Weakness Brings Strength

 

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May 20, 2015

“For the joy of the Lord is your strength!” Nehemiah 8:10

Charles became a Christian several years before his 30th birthday and was satisfied it was a good decision. However, since then, he has struggled with bad choices and a mediocre employment record and spiritual stagnation. He needed help.

Attendance at church had fallen for him as he seemed to wander like the Israelites in the desert. Then a friend he saw at a coffee shop invited Charles to a small Bible study for men. “I love our church,” he said, “but I discovered that a men’s Bible study group gives me an opportunity to identify with other men as we share openly and pray for each other. Give it a try,” he said, “we are free to share whatever is on our minds and God seems to speak to all of us. I’ve discovered that I’m not the only guy with problems.”

His first Bible study covered how men attempt to solve all problems themselves, looking for satisfaction in their perceived strength. It pierced Charles’ heart. It described his struggles perfectly. He’d forgotten, or never learned, that God desires men to be vulnerable and weak according to the World’s standards, to allow their real strength, which comes from God, to be our guide.

Isaiah 40:28-31 Have you never heard? Have you never understood? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of all the earth. He never grows weak or weary.
      No one can measure the depths of his understanding. He gives power to the weak
and strength to the powerless. Even youths will become weak and tired, and young men will fall in exhaustion. But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength.
      They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint. NLT

Jeremiah 9:23-24 This is what the Lord says “Don’t let the wise boast in their wisdom,
or the powerful boast in their power, or the rich boast in their riches. But those who wish to boast should boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the Lord who demonstrates unfailing love and who brings justice and righteousness to the earth  and that I delight in these things. I, the Lord, have spoken! NLT

1 Corinthians 1:26-31 Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.

God has united you with Christ Jesus. For our benefit God made him to be wisdom itself. Christ made us right with God; he made us pure and holy, and he freed us from sin. Therefore, as the Scriptures say, “If you want to boast, boast only about the Lord.” NLT

2 Corinthians 12:7-10 So tremendous, however, were the revelations that God gave me that, in order to prevent my becoming absurdly conceited, I was given a physical handicap—one of Satan’s angels—to harass me and effectually stop any conceit. Three times I begged the Lord for it to leave me, but his reply has been, “My grace is enough for you: for where there is weakness, my power is shown the more completely.” Therefore, I have cheerfully made up my mind to be proud of my weaknesses, because they mean a deeper experience of the power of Christ. I can even enjoy weaknesses, suffering, privations, persecutions and difficulties for Christ’s sake. For my very weakness makes me strong in him. J.B. Phillips

1 Corinthians 1:18-25 The message of the cross is foolish to those who are headed for destruction! But we who are being saved know it is the very power of God. As the Scriptures say, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise and discard the intelligence of the intelligent.”

So where does this leave the philosophers, the scholars, and the world’s brilliant debaters? God has made the wisdom of this world look foolish. Since God in his wisdom saw to it that the world would never know him through human wisdom, he has used our foolish preaching to save those who believe. It is foolish to the Jews, who ask for signs from heaven. And it is foolish to the Greeks, who seek human wisdom. 

So when we preach that Christ was crucified, the Jews are offended and the Gentiles say it’s all nonsense. But to those called by God to salvation, both Jews and Gentiles, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. This foolish plan of God is wiser than the wisest of human plans, and God’s weakness is stronger than the greatest of human strength. NLT

After a few studies, Charles realized that most of what he’d learned about how to be a man was incorrect. He had focused on the heroic, self-made man image which always gave him feelings of failure and inadequacy. Focusing on the Lord gave him the assurance of God’s peace that passes all understanding. Now he was truly strong!

Death & Resurrection

 

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Death and Resurrection

April 5, 2015

“Father! In your hands I place my spirit!” He said this and died. Luke 23:46

He knew before it happened. He and His Father were the only ones who did know. The knowledge brought great agony for Jesus, the perfect man, the Lamb led to slaughter. In the garden before he was arrested, he agonized over his obedience to the horrible, tortuous truth about to unfold. But even more unthinkable to Jesus was his brief separation from The Father…that terrible moment when He would become sin for the whole world. Was there any other way to accomplish what had to be done?

Then He went off from them about the distance of a stone’s throw and knelt down and prayed. “Father,” He said, “if you will, take this cup of suffering away from me (there must have been a long pause as the man Jesus waited for a reply different from what He knew to be God’s will). Not my will however, but your will be done.” (And then, in a remarkable example of God’s mercy) An angel from heaven appeared to Him and strengthened him. In great anguish He prayed even more fervently; His sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.”  (Luke 22:41-44) parentheses added

And then, in a tumultuous swirl, he was arrested, questioned, horribly beaten, convicted, condemned to death, mocked, hated, spat upon, forced to drag his own cross up crude roads, experienced excruciating pain of nails driven through his hands and feet, abruptly attached to the cross as the taunting continued…and then, beyond human understanding…forgave the very people who did this to Him as life was passing from his body. 

Suddenly God blackened the unrelenting brightness of the mid-day sun for three hours! At the same time, the huge curtain hanging in the temple was torn in two! Then Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Father in your hands I place my spirit.” He said this and died. (Luke 22:44-46)

A man named Joseph from Arimathea, who was waiting for the coming of the Kingdom of God, arranged to have the body of Jesus removed from the cross, wrapped in linen and placed in a tomb which had been dug out of solid rock and never been used. It was Friday and the Sabbath was about to begin.

Very early on Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene, Joanna, and Mary the mother of James arrived at the tomb of Jesus to apply the spices and perfumes to his body. They found the stone rolled away and did not find the body of Jesus in the tomb. Suddenly, two men in bright shining robes appeared and the women bowed down to the ground.

“Why are you looking among the dead for One who is alive? He is not here; He has been raised. Remember what He said to you while He was in Galilee: The Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, be crucified, and three days later rise to life.”

Then the women remembered His words, returned from the tomb and told all these things to the eleven disciples and all the rest. (Luke 24:1-9)

The impossible happened, Jesus was dead and now alive. Just as the Bible predicted, He was resurrected from the dead. His sacrificial death, the blood of the Lamb of God, provides eternal life, forgiveness of sins to all who believe. 

Perhaps you are more hesitant to believe such a story, perhaps you are like the apostle Thomas who proclaimed, “Unless I see the scars of the nails in his hands and put my finger on those scars and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

A week later, Jesus appeared to Thomas and said, “Put your finger here, and look at my hands; then reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop your doubting and believe.” Thomas answered Him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:27-28)

Now what? What is Jesus doing now, after His majestic resurrection? The answer is found in Hebrews 1:1-3 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.

Who then will condemn us? Will Christ? No! For he is the one who died for us and came back to life again for us and is sitting at the place of highest honor next to God, pleading for us there in heaven. (Romans 8:34-35)

Christians Take Flight

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“Therefore I will protect you from the time of Great Tribulation” ~Rev 3:10

 

“Do you know the next great event on God’s prophetic calendar?” Chris asked his friend, Evan.

“The tribulation?”

“Actually this event occurs just before the tribulation.”

“I guess I’m not sure. I often get the end times stuff mixed up.”

“The next big prophetic event is…The Rapture!”

“To tell you the truth, I am a little foggy on how that is supposed to work, Chris. Can you fill me in? Oh, and should I worry about being left behind?”

“I can give you the ultimate test to see if you will be included in the rapture (if it happens before you die). Answer this question for me and we will know for sure:the Bible says, in Romans 10:13, “For whoever calls upon the name of the Lord will be saved.” Evan, have you called upon the name of the Lord to save you?”

“Yes. I have. I most certainly have.”

“Then you will not be left behind; plain and simple.”

“Praise God. That is a relief. So, go ahead, tell me about the Rapture.”

“Let me quote Mark Hitchcock’s book, 101 Answers To The Most Asked Questions About The End Times

The Rapture is that future event when Jesus Christ will descend from heaven and, in a moment of time, resurrect the bodies of departed believers, transform the bodies of living believers immediately into His glorious presence, and then escort them to heaven to live with Him forever. The Rapture is the blessed hope of the church.”

“When is this supposed to happen?”

“That is the question for all the ages, Evan. Only God knows the date and time. So we are to look with expectancy…anticipating that any moment we might hear the mighty shout and trumpet blast calling us home.”

1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 5:1-2

And now, dear brothers and sisters, we want you to know what will happen to the believers who have died so you will not grieve like people who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again, we also believe that when Jesus returns, God will bring back with him the believers who have died.

We tell you this directly from the Lord: We who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord Himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God. First, the believers who have died will rise from their graves. Then, together with them, we who are still alive and remain on the earth will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Then we will be with the Lord forever. So encourage each other with these words.

When is all this going to happen? I really don’t need to say anything about that, dear brothers, for you know perfectly well that no one knows. That day of the Lord will come unexpectedly like a thief in the night.

1 Corinthians 15:50-58 I tell you this, my brothers: an earthly body made of flesh and blood cannot get into God’s Kingdom. These perishable bodies of ours are not the right kind to live forever.

But I am telling you this strange and wonderful secret: we shall not all die, but we shall all be given new bodies! It will all happen in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, when the last trumpet is blown. For there will be a trumpet blast from the sky, and all the Christians who have died will suddenly become alive, with new bodies that will never, never die; and then we who are still alive shall suddenly have new bodies too. For our earthly bodies, the ones we have now that can die, must be transformed into heavenly bodies that cannot perish but will live forever.

When this happens, then at last this Scripture will come true—“Death is swallowed up in victory.” O death, where then your victory? Where then your sting? For sin—the sting that causes death—will all be gone; and the law, which reveals our sins, will no longer be our judge. How we thank God for all of this! It is he who makes us victorious through Jesus Christ our Lord!

So, my dear brothers, since future victory is sure, be strong and steady, always abounding in the Lord’s work, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever wasted as it would be if there were no resurrection.

“Life in these mortal bodies often brings conflict, sadness, sorrow, uncertainty and discouragement, Evan, which is why verse 18 in 1 Thessalonians, above, is so crucial: So comfort and encourage each other with these words! When a friend, a fellow believer, is at rock-bottom, encourage them with these words! We cannot hear them too often and need the powerful, life-changing assurance God’s word brings to our souls. Therefore, comfort and encourage each other with these words!”

James, Chapter Five

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The Lord has established his throne in heaven; his kingdom extends over everything. Psalm 103:19 (NET)

Cassandra was finally in the position she always fought for. She was president of an enormous and very successful company. She was one of three people allowed to fly off anywhere in the world in the corporate jet. This week she would be closing escrow on her second palatial home in Vail, Colorado. She loved to ski.

There was one slightly frustrating problem in her life and that was family. Her mother, although a nice woman, was constantly nagging Cassandra to visit and help out some of their less fortunate relatives.

“Mom, if they are in need, counsel them to get a better job, for crying out loud. That’s what I’ve done all my life. I’ve worked very hard with no hand-outs. I send money to cancer research and the local Better Education fund.”

“Honey, you’ve always been a self-starter and tremendously motivated but I think you are forgetting about your Uncle Frank’s gift of a free college education. I never knew the actual amount but I think paying for your full tuition, books and living expenses while attending Yale must have been many thousands of dollars!”

Her mother could be so frustrating. “Ok, Uncle Frank did help but I worked very hard in college and graduated at the top of my class. So, in a sense, he got his money’s worth. And he told me to never mention it to him. It was a gift.”

“My dear girl. You are so talented, driven, conscientious, and the pinnacle of dependability but you have a very hard heart. You really don’t seem to care for people less fortunate at all. Instead of sharing your increasing wealth with widows and orphans, as the Bible commands, you simply buy another huge home in Colorado. Honey, you could give away a million dollars a year and still have more than most people will ever have. I am concerned for you. God does not look kindly on such selfishness. I suggest you take time out to refresh yourself with chapter five of the Book of James.”

Warning to Rich 1-6

Selfish rich people should weep and groan with anguish because of terrible troubles ahead. Accumulated treasures will be evidence against you on the Day of Judgment.

Patience in Suffering 7-12

Just as a farmer waits patiently for the rewards of his crop, so we must be patient as we wait for the Lord’s return. Don’t grumble about each other. Be patient, using God’s prophets as examples. Think of Job, a man of great endurance.

Faithful Prayer 13-18

Suffering hardships? Pray. Happy? Rejoice in praises to God. Sick? Call elders who will anoint with oil in the name of the Lord. The Lord will heal the sick and forgive the sinner. Confess sins to each other. Earnest prayer has great power. Elijah was such a man of prayer. He was a prophet who prayed for no rain and then for rain to resume. God answered both prayers. His name means: YAWEH is my God 1 Kings 17

Restore Wandering Believers 19-20

If a fellow believer wanders from the truth and is brought back…they are saved from death and have many sins forgiven.

The Book of James hits the reader forcefully, cutting through all our facades, laying bare our excuses and half-hearted Christianity. James forces the reader to take a closer look in the mirror of his soul. Do we have faith? Can others see it lived out in our lives? Am I still clinging to the world and whatever pleasure or comfort I derive? Jesus said He loved us so much that he took a beating and climbed upon a wooden cross to die. He literally did this. Considering that example of love, how should we live?

Velvety Moss Covered Tree

 

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I stood beneath this magnificent, huge tree in Eagle Fern Park just outside Estacada, Oregon. It was a Sunday afternoon, celebrating a birthday. Typical of July picnics in Oregon, thunder rolled followed by several periods of rain! However, in Oregon people sort of shuffle under the nearest canopy or protective tree branches and continue eating, talking and celebrating.