Standing Where Feet May Fail

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Some fear Ebola. Some fear nuclear attacks on or our own governments attacking their own people. Some fear disasters like volcanic eruptions and earthquakes. Some are so afraid, they ignore that in Mathew 24 Jesus said such phenomena are not signs of the end, implying they’re instead the status quo on the way to the end. It seems to be getting worse since we get reports from further away, faster than ever. If these are “birth pangs,” the earth has been already having contractions for millennia, and we haven’t been measuring long enough, widely enough, to really have any idea how far apart the contractions are and how close we actually are to the birth.

In other words, I don’t blink an eye at such worries, though I pray for the victims when prompted to. Likewise, the actual smell of smoke in my nostrils can give my flesh an urge to check which way the animals are running and follow them. Even then, it is well with my soul. My heart remains secure, knowing God is in control and will protect me or bring me through any disaster that does come. The Lord is the God who has brought me up out of spiritual Egypt and is delivering me to the spiritual Promised Land. I trust the Lord to get me there, whatever major disasters threaten along the way.

Why then do comparatively small matters put fear in my heart?

For instance, the Lord has given me dreams, things I feel called to, and the journey to achieving those goals has often felt like wilderness experiences. I’ve heard the call to go and gone, but God’s led me out in ways that don’t always make natural sense. In some cases, my own self-doubts and insecurities have been responsible for it seeming like a huge Red Sea was blocking my path. However, I knew God had directed me, even if it seemed impossible for me to achieve that, so I took what I had in hand and kept testing the waters by faith to see if the God who brought me this way would part the Red Sea.

Then comes the day the Red Sea parts.

Now, the first time this happens, we may be naively excited and rush right in. Only it isn’t easy to cross over an ocean bed, and even once we’re past the Red Sea, there is often wanderings in the wilderness to prepare us for the work we’ll have when we finally arrive. The hardships of the desert can make us question if it was really God who had parted our personal Red Sea. Perhaps we have misinterpreted natural phenomena as signs from God and taken wrong turns, made costly unwise decisions.

Perhaps God has brought us back around full circle, and we find ourselves yet again with a Red Sea in between us and where God’s leading us. Once more, we don’t know where God will part it, so we gather our courage and test the waters. It’s harder this time. Many times, we continue to be blocked, perhaps until we lose all notion of the possibility of getting past this one without divine intervention. We’re in tears now. Egyptians aren’t just at our backs. We’re fighting for the life of our dream.

We refuse to give in to despair and keep plugging on by sheer faith, and one day, the Red Sea parts.

If you’re like me, this time, you stare, stunned and dumbfounded. When it finally sinks in, joy and gratitude still aren’t what you’re feeling, and part of you is upset with yourself about this. The way is open, but dangers still lay ahead. God is faithful, and you trust him, but you don’t know and trust the agency. These waters have free will. These waters might change their minds and crash right on your head. What if you stumble? What if you fall? Any joy you feel in your soul is drowned out by your flesh’s fears screaming at you to declare what your eyes see “too good to be true” and turn and run.

Where’s our faith and our courage gone? Let’s deal gently with our hearts, and remember where we’d been before, how far God’s already brought us. When fear reminds us of all the difficulties, hardships, failures, and mistakes we’ve already seen on this journey, remember also that God’s kept us through them to reach this moment. Let’s decide the dreams God’s given us are worth the risk. Let’s trust God to keep us from drowning if the waters do prove fickle, to help us up and keep us going when we stumble, or give us a time of rest and refreshment in his presence to strengthen us for the journey.

“Through many dangers, toils and snares, I have already come; ‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far, and grace will lead me home.” John Newton, “Amazing Grace.”

Why Did God Make His Promises?

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“by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire.” (2 Peter 1:4)

Which here refers back to God’s “own glory and excellence,” which Peter referenced in verse three.  Peter emphasizes that God gives us his great promises, which ought to be more precious to us than anything, by, or because of his glory and his greatness or supremacy.  Divine nature likely references back to the divine power that we’re told granted us all things in the previous verse and in context refers to God’s holiness.  Peter goes on to say we obtain to this by having escaped the corruption in the world, suggesting that we were originally made to have holy desires and be holy as the Lord is Holy, but what Adam and Eve did in the garden of Eden corrupted our design. To use the language of computers, we’re born with both our  software and our hardware corrupted and our code is full of errors. God’s greatest promise to us is to debug us both spiritually and physically and return us to the pristine  operating conditions that he originally intended us to have.

God’s promises, Peter tells us, all have this end goal in mind. Nothing God promises in the Word is intended as a blank check to continue to delight in our malfunctioning and relish in our buggy ways. His promises are all intended to advance his ultimate goal of restoring us to proper working order, not through our efforts to fix ourselves, but though his power at work in us.

Lord, one question haunts my mind: do I want to be whole? Do I want to escape from the corruption of my sinful desires? Do I want to be changed? Lord, I want to want to be free of the slavery of sin. Grant me by your grace the desire to open up to you and risk trusting you to transform me into the person you made me to be. Fill me with courage to count as loss anything that gets in the way of your will for my life, to bear the holy spiritual fruits and to be free from corruption. We have not already obtained, but let us forget what is behind and press on to reach the mark of this high calling in Christ and obtain the ends of the promises you have made. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Face it: By nature, we’re all “those carnal Christians.”

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“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” (1 Corinthians 2:14)

It is so easy to read this verse and think about all of “those people” who don’t understand the things of God, or rather who call our own doctrinal beliefs, personal convictions, and religious practices silly or flat out wrong. But I believe the Holy Spirit today is redirecting us from “those people” to “us people.”

We each have a body. We live in sinful, broken, corrupt flesh, in an equally sinful, broken, corrupt culture. By default, all of us reason according to those forces. If we don’t train ourselves to do otherwise, we will even read the bible through the distorting lens of our cultural and personal experiences.

Yes, us people have a “natural person.” We do also have a “spiritual person,” but we’re better acquainted with the easier-to-see natural person. That is, after all, who we are according to our upbringings at the hands of broken people, damage from our fallen environment, and our DNA, which often contains coding errors. Our spirit’s condition was so bad, we all require a spirit transplant from Jesus, and have already received it if we are of his body.

Brothers and Sisters and fellow transplant recipients, humility compels us to realize we all still live in “natural person” bodies on this earth.  Don’t shove him in a closet and pretend he’s not there. If not watched carefully, he influences how “us spiritual persons” understand spiritual things. He leads us to reject spiritual callings as being ungodly folly in our understanding. At the same time, he leads us to flip ungodly ways into holy ways and causes us to misidentify worldly wisdom as spiritual wisdom. Let us have true spiritual discernment today and seek true wisdom from God, with hearts open to receive from him.

Lord, we confess the weakness of our flesh. We have at times confused natural wisdom for spiritual wisdom and let how we are broken define us. Show us, Lord, in the spirit, who we really are in you. Strengthen us in the here and now to be more like the person your eternal eyes already see as we spiritually gestate and await our births into eternity. Open our eyes to the truth of who you made us to be. Please vanquish any corrupt desire that is preventing us from receiving true spiritual wisdom from you. We trust in you. In Jesus name we pray, amen.

Live like a Citizen Of Heaven, not Hell.

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“But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ,” (Philippians 3:20)

This verse compares our eternal spiritual destination to earthly patriotism, as verses 17-19 urge us to follow the examples of strong, Christ-like believers ready for sainthood and warns us against conducting ourselves in the manner of God’s enemies, with the mindset of the secular culture, serving our own appetites, and being proud of this fact–a spiritually deadly recipe.

So this note of encouragement comes right after a strict warning, that we do not have to be such, that we can turn our hearts and minds upon our goal, eternal fellowship with God and each other in Heaven’s paradise, striving forward to be more like him day by day as we wait here on Earth for our Lord and Savior to return and keep his promise to restore our corrupt bodies back to the pristine conditions of the garden of Eden, like Jesus Christ’s own resurrected body in glory.

The hard question we must ask ourselves, and consciously make a good decision about, is whether we truly want to be like him or like following after the corrupt appetites of our fallen, broken flesh. The flesh is weak, yes, but is the spirit willing? None are so weak as the weak in spirit.

Lord, we confess we have areas where we have chosen to follow after the weakness of the flesh. We recognize our greatest weakness is of the spirit and the will, we are choosing by faith to accept the principles of a world we cannot yet see with our human eyes. Please strengthen us in our spirit today to resist the failings of the flesh, including our fallen emotions, and walk as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven as you are preparing us day by day to live with you there. In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

What is your cross?

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“ And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23-24)

In a classic putting of the cart before the horse, the rabbi’s words are delivered to us as the verse of the day the day after his disciple Peter expounded on it. In context, this speech is recorded right after  Peter confesses Jesus is not simply another John the Baptist, Elijah, or some other prophet, but the Christ, and Jesus has told him what being the Christ means–suffering even to the point of crucifixion and death, but also being raised to life again on the third day.  Now he reminds them to be this rabbi’s disciple, we must  be like him in everything and follow all of his footsteps. More to the point, we must be willing to suffer as he suffered. We must be willing to deny ourselves, but deny ourselves what? Suffer what? Whatever he asks of us, whatever he brings us to.

This does not mean we must suffer in silence. Even Jesus wept before God in Gethsemane and wrestled with the natural human instincts to save ourselves and avoid pain and suffering and death. Even Jesus, in his darkest hour on the cross, cried out, “God, God, why have you forsaken me?” He in these moments gives us a model we can follow when we’re struggling to deny ourselves, when we’re feeling abandoned or plain old sorry for ourselves.

But he also reminds us of the prize: we too shall rise again. Sunday is coming. New life will spring forth out of the death we experience, literal and symbolic.

Lord, thank you for your example. Thank you for your presence with us. I pray we would always seek you and know you are with us. Open our eyes today and our understanding of what crosses you have called us to bear today and in this life. Grant us the grace to sincerely say, as you did, “Lord if there be any way, let this cup pass from me, but not my will, but yours be done.” In Jesus’ name we pray, amen.

Recommended: All That Was Lost (lyrics only) by Michael Card