“This is the last straw!” We’ve all probably said it, or at least thought it. I’ve had times when my metaphorical cart of straws had reached a tipping point…just one more straw and it’s over.
Paul surely must have felt that as he was facing his last straw more than once as he cried out in 2 Corinthians 12 regarding the one big, consistent, gnawing, straw in his life that just wouldn’t go away.
“Concerning this thing (speaking of Paul’s thorn) I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.’ …Therefore, I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”
It’s a Divine paradox! “When I’m weak, then I’m strong!”
What? It does not have to make sense to our human, puny, little, brains, it is a God mystery. It’s okay to acknowledge that we do not have understanding, but trust His mysteries; His provision unfolds in the midst of them.
The “last straw” event is a myth; it’s a hoax! There is no ‘last straw’ scenario for the believer. With each straw comes provision to carry it, run over it, or bury it!
We need to continue to SHOUT the Word of the Lord over our lives. “…when I am weak, then I am strong.”
“..be strong in the Lord and in His mighty power.” Ephesians 6:10
Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” -Mark 9:24
OS Guinness, in his book, God in the Dark, writes, “It is not the business of faith to deny reality but to order it. Denying reality is a mark of make-believe, not of living faith.” I like what Brennan Manning says, “When I get honest, I admit I am a bundle of paradoxes. I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good, I feel guilty about not feeling guilty. I am trusting and suspicious. I am honest and I still play games.” Have you ever met one of those people who was so full of “faith” that they would refuse to admit they were sick even if they were coughing up blood and had just lost an arm? They won’t admit the obvious for fear it would ruin their good confession. That’s not faith. That’s foolishness. God has not called us to be Pollyanna. No, real Christian faith speaks to the storm, it doesn’t deny the storm exists. And we are in a storm.
The questions of why, how long, and what is next are all on our minds. I feel faith, fear, hope, anger, and all the emotions in between in the same day…sometimes in the same hour, but in spite of my feelings, God is moving. There is a bigger plan, a bigger purpose, that involves you and me, but is not about you and me. God is working behind the scenes. Don’t try to figure everything out. He will sustain you. He will give you wisdom. He will lead you through. Trust in Him. We are on the cusp of a great revival, the likes of which, perhaps we have never seen. -Chad
There is so much going on in our world today that it takes a daily dose of understanding and revelation of God’s protection to help us face our daily life and the threats that spew from so many sources of ‘information.’ Some years ago, I heard a story of a lady who was being assaulted. She was understandably frightened so she used the only weapon available to her, the Word of God. She didn’t have it memorized word for word, but she had memorized the principle truth. She cried out, “I’m covered with feathers; I’m covered with feathers!” The attackers were totally caught off guard, and quickly changed their minds about attacking this ‘crazy’ lady. At times you and I may not be able to quote scripture word for word, but read it, listen to it, memorize it, let it get down deep in your heart. Be equipped and ready for battle today as your read these excerpts from Psalm 91. -Susan
He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High Shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress; My God, in Him I will trust.”
Surely He shall deliver you from the snare of the fowler And from the perilous pestilence. He shall cover you with His feathers, And under His wings you shall take refuge; ...You shall not be afraid of the terror by night, Nor of the arrow that flies by day, Nor of the pestilence that walks in darkness, Nor of the destruction that lays waste at noonday.
A thousand may fall at your side, And ten thousand at your right hand; But it shall not come near you...
...No evil shall befall you...Nor shall any plague come near your dwelling...
A week ago, my wife and I had dinner with some friends of ours who are about to move to London. I saw an email today from one of our WMA Associate Missionaries who was unable to go back to Africa at the moment because of health issues (please pray for her complete healing). I saw another update from a couple of our WMA Associate Missionaries who have come home to the U.S. from Thailand and are waiting and praying here for an open door to London, where they feel called to go next. I’ve spoken to other friends who seem to be on the cusp of a change. Things are always changing of course, but right now seems to be a time of transition for individuals, organizations, and even the world at large. As you and I go about our lives, let us remember that our future is in God’s hands. He establishes our steps. Ephesians says, that “we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” May you be filled with the joy of the Lord, trusting that He holds our future in the palm of His hand. -Chad
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. -1 Corinthians 5:17
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind… -Romans 12:2a
But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. -1 Corinthians 9:27
It’s funny how sometimes you can hear something you’ve heard a million times over the course of your life, but one day it just “clicks” with you. Or more likely, the Holy Spirit, illuminates, and hits it home for you. I was in church a couple of weeks ago and my pastor preached a sermon entitled “Strength and Struggles” and a light bulb went off for me.
How many of us have found ourselves in a Christian walk struggling with some sin or the other? Or maybe you have some other pattern of anger or pride and you just can’t seem to shake it? If you are born again you are a new creation. You are not the same. You did nothing to earn it. God has made your spirit new. Yet, the struggle remains. How can this be? If you’re anything like me, the struggle can go from a nuisance to, in some cases, an all out crisis of faith. How can I struggle like this when I am a Christian? I shouldn't have these thoughts, etc. The inner monologue wages war against yourself and it’s so easy to get discouraged. Like a newly adopted child who doesn’t understand the ways of their new family, so we, though we have been adopted into the Family of God, can still walk in the ways of our former family of darkness.
Something my pastor said that Sunday really helped me. Yes, our spirits are new. We are born again. We are new creations. BUT…our minds must be continually renewed and our bodies must be disciplined. We may be a new creation, but if we consistently feed ourselves things that nourish the flesh, how can we hope to walk in the Power of the Holy Spirit?
This is not a legalistic message. This is not a condemning message. If you are in Christ, you are adopted. You are part of new family. Be encouraged, you must fight the good fight. You must renew your mind daily. You must discipline your body. We are all in the same boat. There are no SUPER Christians who this somehow magically comes easy to. The Holy Spirit will help us if we but ask. We are not in competition with other believers to earn the approval of God. We have His approval through Jesus Christ. We are adopted. We are in the family. Be encouraged today.
I'm sure many of you have heard or read about a couple of key influencers in the Body of Christ who have very publicly walked away from their faith. What in the world is happening? It’s one thing to have a crisis of faith where doubt and unbelief threaten our well-being, we’ve all experienced moments like that, but why try to gain followers on your road of dissipation?
How does this happen? I know back in the ‘olden’ days there was a consistent moral message, or compass if you will, that was affirmed in the home, school, and church. Not so today and not so for the last 20-30 years. Today, the messages from home, school, and church vary dramatically concerning right and wrong and what was once clear is now mired in ambiguity.
We must train and influence our children and our children’s children that there is clearly a right way and a wrong way and only a moral and spiritual compass can keep them and us headed in the right direction.
I know there are theological points of contention within the Body of Christ; there was in the early church and there is now. I am in no way minimizing the importance of sound theology but I am saying there must be some non-negotiable moorings in a person’s life that are not affected by theological musings. Those foundational truths are what will keep you when the wind is howling and the waves are crashing against your faith. Your ship may get wrecked and run aground but what you are holding on to, as the waves carry you to shore, are those non-negotiable truths.
I’ll give you two, there are many more, but trust me, these two are life-stabilizers:
1) Jesus is the only way - “Salvation exists in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” Acts 4:12
2) The Bible is the source of truth - “The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.” Isaiah 40:8
We must value truth over feelings, and value truth over our emotions…the Gospel does not need to be adjusted to fit current culture!
“Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess.” Hebrews 4:14
Keep your compass with you at all times. -Susan
"The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has no one to thank." -G.K. Chesterton
Many years ago I attended a big megachurch in the Dallas area. One thing that stood out to me every Sunday was how thankful everyone was who spoke from the pulpit, especially the pastor. Of course, I grew up in church, and had heard plenty of people thanking God for many things. My parents always had a spirit of gratitude and did their best to instill the same in me. But, the way this church was, well, like I said, it stood out to me. I hadn’t really heard thankfulness like this before. The pastor would stand up and thank God that he got out of bed that morning. He thanked Him that he could walk, talk, that he was in his right mind, etc. Seeing that type of thankfulness made an impact on me.
I’ve been complaining a lot lately. I don’t have anything to complain about, and yet, being the weak human that I am, I do it anyway. It seems like we live in a world full of complainers. Just go do a quick Google search of your favorite neighborhood restaurant and you will see plenty of people willing to air their grievances with the world. A few minutes scrolling through Twitter is enough to make anyone depressed. Shouldn’t we be different?
Shouldn’t we be marked by how thankful we are? Comparison is the poison of thankfulness. We have our daily bread, clothes on our backs, and a roof over our heads (so many people we meet overseas can’t say the same), but our neighbor down the street has magical organic bread from Whole Foods, a sweater from Neiman Marcus, and a roof with a little more square footage under it than we have. But today I’m thankful. I’m thankful for life. I’m thankful for health. I’m thankful I can walk. I’m thankful I can breathe without a machine. I’m thankful that I can see. I’m thankful that God didn’t leave me where I was, sinking in the mud of my own sin.
Praise the Lord. Thank Him. I don’t want a rock to take my place.
I know, if you’re anything like me, you are relieved as this long, cold, winter season comes to an end; to wake up to sunshine is an immediate mood boost.
Spring is always the season for new things, new beginnings and resurrection. There is an optimistic feeling in the air and a sense of renewed hope infuses our thoughts. However, there are many concerns as we look at the state of our current culture with the political, educational, media, and social issues being at the forefront of all news.
If we didn’t know better, we could get discouraged! But, there is good news, thousands of years old, still so relevant and life giving to us today. Read aloud Isaiah 45.
“I am the Lord, and there is no other. I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the Lord, do all these things…
Woe to those who quarrel with their Maker, those who are nothing but potsherds among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter, ‘What are you making?’ … It is I who made the earth and created mankind on it. My own hands stretched out the heavens; I marshaled their starry hosts…For this is what the Lord says—he who created the heavens, he is God; he who fashioned and made the earth, he founded it; he did not create it to be empty, but formed it to be inhabited— he says: “I am the Lord, and there is no other…I the Lord, speak the truth; I declare what is right. Gather together and come; assemble, you fugitives from the nations. Ignorant are those who carry about idols of wood, who pray to gods that cannot save…
Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn, my mouth has uttered in all integrity a word that will not be revoked: Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear. They will say of me, ‘In the Lord alone are deliverance and strength.’”
We do know better…be encouraged!
I’m not sure why exactly, but recently, I have developed a deep curiosity and interest in climbing Mount Everest. Don’t misunderstand me, I won’t personally be climbing it any time soon. I don’t really like heights that much. I have been watching a lot of documentaries about people who do climb or attempt to climb that great mountain and living vicariously through them. These people spend anywhere from $30k to $100k to risk their lives to scale this mountain. Like anyone, I always knew attempting to climb Everest was a dangerous feat, but I didn’t fully grasp the enormity of the danger. At certain altitudes, altitude sickness is very likely, and it’s a pretty scary thing…like brain swelling, hallucinating, could die any moment from a heart attack or stroke type of thing. Why do these people do this? Is it ego? Is it some innate drive to test their personal limits? Is it bragging rights? Maybe all of the above…all this risk, all this cost, so many lives lost…to climb a mountain. I think attempting and achieving what was once “impossible” is amazing, virtuous even, but…
It is amazing to see the cost and risk so many people are willing to incur for the sake of an earthly accomplishment. We, as Christians, are pursing an eternal goal. Are we willing to pay the price? Are we willing to risk our own lives even? Are we risking everything for an earthly reward that will simply burn up in the end, or are we risking everything for a work that will bear eternal rewards? What are you climbing?
I know we are all alarmed at the happenings in our world. There is an all-out assault on are beliefs and sensibilities. What we once thought impossible is being played out on our daily news feed. The attack on Christianity is at an all-time high for this generation. It used to be that the railing against us was that they didn’t believe what we proclaimed…. now, the attack is even more diabolic. Now it is not ‘what’ we say, but we don’t have the ‘right’ to say it. That, my friend, is a shift of monumental importance. The feelings of defeat taunt while we do our best to keep our heads up. Be encouraged my fellow traveler, God will have the final word!
I can reflect on trials from years gone by and I am reminded of the rescuing hand of God moving among the broken places of our world. We might think what is happening today is new, but it is not. While a particular battle may be new the overall theme of warfare is not. The enemy always goes too far. Case in point, the devil thought crucifying Jesus was a good idea!
We must fight the battles as they come without fear or trembling, always reminding ourselves that Jesus referred to us, His disciples, as salt and light representing preservation and enlightenment.
Our influence as Christians cannot be stopped. You can’t stop salt from being salty nor can you stop light from lighting the way!
Look at the words of King Jehoshaphat as he and his army were facing a great battle. “…This is what the Lord says to you: Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours but God’s.” (emphasis mine)
We’re not going to draw back or go underground, we’re pressing ahead, influencing our nation and the nations of the world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.