“This Will NEVER End!”

said the devil.

For those most vulnerable to anxiety and depression, open-ended and ongoing calamities are most difficult.  Chronic illness, marital betrayal and mistrust, serious family discord, rebellion and dysfunctional behavior plow the heart and water roots of anxiety and depression.  If you are a follower of Christ, you have a powerful enemy  whose vested interest goes beyond emotional suffering.  The devil’s trophy comes when we no longer see God as trustworthy, all powerful, and all loving.

The circumstances under which we suffer are secondary to what we believe while  suffering.  As a child of Sovereign God, the devil’s assaults are measured and restricted (although it seems at times he goes full speed!)  Satan cannot increase the magnitude of the circumstance but he makes all effort to magnify it in our heart and mind.  Herein is the essence of the war for our faith.

War Propaganda

Oh Lord, hide me from the conspiracy of the wicked…who aim their words like deadly arrows.  (Psalm 64)

 

Like the airborne propaganda campaigns of WWI and WWII, the enemy strikes a massive assault to: convince us that destruction is imminent, encourage us to abandon our post, and even offer rewards to those who surrender. 

The campaign need only convince us: This will NEVER end!  This will NEVER change!

Yesterday new events erupted in my own longstanding, anxiety provoking circumstance. I sought encouragement from a mature sister and actually blurted out, “This will NEVER end!”.  Moments later I realized that I had repeated the lie of the enemy.

I am grateful that issues in my heart were exposed and saw lies fueling my anxiety.

While not called to be ‘happy-clappy’, we are called to ‘stand our ground’ and ‘stand firm’.  I opened my Bible and began to pray.  Alongside this, I searched for posts in WordPress with words like ‘faith’, ‘anxiety’, ‘God’ and, after some scrutiny, found real encouragement from brethren with similar battles of faith.

Alone with the Lord, He spoke to my heart.  Firstly,  “NEVER” is not a word for any circumstance in this temporary world.  Our lives are but a vapor and our eyes should be fixed toward ETERNITY, which shrinks and deflates any ‘never’ in this world.   Secondly, refreshing my heart with Biblical truths and the testimonies of brethren reminded me that God is the supernatural game changer, even when it looks like things will never change!  But more than any change in circumstance, my heart must rest in the assurance of His love, His faithfulness, and sovereignty.   God is in control.

Oh Lord, root us in this truth, that You don’t waste our afflictions as we trudge through this temporal world…but You use them like refining fire to change us….preparing us to live with You for eternity. 

When I said, “My foot is slipping,” Your love, O Lord, supported me.  when anxiety was great within me, Your consolation brought joy to my soul.”  (Psalm 94:18-19)

 

The Miracle We All Need

“During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.” (Matt 14:25)

For most of us landlubbers, the thought of walking on water – as miraculous as it is – may not seem to be the most sought after experience. Surely we would aspire to have ‘healing hands’ to relieve the suffering of ailments and disease. Who wouldn’t want, even once, the miraculous power to multiply food and feed thousands of hungry folks?

In his teaching series, “All That Jesus Taught” Zac Poonen, overseer of Christian Fellowship Church in Bangalore, explores the teaching of Christ through the four Gospels. Beyond what the Lord said, there is great lessons to savor in what He did. Brother Zac aptly demonstrates that “every miracle is a parable” and as such there are unseen depths to discover. In this passage, expounds Brother Zac, Jesus compelled His disciples to get into the boat and sail onward to the other side, evident from the wordage that the disciples were reluctant – they really didn’t want to go. Did they have weather indications? Were they exhausted from the day’s events? In any case, “Jesus made the disciples get into the boat”. At the fourth watch, between 3 and 6am, after a time of sequestered prayer with His Father, Jesus walked out to their boat as they struggled and strained through the storm.

‘Walking on the water’ proclaimed Jesus’ power over the laws of nature. More than that however, it is a powerful pictorial of Christ’s power over man’s sinful nature. While we are powerless over the law of sin which reins over us, Jesus demonstrates that He overcomes the laws of nature and we also, as His followers can overcome. “The law of gravity is like the law of sin” expounds Brother Zac, “it pulls us down in every way, every moment”.

There is much more though. Jesus didn’t just appear at their boat, He walked a considerable distance from the shore, on the water in the dark through the storm.  We must believe that where the Lord sends us – where He assigns us – He also comes to us with enabling power. Moreover,  He has the authority to defy the storm and the darkness, bestowing that authority upon His followers that we may also ‘walk upon the storm’ and see our way through the darkness.

He bids us, “Come”, walk the distance with Me through storms of anxiety and fear – when tribulations, betrayals, and tragedies threaten to overturn and destroy your life. If your life is in His hands, He may well have put you in that ‘boat’ and if so – He will without doubt be there to walk you over every upheaval. (However, if you put yourself in a boat, set yourself assail outside the will of God, you may find yourself rowing alone with increasing futility until you repent and turn around)

Two types of believers are in this boat. While all are ‘terrified’, one moves forward with boldness toward Christ while the others remain in the boat. We are no different. There are times we move boldly toward the Lord and His high call and other times we stay firmly planted in the boat, waiting out the storm. But note: Jesus brought all the disciples safely to the other side.

If we are obedient, allowing Jesus to compel us where we may not want to go, we will see His power and presence revealed in greater measure. Half steppers and carnal Christians miss the supernatural. The appointed storm is Christ’s classroom and He is in full control. His call has not changed, “Come” and “Follow me”. Some of us in that storm rowing and rowing, tossing and turning, already at the fourth watch, have lost sight of Jesus, “It’s too dark… I can’t see my way through this!” “When will this ever end?” 

Our Savior however, never loses sight of us.  

bed-girl-water-Favim.com-199099

Sometimes the inner storm is worse than outer weather – bring the Word into your boat and let Christ lead you out…

The supernatural power to walk upon the waters in the storm comes forth through the power of His Word as He speaks it to us. Peter walked with God incarnate, we have His living Word in entirety. While our flesh wants to keep rowing, keep crying, or just give up, the Lord’s simple call is “Come”. It is imperative to hear the Lord’s supernatural call, “My sheep listen to my voice; I know them and they follow Me.”

Where Jesus walks is not ordinary ground. It is not a smooth way but hard and narrow. The weather conditions may be terrifying. Those in Christ ALL get to the other side, some stumbling out of the boat clutching oars, others walking behind the Lord with victorious testimony drawing others. While I may prefer to “stay in the boat” with covers pulled up over my head, I pray for the boldness to step out and trust in God’s promises…

“Lord, I pray for all of us who need clear direction and light – help us to see a way out after we’ve rowed and rowed, tossed and turned. Lead us into Your powerful, living Word and open our hearts to the truth. Push back the harassment of anxious and fearful thoughts – bits of truth entangled with threats and lies. I pray for boldness in these last days, raise us above the crossfire and breathe your peace upon us. As we open Your Word, give us patience to seek You and hear from You. Lead us to that higher ground where we may walk on the water, supernaturally above all fear, anxiety, wounds and loss. Order our steps… lead us through to the other side. In Jesus name, Amen.”

No Happy Birthday….

Paul with his family

Today is Paul’s birthday but he is not here.  Too soon after this photo was taken he died, having endured a cruel and fatal disease.  His life seemed perfect in every way.  Wife, parents, children too young to understand, siblings and friends were all crushed by God upon the death of my only brother and best friend.

I am so grateful for his life though.  He didn’t leave this world like a snuffed wick but with a legacy of faith and courage.  His testimony and encouraging words live on in the many hearts he touched through his letters….

“…although I may have cancer, there are MANY reasons to praise God.  I can start by thanking Him for the most wonderful parents…”

“I have complete faith in God to help me weather storms when they come.”

“There is no better source of comfort than you will find in Christ’s Word.”

“I have read several times that all of Heaven rejoices when a man’s soul is saved, and hell trembles…Submit to God, repent, and God will not forsake you.”

“I know full well that my life is in the Hands of the Lord.  He has the keys to the car, and I am going along for His ride…”

We don’t need a birth date to remember Paul.

I often think of the Lord’s birth, the greatest ever upon this earth, and yet He purposefully kept it obscure and unknown throughout the ages.  We marvel at Christ’s life, are humbled by His atoning death for our sins, and in reconciling with God, rejoice at the promise of eternal life in His Kingdom.

Some birthdays are celebrated, some stand as landmarks of lives already passed.  Today I remember my beautiful brother and celebrate his life in Christ, knowing that we will reunite in God’s Kingdom.  In John 11:25, Jesus said:

“I am the resurrection and the life.  He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies, and whoever lives and believes in Me will never die.  Do you believe this?”

No Happy Birthday….Happy Forevermore.      

THE POWER IN SORROW

In this world, particularly western societies, we have embraced a culture that defines and exalts ‘happiness’ and all its ‘expressions’.  Every media venue bombards viewers and listeners with idealistic scenarios of fulfillment, contentment and success – and all without God.  ‘Happiness’ is a highly marketable commodity in a dark and sinful world, proffered through acquiring possessions, using legal and illegal drugs, planning fun filled vacations and experiencing alternative life styles.

Why all these sensory distractions? Why the bombardment of pleasures and happiness, at any cost?  The devil will always present sensory pleasures as relief to man’s needs and pain, yet with underlying evil motives.  Firstly, the quest for pleasure and avoidance of all grief  blinds us to our sin, our mortality, and our separation from God.  Secondly,

Satan knows that that the Creator of the World is a ‘Man of sorrows’ and man’s anguish and grief may lead him to this Savior.  In emptiness and pain, man may find Christ, and in Him new life, fellowship and a door to the power and victory He holds.

What power?  What victory?

Heaviness, despair, and grief visit every believer, every follower of Jesus. We have a formidable enemy, a roaring lion, who seeks to rip us to shreds.  Many days seem that the devil has done this and more, trampling upon a heart already broken.  Only a true cry is needed however for wounded, even dying, sheep.  The Shepherd will come, He will bring healing salve and even more.  He will prepare us through the suffering to serve Him and His Body.

Right relationship with the Lord will deliver and heal and from this healing comes power, as He leads us with eternal purpose.   It is the way of our ‘Commander in Chief’, Jesus Christ, whose path of suffering, betrayal, sorrow and great burden brought the Kingdom of God into our hearts with great promise.   In His shadow, our sorrows are formidable points of power for us individually and collectively as the Body of Christ. The promises of God become fresh and alive.  A salve to open wounds, He is “close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.”  Nearly every Psalm expounds the faithfulness of God to get us through darkness and with divine purpose,

“I will take refuge in Your wings until the disaster has passed.  I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills His purpose for me.”  (Ps 57:2)

What purpose?

The power in the blood of Christ flows through suffering.  Surrendered to Him, sorrow separates us from this pleasure driven world and aligns us with the purposes of God through the Holy Spirit.  The broken vessel, surrendered to the Lord, gets the infilling.  The infilling of God comes with both purpose and burden – and a call upon our hearts to respond.

Surrendered suffering opens our hearts to the burden of Christ for His Body and this lost world.

Sorrow tenderizes and enlarges our hearts for action, to “mourn with those who mourn”, and act for those who are suffering “as if you yourselves were suffering.”  It is a burden laid upon our heart and spirit by the Lord, leading us to fight, serve, and minister.  He may call us to ‘go’, to reach out in various ways, and give with sacrifice.  The Lord’s burden for His suffering Body may lead us to fast, call us into all night prayer, and join in with like prepared vessels.

THERE IS SUFFERING ON THE WHEEL BUT GREAT REWARD IN THE POTTER'S HAND.

THERE IS SUFFERING ON THE WHEEL BUT GREAT REWARD IN THE POTTER’S HAND.

The burden of the Lord is an honored gift. The sharing of His heart is separate and unmatchable to anything in this world.  The burden of God launches His Holy Spirit through the lives of surrendered men and women. 

Sorrow opens a door of fellowship, communion, with the Lord and with His Body.  It is a training ground from which we can, like Aaron and Hur for Moses, “hold up the hands” of our brethren in the battle.  There is no power in self appointment.  Only that which is commissioned by the Lord will have His promised presence and victory.

The Body of Christ is suffering greatly.  There are cries of anguish heard only by God.  We must avail ourselves as vessels to God, ready to be His ears, His hands, His salve, and the means of His provisions as He leads.  If you have been, or are currently enrolled, in the Holy Spirit School of Suffering you are being trained for compassion, being broken for greater strength to serve.  No calling here is insignificant and no calling is too high to reach.  We will be enabled and prepared through He who leads.

To receive the Lord’s burden and co-labor with Him in this world will magnify our joy at His return.    We will share the victory of His coming Kingdom and reign with Him for eternity.

Amen.

ENCOUNTERING CHRIST WHEN DEATH AND DARKNESS REIGN

One of the greatest sermons ever preached may be the shortest – the last dying words of a born again but tortured man.  Destined for glory, his last words on earth were ordained and anointed by God and still resound throughout the ages with eternal value.   Judged by a ruthless government, his day of execution neared with crushing dread, fear, remorse and anguish.  However, within that nightmare, amidst the powers of darkness, he was redeemed.  He honored God in his remaining moments and preached a message that should stir our hearts today.

“Don’t you fear God?” he preached, rebuking the unbeliever and even us today.  We are often among those who insult and challenge God in times of turmoil and confusion, in the midst of  pain and anguish.  So apt to put God on trial, how many times have we indicted Him in our hearts?  In a culture of self importance and self esteem, ‘fear of God’ becomes an obsolete virtue, yet it is the only position from which the life of God flows toward us.   The preacher continued, “We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve…”   We are that lawbreaker, deserving of the same death – the very wages that our deeds have earned.  (Romans 6:23) 

What an appointment – condemned to die with the Giver of Life!  The most hopeless moment of his life empowered with shekhinah glory and divine revelation of Jesus, the King with an eternal Kingdom.   In utter humility of failure and worldly condemnation, this brother has the bold faith to cry out, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom.”

Dig deep into this message recorded in Luke 23:40-43.   With a humble heart and short message (under forty words), this famous nameless man of God demonstrated great eternal truths.  Firstly, there is nothing random about the works and plans of God.  Creator of all, He is sovereign over all.  Only omnipotent God can promise that “all things work together for good” for His people because He will ordain it so. Even the most dreaded and heartbreaking events can, in His hand, become turning points with divine purpose and destiny.  The excruciating death of this man was an ordained appointment with eternal life.

Secondly, this brother teaches us to suffer well, with endurance and humble faith, that we might see God, fellowship with Him in suffering, and share in His glory.  Can we believe that the Lord can carry us through our darkest hour, through the torment of our worst failure?  When crushed by our own sin, can we trust in Christ’s mercy and faithfulness?  “Everyone who trusts in Him will never be put to shame.”  (Romans 10:11)   The living Word of God has the power to rob Satan of victory every time. In spite of disappointment, tragedy or pain, we can say as Job in 42:2,

“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.”

Thirdly, we are challenged to finally die to this world and relinquish our love for the things therein.  The appealing self-empowering, and self-gratifying culture of our society is an alluring façade, built to supplant the supremacy of God and deny Him due honor and worship.  The pleasures of this world distract while the achievements in this world puff up.   Every strength and ‘self help’ offered by man dilutes our dependence on the faithfulness of God and His supernatural power. Worldly success and prosperity here do not propel us toward heaven and moreover, they are the weakest oars in the storm.  Only when our eyes are fixed on Christ can our love of this temporal world fade away and bring eternity and God’s Kingdom into focused view.

What man intended for condemnation and death was God’s appointment for infamous pardon and eternal life.  Our Savior was indeed “numbered with the transgressors” and surely we are they.   Apart from His protection, powers of hell will tempt, scheme and ensnare, accusing God during our darkest hour.   However, it is the fear of God that rightly aligns us with Him.   Suffering pries us from our confidence in the flesh and love for this world.   Surrendered to the Lord, we have every assurance that His presence is with us and will speak life into every dark hour and lost hope.   Like our famed brother on the cross, we also, as redeemed transgressors, will be honored with words of life for others, words backed by heaven with divine purpose and eternal value.

 

"For great is Your love, reaching to the heavens; Your faithfulness reaches to the skies."

“Jesus answered him, “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.”  Luke 23:43