Showing posts with the label Trials

New Wine Skins

Many of life's failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up. (Thomas A. Edison) We must not get tired of doing good. We will receive our harvest of eternal life at the right time. We must not give up. (Galatians 6:9) It is easy to grow weary, much harder to regain momentum when we have been stagnant way too long! We will face trials - challenges beyond our 'natural' reasoning, ability, or strength. What we do when we stand face-to-face with those challenges makes all the difference! Will we turn and run? Will we stand up and fight in our own strength? Or will we turn to Christ for wisdom, renewal, and increased capacity? Sometimes we think the only thing we need when facing a hard challenge is to have more strength. More 'ability' to handle it. More 'intel' about the situation. The truth is that we might just need more capacity! Old wine skins were never meant to hold new wine. Why? As time passed, the new wine wou

Passing through bitter waters

Moses led the Israelites away from the Red Sea and into the desert of Shur. They traveled for three days in the desert. They could not find any water. Then they came to Marah. There was water at Marah, but it was too bitter to drink. (That is why the place was named Marah.) The people began complaining to Moses. They said, “Now what will we drink?” (Exodus 15:22-24) God has just delivered you from some HUGE thing that was weighing heavily upon your shoulders, such as the bondage the Egyptians kept the Israelites under, and your immediate response to your deliverance is to sing praises to him. That sounds about right, doesn't it? Now, a few days or weeks pass by, and we find ourselves facing something much less challenging, but a hindrance, nonetheless. Our 'immediate' response in that moment is to praise God, right? Not always! If we are anything like the Israelites, when we face the first 'bump in the road' following God's mighty deliverance, will our response

A blob of faith

You don’t know where the wind blows. And you don’t know how a baby grows in its mother’s womb. In the same way, you don’t know what God will do—and he makes everything happen. (Ecclesiastes 11:5) We all have those seasons in life when we know stuff is happening, or about to happen, but we really aren't sure what all is about to come our way. We get a little frightened by the stuff we don't understand, try to make some assumptions about what we believe may be happening, and generally get ourselves all out of sorts when stuff gets harder than we'd like. Then along comes God's intervention and all of a sudden, almost without us noticing, things begin to sort themselves out and life gets a little easier. What we missed in all that in-between stage was the peace God wants us to walk in as we go THROUGH those seasons. Today, we can use 3-D ultrasound to get an almost perfect picture of the baby's features. In the time this passage was recorded for us, a baby was conceale

Before, not within

God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death. (James 1:12-15) It should not catch any of us by surprise that God doesn't say "IF" testing or temptation comes your way, but rather that if "WILL" come your way. The 'patient endurance' thing may have more than a few of us concerned because we are less than patient when crazy stuff messes with our life! If we ALL face trials and temptations, testing our faith and bringing freshness into our walk with Jesus, maybe we'd do well to learn how to deal with them BEFORE we need to face them. W

Growing in Jesus

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:2-4) I bet there aren't too many of us that actually think trials are good for us, much less that God could actually allow more than a few of them to come our way. Trials are meant to test our faith - period. Within the trial comes the chance to really show who it is we serve and what it is we believe. In other words, we are showing God we put him first and rely upon him for all we have need of in our lives. It is in the midst of the trial that our 'true self' emerges. It is within the trial that we see how much we rely upon ourselves through the knowledge we have amassed, or our ability to 'reason it out' on our own. These trials may not be easy, but they act

For just a little while

So be truly glad. There is wonderful joy ahead, even though you must endure many trials for a little while . These trials will show that your faith is genuine. It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold—though your faith is far more precious than mere gold. So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world. You love him even though you have never seen him. Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy. The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls . (I Peter 1:6-9) One of the hardest things for some of us to come to grips with is that we have to face and endure trials. Yes, the timeframe may be limited, but why on earth do we have to face them at all? Peter was writing to a group of believers who were likely facing great persecution on a daily basis, yet he tells them to rejoice and take hope. How

Enduring within

Let me introduce you to Peter - a brash, outspoken leader who sometimes didn't get it all right, made impetuous decisions, too afraid to admit his association with someone others didn't exactly like, and who acted rashly on more than one occasion. Even though he wasn't all that 'perfect' in many of those day-to-day decisions, he was one of the founding fathers of the New Testament Church. Nero was the ruler of his day, and his reign didn't exactly leave those who followed Christ in a comfortable position. In fact, he'd as soon persecute them than support them. He often used them as scapegoats, blaming them for some vile action he had taken himself. Toward the end of Peter's life, he pens the letters to the Church at Rome and the 'aliens scattered abroad'. Being scattered leaves one feeling a bit disconnected from others - from the 'roots' one had formed and the protections one had enjoyed. All praise to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus

Trials and Suffering, Oh my!

 Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. (Helen Keller) We might desire all of life to be ease and quiet, but then we are living with unreasonable expectations. Jesus said, "I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) We will have many trials - not just a few. We may not face all of them with strength, but we can learn strength in the midst of them. It is important to remember there is no temptation 'unique' to any man - we all have faced a similar temptation at one time or another. What we might find 'unique' is that we all learn different things from trials that are quite similar. Why? God is developing some strength within us that will not only benefit ourselves, but will be a means of helping another devel

Is it really a bad hand?

Your unfailing love is better than life itself; how I praise you! I will praise you as long as I live, lifting up my hands to you in prayer. You satisfy me more than the richest feast. I will praise you with songs of joy. (Psalm 63:3-6) When you aren't 'dealt' the hand you expected, how do you respond? To be honest with you, I don't always immediately praise God for the 'lousy hand'. Sometimes I gripe about it, chafe against it, and get a little too 'me' focused right there in the midst of the 'hardship' I am enduring. "Me" comes first and "me" is not feeling like it is getting the 'best shake' in the moment, so "me" begins to resist and complain. Been there? Got the shirt and wore it out? Good! Sometimes our life is even turned upside down by the 'hand' we receive - what was up is now down, and the ground underneath us is quite shaky. When we 'receive' that 'hand', we might just fo

Has God gone silent?

My God, my God, why have you abandoned me? Why are you so far away when I groan for help? Every day I call to you, my God, but you do not answer. Every night I lift my voice, but I find no relief. (Psalm 22:1-2) I think we have all been in that place at one time or another where we find ourselves actually thinking God has somehow abandoned us. The circumstances suggest the worst is about to happen, we begin to whirl out of control emotionally, our thoughts are running rampant from one perception to the next, and we somehow feel like we are in it all alone. When we don't IMMEDIATELY see the answer to the circumstances, we might just begin to doubt God will lend any help, all our calls for help seemingly falling on deaf ears. Are we wrong to express our doubts or 'struggle of faith' in those moments? Absolutely not! God doesn't 'ding us' for our moments of doubt - he uses them to strengthen or deepen our faith. It is never wrong to seek to understand why such dif

Who's Fighting for Me?

It seems to be a fact of life that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love to do God’s will so far as my new nature is concerned; but there is something else deep within me, in my lower nature, that is at war with my mind and wins the fight and makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. In my mind I want to be God’s willing servant, but instead I find myself still enslaved to sin. So you see how it is: my new life tells me to do right, but the old nature that is still inside me loves to sin. Oh, what a terrible predicament I’m in! Who will free me from my slavery to this deadly lower nature? Thank God! It has been done by Jesus Christ our Lord. He has set me free. (Romans 7:21-25) A fact of life...that I want to do what is right...but I choose what is wrong. Sound like anybody else's life story? There is a constant struggle of the 'will', isn't there? We find ourselves pulled this way and that, all the while wanting to go just o

A cut path

My troubles turned out all for the best—they forced me to learn from your textbook. (Psalm 119:71) To disturb the mental calm and contentment of an individual is indeed an unfortunate state of affairs. To constantly worry, be in distress, feel agitated or stirred up is a terrible place to find oneself. There are a whole lot of things in this life that annoy the stuffing right out of us. One trouble upon another will wear us down. If you have ever observed a stone 'grooved' by a constant drip of water, you may not know exactly when the 'erosion' happens, but it does! We never really know what "drop of water" will actually be the first to begin the "groove", nor do we know when the last drop will accomplish its work, do we? We have lots of tiny drops, all working away to "cut a groove" across our lives, trying desperately to divert the waters in a totally different direction. The seemingly impervious stone is eventually eroded away by the &

Anyone facing adversity?

A healthy spirit conquers adversity , but what can you do when the spirit is crushed? (Proverbs 18:14) To be pressed or squeezed with such a force so as to destroy or deform - anyone know what that feels like? It feels like you are being forced out by pressing, so that you will eventually break. Sometimes people don't see my fascination in the study of words, but when we take a little time to explore the various meanings of a word, we often begin to ponder things we might have missed before. This is especially true when it comes to understanding the Word of God. The "words" God chose to share with us in the pages of our Bible are not by chance - they are selected for their meaning. Therefore, getting the most out of the Word of God often requires us to be open to considering the meaning of the words chosen to express a certain matter of thought or instruction. I have some friends who have been through tremendous pressures this past year, and others who are beginning t

Called into account

Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don't try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG) Our passage today refers to the process of our "faith-life" being forced into the open by the challenges we face in our daily walk. We don't always like it when our "faith-life" is brought into the open, though. Many times we try to compartmentalize our "faith-life" as something separate from the rest of our 'real life'. Pressure helps to produce evidence of our faith in Christ and brings evidence of Christ-like maturity in our choices - those 'real life' choices. I don't want you to miss the statement that "true colors" are revealed - these are often hidden or need something else to

Raindrops keep falling on my head

'Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops What if Your healing comes through tears What if a thousand sleepless nights Are what it takes to know You're near What if trials of this life are Your mercies in disguise... (Chorus: Blessings by Laura Story) So many of God's greatest blessings come to us in the form of some "disguise" - they aren't realized as blessings until somewhere down the road when we look back and see all God has done to coordinate those steps up to where we are at that moment of "realized blessing". There are times when God's greatest blessings seem a little "counter-intuitive" - they just don't "add up" at first. In time, we see the bigger picture, but along the way the road is littered with hardship, tears, hurts, and trust issues. Could it just be the purpose of every "bigger blessing" coming in that disguised way may just be to really clarify our true place of tr

The making of a gemstone

Everything working toward something good and beautiful is a whole lot different than only good happening, right?  Some of us are duped into the mistaken belief that followers of Christ will somehow be "exempt" from any type of bad stuff coming our way - that scripture declares only "good" will happen in their lives.  In truth, the opposite is true - for Christ even warned his disciples to "take heart" when they faced the many trials and evil plots that came their way (John 16:33). He never said they wouldn't face them, or that only good things would come their way - he said they'd be able to take heart and stand strong because their peace was not found in the absence of "bad circumstances", but in the presence of him as we face those circumstances! We are confident that God is able to orchestrate everything to work toward something good and beautiful when we love Him and accept His invitation to live according to His plan. (Romans 8:

I am flapping hard here!

Back in the day, before I knew any better, I had this ill-conceived idea that I could do anything, anywhere, at any time in my life.  I kind of thought of myself as "all powerful" - even believing if I flapped my arms hard enough, I could actually fly.  There was a time when I was around 4 or 5 that I actually did believe I could fly - turning over trash cans, climbing up on top of them and flapping into the wind!  Now, lest you think I am a little touched in the head, I really could not fly, but my imagination got the best of me for a short period of time.  It wasn't long before I was the best "cop" riding a Schwinn two-wheeler in pursuit of those "bad guys" who just robbed the bank, or a mom taking care of her little baby while making dinner out of mud-pies in the backyard.  As kids we often think pretty grandiose thoughts about ourselves - our capabilities and our dreams being so BIG we think the world cannot stand in our way.  Then we grow up!  Be

What does your book say?

I think God fully understands how we interpret the trials and long periods of seemingly receiving no answer from him - those times when we just want to pull our hair out, scream little, stomp our feet, and generally tell the world that God isn't listening or that he doesn't care about us at this very moment! We all have those times - admit it.  We chafed against the agony of the waiting, expected a different outcome and was disappointed by the present one, and whined when things just didn't go as we expected.  All the while, we have one thing we do with some consistency - complain.  Even the most consistent Christian has moments when the agony just gets to us and we find ourselves complaining a little, or perhaps a little too much!  The most amazing part of this is that God doesn't turn his back on us, even when we are heavily engaged in the complaint process. Job answered:   I’m speechless, in awe—words fail me.    I should never have opened my mouth!   I’ve talke

I don't see the trouble here...

Where is it you look for help in your time of trial?  For some of us, we look no further than our reasoning power - if we can reason a way out of it, we will find it!  Others of us turn to the first available helping hand - not really focusing on "what" the hand offers, just that it is a hand up or out.  Still others will turn to something to "take the edge off" so the trial is a little more palatable - not really concerned about the addictive power of the substance. None of us faces trial without some kind of desire to just "get out of it" as quickly as possible.  It is unpleasant, grating on our nerves, and totally consuming of our energies.  We want a "way out", but sometimes we'd do a little better if we'd just count the cost of the choices we make in finding that "way".   Real help comes from  God .   Your blessing clothes your people!  (Psalm 3:8 MSG) REAL help comes from God.  When he becomes the FIRST source we

Attracting the right attention?

Commitment has a way of drawing attention at times, doesn't it?  Get "into" something with all your heart and you will find there are others who will find fault in your pursuit!  If you haven't figure it out by now, God is interested in how we will respond when we are criticized, put down, or when others try to "undo" something we are in the process of doing.  Most of their interference and resistance is really without cause, so a response of telling them they don't know what THEY are doing, or THEY are being unfair seems pretty logical to me.  God's desire is for us to respond differently.  In fact, scripture tells us we are to "put up with" being treated badly, even when there is no good reason for the way we are being treated (I Peter 2).  Our response matters. Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:10 NIV) You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes p