My Musings – Although our troubles are temporary, while we are in them, we all have a tendency to be consumed by them. We fix our eyes on them. We can hardly focus on anything else. Yet because we are in Christ, if we fix our eyes on Him, things can be different. Hard pressed but not crushed. Perplexed but not in despair. Persecuted but not abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed. Wasting away but being renewed. With the proper focus we can see the all sufficient grace of God while still in the midst of what is pressing against us, perplexing us, persecuting us, or striking us down.
My Advice – In the less than memorable movie Noah’s Ark, starring Russel Crowe, there is one brief exchange between Noah and Tubal-Cain that I do remember quite well.
Tubal-Cain (menacingly): “I have men at my back, and you stand alone and defy me?”
Noah (matter-of-factly): “I’m not alone.”
Remember, no matter how desperate the situation, if you are in Christ you are never alone. Fix your eyes on Him, not the situation.
My Musings – God answers all the prayers of His children, they just may not be what we expected. To me it seems that His answers fall into four broad categories:
No – God is not arbitrary, capricious nor vindictive. After all, do we give our children everything that they ask for? If not, isn’t there usually very good reasons? When the answer to our prayers appears to be no, we can be sure there is a good reason. Instead of questioning His good intentions we should search our motives and our heart to make sure they are in line with God’s will.
Wait – Sometimes, we conclude that the answer is no because it does not come when we want it or expect it. It could be that God has determined that the answer is yes, but the timing is not right. His timing is always best.
Yes – When we ask, when our motives are pure, when the timing is right and it is in line with God’s will, we have the assurance that the answer will be yes.
Better – Sometimes God has something even better to answer our prayers with. After all, He is able to do abundantly more than we can think or imagine. In these cases, if His answer was simply yes, we would miss out on even greater blessings.
My Advice – Make sure your motives are pure and that what you request is not in obvious conflict with God’s will. Then trust Him to do what is best, even if you cannot see it right away.
My Musings – This text requires a bit of explaining. Paul was speaking against the “Judaizers.” These were people who were attempting to burden the Gentile believers with Jewish laws and customs in addition to the free gift of grace. Paul, the same man who wrote the “love chapter” and instructed his followers (to the extent that it depended upon them) to be a peace with all people, has very strong words for anyone attempting to turn others “to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all.“
It’s as if they are saying that what Christ did on the cross was not good enough. Not of sufficient value to save us, without adding our own efforts or religious practices. Elsewhere (Galatians 5), Paul states that doing so (adding to grace) results in Christ being of no value at all. Why? Because trusting in ourselves, even if partially, means we are not really trusting in Christ at all.
My Advice – Relying on a safety net, putting “confidence in the flesh,” means that our confidence (faith) in God’s saving grace is not absolute. If it is not absolute, it is no faith at all. You do the math. Adding to grace is, in reality, subtracting from it.
Today’s musing was inspired by Pastor Kevin Rutledge’s sermon on October 27, 2019. Check it out at https://www.fbcsycamore.com/sermons. If you live in or are visiting the area, come and join us Sundays at 10:30 a.m. We’d love to be partners in the Gospel with you.
My Musings – Throughout the passage it speaks of two. Two are better than one. This can include marriages, business partners, or friendships. Regretfully, marriages do fail, partnerships can be dissolved and trust between friends is often broken. But note, the passage ends with three. Marriages, partnerships and friendships are not easily broken when God is the third strand.
My Advice – Whatever or wherever you venture, make sure that you include God.
My Musings – “If you can?” My doubt rarely manifests itself this way. I am usually confident that God can, but I am not always confident that He will. I don’t know if this is a worse kind of doubt or not. Is it because I believe I am not worthy of God’s help? Or is it because I acknowledge that God might have a higher purpose? I wish I could say it was a faith like Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, who facing the fiery furnace told King Nebuchadnezzar, “we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” (Daniel 3:16-18, NIV 1984).
My Advice – Let our faith be like the three Hebrew children – yes, God always can, but there may be times that He will not. Even in those circumstances, let’s stand firm in the faith that God is sovereign and that it is not because He does not love us. Sometimes He will remove us from it, whatever it may be, but there will be other times that He will take us through it. It may be as dark as the “valley of the shadow of death,” or as threatening as the fiery furnance, but no matter what “thou art with me.”
My Musings – “The first question which the priest and the Levite asked was: ‘If I stop to help this man, what will happen to me?’ But…the good Samaritan reversed the question: ‘If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him?” ― Martin Luther King Jr.
What indeed? I’ve done it. Maybe you have too. The stranded motorist all alone. Well, who doesn’t have a cell phone these days? They can call someone. It’s a busy road, someone is bound to stop. I’m running late, I can’t be bothered this time, I’ll get the next one. What if it’s a ruse, I could be putting myself in real danger. On the other hand, what if they don’t have a cell phone? Would it be a bother even if I did have the time? What if it’s a not to well-traveled road? What if I don’t stop to help, they could be left in real danger?
How about the shabbily-dressed person on the corner with the crudely lettered sign “any amount will help?” They’re probably running a scam. They’ll probably use it for drugs or alcohol. Why don’t they go out and look for a job? What if they’ve tried it all and just want to feed their family just for this day?
Without getting too political (too late), what about the refugee seeking a better life? They’re probably here for free benefits. They just want to come here and change things to the same as what they left. What if they belong to some sleeper cell? Why don’t they just come here legally? What if they really did flee a life and death situation?
Maybe some of the concerns and objections above are legitimate. After all, there will always be those looking to take advantage. Many of the situations we face will be tough calls. But do we really want to turn a “blind-eye” to those who might be truly in need because we are afraid of what might happen to us or skeptical hat their needs are genuine? While we need to be wise and wary, at the end of the day we are responsible for our hearts and actions and not the other person’s motives.
My Advice – We all know that immediately after the above question “and who is my neighbor?” Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan. Isn’t it interesting that the two in the parable most likely to lend a hand did not (maybe they used some of the above rationalizations), and the one least likely to care at all (the “hated” Samaritan) cared enough to act. “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.” (Luke 10:36-37, NIV 1984).
Maybe the ones we find in apparently needy situations are our “hated” Samaritans. Should it make a difference? The point of the parable is no. They are just as much our neighbor as the ones we visit with over the white picket fence.
My Musings – He’s watching and listening. Nothing escapes or distracts His attention. So when things appear to be going amiss, we need to ask ourselves why that might be. Have we wandered where we do not belong? Is there something He’s trying to teach us? Has He got something better planned? It certainly is not because He has not been paying attention. He is well aware of what’s going on.
My Advice – Maybe its time for us to keep our eyes “on” Him and our ears attentive to His “voice.” Of course, it’s always time for that.