Thursday, January 29, 2015

Power struggle

We humans generally don't have too much tolerance for pain and suffering, let alone weakness. We'd much rather boast about how much weight we were able to lift at the gym than boast of how weak we were when tragedy struck our home.

In typical Jesus style, He turns weakness on its head when He says to Paul "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." (Part of our memory verse for this Sunday from 2 Corinthians 12:9) This goes against everything we want to believe.
  1. I have mistakenly believed: Christians don't get sick, but if they do, and they pray enough, they get healed. Fact: Christians do get sick - and don't always get healed. Jesus was talking to Paul in the above verse. We don't know exactly what Paul's infirmity was, but it must have been bad enough for him to ask God three times to take it away. Jesus was pretty clear that He wasn't going to heal Paul.
  2. I have mistakenly believed: There is no point to suffering. Fact: There is a point to suffering. First, Paul realizes that his illness was given to him to keep him from being conceited (12:7) In verse 9, Jesus plans to use Paul's sickness as a way to show His divine power. He was not going to take Paul out of this suffering, He was going to enable Paul to get through it. 
  3. I have mistakenly believed: Weakness should not be tolerated. Fact: We must realize that without Christ, we are weak, but once saved by grace and filled with the Holy Spirit, we have a supernatural strength that enables us to accomplish great things for the glory of God. Any weakness we then experience is signal to turn to God and look to Him for His power.
So there is a power struggle when we feel weak. We either give in and do something in our own strength so we feel less ashamed (because, after all, it is all about us and how we look to everyone), or we admit we are unable to accomplish the task before us and find Christ's power resting on us. Someone is going to get the glory. The question is who?

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

What are you sure of?

Our memory verse this week comes from Hebrews 11, the great faith chapter. In fact, in my NIV Study Bible, the tile of the chapter is By Faith. What exactly are we to do "by faith?"

I think we must not only understand by faith that there is only One God who created the universe out of nothing (verse 3), but that fact must also propel us into action, by faith. All the great men and women listed in Hebrews 11 were commended for their faith (verse 39), not because they just said that they believed in God, but because they acted on their faith.

The difficult part is that while our obedience is commended, it is not always rewarded in this life. You only have to read verses 32 through 38 to see two very distinct groups of believers. The ones that escaped the edge of the sword and the ones that were sawed in two. I don't know about you, but I'd like to pick the escape group! Any Hall of Fame here on earth was not worthy of them (verse 38).

We grow up dreaming of getting into one of the Halls of Fame. We put the ones who do get in up on a pedestal. Have we considered teaching our children that God has planned something better for them (verse 40)?  I find myself more and more challenged in my faith, even after all these years of following Christ. God asks me to not only believe in Him, but obey Him by faith - without knowing the outcome. But I also find myself more and more sure of what I hope for and certain of what I do not see.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Why bother to pray?

Many years ago I read Philip Yancey's book Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference? Yancey is the type of author that explores a subject thoroughly from every angle. I mean thoroughly and I mean every angle! One thing stood out to me from the book. After Yancey discusses all the seeming contradictions from the Bible about prayer, and shares disappointment from unanswered prayer, he makes the statement that despite all that, he prays because Jesus did it.

Brad Stine, a Christian Comedian, said in a skit "If Hitler did it, it probably isn't a good idea for us to do it!." Funny and true. Can we not say the opposite about Jesus? If He did it, we probably should do it! After all, if I am a Christ-follower, I will do what Christ did, right?

In our verse for this week (Mark 11:24), Jesus says:
"Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours."
Most people will focus on the getting what we want part. For this blog, I want to point out that by saying what He said, Jesus is assuming we will be praying. In Luke 11:2 He says "When you pray," and He goes on to give His disciples a template for prayer.

There is so much to say about prayer. Here is a good resource from Focus on the Family:

But for now, let's just start praying because Jesus did.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Benefits of discipline

We're back on track with a sermon series we started late last year called Nurture. It is a study for new believers, but it is also a study for disciple-makers (those who are training new believers). This week we are focusing on 2 Timothy 3:16-17:
"All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work."
Would I say that I am thoroughly equipped for every good work? Well, I can honestly say that I have diligently read, studied and tried to be obedient to the Word of God for over 30 years now. In the last 5 years I have made it my goal to read the entire Bible each year. Why? Because I believe the Word is God (John 1:1). And all scripture is God-breathed, not just a few verses from the New Testament. If I read it, I get to know Him. If I know Him, I know His will for my life. I know right from wrong. I know the way to heaven and eternal life! But, here is the catch - during my training I quite often need rebuking and correction. While that is not fun, I put myself in the hands of the greatest, most merciful, fair and loving Teacher of all time. His goal is that I will pass with flying colors!