In closing I want to share something I came across in my research. I came across a blog post by Aaron Armstrong and he wrote something about this subject that really speaks to me; Aaron wrote "maybe we need to stop seeing the trials and adversity in our lives as a burden, as an indication that God doesn't love us. Maybe we need to start seeing them as proof that God indeed loves us very much - so much so that He will not let us try to rely on our own strength, but continue to show us that we must rely on Him to endure suffering and perseverance until the end" (www.bloggingtheologically.com)
Saturday, April 27, 2013
"Give your burdens to the Lord, and he will take care of you. He will not permit the godly to slip and fall." Psalm 55:22
OK, just when I start to think I am figuring things out something comes along to let me know that I am still a long way off from having anything figured out. Yesterday it happened, during my daily devotional.
Let me start by saying anyone who knows my family or me, knows that the one thing we are ALWAYS saying about my mom is that she always told us that God will never give us a burden we couldn't bear (ie. anything we can’t handle). I have shared this with countless others to reassure them, I have written blog posts about it, and have ALWAYS believed it as a promise directly from God, and assumed it was somewhere in the bible.
Well my devotional yesterday blew that right out of the water, along with the research I did afterwards. That research has led me to the absolute conclusion that God NEVER said this, God never told anyone this, nowhere in the Bible does it say this! It is not a bible scripture at all! As a matter of fact when you really think about it, a LOT of people in the Bible were most certainly given a LOT of things they could not handle. In the New testament alone apostles were stoned to death, crucified upside down, and beheaded, I don’t know about you but that sounds like things no one can handle!! Early Christians were persecuted, tortured, fed to lions, fed to wild dogs, burned at the stake, and crucified. Again, sounds to me like things no one is able to handle! Jesus himself was beaten, tortured and crucified, again something no human can handle. As a mater of fact early Jews and Gentiles alike used these things to say that God didn’t exist or that Jesus was not the Messiah, because why would He allow such horrible things to happen to His followers. I found out that this sentiment is most likely a misunderstanding or misquote from 1 Corinthians 10:13 which states
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
As you can see this verse does not say that God will not give you a burden you can not bear, it says that He will not allow you to be tempted beyond your ability. God Himself doesn't tempt anyone, that is the work of Satan. According to my research, this verse means that God will never put us in a situation where your only choice is to sin. It doesn't say he will not give us a burden we can not bear.
After reading this last night I began to really think, and to be honest I was upset and afraid. After living for the past 43 years believing that God would never give me a burden I could not bear, I felt like the rug had been pulled from under my feet when I realized this was nothing more than a nice sentiment, a hope of man, NOT the word of God. I began to think about all the horrible things that could happen to me or the terrible things that could happen to my family. At one point I even thought “forget it, that’s what I was taught and I am going to go on believing it” Yeah, because that will make it true, right? Not! You can’t go back and unlearn something which is what I wanted to do. I was happy with my thinking that God said this and that it must be in the Bible somewhere because so many people repeat it, BUT I was obviously not happy with my level of understanding of God’s word or else I wouldn’t have decided that I wanted to learn more about His word. I couldn’t just stop because I found out something I didn’t like. I couldn’t just say “Forget it, I’m gonna believe what I want” That’s not living in His word, and that’s certainly not growing closer to God.
So I had to do more digging because I kept wondering why God wouldn’t want to protect us from what we can’t handle. I started looking deeper into what I found in my research and I went back to reread that part of my devotional again because frankly I kind of zoned out after I read that this statement wasn’t a true promise from God. I had to know, if He’s not going to protect me from the evil in this world, what exactly is He going to do??
What I learned is that while God does NOT promise to never give us more than we can handle, He does promise something even greater! He says that He will be our strength in those times. He does something even better than simply not giving us a burden we can’t bear; He says we don’t have to bear them! We can turn them over to Him and He will handle them for us! Throughout my research I was reminded of the words to the song “Strong Enough” by Matthew West. When I was going through everything with my dad, that song was my rock, it reminded me that I was not alone and that I did not have to be strong enough. I always thought it meant the whole “God won’t give me more than I can handle” thing but then last night I really started thinking about the words and they started to make so much more sense! Matthew West sings:
You must think I’m strong to give me what I’m going through, well forgive me if I’m wrong, but this looks like more than I can do, on my own. I know I’m not strong enough to be every thing that I’m supposed to be, I give up, I’m not strong enough, Hands of mercy won’t you cover me, Lord right now I’m asking You to be strong enough for the both of us”
These words took on a whole new meaning to me after learning what I have learned and I realized that my own personal strength will never compare to God’s strength and that when I am faced with something I feel I can’t handle, I don’t have to, God will take on my burden, He will take care of me, I trust Him and I know He will be strong enough for the both of us. Just as it says in Psalm 55:22 Give your burdens to the Lord and He will take care of you..." I don't have to be strong, God is my strength and He will use the difficult times in my life to show me and everyone around me that strength.
Monday, April 22, 2013
Now you are the body of Christ and each one of you is a part of it
1 Corinthians 12:27
Ever since this weekend I have been struggling with reactions to the capture of the Boston Marathon bomber. I know people are upset and his actions and I know that people are feeling more patriotic right now but I am hearing awful things from people I never expected to hear them from.
I knew when I posted on Facebook that I was glad they captured him alive because he is only 19 years old, he is one of God’s children, and another senseless death would not have solved or changed anything that has happened, I would have friends and family who would disagree with me because their hearts are not in the same place as mine. I understand that, and I pray for them because I know they do not have a personal relationship with Jesus, I wasn’t surprised by the comments made on my Facebook status and I wasn’t offended because again, that person doesn’t really know any better
What I was most surprised by was what happened at church Saturday night, the night after the young man was captured. Gary and I were sitting in church waiting for the services to start; the pastor was speaking to a couple directly behind us. I wasn’t listening to their conversation but when someone is having a conversation, loudly, behind you its hard not to hear them. The pastor mentioned that the young man they captured was in critical but stable condition and that he was expected to survive to which the woman laughingly replied “ Oh, I’m very sorry to hear that.” That statement perked up my ears, and then she said to the pastor “Well, I’m praying that his nurses are at least withholding his pain medication” I could not believe what I was hearing! Now if I were sitting in a restaurant and overheard this conversation I would have treated it as I did the comments made on my Facebook status, they don’t know any better, but this was being said by a woman sitting in church preparing to worship God. This has bothered me ever since.
It made me angry at the time and I whispered to Gary “When it’s time to shake hands I am NOT turning around and shaking her hand” LOL I did turn around and shake her hand because I DO know better, and it is not my place to judge her. But I have thought about this all weekend. Today my devotional was about Casting Crown’s song “If We Are The Body” and it made me think about this woman. The song says “If we are the body, why aren’t His arms reaching, why aren’t His hands healing, why aren’t His words teaching?” If I were not a Christian and maybe a first time visitor to any church, and not sure about Jesus, her conversation would have been my introduction to the church and to what could be assumed to be the Christian mindset – pray for pain upon our enemies. What were her words teaching? Were they teaching a message that Jesus would have approved of? Not according to Matthew 5:43 – 48 where Jesus instructs us to not only love our neighbors but to love our enemies, bless those that curse us, do good for those that hate us, and pray for those that persecute us. I don’t have an answer to why this woman, who considers herself a Christian would pray for such awful things for anyone. I can only assume she considers herself a Christian because she was sitting in a church service, her actions and words were not enough to convince me that she was a Christian, in fact if I had overheard that conversation anywhere else I would have thought for sure that she was not a Christian. I pray quite often that God uses me to show others His love and I pray that he shine through me so that others may see His glory and His grace. I hope that someday this woman is able to see that if we are the body of Christ then our words need to teach not tear down. I will pray for her, Father forgive her, she knows not what she does (but she should).
Saturday, April 20, 2013
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 2 Corinthians 12:9
So I feel like over the last few weeks my mind, my heart, and my eyes have been opened up to God and Jesus in a way like never before. I have always heard about the grace of God. I have used the phrase “By the grace of God…” but over the last few weeks as I really start to desire that deeper connection, that meaningful relationship with God I have found myself wondering what exactly does that mean. What does it mean to have God’s grace? One of my favorite songs states similarly what is written in 2 Corinthians 12:9, the song (by Chris Tomlin) says “Your grace is enough for me”
I came across the verse above when looking for information about God answering prayers but it has stuck with me, and considering every time I hear the Chris Tomlin song with the same message it just fills my heart and makes me want to raise my hands in praise I wanted to find out exactly what grace means.
Now, considering I am a teacher I did what I told my 4th graders to do if they came to me and asked me what a word meant, I looked it up the in the dictionary. According to an online dictionary grace means “favor or kindness.” OK, well that makes some sense but then I thought we can get that from pretty much anyone so why would God’s grace mean so much more? If someone else can give us what God is giving us then its not really that special, right? So there has to more to it. So for the last several days I have been thinking about it and thinking about it and tonight at church our pastor said something that caused me to have an Ah-Ha moment (don’t you just love those?? When God gives you an answer you’ve been seeking!) He was talking about Jesus telling the parable of the feast and how Jesus told the host that at his next feast he should invite those who do not get invited, those that could never return the favor, those that could never do for him what he would be doing for them by inviting them to this large feast, then he simply said “That’s grace” and I felt he was talking to me, like God had told him to tell me the answer to my question!
Grace isn’t just favor or kindness; it is favor or kindness that we could never begin to return! Grace was Jesus coming to earth and dying on the cross for our sins, grace is God’s love for us! When I go back and look at some key verses that include the word “grace” and replace the word with love it makes sense. In the verse above “My love (grace) is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” or in Ephesians 2: 8 For by love (grace) you have been saved through faith. Romans 5:8 states, what I believe is the perfect definition of grace – But God shows His love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Grace is God’s love and the sacrifice Jesus made on the cross for us. He died so that we may live! So yes Lord your grace is enough for me and I too will boast all the more gladly because I have received the grace and love of God and this is a love more powerful than any other love, a love that I have no way of repaying, He laid down His life for me 2000 years before I was even conceived, yes Lord Your grace is enough for me!
Wednesday, April 17, 2013
A voice from heaven said “this is my son, the one I love, I am very pleased with him”
A couple weeks back my youngest son, Garrett, and I were having a discussion about God and the Bible, and he said to me “Mom, one thing I don’t get is it seems like in the Bible God talked to a lot of people but He doesn’t really do that now” I responded to Garrett by saying “Yes He does son, no its not a big booming voice from Heaven and I don’t think that’s how he talked to most people in the Bible, think about it if God had spoken to people back then with a big booming loud voice from the sky then why was Noah the only one building an ark?”
I started thinking about how God spoke to people in the Bible stories I learned as a child. When you hear these stories and it says “The Lord spoke to Noah” you get a picture in your mind of this big godly voice coming down from heaven shouting at whoever it was he was talking to but if that’s the case then everyone would have heard it, and there wouldn’t have been any nonbelievers. So I started thinking that God had to have spoken to the people in the Bible the same way He speaks to us. I know that God speaks to me and others in a variety of ways; dreams, inspirational song lyrics that come on just when you need to hear it most, through the same Bible verse showing up over and over again in a variety of devotionals and readings, a quiet voice in your heard that tells you just what you need to hear, that new Bible study or church class starting at the exact time you need it to start, or a friend calling you up or stopping by and just saying the right thing at just the right time. These are all ways God speaks to us. I think these are also a lot of the ways He spoke to those people in the Bible as well. I don’t think Moses would have had as much trouble with the Egyptian Pharoah if there was a big booming voice from heaven, and I doubt Noah would have had people laughing at him and mocking him for making his ark if they had all heard this big voice from heaven. Moses and Noah most likely heard God in their hearts, while Jacob dreamed of his ladder to Heaven, Ananias received a dream or vision from Jesus to go to Saul/Paul and return his sight to him and countless others who were spoken to by God most likely in quiet intimate ways. That is how God speaks to us, quietly and intimately, its up to us to listen.
I can only think of one instance where it specifically says a voice from heaven was heard and that is right after John baptized Jesus. It is written in 3 of the 4 of the Gospels - in Matthew 3:17 says “A voice from heaven said “this is my son, the one I love, I am very pleased with him” (ERV). It is also repeated in Mark 1:11 and in Luke 3:22, John 1 addresses it but doesn’t specifically state the voice from heaven like the other 3. My point is, unless I am mistaken (which is quite possible), the only time it describes any voice from heaven is when God is proclaiming Jesus as his son, that was a pretty important proclamation with no other proclamations even comparing to it so I think the big booming voice from heaven was warranted. It doesn’t say but I have a feeling the other people who were there being baptized that day had little doubt that Jesus was the Son of God after hearing it like that!
Don’t you wish sometimes that God did speak to us like that? I know I was talking to my friend about a big decision recently and mentioned how I wanted God to just tell me what to do, I wanted that big booming voice, she reminded me that that type of thing was reserved for big events (like declaring Jesus the son of God) and that I would have to just pray and listen.
Listening and following through can be the tough part though. I remember a story from many many moons ago, the pastor at my old church told that really makes you think about the fact that yes we have to pray, and yes we have to trust God, and yes God does speak to us, BUT we have to do our part, we have to listen for God’s answer and act on it.
Our pastor told us that there was another pastor in another town and this town was on a river, now it had been raining and raining and that river was beginning to overflow into the town. The pastor was at the church and the church was beginning to flood. The water was so high the pastor was standing up on the pews when some men in a rowboat came and they called out to the pastor to come with them. The pastor replied, “No no, I’ll be fine, I’ve prayed and God is going to protect me!” so the men left him. The water rose higher and higher, pretty soon the water was so high the pastor was sitting in the rafters of his church when another rescue boat came to get him, once again the pastor told them “No I’ll be fine, I’ve prayed and I know God will take care of me, God will protect me” so the boat left. Pretty soon the waters rose to the point the pastor was on the roof of the church, this time a helicopter hovered overhead and dropped down a rescue basket and the rescuer pleaded with the pastor to climb into the basket and let them take him to safety and again the pastor told them “No, I’ll be fine, I’ve prayed and I trust that God will protect me, God will take care of me!” Well, the pastor died in the flood. When he got to heaven he said “God! What did You do?? You made me look the fool! I told everyone you would protect me and then you let me die!” God responded, “Well, I sent 2 boats and a helicopter.”
So you see God talks to us, we just have to listen. When he opens a door for us, we have to be the ones to walk through it; if we listen to Him he will tell us when it’s the right door. Anytime I feel like I’m getting it wrong or that God isn’t telling me what I should do I hear that little voice and it says “I sent 2 boats and a helicopter” and I stop and think about what God has already told me about the situation and what I need to do next, now its up to me to jump in one of them. God still talks to us, we just have to be willing to listen.
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
My ears had heard of You, but now my eyes have seen You. Job 42:5
(I have to say thank you to my niece/sister in Christ, Terri because our conversation earlier reminded me of this verse and lead me to this post)
How many of you watched that movie Jerry Maguire? The famous scene where he is screaming “Show me the money!!!” or when you were younger and you told your friend that you could do or you had something really cool and they would say “Prove it, show me!” We always want proof, we want to be able to see something to believe it. I am reading a book right now called “A Voice in The Wind” (thank you to my sweet friend Jennifer for recommending it) anyway, this book is set in the first century and is about a young girl who is an early Christian. She has been taken as a slave for a Roman family and the one thing that keeps standing out to me in this book is that they mock the Jews for praying and believing in an “invisible god.” This was a bit confusing for me since the Romans believed in multiple gods but then I realized that their pagan gods were actual physical idols that they prayed to and worshiped which is why they thought it was ridiculous to worship an “invisible god” I also often times see atheists derogatorily refer to God as “the invisible man in the sky.” It’s easy to find reasons to not believe in something you can’t see. What nonbelievers don’t seem to understand is that God is not invisible, God is very visible to those who have opened their mind, heart, and eyes to see Him.
God is visible through his work in us and in our lives! He does incredible things that nonbelievers write off as coincidence or scientific nature because they don’t want to believe that it could be the Almighty Father. I will never understand how anyone can give birth and not believe in God. God has shown us He is here, He has shown the world on a grand scale that He is here; just look at the beauty and majesty of the Grand Canyon for example, and He has shown us on our own individual levels that He is here, I have personally seen His work in my life in just the littlest of things, things like finally figuring out how to pay those few bills that just don’t fit in the right time of the month after surrendering our finances to Him, or having the same Bible verse come up and press into my heart over and over again in different places and at different times. Those are all God’s way of saying “See me, I am here with you”
In my classroom right now we have 5 chrysalises, last week we had 5 caterpillars, and any day now we will have 5 butterflies, these little creatures are going through an amazing metamorphosis, and my students are witnessing it happen right in front of their very eyes. That same metamorphosis happens to us when we become a Christian or renew our faith in Christ. I know it’s happening to me right now! I’m changing; I’m in my chrysalis stage as God molds me into the woman He wants me to be.
In my focus verse for today, which came from one of my devotionals, it reminds me that all of us have heard of God, but, like Job we can also SEE Him through the changes He is making in each and every one of us. I think we are all in either our caterpillar or chrysalis stages right now, as we learn and grow and soak up the wisdom in God’s word. As we grow bigger and bigger and shed our old sinners “skin” we get closer and closer to becoming God’s beautiful butterflies. Look for Him in the big things and the little things in your life. He will show Himself to you often if you just open your heart to see Him. I would love to read in the comment section about how God is showing Himself to you today or this week.
Father God, I thank you for showing Yourself to us everyday, I thank you Father for allows us to see You and your work in our lives. Father I praise you for all You have done for me and my family. Father, I pray that when people want to say “prove it” or “show me” when it comes to believing in You, they can simply look at me and be able to see You shining in my life and have no doubts about who they are seeing. Father I ask that you touch each and every person who is reading this right now and I ask that You show them Your love so that they will know that you are not invisible but a very visible and present loving Father. In Jesus’ holy name I pray, Amen