Friday, April 28, 2017

The Sacrifice of Self-Control

Friday, April 28, 2017
So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control.  Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world.  So you must live as God’s obedient children.  Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires.  You didn’t know any better then.  But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy.  For the Scriptures say, “You must be holy because I am holy.”    1 Peter 1:13-16(NLT)
The apostle Peter is a most ironic choice by God to be a teacher of self-control.  If you consider his track record, every time Peter opened his mouth he seemed to wander off the reservation and insert his foot: 
·       Peter said he would die for Jesus; in the end he denied he even knew him.
·       Peter’s immediate response when the soldiers came for Jesus in Gethsemane was to whip out a sword to fight for the one who had said turn the other cheek.
·       Peter promised a lot; he even proclaimed a correct answer to Jesus’ question that he was Messiah, but when crunch time came he wimped like the rest of us.
So much for self-control!
Yet, on Pentecost Day we find Peter preaching to at least 5,000 at the Temple, and becoming the little rock Jesus nick-named him.  Peter was to be the de-facto leader of the early church; a man with little self-control became one of the most dramatic examples of putting all in the hands of God.  Tradition has it that he was crucified as Jesus was, but thought it was improper to take the same position as his Lord, and asked to be placed on his cross upside-down.
Two quotations I’ve come to love may offer some of the best advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to being disciplined, or having self-control, and how to go about it:
Maxie Dunnam:  Spiritual formation is that dynamic process of receiving through faith and appropriating through commitment, discipline, and action.[ii]
Faith happens between the ears and heart; appropriating what faith tells you to do is a matter of putting it into action in your life.  It may start small, but ends up big as commitment, discipline and action.
Charles Reade:  Sow an act and you reap a habit.  Sow a habit and you reap a character.  Sow a character and you reap a destiny.[iii]
Peter’s disciplined friend Paul simply said that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:7).  The “acts” Charles Reade held up are those areas of self-discipline you want to cultivate.  It begins with an intentional step, based on the faith conviction that you must live a certain way.  That sown seed of faith becomes a habit, which eventually becomes your character, where you don’t think about it anymore, you simply continue.  That character is your destiny or legacy.

For You Today

If there is a problem with self-discipline in your life, turn it upside down and crucify whatever is preventing you from giving glory to God.  Your character and legacy depend on what you will do with your first step today.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

 I Title image: Masaccio [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] Maxie Dunnam quoted on Great Thoughts Treasury
[iii] Charles Reade quoted on Brainy Quotes

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Better Than Baby Toes

Thursday, April 27, 2017
You love him even though you have never seen him.  Though you do not see him now, you trust him; and you rejoice with a glorious, inexpressible joy.  The reward for trusting him will be the salvation of your souls.  1 Peter 1:8-9(NLT)
Peter wrote to Christians scattered throughout the world, many of whom he’d never seen, and yet he had confidence in their faith, and understood their joyful stand for Christ in the face of extreme hardship and persecution.  When he exulted in their love for Christ even though he knew they had never seen Jesus in the flesh, it was because he was remembering the words of Jesus to Thomas shortly after the resurrection:
Then Jesus told him, “You believe because you have seen me.  Blessed are those who believe without seeing me.”  John 20:29(NLT)
How is it possible to love someone you’ve never seen?  How is it you can trust someone with your eternal soul without a single personally-witnessed event displaying that person’s trustworthiness?  How can you have overflowing joy when all you’ve got to show for loving and trusting is hardship?
The answers to those questions are simple, but not simplistic; it is expressed in the lines of the simplest song we teach our children about faith:
Jesus loves me, this I know…
Jesus can be known even without seeing him face to face.  Untold millions have experienced the inexpressible joy of loving and trusting him throughout the last two millennia, and it is entirely by faith.
This is possible is by the spiritual eyes faith gives us to love, even before we’ve seen.  I look at my little great-granddaughter Sophia’s toes and an inexpressible joy makes me want to sing; it is a reaction to the worth of that little life we anticipate for the future;  we see (by faith) the possibilities, sorrows and joys her life may hold.
In the same way when a person begins to love God by trusting Christ for salvation, God’s Spirit opens our eyes of faith to see the incredible future of a saved soul.  And that speaks the eternal language of joy to our souls.  It is a language that is simple, basic, and makes the clearest possible sense…and yet, is unintelligible to anyone who resists the love of God in Christ. 
That’s why Peter called this loving, trusting joy inexpressible.  There is no way to explain it to someone who has not experienced it, and totally unnecessary to explain it to those who have.  It’s like tasting Häagen-Dazs® Rum Raisin ice cream for the first time; there’s just no way to tell anyone else just how you know will need to have more – it’s just so!

For You Today

The love of Jesus is sweeter than any ice cream or watermelon on a hot summer’s day.  Loving and trusting him with all you are, and will be, is better than baby toes, richer than a stuffed bank account, and more satisfying than any praise the world offers; He brings inexpressible joy to the core of your soul!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

 I Title image: By Chelsea Tate

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Why, Jonah - Part 2

Wednesday, April 26, 2017
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from inside the fish.  He said, “I cried out to the Lord in my great trouble, and he answered me.  I called to you from the land of the dead, and Lord, you heard me!  You threw me into the ocean depths, and I sank down to the heart of the sea.  The mighty waters engulfed me; I was buried beneath your wild and stormy waves.  Then I said, ‘O Lord, you have driven me from your presence.  Yet I will look once more toward your holy Temple.’  “I sank beneath the waves, and the waters closed over me.  Seaweed wrapped itself around my head.  I sank down to the very roots of the mountains.  I was imprisoned in the earth, whose gates lock shut forever.  But you, O Lord my God, snatched me from the jaws of death!  As my life was slipping away, I remembered the Lord.  And my earnest prayer went out to you in your holy Temple.  Those who worship false gods turn their backs on all God’s mercies.  But I will offer sacrifices to you with songs of praise, and I will fulfill all my vows.  For my salvation comes from the Lord alone.”  Then the Lord ordered the fish to spit Jonah out onto the beach.  Jonah 2:1-10(NLT)
It only took me a minute and twelve seconds to read those verses, but the drama of Jonah’s prayer took three days to accomplish.  In retrospect, it probably took Jonah’s whole lifetime for God to hear that prayer. 
Jonah had decided on running away and refusing to obey God’s leading towards the Nineveh project; all it got him was a smelly, dark seat next to fish innards with seaweed wrapped around his noggin.  But this became a near-death experience for Jonah that awakened him to just how much like the Ninevites he’d become.   Jonah thought of the people of Nineveh as “pagans” but he was the one turning his back on God’s mercies and worshipping the false God of his own choosing.  It was now time to “pay all his vows” with sacrifices of praise and proclamation of salvation that comes only from Yahweh!
As a devout Jew, Jonah hated even the sound of Nineveh.  That was the place of godless pagans who hated Israel, and Jonah wanted nothing to do with his enemies.  And therein is a very poignant message for all prophets of the 21st century:  signing-up with the platform of one political party or another might get you a ride in God’s fish taxi to put you back on the right platform!  The people of God are no different today than God’s people in any age.  We are not called to be Republicans, Democrats, Tea-Party, Green Party, or anything other than God-party.

For You Today

The next time you get a piece of political mail, or a phone call asking you to do, choose, or buy something, or any kind of request that comes across your path, do what it took Jonah too long to do…look towards God’s holy temple; don’t run it past the checklist of political correctness or political activism, run it past the throne.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

 I Title image: By Gustave Dore’, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Why, Jonah?

Tuesday, April 25, 2017
The Lord gave this message to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Get up and go to the great city of Nineveh.  Announce my judgment against it because I have seen how wicked its people are.”  But Jonah got up and went in the opposite direction to get away from the Lord.  He went down to the port of Joppa, where he found a ship leaving for Tarshish.  He bought a ticket and went on board, hoping to escape from the Lord by sailing to Tarshish.  But the Lord hurled a powerful wind over the sea, causing a violent storm that threatened to break the ship apart.  Fearing for their lives, the desperate sailors shouted to their gods for help and threw the cargo overboard to lighten the ship.  But all this time Jonah was sound asleep down in the hold.  So the captain went down after him.  “How can you sleep at a time like this?” he shouted.  “Get up and pray to your god!  Maybe he will pay attention to us and spare our lives.”  Then the crew cast lots to see which of them had offended the gods and caused the terrible storm.  When they did this, the lots identified Jonah as the culprit.  “Why has this awful storm come down on us?” they demanded.  “Who are you?  What is your line of work?  What country are you from?  What is your nationality?”  Jonah answered, “I am a Hebrew, and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the land.”  The sailors were terrified when they heard this, for he had already told them he was running away from the Lord.  “Oh, why did you do it?” they groaned.  And since the storm was getting worse all the time, they asked him, “What should we do to you to stop this storm?”  “Throw me into the sea,” Jonah said, “and it will become calm again.  I know that this terrible storm is all my fault.”  Instead, the sailors rowed even harder to get the ship to the land.  But the stormy sea was too violent for them, and they couldn’t make it.  Then they cried out to the Lord, Jonah’s God.  “O Lord,” they pleaded, “don’t make us die for this man’s sin.  And don’t hold us responsible for his death.  O Lord, you have sent this storm upon him for your own good reasons.”  Then the sailors picked Jonah up and threw him into the raging sea, and the storm stopped at once!  The sailors were awestruck by the Lord’s great power, and they offered him a sacrifice and vowed to serve him.  Now the Lord had arranged for a great fish to swallow Jonah.  And Jonah was inside the fish for three days and three nights.  Jonah 1:1-17(NLT)
If the saying misery loves company is true, it is even more provable that misery DRAWS company!  And the kind of misery we mean is when you disobey God.
Jonah made the people of Nineveh miserable, delaying the God-planned revival for their city.  Who knows how many people in a city of 600,000 died while the disobedient prophet tried to go on vacation to Tarshish?
Jonah made the sailors lives miserable by causing the great storm, but ultimately what was worse was they had to live with throwing him to (what they thought was) his death.
Jonah made himself so miserable he wound up under a shade tree whining like a two-year old who can’t find his binky.
Jonah made the fish miserable with a three-day upset stomach.
Jonah made God miserable to see all the misery Jonah set in motion wherever he went like falling dominoes.
As the sailors found out why the storm had come, and moaned, why, Jonah, why…, I’m certain God has asked Russell that question more than a few times.  The short-answer would have to be that we are afraid sometimes.
A good lesson might be to take note of the waves of misery we cause all over earth and heaven with our fear of obeying God.

For You Today

You’ll have a choice when you step out your front door today…Tarshish or Nineveh!
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

 I Title image: By Gustave Dore’, via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, April 24, 2017

God Speaking Clearly

Monday, April 24, 2017
Then Gideon said to God, “If you are truly going to use me to rescue Israel as you promised, prove it to me in this way.  I will put a wool fleece on the threshing floor tonight.  If the fleece is wet with dew in the morning but the ground is dry, then I will know that you are going to help me rescue Israel as you promised.”  And that is just what happened.  When Gideon got up early the next morning, he squeezed the fleece and wrung out a whole bowlful of water.  Then Gideon said to God, “Please don’t be angry with me, but let me make one more request.  Let me use the fleece for one more test.  This time let the fleece remain dry while the ground around it is wet with dew.”  So that night God did as Gideon asked.  The fleece was dry in the morning, but the ground was covered with dew.  Judges 6:36-40(NLT)
But tell me this—since we preach that Christ rose from the dead, why are some of you saying there will be no resurrection of the dead?  For if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, then all our preaching is useless, and your faith is useless.  And we apostles would all be lying about God—for we have said that God raised Christ from the grave.  But that can’t be true if there is no resurrection of the dead.  And if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ has not been raised.  And if Christ has not been raised, then your faith is useless and you are still guilty of your sins.  In that case, all who have died believing in Christ are lost!  And if our hope in Christ is only for this life, we are more to be pitied than anyone in the world.  But in fact, Christ has been raised from the dead.  He is the first of a great harvest of all who have died.  
1 Corinthians 15:12-19(NLT)
Have you ever wanted to play Gideon; just ask God to do something miraculous; you know, ground dry-fleece wet, ground wet- fleece dry? 
Don’t feel too sheepish, I don’t like to admit it either.  Whenever I have either asked, or even thought about asking, the result has always been a resounding silence from heaven.  Later I would realize that the need to ask for a sign is usually my own insecurity about stepping-out in faith.  Yeah – I’m a lot like Gideon; cautious to a fault!  I want to make sure before I trust God, so, in the middle of this thing called walking by faith, I want Him to make it plain so I can see it, touch it, and wring out a bowl of water from my little fleece.
Let me offer a possible reason why God rarely does that kind of thing: 

When God has already spoken clearly, He doesn’t need to repeat it; we just need to take Him at His word and live into it! 

And the most important news God has ever shared with human beings is already spoken in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
In the Gospel accounts Jesus often had to deal with the religious leaders who were either demanding a miracle to prove he was the Messiah, or those Sadducees who rolled their eyes at the mention of life after death.  On that first Easter morning Jesus answered both of those questions with one empty tomb.
That is how God spoke so clearly as to put a period at the end of all sentences.  That conversation is now closed forever; Jesus was, and is, the Messiah, and the life He shares with us will never end!
Clear enough?

For You Today

It’s really ok to ask God some questions as long as you’re continuing to walk, and as long as you’re also willing to trust that, if you don’t hear an answer, it was one of those questions He’s already got covered.
You chew on that as you hit the Rocky Road…have a blessed day!

 I Title image: By GFreihalter, via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Be Strong In the Lord

A final word: Be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power.  Ephesians 6:10(NLT)
aul was very encouraging with his words to the church at Thessalonica.  However, most of us have to admit that following Christ in really hard circumstances leaves a temptation to question what God is up to. 
Sometimes it seems like life just can’t get any tougher.  I’m certain Ted Brooks felt that way.  Have you seen the movie Snow Dogs?  The movie tells the story of a dentist named Ted Brooks who discovers he has inherited a rustic cabin and a dogsled team in Alaska.  His efforts to master the new sport meet with bumps, bruises, and bears.
One particular outing proves especially challenging.  When the dogs suddenly go into high gear, Brooks is thrown into the deep Alaskan snow.  He struggles to his feet, grumbling and dusting the snow off.  Suddenly a large shadow covers his, and he realizes he's not alone.  A large grizzly bear is only a few feet away.  When the bear roars, displaying a full set of sharp teeth, Brooks begins to run down the mountainside.
Just as it appears the bear is going to win the race, Brooks falls off a cliff and lands on a precipice.  As he shouts victoriously, I'm alive! I'm alive! the precipice gives way, dropping Brooks to a steep slope, where he rockets down the mountain like a bobsled, narrowly missing tree after tree.  He screams all the way down, until he finally comes to a halt.
He smiles, but his smile quickly fades when he realizes he is lying on a thin layer of ice covering a lake.  As the ice begins to crack beneath him, he lunges forward, leaving a trail of ice water in his wake, and finally makes it to what appears to be a solid piece of floating ice.  The ice supports him only momentarily and Brooks begins to sink.
The poor dentist reaches for his cell phone and dials 911, and hears a recorded message:  You’re outside of your coverage area.  Should you like to expand your service plan, please call back during our business hours.[ii]
Sometimes we start believing that a momentary realization that we are indeed alive is only a sadistic pause until the next car breakdown, pipe breaking, kid-sickness, roof leaking, job layoff or unexpected bill in the afternoon mail.
The church at Thessalonica was full of people just like that.  Paul writes his encouragement to people whose faith has taken a beating; people whose lives seem to be on hold.  Paul writes to faithful saints hanging-in-there, even though they’re beginning to feel like Ted Brooks, the dentist; they’re so oppressed by poverty and persecution from the Roman government that they’re beginning to think if something doesn’t happen soon, the rope to which they’re clinging is going to become the noose of life’s hardships waiting to take them out!
What could Paul, or God, say to such people? 
The message in Paul’s second letter to this small band of believers (and to Christians throughout the last two millennia) is: 
Be Strong in the Lord, who is your strength and your Anchor.  That strength is being transferred to you, not only in spite of your trials and persecutions, but by those trials and persecutions. 
Paul says, Hold on – have patience for the long haul; Jesus isn’t about to let you go now!  And here are three reasons you don’t have to be Superman to have the strength you need in this life:

1.  He is Strengthening Your Walk

Dear brothers and sisters, we can’t help but thank God for you, because your faith is flourishing and your love for one another is growing.  We proudly tell God’s other churches about your endurance and faithfulness in all the persecutions and hardships you are suffering.  And God will use this persecution to show his justice and to make you worthy of his Kingdom, for which you are suffering.     2 Thessalonians 1:3-5(NLT)

Paul mentioned faith, fellowship and faithfulness, three areas of growth that believers were experiencing as a sign that God was strengthening their walk in Christ. 
·       Faith is entrusting your care to God;
·       fellowship is that sense of love and bond that believers have with each other;
·       faithfulness is what is produced when faith and fellowship meet – a strength that stands-up in any circumstances.
The apostle could boast about what was happening at Thessalonica because he knew of the persecutions and trials they faced; he knew about the faithfulness with which they responded.  The people at Thessalonica knew instinctively to run to the Lord for rest and protection. 
E. M. Bounds was a pastor who wrote a lot about prayer and trusting in Christ.  He wrote:  Early one morning
…I heard the barking of a number of dogs chasing a deer.  Looking at a large open field in front of me, I saw a young fawn making its way across the field and giving signs that its race was almost run.  It leaped over the rails of the enclosed place and crouched within ten feet of where I stood.  A moment later two of the hounds came over, and the fawn ran in my direction and pushed its head between my legs.  I lifted the little thing to my breast, and, swinging round and round, fought off the dogs.  Just then I felt that all the dogs in the West could not and would not capture that fawn after its weakness had appealed to my strength.  So is it when human helplessness appeals to Almighty God.  I remember well when the hounds of sin were after my soul that at last I ran into the arms of Almighty God.[1]
Christians in the early church must have felt that way facing lions and gladiators in the Coliseum.  There was nowhere to run but to trust in the Lord’s protection.  God used that kind of persecution to bring about the greatest growth of faith in the history of the church.
Wide roads are easy to travel; the narrow pathway requires effort and attentiveness.  When pressure comes in your life, what do you allow that trial to produce?  Do you run to the Lord?  Do you allow Him to strengthen your walk?
Life is like a fast-moving river, and in the Christian life we are called to swim upstream.  Indulging is floating along downstream; denying oneself and picking up a cross to daily swim upstream is hard. 
Parties are easy; Gethsemane is a war! 
At times we make little progress.  Sometimes it seems like we are forced to tread water, but Christ wants to strengthen our walk with Him, and that doesn’t come cheaply. 
Friends, don’t be misled by the current fad of prosperity thinking that seeks the richer, easier path – that kind of thinking is like a mirage.  The truth is that life is hard, but you have a Savior Who is strengthening your walk for your salvation and His glory.

2. He is Balancing Your Belief

In his justice he will pay back those who persecute you.  And God will provide rest for you who are being persecuted and also for us when the Lord Jesus appears from heaven.  He will come with his mighty angels, in flaming fire, bringing judgment on those who don’t know God and on those who refuse to obey the Good News of our Lord Jesus.
2 Thessalonians 1:6-8(NLT)
Just when we begin to get resigned to trials and persecutions as a necessary evil in our lives, meaning we just have to grin and bear it, Paul puts a new light on it with his explanation.  Paul says:  God is just.  Justness has to do with setting everything right.  The word just has lots of meanings, but here fair is the appropriate meaning; God is fair.
That fairness is seen in the fact that everyone, both friends and enemies of God have to navigate the waters of life under the same set of rules and conditions.  The rain falls on the just and the unjust says Matthew the Tax Collector (he should know!)[2].  There are no unfair advantages. 
This is how God is seen to be immutably just, or fair:  He judges or condemns only sin…but He condemns every sin
The problem (from a human standpoint) is that we are all sinners[3].  There are some who would dispute that, but not with any hope of winning the debate. 
·       Who among us has not told even a little lie; ever? 
·       Who has never – even once – taken something which didn’t belong to him? 
·       Name the person who has never been angry unjustly, or jealous, or spiteful, dishonest or lazy! 
God condemns all sin, and, like robbing banks it only takes one to be in the category.  One sin, even a little one makes you separated from God as Adam was after one little bite of forbidden fruit.
Now, that’s it – end of story, as far as justice is concerned.  God will balance the scales in the end, and He will do it because He is a just and fair God; you can count on everything He has ever said.  Every sin ever committed has but one penalty – death, eternal separation from God!
For the wages of sin is death…, Romans 6:23a(NIV)
Friends, make no mistake here – it is not only physical death, it is eternal, spiritual death – a living death where you cannot get away from it forever!  That IS a punishment! 
Listen once again to the words from our Thessalonian letter:
They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power
I have known some pagans who treated the idea of eternal punishment with contempt – as if it could never affect them.  A few have even told me, Hell won’t be so bad – all my friends will be there…and, preacher, WE know how to party!  
My friend, it will not be a party! 
Despite what some liberal thinkers have said and written about eternal punishment for those who reject Jesus Christ being only a separation from God (which is what they prefer by the way they exhibit a lack of respect and worship of God), please understand that God’s Word doesn’t pull any punches – separation from God and being locked out of heaven is only the beginning! 
Listen to God’s own description of hell and the unbeliever’s eternal state:
…he, too, will drink of the wine of God’s fury, which has been poured full strength into the cup of his wrath. He will be tormented with burning sulfur in the presence of the holy angels and of the Lamb.  And the smoke of their torment rises for ever and ever.  There is no rest day or night for those who worship the beast and his image, or for anyone who receives the mark of his name.”   Revelation 14:10-11(NIV)
Friends, this short life we live is, for the believer, sometimes filled with trials and persecution.  But the Great Balancer is sorting things out. 
You can have your sin judged now by reaching-out to God in Jesus Christ in faith.  Your sins will be forgiven because of the shed blood of Jesus on the cross – or you can have them judged on your own merits later at the judgment seat at the Great White Throne of God.  If you would like to have your sins forgiven, run to Christ; repent of your sins and be forgiven. 
The cross made it possible, but God won’t force it on you.  Only those who trust in Christ will be saved.  Trusting means you give yourself to Him, totally, for eternity, having burned all your bridges of self-trust, self-goodness and religion behind you. 
Only Jesus saves – nothing you can do will!

3.  He is Honoring Your Service

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call.  May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do.  Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him.  This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ.  2 Thessalonians 1:11-12(NLT)
For those who have trusted in Christ, He calls you to serve Him, and counts you worthy or fit to do it!  You see, serving God isn’t for the Super-Christian; serving God is for every Christian
Being worthy is not only a possibility, it is within the reach of every believer.  In fact, God expects you to be worthy.  He also knows that you can’t be worthy in and of yourself – that’s why He has put His own Spirit in your life and heart, to teach and help you with being worthy. 
It’s like going to a class in school for the first day.  The teacher looks at you and says, Relax, there are no tests in this course, and you all have an ‘A’ for a final grade.  Well, if that didn’t get your attention, what would? 
God is like that.  He has called you to be His, given you an A for the course of salvation.  Now, what are you going to do with that situation? 
What God is looking for here is not success or competence, but simply faithfulness.  God measures our worth by our love for Him.  So many fear serving God because they imagine they will not measure-up to God’s standard.  Now, the fact is, they’re right.  No one can measure up to the standard of God’s omnipotence or omniscience…He is God, we are simply humans.  That’s why God doesn’t set the standard based on His level; he sets it on our love. 
Beloved, the way to fail God isn’t to be found in goofing-up, it is in failing to love Him by refusing to serve Him.  God is never measuring your talents – He can give you whatever skill and supernatural gifts you need to do whatever He wants done.  He’s not looking at how skilled you are…He wants to love you and be loved in return; our service is a matter of response to being loved with the greatest love ever.
When God calls a person to love Him and serve Him, the Lord also empowers that person for effective service.  As it says in our text, He wants us to fulfill every good purpose…. 
Essentially that means God wants to see the identifying marks of Christ-likeness growing in you.  He wants to bless you by coordinating all the events of your life in such a divine, magnificent way as to shape and mold you into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ.
That is the blessing for you, and it will make you a blessing in His name to others.  This is how Jesus Christ is glorified in and by your life. 
But, it will not happen if you throw up road blocks.  Just as Jesus surrendered Himself in Gethsemane to the Father’s will – all His power, prestige and position as the only begotten Son of God, to become the scapegoat for our sins – the Lamb slain for sinners (you and me); just as He who knew no sin became sin for us,[4] that is the way God desires for us to come to Him, fully trusting, holding back nothing.

         Imagine life is hard, and you’re following Jesus:

·       Layoffs are happening again at the plant.  They have given out enough pink slips to wallpaper the men’s lounge.  You already have enough on the credit cards to finance a third-world country’s government, and they have already let several people go with more seniority than you.
·       You are walking into your math final test and you have not studied – anyway you didn’t understand those equations when you were awake in class.
·       Your plumber is looking at your heating system and shaking his head.
·       Wartime – You are a mother or father with a son or daughter in harm’s way, half-way around the world.  You haven’t heard from him in a month.
·       You are a parent and your child is sick, very sick.  You sit by the hospital bed waiting for the doctor to come again.  The tests yesterday were not good news, and you wait.
·       The look in your wife’s eye was different this time when she told you it is getting harder and harder to try to work this marriage out…
Select any of those situations – some may have already happened to you.  Are you at rest in these?  Or is your boat rocking hard?
What in the world is next…what else can go wrong?
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him.  Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat.  But Jesus was sleeping.  The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us!  We’re going to drown!”  He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?”  Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.  The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”   Matthew 8:23-27[NIV]
When the boat is rocking, the barn is burning…when the hounds have chased you to the point where it looks like your number is up…just remember that Jesus is
·       strengthening your walk,
·         balancing your belief,
·  and honoring your service
Your part is to let Him do His part so you can be strong in the Lord!

[1] A. C. Dixon, quoted in On Prayer by E. M. Bounds, (Whitaker House, p. 107), David Slagle,
[2] Matthew 5:45
[3] Romans 3:23
[4] 2 Corinthians 5:21

[i] Title image: Gerbil [GFDL (, via Wikimedia Commons
[ii] David Slagle,, Snow Dogs (Walt Disney, 2001)