Category Archives: Faithfulness

The Invitation

“Come in!” you hear and, pushing on the door, quietly, expectantly, you tiptoe into the hospital room.  The new mother is propped up, holding her first baby.  As she looks up and smiles, suddenly you find yourself swept up in her joy.  You can’t help it.  It’s as though you have fallen into a deep pool of unrestrained celebration. 

If that’s how great joy feels for us, and how it pulls us in, imagine what it would be like to be caught up into and fully share the joy of Almighty God!  Try to understand how vast and powerfully explosive would be the deep, rumbling, cymbal-splashing joy of God.  What would it do to you to enter His room and participate in His greatest happiness?

You have heard the parable of the master who gives to each of his servants portions of gold (called talents) to use.  Perhaps that parable, told by Jesus, sounded severe to you, as though He was saying, “You better get busy, or else…”  If so, reflect on how He described the outcome for the ones who faithfully and productively used the gifts with which they had been entrusted.

His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’  (Matthew 25:21)  
Now, there is an invitation you don’t want to miss…

Steadfast

You had to bang on the pipes if you wanted hot water at certain times of the day in our first apartment​  Outrageous, since we paid all of $40 a month for this 5 flight walk-up. But it was frustrating because it seemed the flow of water was always interrupted at the most inconvenient times.

Psalm 103 says that God’s love and mercy are steadfast.  Think about that word. When you desperately need to experience love, it can come from no greater source than Almighty God.  And steadfast means, no matter what is going on in your life, you don’t need to bang on the pipes.

Here is a sample:

For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.  As a father shows compassion to his children, so the LORD shows compassion to those who fear him.  (Psalm 103:11-13)

Civil Obedience

Is it right for whole communities to refuse to obey immigration laws?  What about for you?  Is it right for you to pick and choose which laws you will obey?  Consider these words from Peter:

Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme,  or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. 

Our first response might be to object, to bring up exceptions.  Are we supposed to be subject to an authority who is corrupt or wicked?  Nero was in power when Peter wrote this.  His wickedness and cruelty was the stuff of legend. And yet. Peter taught us to be subject to such rulers.

But, what if a ruler’s commands are contrary to the commands of God?  Peter faced that dilemma when he was ordered by the Jewish council not to tell people about Jesus.  His response is instructive:

So they called them and charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus. But Peter and John answered them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God, you must judge, for we cannot but speak of what we have seen and heard.”   (Acts 4:18-20)

Although Peter and John could not, in conscience, obey the authorities, they still were subject  to them, honest about their disobedience and submissively ready to accept the consequences.  Being subject to the authorities does not always mean obeying them.

But why be subject to them?  Why not take action to weaken the authority of those in power who are corrupt or wicked?  Peter tells us:

For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people.   (1 Peter 2:13-15)

Of course, Peter had a good Role Model in this.  Taking his cues from Jesus, he wrote:

But how is it to your credit if you receive a beating for doing wrong and endure it? But if you suffer for doing good and you endure it, this is commendable before God.  To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth.”  When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly.  (1 Peter 2:20-24)

We are subject to human authorities because we are subject to God, Who has told us to do so.  We do not take matters into our own hands but entrust ourselves to God, knowing that His plans will prevail.

Help

The sound of a circling airplane brings euphoria to those lost at sea.  The expectation of coming rescue brings new hope and the energy to struggle on.  When we struggle with strong temptation or other kinds of suffering, life can seem like being lost at sea.  The disciple named Peter knew all about that.  He wrote words of powerful encouragement for those who suffer and struggle as they attempt to live out their faith.  He knew how tough such a struggle seems and how often and easily we fail.  In 1 Peter 5:6-10 he gives important strategies to employ during the struggle (click HERE to review those).  And he ends that section by saying this: Help is on the way.  He wrote:

And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.   (1 Peter 5:10)

The most important word is easily overlooked.  It is “Himself!”  God is going to do what is needed – Himself.   How cruel it would be for the circling plane to drop a message to the folks floundering below that said, “You can do it!  Try harder!”  And yet, so many of us have heard that, “try harder” message from our religious leaders.  But Peter knew this truth:  What I cannot do, God will do.  Himself.

He will restore us to good operating condition.  Think of the restorations you’ve seen on TV or YouTube. A piece of rusty junk is transformed into a beautiful roadster, gleaming as it did right off the showroom floor.  God Himself will restore us.

You’ll no doubt think, “No way, this can’t be true…”   That’s why God Himself will confirm His work in you. He will let you test it and see for yourself that it is real, even as the restoration is being gradually accomplished.

Not only that, but He will strengthen those areas of weakness in you that have caused so much trouble, equipping you to face the continued temptations and dangers of real life.

Ultimately, God will establish you.  When footers are poured under new foundations, their function is to establish the stability of the building.  Their job is to keep the building steady in the midst of all the forces that try to move it.

Help is coming.  But why has it been delayed?  Peter wrote, “after you have suffered awhile”   In verse 6, he wrote, “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,…”  God knows what we are enduring and when is the proper time to end it.  Like a coach or trainer, He allows us to suffer temporarily as part of how He works to restore, confirm, strengthen and establish us. Remember: “He cares for you” (v. 7), and hold on to His promise of rescue.

A circling plane cannot rescue shipwrecked sailors.  It functions as a promise that help is coming.  That promise, that hope, makes all the difference.  1 Peter 5:10 serves us like that as well.

Strong Offense

In the cartoon, “Cathy,” she says to herself, “I won’t go to the store.”  Then, “Well, I’ll drive by the store but not go in.”  And, “I’ll go in but not near the candy counter.”  Followed by, “Ok, I can walk past the candy counter but I won’t buy anything.”  And then, “I’ll buy but I won’t eat.”  And, finally, “Eat! Eat! Eat!”

It’s never safe to see how close we can get to temptation without giving in to it.  We don’t do that with rattle snakes or grizzly bears; don’t do it with the things that have defeated us in the past.   Instead, we mount a good defense, staying clear-minded and watchful for any danger.  (Scroll down to the previous post for more on that.)  However, it’s not enough to simply steer clear of temptation.  We also need to be ready with a good offense when temptation does not steer clear of us.

Here’s what Peter wrote about that:

Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.  Resist him, firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world.  (1 Peter 5:8-9)

While we don’t want to go looking for trouble, when it comes, we do not need to run in fear.  Jesus taught:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.  (John 8:34-36)

After the Civil War, many of the freed slaves were afraid to leave their masters, because they weren’t sure the news of their freedom was really true.  If we don’t know for sure that Satan no longer enslaves us, we will likely cave in the face of his temptations.  Instead, Peter teaches, Resist him, firm in your faith.”  Call Satan’s bluff:  “I don’t have to obey you any more; I’ve been set free by Jesus.”

It also helps to know that we do not struggle alone.  When Peter writes, “knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world,”  he invites us to consider ourselves members of a team, engaged in a mighty struggle together.  If we know we are not alone, that others are wrestling with the same issues as we are, it becomes easier to resist in a courageous way.

There’s more.  We don’t have to fight alone.  Next time, real, practical help is on the way!

For Men Only

File this under “Things I Wish I Had Known.”  I wish I had understood what this meant when I was first married:

25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless.  (Ephesians 5:25-28)

I’ve heard sermons on how Jesus “gave Himself up for” the church and how husbands should adopt that attitude, but never one that continues on to explain how the “to make her holy, cleansing her…” and “…to present her to Himself …  holy and blameless” pertains to marriage.  What’s that all about?  I wish I had someone sit me down as a young man and explain all that in an understandable way.

Let’s start with this:  When you hire a babysitter, your deepest hope is that he or she will take care of your child with all the love and care you would.  You entrust your child into the sitter’s care.  When you enter into marriage, God entrusts you with the love and care of His precious daughter.  And she has been brought up in a world that is awash in distorted ideas about what it means to be a woman.  Even if she is not one of the one-in-seven girls who is sexually abused as a child, she has been bombarded with destructive lies about what makes a woman attractive and valuable.   Part of a husband’s role and responsibility is to treat his wife with honor and respect, protecting her and gently cleansing away those twisted attitudes.  To do so involves some “giving himself up.”  But the end result is marriage with a real woman, who knows her full value, instead of one who desperately tries to measure up to unrealistic “performance” standards.

As we eventually discovered, the payoff is worth it.

28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.  (Ephesians 5:28)

 

Why God Won’t Listen

Don’t bother praying for those people; it won’t do any good.  That’s what God said!  He said, it’s a waste of time to pray for them because I’m not going to listen and I won’t help them.  Really?  Who was He talking about?  ISIS?  Babylon?  Nope.  He was talking about His own, Chosen People.  He’d had enough.  Here it is, straight out of the Bible:

16 “As for you, do not pray for this people, or lift up a cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with me, for I will not hear you.  (Jeremiah 7:16)

Obviously His own people had done something very offensive to lead to that attitude from the same God Who rescued them from slavery, provided them a land “flowing with milk and honey,” and protected them from their hostile neighbors.  What had they done that was so bad?

17 Do you not see what they are doing in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers kindle fire, and the women knead dough, to make cakes for the queen of heaven. And they pour out drink offerings to other gods, to provoke me to anger.  (Jeremiah 7:17-18)

Today, this same evil masquerades as religious tolerance.  “All gods are the same; all religions are equally valid.”  “I won’t teach my children about God because I want them to choose which god to worship – if any.”  Go far enough down that road and you can forget about praying.  The real God won’t be listening.

But, in case this sounds to you as though God has an ego problem, consider, when He brought His people out of slavery, the first thing He taught them was this:

2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.
3You shall have no other gods before me (Exodus 20:2-3)

His motivation was not for His own fame or esteem but for their well being.  Here’s the rest of what He said to Jeremiah:

22 For when I brought your ancestors out of Egypt and spoke to them, I did not just give them commands about burnt offerings and sacrifices, 23 but I gave them this command: Obey me, and I will be your God and you will be my people. Walk in obedience to all I command you, that it may go well with you.  (Jeremiah 7:22-23)

Laced through all the tough, “don’t bother praying” passages in this prophecy, is the invitation and plea for His people to turn back and be restored.  God isn’t being cruel.  He alone is God.  He knows what works and what does not.