My Weakness = His Strength


II Corinthians 13:4

For though he was crucified through weakness, yet he liveth by the power of God.  For we also are weak in him, but we shall live with him by the power of God towards you.

There are many times in the Christian life that it seems like I am so weak.  I know what I am supposed to do and how I am supposed to think, but it just doesn’t always work.  Living in a brand new culture and learning how to adapt in a completely different environment and still minister all the while has really brought out the reality of my own weakness.  There are days that are just filled with my weakness, but in reading this passage in II Corinthians, I was reminded that being weak is exactly what I need in order to recognize the great strength of my heavenly Father.  My weakness drives to me my knees and to the Word to find passages like this one.  This passage encouraged my heart that I don’t have to live in defeat due to my weakness.  The truth is this – My weakness only serves to magnify God’s strength in my life!  I get to live in the reality of my weakness so that I can have the power of God to sustain me.  So the next time you are struggling in your weakness, thank the Lord for that weakness and claim His strength to live by the power of God.

The words to “In My Weakness” by Mike Harland and Cary Schmidt summarize how we need to face our weakness and allow His strength to shine through us.

When living life for Jesus Christ becomes too hard a task,
When obedience means sacrifice that seems too much to ask;
That’s when I learn that my own strength isn’t really strength at all,
And I find rest in humbleness when I surrender all.

In my weakness He is strong;
In my need He leads me on.
When I come to the end of all I am,
And I place my trust in Him;
That’s when His strength begins –
In my weakness.

When failures in my human strength have weakened all my pride,
And ruined hopes in fallen dreams have crumbled me inside;
It’s then by grace I fin’lly see the strength of Jesus Christ,
His victory is real in me when weakness fills my life.

In my weakness He is strong;
In my need He leads me on.
When I come to the end of all I am,
And I place my trust in Him;
That’s when His strength begins –
In my weakness.

 

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The Ultimate Goal


Romans 15:1-6

“We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves. Let every one of us please his neighbour for his good to edification. For even Christ pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell on me. For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope. Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

In a world saturated with self-gratification, these verses jumped out to me.  Paul was reminding the Roman believers that, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are to encourage and edify others, especially those who are “weak.”  Almost every time, the easy thing to do is to gratify self – do what feels good to me.  But I have found that every time I choose to please myself in my actions or even my reactions to situations that cross my path, it results in something that does not resemble Christlikeness in any way. 

Being personally transparent here, I was wrestling with this idea as I sat here trying to get settled on the mission field.  I have not even been here for one month, and already my selfishness was rearing its ugly head in my thoughts and sometimes in my actions.  This chapter was on a scheduled reading for me that was begun months ago.  Isn’t it just like our God to have exactly what we need from His Word at the exact time that we need it?

Look at the end of the passage included above – the ultimate goal is to be likeminded, to think with one mind and to speak with one mouth.  Why?  To glorify our Savior.  May the ultimate goal of likemindedness for His glory never be hidden from our view no matter how difficult our circumstances may seem! 

The Missionary’s Mission


What is a missionary’s mission?  To share the transforming power of the gospel with people who have yet to experience it!  What better way to do that than to share how the gospel transformed my life?  It has been 28 years since the truth of the gospel and what Christ did for ME arrested my heart.  Even as a child, I realized that there was nothing I could do to save myself.  The beauty of the gospel is that the work of redemption has already been finished for us through the exchange of our sins for the robes of our Lord’s righteousness.  He took our penalty and offers us eternal life!  Today I am thankful for that wonderful exchange that happened in my young heart, and I am so thankful for the calling on my life to share the power and truth of the gospel with others wherever I meet them.  Have you experienced this wonderful exchange?  If not, I would love to introduce you to my Savior.  If so, who have you shared your exchange with today?

 

To Whom Do You Cry When Things Get Tough?


Exodus 2:23-25 – 23 And it came to pass in process of time, that the king of Egypt died: and the children of Israel sighed by reason of the bondage, and they cried, and their cry came up unto God by reason of the bondage. 24 And God heard their groaning, and God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob. 25 And God looked upon the children of Israel, and God had respect unto them.

Exodus 2 ends with the Israelites in what seemed like inescapable bondage.  The king died, and I can imagine that they thought they were going to be slaves in Egypt forever.  The circumstances they were in caused them to cry out to the Lord for help and for deliverance.  The Scripture tells us that when they cried out to Him that God brought to His thinking the covenant that He had made with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  One commentator called this passage “the hinge” of the Israelites deliverance from bondage.  What caused this “hinge” to swing?  It was their crying out to the Lord.

Sometimes when we face difficult times in our lives, we cry to anyone who will listen other than our Lord.  We use prayer as a last resort instead of a first option!  I think we would do well to learn from accounts like this one in Scripture.  He longs to be our refuge in the storm.  The Psalmist put it this way – “1 Hear my cry, O God; Attend unto my prayer. 2 From the end of the earth will I cry unto thee, when my heart is overwhelmed: Lead me to the rock that is higher than I.  For thou hast been a shelter for me, And a strong tower from the enemy.  I will abide in thy tabernacle for ever: I will trust in the covert of thy wings.” (Psalm 61:1-4).

 May the Lord help us to more quickly cry out to Him in our times of need!

Are You Praying with a Mouth Wide Open?


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Psalm 81:10 – “I am the LORD thy God, which brought thee out of the land of Egypt: open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it.” [emphasis mine]

The Psalmist recounts for us in Psalm 81 some of the amazing ways that the Lord delivered the children of Israel.  He starts the Psalm in verses 1-5 giving praise to God for all He had done for Israel, Jacob, and Joseph.  He protected them when they were in a strange land among the Egyptians and delivered them from slavery (vs. 6-7).  He delivered the people from sure disaster in the desert at Meribah (vs. 7).  Then the Psalmist shifts from praise to admonition of the Israelites’ need to “hearken” or listen carefully to the LORD (vs. 8-9).  Then we get to Psalm 81:10 quoted for you above.  The Psalmist has laid out for us some of the amazing things God did for His people.  He then uses words that bring to mind an image of a little bird with its mouth wide open waiting for its mother to fill it with food.  God desires to care for us in so many ways.

Recently I have personally experienced a vivid example of having my mouth filled!  I have been on deputation as a missionary to England for about two years now.  Early on in the process of deputation, I figured out that my Outfit and Passage needs would total almost $28,000!  That figure includes areas of need such as visa application, airfare, shipping, six-month down-payment on an apartment, furniture, appliances, driving lessons, driver’s license and test, and a vehicle.  As you can imagine, my mind began to run wild – How will I ever come up with all that money?  How can I ask churches who are already supporting me to send more money for these needs?  Where will it come from?  Maybe this is too much to ask for…  Then I heard a message during one of my weeks of training with Baptist World Mission on Psalm 81:10.

You see the rest of the Psalm details the fact that the Israelites didn’t listen to the Lord’s voice (vs. 11).  They went their own way and did things on their own terms (vs. 12).  The Lord wanted to help them by subduing their enemies and taking care of their adversaries, but they refused (vs. 13-14).  The Lord wanted to give them so much that would have satisfied their hearts, but He couldn’t because they refused to listen to His word (vs. 15-16).

I was challenged from that sermon and from studying this passage to pray in such a way that would allow the Lord to give me what He desires for me and in His own way.  I had to stop trying to figure out how it would all come together.  Instead I had to hearken to word of my omnipotent God and let Him fill my mouth!  I began to pray that way and ask the Lord to keep my heart from fearing in the “what if’s”!  Last month, I received over $23,000 toward my Outfit and Passage needs as well as added monthly support that raised my percentage to over 93%!  Who else can do that kind of work but our omnipotent God as He directs His people to do His will?

God wants us to listen and heed what He says to us in His Word.  Don’t pray with small faith – we serve an omnipotent God Who owns it all and can do with it what He wants!  Then He gets all the glory when He provides.  Start out this New Year praying with your mouth wide open and watch Him fill it!

Trusting God in the Tempest


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Mark 4:36-41

“And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship.  And there were also with him other little ships.  And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.  And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?  And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still.  And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful?  how is it that ye have no faith?  And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, “What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The disciples saw the power of Jesus to calm the tempest with merely His words.  Jesus was incredulous at the fear and lack of faith the disciples exhibited.  Our tumultuous world mirrors the tempest that the disciples faced that day on the Sea of Galilee.  In our world today, there are murders, terrorist attacks, physical hardships, and so much more that we face on a seemingly daily basis.  I was asked once during a gospel conversation with an elderly lady why the world is in such turmoil.  That question was a “door of utterance” as Paul speaks of for me to share with an unsaved lady that God is in control and desires to bring us peace.  This world we live in is a scary place for the unsaved who have no peace.  However, how does a Christian reconcile a world full of turmoil with the peace God desires to give us?  I have come to realize that our peace, joy, and comfort in this life can only come from trusting our Savior!  There is no political candidate nor perfect circumstance that is able to bring us true peace, joy and comfort.  Those things can only be found through faith in Christ.  I read the following statement recently: “There is more safety with Christ in the tempest than without Christ in the calmest waters.”  Today’s world has provided a seeming tempest on every side, but we do not have to fear if we are in the perfect will of God!  Instead of being full of fear, we must go the lost people around us with the answer to their turmoil.  The circumstances of our world today should give us much more to discuss than the upcoming election or the current international tragedy.  There is so much more to share with people who do not know the God who can control our tempest!  Christ calmed the wind and the waves with His words.  We can and must trust Him to take care of us through the tempest!

God’s Glory Revealed


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Psalm 8:1, 3-4

O Lord our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.

When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained; What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?

This is a familiar psalm that I have read scores of times in my life.  But recently, the Lord encouraged my heart with some new thoughts about how He reveals His glory.  The psalm references the glory of God in the heavens and the work of God in carefully and meticulously placing the moon and the stars in their places.  I don’t know if you have ever had the picture in your mind of God at creation just flinging the stars across the sky like an artist splattering paint on a blank canvass.  That was kind of the picture that I had in mind when I looked in awe at the starlit night sky.  But the Psalmist here is particular to write of God’s using His fingers to “ordain” or place carefully the moon and all the stars.  When I began to think on this incredibly meticulous task, the next verse came alive to me.  The God Who purposefully and particularly placed the billions of stars in their places thinks about me and even takes time to minister to me individually!  What an amazing and humbling thought! 

But another thought came quickly after these – why do we only see the stars in the night time?  If I had done something as incredible as God has done with the stars, I would want them to be seen ALL the time.  Now I am no scientist to explain this, but the answer seems simple – it is only in the darkness of night that the light of the stars is revealed for our human eyes to see.  Just because we can’t see the stars doesn’t mean they aren’t there.  We just have to wait for God to reveal them to us.  Psalm 8:1 references God’s “glory above the heavens.”  Could it be that sometimes it takes the darkness of the night in our lives to allow God’s glory to be revealed? 

I don’t know what is going on in your life today, but I do know that my God cares about the little things in your life and mine – He thinks on us and visits us!  Maybe you are in a time of darkness – take some time to look at the “night sky” and see what part of His glory He is trying to reveal to you in your darkness.  Then praise Him because He is excellent and worthy of our praise!

How Do You Worship?


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Ecclesiastes 5:1-7

Keep thy foot when thou goest to the house of God, and be more ready to hear, than to give the sacrifice of fools: for they consider not that they do evil. Be not rash with thy mouth, and let not thine heart be hasty to utter any thing before God: for God is in heaven, and thou upon earth: therefore let thy words be few. For a dream cometh through the multitude of business; and a fool’s voice is known by multitude of words. When thou vowest a vow unto God, defer not to pay it; for he hath no pleasure in fools: pay that which thou hast vowed. Better is it that thou shouldest not vow, than that thou shouldest vow and not pay. Suffer not thy mouth to cause thy flesh to sin; neither say thou before the angel, that it was an error: wherefore should God be angry at thy voice, and destroy the work of thine hands? For in the multitude of dreams and many words there are also divers vanities: but fear thou God.

I have been challenged recently concerning my attitude in worship.  Ecclesiastes isn’t the place in the Bible that I would except to find such a challenge, but I believe there are some vital truths to consider about worship and prayer from this passage.

First, worship is something that God takes seriously!  Solomon here is admonishing the Israelites about the sin of making empty vows to the Lord, vows they never intended to fulfill.  I believe the application can be made that when we come to the house of God to worship Him, He expects us to enter into that worship with a sincerity of heart and willing heart to listen to His Word.  Warren Wiersbe makes the following comment about this passage in his commentary on Ecclesiastes entitled Be Satisfied: “The worship of God is the highest ministry of the church and must come from devoted hearts and yielded wills.”

Second, prayer to the Almighty God and Creator of all is serious business!  The following thoughts concerning the matter of prayer addressed here in Ecclesiastes 5 are also from Wiersbe’s book: “If you and I were privileged to bring our needs and requests to the White House or to Buckingham Palace, we would prepare our words carefully and exhibit proper behavior.  How much more important it is when we come to the throne of Almighty God?  Yet, there is so much flippant praying done by people who seem to know nothing about the fear of the Lord.”  Eloquence in public prayer does not indicate a profound prayer life.  Prayer is my communication line to God.  It should be an avenue that I am familiar enough with that I don’t feel like I have to say something impressive for those who hear me pray publically.  My public prayer is still communication with God not with those listening.  When I approach God’s throne in prayer, it should be done with a broken spirit of humility and with a realization of exactly Who I am talking to.  Spurgeon put it this way, “It is not the length of our prayers, but the strength of our prayers, that makes the difference.”

Those two observations from this passage lead me to the last four words in Ecclesiastes 5:7 – but fear thou God.  When I approach God with the right attitude in worship and prayer, I will understand the true fear of the Lord.  It will not cause me to be afraid of Him, but rather to have the proper respect for Him when I come to His house for worship and when I approach His throne of grace in prayer.  God wants us to worship Him.  It is why He left us here after He redeemed us.  How do YOU worship?

How Important is Your Obedience?


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Most of you are probably familiar with the story of Joshua and the children of Israel’s amazing defeat of the city of Jericho.  They obeyed the instructions the Lord gave them and marched around the city for seven days until the Lord caused the walls to fall in on the city.  The people were able to utterly destroy this stronghold in Canaan when they obeyed the Lord’s instructions.  However, there was one man who disobeyed the instruction to leave all the spoils of Jericho for the Lord.  Achan took of the accursed things in Jericho and hid them in his tent.  His disobedience seemed insignificant until a couple thousand men went up to defeat the small city of Ai and met unexpected defeat.  The Lord revealed to Joshua that there was sin in the camp that had to be eradicated before Israel would be victorious against the enemies in the Promised Land.

 The thing that struck me was how many people were affected by Achan’s disobedience – thirty-six people died in the Israelites defeat at Ai, Israel was put at risk for other nations to come against them, Achan and his whole family were stoned to death and all his belongings were burned in the valley of Achor.  Achan’s coveting the Babylonian garment, two hundred shekels of silver, and a wedge of gold caused great distress for the whole nation of Israel.  I believe God uses stories like this one to illuminate an important truth – Obedience is a non-negotiable matter in the eyes of a holy God.  What are you trying to negotiate when it comes to matters of obedience in your life today?

A Celebration Not a Funeral


IMG_0326I recently had the distinct privilege to attend the Memorial Service for a wonderful man of God. Growing up in a ministry home, I have attended a lot of funerals, but none quite like this one.  Per Mr. Walter Freese’s wishes, we spent the service glorifying the God that he so faithfully served during his ninety years on this earth.  We were able to hear from his family who spoke highly of his integrity, love of country, love of family, but mostly, his love for his Savior.  It was one of the most Christ-exalting celebrations I have ever attended.  Mr. Freese was a dear man who fought in WWII and was severely injured.  He miraculously recovered from his injuries, and it seemed from his vibrant testimony that he had his sights set on living his life to the glory of his Savior.  I have only known Mr. Freese for the last ten years or so while I worked with his son-in-law at Tabernacle.  However, there was never a time that I talked with him in person or on the phone that he did not say something to point me to Christ.  His obvious relationship with his Savior was evident in everything he spoke of.  One of the things I count a great joy was the time I spent with him just a month or so before he passed away.  We talked for a long time about anything and everything.  He was still seeking the Lord’s face about how he could be used for the Lord’s glory even at ninety years of age.  Before I left his house that day, he prayed with me and for me.  Many have described Walter Freese as a man of prayer, but it is hard to understand until you are there holding his hand and being witness to his amazing relationship with the Lord.  I will never forget what I learned from his life.

His daughter asked me to sing at the memorial service and gave me this song. Look at the words by Mary McDonald and be encouraged that while we may struggle on this earth for whatever length of time God allows us to have, there is a “Heavenly Home” waiting those of us who have trusted Christ as Savior.

No more hunger, no more thirsting,

No more weeping, no more tears;

No more sin, no more temptation,

No more doubting, no more fears.

In that home, the Lamb shall find them;

He shall lead them on their way,

Where the living fount is flowing,

And shall wipe all tears away.

 

Heav’nly home, happy home;

Never sigh or sorrow come.

“Alleluia,” songs we raise,

Joys eternal, endless praise.

 

No more longing for the morning,

No more watching for the day,

No more groping in the darkness,

No more mists to clear away.

Morning splendors are eternal,

For in heav’n there is no night.

All unknown are mists and shadows,

For the Lamb, He is the Light!

 

Heav’nly home, happy home;

Never sigh or sorrow come.

“Alleluia,” songs we raise,

Joys eternal, endless praise.

 

No more weariness for pilgrims,

No more restless tossings there;

No more sorrow, no more sighing,

No more watching, no more prayer.

Ended every pilgrim’s journey,

They have entered into rest.

Joys eternal, endless praises!

In that homeland of the blest.

 

Heav’nly home, happy home;

Never sigh or sorrow come.

“Alleluia,” songs we raise,

Joys eternal, endless praise.