Archive for January, 2013

Strike 3. You’re out.

“Hello. My name is – , and I am a discouraged Christian. Yes, I go to church. Yes, I read the bible too. But I am struggling. I don’t need your platitudes or your ‘Holy’ advice. I need you to be real with me. Tell me that you have struggled too. Tell me you know how it feels to be discouraged. Tell me that it’s not only me. When will I stop feeling so lost? I keep questioning my beliefs. Is God indeed good? Is He really with me? Does He actually hear my prayers? Don’t just tell me He does, show me. Help me understand why God can be so silent for so long. Tell me how He puts up with the pain that so many ‘good’ people feel and can seemingly allow bad people to prosper? Please, Encourage me. I need it. Give me hope that God is there and that though He is silent, He is never still.”

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We all know how to praise and testify when God provides for us just in the nick of time. When we fasted and prayed and God provided. He came in at the last-minute and He saved us. But how do we testify when God didn’t come through for us the way we asked him to? How do we praise Him when our prayer request went seemingly unanswered? The old ladies can stand up in church and praise God when “the miraculous check came two days before the water and electricity was supposed to be shut off,” but tell me how to Praise God when the check didn’t come and the whole family had to go by without water and electricity. How should she praise God then?

What do you do when you get down on your knees and pray for someone to come and alleviate your pain, and yet the suffering continues? No one needs to tell you how to thank God when He provides you with the job you’ve been praying and fasting for, but what about when you are jobless for almost a year? What about when you can no longer provide for your family, and the eviction notice is lying on the kitchen counter? You don’t need someone to tell you how to survive when everything in your life is going well and you have someone who loves you, but what about when your biological clock has ‘tocked’ and you are still alone?

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There are some things we are dealing with in our lives that no one else knows about. There are some burdens we carry that we feel are ours alone. There are some struggles that can bring even a ‘strong’ man to his knees. Have you ever felt weary? Have you ever felt like giving up? Have you ever felt like throwing in the towel?

You are not alone.

There is only one solace for the discouraged Christian. And it’s found in God’s word. In Hebrews 11 we see the many things people suffered for their God. They persevered through mocking, scourging, chains, imprisonments, stoning, being sawn in two, temptations, death by the sword, and homelessness. The writer tells us in Hebrews 12 that because of their perseverance and their testimony—we can be encouraged amidst our discouragement. We can see the things that those who came before us endured, and we can know that we too can endure.

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When we are discouraged, we can look at Christ who passed this way before us. He has tasted and seen our struggle, our pain, and He encourages us to press on. You might think God doesn’t see your pain. That God is indifferent to your cries. But you are not alone. Jesus himself felt forsaken by God when He was on the cross, but God never let His son carry a burden that was greater that He could bear.

When Christ carried up His cross to be crucified it soon became too much for him. Blood, tears and sweat stung his eyes. His body cried out in pain. He could not go on. He fell under the weight of this world. But then God sent Simon to help Jesus carry the cross. God did not take the cross away–but He sent His servant Simon to help lift Christ’s burden. God never left Jesus. God may have seemed silent, but He was always present. He was careful lest His child became too weary of His burden. When every thing spelled doom. God said, don’t give up! I am with you.


Simon Carrying The Cross from Passion of Christ

Discouragement can come to us when we are going the way God wants us to and satan in anger tries to pull us down and out of the game. But the God who hears your prayers, the God who sees your tears, and the God who loves you,  He rebukes the devil and He encourages us once more. Christ sympathizes with our every weaknesses, and He was tempted in every way we are–yet without sin. So do not despair. Christ is with you. He is cheering you on!

“The greatest act of faith some days is to simply get up and face another day.” Because “you can get a thousand no’s from man, and only one “yes” from God,” and that will be enough to see you through. ‘Yes in your life you see limitations, but God sees opportunities. You see failure, but God sees growth. You see problems, but God sees solutions. You see limitations, but God sees possibilities. You see this life… but God sees eternity.’

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There is a time when everything you once feared comes to pass. When the things you told God you couldn’t handle, have come and gone. And yet you are still standing. Your trust has been tested. Your faith has been shaken. Your hope has been trampled. But hold fast!

“We are troubled on every side, yet not distressed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; Persecuted, but not forsaken; cast down, but not destroyed!” “The LORD your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you with his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” ”No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” “So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.”

I’m-possible

God is > our impossibilities. Flip through your bible. We see Mary becoming pregnant while still a virgin. Joseph went from being a condemned slave to second in command to Pharaoh. Sarah gave birth to a child when she was 99 and post-menopause. Nevertheless, we sometimes forget that the God of the bible is still Lord over our lives today.

 

Impossible  means without power. But God gives power to all our impossibilities.

Impossible means without power. But God gives power to all our impossibilities.

 

Have you ever looked at a situation in your life and thought it was impossible? God is telling us today what He once told Abraham, so many centuries ago…“Nothing is too hard for the LORD!!”

 
God knows you have questions, doubts, and concerns. You are anxious for the future, and wonder if you can truly trust God to come through for you. But today, know that the impossible becomes possible when God works on your behalf. God is so much higher than your problems, pain and difficulties. When His power meets your willing and surrendered heart, the impossible becomes possible!

Handicap Grace

The story is told of a young boy who had been handicap since he was a small child. One day the young boy was looking for scraps in a dumpster behind a certain alleyway. He heard a commotion behind him, and quickly went to go see what was happening. He saw an old man slouched in the far corner of the alley with two burly men looming over him. The young boy growled at them from the shadows, and lunged for them. Seeing only the outline of his frame, they didn’t even notice that he was missing one arm.  The two men quickly ran away, and the young boy went to check on their victim. He helped the older man up, and gathered the old man’s wallet—which the thieves had dropped in their rush to escape. The old man saw the ferocity in the young boy’s eyes and noted his courage.

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The old man was a well-noted boxing trainer, and he decided he would take this boy under his tutelage, despite his missing arm. Years later this boy became a master boxer. And despite his missing arm, he was as fierce as a lion when in the ring. In the final match of his career, his old master taught him one trick that he said would never fail the young man in the ring. When the day of the match came. The young man fought ferociously. But still he could feel his strength waning. In the last round, he made one last attempt at victory; using the trick his master had taught him. He executed it with much skill, and to his amazement his opponent lay knocked out.

After celebrating his victory that night he went to his master with complete befuddlement apparent in his face. “How could I have won master,” he asked. “Why did your trick work?” “I am only a handicap and my opponent was much stronger than me!” A small smile sneaked out from under the old man’s beard. “The only way your opponent could have counter acted your final move, was if you had another hand for him to grab on to,” he replied. You won not despite your handicap, but because of it. 

Often times God allows us to have certain handicaps in our life. Whether it be physical handicaps, or disadvantages we have always had to live with. Maybe we are not gifted in one area or another.  Maybe we grew up without certain comforts or opportunities. However, God never gives us a load we cannot bear. He can use our handicaps to become our glory. And then we will see, that it was not because of our strength we succeeded, but rather because of His grace. 

Falling in Love

I can’t sleep. His voice keeps playing over and over in my head. I keep thinking about what He has done for me. I keep replaying how He is going to provide for me in the future. He makes me so happy!

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I never knew what it was to be loved so completely. And He knows everything I ever did! But, Oh how He loves me!!

He forgave me. Even when I didn’t deserve to be forgiven. He provides for my every need, and He gives me this joy I can’t even explain.

I’m not the same person when I’m with Him. I used to think that being with Him was so restrictive. I couldn’t do this, and I couldn’t do that. But it’s when I am with Him that I am truly free.

And guess what? He sings too. He sings me a sweet lullaby. And right before I sleep, I sing it back to Him,

“What wondrous love is this, O my soul! That caused the Lord of bliss to bear the dreadful curse for my soul. When I was sinking down, beneath God’s righteous frown, Christ laid aside His crown for my soul.”

I’m falling in love with my Lord.

Where is God

This year I have committed to read through the Bible chronologically. Today’s passage comes from Job 17:

“My spirit is crushed, and I am near death. The grave is ready to receive me. I am surrounded by mockers. I watch how bitterly they taunt me. My eyes are dim with weeping, and I am but a shadow of my former self. My days are over. My hopes have disappeared. My heart’s desires are broken. I might go to the grave and make my bed in darkness. And I might call the grave my father, and the worm my mother and my sister. But where then is my hope? Can anyone find it? No, my hope will go down with me to the grave.”

We all know what it is like to feel hopeless. In the midst of our circumstance, sometimes we see no way out. We have no help. We have no joy. We question God’s presence in our lives. We forget how He has led us in the past.

But whenever I am reading Job and find myself questioning God: I quickly skip to the end of the story. I skip to God’s answer.

Job 38:

“Then the Lord answered Job from the whirlwind: “Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you made daylight spread to the ends of the earth, to bring an end to the night’s wickedness?”

Our God is a great God. We may not understand our circumstance. But its not ours to question God. Instead we trust His ways, which are above our own.

“Sometimes we ask God to fix things, that He is not going to fix. Change things that He is not going to change. We ask Him to move things that He is not going to move. He may not change your circumstances, but He will give the grace to bear it. He may not move your problem, but He will give you the grace to stand it. God may not take you out of the fire, but He will be a thermostat in the furnace, so that the flames of trials and despair will not scorch you, but refine you into pure gold. When there is no way left for you to try, when all your plans have failed, and you see no way of relief, God says: Here I am. My strength is made perfect in your weakness.”

God is still God in the middle of your trial. He will never leave you or forsake you.

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Fishing

A twelve-year-old boy was saved at a revival. Later, his friends asked him about the experience. One asked, “Did you see a vision?” “Did you hear God speak?” The boy gently replied, “No, I did not.”

“Well, how did you know you were saved?” they asked. The boy replied, “It is like when you catch a fish. You can’t see the fish or hear the fish; you just feel him tugging on your line… I just felt God tugging on my heart.”

We may not see God, but we can feel Him tugging on our hearts. He calls us to develop a deeper relationship with Him. He calls us to lay our burdens on His shoulders. He counsels us to trust Him when all hope seems lost. 

He who watches over you will neither slumber nor sleep. The one who watches over you is your Lord. 

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Phantom

Phantom

60-80% of amputees experience the sensation of a phantom limb. Invisible toes curl, imaginary hands try to grasp things, or a ‘leg’ feels so sturdy a patient will even try to stand on it.’ This feeling is also associated with intense pain.

Oftentimes we as Christians hold on to phantom sin in our lives. After we have asked God to forgive our sins, we forget to also forgive ourselves. We let the feeling of guilt for past mistakes haunt us—even after we bring them to God.

Christ died for our sins—all of them. And when we come to Him, He does not condem us, but bid us to “go, and sin no more.”