Overcoming Deception: What Makes Deception so Treacherous?

Overcoming Deception

The great difficulty we face in exposing and overcoming deception, both personally and corporately, makes deception so treacherous? One of the chief ploys of the enemy is to deceive believers. Not only are we all capable of being deceived; we have already being deceived in a multitude of ways.

Yesterday, three times the topic of deception arose in three different settings, with three separate groups of people. Since my conversations rarely bend in that direction, I knew I had better pay attention.

Should we say of our world like Jeremiah did of his,

” ‘Beware of your friends; do not trust anyone in your clan. For every one of them is a deceiver, and every friend a slanderer. Friend deceives friend, and no one speaks the truth. They have taught their tongues to lie; they weary themselves with sinning. You live in the midst of deception; in their deceit they refuse to acknowledge me,’ declare the LORD.”
Jeremiah 9:4-6

Mask

We find solid ground only in the truth of God’s Word. Truth becomes hard to find in a culture negligent of God, however. Without truth, overcoming deception becomes impossible.

Satan the Deceiver

We find satan as the original deceiver in the Garden of Eden, coming in the form of a snake, twisting God’s words and motivation. He first convinces Eve, then Adam, to outright disobedience to God’s command. He made it appear that he knew better than God and guaranteed them benefits presently hidden from them.

Deception always promises good, but delivers harm.

Adam and Eve knew God, Elohim, as their Creator, in covenant relationship with all He made — fully committed to them. But God had also introduced Himself as LORD God, Jehovah (Yahweh) Elohim — righteous and just. Loving commitment required Him to judge all wrong.

Trap

Yet when the serpent spoke, he refused to acknowledge God as LORD. “Did God really say?” He enticed Eve closer.

Eve grabbed his hook like a hungry fish, “God did say, . . .” she responded.

Only after the failure of both Adam and Eve did they remember God’s fullness. Frail efforts and ridiculous coverups at overcoming deception and hiding sin have been repeated throughout the ages — by me and others. Too late we remember He is both LORD and God!

“Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. But the LORD God called to the man, “Where are you?”
Genesis 3:8-9

All Deceived

As “children” of Adam and Eve, we possess the same failures and disobedient nature to go beyond or around God to gain something we perceive He is withholding from us.

I’m convinced that every sin and addiction is rooted in our failure to fully acknowledge God as Lord over every aspect of our lives, marriages, finances, futures, gifts, and ministries. We may have surrendered ninety percent, but there will be that one place, that one thing, we tend to grab with tight fists, denying God access.

Cage

Deception is a heart issue!

“The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure.
Who can understand it?”
Jeremiah 17:9

God alone can bring the cure we so desperately need in overcoming deception. Yet, in our hiding, we avoid the healing balm found only in the finished work of the cross.

Warning

The very nature of deception grows out of ignorance of the hidden enticement. I need others who will ask me the tough questions, challenge my motivations, and test my faithfulness to God and His Word. The deceived consistently fail to recognize the deception others see so clearly. It requires someone outside looking into our lives.

James pinpoints a key area of deception.

“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.”
James 1:22

Only Jesus walked out obedience perfectly. The rest of us struggle to do the good we know we ought to do. Paul, concerned for the Corinthian believers, warned them that what happened to Eve happens to us all!

Serpent

“But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 11:3

It’s dangerous to underestimate the enemy’s craftiness. The phrase “be led astray” means “to destroy, ruin, shrivel, wither, corrupt and spoil” any “sincerity, simplicity, purity and graciousness.”

For good reason, every writer in the New Testament warns how treacherous deception is.

Winning the Battle

Just as warnings abound in the Word of God, so does encouragement and winning tactics. Paul says to the Ephesian church,

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”
Ephesians 4:22-24

Everything Adam and Eve lost in the garden with the serpent’s deception, Jesus secured back through the cross. By realigning ourselves to that reality, we regain the ability to live in the image of God in “true righteousness and holiness.” Paul instructs us to resist deceitful desires, twisted serpentine thinking and lies. “Be made new in the attitude of your minds,”

Deception is a battle first for the mind, then for our devotion! Thankfully, God has equipped us with the spiritual weapons necessary in overcoming deception.

Obedience

Jesus paid a heavy price for humanity’s disobedience. Every believer, through the cross, now possesses the capacity to make the devil pay for his deceptive tactics.

“For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does. The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.”
2 Corinthians 10:3-5

What disobedience lost, obedience gained back. However, we cannot do it alone! We need Jesus Christ and other Christians in the body of Christ.

Spider web

“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ. For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority.”
Colossians 2:8-10

Just like satan used a snake as a cover for his true identity, he often disguises himself behind smooth talk of others we trust. Christ is our shield. In Him is all the fullness. Wherever we lack, He is sufficient.

Test It!

I will close with this solid advice from John, the Beloved:

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
1 John 4:1

I wonder how different the scenario would have been if Eve would have sought Adam’s advice or if Adam would have spoken up, when he heard satan lie.

Together

We walk on dangerous ground when we choose to walk alone. I have learned, though slowly, how invaluable walking in community with others is. Together we protect each other from deception by encouraging each other in the Word of God, supporting each other in prayer, and when necessary, challenging each other to walk faithful.

Though we are prone to fall, overcoming deception becomes possible through Jesus Christ. He has exposed the enemy’s tactics and given us everything we need to overcome. As we trust His Word, even when it doesn’t make sense to us, we know we will stand firm, withstanding every temptation.

Setting Priorities: God or Money; Faith or Fortune; Wisdom or Wealth

Setting priorities between eternal and temporary remains a struggle for people of every social and economic strata. Written within the suffering of Job, we find his perspective on wisdom and wealth. Job successfully established his priorities with both God and finances. These are words spoken by someone whose wealth, even in today’s terms, would dwarf most other enterprises.

“People assault the flinty rock with their hands
and lay bare the roots of the  mountains.
They tunnel through the rock;
their eyes see all its treasures.”
Job 28:9-10

Job talks about the enormous effort people have exerted to uncover precious metals, like gold and silver, and rare jewels. Deep into the earth they’ve chisel to expose valuable treasures.

Treasure

Setting Priorities

How does the level of exertion while striving for wealth compare with the pursuit of wisdom? Which venture consumes more of our time and energy? More importantly, what do I worry about the most: spiritual hunger for God or the desire for greater financial security.

Recently, God tested where my heart was on the issue. I knew it was God because of the bizarre circumstances: an injury causing unemployment for my spouse with no compensation, unemployment insurance, or disability coverage; an empty rental unit and a mortgage to pay; and my employment closing. For three months, bills came without income to match.

We never lacked. God isn’t a God of lack. Although, we considered carefully every penny spent. God has seen us through many tough seasons, including financially. We have learned,

“The LORD Will Provide.”
Genesis 22:14

At such times,  will I base my decisions not on my financial position, but on faith, giving God my “Yes!” to whatever He asks?

Amethyst

Wisdom maintains faith to put God first. Often a financial crunch shows clearly how we choose to set priorities between God and money.

Wisdom

Job’s observation confirmed most people know more about gaining and maintaining wealth than they do concerning finding wisdom. A quick scan of the bookstore or “Google” reveals almost unlimited advice on creating wealth. His question still applies generations later.

“But where can wisdom be found?
Where does understanding dwell?
No mortal comprehends its worth…”
Job 28:12

Perhaps humanity’s search for wisdom pales in comparison to the feverish pursuit of wealth, because we don’t comprehend the value of wisdom. If we did, setting priorities between God and money wouldn’t be such a challenge.

Gold Jewelry

Job is the oldest writing in the Bible. The teachings of Jesus form some of the newest.

Heaven and Earth

Jesus reminded His listeners that everything we accumulate here will be left behind, so the wise invest in eternity.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,
where moths and vermin destroy,
and where thieves break in and steal.
But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
where moths and vermin do not destroy,
and where thieves do not break in and steal.
For where your treasure is
there heart will be also.”
Matthew 6:19-21

Our hearts are intrinsically connected to our investment, whether here “on earth” or there “in heaven.” These storehouses don’t just vie for our hours, energy and focus, they fight for our devotion.

“No one can serve two master.
Either you will hate the one and love the other,
or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other.
You cannot serve both God and money.”
Matthew 6:24

Pearl

What is my choice? God or money? Which captures my heart and devotion? Do I view life decisions from the perspective of heaven or earth?

Do I set my strength to break through whatever obstacle presents itself, the flinty rocks of apathy, lethargy, or complacency to seek wisdom and understanding?

God The Source

God is the source of all things. As Creator and Sustainer of all that exists, everything belongs to Him.

For from Him and through Him
and for Him are all things.
To Him be the glory forever! Amen.”
Romans 11:36

Any level of financial success achieved comes from God because “it is he who gives you the ability to create wealth.” (Deut 8:18) Haggai reminds us.

“The silver is mine and the gold is mine,
declares the LORD Almighty.”
Haggai 2:8

Whatever wealth we think we possess remains borrowed goods. It is far too easy to believe our accumulations came from strategic thinking, smart investing, or a solid work ethic. Not that these are wrong, but perhaps it’s time to re-evaluate true motivation!

A Gift

Wisdom endures. Wealth is temporary.  Solomon, the wealthiest man of his day and the wisest man of all time, speaks of wisdom as being a gift —

“For the LORD gives wisdom,
from His mouth come
knowledge and understanding.”
Proverbs 2:6

Job confirms that “God understands the way to (wisdom).” (28:23)  His circumstances convinced him that wisdom remains the rarest and most precious of any commodity. Job previously knew wealth plus wisdom; God was showing him wisdom, plus wealth. There’s a difference!

Diamonds

How do I know?

“The fear of the Lord —
that is wisdom,
and to shun evil is understanding.”
Job 28:28

Job, stripped bare of all security, comfort and wealth, felt God as distant. It’s the dark seasons, the tough road, the desperate places where God proves Himself near and enough. Setting priorities upon God proves the essence of our faith — the foundation of our trust.

When all else fades, the surpassing value of hidden treasures of wisdom and understanding outweigh all else. God is faithful! He can be trusted! Let’s learn from Job setting priorities sooner rather than later.

It starts with me. Here. Today.

God of Miracles – Final Chapter of Unlocking Legacy

In a world gone off course, I’m thankful for the God of miracles. He remains on the throne — unchanging, powerful and good. Though great kingdoms rule the earth and dangers invade from every side, God sits upon the throne above earth’s domain.

“After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heard speaking to me, like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ At once I was in the Spirit, and there before me was a throne in heaven with
someone sitting on it.”
Revelation 4:1-3

Today, lets all take a break from the stresses for some good news. News that God still hears the cries of His people and actively involves Himself in their lives.

The following is the final chapter of Unlocking Legacy: Taking your God-Given Territory Through Prayer. Unlocking Legacy is a compilation of personal testimonies from people of a variety of ages and nationalities. I pray you find this excerpt encouraging.

“Prayer does not equip us for the greater work;
prayer is the greater work.”
– Author Unknown


The prayer principles within this book are tangible and potent only because they are based on the inerrant Word of God. Everything about prayer originates from and rests securely upon the foundation of God—His divine character and faithfulness: God drawing us to Himself in a personal relationship; God turning His ear toward our faint cries and warring shouts; God empowering us to move with His power and through His authority.

The Bible describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Heb 11:1 KJV). The evidence of God moving through His miraculous power in answer to prayer could not be expounded in a few simple writings. However, this closing chapter includes mini-testimonies of prayer rooted in faith, becoming substance.

Miracles of Healing and Provision

Joy-Lyn could write her own book on the miracles she has witnessed God do in answer to prayer, but here are just a few:

“I was in the chemistry laboratory completing an experiment when I received a word of knowledge for the girl sitting across from me in the lab. I felt she was having a problem with the right side of her neck or shoulder, perhaps from a sports injury or gymnastics.

Healing in the Chemistry Lab

“When we were finished our work, I asked her about it. She did have an injury, but it was from softball. She was experiencing tension and pain on the side of her neck, running down into her shoulder. We prayed right there in the chemistry lab at the university. God touched her. She almost started crying and said, ‘That made my day!’

***

“A couple of years ago, my mom and I went to a garage sale in a little church across the street from our house. I thought I had a word of knowledge for one lady about her knee. ‘No,’ she said, ‘but my shoulder is in a lot of pain.’

“I asked if I could pray for her. ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘but I’m going to keep shopping.’ After praying, I asked her to test it out. Before prayer, she could only raise her arm parallel to the floor, but now she could raise it a little higher, although it still hurt.

“I asked if I could pray again, ‘Okay,’ she said, ‘I’m shopping, but go for it.’ I prayed again and asked her to check it a second time. She lifted her arm all the way up and gasped, ‘Who . . . are . . . you?’ as she backed up.

“ ‘It’s Jesus! It is all Jesus!’ I said.

“She turned around and quickly left. I walked away laughing and thought, ‘We’re in a church. I don’t know what you expected.’ It goes to show that healing isn’t as normal as it should be.

***

“After my first year of university, I needed a job and applied to several places but didn’t receive any response. I started praying about it.

“I already knew that tithing was not an option but an important biblical principle. I had tithed before but wasn’t diligently keeping track of every source of income. Up until then, I hadn’t made tithing a priority in my spiritual walk.

“After I prayed for a job, the Lord quickly and clearly said, ‘You start tithing and I’ll give you a job.’

“That was on a Tuesday. Immediately, I took the time to figure out, as far back as I could remember, what I hadn’t tithed from and tithed on that income. By Friday, I was offered a job.

“I received a random phone call for an employment opportunity that I hadn’t even applied for stating, ‘We think you would be good for this position.’ That was probably the quickest answer to prayer I’ve ever received.

“As soon as I obeyed, God provided!

***

“At work, I was picking up a couple of kids from visiting their mother. When she helped put the kids into the car, I asked if she experienced headaches. After confirming it, we prayed together. Immediately, she felt a lot better. The Muslim girl I was working with that day got to hear the prayer and see this woman’s healing. Then I invited the woman to come to church with me.

“ ‘Sure,’ she said, ‘I’d like that.’

“ ‘Great! I’ll pick you up tonight.’

“That evening I went to the women’s shelter to pick her up and waited for twenty minutes but she never came to meet me. I was about to leave when another lady walked in with crutches. We started talking and I felt led to pray for her. She was in a lot of pain and had been on crutches for ten years because of a failed surgery. After I prayed, she tested it out. It was somewhat better but not completely, so we prayed again.

“She ended up walking pain-free without her crutches and then gave her heart to Jesus. Another lady, who had come into the lobby, heard the prayer, saw the miracle and began thanking God.”

It is really cool when God shows up at work! Even though Joy-Lyn wasn’t completely accurate with the words of knowledge, when she stepped out in faith, trusting God, He graciously healed those around her.

A Family Prays Together

BreAnn shared,

“I haven’t always felt comfortable praying for others but as I learned to trust the Holy Spirit, I became more willing to pray.

“I have seen several significant answers to prayer. My whole family  started praying for my uncle when the doctors believed he had a tumor in his neck. Surgery was performed, but they found it was actually a lymph node, not cancer, and it was resolved. Praise the Lord! That was my earliest loud answer to prayer.

“For several years, I was struggling with knee pain and had to go down the stairs one at a time. When a young girl prayed for me at a youth retreat, I felt something hot in my knee. That ongoing knee pain hasn’t returned. Now, I can walk down the stairs normally.

“Our child is one hundred percent a miracle and an answer to prayer. My husband and I were told we would never be able to have children on our own. We both felt no urgency to look into in vitro fertilization or adoption. God gave us a great deal of peace to continue praying and waiting on Him. We became pregnant by the hand of God within three months. Our child is nothing short of a miracle!

“I realize that not everyone’s prayers get answered like that even though they are far more faithful than we are. God hears every prayer. Not a sparrow falls to the ground without God seeing and knowing (Mt 10:29). Sometimes our desires are fulfilled before our eyes, at other times ‘no’ or ‘wait’ is an answer.

We say with confidence that our prayers are answered because we know who we are praying to.

“We have a God who cares deeply for us. Sometimes the tangible answer we experience is God’s peace during imperfect circumstances. We may never understand how God chooses to answer our prayers.”

Leaning on Others

Emmanuel actively pursues spiritual gifts. The list of miracles he has witnessed in his young life spans far.

“I keep pressing in to see God move miraculously in the lives of others. I don’t create doctrines based on my lack of understanding, however.

“For years I prayed for people with one leg shorter than the other to be healed without seeing results. Nothing! Even though I was frustrated, I knew that God wasn’t the issue, but I was. Then I asked a friend who often sees healing in this area to pray for me. The very first person I prayed for after that was healed. Now at least ninety percent of those I pray for with that condition are healed.

“If the door hasn’t been opened to me, I knock again. Then, I keep on knocking (Mt 7:7-8). For me, to pray without ceasing means to not give up (1Thes 5:17).

“There was a fellow in serious condition in the hospital. I don’t think I have fought for someone’s life so much in prayer. I kept in touch with his mother and knew he was getting worse instead of better. The doctors gave him no hope of recovery. He was in a coma and given twenty-four to forty-eight hours to live. I, and many others, kept pushing through in prayer. Not only did he recover, but he gave his life to the Lord. He’s alive and well today.

“That is a recent example of praying for someone without immediate results. It doesn’t mean we pray 24-7, but we pray without giving up. Although we should all make intentional time for prayer, that should not be the only time we pray.

God is a Good Father.
He doesn’t inflict pain to teach us a lesson.
That would be abusive! God is so gracious and wonderful.


“Even though I have seen many others healed, I have rarely been healed of anything. My theology is that God always desires to heal. He takes ugly situations and transforms them into something beautiful.

“We need to be deeply grounded in the Word of God; otherwise, we will lower God to meet our pain. If we anchor ourselves in the Word, we won’t diminish God in any way. I’m okay with not understanding why God sometimes heals and doesn’t at other times. Even though I don’t understand, I keep pressing in to see and know Him more.”

God Provides

Caleb shared,

“Prayer is a two-way conversation involving both talking to God and listening for Him to speak. Even in insignificant things, I ask God for help.

“Not that long ago, I lost my wallet. After coming home from a restaurant, I couldn’t find it anywhere. After looking everywhere to no avail, I prayed, asking God to put it in a place where I could see it. A little while later, I noticed it on the living room couch, clearly visible.

A Missing Wallet

There is no supernatural lifestyle without prayer.

“When I was in Grade 12 my marks weren’t amazing. I wanted to find a job so I could buy a car. I didn’t plead or demand, but simply prayed only once, ‘Jesus, if You want me to have a car You’re going to have to give me one.’ I didn’t tell anyone that I prayed. Shortly after, a former pastor called and offered me a car. Was that a coincidence? I don’t think so. When we allow the Holy Spirit into our lives and conversations, we will see things happen.”

The Miracle of Sensing God’s Voice

Sometimes, just hearing God’s voice is the greatest miracle, as Karen discovered.

“A little while ago, God unusually demonstrated His love to me, thereby increasing my faith.

“My husband and I were driving to the city on a beautiful, sunny fall day. All was quiet and the view picturesque. With my husband behind the wheel, I silently enjoyed the ride, gazing blissfully out the window of the car at the splendid fall colors. Amongst the other trees, a smaller brightly colored red tree seemed to stand out, catching my attention and filling me with awe.

“ ‘Wow!’ I said to myself, ‘Do I ever like that tree! It’s gorgeous!’

“ ‘Thank you,’ I heard, ‘I like that one too. It’s one of my favorites.’ The voice came so quickly and unexpectedly, I was surprised. Did I hear right? Yet, I knew beyond a doubt that it was not my own thoughts.

“For days I marveled at what had happened. It made me feel oddly special—like a secret shared between two people who love each other. I wanted to share it with others, but I knew that it wouldn’t mean the same to them as it did to me.

“Since then I’ve wondered why He would speak to me about something so insignificant. How many times had I begged and longed for a word from God, without hearing anything? Now, out of the blue, when I wasn’t even praying, He spoke so clearly to me.”

Miracles Through the Prayers of Others

Jewell experienced healing of an arm injury.

“I had a bad accident and received a “dinner fork” fracture to my wrist. I was in a cast for a long time and had also gone through many painful procedures trying to get it to release. Nothing helped. Because it hadn’t healed properly, I had limited use of my hand.

“While working at a summer camp, all the counselors gathered around me to pray after their morning meeting. Most of them knew I had received a spinal injury and broken ribs from a serious accident. Because they loved me, they wept as they prayed over me. Everyone, except for one fellow, prayed for my spine and the pain I was enduring. He prayed for my wrist and arm.

“I had been seated on a chair encircled by all these young people. When they finished praying, there was a complete circle of tears shining on the floor around me. They asked if I felt any different. Though I was encouraged by their prayers and felt so blessed by their love, I didn’t feel any change physically.

“I continued the day, performing my duties as best I could. Later in the evening, since there was usually someone who needed a nurse’s attention after the games time, I was sitting by the medical cabinet waiting. While I was waiting, I went to flex my arm to stretch it.

First Aid Kit

“I was shocked! For the first time in a year, my wrist had full flexibility in both directions. I suddenly realized my wrist was completely healed. It hasn’t bothered me since.

In God’s perfect time, it only took a minute.

“That year, there were several other healings that occurred at camp including a girl who had experienced multiple concussions. It was an exciting time for the campers to witness God perform physical healings.”

Beyond All Expectations

Christie shared a miracle of provision.

“I had applied to enroll in a university program but was reluctant to take out any student loans. I said to God, ‘I’m not spending money on this program. If I’m going back to school it has to be paid for.’

“I was informed that I would need to retake an exam to qualify for the program. Because of my schedule, I didn’t have time to study. I asked several people to pray for me as I rewrote the exam and for the finances for the program.

“The way things worked out, the administrators didn’t care about my grade score on the exam. They also decided that they would cover the cost of the program, plus my rent and utilities. School is very expensive, so it was a big deal to have all my expenses covered. I saw the provision of the Lord as He gave me everything I needed.”

Obedience Before the Miracle

Visions, both her own and others, have impacted Yogeswari’s life resulting in miracles.

“When my husband lost his job, our daughter was six years old. We decided not to have any more children because, in India, there are no child benefits. Parents have to pay for everything including all medical and educational expenses from kindergarten through university. Without my husband working, we couldn’t afford another child.

“My pastor’s wife had a vision. ‘God is trying to give you something and you’re abandoning it. That’s why your husband has lost his job.’

“ ‘What? How could my husband’s losing his job be related to me not planning on having any more children?’

“She said, ‘Don’t ask questions. Tell God that you will let your son be conceived and that you will have this child. Then there won’t be any further problems with him finding a job. Please promise God that you will receive the child He wants to give to you.’

“That’s what I did. Our son is a promise. Not that we didn’t face problems, but my husband immediately found a very good job. When our first child was born, we had to pay for everything. With our son, my husband’s employer paid for everything including a cesarean section. God gave us a son and paid every expense.

“When I was pregnant, I prayed, ‘The son of David is going to come to me. I want Solomon’s wisdom for this child.’

“A while later, a pastor prophesied over our son, ‘You are a son of promise. You are having David’s promise in you.’ That pastor confirmed it, even though it was something only my husband and I knew. I know my son will be a person of praise and prayer, just like David was. Our son knows he is a child of promise.”

Many Prayers Later

God answered Kristina’s lifelong prayer in several ways.

“My maternal grandmother was Ukrainian Catholic. Maybe she knew the Lord, but I didn’t know for sure. As a little girl, I always tried to share the Lord with her. In her late eighties, when I was in Bible college, she was in a nursing home and started having heart problems.

“I was concerned. I tried to share the Lord so many times with her. She was either hard of hearing or had selective hearing. I’m not sure which! One day after visiting her in the nursing home, I walked back to our house and was almost home when the Lord said, ‘Go back and tell her about Me.’

“I was so mad, ‘I have told her so many times about You.’

“I tromped back to the nursing home, went into my grandmother’s room and sat on her bed. It wasn’t even close to a heartfelt explanation of the Gospel. ‘Grandma, you are a sinner. We’re all sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again. You need to ask Him into your heart. Do you want to do that?’

A Miracle for Grandma

“I tromped back to the nursing home, went into my grandmother’s room and sat on her bed. It wasn’t even close to a heartfelt explanation of the Gospel. ‘Grandma, you are a sinner. We’re all sinners. Jesus died on the cross for you. He rose again. You need to ask Him into your heart. Do you want to do that?’

“She said, ‘Yes.’

“I was kind of dumbfounded and hardly knew what to do but led her through the sinner’s prayer and left.

“My grandmother had struggled with anxiety throughout her lifetime. Because of the heart problems she was having, I prayed, ‘Okay God, she has received You. Please don’t let her struggle with fear and depression right now. Please, can we see some tangible results of You in her life.’

“The first of three answers to my prayers was that she came to know Jesus.

“Second, my grandmother’s new-found passion was playing bingo. She loved playing bingo and would give the quarters she had won to the visiting grandchild of the moment. My Mom called me up one day when I was back in Bible school to tell me that my grandmother passed away. To me, an answer to prayer is that my grandmother, who wrestled with fear, died doing the thing she loved—playing bingo. Furthermore, she had just won her second game; they put the money in her hand; she smiled, hung her head and went home to be with the Lord. There was no pain or fear in this new Christian lady.

“The third answer was that the Catholic priest from grandmother’s town was too busy to do her prayers and we were able to have our little Baptist church pastor who knew and visited her in the nursing home, come to do the prayers. All of my mom’s siblings, nieces and nephews came. At my grandmother’s prayers, my family, who didn’t know the Lord, heard the Gospel being shared by our Baptist pastor.

“My grandmother appeared to be hard of hearing, but this pastor said at my grandmother’s little service, ‘I visited Mary many times and shared the Lord with her. Recently, I asked her, “Do you want to receive the Lord?” ’

“She said, ‘Kristina and I already dealt with that.’

“Somehow through my obligatory actions, ‘Okay God, I’ll go share  with my grandmother,’ she got it. Through whatever hearing matters were happening, she understood. God answered my very special lifelong prayer in several ways.”

The Simplest Prayer

Prayer wasn’t a daily practice when Keith prayed for his wife.

“My wife experienced hip pain constantly. It was uncertain the direct cause but no doubt a heavy physical workload was a contributing factor—handling hundred-pound grain bags, flipping and rolling out hay bales by hand, gardening and a multitude of other strenuous tasks.

“Her father had undergone both shoulder and hip replacement surgery. The enemy taunted her, that she would soon end up the same way. Each night she would crawl into bed struggling to find a comfortable position to sleep.

“We can’t remember whose idea it was, mine or hers, but someone decided it was time for prayer. I laid my hand on her hip not knowing how to even pray. Before I could say a word, I felt an intense heat flowing through my hand. She felt nothing but peacefully went to sleep.

“The next morning, she woke up completely healed. She never experienced any pain or discomfort in her hip again. God did it. He answered my silent prayer and it only took a minute.”

God’s Grace

The Love Bus is an inner-city ministry bringing food and necessities to prostitutes and gang members. I don’t join this dedicated group of volunteers often, but each time I do, I learn as much from the street people as from the workers.

“I arrived early to help prepare the sandwiches and fruit that we would be taking along with us. We had a brief time of prayer and received final instructions before heading out for the night. We were told not to let the neighborhood children, who would be the first to bombard the bus, take all the food before we reached the streets.

“Sure enough, while we were loading the bus, children started clambering up the steps looking for food to take home with them. It wasn’t long before I began to resent their demands. We gave each child a drink of hot chocolate and a supply of food before escorting them back off the bus.

“I honestly had to go and sit at the back of the bus for a few minutes just to repent of my nasty attitude. It was obvious these children didn’t have much to call their own; critical judgment had no place in God’s work.

“Soon the bus was rolling through the core area of our city, stopping to welcome anyone onto the bus for a warm cup of coffee, hot chocolate or something to eat. The Love Bus offers protection, safety, love and dignity to everyone.

Inner City Mission

“Several hours later, a man and woman entered. Age is hard to determine on the streets; it isn’t measured by years, but rather by experience. The trauma of inner-city life distorts and molds people leaving little room for normalcy. Before leaving the bus, they both received prayer, hugs as warm as the coffee, and love enough to carry them through the night. They stood outside chatting with the driver for a while.

“Soon the driver re-entered asking if we could change our route and head outside the normal area to give this couple a ride. We all agreed. Back on the bus, they came.

“I slipped over beside the woman, beginning a conversation. She had been in the hospital because she had shot up with a deadly cocktail of substances. Within hours, they quickly released her to fend for herself. Her legs were still grossly swollen from the effect of the self-inflicted potion.

“ ‘They feel like shattered fiberglass hockey sticks—each splinter tearing at me with terrible pain.’ she explained.

“At that moment, I forgot that she was a drug addict, heading to get another fix. My heart reached out before my hand touched her leg, as I asked, ‘May I pray for you?’

“Together we prayed for the swelling to dissipate and the pain to be removed from her body. I asked her to test her legs and see if there was any change. She stood on them for a moment before sitting back down, ‘Yes, they’re a little better.’

“I explained that God is so big and loving that He doesn’t want to make things just a little better but bring complete healing. She agreed to allow me to pray again, before testing her legs a second time. Now they were almost completely better and the swelling had gone down considerably. One more time we prayed.

“This time when she checked her legs, they were completely pain-free. For the first time that night, a giant smile spread across her face, deepening the wrinkles on her cheeks and exposing blackened teeth. Joy and unbelief mingled with gratitude, ‘God did it! He took my pain!’

God showed up on the most dangerous streets in the most dangerous city in our nation. How awesome is that!

“Soon we were at their desired destination. Again, I moved to the back of the bus for a time of solitude. Tears of gratitude oozed from my heart down my cheeks. Never before had I witnessed God’s love so tangibly as on the night He healed a little prostitute and drug addict. The greatness of His love and goodness stretched beyond my ugly attitudes and her destructive habits, exposing itself to a world gone mad.”

Miracles in Spite of Ourselves

Fortunately, God’s desire to intervene in people’s lives is far greater than our handicaps and hang-ups. Prayer’s effectiveness is never dependent on our ability, but rather on God’s availability to move. Helen shares her personal experience.

“We get to be co-laborers with Christ. How exciting is that? He shows me something and I get to pray with Him. We may think we should pray for someone, but real prayer is God moving on us to pray. I need to be hearing what Holy Spirit is saying so I can be more effective.

“Having said that, I remember being at a training on prayer but was sicker than a dog that night. I was paired up with a girl who had a bad foot. Honestly, I couldn’t have cared less about her foot. I just wanted to go home. I felt as dry as toast, prayed for her foot and she was healed.

“I thought, ‘God, You are good.’ I didn’t care less. She was ecstatic!

“Someone said to me later, ‘You must have felt elated?’

“I said, ‘No! I was shocked.’

“I really didn’t want to be there and didn’t want to be praying. The answers don’t depend on us. God is so anxious to answer prayer He will use anybody He can find. We are not always in the right mood. Sometimes we don’t feel like we’re connected to God at all. We don’t have to sense Him or feel Him. He is the One who does it!

“I would like more faith in prayer to ask bigger and not limit God. He is beyond what we could think or imagine.”

Miracles While Shopping

I’ve had my own dry as toast experiences.

“A couple of years ago, I had been to a discipleship class and was hurrying to pick up groceries before the store closed. I was overtired and anxious to start the hour trek home. Even though the class should have given me a more godly attitude, I think I forgot the Christian part of me behind when I left the building.

“The icy Arctic wind  swept across the parking lot, blasting its cold onslaught against anyone brave enough to be outside. As I reached the door of the grocery store, a woman and small child approached, asking for money. Because panhandlers often frequent this spot, I had grown suspicious of their stories and motives.

“Annoyed I invited them inside the doorway, selfishly wanting to escape the chill myself. She explained how they traveled across the country when her husband was offered a job here. However, by the time they arrived, the position had already been filled.

“The whole family—father, mother and five children—were now living in their van. They had no food or money to provide for the essentials. Her story neither impressed nor convinced me. I sized them both up—a desperate woman and her young daughter, perhaps five years old.

“Welcoming her to pick up a couple of baskets to fill with groceries, I told her that I didn’t have money, but would buy them enough food for a meal. We went through the fresh produce picking up groceries. She cautiously began filling her basket, asking for permission for each item she chose.

“Halfway through the produce aisle, she talked about having a bad headache. My attitude was so crappy, I thought, ‘If you are taking advantage of me, the least you can do is let me pray for you.’ Thankfully my words didn’t match my thoughts that night, so I expressed it more like, ‘I believe in Jesus Christ and I have seen Him heal many times. May I pray for you?’

Miracle in the Produce Aisle

“The woman was dressed in Middle Eastern garments, so I’m not sure what her religious beliefs were. She was so desperate, however, that she agreed to let me pray.

“Honestly, the prayer was probably no more than ten words, ‘Lord Jesus, heal this headache and take away all pain.’ I asked her how she felt.

“She rubbed the back of her neck and twisted her head from side to side. A huge smile erupted on her face as she exclaimed, ‘It’s better! The headache is completely gone!’

“You would think that having God do a miracle in the supermarket would jolt me out of my “ugly mode,” but alas, it didn’t. That is until I saw her little girl jump up and down like a pogo stick with excitement, chanting and singing, ‘Mama is better! Mama is better!’ Then I began to comprehend the stress and pain this woman had been experiencing.

“This little one skipped and danced through the store as she joyously helped fill the baskets with vegetables, fruit, cheese, meat, bread, milk, cereal, and healthy snacks for later. With the baskets filled and my list complete, we headed for the checkout. After paying for all the groceries, I left the store first.

“From my car, I waited and watched for them to come out. Soon they appeared and walked across the parking lot toward a large white van. Before they reached their destination, the van door slid open as a clatter of youthful activity spilled out into the snow. Now several children bounced up and down with excitement reaching into the overflowing bags.

“Finally, as I saw the unhindered joy and gratitude of the entire family, my heart melted. I was
the least likely candidate,
     the worst example of servitude,
          the poorest display of God’s goodness,
               the stingiest prospect of generosity,
          the grumpiest host for His Presence
     and yet,
“God still used me to bring healing to a woman and provide for a family.
I can never claim the credit for anything God does through me.


“Even on my best days, when I think I have it all together, I fall far short of what God desires. Why He chooses to use the frailness of humanity to display His presence is beyond understanding, but He does. He just needs someone, anyone, who is willing to be used.”

Miracles at Work

I sat at the reception desk of a thriving manufacturing company. This Tuesday started like any normal morning. All the employees except for me were in a weekly safety meeting. No sooner had the meeting begun when two young salespeople entered, one male and one female.

Explaining to them that the manager would be busy for a while, I welcomed them to be seated until the meeting was over.

“It wasn’t difficult to overhear their conversation. The young man had been in an accident twelve years ago. Ever since that time, chronic pain and restricted mobility had hindered him from doing many of the things he once enjoyed. They chatted for some time about the injury and his prognosis.

“I had witnessed God heal back injuries and knew that He could do it again. Listening to the young man’s discouragement prompted me to speak. ‘God doesn’t heal every time I pray for people, but I have seen Him heal enough to know that He can and will. May I pray for you?’ I asked.

“The salesman appeared more than a little shocked by my forthrightness, but hesitantly agreed. I said the shortest prayer asking God to heal every part of his spine and remove all pain. Then I asked him to test it out. He looked at me like I was bordering insanity, but stood up and cautiously tried a few movements. The surprised look on his face proved there was a change. He now had more mobility and less pain than just a few minutes before.

“Spurred on by the evidence of God’s touch, I asked if I could pray again for him.

“With reluctance, He agreed. I briefly thanked God for what He had already done and offered another quick prayer. I was concerned workers would soon be rushing through the reception area and bring an end to what God was doing for this young man.

“When I asked him to test it again, he was obviously annoyed but rose to his feet muttering something to the effect that I was being pushy. If pushy was what it took to release a man from twelve years of pain, then pushy I would be. This time the pain was completely gone and he was able to bend down and touch his toes—something he wasn’t able to do previously. For a full minute, he twisted his torso back and forth, and from side to side. He reached and stretched. Even though he was now pain-free and able to move unhindered, he remained almost unphased by the whole encounter.

“However, the young woman with him was ecstatic. Her eyes grew bigger with each prayer initiative. She knew she was witnessing a miracle. She had been his partner for long enough to know the extent of his injury and the limiting effects it had had on him. His restricted movements and the draining nature of chronic pain had previously hindered his ability to function normally.

“Though the young man never gave God credit for touching his back that day, the young woman left with her faith elevated.”

One cannot separate the miraculous from the Word of God and maintain the integrity of the Bible. From the first words in Genesis to the closing chapter of Revelation, God is evidenced by His supernatural workings and power.

The Bible

Jesus, the express image of the Invisible God, (Heb 1:3) “was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him . . .” (Acts 2:22). Don’t miss the reality of this profound statement. As a man, not God, Jesus relied upon His Father to work through Him. But unlike us, He was a man fully yielded and obedient to God.

Jesus sent out His disciples, giving them authority and power to teach as He taught and do the works He had been doing. Astonishingly, He said they would do even greater works than His (Jn 14:12).

“He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned. And these signs will accompany those who believe: In my name they will drive out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes with their hands; and when they drink deadly poison, it will not hurt them at all; they will place their hands on sick people, and they will get well . . . Then the disciples went out and preached everywhere, and the Lord worked with them, and confirmed his word by the signs that accompanied it.”
Mark 16:15-20

Signs, wonders and miracles marked not just the lives of these apostles, but also many other faithful servants and followers of Christ. The writer of Hebrews affirms,

“This salvation, which was first announced by the Lord, was confirmed to us by those who heard him. God also testified to it by signs, wonders and various miracles, and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit distributed according to his will.”
Hebrews 2:3-4


“The miraculous element in Christianity and the fact that God can act in this world of ours is essential to the vitality of Christianity. Without this aspect, prayer becomes meaningless . . .” 1

God has not and will not change (Heb 13:8; Jas 1:17). In our day, in this generation, God is moving in an increasing measure through the same signs, wonders and miracles we read about within the pages of the Bible. He is calling ordinary women and men, boys and girls, young and old together, anointing them through the Holy Spirit to turn hearts to Himself. God has not suddenly become powerless and silent; signs and wonders continue to follow those who believe. The miraculous is the abundant fruit resulting from the seeds of prayer.

Despondency and neglect of faith followed those who “refused to listen and failed to remember the miracles (God) performed among them” (Neh 9:17). Continuously as I interviewed people of all ages, they joyfully remembered and shared God’s grace and goodness witnessed through answered prayer, often in ways they least expected. Remembering
     reignites the flames of our first love,
          realigns us with the faithfulness of God,
               redirects our focus to the Source of life,
                    rekindles the passion of His Presence,
               restores the deep reservoir of faith,
          re-energizes our desire to pray and to keep on praying. Remembering is critical to all vibrant faith.

We cannot and will not be silent about the good things God has done. He still sovereignly moves among us by His Spirit.

***

Notes

  1. Bill Johnson and Randy Clark, The Essential Guide to Healing: Equipping All Christians to Pray for the Sick (Bloomington, Chosen Books, 2011), 88.

Thankful for Friends — The Friendly and the Not-So-Friendly

I’m thankful for friends I’ve brushed shoulders with briefly and those I’ve walked beside a long time — the friendly and the not-so-friendly. Their diversity amazes me! Who but God could connect my life with theirs.

Have you heard it said, “It isn’t what you know but who you know that counts?” Both the what and the who are important, but I’m holding closer to the who, than to the what.

If I sat down and made a list of those who have positively impacted my life, the page would be long and the pen without ink. I’m sure you would discover the same. To be known sometimes feels risky and perhaps even dangerous.

Several years ago, our son skidded off the icy road onto a frozen river. Someone seeing his predicament stopped to observe and help if necessary. “You’re a Ward, aren’t you?” he asked with a grin. As our son put the vehicle into four-wheel-drive and pressed the accelerator to mount the river bank, he wished to be unknown rather than known.

I’ve had more than my share of embarrassing moments as well.

The Friendly Friend

“Perfume and incense bring joy to the heart, and the pleasantness of a friend spring from their heartfelt advice.”
Proverbs 9:9

I hope your basket is full of friends you can turn to for “heartfelt advice” — those who stand with you no matter what you’re going through. Even if sometimes their words are directive or corrective.

“Better is open rebuke than hidden love. Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.”
Proverbs 9:6

Close Friends

Many times loyal friends loved me enough to instruct, even if it was with painful words. Their truth simultaneously stung and healed. Their correction brought me back on course, showed a better way, and challenged me to dig-deep and not give up on myself, God’s calling, or others.

Unfriendly Friends

We’ve all experienced those who have wounded us.

“If an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were rising against me, I could hide. But it is you, a man like myself, my companion, my close friend.”
Psalms 55:12-13

No wound goes as deep as the wounds of betrayal, whether intentional or unintentional, from those we’ve trusted. The psalmist David knew the pain, so did Joseph. Sold into slavery and imprisonment for fifteen years, he had ample time to think about how his own brothers sold him out.

Friends Help

Yet, he said,

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Genesis 50:20

When those who should have been his protectors turned unfriendly, Joseph recognized the sovereignty of God. He leaned heavily into God’s plan and trusted His sufficiency. Through forgiveness, he counted even unfriendly friends as part of God’s infinitely wonderful purpose.

Job showed another example of genuine friendship, in spite of harsh treatment in his most vulnerable hour

“After Job had prayed for his friends, the LORD restored his fortunes and gave him twice as much as he had before.”
Job 42:10

Only after praying for those who wounded him did God release a double blessing.

Good Friends

Becoming a good friend doesn’t happen accidently. Friendship costs! The “art” of friendship developed slowly for me. As a child, I preferred the company of animals over people and solitude above crowds. Trust came gradually.

Friendship

I honestly wanted friends, but severely stumbled in my efforts to become a good friend. Friendship requires loving at all times (Prov 17:17), living sacrificially (John 15:13), dedication (Ruth 1:16,17), helping, forgiving (Col 3:13), patience and kindness (1 Cor 13:4).

The Best Friend

Several years ago, my very young granddaughter walked beside her mother down the street of a small city. A homeless man silently approached and passed them. With sadness in her voice, she softly said, “He doesn’t have a family.” Her little heart recognized the absence of loving support in the face of a stranger.

Even children sense that God has designed our lives to thrive in healthy interaction with others. For too many, such luxury remains absent.

Jesus made this remarkable statement,

“My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”
John 15:12-15

Jesus, God incarnate, chose to call us His “friend!” Not because we are worthy of such favor, but because of His love and grace. His incredible gift of friendship gives us the ability to befriend others with similar love and grace.

Best Friend

How amazing is that?

Whether you’re surrounded by many or few friends, don’t dismay. Jesus calls you friend! No other friendship compares to His; He will never leave you or do you harm; He sticks close, never abandoning or disappointing. You can fully trust Him.

“One who has unreliable friends soon comes to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.”
Proverbs 18:24

That “closer than a brother” Friend is none other than Jesus Christ.

Friends Protect

Jesus, a Friend to All

If you’ve never experienced the closeness of His friendship, my heart aches with understanding for you. Today, in the quietness of where you are, ask Him to come, not just to be your Friend, but your help, source and strength for all you need. Take this moment to turn toward Him, surrendering your life to Him completely. There’s no magic formula — just sincerity of heart.

To get to know Him more, download a Bible app for your phone or begin to read a standard hard copy, starting in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke or John. By reading these portions of Bible, describing the life of Jesus on earth, you will discover more fully what an amazing Friend He is to all.

Blessings, my friends, I’m thankful you share your life with me.

Intimately Close! In Darkness God Does His Greatest Work

Intimately Close

When I don’t sense God’s Presence, He is intimately close; when I don’t see His face, I am known, found and seen by Him. He directs each of our lives with intricate precision.

In some areas, I can already see beauty and purpose coming from burnt-out ashes. Other places of my life still appear unproductive at best, and honestly desolate at other times. I see woven through the years God-given relationships and opportunities that no human could have orchestrated..

Daniel said,

“Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever;
wisdom and power are his . . .
He reveals deep and hidden things;
he knows what lies in darkness,
and light dwells with him.”
Daniel 2:20-22

When fear attempts to convince me that things have become so dark and desperate, even God can’t see, I’m reminded that He does His greatest work in the deepest darkness. Light lives within Him and originates from Him.

Deep Darkness

The first words of the Bible give a strong clue to the consistent thread of God’s Presence.

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.”
Genesis 1:1

Confusion and foreboding drenched the formless, empty darkness of pre-creation. Right there! Amid that darkness, God was. This darkness preceded and surpassed anything humans have experienced. Nothing we could ever know compares to it.

God Created

Here God performs His first work, speaking all of creation into existence and transforming complete chaos into divine order. Elohim, the first Hebrew word to define God, contains within its context “the God of covenant.” Before we existed, God already reveals Himself as One who is intimately close.

The Paradox

We always find within the magnitude of God a paradox. Light and darkness is one.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you; God is light, in him there is no darkness at all.”
1 John 1:5

And,

” . . . God, the blessed and only Ruler, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone is immortal and who lives in unapproachable light . . . “
1 Timothy 6:15-16

God possesses light, spoke light into existence, lives in light, and is light. And yet . . .

“The LORD reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.”
Psalm 97:1-2

When God brings about His divine works, He often chooses the cover of darkness. Here the psalmist proclaims God’s redemptive work under the cover of thick darkness. Here, in darkness, God comes intimately close.

Conceived in Darkness

At night

This morning, I read again how God chose a young woman, Mary, to bring forth His Son through a sovereign work of the Holy Spirit. She humbly surrendered, though the details were scant and personal cost great.

Who saw that move of the Holy Spirit? No witnesses presided over the occasion of God whooshing through the dark night impregnating a virgin with divine life. Under the cloak of darkness, God became man. Under the cover of darkness, He was born. To humble shepherds, “living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night,” angels came, brightening the starry sky with intense light while declaring the good news.

God came to dwell with man — intimately close.

The Darkest Dark

“At noon, darkness came over the whole land until three in the afternoon. And at three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lema sabachthani?” (which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) . . . With a loud cry, Jesus breathed his last. The curtain of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom.”
Mark 15:33-38

Though it was high noon, suddenly God turned day to night. Once more, in darkness, He moved toward mankind, obliterating all separation between Him and His created ones.

Storm Night

Such intimate closeness is not to be gawked at by ignorant scoffers and mockers.

Conceived in darkness and born in the night, Jesus died alone on a cross in eerie untimely darkness. For me and you! For all! In darkness, Jesus crushed the head of Satan, delivering a mortal wound!

Before Morning Light

For three days He lay breathless surrounded by utter darkness, wrapped in grave clothes, hidden in a cold dank tomb. A handful of women came with spices to pay Him final honor.

Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene went to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the entrance.”
Luke 20:1

Before dawn

“While it was still dark,” He conquered the last and greatest foe. Jesus did it! He rose from the dead and through His resurrection granted the same life to all who would believe.

Intimately Close

I have no idea what you are facing today. It may very well seem to be the greatest darkness you have ever encountered. Circumstances beyond your control may have snatched all hope from your future.

Take courage. Just as in the past, God is intimately close today, right now, where you are. Nothing and no one can keep Him away.

“We need never shout across the spaces to an absent God. He is nearer than your own soul, closer than our most secret thoughts.”
A.W. Tozer

Above the Darkness

Though I don’t have opportunity to fly often, it amazes me how above the clouds the sun shines every day and the stars light the sky at night. Storms may rage below, but above the clouds visibility seems endless.

May we all learn to view things from above, rather than below. May we develop a sense of God’s deep moving and grand work amid our darkest times. Later, we will see clearly how intimately close He has always been; now we trust.

Take Courage! Don’t be Afraid

Take Courage

When Jesus says, “Take courage! Don’t be afraid,” fear dominates and faith is hard to find. Jesus doesn’t suggest; He commands. “Take courage!”

I, like the disciples, often find myself in a “boat” not of my own choosing, tossed by waves stronger and bigger than I. It is in those times, I too must learn to “take courage.”

I find many things about Mark’s biblical account of one stormy night intellectually troubling. Let me name just a few.

Not My Boat!

I’ve experienced firsthand the consequences of running ahead of God. Those times remain burned into my memory bank. Too often, I get a hint of God’s direction, turn up the throttle and embark on the voyage before He gives full instruction. Fortunately, I’m gradually learning to follow rather than race full steam ahead. But . . . 

“Immediately Jesus made his disciples
get into the boat and go on ahead
of him to Bethsaida,
while he dismissed the crowd.
After leaving them,
he went up on a mountainside to pray.”
Mark 6:45-46 

Boat calm water

Do you see that? Jesus made them get into the boat. He made them go on ahead of Him. Everything in me screams, “No! Don’t do it! Wait for Jesus!” But in obedience they step into a boat, not of their own choosing, but by divine instruction. They leave without Jesus, going ahead of Him.

This time, it must be okay, right? After all, they are obeying the Master. 

Every follower of Jesus is in a boat. It’s not our boat, but HIs. He has pointed the way and released us to “Go!” To the best of our ability, we follow. Even though He wasn’t physically with them in the boat, Jesus interceded for them on their journey; He intercedes for us on ours.

“. . . Christ Jesus who died —
more than that,
  who was raised to life —
is at the right hand of God
is also interceding for us.”
Romans 8:34

Not My Wind!

Night came and with it a fierce wind.

“Later that night,
the boat was in the middle of the lake . . .
He saw the disciples straining at the oars,
because the wind was against them.”
Mark 6:47-48

Eventually the winds of adversity press against all desire to follow Christ — to obey His leading. Strain as we might progress becomes slow if not impossible. We usually face it “in the middle” of our calling, “in the middle” of our journey. 

Boat Storm

Ferocious winds have been blowing against the church of Jesus Christ since those earliest disciples stepped into their shaky boat. Perhaps never in the course of the Christian church has she faced such extreme adversity on a global scale. Oppression and dark times surround us. It is spiritually “night.”  The majority of people live with no concept of God.

The other day I sat on the grass with a new young visitor who stopped for a chat while I was in my garden. Though a new acquaintance, around 10 years old, it became obvious as he talked just how disconnected from society and reality his young life was. Raised by video games, formed by cultural influences, hurt by abandonment . . . My heart ached for him. And a generation like him. 

Cold, harsh winds blow ugly and cruel.

Not Alone!

“Shortly before dawn he went out to them,
walking on the lake.
He was about to pass by them . . . ”
Mark 6:48-49

Jesus came! He sees our dilemma and comes to our aid too. He comes to where we are — our places of straining, places of fear, places of hopelessness and futility. 

The next line shocks me, “He was about to pass by them.” How can these two passages sit so close together? He comes, but would also pass by unless we notice — unless we call out to Him, unless we acknowledge His Presence.

They all saw Him coming. They all cried out in terror. Yet, they all missed recognizing Him as their help and hope. Until He spoke. 

Faith

Take Courage!

At the sound of His voice, they knew Him. Through the familiarity of His voice, they recognized Him despite the dark, and above the wail of the wind.

“Immediately he spoke to them
and said, ‘Take courage!
It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Mark 6:50

“Take courage!” He commands. Fear never leaves voluntarily. When we take courage, fear has to go. Whether the winds willingly subside at the Presence of Jesus or not, courage is ours to possess — ours because Jesus offers it to us.

“Take courage!” Jesus says, as He holds out His hands to us and enters our circumstances, climbing into our rickety “boats.” “Take courage!” He says, as He tells our personal storms to be still.

Calm Sunrise

The best place to be in stormy or safe times, is beside Jesus in the boat, any boat. Perhaps now like never before, the spirit of fear has swept upon us from every direction, threatening health, stability and security. 

No Fear!

When we receive the courage Jesus offers, fear immediately dissolves like mist in the sunshine. I can think of no greater time in the history of church to be alive and in His boat — going where He sends us. The opportunities ahead rise wider than the Sea of Galilee. Will storms come? Probably. Will it take everything we have to strain ahead? Most certainly. 

When these men crossed over to the other side of the lake, multitudes, anticipating their arrival, were excited to see them and ready to receive ministry. 

This is such a picture of where the church is heading! We are almost there. We’re with Jesus, crossing over to new territory. The spiritually hungry still flock to receive all that Jesus provides. 

They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went — into villages, towns or countryside — they placed the sick in the marketplaces. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.”
Mark 6:55-56

Jesus

My little visitor on the grass, searching for someone to care and some reason to live, became my personal reminder. He didn’t come running or begging, but he did come hoping. 

Jesus heals, delivers, and supernaturally touches lives right here — in our own villages, towns, countrysides and mega cities. Though much of the journey remains confusing to me, this I know and am certain of — Jesus is with us. We live in a season of miraculous encounters.

Take courage! Don’t be afraid! Get excited! 

 

Harvest Time: Separating the Wheat and Weeds

Harvest Time

It’s harvest time on the prairies — an entire season of hard work and great financial investment threshed and stored for future use. Farmers and laborers feel the pressure during this brief window of opportunity. 

Globally our province sits small in proportion, but giant in production. Vast acres of spring, durum and winter wheat, canola, peas, lentils, mustard and flax gulped into massive equipment, and scurried to storage facilities. It’s an amazing achievement!

The farmer chose his seed well, fertilized and cared for the crop during the ensuing months, protecting against disease and pests. However, you can be sure of one thing — every field will have a mixture of good crop and weeds. What! How?

Weed Seeds

Weeds just are! Whether in my small garden plot, or fields stretching across the horizon, weeds are a perpetual problem. They sap the soil of vital nutrients and moisture.

No one labors for weeds! Yet, they are everywhere — sometimes sitting dormant in the soil for decades. Persistent, invasive, and despised!

Wheat and Tares

“Jesus told them another parable:
‘The kingdom of heaven is like a man
who sowed good seed in his field.
But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy, came and sowed weeds
among the wheat, and went away.
When the wheat sprouted
and formed heads,
then the weeds also appeared.”

Matthew 13:24-26

Every farmer and gardener can relate. The farmer doesn’t refuse to harvest the field because weeds are present. The gardener doesn’t reject the produce because weeds also grew in the garden.

Wheat Field

Every farmer, including this farmer in the parable, fights weeds to protect the valued crop until harvest time.

Choices

The servants came to the landowner prepared to take immediate action,

“The servants asked him,
‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’
‘No,’ he answered,
‘because while you are pulling the weeds,
you may uproot the wheat with them.’ “

Matthew 13:28-29

Wisdom knows the right thing to do in the right way. The unknowing servants, though desiring to do good, wanted to do the right thing but in the wrong way — or at least at the wrong time.

Oh, how often I’ve been like these servants, rushing in to do what I can without forethought.

Solomon wrote,

“For there is a proper time and
procedure for everything. . .”

Ecclesiastes 8:6

Don’t Throw it Out

I think of another old expression, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater!” In other words, in the haste to discard something undesirable, avoid throwing away something else worth holding on to.

Harvesting

In North America, we too quickly throw away the good. We see evidence of imperfections and cast the whole lot aside. Whether possessions, ministries, or people, whatever no longer serves our purpose or makes us look and feel good, we dispose of.

“Let both grow together until the harvest. . .”
Matthew 13:30

Farmers learn how to harvest their crops in such a way that the least amount of weeds stays with the good grain. By setting the sieves, the chaff, weed seeds, and shrivelled kernels (or dockage) falls to the ground. Yet, try as he might a perfect sample often seems impossible to attain.

Me, Too

God has been speaking to me about the weeds in my life — the dockage He desires to remove. As much as I attempt to cooperate with the Holy Spirit, I’m exasperated by the blatant evidence of pride, selfishness and unbelief that remains in my “life sample.” God pours His grace into me, lovingly caring for every detail, yet I’m blemished, unproductive, and often disappointed with myself.

Why?

“But while everyone was sleeping,
his enemy came and sowed weeds
among the wheat,
and went away.”

Matthew 13:27

This side of heaven we have an enemy, sowing the bad among the good God starts. I want it pulled out NOW, so that only good can flow from my life. Sometimes the tension feels intense!

Frost Damage

At the root of everything ungodly live these three potent weeds: pride, selfishness and unbelief. All present themselves subtlely. I need gutsy people to challenge me when they see them sprouting up and taking root. Faithful mentors question the motivations behind my words and actions.

Harvest Time

Through this parable of the wheat and tares, Jesus offered insight into the end of all things when God Himself will separate the good from the evil. Until then, our world, both external and internal, will contain both.

It’s interesting that the enemy worked while “everyone was sleeping.” That challenges me to alertness.

“. . . For we are not unaware
of (Satan’s) schemes.”

2 Corinthians 2:11

Just as the faithful farmer knows his crops and fields, I cannot afford to be ignorant of my personal weaknesses and tendencies.

God points me to another principle, however. What about those around me? Do I cast them aside, pulling them out by their roots, like the foolish servants wanted to do, while they are still developing in their faith? How do I treat others when evidence of weeds hang in heaps from them?

Truck and Grain Cart

Do I water the “good seed” God is nurturing in them, allowing His sovereign ways and time to deal with the “dockage?” Am I so focused on the messy parts of people’s lives I miss the good God wants me to focus on? Do I see His reflection in everyone I meet?

“At That Time”

The parable reads,

“At that time I will tell the harvesters:
First collect the weeds and
tie them in bundles to be burned;
then gather the wheat and
bring it into my barn.”
Matthew 13:30

This requires patience and trust on my part. God determines the time of the ultimate harvest. He instructs the harvesters in the process. He decides what will be preserved or destroyed.

That time” is coming! The evidence of the natural harvest hangs thick in the autumn air. I pray I will as clearly sense the urgency of the spiritual harvest around me.

It’s harvest time! God’s good seed has produced well.

Sunset

Worship in Heaven — No Introverts Allowed! Honest!

Have you thought about what worship in heaven might sound and look like? I find no introverts among the throng! Being a true introvert myself, I’m not sure what to do with that realization.

As much as I enjoy meeting and mingling with people, they drain me. Even my people!

There are twenty-three of us in our immediate family. Our noisy, oft rowdy, and usually action-packed family gatherings fill this Mama’s heart to overflowing. But, I must admit, silence and solitude keep my internal engine running, rejuvenating me for whatever demands may arise.

All you biblical scholars read my heavenly analysis with furrowed brow and deep skepticism. I understand completely! My brows have been doing the same thing! Let me explain, please.

I’ve just finished reading the Book of Revelation. In twenty-two chapters, I find only a half hour of silence. Honest! What’s more, it isn’t even the pleasant, introvert lovers refilling, energizing kind of silence. Rather, it’s more like, “Oh no! This can’t be!” variety.

” After this I looked, and there before me was a door standing open in heaven. And the voice I had first heart speaking to me like a trumpet said, ‘Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.’ ”
Revelation 4:1

That was my first clue about heaven. A voice like a trumpet! Nothing about a trumpet blast calms my introverted spirit.

Creatures and Elders

The Apostle John witnessed an open vision of Jesus Christ and things yet to come, including spectacles in heaven which my feeble mind can’t imagine. He tries his best to explain the images to us.

John gives us another clue. Around the throne, four heavenly creatures worship God,

“. . . Day and night they never stop saying,
‘ Holy, holy, holy
is the Lord God Almighty,’

who was and is and is to come.”
Revelation 4:8

Trumpet Blast

Their worship provokes twenty-four elders to throw their crowns at the Lord’s feet, breaking into their own chorus of worship. Day and night, continuous active, vocal worship!

Angels

Images of angels singing while softly playing harps may not be entirely biblical. Listen to what John actually hears and sees,

“Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying: ‘Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!’ “
Revelation 5:11-12

But wait! Nothing in my introverted self cringes. Rather than run for seclusion, the magnitude of creatures, elders, and angels all with united “loud voice” giving glory to God stirs me to want to join along. Each spurs the other into extravagant exultation.

No one and nothing remains silent. All of creation bursts into exalted praise of the One on the throne. Every living creature raises its voice in perfect unison.

Can you imagine how noisy, even rowdy, and probably action-packed that gathering became?

Great Multitude

John’s vision continues,

“After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb . . . And they cried out in a loud voice:
‘Salvation belong to our God
who sits on the throne,
and to the Lamb.’
Revelation 7:9-10

Introvert Worship

Some cultures naturally celebrate in robust, exuberant expressions of emotion; others tend to be soft spoken and gentle. Some denominations worship with quiet liturgical style; others worship with drums blasting and guitars blaring.

We introverts may have found crafty ways to escape the bustle of earth, but there’s no escaping the worship of heaven. Can you pick out even one introvert in heaven’s mighty throng? I can’t! Worship in heaven flows with unceasing, uncapped, unanimous rhythm.

No one feels inhibited. No one declares cultural exclusion. Everyone worships in heaven with liberality.

Silence

Then it comes! Silence! An eerie silence that holds heaven in awe-filled suspense. Thirty minutes of spine tingling, nerve-wracking silence. How could it be? Why would worship so suddenly cease?

I find myself asking another question, “If I know beyond a doubt that worship in heaven should continue unstopped, why would I tolerate the silence of worship here on earth?”

I have long considered this present life a temporary blink before eternity — a training ground for the things to come. Perhaps, it’s time for me to toss away my preconceived notion of an introvert’s dream come true — a quaint cabin in forested heaven surrounded by flowers, next to a babbling book, fifty miles from the closest neighbor.

A Lions Roars

If this life is a preparation for heaven, I better shake the dust from my feet and get my shouting voice tuned up.

Let’s face the truth; nothing compares to the worship in heaven. God alone merits glorified praise. Throughout Revelation, group after group falls on their faces, sings, shouts, and declares the greatness and worth-ship of our God.

With silence broken, worship resumes; the sound of high praise resonates through the atmospheres.

“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”
Revelation 11:15

Worship in Heaven

I’m honestly frustrated by my feeble capacity to give Holy God, anywhere close to to the worship He merits. If I could dance like King David danced, bringing the Ark of God’s Presence into my city, it wouldn’t be enough. If I possessed exceptional musical ability to compose songs of pure adoration, it falls far short. Everything feels insignificant on this side of heaven.

My heart yearns to give Him more.

Someday, unlimited by earth’s tethers, I will exalt the King of all kings and Lord of all lords to full potential. Today, I practice. I pull my introverted self out of the place of comfort and press to co-operate with the anthems of heaven.

Worship in Heaven

One day, I too will cast any crown at His feet and I fall in reverent awe before the Lord of glory. I will with ease join the worship of heaven. On that day, as I behold the One I long to gaze upon, my little voice will join the great multitude with thunderous applause to the One worthy of it all.

This introvert will be introverted no more. I will find refreshing and renewal in the joyously noisy, the exuberantly rowdy, and forever action-packed gatherings of the worship in heaven.

After this I heard what sounded
like the roar of a great multitude
in heaven shouting:
“Hallelujah!
Salvation and glory and power
belong to our God .”
Revelation 19:1

“Then I heard what sounded like a great multitude, like the roar of rushing waters and like loud peals of thunder, shouting:
‘Hallelujah!
For our Lord God Almighty reigns.
Let us rejoice and be glad
and give him glory!”
Revelations 19:6-7

The Pursuit of God: To See and Know God More

The Pursuit of God

Are you in pursuit of God, desiring to know Him in ever-increasing ways? The little I know doesn’t satisfy my desire for more. The more I see and know, the more I realize I don’t really see or know much!

Have you ever tried a “What is it?” quiz? That’s where you look at a close-up image of something and guess what it is. Sometimes pursuing God resembles the opposite. Through an encounter with a distant shadow, we try to figure out what He is fully like.

A.W. Tozer said, “We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to that pursuit.”

Pixabay - OCC Public Domain - Fractalius Big Cat Animal Animal World Lion Mane

God wants to be found; He desires to be discovered by us. That knowledge offers great comfort and hope.

“You will seek me and find me
when you seek me with all your heart.”
Jeremiah 29:13

Shadows

The Old Testament gives us bold expressions of God’s identity through His many names: God, LORD, Healer, Creator, Shepherd, Redeemer, and many more. The list is long, the images unique to another facet of who our God is.

The vast God-shaped palette fills with colorful texture as our knowledge of Him fills and finds depth. When we look, seeking with our whole heart, we find His image revealed, yet concealed.

Pixabay - OCC Public Domain - Fractalius Big Cat Animal Animal World Lion Mane

In the pages of the New Testament, we quickly see that most people, Jewish and otherwise, believed they had Him figured out. The portrait they painted was Scripture perfect. Or so they thought! They believed in the diligent pursuit of God.

John quotes Jesus as saying,

You study the Scriptures diligently
because you think that in them
you have eternal life.
These are the very Scriptures
that testify about me.”
John 5:39

John’s generation, as well as preceding and following generations, studied God’s Word with a what’s-in-it-for-me attitude, rather than a pursuit-of-God intention. As a result, they missed God, even when He stood among them.

Me, Too!

Honestly, that’s me too! John himself probably fit into the same category. As a Jewish boy, he would have studied the Torah, knew the names of God, and memorized key passages about Him.

If someone asked if he knew God, John undoubtedly would have responded in the affirmative. His incomplete perception of God blew apart when Jesus came along.

Pixabay - OCC Public Domain - Fractalius Big Cat Animal Animal World Lion Mane

Jesus, the God-Man, didn’t look like, sound like or act like the God John thought he knew. Yet Paul would write,

“The Son is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.”
Colossians 1:15

Another disciple, Philip, was in pursuit of God. He felt he needed more. Being with Jesus, hearing his authoritative teaching and witnessing miracles left him lacking.

“Philip said, ‘Lord, show us the Father
and that will be enough for us.”
John 14:8

In no uncertain terms, Jesus responds,

“. . . Don’t you know me, Philip,
even after I have been among
you such a long time?
Anyone who has seen me
has seen the Father. . .”
John 14:9

This, too, I find strangely reassuring. Even the disciples who lived with Jesus intensely pursued more of God!

Majestic Glory

John’s entire perception of God changed in the face of Jesus. He discovered Him to be more loving, merciful and gracious than John ever imagined. Was it this new understanding that transformed a “Son of Thunder” into “the Beloved?” Talk about a radical life transformation!

As our view of God changes, so will we.

God made Himself visible, reachable, touchable, understood and seen in Jesus. So much more remains to be seen, known and discovered.

Pixabay - OCC Public Domain - Fractalius Big Cat Animal Animal World Lion Mane

Jesus led Peter, James and John high up a mountain one day. The rest of his close followers stayed below.

“There be was transfigured before them.
His face shone like the sun,
and his clothes became as white as the light.”
Matthew 17:2

Just when they thought they had God figured out He blows their tidy little box apart. Jesus shows Himself in a way they have never seen Him before. They flounder for words, stumble over preconceived notions, stunned by the majesty of God.

In Peter’s last letter to the church, he wrote about the experience.

“. . . we were eyewitnesses of his majesty . . . when the voice came to him from the Majestic Glory, saying, ‘This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well please.’ We ourselves heard this voice that came from heaven when we were with him on the sacred mountain.”
2 Peter 1:16-18

The God they thought they knew proved beyond majesty and perfection — holy and awesome. The pursuit of God led them into deeper and deeper revelations of His glory.

The Pursuit of God

If any one of us would have witnessed such things, would that satisfy? Would that one blinding glimpse of His majestic beauty, the thunderous sound of His voice, the heart-pounding Presence of the divine, be enough?

I hope not!

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Here was King David’s heart’s cry,

“You, God, are my God,
earnestly I seek you;
I thirst for you,
my whole being longs for you,
in a dry and parched land
where there is no water.”
Psalm 63:1

I know this desire echoed constantly within John. How can I be so certain? In the last words we receive from him, he remains constant in his pursuit of God. John discovers Him to be more than he ever thought possible.

More to See

Banished to the Island of Patmos for his bold declarations of faith, John waits with the only One who matters.

“On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet . . . I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw . . . someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest . . . ”
Revelation 1:10-16

There is always more of God to see. To turn around? Sometimes to know Him more requires a turning on our part — turning away from something and turning toward Someone. Only then will we see Who we are looking for.

When He speaks, when His voice nudges me, do I turn around to look? Or am I too busy? Or too fixed in the knowledge of Him I already possess?

Two Things

As a Christian, two dangerous attitudes hinder me from knowing God.

The first is believing I know enough. Then, I allow the shadowy figure of past understanding to create a mirage, a distorted outline, of who God is. In so doing, I twist and press the grandness of Scripture into my Pharisaical belief system, denying the majesty and greatness of Him to form before my eyes. In it, I deny the revelation of His unfolding fullness.

Pixabay - OCC Public Domain - Fractalius Big Cat Animal Animal World Lion Mane

Second, I can read the Word of God intent on discovering what He will do for me. Rather than an earnest desire to know Him more, I search for His promises with me-centered fixation. He walks by, whispering my name, nudging me to intimacy of relationship. I fail to notice until perhaps it is too late!

Like David, Peter, John and generations of others, may we never cease our pursuit of God. Throughout the stages of life, may we be held in awe of His Presence, in wonder of His majesty, and in reverence of His holy divinity. May our pursuit of God captivate us, viewing Him intently close and from afar.

My Fair Share! A Measure of Faith!

We all possess incredible ingenuity for obtaining our fair share. Preconceived paradigms of what constitutes fair varies greatly from person to person.

Whether a pie, chocolate bar or some other precious portion, our children eyed the division process with intense scrutiny. Nobody wanted the smallest piece; each hoped for the largest slice; all at the very least, desired their fair share. Generosity sometimes prevailed, but not always.

To settle any disputes, we established a simple rule: the person creating the divide received the last piece. The extra care and concentrated effort to ensure fairness often bordered on humorous!

Fruit Food Apple Refreshment Dessert Fresh - Pixabay - OCC Public Domain

Too Little or Too Much

I’m glad God portions to each of us what we need. No one receives too little or too much. I’m reminded of the children of Israel in the desert gathering manna. God supplied. They gathered. Some gathered little, others gathered much, but all received sufficient quantity (Exodus 16).

Whatever the need, we can trust God to supply. There are no shortages in His Kingdom!

“For by the grace given me I say to everyone of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the faith God has distributed to each of you.”
Romans 12:3

The King James Version says, “God has dealt to each one a measure of faith.”

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The Passion Translation says it like this: “God has given me grace to speak a warning about pride. I would ask each of you to be emptied of self-promotion and not create a false image of your importance. Instead, honestly assess your worth by using your God-given faith as the standard of measurement, and then you will see your true value with an appropriate self-esteem.”

Paul hits the target, doesn’t he? Hiding behind the expectation of “more,” whatever the more looks like, pride lingers and demands.

Look Up

As long as we focus on “the piece” we don’t possess, we lose. The Roman church had as much trouble understanding the concept of fair as I sometimes do. Paul encouraged them to look up before they looked around.

“Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out! Who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has been his counselor? Who has ever given to God, that God should repay them? For from him and through him and for him are all things. To him be the glory forever? Amen.”
Romans 11:33-36

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Now with a realigned perspective of God’s majesty, Paul gives a grand, “Therefore . . .” (12:1-2). Because of who He is, therefore, worship Him. Therefore, offer yourselves sacrificially and holy unto Him. Therefore, change your mindset and begin thinking like He does.

A Measure of Faith

Just like with my children or the children of Israel, I sometimes attempt to “gather” more than my fair share, stashing it away for another day. God knows exactly what I need — for today and tomorrow. He also knows faith is one of our greatest needs.

So He “has distributed” to each one a measure of faith — our fair share! This word “measure” or “metron” in Greek means “a portion, measure off or allotted” (1). Thayers Greek-English Lexicon says it this way, “a determined extent, portion measured off, measure or limit” (pg 408).

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God knows more than anyone what is necessary. He assures us that the smallest portion, even mustard-seed-sized, will suffice. We humbly receive and draw from His rich resources

“. . . in accordance with the faith God has distributed . . .”
Romans 12:3

I have it! You have it! We all possess a measure of faith — a grace gift. No one claims credit for a gift received. Because He has predetermined exactly what I, or you, or we, need, no gloating or boasting allowed! All the faith I operate under came from Him, to be used by Him, for His glory, and the furthering of His kingdom.

Fair Share

Paul connects our portion of faith to our portion of service to others in the body.

“We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith, if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.”
Romans 12:6-8

What God first gives to us, we willingly and liberally give to others.

Where do I struggle, needing faith the most? In the great faith chapter of Hebrews, I’m reminded that “without faith, it is impossible to please God” (11:6). That means I need faith everywhere, all the time, to live life honoring to God.

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What demands the most faith from me? Right now, I’m assisting in a new church plant. Honestly, my humanity didn’t want to go there! I knew it would require far more than my aging body was comfortable to give. I understood all too clearly how much work establishing a new church would require, and definitely needed increased faith to step into the fray!

In everything I do, faith forms the foundation: in prophesying and speaking boldly into my culture; in serving others; by accurately teaching the Word of truth; in sacrificially offering encouragement to those carrying burdens and weighed down by pressures; in generously giving of my time and resources; or through being God’s hands of mercy.

God gives His fair share of faith to accomplish whatever He asks of me. But, whatever the portion, little or great, God intends it for the good of others. It’s in the activation of our faith that God’s purposes are fulfilled.

The Piece in the Middle

It’s significant that God sandwiches this little passage about faith between a beautiful doxology of worshiping Him and serving others. It illustrates the purpose of faith clearly!

I can’t claim credit for the faith I possess. I daily open the gift of faith, drawing from the measure He distributed, pouring it lavishly out to others. As I do, faith never diminishes. Actually, the flow increases, becoming fresher and sweeter through use.

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We will never exhaust the measure of faith God has already given to us. Though we spend our entire lives tapping into and drawing from the rich resource, it continues to flow.

In humility we lay ourselves low, worshiping Him and serving others, until the beauty and fragrance of faith reaches and touches countless lives. Faith comes from God and operates through Him for His praise.

Let’s take the measure of faith He has given us and use it today for His intended use, combining it with the gifts He graced upon us. Oh, what God will do. Trust me, we have more than our fair share!

**********

References:
(1) Spiros Zondhiates, Th.D., Ed., The Complete Word Study Dictionary, For a Deeper Understanding of the Word; New Testament, (AMG, Chattanooga, 1992), 975