Monthly Archives: April 2018

Being Certain in the Uncertainty

Reflection

 For most of us, being uncertain of what is to come is a sign of weakness. We think it speaks to being unprepared or ignorant of our circumstances. We think it represents to others that we are not fit to be in a leadership position because we have not anticipated the next course of events. It means we have not “mapped out” where others are going to “zig “ so we can “zag” appropriately to gain an advantage.

The truth is NO ONE knows what tomorrow will bring. We can all make educated guesses of what is to come in many areas of life but we have no idea what will happen in any given day. We simply do not know.   If we sit too long thinking about our lack of knowledge about the future it will produce anxiety – why? Because we want to know – we want to be in control – we want to set our own course – we want to be in charge of our destiny.

Again, the TRUTH is we cannot know – we are not in control – we cannot set our own course and we are not in charge of our destiny.

The key is to know what to be certain about so that we view uncertainty with anticipation instead of dread. As you read the Scripture below, put yourself in Paul’s shoes and walk with him as he journey’s to Damascus. You might just figure out what you need to be certain about.

Scripture

 All this time Saul was breathing down the necks of the Master’s disciples, out for the kill. He went to the Chief Priest and got arrest warrants to take to the meeting places in Damascus so that if he found anyone there belonging to the Way, whether men or women, he could arrest them and bring them to Jerusalem.

He set off. When he got to the outskirts of Damascus, he was suddenly dazed by a blinding flash of light. As he fell to the ground, he heard a voice: “Saul, Saul, why are you out to get me?”

He said, “Who are you, Master?”

“I am Jesus, the One you’re hunting down. I want you to get up and enter the city. In the city you’ll be told what to do next.”

His companions stood there dumbstruck—they could hear the sound, but couldn’t see anyone—while Saul, picking himself up off the ground, found himself stone-blind. They had to take him by the hand and lead him into Damascus. He continued blind for three days. He ate nothing, drank nothing.

There was a disciple in Damascus by the name of Ananias. The Master spoke to him in a vision: “Ananias.”

Yes, Master?” he answered.

“Get up and go over to Straight Avenue. Ask at the house of Judas for a man from Tarsus. His name is Saul. He’s there praying. He has just had a dream in which he saw a man named Ananias enter the house and lay hands on him so he could see again.”

Ananias protested, “Master, you can’t be serious. Everybody’s talking about this man and the terrible things he’s been doing, his reign of terror against your people in Jerusalem! And now he’s shown up here with papers from the Chief Priest that give him license to do the same to us.”

But the Master said, “Don’t argue. Go! I have picked him as my personal representative to non-Jews and kings and Jews. And now I’m about to show him what he’s in for—the hard suffering that goes with this job.”

So Ananias went and found the house, placed his hands on blind Saul, and said, “Brother Saul, the Master sent me, the same Jesus you saw on your way here. He sent me so you could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.” No sooner were the words out of his mouth than something like scales fell from Saul’s eyes—he could see again! He got to his feet, was baptized, and sat down with them to a hearty meal.

Acts 9:1-19 The Message

Challenge

Paul thought he had a good plan that was based on his religious training as a Pharisee and on his misguided belief that God wanted to eradicate the “Jesus followers” involved in “heresy”.   He was executing that plan to perfection when God showed him who was really in charge, what his destiny would be and where he would go from that point. After his encounter with Jesus, Paul’s certainty was not in his own plans but in his Savior.  He knew that each day was going to be about following Jesus – he became certain in the uncertainty.

What part of Paul’s story are you in?

-Are you in the process of planning something that might be off course? Have you consulted (prayed) Jesus in your planning process?

-Are you “blinded” and waiting for God’s direction? Have you sought help (prayed) from Jesus?

-If you are off course, have you consulted Jesus (prayed) about how to make a hard “right” turn? Has God provided an “Ananias” for you? Have you listened, turned and stepped out in faith onto your new path?

-Has God called you to be an “Ananias” for someone? Have you listened or are you still arguing with God about it?

R. H. Loy

God’s Deposit

Reflection

At Pentecost, The Holy Spirit was given to believers in Jesus – people that believed that he had died and rose to be received by God.

We receive the Holy Spirit when we believe in Jesus. Depending on the tradition of the group of Christians we affiliate ourselves with, the determination by others as to when a believer receives the Holy Spirit may differ but the bottom line is that a believer in Jesus receives the Holy Spirit – meaning we have been infused with the Resurrection power of Jesus Christ.

In other words, “we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength”. (Phil 4:13)   The test as to whether we are “doing” what we should be doing is determining if we are walking as The Holy Spirit directs us to. The question we need to ask of ourselves on a daily basis is this: Am I loving the Lord my God with all my heart, with all my soul, with all my mind and with all my strength and my neighbor as myself”? See Mark 12:30

The second question is this: Am I “doing” what I want to do for my own benefit and comfort or am I “doing” what The Holy Spirit is leading me to do realizing that God’s investment (The Holy Spirit) in me requires a response.

Read this familiar Parable (of the Talents) from the Gospel of Matthew 25:14-30 understanding that the man (Jesus) entrusted his wealth (The Holy Spirit) to each of us in accordance with our abilities.

The Parable of the Bags of Gold

“Again, it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted his wealth to them.  To one he gave five bags of gold, to another two bags, and to another one bag, each according to his ability. Then he went on his journey.  The man who had received five bags of gold went at once and put his money to work and gained five bags more.  So also, the one with two bags of gold gained two more.  But the man who had received one bag went off, dug a hole in the ground and hid his master’s money.

“After a long time the master of those servants returned and settled accounts with them.  The man who had received five bags of gold brought the other five. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with five bags of gold. See, I have gained five more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“The man with two bags of gold also came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘you entrusted me with two bags of gold; see, I have gained two more.’

“His master replied, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant! You have been faithful with a few things; I will put you in charge of many things. Come and share your master’s happiness!’

“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘Master,’ he said, ‘I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’

“His master replied, ‘You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed?  Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.

“ ‘So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.  For whoever has will be given more, and they will have an abundance. Whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.  And throw that worthless servant outside, into the darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” Matthew 25:14-30

Challenge:

Assess your life in view of the power of the Resurrection which God has deposited in you?

How does your assessment impact your current course of life?

Speak to the Impossible

In these scriptural situations, Abraham, Daniel, Paul and Jesus faced the impossible. Spend some time stepping into each of their lives. Do you feel their anguish? Can you relate to infertility or abuse? Have you faced death in your job or through the suffering of another? Have you been persecuted?

What did they do when faced with the impossible?

Abraham and Sarah

The Lord had said to Abram, “Go from your country, your people and your father’s household to the land I will show you. “I will make you into a great nation,and I will bless you; . . . So Abram went, as the Lord had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he set out from Harran. (Genesis 12:1-2,4)

Then the word of the Lord came to him: “This man will not be your heir, but a son who is your own flesh and blood will be your heir.”  He took him outside and said, “Look up at the sky and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness.( Genesis 15:4-6)

Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.”

So Hagar bore Abram a son, and Abram gave the name Ishmael to the son she had borne.Abram was eighty-six years old when Hagar bore him Ishmael.

(Genesis 16:1-2, 15-16)

Abraham fell facedown; he laughed and said to himself, “Will a son be born to a man a hundred years old? Will Sarah bear a child at the age of ninety?” And Abraham said to God, “If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!” Then God said, “Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac; I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. (Genesis 17:17-19)

Where is your wife Sarah?” they asked him. “There, in the tent,” he said. Then one of them said, “I will surely return to you about this time next year, and Sarah your wife will have a son.” Now Sarah was listening at the entrance to the tent, which was behind him.  Abraham and Sarah were already very old, and Sarah was past the age of childbearing.  So Sarah laughed to herself as she thought, “After I am worn out and my lord is old, will I now have this pleasure?” (Genesis 18:9-12)

Daniel and the Lion’s Den

At the first light of dawn, the king got up and hurried to the lions’ den. When he came near the den, he called to Daniel in an anguished voice, “Daniel, servant of the living God, has your God, whom you serve continually, been able to rescue you from the lions?”

Daniel answered, “May the king live forever!  My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty.”

The king was overjoyed and gave orders to lift Daniel out of the den. And when Daniel was lifted from the den, no wound was found on him, because he had trusted in his God. (Daniel 6:19-23)

Paul and Silas in Prison

The crowd joined in the attack against Paul and Silas, and the magistrates ordered them to be stripped and beaten with rods. After they had been severely flogged, they were thrown into prison, and the jailer was commanded to guard them carefully. When he received these orders, he put them in the inner cell and fastened their feet in the stocks.

About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the prison were shaken. At once all the prison doors flew open, and everyone’s chains came loose. (Acts 16:22-26)

Jesus in Gethsemane

They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” He took Peter, James and John along with him, and he began to be deeply distressed and troubled.  “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death,” he said to them. “Stay here and keep watch.”

Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him.  “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” (Mark 14:32-36)

Reflection

Sit with your impossible – As you contemplate your impossible situation hear these words from the song Miracle by Unspoken (video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8yrV9kRr888)

Have you stopped reaching 
No longer seeking greater things 
Have you forgotten 
You have a Father listening

He tells the sun when to rise 
Gives the wind it’s breath 
Swings a door wide open and 
Moves in the moment you least expect 

(Chorus) Don’t you give up on a miracle 
You’ve got to speak to the impossible 
You gotta
Pray till your breakthrough breaks through the ceiling 
Keep on believing 
Don’t you give up 
Don’t you give up 
On a miracle 

How many chances 
How many answers 
Pass us by 
You know it takes faith 
To step on the waves 
When you’re terrified 
When you’re backed in a corner 
And you can’t wait any longer 

(Chorus)

Feels like the prayers and the words you have spoken 
They go unnoticed 
Like drops in the ocean 
Just beyond the veil of your vision 
You’re mountains are moving, moving on 
Remember the works his hands have done 
Where you once were and how far you’ve come 

(Chorus)

(Publishing: © 2016 Centricity Music Publishing (ASCAP)/Jon Lowry designee/Wordspring Music, LLC & Fleauxmotion Music (SESAC) Writers: Chad Mattson, Jon Lowry and Tedd T)

So in this day, speak to your impossible. In your darkness and your solitude, speak to the impossible. Remember . . .

Abraham did it by his faith in God’s Word to him – stepping out and persevering and it was credited to him as righteousness. God took care of the impossible!

Daniel did it by standing firm in the midst of terror and fear – stepping into certain death and faithfully facing those fears. God took care of the impossible!

Paul did it by faithfully worshiping and praising God in the midst of abuse, pain, and imprisonment. God took care of the impossible!

Jesus did it by going off by Himself and sharing His heartache and anguish with His Abba, recognizing that He wanted what God wanted regardless of the human sacrifice that God required.  God took care of the impossible!

R.H. Loy

STAND FIRM

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His might. Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places. 

Therefore, take up the full armor of God, so that you will be able to resist in the evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand firm therefore, HAVING GIRDED YOUR LOINS WITH TRUTH, and HAVING PUT ON THE BREASTPLATE OF RIGHTEOUSNESS, and having shod YOUR FEET WITH THE PREPARATION OF THE GOSPEL OF PEACE; in addition to all, taking up the shield of faith with which you will be able to extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  And take THE HELMET OF SALVATION, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.

With all prayer and petition pray at all times in the Spirit, and with this in view, be on the alert with all perseverance and petition for all the saints…

Ephesians 6:10-18 New American Standard Bible

 

OR maybe understanding comes through this biblical version:

 

And that about wraps it up. God is strong, and he wants you strong. So take everything the Master has set out for you, well-made weapons of the best materials. And put them to use so you will be able to stand up to everything the Devil throws your way. This is no afternoon athletic contest that we’ll walk away from and forget about in a couple of hours. This is for keeps, a life-or-death fight to the finish against the Devil and all his angels.

Be prepared. You’re up against far more than you can handle on your own. Take all the help you can get, every weapon God has issued, so that when it’s all over but the shouting you’ll still be on your feet. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation are more than words. Learn how to apply them. You’ll need them throughout your life. God’s Word is an indispensable weapon. In the same way, prayer is essential in this ongoing warfare. Pray hard and long. Pray for your brothers and sisters. Keep your eyes open. Keep each other’s spirits up so that no one falls behind or drops out.

Ephesians 6:10-18 The Message

 

Reflection: This message of preparation is critical to our spiritual well-being and that of the people God has placed in our lives. We need to take heed and be aware that there is a battle going on that we cannot fully comprehend but which exists whether we acknowledge it or not.

God has not abandoned us in this battle but has provided us with armor to protect ourselves and others. Truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation as described in God’s Word are set forth as actions to protect us. Practicing these actions strengthens us for the battle. Prayer should be our constant companion because it is our lifeline of communication with God.

We are called to stand firm in the battle against evil. That means using the weapons of truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation gained by delving into God’s Word and praying for guidance. God is at the forefront of these battles (the war having been won by the death and resurrection of Jesus) and we are called to do our part by standing firm.

 Contemplate (read God’s Word and think about it) the weapons given to us (truth, righteousness, peace, faith and salvation) and ask God to reveal to you which weapon in your arsenal needs to be sharpened.

Ask God (pray) for assistance in sharpening that weapon(s) and BE PREPARED for situations to arise where you will need to exercise the weapon. Remember, it is only through exercising our weapons in the small skirmishes that we are prepared for the battles to come.

 R.H. Loy

Doubts?

Jesus Appears to Thomas

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!”

But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

John 20:24-29

 

Reflection: Thomas, like many of us, doubted. Jesus did not chide him for his doubts but instead encouraged him to check out his wounds – to seek the Truth and Believe.

Jesus does not shun us for our doubts – He encourages us with His Truth.

Yesterday, as I greeted Easter at sunrise, I marveled at the fact that although I did not see the sun rise as I had hoped, it rose nonetheless. It rose even though clouds obscured my vision. It rose whether I believed that it would rise or not.

Jesus arose and is alive today whether we see Him or not – whether our vision is obscured or not – whether we believe or not.

So return to the Truth – refocus on its message – rebuild your life upon it – and remember what it teaches you.

R.H. Loy

Jesus is Risen!

The Empty Tomb

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women took the spices they had prepared and went to the tomb. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb, but when they entered, they did not find the body of the Lord Jesus. While they were wondering about this, suddenly two men in clothes that gleamed like lightning stood beside them. In their fright the women bowed down with their faces to the ground, but the men said to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ ” Then they remembered his words.

When they came back from the tomb, they told all these things to the Eleven and to all the others. It was Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the others with them who told this to the apostles. But they did not believe the women, because their words seemed to them like nonsense. Peter, however, got up and ran to the tomb. Bending over, he saw the strips of linen lying by themselves, and he went away, wondering to himself what had happened. Luke 24:1-12

Jesus Appears to the Disciples

While they were still talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”

They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost.  He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds?  Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.”

When he had said this, he showed them his hands and feet.  And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, “Do you have anything here to eat?” They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence.

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.”

Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures.  He told them, “This is what is written: The Messiah will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day,  and repentance for the forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.  You are witnesses of these things.  I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” Luke 24:36-49

Reflection

The disciples were just waking up from their Sabbath rest. (Remember, Jesus was hurriedly buried on the First Day of the Feast of the Unleavened Bread because the Sabbath was approaching.) They were still reeling from what they had witnessed – the brutal torture and death of Jesus on the Cross. So their reaction to the women’s account of what they found at the tomb is understandable and their reaction to seeing Jesus again is – well “perfectly human”! They were not prepared for Him to be alive. They did not remember His words to them before He died – they had to be reminded.

Step into the shoes of the disciples at the moment they saw Jesus and heard him say “Peace be with you”. What would the Truth that He is alive and risen from the dead mean to you?

On this first day of the new week after the trauma of the 6th day and the rest/refreshment of the 7th day, are you prepared to meet the Risen Christ? If not, sit with Jesus and ask Him to open your mind to understand the scripture and to show you what He has prepared for you.

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