Saturday, November 25, 2017

November 26, 2017

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." James 1:2-4

I don't have to think very long to identify reasons to be thankful. I can't even list all of them.

This week-end after Thanksgiving I am thankful that one of my bad days is still more blessed than many peoples' good days.

What a faith! What a God! What a way to live!

How can I say that? Because it is fact! James verifies it in the first few verses of his letter to the believers.

If you were writing a letter to bless and encourage struggling Christians how would you begin that letter? I am not sure I would begin it by reminding them of their sufferings but James did. And it makes sense when we think about it.

These are some of the very first believers. This Christian faith is a brand new phenomenon. They have seen the signs and wonders. They have experienced the freedom and the fellowship. All the wonderful benefits that have come from receiving Christ and joining these Christians almost seemed too good to be true. How long can this last? What am I missing here?

Now they are facing the pressures of persecution. Some of their beloved leaders have been jailed. It is risky to identify yourself as a Christ follower. Public worship is becoming a thing of the past. The heat is being turned up on every hand. BUT through these trials and tribulations they have discovered something very significant - THEIR FAITH WORKS! Everything is true! God is real! Suffering as a Christian is better than prospering as a pagan! What would have destroyed them before they believed now develops them!

What sort of faith is this! What an incredible God! What a blessing to have a faith that works! What a joy to know the truth - because the truth is in the Truth. Pain now has a purpose! Suffering now has significance! Heartache now helps me understand the heart of God!

Can I count it joy when I suffer? What sort of notion is that? Is that healthy? Is it a delusion?

No! It is the blessing we have as Christ-followers! It is real! It is His reality! "All things really DO work together for the good of those who love Him....."!

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving, I thank God that because He is so good and so strong and so holy that living for Him and with Him makes my worst day make sense!

How about you?

November 25, 2017

"Bring us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For yours is the Kingdom, the power, and the glory forever. Amen. ’" Matthew 6:13

It's been a long time since I first fell in love with the Word of God! That love continues to deepen the more I study it!

This part of the Lord's Prayer, as with the rest of it, is powerful at every level! The deeper you dig the more powerful it becomes!

Obviously, the key word in this verse is "temptation" and the Greek word used appears six times in the Bible. Each New Testament appearance renders it "test" or "trial". But there is an Old Testament iteration in the Hebrew that sheds more light on the deeper meaning Jesus is implying in this statement.

The Old Testament equivalent of this word in Hebrew is translated "Massah". It refers to an event that happened at that place that came to be known by that name. It would be like me saying "Chancellorsville" or "Gettysburg". You would know immediately that I am referring to Civil War conflicts. Massah was a place where God's people grumbled against Him and tested His patience. The story is found in Exodus 17:

"All the congregation of the children of Israel traveled from the wilderness of Sin, by their journeys, according to Yahweh’s commandment, and encamped in Rephidim; but there was no water for the people to drink. Therefore the people quarreled with Moses, and said, “Give us water to drink.” Moses said to them, “Why do you quarrel with me? Why do you test Yahweh?” The people were thirsty for water there; and the people murmured against Moses, and said, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt, to kill us, our children, and our livestock with thirst? Moses cried to Yahweh, saying, “What shall I do with these people? They are almost ready to stone me.” Yahweh said to Moses, “Walk on before the people, and take the elders of Israel with you, and take the rod in your hand with which you struck the Nile, and go. Behold, I will stand before you there on the rock in Horeb. You shall strike the rock, and water will come out of it, that the people may drink.” Moses did so in the sight of the elders of Israel. He called the name of the place Massah, and Meribah, because the children of Israel quarreled, and because they tested Yahweh, saying, “Is Yahweh among us, or not?” Exodus 17:1-7

God had supernaturally led them out of bondage from Egypt, then He parted the Red Sea to deliver them from the Egyptian army, then He miraculously provided manna and quail for them to eat but now they complained about having no water.

What would it take for them to trust God stop their grumbling. He had led them into the wilderness to test them and develop their faith but they kept testing Him. Moses was disgusted and God was running out of patience. Rather than prove their faith in God in time of stress and need they demanded God prove Himself by doing another miracle.

So, with that background we come back to Jesus' teaching on prayer. When he says to pray, "Lead us not into temptation" what He means is "when You lead me into temptation, keep me from testing you". 

That is how you are delivered from the Evil One! When you submit to God's testing and resist the temptation to test God, the Evil One is defeated!

An interesting thing happens when God leads you into a season of testing and you submit to His will rather than doubt God's goodness or demand that He proves His presence. Your faith is strengthened and as a result - He proves His faithfulness to you!

Perhaps you are in a season of testing and trials right now! Prove your faith in God and He will prove Himself to you!