Trials

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January 31

Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

One of the heresies today of so many false teachers is what is called the “health/wealth” gospel or the “name-it-claim-it” teaching.  I’m guessing many of you know exactly what that aberrant teaching is: God wants you healthy and wealthy. It is your divine right to expect it. All you have to do is “name it and claim it.” Speak it out loud. Claim that whatever it is you want is yours and you get it.

I cannot begin to tell you how that turns my stomach. They twist Scripture to have it say what they mean. “Ask and it will given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened” is just one of the Scriptures they butcher. It is used a proof-text for their false thoughts.

They tell people to speak cancer away. Speak poverty away. Want that car? Claim it. Again, I cannot tell you how much that makes me cringe. Meanwhile, they get richer and richer; live in multi-million dollar mansions; wear designer clothes and $1500 tennis shoes on stage. Say what?

All while followers of Jesus die in droves in third world countries from ill health. All while followers of Jesus live under the sword of a pagan dictator or under the threat of rogue bands of vigilantes coming after them due to their faith. All while followers of Jesus are dying from cancer, or live under the specter of Alzheimers, or Parkinsons, or MS, or a wheelchair for life.

Trials, hardships, sickness, prolonged illnesses, even death are all part of living on this planet. It is the result of sin and the last I looked, the statistics for that were 1/1 have that disease. It follows that death has that same stat.

We may have trouble seeing it, but trials and difficulties can serve as a catalyst, a springboard, to new growth and a season of immense blessing from God. “Count it all joy” is what James said (Js. 1:2). The next time something happens that wants to knock you flat or even succeeds in doing that, let’s praise Him for His presence and strength to bear up under it.

And yes, I’m preaching to the choir.

December 29

Thursday, December 29th, 2022

Welcome to what will probably be the last post on “Shadow” for 2022. There will be a lot of reflecting over the next few days about 2022. The highs and lows. The victories and defeats. What I will call the woulda, shoulda, coulda’s.

But along with reflecting on 2022 (the past), there will also be some pondering about 2023. No one could have guessed what all 2022 would bring, nor can we guess what 2023 will bring. I won’t lie-I do wonder. Will my health hold up? Will that knee they say needs replaced “someday” find its “someday” in 2023? Will I be able to erase even more debt in 2023 (I only owe on 2 things at the moment-my house and truck)? Will the church thrive? Will Jo and I be able to celebrate our 50th in June? So many questions…not one answer…

Except…

I don’t have to know. God does. And since he has never failed me yet, I’m pretty confident He won’t in 2023.

I read about a lady named Charlotte Elliott. She suffered a physical disability for years and on the night before she was to participate in a fund-raiser for higher education, she was a mess. She tossed and turned all night with doubts and worries. She felt inadequate. The next morning she went to her desk and penned these well-known words: “Just as I am, without one plea/ But that they blood was shed for…”

Take note of Genesis 17:1. It says, “I am God Almighty (El Shaddai); walk before Me.” The Hebrew term, El Shaddai, can mean “God who is sufficient.”

I don’t know what 2023 holds. None of us do. What I DO KNOW is El-Shaddai, God Almighty, is sufficient to enable me to weather any storm.

“Father, may I trust You no matter what, as the One who is sufficient.”

December 12

Monday, December 12th, 2022

One of the seemingly strangest Christmas songs we sing is “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.” The history of that song is mind-blowing. The relevancy to today is uncanny.

The poem was written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. He was a child prodigy. He started school at age 3 and was reading classical literature and writing stories by age 6.  At 19 the college graduate (my note: yes you read that right), became a professor at Bowdoin College. He married in 1831 but several years later his first wife became ill and died. It took seven years before he recovered enough from his loss to remarry.  He soon found fame and fortune as a result of renewed vigor. He fathered five children as well as writing classics like The Song of Hiawatha and The Courtship of Miles Standish. However, at the height of his fame and wealth and status, tragedy struck again. His wife died while lighting a match that caught her dress on fire.  And then the Civil War hit and his oldest son went to fight for the Union Army. On December 1, 1863 he received word that his son has been severely wounded and may be paralyzed for the rest of his life. He hated the war and what it did to his family and how it divided the country.  On December 25, 1863 he sat down and wrote the words to the poem which John Baptiste Calkin put to music ten years later.  {Source: “Stories Behind the Best-Loved Songs of Christmas”-Ace Collins-pp. 81-85} (edited by me to fit)

I suspect many of us could have written that poem. The loss of a spouse or a child. The dissolution of a marriage you had poured your heart and soul into. The despair from a seemingly endless war. Loss of a job and income. Long-term health crisis. The drift of a child or a loved one into an immoral lifestyle or an addiction. The list of “sorrow-makers” is endless.

Despair is knocking on the door, but those who are Christ-followers do not have to give in to despair. One of the poem’s final stanzas says, “Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead, nor doth He sleep; The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, With peace on earth, goodwill to men.” {Ibid-p.83}

That is a promise from His Word. If you feel despair rearing up its ugly head and kicking you around, don’t give in.  God is there. Ask Him to come alongside you in a very real way (He is already there in the Person of the Holy Spirit). He has promised His comfort any time you need it.

May you know His peace and presence this Christmas season.

November 16

Wednesday, November 16th, 2022

Have you ever had those times when you were “satisfied”? I’m not speaking about “being content” as Paul talks about in Phil. 4:11-12.

In my mind this morning is the thought that there is a difference between being satisfied and being content. I’m not sure how well I can explain it, but let me try.

“Being content” is an attitude of the heart, a settledness with situations, circumstances, and the nuances of life. A resting in the soft arms of a Mighty God who give us all things. I see this in followers of Jesus who may not have much of what the world considers a “must have,” and yet there is a quiet contentedness that invades the spirit and exudes to others.

I hope that explains that.

Meanwhile, “being satisfied” has another flavor. I see that as meaning something different (at least in my other mind) in the sense of “all is good and going well.” For example, you realize one morning that all has been going well and smooth-job, home, relationships, health-and you rest, not in the strong arms of a Mighty God, but in your “peaceful” situation. Maybe not as drastic as the man Jesus talked about of “Eat, drink, and be merry” fame, but there is an uneasy sense of calm.

Why do I say this? I was thinking this morning how easy it is to get lulled into a lack of alertness, into complacency. We let our guard down. At this point, we become fodder-a target- for the enemy. There is a big zero on our forehead and centered in our heart. Are we not  warned of this in I Peter 5:8? He writes, “Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (NASB2020)

Simply put: being unaware, being “relaxed,” places us in great danger of the enemy. It puts us directly in his sights. Once we let our guard down we are fair game.

It is okay to be content. Be careful of being satisfied.

October 3

Monday, October 3rd, 2022

The relaxing weekend is over.  Not having an agenda was nice. We had a leisurely Friday (which is normally my day off); on Saturday we attended a football game at noon and a baseball game in the late afternoon some of our youth were involved in; and Sunday attended church with Ryan and Amanda, our longtime friends.  Afterwards we ate wings (except Jo…she had a burger), then headed home for a relaxing evening. In between all this mayhem I worked on a 1000 piece puzzle I am getting close to finishing.

But its back to the old grind…I mean…agenda/schedule.

Have you noticed how some stories in the Bible never get old? As a child raised in the church, I heard all the stories-David and Goliath, the 3 dudes in the furnace, the angel appearing to Mary, and others.

One of my favorites (besides Jesus) was Daniel and the lion’s den. Still is. David slinging a stone is a cool story. The 3 dudes (Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-nego) in the furnace-which actually turned out to be 4 in the furnace-is a wonderful story. But lions-hungry lions-with jaws which could snap a person in half clamped shut all night by angels? WOW! I can see several teaching points in that story. I’ll just settle for one.

The biggest is the lions leaving Daniel alone.  That was totally against their nature. But we don’t read of Daniel worrying about what was going to happen to him. He didn’t stay awake fretting and worrying about how it was going to hurt and maybe it will be quick.  If Daniel stayed awake, it was because he was praying. Not out of worry, but that God would be glorified and Darius’ eyes would be opened (least that is what I think). Read Daniel 6: 25-27 and you can see there is not only validity in what I just wrote, but it also happened.  I’m going to say that Daniel slept like a baby and those lions were like stuffed animals.

We can learn from this story. Daniel’s eyes were not on the den, the lions, or how wrong and unfair it was that he was there. His eyes and his faith were firmly saying, “I trust you” to his God.

Is that a lesson you can learn? I know I can.

September 29

Thursday, September 29th, 2022

If you were to take a random survey of people, especially Christ-followers, of what is there #1 question here on earth, and possibly one they say they will ask God when they get to heaven, I suspect it would be, “Why?” More specifically, “Why all the pain and suffering, especially to little children?”

To be more specific with an example (and there is, of course, not only one), here is one I have been dealing with.  Some folks who are friends of mine, but also part of the church I pastor, have a neighbor/friend who has a 4 year old who has been diagnosed with a glioma, an inoperable, aggressive, and fatal brain tumor.  He has had 3 surgeries so far- one for the tumor originally, and two for complications (bleeding and infection). The question “Why him?” has been asked a lot lately.

I believe we can ask that question and more any time we want. God is not afraid of our questions. But, will we be satisfied with the answer? I don’t know. God, of course, is under no obligation to answer. None. He doesn’t owe me anything.

But I can take heart that Jesus also asked why. Remember on the cross? “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” Notice the “why.” But take note of the 4 words which precede it. Even though the grief over separation from His Father was great, Jesus still trusted (“Into Your hands I commit my spirit”). Jesus was forsaken so I might be forgiven. But even in His plain and agony (not physical), Jesus trusted.

We will NEVER understand all that goes on down here on earth. We will NEVER understand all the “whys.” That is not the issue. The issue is “will I trust?”

I don’t know what you or someone you love may be going through right now. In the end, it comes down to trust.

{Side note: I will be taking this Sunday off. I have had one off (and didn’t realize it), since sometime in 2021. This weekend Jo and I are going to chill and Sunday we plan to visit Ryan and Amanda’s home church (he comments on this blog). Your prayers for a “chill time” would be appreciated. Someone has said, “If you don’t come apart, you will come apart.” I prefer to do the former before the latter. Thanks}

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.”