SERVANT’S HEART

SCRIPTURE STUDY:  1 Peter 5:1-4

After my devotional reading this morning in 1 Peter 5, I wanted to take a specific passage and apply it to a larger theme of SERVANT-HOOD answering the question that many of us deal with:  “How can I help my Church?”

What do you call a chicken crossing the road?

Poultry in motion.

What do you call a boomerang that doesn’t work?

A stick.

Where do you find a dog with no legs?

Right where you left him.

What do call cheese that isn’t yours?

Nacho cheese.

What do you call a Christian who isn’t serving?

A CONTRADICTION~

You and I have been redeemed for a reason…

Another way to say it is, we’ve been SAVED to SERVE… we’ve been mobilized for ministry?  That’s why when we are NOT serving in some way, in and through the church, it’s a contradiction.  Because to be a follower of Christ means you are a servant of Christ Jesus.

As we go through this passage of Scripture, I want to apply the words of Peter to a larger theme of SERVANT-HOOD and answer the questions.

Help Your Church By Serving “willingly” (verse 2 a.)

  • “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers-not because you must, but because you are willing…”

I’m not a Bible teacher or a Christian Blogger because that’s what I chose to do.

I could have chosen to do many other things in furthering the cause of Christ.  But God CHOSE me to teach and write.  Since I know that this is my calling, then I SERVE willingly.

I’m not fighting to surrender; I’m freely and willingly serving.

So many Christians today are useful in their churches to advance the gospel but they are not willing, they refuse.  That has always confused me over the years.  Some may feel unworthy and inadequate; some feel that it will cost them too much.nnSome may feel like it will require too much sacrifice.  On and on the list could go, but the Scripture is clear.  If we have been CALLED to serve, or if we have talents and abilities to serve, then we must not reject His call!

The Scripture says, “but because you are willing, as God wants you to  be” (NIV)

It’s God’s desire to surrender your life to Him – Your talents and your abilities to be used by Him in His service.  You surrender willingly, not because you are forced.

Help Your Church By Serving Eagerly – (vs. 2) “but eager to serve”

DEFINITION:  eager : An adjective. 

synonyms:  enthusiastic, fervent, zealous, passionate, motivated, wholehearted, dedicated.

I love to watch someone who is fairly new to the church, and they’re a fairly new believer, and the first opportunity they can do something in the church for the Lord, you can see the eagerness they have.  They get to the church doors early and they stay late to help clean up.  They are EAGER to serve.  They can’t wait to get after it.

Losing the Eagerness –

How in the world do we get to the place in our Christian lives, where we lose that eagerness to serve?

There’s also a flip side of the person that is eager when that person who does some type of service because no one else will take it!

Usually, the ACT OF SERVICE is done without any heartfelt sense of service to God, because quite frankly. we didn’t feel called to do it –  “I know it needs to be done, but no one else sees the need, so I guess I’ll have to do it again!”

The Scripture says that ALL of us, not 20 percent of the people doing 100 percent of the work, but ALL of us be eager to serve.  Not because I’m obligated to do it, or any other matter for that reason, but because I want to have an impact in the kingdom for eternity – “but be eager to serve.”

Helping Your Church By Serving As An Example For Others –  (verse 3)

“being examples (patterns and models of Christians living) to the flock (the congregation)”  [AMP]

This is what can really hurt the church body of believers.  When we SERVE as an example, not preaching and teaching one thing, then doing another.

If “Mel” is going to be an example, then my walk will match my talk, and my talk will match my walk,

Titus 2:7 (NLT)

If I’m going to be an EXAMPLE for others, then I need to truly be a person of INTEGRITY.

Integrity means that you are the same person when no one else is looking.  In other words, if I claim to be a “good Christian” on Sundays to everyone at church, but when I get home, I view pornography, I drink till I can’t stand up. that’s not a person of integrity, that’s a true genuine hypocrite.

With us as genuine believers, the person we are on Sundays needs to be the same person the rest of the week.  If I’m going to help the church, then I need to SERVE as an example for others.

Helping Your Church Will Ensure A Heavenly Reward – (verse 4)

[4]  And [then] when the Chief Shepherd is revealed, you will win the conqueror’s crown of glory.  [AMP]

This is why we do what we do, this is why we stay up late getting ready for acts of service, whether it’s a special event, studying for a Sunday school lesson, or going over a song, or praying with someone who is hurting.  This is why we do all those things.  For the approval of Jesus!

Every single one of us, when we meet Jesus one day, will want Him to say, “Well done good and faithful servant, you have done everything I equipped you to do.  You used every talent I give, every ability I allow you to have or learn, every opportunity I set before you to SERVE…you took it.  WELL DONE!!”

The Apostle Paul reminds each one of us in Ephesians 6:8…

A Story of An Old Potato Farmer –

After lightning struck on an old shed, a farmer was relieved because now he didn’t have to tear it down.

The rains came and cleaned off his car, and that saved him from having to wash it.

When asked what he was doing now, he replied, “I’m waiting for an earthquake to shake the potatoes out of the ground.”

If we are going to have a SERVANT’S HEART, we can’t just wait for something to happen.  Jesus said we’re blessed when we do something.

I’ve found in my own life over the years of service FOUR ACTIONS…steps that you might apply to your own life:

  1. SERVE whenever you can.
  2. SERVE wherever you can.
  3. SERVE whoever is in need.
  4. BE WILLING to do whatever it takes.

Let’s live our lives as obedient and humble servants.  Don’t be a contradiction!!

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CREDITS:

Photos/Images:  Google Image Search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New Living Translation (NLT); Ling James Version (KJV).

 

 

 

 

“Where There’s A Will, There’s A Way!” – BUT Whose Will?

SCRIPTURE:  Luke 22:39-46

“…not my will, but yours, be done.”  (v. 42)

To find out what is the will of God and to do it whole-heartedly I want to begin this study with one of my favorite musicals put on film, one that most people are familiar with – The Sound Of Music.

“How do you solve a problem like Maria?”

How do you solve the problem?  The answer is easy – you make her someone else’s problem!  (Captain Von Trapp).

Here’s a girl who’s always getting herself in trouble!  She’s always off doing her own thing!  She doesn’t conform, she doesn’t follow the rules – but she desperately wants to!

Maria was a square peg in a round hole….she wasn’t where she was meant to be, doing what she was meant to do.  Does any of this sound familiar?

On a spiritual level, do you sometimes feel that you’re off “doing your own thing”–not really doing what you’re meant to be doing?  Do you sometimes think that you are trying as hard as you can to be holy; you’re trying your best to do all that is expected of a good Christian–but you never quite seem to make it?   How many times have I personally been in these instances and looked up and yelled:

“HELP ME! Give me solace, Lord!”

Spiritually speaking, perhaps you find yourself as a square peg in a round hole and ask yourself are you where you are meant to be?  Are you doing what you were meant to do?

After watching the movie clips. the Reverend-Mother asked Maria a very significant question,  “What is the most important lesson you have learned here…”  Maria’s response was very profound I thought,  “To find out what is the will of God and to do it whole-heartedly.”  If someone asked me what one lesson have I learned in life I would have to say I have learned “to seek out God’s will and then do it gladly–even if I don’t want to do it!”

In the scripture referenced you can read a moment in the life of Christ about His Father’s WILL and His own WILL where they seem to be at odds with each other.

To put this in context, Jesus was fully aware of His impending death.  He had just spent time in the upper room celebrating the Last Supper with His disciples, preparing them for what was going to happen.

Jesus had now taken them to the Mount of Olives to pray.

The text tells us that this was a regular thing for them to do–but on this particular night, there seems to be a particular tension among them.

For the disciples, the Last Supper had just been a confusing and emotional time.  Jesus had been talking about feeding them with His body and blood, there had been a fight over who was the most important disciple, and Jesus had scolded Peter for asking about the restoration of the nation–and even gone on to tell that Peter would be about even knowing Him–the Peter who Jesus would build His Church upon.  And just before the disciples had left to go to the Mount of Olives, Jesus told them to arm themselves with swords!!!

On the Mount of Olives Jesus commanded them to PRAY–

But the poor exhaustive disciples, like Maria in the Sound of Music, didn’t live up to what was expected of them.

They tried to be “good Christians,” they tried to pray, but sleep got the better of them.

For Jesus, the stress of the situation was obvious, in sweating buckets.  I can almost hear the anguish in His voice as He prays,  “Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me…”

Jesus wanted one thing, but His Father wanted another…

At this moment Jesus wanted to be spared the physical pain and agony, the ridicule and embarrassment, the provocation and aggravation that was to come–God wanted Him to go through it–so the rest of the world could be reconciled to Himself.

Jesus wanted to be spared the defilement of taking on the sins of the world–BUT this was God’s WILL for Him–

2 Corinthians 5:21 says, “God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God”  (NIV).

And now God’s GRACE…

Those poor disciples!!!  The loved Jesus with all their hearts.  They wanted to please Him, wanted to follow Him–and they did so earnestly.  They wanted to obey Him and live out His leading, even if they didn’t always get it right.  We probably could say that their “hearts were in the right place,”  for they faithfully followed Jesus, even though His teachings didn’t always make sense.  The faithful followed Him, even when they messed up–and when they messed up, they tried hard not to make the same mistake twice.

As for Jesus, He was the dutiful Son!

He knew that His Father knows best.

He knew that His Father’s WILL superseded His own will.

Jesus knew that He had a choice to make–He could follow His own instinct for self-preservation and have the whole purpose of His mission fail, or…

He could submit to His Father’s WILL and believe that “all things work together for good…”  (Romans 8:28)

The dutiful Son loved His Father –

He trusted His Father, He knew that His Father would work everything out for the best.

Jesus was willing to PRAY, “Father, I don’t want to do what you are asking me to do–but I’ll do it anyway if you really want me to!”

How much LOVE, how much TRUST do you need to have in someone before you can say that to them?  I had to think about that for a moment–think how much He loved me to be willing to die for me, for us!  How much He trusted His Father’s will–to be obedient unto death!

Surely Jesus knew what He was talking about when He said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  Jesus was willing to do God’s WILL before His very own…

JUDGMENT in the World –

Ask yourself, Am I like Maria?  Are you like the disciples?

Maybe you’re struggling within the basics of Christian living–perhaps you just can’t stick to this praying and Bible reading every day– “I just can’t seem to find time in my busy life; getting the kids ready in the mornings, keeping the house straight, fixing meals and then doing it all over again each and every day!”

Maybe your struggle is with THE CALLING–maybe you have sensed God calling you out to a particular task, but you don’t want to do that!!!

Given that my calling is teaching, I’m thinking specifically of a call to teach–but there are many other calls and vocations from God too.  Whatever our struggle may be, we must “…find out what is the WILL of God and to do it wholeheartedly.”

GRACE in the World –

The GOOD NEWS is that we can know the WILL of God for us, and the Bible tells us how…

Romans 12:1-2 says,

So the KEY is to present ourselves as living sacrifices–a SACRIFICE is simply something that has been offered.  Something that has been given to God.

Have you given your life over to God…completely?  Isn’t that the first step to take as you seek to discover God’s WILL for your life?

The next step is to… “not conform to the pattern of this world”–we are to be TRANSFORMED by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.

“I DARE TO BE DIFFERENT”

Len Ballentine’s chorus says,

I dare to be different, I dare to believe;

I dare to be different, God’s Spirit receives.

I dare to be different, my life sacrificed;

I dare to be different by living like Christ.

Do I “dare to be different”?

Do you “dare to be different”?

Do you dare to SACRIFICE your life to live like Jesus?

In the apostle Paul’s letter to the Romans, he tells us that only by offering ourselves–that being available and living a life that’s different from the world around us, that we actually gain the ability to discern what God’s perfect will is for us.

There’s an old cliché that says, God doesn’t look at our ability, rather He looks at our availability.

HOW AVAILABLE ARE YOU?

IS THE LORD THE LORD OF YOUR LIFE?

IS HE THE KING OF YOUR VERY BEING?

My prayer for you is found in the chorus of one of my favorite Praise songs, Reign In Me:

When we sing the words we are surrendering, we are sacrificing ourselves to God.  We are making ourselves available to Him.  We are yielding to His will.

How about you?  Are you willing to make that sacrifice, making yourself available for Him to use you in any situation?

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CREDITS:

PHOTO IMAGES:  Google Image Search

Music Videos:  YouTube.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); or where noted in the photo/images, or in the text.

 

INTERNAL COMBUSTION

Scripture Study:

  

Jeremiah is an old prophet in this passage of Scripture.  He had not always been listened to by the former kings, but he was somewhat respected.

In chapter 20. just prior to the collapse of the Nation of Judah to the Babylonian Empire. Jeremiah is persecuted and placed in stocks and ridiculed by the people.  I can understand his frustration that may have festered from within.  All of us go through the problems of life that frustrate us.

In Jeremiah’s situation–nobody would listen to him, not even his best friends.  He was angry.

I can understand his despair.  You know that God has called you into ministry, yet, you feel that you are rejected by those who you’ve been sent to minister to.

Jeremiah wished that he had never been born,

He regrets he has been called to preach.

He vows to himself he will never preach again.

He wants to quit life altogether.

Jeremiah 20:9 a. (NIV)

Jeremiah then said,  “I will not mention His word or speak any more in His name.”

When you read this verse in context with the rest of this passage, you can see and understand his frustration, his complaint before God; however, I looked at this verse in another way.  I believe that this verse more than any other statement made in Scripture summarizes who Jeremiah was.

Jeremiah 20:29 (b)

His word is in my heart like a fire shut up in my bones.  I am weary of holding it in; indeed I cannot!”

One quality that must be present before Internal Combustion can take place in believers is they have completely surrendered everything to God.  Surrender may start with SALVATION, but it certainly doesn’t end there.  Surrender only starts to become complete when we embrace the Cross and fulfill the calling God has for us.

Think about what Jeremiah experienced when he first received his calling from God in Jeremiah 1:4-9.

Then in Luke 9:23,  

Then He said to them all:  “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow Me.”

When Jeremiah answered God’s call, he surrendered everything!  Though he lived hundreds of years before Christ, he certainly knew what it meant to carry the cross!

How God calls us to sacrifice is different for each person.  Many people are eager to embrace the salvation aspect of the Cross but balk at the discipleship end of it.  To embrace the Cross means that we will sometimes have to inconvenience ourselves to answer the calling, but if we didn’t then it wouldn’t be a CROSS.

Sometimes we hesitate at Christian service because we don’t feel that we are gifted enough to serve.  But God doesn’t care about our abilities!  He cares only about our availability!  He only cares if the fire is burning inside of us!

If you are reading this study and feeling that the spiritual fire has dwindled, then ask yourself if there’s any sin in your life.  Sin is like a bucket of water being thrown over the coals.

“Where’s the fire?” 

Jeremiah 1:9 (NKJV)

Then the LORD put forth His hand and touched my mouth, and the LORD said to me:  

“Behold, I have put My words in your mouth.”

Hebrews 4:12

Ephesians 6:17 (NIV)

Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

Psalms 37:31 (AMP)

The law of his God is in his heart; none of his steps shall slide.

The verses referenced above speaks of God’s Word as like a sword.  I’ve always been drawn to and fascinated with medieval warfare.  Books like Lochinvar, King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and many others.  In the middle ages, knights battled it out with long swords.  You needed a long sword to do battle effectively in the middle ages.

How much time you and I spend in the Word determines how long our sword is. 

For some believers, the sword is only a nail file.  For others, their sword is only a pocket knife.  Remember that your enemy, the devil, has a long sword.  Remember that you are daily in a spiritual battle.  Remember that you need to arm yourself daily in order to do effective battle.  Arming yourself with God’s Word keeps you sharp!  It keeps you on fire!

On Fire and Broken

Jeremiah 4:19 (NET)

“Oh, the feeling in the pit of my stomach!  I writhe in anguish.  Oh, the pain in my heart!  My heart pounds within me.  I cannot keep silent.  For I hear the sound of the trumpet; the sound of the battle cry pierces my soul!”

The most anointed ministry is one through BROKENNESS. 

Being broken for the lost means being vulnerable.  This involves evangelism, servanthood, and intercession.  All big words.  We read at the beginning of this verse that Jeremiah is brokenhearted for the lost people of his generation.  Are you willing to be brokenhearted for the lost people you know?

“WHERE HAS THE FIRE GONE TO?”

Although Jeremiah’s spirit was in the dumps and seemed to be broken, he couldn’t stay down.  As soon as he was released from the stocks, he opened his mouth up with another sermon.  He had to get back into the ministry.  He would not be silent.  He had a fire in his bones!

I can completely understand why people get frustrated, angry, and filled with despair in ministry.  I know this because I’ve been there.  What I don’t understand is how a person who calls themselves a Christian can stay down.  Every person who has been born-again in the spirit has a fire in their bones.  It’s the same wind and fire of Pentecost.  It’s the FIRE put there by the Holy Spirit.

The world needs your witness.

The Church needs your help.

There is a Heaven!  There is a Hell!  Wake up!  Come alive again!  Let the Holy Spirit awaken you to righteousness!

On-fire Believers are compelled by the LOVE of Christ

“For the love of Christ controls and urges and impels us, because we are of the opinion and conviction that [if]  One died for all, then all died;”                                     [2 Corinthians 5:14] – (AMP)

Thinking back to the times when I was dating my wife to be, it seemed like we talked on the phone for hours during the week.  My conversation with my friends was constantly remarking about her qualities as I was consumed with the topic of my beloved.  I was excited about an opportunity to share about her!

What would happen if we as believers fell head over heels in love with Jesus?  What if we chose to make 2 Corinthians 5:14-15 a cornerstone of our lives.

If every Christian did this, we would shake the world!  Love makes us do some amazing things!

Here’s a truth:  What you love the most is what fills your life the most!  It’s also what stands out the most in your life!

Jesus said:  “For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”  (Matthew 12:34)

And in Matthew 6:21 – “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”  

What’s coming out of the overflow of your heart?

When you are in LOVE with God, witnessing for Christ no longer seems like an obligation, but like talking about someone you love!  The Bible is no longer a textbook you bring to church on Sundays, but a love letter!  Prayer is no longer a chore, but a daily phone conversation with someone you’re in love with!  Giving to God no longer is like paying taxes, but like buying a gift for your beloved.  In avoiding sin, it is no longer motivated by fear of consequence, but fear of breaking God’s heart!

Talent is never enough!

Your life has to be fueled by a love for Christ.

What controls our life?  What guides our decisions?

In 2 Corinthians 4:8-9, Paul writes about how he and those working with him persevere through trials.  Ultimately, it was the LOVE of Christ that empowered them!

When we become passionate, INTERNAL COMBUSTION will become noticed on the outside by others and ask about the HOPE in us [1 Peter 3:15].  

People will be drawn to us because of our LOVE for Jesus!

We become beacons of light in their darkness!

We become radiant with His presence!

Psalm 34

[5]  Those who look to Him are radiant; their faces are never covered with shame.

Those in darkness are seeking someone with light that will guide them to the ultimate Light!

Are you willing to be that light?  Will your life be one that’s ignited by a burning passion for Jesus?  Are you willing to let your passion shine for all to see?

If you have to find a place on the altar of Faith, then to cry out to God.  Get angry with God if you must.  Make out your complaint.  Cry.  Have tears.  Wait…And let the fire grow within you once again!

Ezekiel 36:26 (AMP)

A new heart will I give you and a new spirit will I put within you, and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.

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CREDITS:

Commentary:  Jerry Depoy’s sermon notes; Where’s the Fire?

Photos/Images:  Google image search.

Bible Translations:  New International Version (NIV); Amplified Bible (AMP); New King James Version (NKJV).

 

“For dust you are–to dust you shall return,” doesn’t COMFORT Me!

Over the years of my Christian life, I have come upon instances of grief and suffering in the body of Christ.  The questions in my mind at the time were always the same.  “What can I do, say, to comfort them in times of illness, even death in their family?”

stock-photo-sadness-89664067GRIEF & SUFFERING:

How do we deal with GRIEF and SUFFERING in our midst?  Our skills and know-how are not nearly as important to others as our genuine concern.  The RIGHT WORDS are really simple and ordinary ones.  Words like “I’m sorry,” and “I am praying for you.”   My pastor’s wife received news over the Christmas holidays that her dad was in a severe accident and in ICU of the hospital in Arizona.  What could I say to COMFORT her?  And so far, I’ve said nothing!

So let’s learn together from God’s Word in dealing with grief, suffering, concern for people in the body of Christ on what to say when you don’t know what words to use.  You will need your Bible for this topic.

TEXT:  2 Corinthians 1:3-11 NAS:

[3] Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort;  [4] who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  [5] For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ.  [6] But if we are afflicted, it is for your comfort and salvation; or if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which is effective in the patient enduring of the same sufferings which we also suffer; [7] and our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also you are sharers of our comfort.  [8] For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively; beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life;  [9] Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead;  [10] who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope.  And He will yet deliver us,  [11] you also joining us through your prayers, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed upon us through the prayers of many.

After counting the word “COMFORT” ten times in 7 verses, the theme is quite obvious.  It also must have made an impact on a Preacher one Sunday morning, although I think he missed something in the translation:

A preacher was making the point that death is a natural part of the life cycle.  He pointed to and quoted Genesis 3:19, saying that we came from dust and to dust we will return [*Note – I got my title for this blog from the quoted verse].

After the service,a five year old boy came running up to the preacher.  All out of breath with excitement he asked, “Is it really true what you said, that we came from dust and return to dust?”

The preacher said, “That’s right my young friend.  That’s what the Bible says.”

The boy replied, “Then you better get over to my house right away and look under my bed because somebody’s either comin’ or goin’!”

Death IS part of the Life Cycle…

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Bad times come into life for everyone.  They certainly came into the life of Paul.  Take a look at Verses 8-9:

[8] For we do not want you to be uninformed, brethren, about the affliction and oppressing distress which befell us in [the province of] Asia, how we were so utterly and unbearably weighed down and crushed that we despaired even of life [itself].  (Amplified Bible)

[9] Indeed, we felt within ourselves that we had received the [very] sentence of death, but that was to keep us from trusting in and depending on ourselves instead of on God Who raises the dead.  (Amplified Bible)

The apostle Paul uses words like affliction, distress, weighed down, crushed, despair and more.  He felt it was all beyond his ability to endure.  In fact, he thought he was going to DIE!

Hard Times will come…’ve

You have probably been through some hard times.  I know I have, scattered throughout my life:  Lost my job–several times; been fired too; two of my three children have Type I Diabetes; mother succumd to Alzheimer disease.

You might be deep in debt and facing a financial crisis as you’re reading this blog-post.  Your CRISIS may be health related; dealing with a troubled and rebellious child.  Or, you may be coping with the death of someone that you’ve loved deeply.

No matter what kind of SUFFERING you’re enduring, no matter what the source, be ASSURED you’re in good company.  PAUL suffered; our LORD suffered and people who you see and sit by on Sunday mornings are suffering.

SUFFERING BECAUSE–We are Human.

HURT and SORROW and PAIN take many forms, that come from many sources.  Paul and countless other Christians suffered and are suffering today because of their FAITH in Jesus.

Accidents happen, diseases are contracted, cancer appears, tornadoes strike, floods ravage and DEATH stalks us all.  Simply because we’re HUMAN and we live in a world cursed by sin.

So often, we don’t choose the suffering.  However, we can choose our response to the distress we bear.  We can be bitter and angry.  We can complain that God isn’t fair.  We can quit, give up, trow in the towel!

Or…

Paul made his choice to use his suffering..

Probably a better way to phrase this is to say that Paul chose to be used by God through PAIN.  Look more closely at Verse 6:

2 Corinthians 1:6 (Amplified Bible)

“But if we are troubled (afflicted and distressed), it is for your comfort (consolation and encouragement) and [for your] salvation; and if we are comforted, it is for your comfort, which works [in you] when you patiently endure the same evils (misfortunes and calamities) that we also suffer and undergo.”

If we are DISTRESSED–“troubled”, it is for your COMFORT and SALVATION.  Oswald Chambers wrote:

“If you are going to be used by God, He will take you through a multitude of experiences that are not meant for you at all, they are meant to make you useful in His hands.”

The “WHYS” in our troubles–

WHY IS THERE SO MUCH PAIN?

WHY DID SOMEONE DIE?

WHY DID A LOVED ONE HAVE A TERRIBLE DISEASE?

WHY AREN’T THINGS DIFFERENT?

“WHY?”

I’ve tried over the years to answer the questions for myself; others around me who are going through so much “stuff.”  I have pulled books down from storage; used Commentaries written by bible scholars; dived into word studies using my bible, and found out this:

God doesn’t offer much in the way of an answer to “WHY”.  He seems more interested in “HOW’.

HOW WILL WE RESPOND? – HOW WE WILL BEHAVE?

He gives us the opportunity to allow both the good things and the terrible events we face in our lives…

To mold and shape us…

Maybe make us stronger…

Perhaps to make us wiser.

But always to CONFORMS US to fit His hand like a tool.  Paul saw himself as a TOOL; an instrument to be used in God’s hand.

SHAPED and MOLDED by God's Hands
SHAPED and MOLDED by God’s Hands

Using “COMFORT” as a God-given Tool:

Sometimes God used DISTRESS…sometimes He used good things to COMFORT.  In all of it, His PURPOSE was to use Paul as His tool to comfort others.

God wants to COMFORT the people around you because He is the Father of COMPASSION–the God of ALL COMFORT:

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of sympathy (pit and mercy) and the God [Who is the source] of every comfort (consolation and encouragement)”  (Vs. 3 AMP).

SURRENDER is the Key to Responding–

In verse 9 of our text in 2 Corinthians 1, Paul says he had “learned”–‘surrendered’–to his reliance on God.  In fact, the pressure, despair and the sentence to death pushed him to SURRENDER, to let go, to rely on God and not on himself.

He relied on GOD for COMFORT; he learned to trust God’s promises for his comfort as he tells us in verse 4, God comforts us in “ALL” our troubles.

So, how does God comfort us?  

Would you expect God to impregnate our spirits directly from heaven courage and hope?

I suppose He might and you may have even experienced something like that.  Not sure the Scripture promises it will always be that way.  What I can point out to you is the experience of Paul found in 2 Corinthians 1:4:

“who comforts us in all our affliction so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God”  (NAS).

Paul was the conduit when God’s COMFORT came to him and he let that COMFORT flow through the lives of others.  How do you suppose Paul received God’s COMFORT?

Guessing just a little, I suppose he was comforted by others who had been comforted by people who had been comforted.  That’s how God does it.  I’m not saying it is the only way, but that’s how Paul explains it happens.

So how do you do that?  How do you SHARE the comfort?  What do you do?  What do you say when you don’t know what to say?

A Few Ideas to Share–

Just be available.

Just Being There
Just Being There

You don’t need to say anything.  Simple expressions, like a hug, a smile, a simple touch of someone’s hand to start with that shows LOVE and CONCERN.  They mean a great deal.

Bringing food, cutting someones grass, picking up someones mail, running errands, the list goes on and on.  They all help because they’re expressions of LOVE.

We need to do something at a time when most often there are only limited ways we can help.  We don’t take food because people in grief don’t have food.  We take food because it is something we can do to demonstrate we care.

The “Elephant in the Room” Experience–

There are of course, some things that are better left unsaid.

Most of us know not to say, “I know just how you feel!”  Even if you have had a similar loss of a loved one, say the loss of your parent.  The loss of your parent is not like the loss of my parent.

RELATIONSHIP is unique and each person is unique and our feelings stand alone.  We don’t need to hear that time heals all wounds.  For one thing, it’s not true.  We just read in 2 Corinthians 1, God is the source of ALL compassion and comfort, NOT TIME!

Time may not heal and certainly, at the moment of intense loss, the IDEA that some day all of this will not matter to us is ludicrous.

Knowing the People Around Us in our Lives–

P.T. Forsyth said:  “You must live with people to know their problems, and live with God in order to solve them”  (P.T. Forsyth, Leadership, Vol. 4, no. 13).

It may be helpful to remember your own time of loss.  If you haven’t lost someone close to you in death, talk to someone who has.

Recall what helped when tragedy struck.  Then use that experience to help someone else.  Use the COMFORT God comforted you with to comfort someone else.

I hope this blog-post has helped you when COMFORT is needed in your own lives and when comfort is needed in someone elses need.

 


 

Credits:

Photos – Photo Pin

Bible Translations used:  New American Standard (NAS) and the Amplified Bible. 

 

 

 

 

The God Who Made the World Wants to be Known

THE TEXT:  Acts 17:24-31 (NIV). [24] “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by hands.  [25] And He is not served by human hands, as if He needed anything, because He Himself gives all men life and breath and everything else.  [26] From one man He made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and He determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live.  [27] God did this so that men would seek Him and perhaps reach out for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us.  [28] For in Him we live and move and have our being.  As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are His offspring.’  [29] Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone–an image made by man’s design or skill.  [30] In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now He commands all people everywhere to repent.  [31] For He has set a day when He will judge the world with justice by the Man He has appointed.  He has given proof of this to all men by raising Him from the dead.” How Can GOD Become Known? 4183279204_f5cd4d9110His creation is but one way.  The starry universe, planet Earth, plant and animal life, birds and bees, the human body, the birth of a baby:  ALL OF THESE AND MORE…speak loudly and clearly that GOD exist and is the Great Creator! If it takes someone to build a simple dog house [The “Big Bang Theory” didn’t build it], then to look around you–to see the starry, starry nights, it couldn’t have just happened… not without a Creator GOD! But there are other ways GOD reveals Himself to mankind.  Someone said:  “It is illegal to read the Bible in the public schools of Illinois, but a law that requires the state to provide a Bible for every convict!” So don’t worry, kids, if you can’t read the Bible in school, you’ll be able to when you get to prison! We Believe in the Book! The Book I’m referring to is the BIBLE–the Word of God. GOD’s Word not only reveals who GOD is, but also motivates us to live for Him!  My studying, my detective work in Scripture daily, is what makes my day!  His Word, by the Holy Spirit, inspires me to write this blog: The WORD Detective.  It brings joy to my heart which in turn makes me want to SERVE the Lord.  I WONDER WHY? GOD is constantly revealing Himself through His creation, through His Word, and in all kinds of ways:  music, giving, kindness, all through people!  And He does this for one main purpose:  HE WANTS ALL PEOPLE TO BE SAVED IN JESUS! THE GOD WHO MADE THE WORLD NO LONGER OVERLOOKS IGNORANCE: “Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent (to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence to their past sins).    Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead”  (Acts 17:30, 31 AMP). WOW!  Pick out some specific words in the verses as I did: “but now…all people everywhere”; “repent”; a “fixed day” ahead; Jesus will “judge righteously”; God has given and made plain for all to see, “credible evidence” and “conviction,” “assurance” because of the risen Savior.  See if you can see some words that might influence others. “We’re Not Stupid, you know”– My wife and I were visiting my mom in a rest home in Georgetown, Texas five years ago.  Mom had Alzheimer’s disease, and dad couldn’t take care of her the way he wanted.  We were waiting in the lobby for dad, to take him out for dinner, when my wife noticed there was a group of people playing Bingo in the dining hall.  She took a stance behind an elderly lady seated at a small table, when a number was called out:  “N-3, N-3”.  Dianne leaned over the lady’s shoulder and said softly,  “I believe you have that number on your card,”  pointing to the place on the Bingo Card.  The lady looked my wife right in the eye, and at that point, instead of saying “Thank you”, she loudly exclaimed,  “I’m not STUPID, you know!” Walter Heller, a leading American economist of the 1960s, an influential advisor to President Kennedy said one time: “While I was speaking to the Denver Independent Banker’s Association, one of the bankers suddenly hollered out, ‘You’re stupid!’  Well, that may be true, but you don’t like it publicly acknowledged.  Five minutes later, I tried to keep my composure when he said the same thing.  I noticed a slight slur in his voice.  So I was ready for him the third time when he said, ‘You’re stupid!’  I retorted, ‘Yes, and you’re drunk!’  He replied, ‘Yes, but tomorrow I will be sober and you will still be stupid.’ I believe that many Americans aren’t to bright.  How can a person living in America the Beautiful, not believe in JESUS– where there are so many churches and so much preaching of Christ on TV? There is a point, when God will no longer overlook ignorance.  It’s beyond me how anyone living in this country and most parts of the world, where anyone could say, “WHO’S JESUS?” Ignorance and Apathy–What is the difference?  I don’t know and I don’t care. Many people don’t know about JESUS and don’t care to know about JESUS.  BUT THERE IS A TIME WHEN GOD WILL NO LONGER OVERLOOK IGNORANCE AND INDIFFERENCE.  And I think, we’re living in that time! “NOW IS THE TIME!” Right now, in the communities we are living in, now is the time for people to believe in JESUS and become a follower of His.  A time for people to surrender to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Matthew 7:21: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven.” Are we GUILTY of not doing as JESUS tell us to do recorded in Scripture?  That is a rhetorical question.  We are ALL GUILTY.  It’s relatively easy to say, “I believe in Jesus,” but it could be a different matter when it comes down to the “doing it”; what we know He wants us to do. YES, It’s Time! It is time people quit playing IGNORANT.  I’m confident in saying that many people in America believe in JESUS but…they just don’t want to commit to Him in any form.  Probably because they’re having too much fun right now where they are in life.  They may fear, by making a public confession of faith in JESUS …the FUN MAY END!  But that’s when the real fun begins! THE GIVEN PROOF--(verse 31): “Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he raised him from the dead”  (KJV). GOD’S WORK CONFIRMS HIS WORD:  What Word? In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. GOD CONFIRMS HIS WORD WITH ANOTHER PROOF:  What’s that?  Why are we here today? Further Evidence– It is the resurrection of Jesus Christ that PROVES… the God who made the world we live in today.  One writer put it this way:  JESUS predicted His own resurrection; the Old Testament prophesied it; the tomb was empty; the grave-clothes were vacant; many people saw the resurrected Christ–looked on His face; touched Him, heard His voice, saw Him eat. The disciples lives were changed forever, as my life was changed forever when I became “born-gain” in 1972.  The RESURRECTION was the central message of the early church and still is today!. Men and women today are testifying to the risen power of Christ (or should be), that transformed their lives.  I love Old Hymns as some of you faithful readers of my blog know.  I use the lyrics of the music to illustrate a Biblical truth (you can add the tune in your own heads). Alfred Ackley wrote a song with a practical example of how God wants to be made known in the ‘right now!’:

He Lives

I serve a risen Savior, He’s in the world today;

I know that He is living, whatever men may say;

I see His hand of mercy, I hear His voice of cheer,

And just the time I need Him  He’s always near.

He live, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today!

He walks with me and talks with me along life’s narrow way.

He lives, He lives, salvation to impart!

You ask me how I know He lives?

He lives within my heart.

“Why is it thought incredible, by any of you, that God raises the dead?”  (Acts 26:8):

3231335447_3cabb27f65

If God, who made the world, who flung the stars into the sky, who made planet earth keeping everything together, He can make you and me...why should anyone think it’s incredible that He could raise JESUS from the dead?

photo7

The GOD who made the world, does raise the dead; He raised JESUS and He will raise us from the dead while giving us eternal life through our faith.

The EMPTY Tomb
The EMPTY Tomb

BELIEVE IT… STAND ON IT…TRUST IT!

Believe  it with ALL your heart.

PREACH IT…TELL IT…LIVE IT!

IT’S TRUE!

The GOD who made this world wants to be made known.  He no longer overlooks our ignorance and has PROVED HIMSELF CONVINCINGLY.  Now is the time, if you haven’t already made the decision to follow Him.  For a time is coming…and then, it will be too late to repent.

Every WEB Begins with a Single Thread – (Part 2 of 2)

WEB of TEMPTATION
WEB of TEMPTATION

1 Corinthians 10:13 (NASB)–

“No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”

WE HAVE TO EXPECT TEMPTATION WILL COME:

“but with temptation…”  (verse 13).

Most of us go out into the world each day ill-prepared for a “spiritual battle”.  Ephesians 6:13-18  informs us that not only are we to get ready, but to stay ready and “put on the full armor of God”.  Yeah, I know, many of you who are reading this series on TRIAL and TEMPTATION are saying,  “I know that verse all to well”, or maybe…”I know what the Bible says about being prepared and being strong against trials and temptations.”  That might be the case, but have you tucked the POWER of Ephesians 6:13-18 so far away, when trials and temptations arise…you forget where it is?   

Think of yourselves as a tube of “spiritual toothpaste”–PRESSURE brings out what’s really on the inside.

A WORD STUDY in 1 Corinthians 10:13:

TEMPTATION:  peirasmos from peiazo = To make trial of, try, tempt, prove in either a good or bad sense.

It describes first the idea of putting to the test– then refers to the test or pressures that come in order to discover a person’s nature and the quality of some thing.

Peirasmos implies TROUBLE or something that breaks the pattern of peace, joy, and happiness in someone’s life.

TRIALS rightly faced are harmless, in fact beneficial:

“Consider it wholly joyful, my brethren, whenever you are enveloped in or encounter TRIALS of any sort or fall into various TEMPTATIONS.  Be assure and understand that the TRIAL and proving of your faith bring out endurance and steadfastness and patience”  (James 1:2-3 AMP).

OVERTAKEN:  lumbano = Taken hold of, grasped, seized and in so doing, bringing under one’s control.

In some secular uses, “lumbano” meant to be taken by violence, seized, carried off (as a prize or booty).  It was also used of passions, feelings, etc.–meaning to be seized by a thing– “caught in the webs ‘stabilimenta’ or elaborate web decorations”  [*See Part 1].

Paul uses the perfect tense in verse 13 “overtaken”–

The perfect tense emphasizes that they had not only been solicited by TEMPTATION but seized and overcome and that this temptation “has laid hold of you” (Berkley, Wuest, Amplified).  Using the perfect tense brings us down to the present moment; there has never been “peirasmos me anthropinos.”  In addition to this there is certainty that God will never prove FAITHLESS.

COMMON TO MAN–Such as is human!

Don’t let use of this sentence as an excuse to sin when you are tested–TEMPTED–rationalizing the act in your mind saying, “I’m ONLY human!”  That’s not the application Paul intends.  As one person has written,  “God promises a safe landing but not a calm passage.”

J. Vernon McGee writes that…A great many people feel that nobody has ever been tempted as they are tempted.  My friend, no matter what TEMPTATION you experience, there have been others who have had the same kind of temptation.  The encouraging thing is that God will make a way of escape for you.  God is FAITHFUL, He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can endure.

We often want to excuse our particular tempting circumstance as “very unique” or a “special exception.”  But God reminds us our temptation is NOT unique…that many other men and women of God faced the same or similar temptation, found the strength in God to overcome the temptation.  Others before you found strength in the Lord to overcome your temptation and worse!

Becoming Victorious in Overcoming–

So you can be victorious in the STRENGTH of JESUS, not in your own strength:

“But clothe yourself with the Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah), and make no provision for [indulging] the flesh [put a stop to thinking about the evil cravings of your physical nature] to [gratify its] desires (lusts)”  (Romans 13:14).

“But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God).    For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do”  (Galatians 5:16-17 AMP).

We FIGHT TEMPTATION with Jesus’ power, like a young girl who explained what she did when Satan came to her with TEMPTATION at the door of her heart:

“I send Jesus to answer the door.  When Satan sees Jesus he says,

“OOPS sorry, I must have the wrong house.”

“BUT GOD IS FAITHFUL” – (verse 13).

Timothy Edwards notes that “God’s faithfulness is shown in not permitting temptation to be too intense or too long in duration.”

Word Study:  FAITHFUL – (pistos from pertho – to persuade or induce one by words to believe, have confidence), is something or someone who’s worthy of faith or keeps promises and is applied to God, humans, His Word, etc.

And Paul’s Point…?

God always acts consistently with His character, thus has made a provision adequately to meet the need of those who rely upon His strength and seek to be conformed to His will:

“Inasmuch then as we have a great High Priest Who has [already] ascended and passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession [of faith in Him].

For we do not have a High Priest Who is unable to understand and sympathize and have a shared feeling with our weaknesses and infirmities and liability to the assaults of temptation, but One Who has been tempted in every respect as we are, yet without sinning.

Let us fearlessly and confidently and boldly draw near to the throne of grace (the throne of God’s unmerited favor to us sinners), that we may receive mercy [for our failures] and find grace to help in good time for every need [appropriate help and well-timed help, coming just when we need it]”  (Hebrews 4:14-16 AMP).

Illustration of God’s Faithfulness:

There was once a young boy whose Dad left him on a downtown corning one morning, telling his son to wait there until he returned in about a half hour.  But the father’s car broke down and he couldn’t get to a phone.  Five hours past before the father managed to get back, worried that his son would be in a state of panic.  But when the father got there the boy was standing in front of the dime store (‘old story’), looking in the window rocking back and forth on his heels.  When the father saw him, he ran up to him, throwing his arms around him, then hugging and kissing him.  The father apologized and said,  “Weren’t you worried?  Did you think I was never coming back?”  The boy looked up and replied,  No Dad, I knew you were coming.  You said you would.”

God Will Not Allow You to be TEMPTED “Beyond What You Are Able” —

In short, NO TRIAL/TEMPTATION is naturally stronger than our spiritual resources.

People sin because they willingly sin.  Notice that God doesn’t promise to deliver us from the trial/temptation but He does promise to LIMIT its intensity so that it does not overwhelm our ability to handle it!

He also promise to provide the way of escape that we might be enabled to bear up under the trial/temptation (Gen. 19:20,21; Psalm 124:7; Jeremiah 29:11; Lk. 16:26; Acts 27:44; Jas. 5:11). 

–Standing On the Promises–

Standing on the promises I cannot fail,

Listening every moment to the Spirit’s call.

Resting in my Savior as my all in all,

Standing on the promises of God.

The words of that old favorite hymn still have an effect on our lives when it comes to being tempted/tested.  Oswald Chambers encourages us writing that…

“PATIENCE has the meaning of testing–a thing drawn out and tested, drawn out to the last strand without breaking, and ending in sheer joy.  The strain on a violin string stretched to the uttermost gives it its strength; and the stronger the strain, the finer is the sound of our life for God, and He never strains more than we are able to bear”  (The Hope of God – The Ministry of the Unnoticed).

4 -TRUTHS to Remember the Next Time You Are ENSNARED:

1.  Others have already gone down the same path.

2.  God can be trusted in your trial and temptation.

3.  God will not allow too great a temptation or test to come into your life, although, it may feel that way.

4.  With every TEMPTATION or TEST, there is the way of escape.

THE WAY OF ESCAPE–

“The Way…” does not lead us to a place where we escape ALL temptation (that’s heaven alone), the way of escaping THE WEB leads us to te place where we are able to bear it.

We are reminded that to be tempted is not sin,  BUT TO ENTERTAIN TEMPTATION OR SURRENDER TO TEMPTATION IS SIN.  When we bear temptation, Satan often condemns us for being tempted (Rev. 12:10; Job 1:9-11; 2:5; Zec. 3:1-2).  But it is that condemnation from Satan the Christian does not need to accept (Eph. 6:13; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9).  REMEMBER, God provides the armor, but we must completely put it on.

Ephesians 6:13
Ephesians 6:13

I’ve given you a lot to think about in this two-part series on TEMPTATION, TESTING and TRIALS we face daily.  As a Word Detective, let me leave you with this WORD STUDY:

1.  Temptation – Greek Word, PEIRASMOSS – Trials of a varied character.

2.  Escape – Greek Word, ekbasis – Way or escape, the way out of a defile, a mountain pass (a WEB).

3.  Bear (endure) – Greek Word, HUPOPHERO  – To bear up under.

4.  Faithful – Greek Word, PISTOS – To be trusted; reliable.

So if you were to commit this verse to memory, you will be able to resist the grasp; the single stand of the Spider’s WEB and ESCAPE the snare of Satan.

1 Corinthians 10:13:  “No temptation has overtaken you but such as common to man; and God is faithful who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it”  (NASB).

REMEMBER, it only takes one thread to ensnare you…then the hold of the WEB.  Avoid the “thread” avoid the SIN!