It’s All About Him!

And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; (4) And patience, experience; and experience, hope: (5) And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.” Roans 5.3-5

glory in tribulations … ” Wow … that seems difficult to imagine that anyone would glory in tribulations. But then we read the next phrase and begin to understand the value of tribulations. No one that I know of enjoys tribulations. So then, how do tribulations work patience? When you and I have struggled with something – a tribulation – long enough, we realize that there is absolutely nothing that we can do about it. At that point we have two choices. We can either continue fretting over it and stay frustrated or we can say to God, “I can’t handle this. Give me the patience to release it and turn it over to you.” I am suggesting that is the way tribulations work patience.

What next? I like this translation: “More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, (4) and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, (5) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given unto us.” Consider this thought. As we endure the things God brings to or allows in our path, those things produce character. Isn’t that what we all want? A better character? That’s what we want for our children. And that is what God wants for us! Let’s allow those things God has placed in our lives to produce the character that will glorify Him and reflect His image to this lost world. Just my thoughts …

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Life Is Tough – God Is Tougher!

When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Isaiah 43.2

I remember several occasions when I was a child that my dad would be driving in the car and come to a road that was blocked by floodwaters. I was petrified that he might try to drive through the waters. He never did, for which I am thankful. So, when I read this verse, I am greatly encouraged. I know the verse is not talking about floodwaters, but about the circumstances in our lives that threaten us like flood waters. I suspect that most if not all who are reading this have experienced those life circumstances. Here is God’s promise: “I will be with thee.” How many times have we asked, “Where is God when …?”, only to discover that He was there all the time. You aren’t the only one who has ever felt forsaken. While hanging on the cross Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” God had not gone anywhere. It just seemed that way!

“ … when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned … ” Talk to the three Hebrew children, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. They experienced this very thing and came out of the literal fire with no evidence that they had ever been in it. Even Nebuchadnezzar had to admit, “It looks like Jesus is in there with them.” (Burton translation) You and I won’t be going through any “fires” as such, but we will experience some life circumstances that will seem like fire. Aren’t you glad to know that God’s concern for you and protection of you includes even the worst conceivable circumstances? “neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.” Amen! Just my thoughts …

Suffering – No? Yes!

For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Romans 8.18

Every person reading these words … every person that you or I know has experienced suffering – whether physically or emotionally and probably both. I don’t know anyone who wants to experience suffering. I have known many who have experienced what seemed like a lifetime of suffering.

the sufferings of this present time … ” If you are engaged in full time ministry, you see people in your ministry who are going through unimaginable suffering. If you are a fellow believer and you interact with other believers, you have friends and acquaintances who are experiencing suffering right now. In this verse, Paul is contrasting the present time with that which is to come: “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” It is unrealistic to think that we will ever reach a time in this life when there will be no more suffering. How many times have you walked by the casket of a loved one and said, “Well, they aren’t suffering anymore”? Suffering ends when life ends.

But if you and I can ever learn to filter time through the prism of eternity, then perspective will change. The whole event called life is about perspective. When a child hears a parent say, “Next Saturday we are going to the zoo,” and it is just now Monday, every thing is measured by how long it is ‘til Saturday. “the glory which shall be revealed in us.” We don’t know when that will be. As a chaplain in the hospital, I hear patients say often, “I’m ready to go. I just want to get out of this suffering.” They have a sense that the end is near. Can I issue us both a challenge today? Can we look at our lives, and all that causes suffering, and ask God to help us filter our time here on earth through the prism of eternity and realize that “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” Just my thoughts …

Submit – Resist – Draw Near! It Works!

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (8) Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you.” James 4.7-8

There are three very powerful words used here that are significant for us: (1) submit, (2) resist, and (3) draw nigh. The one thing that marks James’ epistle apart from the others in one sense is its practicality. He cuts right to the chase on so many issues that are prevalent in the believer’s walk with the Lord.

Submit – in the simplest possible terms, quit arguing with God. Either He knows what is best or He doesn’t. If He doesn’t, then don’t submit. But if (since) He does, then we need to stop arguing with Him and give full voluntary submission. Until I do that, I can’t do the next thing James mentions with any degree of success. Everyone of us wants the devil to flee from us, but we must first resist him. That is only possible once I have submitted myself to the Lord. When Satan flees from us, it is not a once-for-all event. He will be back. We will need to keep on resisting him and that requires that we keep on submitting to God.

Draw nigh to God … this needs to be a daily experience for us. How do we do this? We take down the barriers that separate us from God. This goes back to the concept of submitting to God. When I am not arguing with God, I can allow those barriers to go away and I can draw near to Him. When He draws near to me, I become aware of His presence. It is not a “mystical” something. It is the very sense of His presence. Psalm 16.11 reminds us: “Thou wilt show me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures forevermore.” Let’s listen to James. Let’s do what he says. Let’s enjoy the benefits of submitting, resisting, and drawing near. Just my thoughts …

Love Immeasurable!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (17) For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” John 3.16 – 17

Children have memorized John 3.16 for as long as I can remember. It is perhaps the most familiar verse in the Bible. Perhaps the struggle with this verse is that we become so familiar with it that we overlook its deep meaning.

What is God telling us here? (1) His love is immeasurable. “For God so loved the world … ” How do you measure the phrase “so loved”? (2) His gift is unimaginable. “ … that he gave his only begotten Son … ” As human parents, we struggle with giving one of our children for the life of another. (3) His promise is almost incomprehensible. “ … that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” The result of believing God’s promise means that I will never perish (spend eternity in hell), but I will have everlasting life.

Verse 17 gives further explanation of God’s heart for this lost world. “For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world … ” If condemnation was God’s only purpose is sending His Son, that would be a tragic circumstance for mankind. But His purpose was far greater than that. “but that the world through him might be saved.” God’s love mentioned in, v. 16, was demonstrated at Calvary for the purpose of saving all who would believe. That reveals to lost mankind the true heart of God. What is our responsibility to this good news? As one songwriter said, we must win the lost at any cost. Do we believe that everyone needs to hear the gospel? Are we willing to be inconvenienced to give someone the gospel? Are we willing to be rejected by someone because we took the initiative to share God’s love with them? Just asking? Just my thoughts …

Grace Enough for All!

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief.” 1Timothy 1.15

We read this verse and are drawn to Paul’s words that he sees himself as the chief of sinners. The truth of the matter is that it takes as much of the grace of God to save the least of sinners as it does to save the chief of sinners. The blood of Christ was necessary for each one to be saved. Think about the person that you personally know who would qualify in your mind as a serious sinner. When you compare yourself with that person, you don’t seem to be so bad. But … “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners … ” and that includes every sinner.

This is a faithful saying … ” I am so thankful for God’s faithful provision for sinners, for me personally, and for you too. I never want to underestimate all that God has done to make provision for the salvation of sinners. God’s love for us is so great that He left nothing undone that He needed to do in order to make salvation available to everyone. When I think that there are still portions of our world where the gospel has never been preached, my heart cries out to the New Testament church and says, “We are not finished yet. We have NOT reached the world. EVERYONE needs to know. We need young adults who will say, Here am I. send me.” We can never grow complacent in a world that still has such great need. Will you join me in praying for God to enable us to win the lost at any cost? Just my thoughts …

“It Is Finished!”

He will swallow up death in victory, and the LORD God will wipe away tears from off all faces; and the rebuke of his people he shall take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” Isaiah 25.8

There is coming a day when no heart aches shall come, no more clouds in the sky. No more tears to dim the eye. All is peace forever more on that happy golden shore. What a day, glorious day that will be. (Jim Hill) “He will swallow up death in victory … ” That is what we will celebrate tomorrow on Easter. When the Roman government sealed the tomb Satan said, “Gotcha!” But when the stone was rolled away and there was no body found, God said, “No, I gotcha!”

I don’t know anyone who hasn’t experienced the shedding of tears over the passing of a loved one. That is the most natural response in the world. Much love brings many tears. But one of these days, “the LORD God will wipe away tears from off all faces … ” The Bible doesn’t say there won’t be any tears in heaven. It says that God will wipe away all tears. If you are like me, you are looking forward to that time. The resilient cry from the cross in John 19.30 rings loud and clear even today: “It is finished!” Remember? He swallowed up death in victory! That cry was the cry of victory.

Today it seems that Christ-followers are ridiculed and made fun of in almost every arena of our culture. We have excluded God from just about every place that we can, and then we wonder why He doesn’t stop the horrible events that are going on in our world. Friend, one day “ … the rebuke of his people he shall take away from off all the earth: for the LORD hath spoken it.” I’m just waiting! How about you? Just my thoughts …

He Has – He Really Has!

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace. In the world ye shall have tribulation, but be of good cheer; I have over come the world.” John 16.33

Every time Jesus speaks, we need to listen. These words seem especially comforting. In fact, I don’t know when I have read words that are as comforting as these: “be of good cheer; I have over come the world.” You and I battle this world system every day of our lives. It is a constant struggle between Satan, his demons, the forces of evil, and the work that God wants to do through us.

What is it that Jesus wants us to experience in our walk with Him? Here it is: “in me ye might have peace.” He wants us to experience peace, real inward peace, all day, every day, for all time. What is it that causes us to struggle with experiencing that peace? He gives us the answer: “In the world ye shall have tribulation … ”When Jesus acknowledges that, we know that He knows the struggles we experience. We know that He cares about those struggles. And we know that he has the answer for us and it is found in this verse: “be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.” What is h\He saying? “I know the struggle you are going to face before you face it. I have already overcome it for you.” That is not a hollow statement with no meaning. The fact that He has already overcome this world through His life, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension simply means that I need to give Him my tribulation, my burden, my heartache, my disappointment, my distress, my emotional dilemma. He wants to handle all of them for me. He is just waiting for me to acknowledge that He has overcome the world for me and allow His victory to become my victory. That truth makes this day livable. That truth makes every day livable. So, friend, be the overcomer He wants you to be since He has already been the overcomer for you. Just my thoughts …

No Searching Even If I Try!

Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding.” Isaiah 40.28

How much do we really comprehend about God? The Spirit’s question here is piercing: “Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard … ” We have heard so many things about God. But the truth is that many of them are not true. We have heard that God does not care about us. We have heard that God does not love us. We have heard that God punishes us arbitrarily. But none of these things that we have heard are actually true.

So what is true? “ … the everlasting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary … ” This God is everlasting. This God is the Creator of everything we see. This God NEVER gets tired, nor does He ever grow weary. So, what is it that makes Him so special? Here it is: “There is no searching of his understanding.” Have you ever thought that you had God figured out? “At last, I can make some sense of who he is, what he does, and how he does it.” Only to discover that you don’t have ANYTHING about Him figured out. The key here is the concept of understanding. We always seem to think that if could only understand why God does some of the things He does, we would be OK.

When I was eleven (11) years old, my mother was killed in a car wreck. I was in the car and was uninjured. There were several other family members in the car who were injured but all of whom recovered completely. Only my mother was killed. How many times do you think I have wanted to understand why that happened? Would understanding bring my mother back? No! Would understanding fill the hole that still exists in my heart? No! I cannot search God’s understanding and find out any more than I already know about this event. Here is what I know. If God had not taken my mother when He did and in the manner He did, I would not be the person I am today. Whatever ministry and influence I have had are the result of learning to deal with what I could not understand but could trust that God understood what I needed and allowed it to happen. Just my thoughts …

God Really Is Greater!

Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” 1 John 4.4

John’s purpose and passion in the Book of 1 John is to give encouragement and hope to the believer. There were false doctrines afloat in that first century and John sets out, under the leadership of the Holy Spirit, to encourage those early believers and us also.

In the preceding verses John has mention the Spirit of Christ and the spirit of antichrist. So, when he says, “Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them … ”, he is speaking about the spirit of antichrist. There are so many voices afloat in our world today that would fall into the category of antichrist. But the message that you and I have to proclaim is so much more powerful than what they are purporting. Our message is one of experiential relationship. We are not talking about some theory that may or may not be true. We are speaking of a relationship that was established at salvation and will continue until the Father takes us to heaven. So, yes, we are overcomers.

But this last statement is one that you and I need to cling to every day: “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Satan has power, but he is not all-powerful. Satan has knowledge, but he does not know everything. Satan has demons that number in the multitudes, but he is not omnipresent. So just remember that our God is all-powerful, all knowing, and omnipresent. Greater is the One that is in us than the one that is in the world. We can live today and each day with the confidence that God is fully in control. Even when it seems to us that things in our life are out of control, God is still in control. Live this day and every day with this wonderful truth: “greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.” Just my thoughts …