Learning to Trust God in a New Way

We have no problem choosing to trust God with the things for which we already trust Him. We learned the hard way to live by faith. Situations forced us to learn it—and we did. But then . . .

Guvrin Valley

(Photo: Guvrin Valley, where Asa won a great victory. Courtesy of the Pictorial Library of Bible Lands)

Another situation shows up. Suddenly, it’s like starting over.

We’re a lot like Asa, one of the few godly kings of Judah. He once trusted the Lord in a battle in the Shephelah and defeated an Ethiopian who came against him with an army a million strong (2 Chronicles 14).

But Asa’s greatest test came in an area that hit closer to home—literally.

That’s where God tests us as well, isn’t it?

What You Must Have Before You’ll Have Success

Most of us Christians have experienced those incredible moments of intimacy with God when we have no yearning for any earthly joy, much less for sin. Christ becomes our entire desire.

In those times, we make impassioned commitments of absolute dedication. We really believe we have turned a corner in our spiritual lives. But for some reason . . . it doesn’t last.

What You Must Have in Order to Succeed

(Photo by Photodune)

In those deflating moments, our spirituality exits like air from a balloon:

  • Driving away from church, our family fights over where to eat.
  • After our quiet time, our bickering children rapidly rob us of joy.
  • On the way to work, a hurried driver cuts us off and waves with only a fraction of his hand.

All of a sudden, commitment wanes. And these are just the little things.

What about real life crises? What about those times when success is demanded but a lack of success seems all we get?

Jesus spoke words of encouragement for moments just like these.

How God Helps You with Impossible Situations

Often God puts us in impossible situations. We find it frustrating, sure—but it’s never meant to be. In fact, those unreasonable and often unbearable circumstances are meant to do just the opposite. They’re meant to encourage us.

How God Helps You with Impossible Situations

(Painting by Rembrandt, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

With the Sea of Galilee in view on the Plain of Bethsaida, Jesus pointed to thousands of people and said to His twelve disciples: “You give them something to eat!” (Mark 6:37).

You can hear the frustration in the disciples’ reply: “Should we spend half a year’s wages to feed them?”

Forget for a moment you’ve heard this story before. Think instead of your current problem.

  • Your financial picture is unmanageable.
  • A close relationship has been strained for years.
  • You’ve been unemployed for much longer than you imagined.

Whatever it is you’re facing today, you face one of many impossible situations.

Now go back to Jesus’ crazy command to His disciples. His solution for them is also His solution for you.

Let me show you why.

How to Make Decisions You Won’t Regret

How many times have we made what we thought was the best decision—and it turned out to be the worst? Lessons learned from such blunders—if we survive them—we remember and regret all of our lives.

You need to make a decision.

(Photo: By Szerkesztő: Joliet Jake (B.M.), via Wikimedia Commons)

We make knee-jerk decisions that we think will benefit us financially, or relationally, or vocationally, or physically.

But spiritually?

Lot failed to ask that question, and he lived with the regret.

But we don’t have to be like him.

Making it Through an Ordinary Day

The ordinary days of life far outnumber the extraordinary ones. That can get discouraging. But as we look at the lives in the Bible, we see the same pattern.

Making it through the ordinary days.

(Photo: Monkey Business Images, via Vivozoom)

Years of routine get interrupted by occasion moments of excitement.

Thankfully, we see God at work in the ordinary day just as much as in the extraordinary. David’s fight with Goliath is the perfect example.

It can also happen with you.

Temptation’s Lie: The Devil Made Me Do It

More than thirty years ago Flip Wilson kept America in stitches with his television characters “Reverend Leroy,” the friendly, pompous pastor of the “Church of What’s Happening Now,” and “Geraldine Jones,” the sassy African-American woman in a miniskirt.

Whenever Geraldine would impulsively buy a dress—or do anything she shouldn’t—she excused her urge by blurting the line she made famous, “The Devil made me do it!”

America laughed at Geraldine for her obviously lame excuse. In fact, to say, “The Devil made me do it,” became the rage all over the country.

A widespread theology exists that seems to be a strange mix between Reverend Leroy and Geraldine. We find ministries with leaders who point to the Devil and his imps for the sins that plague us. For example, one very radical ministry told a Christian woman who visited them that her problems came from a “legion” of demons within her, and in order to get rid of them, she needed to vomit them out right there in church! Others are told they have a “spirit of divorce,” a “spirit of lust,” “neglect,” or “procrastination.” These spirits are blamed for people’s sins, and the solution to these sins then becomes casting out the spirit causing them. Geraldine would be proud.

Frequently the Bible uses the word “spirit” to refer to a demon, often attaching a descriptive word or phrase such as “unclean spirit” (Mark 1:23), “evil spirit” (Acts 19:12-13), “spirit of infirmity” (Luke 13:11), and “deaf and mute spirit” (Mark 9:25). Words such as “unclean” and “evil” describe the nature of the spirit itself. But phrases like “spirit of infirmity” and “deaf and mute spirit” describe the particular affliction the spirits cause.

Unfortunately, many people launch from these verses into theological error when they confuse affliction with transgression, naming a demon after their sin.

The Bible never describes the work of demons in the lives of believers directly in terms of immorality. In other words, to say a believer has a “spirit of lust”—as if his real problem is a demon—assumes something the Bible never teaches. The demonic realm can influence a believer’s morality. However, God’s Word describes demonic influence in a believer’s life not as “possession”—or even “oppression”—but primarily as temptation.

So, how should we respond to temptation? We must know and hold fast to the Word of God. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, the Devil again tried to muddle God’s Word, as he did with the woman in the garden. But Jesus not only knew the Scripture, He clung to it—and sent the Devil packing (Matthew 4:1-11).

The best way to counter temptation’s tug is to choose to do what’s right. James 4:7 gives the strategy, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” A number of other great verses include: Ephesians 6:10-18; 1 John 4:4; Matthew 6:13; Matthew 26:41; Romans 6:1-14; Galatians 5:16; 1 Corinthians 10:13.

Mark it down as a fact: We will always struggle with temptation in this life. But God has not left us alone in the struggle. We cannot cast out temptation. But we can resist.

We have a great opportunity to glorify Christ by responding with faithfulness in the face of every evil enticement.

Taken from Wayne Stiles, “The Devil Made Me Do It?” Insights (July 2005): 1-2. Copyright © 2005 by Insight for Living. All rights reserved worldwide. Snake photo by Ltshears. “The Temptation of Christ” painting by Ary Scheffer, 1854. Public domain. 

The Holy Spirit of Christmas Past [Podcast]

Luke 1:26-38

When God wants to impact our lives today, He uses His Holy Spirit.

Just as occurred that first Christmas, with the Holy Spirit “coming upon” Mary, so the Spirit of God has come upon believers today,  empowering them to respond as Mary did– with obedience and faith.

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Israel Tour Day 5—The Southern Steps and Western Wall of the Temple Mount

We arrived in the holy city last evening to the strains of “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, lift up your gates and sing!” blasting through our bus’ loudspeakers.

Coming through the tunnel and seeing the Temple Mount for the first time causes various reactions from those on the bus.

Tears. Cameras clicking. Eyes fixed. Jaws agape. Sniffles. Shouts. And smiles.

I enjoy watching people’s responses. They are always moved at the first sight of Jerusalem . . . yet in so many different ways.

Chuck gave a stirring message this morning on the Southern Steps of the Temple. What could be better than a Sunday morning worship service on the steps of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem? (Except for the Rapture, not much!)

The steps were a place where Jesus would have taught the crowds. Here Gamaliel trained a young Saul, later to become the apostle Paul (see Acts 22:3). Here Peter preached to the crowds on the Day of Pentecost, baptizing thousands in the ritual baths, or mikvot, which still sat next to the steps (see Acts 2:41).

On these steps, we sat in one of the few places where we can say with absolute certainty, “Jesus walked here.”

We also saw the Western Wall—the remaining stones of the retaining wall that surrounded the temple of Christ’s day. The wall—called Kotel in Hebrew—towers 50 feet above the people below and shaded the busy goings-on from the morning sun.

Branches of wild caper and hyssop grow out of the cracks in the wall, bespeaking the fill dirt behind it that Herod the Great brought in to expand the Temple Mount above. The stones pinch in their gaps countless scraps of paper on which people have scrawled their prayers. (Prayers are removed once a year.)

It’s easy in the familiarity of our own traditions to shake our fingers at the oddities of others. Jews pray while rocking, Muslims kneel with their bottoms in the air, and we Christians bow our heads and close our eyes.

But without the heart engaged, our worship becomes as phony as those who don’t know the true God. Blend any tradition—bowing, standing, prostrating, rocking, kneeling or jumping—with no personal relationship with God through Christ, and it’s totally pointless.

God cares far less about our traditions than He cares about His Word in our hearts and lived out in authenticity.

Tomorrow . . . walking the Passion Week of Jesus!

(A neat extra for today: check out the 360-degree views of the Western Wall.) 
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Hope for the Hopeless [Podcast]

Lamentations 3

Lamenting the ruin of his people, Jeremiah weeps as one with no hope. They have sinned and they got what they deserved. But wait. A ray of light breaks through: God’s compassion is new every morning. Even for the hopeless person who is wallowing is the mire of his or her own sins, there is hope in God.

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