Perseverance

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June 21

Tuesday, June 21st, 2022

This past Sunday, as part of the Father’s Cay special the church had, one of the men used the father with the demon-possessed son. You can find his story in Mt. 17 and also in Mk. 9. It is the Mark 9 passage which is actually fuller with information and I’d like to use that one.

As Jesus, Peter, James and John made their way down from the Mount of Transfiguration, they were met by a swarm of people. Front and center was a father whose son was demon-possessed. He had begged and pleaded with the disciples to heal his son-to cast out the demon-but they were unable to. So the father tells Jesus what has been happening. Putting aside Jesus’ words about the faithlessness of the others, the father brings his son to Jesus and about that time the demon throws him on the ground and into convulsions. The conversation next is my point:

Jesus: “How long has this been happening?”

Father: “From childhood.”

Father: “But if you can do anything…” (emphasis mine)

Jesus: “IF? All things are possible to those who believe.”

Father: “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

Jesus heals his son.

Notice the exchange? “If?”  “I believe. Help my unbelief.”

That father is me sometimes. There are occasions when I bring very little faith to the table. I’m barely holding on. But He is willing to take what little faith I have and make it greater. I have often said, “He takes my #2 faith and make is a #8 or a #10 faith.”

Jesus builds faith; He doesn’t tear it down. If there is any tearing down, it is to tear down our self-sufficient “faith” and build a kingdom faith.

May your (and my) faith increase.

 

June 9

Thursday, June 9th, 2022

I actually wrote this on Tuesday morning, June 6th, while at the hotel.  If I had had a way to post this that morning I would have done so, but typing on my phone is not my idea of fun so I figured I would do it this morning.  Here were my thoughts on that Tuesday morning.

After a very restless night not sleeping in a hotel bed, fraught with a lot of tossing and turning and pain and discomfort, I received a text from a man in the church who told me on June 1 that he would be praying for me all month. Here was his text:

“Lord, I pray for Pastor Bill. Lord, if his bodily pain persists, may his bodily pain lead to your Spirit’s deeper working in him. I know that many times continued pain uncovers things in us. I pray that if you are uncovering something, that he in raw honesty, talks to You about it and he lets You do whatever You want to do. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.

I have often said that pain is never wasted. Just Sunday, one of our ladies sat next to another young mother going through the trauma of betrayal and a broken marriage. When I hugged the one mother (Lady #1), she whispered, “Only God could know that she (Lady #2) would be going through what I’ve just gone through.”

And that’s it!! Pain is never wasted. We were never meant to keep the lessons we learn from pain to ourselves. God is in the midst of the pain. Being fully human He knows what it is like. He promises that He will be with me through my pain and carry it with me, and when it gets too heavy,  He will be my heavy lifter.

I know Lady #1 knows that. I also know Lady #2 is experiencing some of that and will, with Lady #1’s help and other’s help, come to see that. She will also come out on the other end praising God for His faithfulness.

“Father, thank You for Your presence. Thank You for Steve’s words. Thank you for Lady #1’s willingness to use her pain to hold Lady #2’s hand and let her cry. May I be that same type of vessel.”

I would love to share with you the name of Lady #1 but privacy will not allow me to do that. I’m sure you understand.  🙂

May 18

Wednesday, May 18th, 2022

This is getting hard. Revelation 14 this morning. I counted six angels pronouncing judgment. No clue what the significance of that is. But to “de-prophecy” this, here is what I gleaned:

1. We will stand with the Lamb and sing a new song. (1-5). I have no clue what the 144,000 means. I know what the JWs say and I totally disagree with that. Simple math says  12 tribes x 12,000 = 144,000. Significance? I don’t know. It gets me no closer to the meaning. So I’ll focus on the new song we will sing.

2. The words or pronouncements of the angels were of the destruction of the enemy. Verse 6 is of the angel pronouncing judgment. Verse 7 is an angel saying Babylon will fall. Verses 9-11 tell them getting the mark of the beast was a terrible thing to do.

3. Saints need to persevere (12-13). There is blessing in dying in the Lord.

4. Three more angels come bringing the judgment (15-20)  I confess to replaying the scene from Tombstone where Kurt Russell, playing Wyatt Earp, yells, “I’m coming to get you and hell’s coming withe me!”  This angel is no longer just talk. Judgment is coming.

WOW!! It is at this point I’m saying, “What in the world?” I’ll look more closely what the prophecy gurus say, but let’s just say this:  it often looks like those of us who follow Jesus (the Lamb) are the losers. We are persecuted. Mistreated. Maligned. Criticized. And so on. But some day we will sing a new song. What the words are to that song no one knows. Does it really matter as long as we are singing it? I think not.

And I’m willing to wager that it will be sung on key.

“Father, the song of the Lamb will be one of triumph. That will be my song for and through the ages.”

April 14

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

One last thought from a quote in Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur:

“An easy, routine way of life which many associate with stability and security only gives man stagnation. Entrenched routine only spoils man and makes him simple and weak. On the other hand, progressive resistance in life always has the potential to give man progressive strength, and to make man progressively wiser…Resistance makes a man think new thoughts he never thought before. It makes a man seek answers he never sought before. It makes a man beg God for help that he never before realized he needed. Theses quests, quests of the heart and soul, eventually make a man deeper, wider, taller.” (Pages 249-250)

One of the fallacies of our thinking today among certain religious people is that we shouldn’t suffer, we shouldn’t have a hard time. Even the one deconstructing or questioning the faith states it: “Why do Christians suffer?” or some variation of that.

Tragically, we have bought into the lie that one who follows Jesus ought to have an easy life. It’s almost seen as a reward which is earned. I’d like to think I’m wrong in that assessment but I’m not.

Instead of seeing it as a punishment or a bad experience from a “mean” God, it seems wiser to consider them a way to grow. In the words of the quote: “To grow deeper, wider, fuller.” At this time of the year, when remembering the crucifixion of Jesus is right around the corner, let’s consider the suffering of Jesus as an example to us that we too should expect to follow in His steps. See I Peter 2:21-25.

“Father, may I see the difficulties in my life not as a bad thing but as a growth thing.”

March 30

Wednesday, March 30th, 2022

“It’s not fair.” If I’ve heard it once I’ve heard it a thousand times. If I’ve used it once…

That phrase came up in a texting conversation I had the other day. A very much loved brother and son is dying of cancer. He has fought valiantly. He has taken his treatments for his wife and 2 children and is still in a lot of pain. He will be called home soon and is ready to go. The words said to me where, “It’s not fair. He was an organic, health-conscious person.”

Consider me stumped.

Not because I didn’t know what to say or how this all fits into God’s dealings with man. I do on both counts. I do know what to say but I didn’t want to sound all cliche-driven. As for the latter, I can’t answer specifically for his case, but I do know sin has brought about destruction and death.

I think at the core of that statement  is the “I don’t understand.  Why him/her? When all the while this evil person is well or is healed” idea which runs through our head. In our heads, the injustice of it all just doesn’t gel, especially with the idea of a good God.  I think in the back of our minds is this feeling that “I’m a Christ-follower. I shouldn’t have to deal with this” mentality.

We have bought into the lie, be it ever so little, that we shouldn’t suffer. We rail against the health/wealth un-gospel, but all the while semi-expect it for us. The truth is that sickness and health, wealth and poverty, unhappiness and joyfulness, peace and misery are found equally in believers and unbelievers alike.

I could go on some more about this, but two things rise to the top of my thinking: 1) It (life)-good or bad-happens to all of us; and 2) no one knows God’s ultimate plan except for the fact we can’t see it all here. Someday we will. Someday justice will be served.

Take a moment and join me in what I read this morning: I Peter 5: 8-10. Perhaps that will help answer a question or two.

“Father, I don’t understand. Help me to rest and rely on Your plan and trust You to bring it all to pass.”

March 14

Monday, March 14th, 2022

One of the issues many Christ-followers struggle with is the advancement of evil. I’m not speaking necessarily about culture, although it certainly is an issue. We have slowly watched evil creep into our nation, our families, our churches, and yes, even us. Things we never thought would change have changed. Fifty years ago if someone had told us homosexuality would be normalized and accepted we would have probably pooh-poohed it. If someone had told us ten years ago that polyamory would seen as “right” and “normal,” we would have probably spit out our soup.

But…here we are. Accepting as normal things which are abnormal. Accepting as okay the things which are sin.

It is difficult for the one who loves Jesus and wants to serve Him to stand by and watch evil gain a foothold and even triumph. It was Edmund Burke who said, “The only way for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

The Russia-Ukraine war, conflict, whatever the talking heads want to call it, is a good example of evil running rampant. An evil, deranged, ego maniac has attacked a sovereign country and is in the process of laying it to waste. I cringe as I see our leaders bow to him and not lift a finger. But then I read verses like Psalm 37: 38-39 which says, “But the wrongdoers will altogether be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be eliminated. But the salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; He is their strength in time of trouble.” (NASB2020).  I then remind myself he will lose. Evil will not triumph in the end. This is especially true in the fight of good vs evil, of the flesh vs the Spirit.

I pray each day for Ukraine and my friends there: Zee and her husband, Sam, and their two children, Zhenya (Jenny) and Zhora (George).  I finally heard from a pastor friend, Caleb Suko, who was in Odessa.  They are now in Moldova, doing ministry there and helping with the refugees.

In the end, righteousness will triumph. In life. In death. Amen.

February 4

Friday, February 4th, 2022

Full disclosure: I wrote this yesterday, Thursday, February 3rd.

I don’t normally post on Friday since it is my day off, but the weather has changed that. Wednesday it rained all day. When I say “All day” I do mean “ALL DAY.” I had a funeral and it was a wet, sloppy mess. The rain eventually changed to sleet and freezing rain. Early this morning it turned to a wet snow, a heavy snow. I could hear it falling. Jo wants me to stay home since they are calling for 5-8″. Long story short, the snow has slowed me down and it looks like it will keep me home. So I will take some time to journal.

Colossians 2:8-10 is where I want to focus this morning. Please take a moment to read those few verses. Verse 8 speaks to the warning all Christ-followers must be aware of and cognizant of: false teachers and empty philosophies can warp our thinking. Verses 9-10 give further evidence of the truth about Jesus and who He is. So the question that comes to the forefront is “How do I avoid being sucked into false teaching? How do I avoid the deception which is so rampant?”

The answer is found in verses 6-7: “Therefore, as you have received Christ Jesus as Lord, so walk in Him, having been firmly rooted and now being built up in Him and established in your faith…” 

ROOTED AND ESTABLISHED.

Neither of those happen overnight. A farmer doesn’t plant seed one day and the next day find a healthy, well-established crop. It doesn’t happen overnight. Neither does a rooted and well-grounded faith.

There is so much more to say. Like the role of nourishment. The role of harsh weather/trials on the root system, and ultimately, the growth of the crop/our faith.

Suffice it to say that a firmly rooted and grounded faith is a key to staving off false teaching.

“Father, help me to plant my roots deeply and be established so I can ward off the false teaching which is so deceptive. Help me to cling to You and be faithful to Your truth.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

January 7-9

Friday, January 7th, 2022

I am not normally going to post on the weekends, but this devotion came to me so I thought I would share it.

I wonder what it was like to be in Paul’s shoes. In 2 Corinthians 12 he speaks about being taken up into the third heaven. But he quickly changes his focus to his humility. Not bagging about it (because if he did he would no longer be humble!). Instead, he talks about how God keeps him from getting proud. His words: “to keep me from exalting myself.”  {Hmmm: does that speak to those who like to tell their stories for their few minutes of fame?}

But even more importantly is the lesson he is taught:  God’s grace is sufficient for any weakness. What an important truth to remember!

There is a saying, a thought, I often hear expressed which I think is very appropriate here: when you come to the end of yourself that is the best place to be. It is when you have nothing left, that you realize Christ is all you need.

Paul learned that.  He goes on to say, “Most gladly, therefore, i will rather boast about my weakness, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.” (v.9b)

That’s a good lesson for today and for the weekend. Well…for the future.

“Father, may I realize I am incapable on my own to counter all that comes. May I seek Your strength and grace to live a life which glorifies You.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

December 30

Thursday, December 30th, 2021

In this, my last post of 2021, I leave you with some words from Bob Goff. But first, my words. 🙂 As 2020 ended, it was not unusual to hear words like, “I’m so glad 2020 is ending. I am so ready for 2021.”  Hmmmm. My 2021 started with COVID long-haul that eventually led to a 48 pound weight loss in 4 weeks, several procedures and finally gall bladder surgery.  But all in all, other than some lingering smell and taste issues I can live with, I have no complaints as I can see God’s hand in all of it. Was I comfortable with it all? No, of course not. But I trust and rest in Him.

Here we are at the end of 2021 and I hear the repeat sentiments of the previous year. But I don’t hear the defeat and despair of people. Yes, the variant has reared its ugly head ahead bringing shut downs and dire warnings, mandates, and other nonsense. But I think people are tired of feeling defeated.

No one knows what 2022 will bring-except One. But it is because He knows that He also invites us to dream and to be involved in His work. Now for Bob’s quote:

When God gives us dreams, He wants us to change as we choose them. We achieve our dreams by bravely facing the lopsided odds. We might think achieving a dream is the point, but I think for God it’s more about seeing us become more like Jesus with each step we take forward. Of course, He celebrates with us too. (#365-p.418)

Those are good words to carry with us in 2022. Never stop dreaming. As Bob would say, “Dream big.” May 2022 be a year of new challenges seen; new mountains conquered; and new dreams fulfilled. All done in the power of the Spirit.

“Father, I give you my old year. It is done. I now give You reign over my new one-2022. May I follow Your dream(s) and Your plans for me.”

October 25

Monday, October 25th, 2021

I know very few people who like tests. I have a daughter who didn’t do very well with tests. We found that out early on thanks to a teacher. Call it a worksheet on a Tuesday and she “Aced” it. Call that same worksheet a test on Wednesday and she barely passed.

I can understand that. In high school I didn’t really care. In college I did. I found out in my high school Spanish class I could do fairly well in class. A test? Not so. In Geometry and Trig I could do okay in class and even as I studied. A test? How many ways can you say, “Bomb”? In college, I did okay with Greek class. I knew the words. I knew the synonyms and antonyms. In class. But give me a test? Bombs away!

Life is full of tests. Some I have passed; some I have failed. Some I have passed with flying colors; some not so. Some I was the poster child for steadfastness and faithfulness and trust; some for negativity and wishy-washedness and failure.

I’m thinking this morning of Abraham and Isaac. Abraham failed a few times along the way, but this would be his ultimate test.  Pass or fail? Stand  tall or bite the dust? Trust or waver? Genesis 22 tells us he passed. As did Isaac.

It isn’t easy when being tested. Choosing the hard way sometimes is a challenge. Choosing to trust is sometimes a real chore. Choosing to stay the course and to trust is sometimes next to impossible.

But stay I/we should. The reward is phenomenal!

“Father, may I stand firm in spite of the test. May I choose to remain steadfast and follow Your path.”