Hi this is Lynn Brown! Pastor Ken asked that this week I give you my thoughts on a Thursday, so thanks for joining me!
As a teacher, the Saturday before Labor Day is the literal calm before the storm. It does look somewhat different this year but as I woke this morning I was no less excited for what is to come, and no less aware that another school year is upon me. I’ll save you the lengthy to-do list that is making its way into every corner of my brain! If you know a teacher, he or she probably needs coffee!
It was Saturday morning and time for my daily read. Normally, I’m just reading through the Bible and though I’ve done this maybe five times now, there is still more to be gleaned every time I read through it again.
Over the last couple of months, I have been book hopping in my bible, choosing from the Old Testament and also from the New. Yesterday I finished Romans for the some dozenth time and this morning instead of doing my usual bible roulette, I turned to Pastor Ken and asked him what I should read next. His reply was, “If you want encouragement to start the school year, read Phillipians, it’s the ‘sugar bowl’ of the New Testament.” After chuckling and talking about his analogy for a second, he suggested that I take my time, and not read through it too quickly, rather, reading whatever amount of verses I needed to each day until I felt encouraged by something or discovered something I could ponder for the day. So that’s just what I did.
I only made it to chapter 1 verse 6, and I know many of you will be familiar with it. Now, Paul wrote this joy-filled book of encouragement from prison and in his letter to the Romans he reminds us our joy comes from the Lord, in spite of the circumstances we face and that joy is the antidote to our fear and anxiety. In my NKJV verse 6 reads: “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”
First it says we can be confident.
I don’t always “feel” confident, and I’m sure you know what I mean when I say that – my mind can think, re-think and overthink until I am unsure of myself. Christ did not create us for doubt, he wants us to do what we are able to do, always relying on Him for the rest. “When we are weak, He is strong.”
Next, it says “He has begun a good work in us.”
This world is full of poor examples, which is not what Christ created us for. The Bible says he created us in his image, and that is good. Remember with every character you meet, that they too, were created in His image, whether they are currently living that out or not. We are all made in His image and have the DNA of our creator. We must live like we are in Him and of Him, and not allow defeated messages to play in our minds, but always remember He has begun a good work in us.
The verse finishes by saying He will complete what he started; He won’t let us down. This is my favorite pearl in this verse, it simply says to me that the Lord, our creator, redeemer and friend, will never give up on us; He is my author and finisher and isn’t finished with me yet! Again, the world is full of people who give up, who don’t finish what they start, who stop just shy of realizing a goal. Let’s be who God intended us to be, living in full confidence that “He who created a good work in you will be faithful to complete it!” So now, with that confidence, go be awesome!
Romans 8:38 & 39 (NLT) And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.
We all face many different problems in life, at times they seem to be really big and other times more manageable. Sometimes we have a solution for them and sometimes we don’t. Of great concern however, is do we allow those problems to position us? Do we allow them to decide “How we are”? Or as the verses above indicate, has our position already been determined? Will we decide to walk in our predetermined position even in the face of huge unresolved…perhaps even unresolvable difficulty?
Though the scripture above doesn’t necessarily give us a solution to any particular problem it does give us a viable answer to all of them. When we ask ourselves the question, “What am I going to do now?” the answer can rightly be: “I don’t know yet, but this current crisis won’t separate me from the love of God which is made known to me in my relationship with Christ”! That answer may not do anything to solve the problem, but it will do everything to cement our position. Why is that so important? It is critical in fact because we have an enemy who knows that if he can get us to look at our condition instead of our position he can call into question the goodness of the God we serve. Then he can try to convince us that if God really, really loved us He wouldn’t allow us to go through our particular current trouble. That ploy is designed to kill your joy, steal your peace, and destroy your faith…all three of the plays in his playbook. Resist those considerations…they are lies!
If life has taught me anything it is that our problems aren’t permanent, not only do they change in frequency and severity, but tomorrow will bring along with it another crop of new ones. That being said our problems should never be considered to be our position. These verses clearly illustrate that no matter what the problems may be, where they may come from, or how severe or critical they may seem…they do not determine our position. Our position is determined by the fact that no crisis can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus! Why does it matter? Practically speaking, the fact is that our emotions are associated with our position, and our decisions are often affected by our emotions. If we want to make beneficial decisions, we have to view a situation from a positive solid position. When our circumstances are tumultuous, that can be highly difficult unless our position in Christ is what we are considering first and foremost.
I will never forget the moment I was diagnosed with cancer almost two years ago, I immediately looked into my wife’s lovely face and declared, “This isn’t going to steal our joy”. To this day I am grateful for the intervening of the Holy Spirit and His wisdom that gave me that answer to such a scary circumstance. It became, and has continued to be our mantra every time this disease rears its ugly head in our lives. When we found out it would require surgery we declared…” This isn’t going to steal our joy” When my recovery from surgery was longer and more difficult than I anticipated and caused me to wonder if things would ever improve…we declared it again. Later when radiation as well as other treatments became necessary we declared it yet again. Have we been lying to ourselves about the problem? No. We both knew then as we know now, cancer is not good, and is unwelcome, yet is an ongoing part of our story. But has our position changed? No. We are both still immensely and intensely loved by God in Christ Jesus. Has our position made a difference in our outlook, emotions and subsequent decision making ability? You bet it has!
Scriptures like the one referenced today are critical to Spirit filled, power driven, successful living. Our creator God knows that, and so, gives such direction to us. Jesus said it, “In this world you will have trouble…but take heart I have overcome the world”! One of the ways God lovingly directs us to take heart is by considering first our position, then our problems. I am so thankful for a God who would not create us and let us flounder in the difficulties of life, but rather One who gives us instruction such as this from His word to point us to how we can press forward no matter how big or worrisome the trouble ahead.
2 Timothy 3:16 (NLT) All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.
So now, recognizing your position, and standing firmly in it…Go be Awesome!
Have you ever wished that your spiritual life had more power? Have you ever wanted to speak more boldly of the difference Christ makes in your life? Have you ever desired you were the one giving a ‘Word from the Lord’? Have you ever wished you looked more like Christ? Do you wish you were able to minister powerfully like those you see around you or like the people you read about in the Bible? I know I have. I know there have been times in my walk with the Lord when there didn’t seem to be much power. There have been times when I knew someone needed to know what Christ had done for me so they could have hope for their own situations…but I couldn’t seem to find my voice. I recall times when it seemed God was giving me a specific word for someone at a specific time…but reservation of one kind or another kept me quiet. I have many times wondered if Jesus said that I could do the things He did, why can’t I even have a ministry as powerful as some of the other Christians around me?
If Jesus Himself told us, we would do even greater things than He did…and it is recorded for us in John 14:12 that He did in fact say that…what is the problem? Why all the wishes but few the mighty works of the Lord in our individual lives? Where is all the power?
Power is a two-step process.
Outside my house are power lines. Through those lines pulse hundreds of volts of electricity. The power company is always replenishing what is being used and there is seemingly and endless supply available, just outside my house…right there in those power lines. If I want some of that power running through my house I have to do something…I have to agree that the power company may connect their lines to my house. I have to ask for the power. When I do, they come and connect the lines that transmit their endless supply to my house and then I may use it as needed. As I use it, and those homes around me use it, the power company replenishes what has been accessed and more power is available all the time. Getting the power into my house is a two-step process. They produce and deliver…I must choose to accept and use their power in my home.
Power is a two-step process
Though not a perfect analogy, it is much the same in our spiritual lives. God produces the power and delivers it to us though His Holy Spirit. Acts 1:8 speaks of this very thing when it says, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. And you will be my witnesses, telling people about me everywhere—in Jerusalem, throughout Judea, in Samaria, and to the ends of the earth”. God gives us through His Holy Spirit the ability to do all the things He wants accomplished in and through our lives. The words to speak (Luke 12:12). A word from the Lord for others in times of need (John 14:26). Love for others that is beyond our own (Romans 5:5) The ability to give wise counsel and explain spiritual truths to others (1 Corinthians 2:13). It is in fact through the power of the Holy Spirit in our lives that we are being transformed and perfected in our walk with Christ.
What the power of the Holy Spirit can do in and through our lives is only the first step. There is a necessary step two…our agreeance with that power being transmitted through our lives. God has the power…and He wants to give it to us. Luke 11:13 tells us that God is the good father who gives the Holy Spirit…to those who ask! We have to ask for it. Remember in the analogy I used, the power company produces and delivers…that is step one, I must choose to accept and use the power…that is step two. So asking for the empowerment of the Holy Spirit is the first part of step two the second and maybe the more important part of that step is using the power. The electricity from the power company is no good to me if it is simply produced, delivered and accepted…but I never turn on a light. It has to be used…and it is no different with the power of the Holy Spirit. Acts 5:32 states that the Power of the Holy Spirit is given by God to those who obey. In other words, God expects us to complete with our action that which He empowers us by the Holy Spirit to do. God is not wasteful nor inefficient. He gives the power where it will be used. Power is a two-step process…and we are responsible for step two!
I know I risk sounding as if I am being judgmental, but that is not my heart…I hope instead you will find this to be an encouraging message. Listen…we have all failed at being obedient at times, and as a result the power of the Holy Spirit was not able to be shown in our lives in those instances…but this isn’t about that. This is about the fact that going forward if we will understand that when God prompts us to do those things He wants to accomplish using us, we can move with confidence. He only prods us to action when He has already been working behind the scene…He has been setting up the situation to accomplish His will…all He needs in that moment is our obedience and His power is shown. Obedience is our only responsibility…the results are on Him! So child of God be encouraged, God desires to show His awesome power in your life today! He has the power…He has given you His power through His Holy Spirit…That is step one. You ask for His power by asking to be filled with His Holy Spirit…and then simply obey, that is step two.
So now, acting in His power through the indwelling of His Holy Spirit in your life…Go be Awesome!
Isaiah 40:3-5 New Century Version (NCV) This is the voice of one who calls out: “Prepare in the desert the way for the Lord. Make a straight road in the dry lands for our God. Every valley should be raised up, and every mountain and hill should be made flat. The rough ground should be made level, and the rugged ground should be made smooth. Then the glory of the Lord will be shown, and all people together will see it. The Lord himself said these things.”
This past weekend my bride and I traveled to celebrate our 20th anniversary in what we believe to be the most beautiful place on earth…The Blue Ridge Mountains. I like to say it is the very thumbprint of God! We honeymooned in these hills and with the exception of one we have returned every year to spend time here together.
When one goes to the mountains, one cannot avoid driving through the mountains. Our particular destination requires that trek to involve a two-lane state road in Virginia, old Rt 100. We follow it approximately 20 miles from Interstate 81 across, and up into the higher mountains to our cottage outside the sleepy town of Hillsville. Rt 100 is many things but straight and level it is not. It winds around countless curves and rises and falls thousands of feet in the few miles we traverse. It is not an easy path, it would have been better if they would have straightened it and cut out some of the higher hills and filled in some of the lower valleys like they do when they build the interstates. But then they never asked me…
Today’s scripture choice makes me think of old Rt 100. But God isn’t speaking here of a highway of a topographical nature. These verses aren’t talking about lowering and raising natural hills, but rather about the spiritual landscape of our lives. When we yield our lives completely to the Lord’s will, when we thoroughly place our trust in His direction we allow Him to lower our peaks of pride and over emphasized self-confidence. Then He raises up through confidence in Him the valleys of our fear and doubt. In so doing He builds of our lives, roads that illustrate the ease made by His correction. When we follow His outstretched finger, the twists and turns and doubling back of our fickle-minded wanderings are straightened out, and He causes our lives to begin to resemble one with purpose. Only His influence on the rebuilding of the road is able to not only level and straighten, but also maintain and continually be about the important work of filling in the potholes. He is always working to make the rough road smoother. Why? Because our lives should be a highway. A road fit for The King. Our lives shouldn’t showcase anything more than it does the one who indwells and empowers it. People should be able to recognize by what they see, the One who did the work.
So what about those high places you like to see emphasized, what about those low places you wish didn’t exist? What about those twists and turns and switchbacks that make it look like your life lacks direction? Are you willing to let Him straighten and level out your way? It’ll mean you have to watch those peaks disappear…but so will the valleys. It’ll mean others will say the road looks too straight and lacks interest…but you’ll gain purpose. It is exciting in a whole new way! Maybe your road is already in process of rebuilding, fantastic! Showcase the architect and builder, utilize every opportunity to let others know how the changes have taken place. The work is the Lord’s…He said these things would happen if you were willing.
So now, inviting His road work in your life, go be awesome!
Psalm 119:131 (NIV) I open my mouth and pant, longing for your commands.
My wife Lynn and I have a yellow lab, named Della. We have raised her from a pup and although she can frustrate us from time to time, we love her very much. We have always welcomed dogs as a part of our family. For those of you who do not, or have not, I don’t condemn you as foolish, but I must say I am sorry you have chosen to deny yourself one of the greatest joys this world has to offer.
Della pants for my attention seemingly all the time. She stands, wiggling, and panting when she sees me first thing in the morning. She greets me at the door panting for my attention when I arrive back home at the end of the day. She gets up and comes to me and pants for me to pet her head or scratch behind her ear when I am sitting in our living room. When we go for a ride in our van she sits in the seat panting, trying everything possible to position herself to make contact with me while I try to drive. Yes…dogs pant when they are hot, but most of Della’s panting in my direction takes place in a perfectly controlled air conditioned environment. Her actions when she does this don’t say “I’m hot” they say, “I can’t live without you, I need you, I appreciate you, I want to be near you” (sometimes too near me). Della loves me, (yes I know dogs aren’t capable of love, well ordinary ones aren’t…but Della is) Della adores me, Della trusts me, and her panting at the prospect of interaction with me shows those things to be true.
Psalm 119:131 indicates that ought to be our reaction to God’s Word. Each day, we should wake up with this thought on our minds, “Lord I can’t live without you I need you…I appreciate you…I want to be near you.” We should be excited to get a word from God! Our greatest desire ought to be to race to His Word first thing and devour as much of it as possible! We should be crazy for it, digesting it voraciously, downcast when we have to retire from it until later. Praying continually as we are encouraged by the scripture shouldn’t be anything but pure joy! When we think about the fact that the King of kings, the Lord of lords, the Ruler of Heavens Armies desires to be in constant communication with us, it should make our hearts skip a beat! It should make us pant for Him.
So during these dog days of summer I want to challenge you to not be lethargic and sleepy on your walk with your sweet, sweet Savior. Get up earlier in the cool of the morning and run into His Word, spend the day with your ears perked listening for all He has to say to you. Open your mouth and pant for Him and listen for his commands, and then enjoy the loving touch of your Master.
I am a man. This fact was announced on the day of my birth by the doctor who delivered me before placing me in my mother’s waiting arms. The fact that I am a man has been reinforced all of my life in many ways. It was decidedly set in stone though the first time I became lost while driving and someone suggested we stop and ask for directions. In that moment my manhood was secured as I defiantly said “No, I’ll find the way”.
This might be humorous, except that it is the condition of all men, and in fact (sorry ladies)…all mankind. We all think that we can find our way. From our youth we are taught that we should try to do things for ourselves. Psychologically speaking, we all trust our instincts on some level, and in a way that’s not a bad thing. If there were no trust in ourselves, our experiences, and our perceived expertise, we would likely never try anything. However, if further proof is needed that this is in fact the human condition, I submit the following…men simply won’t stop and ask for directions, no matter how lost they may be.
The Bible points out this may not be the best strategy however. Proverbs 3:5-6 (NKJV) read as follows, Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths.
The first notable phrase from this scripture is “Trust in the Lord with all your heart”. What does this mean? It may seem obvious but as with most of God’s Word, it has depth far below the surface of the words themselves. When we trust in the Lord with all our heart, we are eliminating our trust in all others including ourselves as this scripture goes on to note as a necessary component. Why should we trust in God? One incredibly viable reason is His omniscience. The fact that He knows all, and we do not is reason enough. We often think we know what is best for ourselves, don’t we? We decide what will be the best course of action and then we pray and ask God to follow our prescription, and we call that trust. That however is not trusting in the Lord it is in fact simply trusting in ourselves…and in a sense asking Him to do the same by requesting that He enact our will. Something seems backward there. This very verse continues to instruct us that we might avoid that particular error. “And lean not on your own understanding”. As I stated, we often think we know what is best for us. I ask this question however, based on what? Our limited view and understanding of the situation or circumstance? As noted earlier, it is God who knows all. It is us who knows only what we can see…and we are instructed elsewhere in scripture not to walk by sight, but by faith. The word leaning here infers supporting oneself, much like you would lean on a cane or a walking stick. And the choices are a thin broken twig or a strong time-tested staff. Our choice, but only one is wise.
The second verse goes on to say, “In all your ways acknowledge Him”. The Hebrew word we translate to ‘acknowledge’ is ‘yada’ and means to know. This verse could be read then to say, In everything you do, know God and He will guide you. The first important thing to know about God is that He is God and we are not. It is His direction we need to seek, not His endorsement of our direction. Another important thing to know about God is that He is for us, trying to guide us into His best for our lives. Many times He directs or guides by allowing or not allowing certain of our plans to come to fruition. We however are often so heavily invested in leaning on our own understanding that we look at His guiding as positive if He allows us what we want, and negative if He does not. If we desire a certain outcome and God ‘says no’ we see that as a negative thing rather than simply direction. We must come to an understanding that a yes or a no from God is no different than a left or right from someone we seek to show us which way to go. Both are simply guidance, the very thing we say we desire.
God says in His Word that He has plans for us, plans that are for our blessing, not our harm. They are His plans for us, not ours. He is God, we are not. He is the guide, we are the ones needing direction. Our part is to know Him…trust Him…then follow Him.