Patience is forged over the hot coals of trials. Those trials strengthen us for the long journey of faith. – Keith Haney
One of my readers picked the word patience for their word for 2019. I have never asked God for patience for I fear the things I would have to go through to develop that spiritual muscle. Yet, the last twelve months of my life has been a constant lesson in patience. This past year has taught me that patience is forged over the hot coals of trials. Those trials strengthen us for the long journey of faith. In preparing this post I came across the greatest explanation of the biblical understanding of patience.
Hebrews 12:1 tells us to “run with endurance” the race set before us. George Matheson wrote, “We commonly associate patience with lying down. We think of it as the angel that guards the couch of the invalid. Yet there is a patience that I believe to be harder — the patience that can run. To lie down in the time of grief, to be quiet under the stroke of adverse fortune, implies a great strength; but I know of something that implies a strength greater still: it is the power to work under stress; to have a great weight at your heart and still run; to have a deep anguish in your spirit and still perform the daily tasks. It is a Christ-like thing! The hardest thing is that most of us are called to exercise our patience, not in the sickbed but in the street.” To wait is hard, to do it with “good courage” is harder! – Our Daily Bread, April 8.
Lord I pray that you will give me the strength to still work for you and the Kingdom while it breaks my heart, my spirit is downcast, my hope waning. Give me the patience to courageously live a life which gives honor and glory to you. That is the patience spirit I desire in 2019. It is patience grounded on hope in a benevolent God and a compassionate Savior.
This has been quite a journey and the end is not in plain sight. Through all the trials of life Lord, you are my refuge and strength. In hard times You are an ever-present helper in times of trouble. Help me cling to You and the truth of Your word. When the journey seems insurmountable I know Mighty One You are by my side. When my hope wains Father Your grace is sufficient. As the prophet, Nahum reminds me, “The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of distress; He cares for those who take refuge in Him.” (Nahum 1:7) In Jesus’ name. Amen
Other posts in this series: https://revheadpin.org/2019/01/07/words-for-2019-courageous/
“Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Matthew 3:13-14
Christmas is over, and now even the Wise Men have come and gone. The decorations are put away, and we risk putting the purpose and meaning of Christmas in storage as well. Jesus has come, but for what? In real time, some 30 years pass between the Christmas readings and this reading from Matthew. Perhaps it is good that the move so quickly to the Jordan River, so we don’t lose sight of the significance of Jesus arrival on the earth. John presumably baptized many, but this is baptism was different. There was a unique even odd feeling to the whole ceremony. This baptism was unlike any other, yet Jesus’ baptism lays the groundwork for our own. We understand our need for the washing away of sin, but Jesus was nothing like us in nature nor in the manner in which He entered the world. And that is where the need for clarification and deeper examination begins.
As we look at Matthew’ account, it gives us a unique opportunity to talk about a crucial means God uses to show us His Grace, baptism.
What are the Benefits of Baptism?
1. Baptism works forgiveness of sins.
Matthew does not explicitly enunciate the doctrine of Christ’s sinlessness, but he seems to point to that understanding in the exchange of John the Baptist and Jesus in v. 11. John has expressed his feeling of inferiority in the presence of the Messiah. He now acknowledges his sinfulness in comparison with Jesus and how the tables should be reversed. Jesus should be baptizing John. Here are some Bible verses about baptism to further explain the role of baptism in the life of the believer.
• “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Acts 2:38
• Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away Acts 22:16
• You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. Galatians 3:26-27
The Bible further explains that Baptism saves us from the effects of sin:
2. Baptism delivers us from sin and death.
• Don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Romans 6:3
• “because they formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was being prepared, in which a few, that is, eight persons, were brought safely through water. Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ,” 1 Peter 3:20-21
The question that begs to be addressed is: didn’t Christ do all that is needed to save us with his death and resurrection? So, what role does baptism play in our lives as Christians? As Dr. Martin Luther points out in his Catechism, “By His suffering and death Christ has indeed earned these blessings for us; Baptism, however, is a means by which the Holy Ghost makes these blessings our own. Baptism is a means of grace.” So, then what happens in baptism is all the promises of God that became fulfilled with Jesus did on the cross, become ours personally through the waters of baptism. Our forgiveness of sins, our adoption into the family of God as His dear children, God’s promise of eternal life all become our personal gifts through my faith and my baptism.
ut then all of this makes this text even more confusing. Why would Jesus need to be baptized when His work on the cross in the very foundation and power that baptism is based? Jesus had no sins to repent of. He needed no promise of eternal life so why was He baptized? If Jesus were a sinner needing forgiveness, he would be no different than any of us and his death would not save us. So why was Jesus baptized? Looking again at the text it reads,
Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to be baptized by John. But John tried to deter him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” Jesus replied, “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.” Matthew 3:13-15
It would aid our study of we clarify what the words “fulfill all righteousness” means. Both righteousness and fulfillment are key themes in the Gospel of Matthew. They are key to understanding the theology of Matthew. Righteousness here means, as often elsewhere, doing the “revealed will of God.” In Matthew, fulfill seems to mean simply “do, perform,” and the meaning is that it is necessary for both John and Jesus to “do God’s revealed will,” which includes the baptism of Jesus. The plural “us” links John and Jesus together as partners in carrying out God’s saving plan. So, Jesus baptism has nothing to do with sin and repentance. Instead, it has everything to do with carrying out God’s plan of salvation.
So, then what is this plan that John and Jesus are carrying out? The baptism of Jesus has two key elements that will need to look at that will add insight into that plan. This event is the beginning of Jesus ministry as king. And the two events that mark that kingship is:
1) The Spirit, the presence of God
“As soon as Jesus was baptized, he went up out of the water. At that moment heaven was opened, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and lighting on him.” Matthew 3:16
This verse is important because there were six other times the “spirit of the Lord came upon people” the last person was King David. So, this verse makes Jesus the seventh person the “spirit of God descended on.” Some biblical experts believe that the number seven is God’s number, the number of perfection and completion. There is some merit in that reasoning. The world was created in six days and the seventh day was a day of rest, God’s day. There are numerous times when seven is seen in Revelations, the seven bowls, the seven churches. So, if that is genuine and seven is the number of completion what importance is it that Jesus is the seventh person to receive the Spirit of God on him? To understand this, you need to go back to a promise God made to King David in 2 Samuel 7. In 2 Samuel 7, David wants to build God a temple and God tells him through Nathan, the prophet that this is not for him to do. His son, Solomon will build him a temple. But at the end of the chapter God makes David a promise. “Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever’” 2 Samuel 7:16.
God, says to David I will make your kingdom last forever. Now if you are up on your Bible history, you know that the kingdom fell thousands of years ago. Israel today has no king. So, what happened to the promise? Jesus is the fulfillment of God’s promise to David. He is the last and eternal king. He is the one that through whom God will establish David’s kingdom. Jesus is the king that is reigning right now on the throne, and his kingdom will last forever. The event in Matthew 3 is Jesus’ coronation. He is being anointed as the last and eternal King. We see this even more clearly in the next section were the Words from God from heaven are taken from Psalm 2 the Coronation psalm.
2) The proclamation by God of Jesus Sonship.
And a voice from heaven said,
“This is my Son, whom I love; with him, I am well pleased.”
I will proclaim the decree of the LORD:
He said to me, “You are my Son;
Today I have become your Father. Psalm 2:7
What does all this mean to us? It means that we serve a God who keeps his promises. We serve a God who sent His Son from His throne on heaven to suffer and die to rescue His lost and condemned subjects. Jesus did not send someone else in His place He came down personally to redeem us. And to make sure we received all the benefits of His death and resurrection He sealed it with the waters of Baptism. He says to us in our baptism today I have become Your Father and you have become My sons and daughters.
Jesus’ baptism was essential to the fulfillment of His mission on earth, in identifying with the “righteous remnant” of Israel. His baptism was unique. It was not a “baptism of repentance” nor was it a “Christian baptism,” as ours is today, But, it was the beginning point of Jesus’ public ministry. It would mark the start of Jesus’ march toward Calvary and the sacrifice He would make to redeem the world and the empty tomb the visible symbol of His victory over death and the grave. It all begins like our new life begins with the waters of Baptism and God’s word claiming us as His own.
THE WATCHMAN’S TASK IS TO WATCH (v. 3).
When he sees the sword coming against the land, he blows the trumpet and warns the people. Ezekiel 33:3
During the 1982 war in the Falkland Islands between England and Argentina, the Royal Navy’s 3,500-ton destroyer HMS Sheffield was sunk by a single missile fired from an Argentine fighter jet. It caused people to wonder if modern surface warships were obsolete, sitting ducks for today’s sophisticated missiles. But a later check revealed that the Sheffield’s defenses did pick up the incoming missile, and the ship’s computer correctly identified it as a French-made Exocet. But the computer was programmed to ignore Exocets as “friendly.” The Sheffield was sunk by a missile it saw coming and could have evaded. Today in the Word, May 12, 1992.
You can find several passages in the Bible about the duties of a watchman. In 2 Samuel 18:24-27, King David sent a watchman to take his stand on the roof over the gate of the city. His task was to determine for the king if the man running toward the city gate was a friend or foe. In 2 Kings 9:17, a watchman in the time of King Joram of Israel positioned himself high in the tower of Jezreel to warn his people of the approach of a hostile enemy.
A shepherd feeds
guides (sheep go astray)
guards (against wolves)
heals (the wounds of injured)
Between Two Worlds, J.R. Stott, p. 120.
Clearly one of the roles of a watchman is to ‘watch’! He is to have his eyes opened to what is going on that may be a threat or a concern to the welfare of his people. As John Stott points out it is not the only task, and it is a task that needs to be surrounded by feeding, guiding and healing the flock. A watchman who only warns of danger but doesn’t take the time and the care to build up, and heal the flock is in danger of being a voice crying wolf in the wilderness.
What Is the Watchman Guarding against?
The prophet Amos 3:6 says, “If a trumpet is blown in a city, will not the people be afraid?”God used this analogy often to call His people to attention.
Jeremiah 4:5-6 says,
Declare in Judah and proclaim in Jerusalem, and say:
“Blow the trumpet in the land; Cry, ‘Gather together,’
And say, ‘Assemble yourselves,
And let us go into the fortified cities.’
Set up the standard toward Zion.
Take refuge! Do not delay!
For I will bring disaster from the north,
And great destruction” Jeremiah 4:5-6.
In Hosea 8:1, “Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD because they have transgressed My covenant and rebelled against My law.”
It’s the watchman’s two-fold duty, 1) To faithfully watch and see the danger that approaches to his people;and 2) to blow the warning to his people loudly and clearly.And so, in our passage, the watchman “sees the sword coming upon the land”, and “blows the trumpet and warns the people”(v. 3).
Since God has appointed pastors as overseers we are not to sit silently at our post and be idle. We are to be a people who are students of God’s word. Our call is to believe what God says, apply that truth to life around us, and instruct our flock with the truth. We need to be able to discern any danger that is coming towards the people whom God has placed in our care.
Our watching and warning are done with mercy in mind. For God has placed us as a watchman in the midst of people. God has entrusted watchmen with His message of salvation, with the gospel of Jesus Christ, “…we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace…“ (Eph. 1:7).
This is what we have been called to, entrusted with, given the privilege to proclaim, let us not grow weary, nor take our eyes off the threat, as we cling to the hope of the resurrection. Our mission is critical and because of that Satan is busy.
It has been a fascinating writing experience to take a word and turn it into something meaningful. I started with the easy one, courage, first and now this week, grace. At its core grace is about God’s love for humanity. God cares so deeply for a fallen and broken world that He offers it a solution, a way out. God offers grace to a guilt-ridden world. The message of grace is connected with forgiveness and healing that is spoken in our churches and through the mouths and lives of those who are followers of Jesus. Our prayer is to allow us, Lord, to live grace-filled lives among those unconnected and those who are beaten down by the effects of sin. Grace which is clearly revealed in Paul’s letter to a young group of believers in Corinth, “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.”1 Corinthians 5:19.
Grace is revealed also in the waters of Holy Baptism. As Tertullian once shared, “How mighty is the grace of water, in the sight of God and His Christ, for the confirmation of Baptism! Never is Christ without water: He who is Himself in water (Matt 3:13-17); inaugurates in water the first display of His power when invited to the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-11); in His preaching He invites the thirsty to His own eternal water (John 7:37-38; John 4:6ff.) And when He is wounded, after His death, water bursts forth from His side that had been pierced with the soldier’s lance (John 19:34)!” For those who picked grace as their word for 2019 if you want a daily visible reminder of God’s grace, it is found around you everywhere in the form of water. May you be a refreshing drink to the souls of those around you as you live out this year filled with grace.
I would like to believe that a distinctly, authentic Church is a Christ-centered, mission-driven, people-focused, community-transforming church. But what does that mean?
This opening illustration frames this discussion. A missionary in Africa was once asked if he liked what he was doing. His response was shocking. “Do I like this work?” he said. “No. My wife and I do not like dirt. We have reasonable, refined sensibilities. We do not like crawling into vile huts through goat refuse. But is a man to do nothing for Christ he does not like? God pity him, if not. Liking or disliking has nothing to do with it. We have orders to ‘Go,’ and we go. Love constrains us.” –Our Daily Bread.
I want to begin this by discussing the churches in the Book of Acts. The struggle I run into when talking about the Church based on what was happening in Acts is that we tend to see those churches through rose-colored glasses. These marks are not all characteristics of the Churches in Acts. We see the explosive growth, we see the unity, but we fail to look at the flaws. And to be honest, all churches have flaws. Here is what we know about those early century churches.
As we set out to lay the marks of an authentic church we use as our foundation the missional churches of Acts. However, this time we will pull back the veil and reveal more than just the positives we tend to highlight. We need to be prepared for all the issues the churches in Acts faced. As a matter of insight, “Whenever you attempt something great for God and His kingdom, Satan will do everything possible to derail those attempts.” There are seven marks that this article will examine in some detail. We begin with the most critical. Any church needs to have strong Biblical teaching.
“The believers devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the community, to their shared meals, and to their prayers.” Acts 2:42
At the heart of any authentically missional church is the gospel message of Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection. If we are preaching anything but Christ and Him crucified, then we are doing harm to those outside of God’s grace. The world needs strong biblical teaching from the church because the natural tendency of the human heart is to drift back into the mode of trying to please God by doing good and in doing so feeling the full weight of God’s wrath. You can hear that in Luther’s words just how deeply he felt the weight of God. How deeply he was tormented by his sins and how that sin weighs on the heart of the sinner.
“Though I lived as a religious leader without reproach, I felt, with the most disturbed conscience imaginable, that I was a sinner before God. I did not love. Indeed, I hated the righteous God who punishes sinners.” Dr. Martin Luther
The quote points to just how deeply Luther felt convicted by God; how Luther was profoundly aware of his sinfulness and the impact of God’s judgment on him for his sins. At the heart of the Reformation, this was the tension with the Roman Catholic Church over the issue of solid biblical doctrine. The Catholic church taught Christians they had to earn the merits of Jesus’ forgiveness. Nothing was free. Christ’s death for them was only a starting point; there was much more the sinner needed to do to achieve salvation. That need to earn forgiveness lead to a deeper faith crisis. Now Christ’s death and resurrection are not enough. If that were the case, this uncertainty left many good faithful Christians feeling the weight of being inadequate. Very little has changed today. This issues of trying to appease an angry God runs through the lives and hearts of many religions. An authentic mission church points people back to the grace, but good works cannot and will not save us. When we approach the throne of God with only our good works as a sacrifice, we quickly realize just how inadequate that appears before a perfect God. To extend our pitiful gifts to the God who created the universe seems quite small.
Deep down the human heart knows that we are born in sin and have no legitimate way to earn the forgiveness of those sins. The frustration that humanity has when attempting to earn favor with God through works is the feeling of being mistreated. Unfair treatment angers a lot of people, especially people like Luther who desperately want to play by the rules.
The first mark of the Church is foundational, to point the saint and sinner back to the cross of Christ and the grace of God. Luther like many souls are feeling the full weight of God in their life, but the true Church leads the troubled soul to the knowledge that Jesus took that pressure to Calvary’s cross on their behalf. Now nothing in our past is too big even for Jesus to forgive, nor anything is too big that the blood of Jesus cannot cover. The Church proclaims to the world God’s relentless grace.
The second mark of the authentic missional church is the church founded on an empowering prayer life. Check in on Thursday’s as the four-part series continues.
Some passages of the Bible are difficult because of the hard work it takes to understand them. And then, there are passages that are difficult because it’s very evident what they mean.
As I begin this new series of blog posts the message will be difficult because of the subject. It’s one that, quite frankly, I would prefer not to teach because it hits my calling in life. The topic is one I believe the Holy Spirit would have us consider as a body of believers. I ask that we open ourselves up to what God will pour into our hearts. His instruction from this difficult passage may bring comfort sometimes, in others a reaffirmation of our calling, and for still others a not so gentle rebuke.
In the thirty-third chapter of the Old Testament book of Ezekiel. It’s there that we read these words, spoken by God to the prophet Ezekiel:
Again, the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, speak to the children of your people, and say to them: ‘When I bring the sword upon a land, and the people of the land take a man from their territory and make him their watchman, when he sees the sword coming upon the land, if he blows the trumpet and warns the people, then whoever hears the sound of the trumpet and does not take warning, if the sword comes and takes him away, his blood shall be on his own head. He heard the sound of the trumpet, but did not take warning; his blood shall be upon himself. But he who takes warning will save his life. But if the watchman sees the sword coming and does not blow the trumpet, and the people are not warned, and the sword comes and takes any person from among them, he is taken away in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at the watchman’s hand.’
“So, you, son of man: I have made you a watchman for the house of Israel; therefore you shall hear a word from My mouth and warn them for Me. When I say to the wicked, ‘O wicked man, you shall surely die!’ and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood I will require at your hand. Nevertheless, if you warn the wicked to turn from his way, and he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity; but you have delivered your soul (Ezekiel 33:1-9).
God was speaking to Ezekiel about his role as a shepherd to His people. Ezekiel was a priest during the time when the Jewish people were removed by God from their homeland because of their sinfulness and idolatry and were taken captive into the land of the Babylonians. God had called him to a prophetic ministry in Babylon, and to the captive people of Judah during the dark time of their exile from their homeland. And God uses the figure of a “watchman” to describe Ezekiel’s role.
The Danger of Ignoring the Warning Signs
Henry Nelson, of Wilmington, Delaware, was a veteran of World War II. He had served as an instructor in the Army Chemical Warfare Department. Yet he ignored a warning by the superintendent of the Riverside Housing Development that the apartment he lived in was being fumigated with hydrogen-cyanide gas. He tore down the barricade at the door and went in after two blankets.
The neighbors saw him remove the sign and barricade and go in, and they called the Development office. But when employees arrived it was too late. Nelson lay sprawled on the living room floor with the two blankets in his arms. Despite both written and verbal warnings, and despite his training in the Army, he had gone to his death.— G. Franklin Allee
The watchman is a military image. It was the task of the watchman to position himself high on the city wall or on a tower, watch carefully, see if an enemy approached the land, and take up his trumpet and blow the warning to his people. His service to his people was a matter of life-and-death importance. If a watchman should fail to see the enemy approaching, or if he should for whatever reason, fail to blow the warning signal, some of his people would perish.
The Call to Be Trustworthy
“Then I will establish for myself a trustworthy priest who will act in accordance with my thoughts and desires. I will build a trustworthy household for him, and he will serve before my anointed one forever.” 1 Samuel 2:35
Due to the nature of the work of a shepherd, a key quality is trustworthiness. God sought that in Samuel, it is a quality Paul list for Timothy.
“The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. 2 Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach,3, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.” 1 Timothy 3
The watchman had to be a trustworthy man. He had to be faithful and alert to his task. A man who understood the significance of his purpose, and who gave himself fully to it. It may have been an unpopular message he had to give at times. No one likes to have sin confronted but being faithful to our calling means speaking truth even when it is not politically correct. A watchman is committed to sound the alarm when it was needed no matter what the cost. God calls Ezekiel to a most sobering and serious task. Like, Ezekiel, it is a task that every future watchman will be held responsible to by God to the highest possible degree. Which is why no one should take on this calling lightly. God appoints pastors to be a spiritual “watchman” to his people. We are called to “blow” a warning that the people may not want to hear.
Next Week post: Are you faithfully fulfilling the task of a watchman?
Tan, P. L. (1996). Encyclopedia of 7700 Illustrations: Signs of the Times(p. 1361). Garland, TX: Bible Communications, Inc.
“Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.” Deuteronomy 31:6
As I thought and prayed about 2019, I was sick of making empty new year’s resolutions. With that in mind, I put this question out to my followers, “If you can think of one word to define you for 2019 what is that word?” I received several great responses. On Mondays to kickoff this new year I will turn these words into a devotional. I pray they are a blessing and hope they inspire those who picked these words.
The word courageous struck me. What does it mean to be courageous? From Joshua, it was following a well-respected leader in Moses. It requires courageous leaders to lead in a time of transition. The former generation has died off, only a remnant remains Caleb, Joshua, and Moses. As the transition is underway Moses was about to go with God. At the end of Deuteronomy 31 and following these are transition chapters. Moses gives his farewell words to the people he has loved and led for forty years. Despite all the personal attacks by the chosen and recused people of God, Moses remained so loyal. Now Joshua will lead these grumbling and rebellious people as they take the land promised to them.
Is God calling you this year of 2019 to be courageous? Are the tough challenges ahead that you may have avoided because you were not ready or willing to pay the price? Have you avoided critical conversations because you feared the fallout? Maybe this is your year to lead a courageous life for God and His kingdom. Remember the works given to Joshua, “Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.”
Dear Lord, give me a spirit of courage. I know that whatever you have called me to do, say or lead that I don’t do it without Your power behind me. The psalmists remind us of Your protection God, “6 He only is my rock and my salvation, my fortress; I shall not be shaken.7 On God rests my salvation and my glory; my mighty rock, my refuge is God. 8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your heart before him; God is a refuge for us.” Psalm 62:6-8
Give me courage Lord to live out my calling for the expansion of the Kingdom. In Jesus Name. Amen.
As we reflect on this Epiphany season, we give thanks for the message of Epiphany. The birth of Jesus has had a global impact. You have revealed the good news to us through the prophets and apostles that the Savior born in a manager was not just the King of the Jews by He was meant for all people.
And now you have given this mystery to the church. As Paul reminds us in Ephesians 3, “I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. 8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, 9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God, who created all things, 10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.
The magi came bearing gifts to the Christ Child, Lord may we offer ourselves to our Lord.
Lead us, Lord, to be the Universal Church called to bring light to those living in darkness and share our gifts with the world. May the gospel message of your grace be proclaimed through us and our ministries. Lord, we marvel at the manifold wisdom of God as you make clear your will for us in Jesus Christ.
Guide and direct us as we seek to love as You have loved first. Teach us to forgive as we have been forgiven. And to live generous lives and like you have first given us in the most precious indescribable gift of Your one and only precious Son, Jesus Christ. All praise, glory, and honor be to the Lamb who sits enthroned on high. In Jesus name, Amen
32 The community of believers was one in heart and mind. None of them would say, “This is mine!” about any of their possessions, but held everything in common. 33 The apostles continued to bear powerful witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and an abundance of grace was at work among them all. Acts 4:32-33
At the beginning of every new year, we like to make resolutions for how this year will differ from the previous one. We promise ourselves this is the year we lose that extra person we gained from previously failed promises. Or this year we will be a better spouse, friend, co-worker. By Valentine’s Day-old habits prove hard to break and the old dog still hasn’t learned any new coping skills.
With the lessons I have learned from past new year failures I am taking a new approach in 2019. I will not make myself promises I can’t keep. I instead will focus on one word I pray will define my 2019. After thinking long and hard and placing this in prayer, that word is INFLUENCE. This new year I want to be a person of influence. A person who inspires others to reach their full God-given potential. To be a person who encourages others lifts others up in prayer, is there for them when times get tough and celebrate with others what God is doing in their lives.
This poem by an unknown writer describes this goal for 2019.
Leave countless marks for good or ill, ere sets the evening sun. My life shall touch a dozen lives before this day is done; This is the wish I always wish, the prayer I always pray: Lord, may my life help other lives it touches by the way. Source Unknown.
Ponder these questions for yourself. What word will define you in 2019? What difference will you make? How will your life impact others? Have an influential 2019.
As we approach a new year we may have anxiety. We do not know what the future holds, but we know who holds our future. With each passing year, we thank you because you make all things new, but one thing remains constant Your love never fails. Looking back on this past year thank you for all the ways you comforted us when things did not go as expected. The good along with the hard times remind us of our need to rely on You. We pray this year for peace. As the Jesus said “I’ve said these things to you so that you will have peace in me. In the world you have distress. But be encouraged! I have conquered the world.” John 16:33
As this 2018 passes into our memories and we welcome 2019 we pray for your Spirit to lead us each step of the way in this New Year. Lord will guide our decisions and guard our hearts to desire you primarily. We ask that you will open doors of compassion so we may bless those in need. Help us release our past wrongs we are holding on too so we can begin the new year with a new perspective on forgiveness and grace. May this be a year filled with opportunities to live out our calling as Your redeemed people.
In Jesus name, we pray. Amen.
It is the beginning of a new week and I want to take time at the start of the week to be grateful for all your promises keep. I know life can be hard. Life can be filled with disappointment and pain. The pain is almost to grueling to breathe. Sometimes my enemies stand over me and laugh. No matter what my situation God You know where I am. You Lord know my needs and aware of my shortcomings. Whatever I am going through I know can trust you. King David as he was being pursued by his enemies wrote in Psalm 54:
God! Save me by your name;
defend me by your might!
2 God! Hear my prayer;
listen to the words of my mouth!
The proud have come up against me;
violent people want me dead.
They pay no attention to God. Selah
4 But look here: God is my helper;
my Lord sustains my life.
5 He will bring disaster on my opponents.
By your faithfulness, God, destroy them!
6 I will sacrifice to you freely;
I will give thanks to your name, Lord,
because it’s so good,
7 and because God has delivered me
from every distress.
My eyes have seen my enemies’ defeat.
Lord help me let go of all things beyond my control and to be honest most things are beyond my control. Let me awake each day with a heart filled with gratitude, for the promise you kept in sending Jesus Christ as my Lord and My Savior. In His Name pray. Amen.
A friend from my days at the seminary and I were catching up on life. We talked about scheduling a “family reunion” of sorts to get back together with some of the others we struggled with on this journey through the gauntlet of studies, fieldwork, internship, placement day and finally graduation. We noticed something rather alarming: many of the classmates are no longer in the ministry and some are no longer walking with the Lord. How can the fire that burned so bright in their hearts back then have been snuffed out in just a few short years?
There are some reasons. Life is hard and many struggles, to keep on top of the storms. Some people crumble under the weight of the ministry of their congregations. No amount of faithful service could overcome; they’re discouraged with the church. Others collapsed because someone close to them died. The pain of that loss was devastating. Still, other people surrendered when their marriage crumbled. If this season of the Savior’s birth finds you drowning in the waves a furious storm, may this post give you encouragement. Take heart your storms won’t last forever.
In this post, we will learn how to handle the storms of life. In the first section of this two-part message, we will study the storms of life. The second post will give you the needed tools to navigate through the storms of life.
WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT THE STORMS OF LIFE
At a fundamental level, this makes sense. However, when the storm forms on the horizon logic goes out the window, it is one thing for the storms to happen to someone else but this shouldn’t be happening to me. We rationalize that we don’t deserve this. Jesus would remind us of a different reality. He said, “He [God] causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:45
We are all familiar with the wind and waves of the storm. In life, we have had to endure the storms of life. To be honest, I have tried to reject this concept in my personal life. Does this principle sound familiar? I organized my life a certain way: If I just get my income to a certain level, or if I get a handle on my relationships, and if I manage my schedule, once all those areas of my life are aligned I can prevent the storms. Come closer; it doesn’t work that way. The rain will still come. The storms will still happen. And they will happen to everyone.
In August of 2017, what happened to Houston is a prime example. People planned. The residents gathered provisions. Those Texans did all the hurricane preparedness steps, but no one could imagine the devastation that would occur. No one could predict the severity of the storm. The same is true in life. You can prepare for life’s inevitable storms, but you can’t predict when and how bad the storms will be.
Obviously, some of the storms we face are the result of our sinfulness and our own bad decisions, but many are not.
The first thing you have to remember about the storm is that storms happen to everyone. Now, if your bad behavior has caused the storm in your life, obviously you need to change your behavior. But if it’s not your fault, then you need to accept the fact that storms happen to everyone. The rain falls on the righteous and the unrighteous, and there’s nothing we can do about it.
The second thing we need to know about the storm is:
If you’re going through the storm of divorce right now, you need to remind yourself that it won’t hurt this much forever. If you’ve lost someone you love, you need to tell yourself that the depth of the emptiness of your loss won’t last forever. If you are battling with depression, that sorrow and the emptiness will not last forever. There may be damage to deal with, you may have to pick up the pieces and move on, you may have to rebuild your life, but the pain that is caused by the suddenness of the storm will not last forever.
There’s another thing you need to know about the storm.
2. Sometimes, in the midst of the storm, God seems to be silent
In Mark 4 there’s a story about a storm. Jesus and his disciples were on a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee, and suddenly a massive storm arose, the Bible called it “a furious squall” and began to rock the ship. The waves were crashing against the vessel to the point that it almost capsized, and the disciples were convinced that they were about to die. It was a ferocious storm, and they all panicked.
Where was Jesus in the midst of this? Mark tells us, “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” Mark 4:38
I love the little detail that Mark adds. Jesus was asleep…on a cushion. In other words, while the disciples were staring death in the face, he was sleeping comfortably on a pillow!
Of course, we know how the story ends. Jesus calmed the storm, and they made it safely to the other side of the sea. But that doesn’t change the fact that in the midst of the storm, he seemed to be unaware of the crisis.
There will be times in your life when it seems like God isn’t paying attention to what is happening to you. There will be times when God is frustratingly silent. During these times, all you have to cling to is your faith.
When we read the story of the disciples panicking in the midst of the storm, we tend to think, “How foolish of them. Why would they be afraid? Jesus was right there with them didn’t they know he would take care of them?
“The same can be said about us: How foolish we are to be afraid during the storm. Jesus is right here with us. Don’t we know that he will take care of us?” After all, he said,
“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5
It may seem that God is unaware of the crisis in our lives, but we have his promise otherwise. We have his promise that he knows every detail of our lives, and he is with us every step of the way. The same God who gave His Son as a ransom to save you will never abandon you in your hour of deepest need.
Someone once penned these words,
Out of the Darkness
Out of the dark forbidding soil
The pure white lilies grow.
Out of the black and murky clouds,
Descends the stainless snow.
Out of the crawling earth-bound worm
A butterfly is born.
Out of the somber shrouded night,
Behold! A golden morn!
Out of the pain and stress of life,
The peace of God pours down.
Out of the nails — the spear — the cross,
Redemption — and a crown!
The most important thing you need to know about the storm is that a storm will force you to walk your talk. Trials will put the strength of your faith to the test. How do you survive the storms? How do you rest on the strength of your faith in the midst of the storm? Let’s take a look at Psalm 107. David gives you three simple things you need to do when the storms of life are raging. First of all.
“…in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunken men; they were at their wits’ end.” Psalm 107: 26-27
Have you ever been there at your wits’ end? The storm is so overwhelmingly destructive that you have run out of ideas? Maybe you’re there right now. Maybe you’ve done everything that you know to do and your marriage is still crumbling. Maybe you’ve done everything that you know to do and your children continue to struggle. You have been to every specialist, tried all kinds of treatments, and your health is deteriorating. After exhausting all your business knowledge, attending all kinds of seminars, borrowed against your home mortgage, you’ve done everything humanly possible yet your business is still failing.
If you are at your wits end in the midst of the storm, you have two options available. You can give up. You can throw in the belief towel and decide that Christianity doesn’t work. When my life is falling apart this God seems to be asleep on a pillow. Let’s just forget the whole thing. That’s one option. To be honest I don’t think that is your best option.
The alternative is to do what the disciples did in Mark 4. “They seek out Jesus and wake him up, crying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38
Not the most articulate “prayer” in scripture, but it was effective. In the midst of your storm, you should follow that example: Cry out to God, and keep crying out to him until the storm has passed. Listen to what David wrote, (v. 28-29). Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.
When I hear people say, “I tried that. It didn’t work. I cried out to God for help, and nothing happened.” My question is always, “How long? How long did you cry out? For an hour? For a day? For a week?” God has His own pace, sometimes it takes longer. You need to pray as long as it takes to get an answer.
The results may not always be what we think we want, but we can be sure that the results will always work out for our good.
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love God, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
In the midst of the storm, cry out to God, and keep crying out to him for as long as you have breath. He will hear you and he will bring you out of your distress.
2. Let God Guide You.
There is an amazing principle in the Christian life that I have seen many people forget. The principle is this: If you ask for God’s guidance, he will give it to you.
When we seek God’s guidance, He guides us. When we seek His direction, He directs. When we place our future in God’s hands, He takes care of our future. Listen to what David wrote,
(v. 30) They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven.
To their desired Haven. There’s a place where you want to be in your life, a place of peace, a place of security, a place of hope, and comfort, and rest. A place of joy, and love, and fulfillment. He can get you there, but you have to let him guide you. My problem has always been I don’t like that path God wants to take me on. I like shortcuts. However, the path that God leads me on has necessary potholes, trials, and lessons I need for the future leg of this journey. I just need to trust God to guide the way.
3. Remember to Remember God’s Faithfulness.
I began this post series by saying that I have known some people over the years who stopped walking with the Lord. Some of these are people in ministry, people who had experienced his work in their lives. And yet, for whatever reason, they chose to forget about God’s past faithfulness in their lives. When the storms of life came, they didn’t remember God’s provision in the past, they didn’t see any hope in the future, so they gave up in the present.
Here’s my challenge to you. When you’re going through the storm make an effort to remember all that God has done for you in the past.
David wrote Psalm 77 while he was going through a time of trial. Listen to his words…
“Has his [God’s] unfailing love vanished forever? Has his promise failed for all time? Has God forgotten to be merciful? Has he in anger withheld his compassion? Then I thought, “To this I will appeal: the years of the right hand of the Most High.” I will remember the deeds of the Lord; yes, I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds.” Psalm 77:8-12
David says, “When I’m going through a time of trial, I will remember all that God has done in the past, and it will help me get through this.” He says something similar in Psalm 107: 31,
Let them give thanks to the Lord for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for men. Let them exalt him in the assembly of the people and praise him in the council of the elders.
David is saying, “Once you get through the storm, talk about it. Sing songs of thanksgiving to God, tell everyone you know about good God has been to you.”
God will get you through this storm like he has gotten you and so many others through the previous storms of life. When it happens, make sure that you remember to remember to thank him for his faithfulness.
Other posts in this Christmas series:
Do you find yourself this Christmas wandering, feeling lost? This post talks about how God leads us through the wilderness.
Are you feeling alone and desperate in this season of joy? How do you get back on track?
Because we are never alone
Annette Leeann Flores
Ideas of Light that Penetrate the Ideas of Darkness (To read this blog in context, readers should start at the earliest date of a series)
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Steps in Obedience
Christian devotional that is the result of life lived for Jesus Christ