin, every evil and despicable thought and washed them with His blood. We are forgiven and cleansed daily. Each day is a new day, a day of forgiveness and hope. God has provided the answer. 

Romans 7:17-25  “I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time. 

21-23 It happens so regularly that it’s predictable. The moment I decide to do good, sin is there to trip me up. I truly delight in God’s commands, but it’s pretty obvious that not all of me joins in that delight. Parts of me covertly rebel, and just when I least expect it, they take charge.  24 I’ve tried everything and nothing helps. I’m at the end of my rope. Is there no one who can do anything for me? Isn’t that the real question?  25 The answer, thank God, is that Jesus Christ can and does. He acted to set things right in this life of contradictions where I want to serve God with all my heart and mind, but am pulled by the influence of sin to do something totally different.”

How often do we describe our struggles with terms such as, “I can’t seem to quit”–”I’ve tried to stop”–”I just don’t have the strength”–”That’s what I have a problem believing!” Of course we cannot change ourselves. God, through Jesus, has forgiven our sins forever and then, because He knows we will always need reassurance, implanted His Holy Spirit deep within us. We are never alone and never expected to change ourselves. If we could make ourselves better then Jesus’ death would be a sham. 

Romans 8:1-2  “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. 2 And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death.”

  The rugged father took his young son out on their weekly camping trip but this trip would be different. This would be the time for his son to show what he had learned over the past few years. After hiking several miles into the forest, they set up camp, ate and climbed into sleeping bags to fall asleep under the stars. 

In the morning the son awoke alone. Beside him, leaning against his backpack was a note. It read, “Son. I’ve taught you everything you should need to know about hiking, camping and finding your way home. I’ve gone on ahead and will see you there later. I know you can make it. At least I hope you can. After all, you are nine years old! Love, Dad.” 

Far-fetched story isn’t it? A loving father would never leave his young child completely alone to face all the uncertainties of the forest. In a similar way, our Heavenly Father would never leave us alone to face a sin-riddled world. 

John 14:16-18  And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 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. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. 

On my own, many things are impossible. With God nothing is impossible. 

Baptism

Baptism

July 17, 2021

“Many men and women were baptized”  Acts 8:12

Have you been baptized since you accepted Jesus Christ as your Savior? Have you experienced the public profession of your faith by following the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus through baptism? The Bible clearly instructs us to take this step, to show all who may be watching that we are symbolically washed clean; are buried (in the water) and raised again, coming up out of that watery grave, arms raised to heaven with a smile from ear to ear.

And yet, there are those who have taken this simple act of obedience and turned it into “Jesus plus”. Jesus plus is any act or belief that says His death on the cross was the first step of forgiveness and eternal salvation. In the case of baptism, some have decided that if you are not baptized following your confession of faith, you are not actually saved. They have taken Peter’s words above to be inclusive, meaning “Repent and be baptized” are the requirements to be saved. Repentance is not enough. In essence, the suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross did not grant us full forgiveness. According to this belief, His resurrection from the dead still did not fully save us from death and grant us eternal life with Him. We must be baptized! Jesus plus.

“Twice baptism seems to be linked with forgiveness of sins. On the day of Pentecost Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins…” (2:38). And later Ananias said to Saul, “Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord…” (22:16). In both cases the instructions were given to Jews; no Gentile was ever told to be baptized for the remission of sins. In believer’s baptism a Jew publicly repudiated his connection with the nation that rejected and crucified its Messiah. The basis of his forgiveness was faith in the Lord Jesus. The purchase price of his forgiveness was the precious blood of the Lord. The way in which his forgiveness was administered was through water baptism, because his baptism publicly removed him from Jewish ground and put him on Christian ground.” ~William MacDonald’s Bible Commentary

Our salvation is based on our faith in what Jesus did for us, not on something we did. Jesus did not appear to His disciples after His resurrection and tell them something like, “Yes, it’s true, I suffered that incredible pain and suffering and then God raised me from the dead for your eternal life. But now you have to do one more thing. If you aren’t baptized, you won’t be saved!”

    Ephesians 2:8-9  You are saved by God’s grace because of your faith. This salvation is God’s gift. It’s not something you possessed. It’s not something you did that you can be proud of.

    Acts 15:11 “We believe that we are all saved the same way, by the undeserved grace of the Lord Jesus.”

    When Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well, He said, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you the living water.” ~John 4:10. Notice that the Lord did not mention baptism. Jesus Himself never baptized anyone!

    John 14:6  “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father, but through Me.”

    Romans 10:9-10  “If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved; for it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved.” Notice that Paul does not add, ‘and is baptized.’”

    Acts 16:30-31  “…He said, ‘Sirs what must I do to be saved?’ And they said, ‘Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved, you and your household.”

    Nothing we do can add to our salvation. It is complete in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ. He gave Himself to forgive our sins and grant us the beauty and majesty of eternal life with Him. If you’ve not been baptized, you should. It is a wonderful experience, a joyous celebration, and an important step in proclaiming our salvation to the world. However, our sins are washed away by the blood of Jesus, not the water of baptism!

Who Can I Change?

“Change the way you are living and stop doing the things you are doing.”  Jer. 7:5 

It was so clear to Fred and yet his friend didn’t seem to notice. As a matter of fact, his observations regarding friends and workmates always fell on deaf ears. Fred was quite frustrated since his motives were pure. His desire was that people would benefit from his keen sense of observation and make the appropriate changes in their lives. Instead, he seemed to alienate most people and frustrate himself. How could he get people to understand? 

One day, as Fred was reading the Bible and meditating on what he read, a section in the book of Jeremiah jumped out at him and smacked him in the face, “Change the way you are living and stop doing the things you are doing.” Jer. 7:5. Although this section was talking to the Israelites about a specific issue, God used it to speak to Fred. What stood out to him was that he should concentrate on changing himself, not others!  Like a flash, his judgmental and critical attitude flooded over him. “The only thing I can change is myself and my attitude,” he realized! 

John 7:24  “Stop judging according to outward appearances; rather judge according to righteous judgment.” 

Luke 6:36-37  “Be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Do not judge and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive and you will be forgiven.” 

Luke 6:41-42  “And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying, ‘Friend, let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.” 

By now Fred was on his knees, tears running down his face, repenting before the Lord. This was the refining fire of personal conviction at work in his heart and  he was ready for the process. Let it burn, Lord. Let it burn. Scrape off the dross and remove the scales from my eyes.  

John 5:24  “I tell you for certain that everyone who hears my message and has faith in the one who sent me has eternal life and will never be condemned. They have already gone from death to life.” 

James 2:13  “There will be no mercy for those who have not shown mercy to others. But if you have been merciful, God will be merciful when he judges you.” 

Once again, the power of God’s Word began to sink into Fred’s receptive heart as he was powerfully reminded that it is God who makes the changes in us, not each other. Instead of taking what he saw in friends and co-workers’ lives to the Lord in prayer, Fred was misusing the information and forming it into tools of criticism and judgment. 

Heb. 10:10  For God’s will was for us to be made holy by the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ, once for all time.” 

At last Fred understood that it is God, after all, who makes us holy—and the only person we can change is ourselves. 

How Can I Experience God’s Peace?

“ I forget what is behind” ~Philippians 3:13

There’s always hope! No matter what happens. Each day with the Lord welcomes us with new hope, and a fresh start. All is forgiven, washed clean by the everlasting blood of the Lamb. The past is just that…past.

What about those times we can’t find the bliss of sleep, tossing and turning as we replay the day’s challenges or those just around the corner of tomorrow? As the infomercial salesman says, “But wait, I have a solution for that!” And God really does. It is found in Philippians 4:6-7Don’t worry about anything; instead, pray about everything; tell God your needs, and don’t forget to thank him for his answers. If you do this, you will experience God’s peace, which is far more wonderful than the human mind can understand. His peace will keep your thoughts and your hearts quiet and at rest as you trust in Christ Jesus.”

Are you carrying unnecessary burdens around like a steamer trunk? Going to the Lord in prayer, asking Him to relieve you of these burdens; thanking Him for His grace, forgiveness and mercy and then, after your prayers, you pick up your heavy load and walk away?

Do you find yourself thinking these thoughts, “I know God has forgiven me but—” “His grace and mercy are so wonderful but—” “I know He wants me to stop worrying about life but—” Are you really a believer or are you but-ing yourself into sleepless nights and a stomach ulcer?

What is God’s promised peace? Is it tangible or spiritual and is it impervious to Satan’s attacks and worldly pressures? Finally, is His peace permanent? Answers to this question are found in the Bible.

John 14:27 “Peace is what I leave with you; it is my own peace that I give you. I do not give it as the world does. Do not be worried and upset; do not be afraid.”

John 16:33  “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.”

Jesus made these promises to his followers as they were under tyrannical Roman rule. Not only that but they had chosen to walk away from their religious leaders to follow Christ which  brought scorn, arrests, beatings, and death! 

If Jesus could promise his followers in such dire living conditions that he was giving them peace, how can we possibly doubt his promises today? Consequently, if I am not walking in the peace of Christ that passes human understanding, who is to blame?

Most of us have a constant struggle with sin but God has provided the antidote that never fails. An antidote that we can claim by faith in Jesus Christ, fortified with God’s promises.

Romans 8:1-2; 9 “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus. And because you belong to him, the power of the life-giving Spirit has freed you from the power of sin that leads to death. But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you.”

Philippians 3:7-9  But all those things that I might count as profit I now reckon as loss for Christ’s sake. Not only those things; I reckon everything as complete loss for the sake of what is so much more valuable, the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have thrown everything away; I consider it all as mere garbage, so that I may gain Christ and be completely united with him.” 

Philippians 3:13 “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it (knowing Christ and the fellowship of sharing in his suffering), but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.” 

Jesus willingly subjected Himself to the pain of death to free us from the penalty and control of sin. Additionally, His sacrifice blotted out our past sins as well. Our arch-enemy, Satan will attempt to rekindle our memories of past failures but the shield of faith prevents those fiery darts from hitting home. If you have accepted that love and forgiveness then each day is a new day. . .guided by the Holy Spirit, directed by the Lord Jesus.

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).”

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.”

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 

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

Literally

“Greater things than these you shall do” -John 14:12

Shall I take the Bible literally? Some people say the Bible is informative, great literature, allegorical, fascinating but probably not literal. Perhaps we should think of it as a book of helpful stories that are sometimes informative and encouraging. But literal? Actually God’s written words to us?

Let’s make a comparison to a textbook. If you are in a math class, the professor assigns a book to study. This book is your math book and all its contents must be studied and. . .believed. The professor is not interested in your opinion that this book may be interesting but absolutely literal? You’re not sure about that. Most of us have taken math classes and would not have considered challenging the professor in such a way. All the students know the textbook is filled with factual information necessary to navigate the field of Algebra or Geometry, etc.

It seems to me then, even more than a math textbook, we have a choice to believe that the Bible is literal, given to us by God, via forty different authors over a period of 1,600 years, as imparted by the Holy Spirit, or it is not worth reading at all. 

According to GotQuestions.org: “It is accurate to say that God wrote the Bible. According to 2 Timothy 3:16, Scripture is “breathed out” by God. Throughout the Bible, it is obvious that God is being quoted: over 400 times in the Bible, we find the words “thus says the Lord” (NKJV). The Bible refers to itself as the Word of God dozens of times (e.g., Psalm 119Proverbs 30:5Isaiah 40:855:11Jeremiah 23:29John 17:17Romans 10:17Ephesians 6:17Hebrews 4:12). The Bible is said to proceed from the mouth of God (Deuteronomy 8:3Matthew 4:4).” Peter says it this way, “For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” 2 Peter 1:21

Ok, you say, I want to believe the Bible is God’s Word. However, it seems like a leap to say we should take it literally. How about the story of God parting the Red Sea so the Israelites could march across on dry land as the sea stood vibrating on each side of this huge throng of people?

“Then Moses raised his hand over the sea, and the Lord opened up a path through the water with a strong east wind. The wind blew all that night, turning the seabed into dry land. So the people of Israel walked through the middle of the sea on dry ground, with walls of water on each side!” Exodus 14:21-22

Now that is hard to believe, you may think. And you would be correct. Without God it is impossible! If God is real, then the Bible is real and literally true. You can’t have one without the other. Either God saw to it that the Bible was written for all who come along throughout history; and it is literally true or the whole idea is ridiculous and the Bible is a hoax.

Here’s another mind boggling story. It is a true story from the Book of Numbers, chapter 22 verses 22-33. This is the story of a prophet named Balaam and his donkey. Balaam was sort of a prophet for hire who was not as interested in spreading God’s dictates as he was feathering his financial nest. On his way to give King Balak, a Moabite, a prophecy, God sent the Angel of the Lord to shock him into speaking the truth to Balak. He got his attention through the mouth of his donkey.

As they were traveling, the donkey saw the Angel of the Lord standing on the path with a drawn sword. The donkey turned into the field to avoid this obvious problem. Balaam hit her. This happened three times in all. After the third encounter, the donkey plopped down under Balaam. She was not moving. Balaam was furious and he beat her again.“Then the Lord gave the donkey the ability to speak. “What have I done to you that deserves your beating me three times?” it asked Balaam.

“You have made me look like a fool!” Balaam shouted. “If I had a sword with me, I would kill you!”

“But I am the same donkey you have ridden all your life,” the donkey answered. “Have I ever done anything like this before?”

“No,” Balaam admitted.

Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the Angel of the Lord standing in the roadway with a drawn sword in his hand. Balaam bowed his head and fell face down on the ground before him.

Sounds like fiction doesn’t it? But it really happened. Now let’s look at the New Testament at one of the most important moments in man’s long history. This true story is found in the Book of Luke, 1:26-31. 

“God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!”

Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be afraid, Mary,” the angel told her, “for you have found favor with God! You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you will name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!”

Yes, the Bible is beyond human understanding but is literally true. God chose a simple young woman with no fame or fortune to bear the Son of God, Jesus. Jesus who died and rose from the tomb as the living sacrifice for our sins. He literally did!

You see, God used people to write the Bible. They were guided by the Holy Spirit. Since that is true, how can we presume to ignore certain sections of His Word or decide they no longer apply? 

1 Peter 1:24-25. “All flesh is like grass, and all its glory like a flower of the grass. The grass withers and the flower drops off, but the Word of the Lord endures forever.”