Sunday, October 23, 2016

Chains in Christ

But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” – Philippians 1:12-14

I’ve heard it said hundreds of times, ‘hindsight is 20/20’, meaning that once we get into the future, we can look back at our situations and see things clearly.  We can then understand why God placed us on that tough path.  Paul in this passages was expressing this same fact.
At this time Paul was in prison in Rome and had been asked to give an account for the things he preached.  While being in prison isn’t a good thing, it did provide him one of the greatest opportunities to preach to those who were in high government positions in Rome.  His words that “my chains are in Christ” state that it wasn’t evil things that put him in prison, but the will of God so that His work could be done.  Paul states that he had become “more bold to speak the word without fear.” 

Had Paul not endured prison, he may have never gotten an audience with the people in Rome that would hear him.  Yet, because of the “chains in Christ”, he was given an opportunity to do something very special for God.  Later on he speaks of this opportunity saying “in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.”
Sometimes the “chains of Christ” look like an evil thing has been done to us.  We don’t see the good in it.  Yet, God tells us that he seeks to do good by us, and to give us a hope and a future.  We have to trust in that when the “chains” feel more like a burden than an opportunity.  Hindsight is 20/20.  Trust God and wait for the future to remove the veil and show us His plan.


Saturday, October 15, 2016

The Mystery of Turning Bad into Good

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.” – Romans 8:28

This is one of those verses that can make your head spin in light of events in your life that are for all intents and purposes not good at the time they happen.  How can God use the death of a young child for good?  How can God turn the murder of innocent people into something good?  How can being diagnosed with cancer become something good?
I’ve been through a few of these types of events both personally and through friends and family.  What I can tell you is that the one good I have seen come from them is in our relationship with God.  It’s in those lowest of lows that we experience that we learn that we can only trust in God to turn the situation around.  It’s in a situation that you cannot change that you have no choice but to trust that God is still God, almighty, in all authority, and allowing things that may not appear as good in order to achieve something greater.

The story of Job comes to mind.  If you read the book you find that Job did have plenty of questions as to why God allowed him to lose all his children, all his livestock, and to even be given a horrible disease of boils all over his body.  His own wife lost faith in God, which only made his experiences in that valley even harder.  She was the one love he had left, and she wanted him to just curse God and die.  While she may have spoken those words out of compassion for his suffering, and thinking he would no longer be in pain, the fact is, she gave up on God.  When two become one, and one does not have the faith to stand in the valley, things become harder for the one that does.  Job endured a lot.  And in the end God blessed his perseverance and the fact that even though he questioned God, he never stopped honoring God. 

Trusting God in the valley is a faith growing experience.  But it can be that season of winter when all the sap in that tree of faith dries up, and you just have to hang on for spring.  Just do that.  Hang on. 
This song by Lauren Daigle has become one of my favorites.  She sings about this very thing.  When we don’t get our way, when our prayers are not answered the way we want, we just trust in God with all we have to offer Him.  That is loyalty.  That is obedience.  That is faith.

Saturday, October 1, 2016

When God says Pray - PRAY

Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26

Coming out of Nashville during rush hour traffic Thursday, my nerves were a bit frazzled.  I don’t like driving in Nashville, and I’m sure many of you can relate to that!   I was on Briley Parkway, already past the Opry Mills Mall, and watching traffic with all I had in me.  Suddenly from deep inside I heard “Pray”. 

Sometimes the Holy Spirit in us will direct us to do various things.  He will tell us who to talk to, to pay that extra bit for the person in front of us at the checkout, to help a mom with her crying child, or to cook for those who are too sick to do it.  But this time it was a simple “Pray” command.  I started praying.  I prayed for my safety, and the safety of those around me, looking at each car and the person inside and asking God to grant them mercy. 

This prayer was shorter than I expected as suddenly on the hillside to my right, about 20 yards from me, I saw a huge cloud of dust.  There was a concrete wall below the hillside, which was going toward an off ramp.  Suddenly a dark blue minivan appeared tumbling through the dust and then headed nose down to land on the off lane beside me.  Traffic went from barreling down the road at 80+ MPH to around 50 MPH.  I think it gave us all a good warning.

I’ve gone through all the news channels trying to find out what happened to the passenger and how they got in that predicament.  All I could see to explain it was one small red SUV in the area between the ongoing traffic lanes and the exit lane.  I don’t know if one squeezed into the wrong lane or what, but she ended up going in the opposite direction and high up the embankment above the concrete wall.

All that to say this.  Earlier this week without being able to spend time doing my daily devotional as long as I wanted, I relied on the Daily Bread app on my phone.  The September 1 article is titled “Because You Prayed”, and talks about how King Hezekiah received a scroll from King Sennacherib telling him that he was going to destroy his kingdom just like he had all the others.  King Hezekiah took the scroll to the altar of them temple, spread it out before God and prayed and asked God for help.  Soon after that the prophet Isaiah was sent to Hezekiah with a message found in Isaiah 37:21-35.  It starts by saying, “BECAUSE YOU HAVE PRAYED TO ME against Sennacherib king of Assyria…”. 

I think the intention God was to give me in this was to show me that my prayers do matter.  Sometimes we can pray for months, years even, and not see a result.  We feel like giving up, like God isn’t interested in our concern.  But God hears them every one and His word says that if we delight in Him, He chooses to give us the desires of our heart (Psalms 37:4).  Continuing “steadfastly in prayer” (Romans 12:12) is to not give up when the acts of God are not visible, but to allow that time of waiting to increase our faith.  We speak to Him with expectation of His answer, of His either changing our will to serve His purpose, or answering our prayers as we saw fit, with a Yes and Amen.

Driving past that dust bowl and minivan sitting nose down on the highway, I saw a police car behind us with blue lights flipped on.  He was there when he needed to be.  Coincidence?  I think not. 

None of the cars around me, including the small red SUV parked between the traffic lanes and the exit ramp, were hit.  Coincidence? I think not.

God has a reason for the things He asks of us.  Prayer is as simple as a conversation with God.  He’s been far too good to me to ever tell him “sorry Father, I’m too busy for you right now.”  When He says Pray, I will pray.