27 Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid. John 14:27
I’ve been told my whole life how strong I am. How courageous I am. I’m a fighter. People say I’m tough as nails, that I have true grit, that I’m so brave. I even have Joshua 1:9 tattooed on my wrist. To the world, I am so strong.
But I’m not strong at all. I’m weak and fearful and tired. And every time I try to fall back on my strength and grit my teeth to work through something, I fail. That’s right. All my strength, all my courage, all my grit is nothing.
Without Jesus it is nothing. I am nothing. My strength, my courage, my lionheart…they all come from Jesus. He is my strength. He’s the one who made me this way. He’s the one who brought me through trials over and over again. When I rely on Him to see me through my circumstances I somehow manage to make it through. He has made me strong.
I think for too long I’ve thought that God’s strength at work in me was actually me. So when I tried to fight through things I struggled, I bruised my knees, I cried, I failed. Ya. It sucks to fail. And it’s hard to admit that I can’t do anything in my own power. Even the air I breathe is dependant on God’s grace.
But when I look back on all the triumph, and all the times I made it through to the other side of whatever I was fighting, I see that the one thing they all had in common was Jesus. When something was hard and I succeeded in pushing through it, I realize that the power came from asking Jesus to help me.
When you’re in the midst of trial it is so hard to rely on God’s strength because everything is hard when you are suffering. It was hard for Jesus to carry that cross to Golgotha.
What I’m learning is that I don’t have to feel, see, or even trust that God is giving me His strength. I know that sounds crazy, but because I love God and because He has a 100% track record with me, I don’t have to get it. I don’t have to understand. It is a fact that is not dependent on my understanding, or even my faith. It just is.
Releasing my feelings, and releasing my worry, and just remembering that God always sees me through is enough. God brings His strength and peace because He promised He would. And that is enough.
So, Lord, help me get passed myself and my feelings and my arguments. Give me the strength that you have promised me and see me through this trial and the next by Your power. I don’t have to understand. I don’t have to worry. I can trust You. Help me to trust You, Jesus. Help me to trust Your perfect record with me. Give me faith. Help me stay in Your arms no matter what battle rages around me. Help me to know that You are God. I love You, Jesus. Thank You for Your strength.
Yet I will rejoice in the Lord; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. 19 God, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. Habakkuk 3:18-19
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty. 2 I will say to the Lord, “My refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.” Psalm 91:1-2
I’ve discovered something recently. I don’t dwell in the shelter of the Most High enough. I let fear rule me and I make hiding places like two of the three little pigs.
Mostly, I think I do it out of laziness, if I’m being honest. I know how to hide in Jesus, but I get comfortable doing things my way. I want to hide in my work, or a delicious piece of chocolate cake, or a big shopping spree. Instant gratification. Physical reward.
Hiding in Jesus looks like nothing in the physical. It looks foolish. It looks vulnerable. It looks very poorly planned to the outside world. But I was reading in 2 Kings this morning and I got embarrassed.
15 When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” 16 He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” 17 Then Elisha prayed and said, “O Lord, please open his eyes that he may see.” So the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw, and behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha. 2 Kings 6:15-17
I was embarrassed because this is a story you learn in Sunday School. This is the type of story we teach in Vacation Bible School and backyard Bible Club. This is a familiar story to me. Very familiar. And, like Elisha’s servant, I revert to looking only at the physical, instead of seeing and knowing from experience that my God has power in the unseen as well as the seen.
This can sound like I’m beating myself up a bit, but I’m not! I’m rejoicing that the Lord kept me from taking this truth for granted. He reminded me again that He is my shelter and that there are things in the unseen that carry power in the world that we can’t perceive with our eyes. Power for good and power for evil. And I need to make my shelter in the strong fortress of God if I want to be protected!
27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, 29 so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. 30 And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:27-31
See, this isn’t about me. It’s about God.
if we are faithless, he remains faithful— for he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:13
God is faithful when I am not. I’m a fool. I lack wisdom. I see the world instead of looking with the eyes of the Spirit God gave me. But He is faithful. He is happy to show me the angels camped around me with their stony eyed glares and their fiery chariots. That’s our God. That’s my God.
Lord, help me take shelter in You, the unseen fortress of strength and courage that protects me amidst the flying arrows of the enemy. Give me spiritual vision and deeper faith to trust You even when it’s hard. Let Your name be glorified in me, Jesus. Let Your name be my shelter. Amen.
10 Again the Lord spoke to Ahaz: 11 “Ask a sign of the Lord your God; let it be deep as Sheol or high as heaven.” 12 But Ahaz said, “I will not ask, and I will not put the Lord to the test.” 13 And he said, “Hear then, O house of David! Is it too little for you to weary men, that you weary my God also?
Did you catch that? It makes me laugh because I’m so guilty of it. We all are. God tells Ahaz to ask for a sign. Ahaz’s response? “NO! This is some kind of test. You’re too scary. I won’t fall for Your tricks….God.” What the heck?!
God’s frustration with His people is palpable. After a million promises of victory just a few moments before, Ahaz questioned the simple request of God to ask for a sign, a big sign, anything.
We’re so much like Ahaz, aren’t we? We don’t trust God. We think we do. We say we do. We encourage others to. We try and try and try to trust. But we don’t.
What I want to focus on though, is God’s response to Ahaz. Ahaz utterly disobeys and questions God to his face, and God’s response is to shake His head with weariness at humanity’s lack of trust, and then say:
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Isaiah 7:14
Again, do you see what just happened there? Because Ahaz is too scared, and because Ahaz can’t trust, and because Ahaz (as King) is the physical stand in of all of God’s people, God trusts for Ahaz. God obeys for Ahaz. God prophesys the coming Messiah, the Son of Man, Emmanuel: God is With Us, and in doing so, literally spells out to Ahaz that humanity can never stand in for themselves, so He will do even that for them!
I love that. Frustrated and weary by the disobedience of man, God doesn’t raise his hands in frustration and walk away. That’s what we do. Instead, God sighs with weariness, (and I believe sadness that man still can’t seem to trust Him after the millions of times He had already proven Himself trustworthy!) and says to humanity, “Okay, I’ll do it for you.”
When God asks me to trust Him, how often do I question it? How often do I say, “Oh no, I can’t do that!” I’m so thankful that God hasn’t, and won’t abandon me when I struggle. Instead, He patiently helps me to do what I don’t trust Him to do.
That’s where the Power of the Holy Spirit comes in. By God’s Spirit we are empowered to obey and trust God. He gave us that Spirit, that Helper, that Wonderful Counselor, to gently show us and tell us what we can do if we trust Him.
Our sweet partnership with the Lord comes from all the opportunities we are given to listen and to trust what He says to us. Easier said than done, I know. It’s worth it, though. Trust me.
“When you come to appear before me, who has required of you this trampling of my courts? 13 Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and Sabbath and the calling of convocations— I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. 14 Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me; I am weary of bearing them. 15 When you spread out your hands, I will hide my eyes from you; even though you make many prayers, I will not listen; your hands are full of blood. Isaiah 1:12-15
The Lord has been hitting me hard lately regarding my relationship with Him. I fight hard against His love. I don’t want to believe it. I hear others say they don’t want to believe it. Preachers cajole us from the pulpit to understand and accept God’s love for us. And how He loves us!
But something terrible has happened. I think I’ve worked so hard to get myself to believe that God loves me, that I forgotten to revere Him the way I should. It’s just so easy to see Jesus as my buddy if I’m going to accept that He does, in fact, love me no matter what. I know, I know, Jesus IS my buddy, my best friend.
But He’s also my King. He’s King over everything. Just as it is in His power to create me, it is in His power to destroy me. Harsh, I know. But let’s just keep it real for a minute. Think about it. When we fall deep into God’s grace, we can neglect the very heart of why that grace was given in the first place: we didn’t earn it and we can’t earn it.
Bear with me here, because I’m not at all saying that God’s grace is by any means a bad thing. Our response to grace, however, can become a twisted cesspool of unrepentant sin and hidden idolatry. We all know that Paul said that grace wasn’t an excuse to sin, but we do it anyway. Maybe not in obvious ways, but we still do it. God wants all of us. Not just the parts other people see.
I think He especially wants the part of us that no one sees. He wants us to revere Him and follow Him and serve Him because He is God. He is from everlasting to everlasting, Creator of the universe, and Savior of the world. We don’t want to defile that with idol chatter and gossip, or vain pursuits, or harlotry of the heart.
We need to revere God. He made us. He died for us. And He has all sufficient grace for us. He is worthy of our praise and obedience. When we are in His Presence we need to worship Him first. We need to honor Him fully with our hearts, our minds, and our bodies.
“Come now, let us reason[c] together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool. 19 If you are willing and obedient, you shall eat the good of the land; 20 but if you refuse and rebel, you shall be eaten by the sword; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” Isaiah 1: 18-20
God wants us to speak frankly with Him, and God wants to cleanse us, but for rebellion He has no tolerance. Let us be willing and obedient children to the Lord.
Lord, help me to be a better listener to Your instructions. Help me to revere You instead of take you for granted. Make me a channel of blessing because I have learned from You how to be obedient. Make my joy complete by my willing service to You. Let me be your willing and devoted servant because You are God and I am not. In You is all power of judgement. I accept that Your judgement was poured out on the cross of Christ. Help me to respect Your righteous judgement and not take it for granted. Amen.
“For my name’s sake I defer my anger; for the sake of my praise I restrain it for you, that I may not cut you off. 10 Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tried[a] you in the furnace of affliction. 11 For my own sake, for my own sake, I do it, for how should my name[b] be profaned? My glory I will not give to another. Isaiah 48:9-11
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the poor;[a] he has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound;[b] 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn; 3 to grant to those who mourn in Zion— to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit; that they may be called oaks of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that he may be glorified.[c]:: Isaiah 61:1-3
There is good news for those who follow Christ: life, gladness, praise and righteousness. But to so many in the Church, the only Good News that is ever received is salvation and that is where they stay. Now don’t get me wrong. I’m so thankful for the salvation that comes through Christ!
Just don’t stop there!
To stop at salvation is to stop before our healing can be revealed, before our hearts can be liberated, before our mourning can become gladness. All of those things are offered immediately by the Spirit of God through Christ, but if we stop at forgiveness, if we stop at that golden ticket to Heaven, we deny ourselves the fullness of Christ’s salvation.
17 Now the Lord[d] is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,[e] are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another.[f] For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:17-18
We are in the process of being transformed! By God’s power we go from dead acorns to mighty oaks, so that we can proclaim the Good News! How else can we bind up the broken hearted? How else can we praise God in the midst of trial and persecution?
The Spirit is with us, but it is not an instantaneous transformation. It is learned and honed through practice and experience. Why else would we still suffer trials of many kinds? A mighty oak doesn’t grow up in a day! It takes years and years to be made strong.
As we grow, nurtured and refined by the furnace of affliction, we testify to the power of God within us. Our constant growth and transformation make us perfect ambassadors of God’s power and glory. Only then is God glorified.
The justice of God becomes Good News for all who know Christ. It is the Good News of recompense for the wicked and the freedom from those consequences that we have received through Jesus. Jesus paid the price for our wickedness as the wrath of God was poured out on Him for our sake. Justice became Good News.
Proclaim the year of God’s favor! It is time to have our broken hearts bound up. It is time to praise God with singing and laughter, instead of mourning our broken condition. We who were dead are no alive!
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins 2 in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— 3 among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body[a] and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.[b] 4 But[c] God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6 and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, 7 so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. 8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9 not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Is this the news of Heaven alone, after years of suffering and torment in an evil world? Or is the news of freedom from sin, freedom from death, freedom from the temporal and perishable in order to walk in life and celebration!?
Will suffering still happen? Yes. Will sorrow afflict us? Yes. Will death mock us? Yes. Will we be broken and tormented and depressed at times? Yes. But we do not need to lose heart in these things. In fact we can rejoice in these momentary afflictions! The rejoicing sheds light on what Jesus has made us: the oak of righteousness that is our body. And that is so God may be glorified through us.
16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self[d] is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18
The unseen can be seen through us! God’s glory will shine through His people to bring Good News to the poor! Oh, mighty Oaks of Righteousness, glorify the Risen Lord that all may know His rich love and mercy!
I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. 11 For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. Isaiah 61:10-11
It seems that I’ve had a running theme in my blogs lately about how much things “suck”. Pain, brokenness, being wrong. All of it sucks. But there is a lesson in it, right? And the lesson is faith. The pain we endure brings a harvest of faith. Faith is born from things that suck. I have to chuckle at that even as I write it.
God builds our faith as we endure trials.
2 And the word of the Lord came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.” 5 So he went and did according to the word of the Lord. He went and lived by the brook Cherith that is east of the Jordan. 6 And the ravens brought him bread and meat in the morning, and bread and meat in the evening, and he drank from the brook. 1 Kings 17:2-6
I have been contemplating Elijah again. After he prophesied the drought, God sent him to a specific creek where he would have water to drink and crows would bring him food. Elijah obeys. Wow. God told him birds would bring him food and Elijah didn’t laugh, he said, “okay.” That’s serious faith.
7 And after a while the brook dried up, because there was no rain in the land. 1 Kings 17:7
The creek dries up. Because there’s a drought. And droughts mean no water. How easy it would have been for Elijah to raise up his hands in frustration and not faith and question why God would bring him to such a bitter end. But that’s not what happens. Elijah has faith that God will continue His faithfulness to His servant, and the word of the Lord does indeed speak to him.
8 Then the word of the Lord came to him, 9 “Arise, go to Zarephath, which belongs to Sidon, and dwell there. Behold, I have commanded a widow there to feed you.” 10 So he arose and went to Zarephath. And when he came to the gate of the city, behold, a widow was there gathering sticks. And he called to her and said, “Bring me a little water in a vessel, that I may drink.” 11 And as she was going to bring it, he called to her and said, “Bring me a morsel of bread in your hand.” 12 And she said, “As the Lord your God lives, I have nothing baked, only a handful of flour in a jar and a little oil in a jug. And now I am gathering a couple of sticks that I may go in and prepare it for myself and my son, that we may eat it and die.” 1 Kings 17:8-12
So Elijah ends up in a town asking for an impoverished widow to take care of him. Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around? Aren’t God’s people supposed to take care of widows and orphans, and not have them take care of us? But Elijah obeys. Elijah doesn’t question it, he just obeys the word of the Lord.
Sure enough, the widow obeys Elijah and by proxy obeys the Lord, she brings Elijah water and makes one last cake with the handful of flour and oil she had left. Bread and water. I can’t help but see Jesus here. Jesus is the bread of life and the living water. This obedience to the Lord’s request brings Elijah and the widow both a picture of Jesus as salvation. The bread and water would keep them alive. God would bring them salvation, and keep the flour and oil from running out. God brings salvation to the widow and Elijah.
13 And Elijah said to her, “Do not fear; go and do as you have said. But first make me a little cake of it and bring it to me, and afterward make something for yourself and your son. 14 For thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘The jar of flour shall not be spent, and the jug of oil shall not be empty, until the day that the Lord sends rain upon the earth.’” 15 And she went and did as Elijah said. And she and he and her household ate for many days. 16 The jar of flour was not spent, neither did the jug of oil become empty, according to the word of the Lord that he spoke by Elijah. 17 After this the son of the woman, the mistress of the house, became ill. And his illness was so severe that there was no breath left in him. 18 And she said to Elijah, “What have you against me, O man of God? You have come to me to bring my sin to remembrance and to cause the death of my son!” 1 Kings 17:13-18
The widow’s son dies. Ya. And the widow’s son, by her cultural perspective of the time, was her only chance at life with someone to take care of her. Without her husband, all she had was the hope in her son to provide for her. And he dies.
This would have been a really good time to give up. And the widow does! She’s devastated. But Elijah decides not to give up.
19 And he said to her, “Give me your son.” And he took him from her arms and carried him up into the upper chamber where he lodged, and laid him on his own bed. 20 And he cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, have you brought calamity even upon the widow with whom I sojourn, by killing her son?” 21 Then he stretched himself upon the child three times and cried to the Lord, “O Lord my God, let this child’s life come into him again.” 22 And the Lord listened to the voice of Elijah. And the life of the child came into him again, and he revived. 1 Kings 17:19-22
He takes the boy upstairs, out of view of the widow, to have a private pleading moment with God. He begs the Lord to bring life back to the boy. And God listens! The boy’s life is restored.
This miraculous moment of resurrection further reveals the promise of Jesus. The son, the widow’s only means of salvation and life, is resurrected by God to show her that He will provide for her salvation.
23 And Elijah took the child and brought him down from the upper chamber into the house and delivered him to his mother. And Elijah said, “See, your son lives.” 24 And the woman said to Elijah, “Now I know that you are a man of God, and that the word of the Lord in your mouth is truth.” 1 Kings 17:23-24
The widow’s faith is built up. She sees the power of God revealed in a tangible way, not just in the life returned to her son, but in the life that God provided for her, first with bread and oil, and then with the life of her son.
Elijah’s faith brought faith to the widow. Faith brings faith.
As we suffer and overcome, our faith expands and through that expansion, the people we are in contact with have their own faith built up. It may be the faith to finally trust in God, or perhaps it’s just the faith to endure, but as our faith is strengthened it has the power to multiply the faith in others.
Lord, help me trust You that my faith may be built up by the trials I endure in this life. Let my faith be a testimony. Build up my faith so others may be built up in faith. Let my faith produce more faith, that Your Glory may be revealed.
14 And the Lord raised up an adversary against Solomon, Hadad the Edomite. He was of the royal house in Edom…19 And Hadad found great favor in the sight of Pharaoh, so that he gave him in marriage the sister of his own wife, the sister of Tahpenes the queen. 1 Kings 11:14,19
It makes me so mad when evil people win. It doesn’t seem fair. Rapists go free. Cheaters make millions. The arrogant thrive. The strong lord over the weak.
Why do good people suffer and bad people get blessed?
I work so hard trying to do the right things in life. I try to follow God’s statutes. I read the Word. I pray and fast and meditate on the greatness of the Lord. I help the poor. I weep with the broken. What else do I have to do?
I look around and everywhere I turn good people are suffering. They get cancer and die. They lose their jobs. They go hungry. They get killed in car wrecks. And Jesus got betrayed by one of his closest friends, and then got murdered.
Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. John 15:20
Ok, so Jesus answers the question of why bad things happen to good people. The Enemy hates us, just like he hates Jesus. He’s running around doing his best to hurt God’s children. And so bad things happen to good people. But God will be in it. God will always work it for good for those who love him and follow him.
And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28
I think every Christian calls on that verse when bad things happen to them. We hope and we pray and we trust that God will use this horrible incident for our good.
But that still doesn’t answer the flip side of the issue. What about the bad people? What about the evil who thrive and succeed? It doesn’t seem fair.
When I look at Solomon, I see a son of David, a man who asked for wisdom and recieved great blessing from the Lord. And I see Solomon fall away from the Lord because of his overconfidence, because of his disobedience. And yet it was Solomon who was credited with saying:
Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand. Proverbs 19:20-21
No matter what our plans are, it is God’s purposes that will stand. And that seems to be the answer to why good things happen to bad people. God’s purposes will stand.
God raised up Hadad the Edomite. God raised him up. God blessed him. God. He did it to discipline Solomon. God raised up adversaries against Solomon as discipline, while still preserving a remnant of David’s line out of love for David.
God’s purposes will prevail.
God took a bad situation (Solomon’s disobedience) and used it to show His faithfulness. God remained faithful to David, who had shown such devotion to Him even through his sinfulness. The kings that followed Solomon grew worse and worse and worse. Their hearts strayed far from God. Yet God used it all to show His faithfulness.
The kings of Israel were a messy bunch. But God uses messy things to show His love and faithfulness. How else can the Light of the World shine in the darkness, except by the mercy and power of a faithful God who blesses the just and the unjust for His purposes to be revealed?
Jesus, help me to see Your divine purpose in all things. When it hurts and I’m frustrated and struggling with pain and defeat, remind me of Your victory. Show me Your faithfulness. Shine Your light through me in this dark world that Your purposes may be revealed in the darkness. Help me love those who I don’t think deserve it because You loved them enough to die for them. Use me as a tool of blessing and service to Your purposes, Lord. Even if it hurts.
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:43-48