Friday, May 31, 2013

Strength when you need it

Psalm 112:7  "He will have no fear of bad news; his heart is steadfast, trusting in the Lord."

I have to admit I live in some degree of fear of bad news.  Maybe fear is too strong of a word for what I feel, but I do think about scenarios and times where bad news will come my way.  Sometimes being conscious of the possibility of bad news is a good thing, causing me to recognize and appreciate times that are largely absent of bad news. 

My thoughts seem to center on my reaction and response when bad news does come my way.  Specifically, I wonder whether bad news will shake my faith.  I recognize that it is easy to trust, follow and obey the Lord in good times.  The real test comes when life and circumstances no longer make sense.  When life has become unfair and painful, do I really have the depth of faith and the ability to trust in the Lord that I think I do?

One thing I know for sure is that I will get my chance to find out.  Bad news will come, and my faith will be tested.  Maybe I don't have right now what I will need at that time to make it through.  But I trust in the Lord to give me the strength and fortitude that I might or might not have today at the point in time where I need it most.

Monday, May 20, 2013

More of people equals more of God

Ephesians 4:11  "It was He who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers,..."

We are all gifted differently as individuals.  I am naturally good at some things and struggle with others.  Alone, I can accomplish some things based on my individual gifts.  But to accomplish things that are not in my areas of strength, I need help from others who are gifted in those areas.

It is a mutually dependent and beneficial relationship we have with others, and this is exactly how God intended it to work.  We were made for relationship- both with Him and with our brothers and sisters in the world.  But Satan opposes God's will, and devises schemes and barriers to discourage us from pursuing and walking in God's will. 

I believe Satan's plan to oppose relationships centers on making them risky and difficult.  Any true relationship demands much of us.  It demands our time, energy, effort, persistence, patience, grace, vulnerability, etc.  It demands all of the things God shows us in pursuing and maintaining His relationship with us. 

Satan's message is that we would be happier and safer on our own.  The temptation and attraction of being totally in control and having to answer to no one is a massive lie.  It's a ploy to drive us away from God as much or more than it is a scheme to divide us as individuals.  If Satan can convince us to isolate ourselves from other people, he is on his way to convincing us to isolate ourselves from God.

We must pursue and maintain unity and relationship with those people God has brought into our lives because, simply, He commanded us to do so.  Being in relationship with others is an act of obedience toward God.  It is at the same time an act of resistance against Satan. 

Finally, I believe God uses relationships as one of His primary channels through which He helps us grow and mature in Him.  If someone were to make a statement such as, "I need less of people and more of God", they may be contradicting themselves.  If the true sentiment is that they want less of the world's selfish, fleshly message and more of God's truth, then amen to that.  But if the thought is centered on isolating oneself and getting alone with God at the expense of people, we are inadvertently taking away one of the most useful tools in God's toolbox.

Pursue and maintain relationships with people as a means of pursuing and maintaining your relationship with God.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

God's love and our internal struggle

Matthew 16:17-18, 23  "Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by My Father in Heaven.  And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it'... Jesus turned and said to Peter, 'Get behind me, Satan!  You are a stumbling block to Me; you do not have in mind the things of God but the things of men.' "

During the course of a single conversation with Jesus, Peter swings between being blessed and referred to as the rock upon which the church will be built, to being called Satan and rebuked for not having in mind the things of God.  What a wild swinging of the pendulum from blessed friend to mortal enemy!  But Peter himself didn't change, only his thoughts and motivations changed.

This is similar to watching my kids.  In one moment, they can say or do something that warms my heart and makes me believe they are really on the right track.  In the next moment, they do something that dumbfounds me and completely wrecks my previous angelic view of them. 

In those situations, I haven't viewed some sort of sudden and permanent transformation of each of them as a person.  What I have witnessed is them living out the same nature that all of us have.  We are equal parts infused by the Holy Spirit and spoiled by our sin nature.  From moment to moment and thought to thought, one or the other may surface. 

The two are in constant struggle inside of me.  The sin nature will never be fully defeated and cast out of me.  I am, after all, a human who carries the legacy of Adam and the original sin.  I am not the perfect God, and acceptance of Jesus as my Lord and Savior and receipt of the Holy Spirit in my heart does not transform me into the perfect God.  It only gives me perfect coverage and forgiveness in the eyes of God.

Jesus' responses to Peter are not inconsistent, but exactly in line with what a loving and caring father should do for his children.  Jesus praised and affirmed Peter when he deserved it, and He scolded and rebuked Peter when he deserved it.  What He did not do was love Peter in one instant (when his actions and behavior warranted it) and stop loving him in the next. 

Peter didn't change, nor did God's love for him. Jesus' varied reactions are a perfect illustration of God loving us and guiding us as our Father.