Trials

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May 23

Monday, May 23rd, 2022

I’m back…with more confusion! 🙂  Revelation 16 has me bewildered. But rather than focus on the bowls of wrath and their meaning, let me take another road.

Several times throughout this chapter we are told the people blasphemed God.

  • In verse 9 it says they blasphemed God because He had power over the plagues but evidently didn’t exercise it.
  • In verse 11 they blasphemed because of their pain and sores.
  • In verse 21 they blasphemed God because of the plague of hail.

Let me just say that this chapter sounds a little like the plagues God put upon Egypt in Exodus. (Short side note there).

It has always been interesting to me how God gets the blame when tough times come. It is never because of our own stupidity, of course. It’s always God’s fault. Both followers of Christ and those who aren’t followers are too quick to blame Him for all the bad stuff that hits them. It’s as though we think that we “deserve” not to have this trouble. You know…we “deserve” better treatment. Ironically, in this chapter it is those who despise Him and His people who are doing the blaspheming. In verse 1 I think it is summed up well: “they blasphemed God because of …” It’s all His fault.

One last thought before I go: Verse 15 seems out of place but it is a true statement of hope: “Behold, I am coming like a thief.”

God is in control. There will come a day of reckoning. When that day will be no one knows.

“Father, help me to be ready. Keep my eyes focused on You not on events. And certainly help me not to blame and blaspheme Your Name.”

May 16

Monday, May 16th, 2022

I’m looking this morning at Revelation 12. I don’t know what to make of it in the “Revelation scheme” frankly, but I do see something else. That in a moment.

To begin with there are 4 principle characters:

  1. The woman (1-2). I always thought this was Mary, but think this may be Israel, the “genetic” home of Jesus’ physical body.
  2. The red dragon (3-4). We are told this is Satan in verse 9. The dragon is pictured as waiting to devour the child from verses 1-2.
  3. The Male child (5-6). Without a doubt this is Christ.
  4. The angel, Michael (7). Michael and his angels wage war against the dragon and his angels.

This scenario confuses me a bit. It seems to picture Satan and his angels being cast out of heaven, which is depicted in Isaiah 14: 12-15. But at the same time, I’m confused as to when this is taking place. The beginning of time? Are the prophecy gurus correct that this is during the Tribulation following the Rapture? I don’t know.

He is my “something else” I mentioned above: The victory is ultimately God’s. Not only is the dragon cast down, but verses 10-11 leave little doubt who will win. I encourage you to read that on your own and then adopt it as a battle cry. I particularly like the words in verse 11: “And they overcame him because of the blood of the Lamb, and because of the word of their testimony, and they did not love their life even when faced with death.”

GOD. WILL. PREVAIL. God’s people will also. There will be persecution and hard times but stand strong.

“Father, You win! He could not defeat the Son so he heads off, and even now, is waging war against Your people. Help me to remember I can overcome by the blood of the Lamb.”

April 20

Wednesday, April 20th, 2022

Two things ran through my head this morning as I read the Scripture about the church at Smyrna (Rev. 2:8-11).

One, around here we have a saying, “It’s all good.” Very seldom do you read or meet someone who either has nothing negative to say about another person or whom nothing negative is said about him/her. We tend to think there has to be a flaw somewhere. The church at Smyrna is one of those churches where there is nothing negative to speak of. Perfect church? There’s no such animal. But in matters which really count? Nothing. “It’s all good.”

The second item is a stab at the current idea that a follower of Jesus does not suffer.  There are certain religious teachers, i.e shysters, hucksters, false teachers who teach that a follower of Christ should not suffer. To suffer is to show a lack of faith. Hmmmm. I wonder what they might say about this passage in Rev. 2:8-11- “Do not fear what you are about to suffer…Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” In fact, previously in verse 9 Jesus says, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich)…” Those both slam the door on the heretical health/wealth un-gospel (as I call it) of Copeland, Hinn, Osteen, et al. Tribulation (suffering) and poverty: both things they teach against.

As follower of Christ, we can and should expect suffering. The difference is when we are faithful unto death it will be well worth it. AND IT’S ALL GOOD!

“Father, Your Word says to expect suffering.* Give me the strength I need to hold up under the pressure and be faithful.”

April 7

Thursday, April 7th, 2022

Continuing with some thoughts from Wisdom Hunter by Randall Arthur.  (See my March 31 and April 4 devotion for reference).

The essence of the Christian walk is to live contrary to human nature. (p.249)

Anyone who has  tried to live the Christian life knows that not only is this true, but way too familiar. When God says, “Zig” the world says, “Zag.”  God says, “Go right” the world says, “Go left.”

That’s how it has always been.

That’s how it is today.

That’s how it will always be.

It would be nice to think that coming to Jesus would end the struggle. But no, if anything it makes it worse.

The apostle Paul wrote about this struggle on more than one occasion, but his most extensive (I think anyway) and most pointed is found in Ephesians 6: 10-20. Everyone knows it to be the teaching of warfare which is not of this world, but also the armor of God every Christ-follower must wear.

Paul David Tripp wrote the following:

Paul is reminding you that at street level, practical, daily Christianity is at war. There really is a moral right and wrong. There really is an enemy. There really is a seductive and deceptive temptation. You really are spiritually vulnerable.  (New Morning Mercies- April 6)

Day in and day out our culture is calling our name. Our enemy is putting out the “red carpet” that leads to fame and fortune initially, but in the end leads to death and destruction.

Old man vs new man. Fake vs reality.

“Father, help me to choose Your way and not the world’s. And most definitely not mine. That spells D-I-S-A-S-T-E-R.”

February 28

Monday, February 28th, 2022

People often come into our lives who shape us, affect us, influence us, even change the course of our lives. Well over 10 years ago, a young lady whom I have never met in person came into my life and still profoundly affects me. I can say the same about a man, a pastor and missionary.  They both cause me to be grateful for those unseen people who God brings into my life.

I have never physically met Zee and Caleb. I met them through my blog. I could not even pinpoint when our paths crossed. But cross they have. Zee and I have exchanged comments on our blogs until we went dark for awhile. We exchanged books and I sent her a CD or two of music.  Her companions were the furry kind until she met Sam. They loved each other, married, and then shortly afterward decided to share their love by adopting Jenny and George, a brother and sister, who needed a home and lots of love. They got it. The 2 kids have grown (my how they have grown!). Zhenya (Jenny) and Zhora (George) are probably 6 years older than when I first saw them via pictures. I’ve never known what Sam does for a living; Zee works in some form of IT. They also love Jesus. Before I met her, Zee spent time in the states. A pastor of a church in Nashville, IN knew her from spending some time with her family. Oh yeah…did I tell you that Sam, Zee, Zhenya and Zhora live in Kiev?

Caleb is a missionary pastor. He married a Ukrainian girl and they have had 3 children. Caleb is pastoring a church in Odessa. Yeah, that Odessa. Ukraine. The church he pastors and the others he shepherds are ministering to the people in the city. They did not run.

I heard from Zee yesterday (Sunday) early morning after I sent her an email. Sam is one of the volunteers who patrol the city by taking up arms to defend their freedom. Zee and the kids are in the church basement steering clear of the missiles the ego maniac has ordered upon these freedom-loving people.

My heart aches for Zee’s family and friends. My heart aches for Pastor Caleb and his church and the pastors he shepherds. But I’m also encouraged by their resilience, their passion, their love for freedom, their country, their God, and for their friends and neighbors. Caleb pastors Odessa Baptist Church and Zee’s family (at my last word) attended a Nazarene church.

May they know God’s unlimited mercy and peace and grace. May they never forget there is a pastor and his church in Spencer, IN praying for them. May they know there is a nation that sees people who love freedom and are willing to pay the ultimate price to defend it.

My prayers-and hopefully yours-will be with people like Zee and Caleb and the Ukrainian nation. And may God bring an end to this ego maniac’s plan to destroy another country with his godless philosophy. 

January 5

Wednesday, January 5th, 2022

If I was a betting man (which I am not), I would be willing to wager that most, if not all of us, will at one time or another in 2022 ask or want to ask Why? Now, I’m not talking about the little one who has a thousand questions and they all seem to start with the word why?

No, this is much more serious. When a health event hits us our first question might be Why? When a catastrophic event hits us-a death, fire, destruction, car accident-we might be inclined to ask Why? When a financial hardship hits we may be tempted to ask Why?

We may never know the answer to that question while here on earth, but we can take comfort in the truth of One who does. Just this week (Monday) I finished writing a sermon from Daniel 2. In that chapter is a verse which speaks to this issue: Daniel 2:22- “It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, And the light dwells with Him.” (NASB2020)

We can take comfort in the fact that God is never surprised or afraid. He is never caught off guard. And while the event that happens has me rocking backwards on my heels and a tad bit flustered, God is not wringing His hand wondering, “What am I going to do?”

Take heart. Those moments of darkness are not dark to Him. He is the light on the head of the coal miner. He is the compass in the hands of the explorer. As the old hymn says, “There is no shadow or turning with Thee.” (Great is Thy Faithfulness)

“Father, what You do in the light, You do in the dark. When I have questions-especially Why?-help me to trust Your all-encompassing hand.”

LOVE GOD DEEPER…WORSHIP HIM MORE

November 22

Monday, November 22nd, 2021

I read a great and touching story recently:

When a powerful typhoon swept through the city of Tacloban, Philippines, in 2013, an estimated 10,000 people died, and many who survived found themselves homeless and jobless. necessities became scarce. Three months later, while the town was still struggling to dig itself out from the destruction, a baby was born on a roadside near Tacloban amid torrents of rain and strong wind. Although the weather brought back painful memories, residents worked together to find a midwife and transported the mother and newborn to a clinic. The baby survived, thrived, and became a symbol of hope during a time of despair.

I know another baby who came amidst an upheaval (Luke 2:1). Other than an innkeeper who possibly offered the stable, shepherds who visited, and a caring husband, a mother brought forth a baby who offered the ultimate hope. He survived, thrived, died, rose again, and all while saying, “Come to me” and “I am the way, the truth, and the life.”

Trouble is unavoidable and we may feel like giving up and all hope is lost. That baby-Jesus-says, “No. Don’t give up. I have the power to rescue you.”

“Father, may I remember through all the good and bad which happens that You are my hope.”

November 8

Monday, November 8th, 2021

Even though we cannot see His hand we can trust His heart.

That is the statement that has been running through my mind this morning. I’m guessing it is not original with me (I wish), but if it isn’t, I am clueless as to where I heard or read it. But more importantly, I know it is true and it is absolutely essential that it be true.

On October 13, my daughter, Tami, had a heart attack. (I wrote about it). Minor or major does not matter-a heart attack is a heart attack. While it may have not been one that required a by-pass, it was major enough that a wire could not be inserted to open or repair the torn artery. It could be fatal to do any procedure.

In all of this (and often in other trials as well) it is hard to see God’s hand. The questions are easy to float. “Why?” “How come me?” “What am I to learn?” Gobs of others. I don’t know the answers to them. Tami sure doesn’t either. Honestly, I have not asked those questions. I stopped trying to run my life a long time ago. I was an abject failure in that department. This morning I read Psalm 138:7-8. Please take a moment to read all of Psalm 138 (8 verses). As you do pay special attention to verse 8: “The Lord will accomplish what concerns me; Your faithfulness, Lord is everlasting.”

I may not always see His hand, but I know I can trust His heart. I like that statement. I believe I will stick with it (even though it probably is not original with me).  🙂

“Father, faith is trusting when the road cannot be seen ahead. Give me a simple faith to trust Your heart for me.”

October 11

Monday, October 11th, 2021

Our small group has been discussing the topic of suffering. Last night we talked about suffering being fair or not.

We all came to the conclusion that suffering being “fair” should not be in our vocabulary.  It most certainly is not a biblical word. I think (personally) what happens to many of us is we begin to compare our situation with someone else’s and the word “fair” comes out. How many times have I heard, “I don’t understand. I give my life to Jesus, serve Him, and this is what I get”? How many times? Innumerable. We need to ditch the “It’s not fair talk” and get back to “God-talk.” We need to start saying, “What does God want me to learn or to become out of this?”

Here are some one sentence thoughts I gleaned and wrote down from last night’s study:

  • Right in the middle of his suffering, Paul broke out in the doxology. See Romans 11:33-36.
  • In our future and about our future, God owes us no explanation.
  • Society has become a victim-driven society.
  • When you throw a pity party no one wants to come. (I love this one)
  • When we open the door to victimhood, we allow ourselves to be slaves.

And to close this devotion, here is a thought from something I read from John Piper just this morning:

Do not think that because you experience adversity in your little world of experience, the hand of the Lord is shortened. It is not our prosperity or our fame but our holiness that He seeks with all His heart.”  –“Good News of Great Joy”- p. 34

“Father, may I see suffering, not as something unfair or to avoid, but as a tool to help me grow into being more like Jesus.”

October 5

Tuesday, October 5th, 2021

It was 1:00 a.m. I was awake.  I was uncomfortable (I’ll tell you why in a mom). But even in my discomfort a word came to me “out-of-the-blue.” Blessed. It got me thinking (yes, even at that time in the morning).

One of my favorite people (whom I have never met in person) is a woman from Georgia named Martha. She blogs at http://marthaorlando.blogspot.com/2021/10/be-lifted-up.html. She ends every comment on my blog (and others) with “Blessings.”

Our local sheriff, Sam, is a Christ-follower. You ask him how he is doing and he will answer, “I’m blessed.”

My secretary, Diana, has a t-shirt she likes to wear: “Blessed and highly caffeinated.” Since she drinks very little coffee, I suspect it is the “Blessed” she likes.

Jesus used that word “Blessed” 9 times in the Sermon on the Mount. They are called the Beatitudes.

This past Saturday as I was walking from gassing up my truck to the store to get my change and to meet Jo to get something to drink, a car backed into me and knocked me over. My left hand slammed the pavement and immediately was on fire. I now have the black and blue and sore hand to prove it (hence the 1 a.m. discomfort). Of course, they both got out of the car to see how I was and to apologize. As I waiting in line (I think in a little bit of shock), the man came into the store to see if I was okay. I said, “Yes” and he said, “Well, God bless you.”

As I was driving down the interstate a few moments later (and after the reality of what had happened dawned on me…my hand reminded me), I told Jo what he said. I then said, “I wish I had been more with it because I would have said to him, ‘He has. He does. He will.'”  But I didn’t. I didn’t even think of it. And since they are from Rhode Island I doubt I ever will (unless I see them in heaven).

In spite of the pain in life; in spite of the stumbles and falls; in spite of the missteps; in spite of the times of loneliness and feeling of hopelessness and abandonment which sometimes invades our space, we are blessed. 

I know I am.  It just takes me taking my eyes off of me and my circumstances and looking at Jesus to realize I am blessed beyond measure.

So are you. Do you know that?

“Father, help me to see how blessed I really am.”