Going North To Go South

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Then Jerubbaal (that is, Gideon) and all the people who were with him rose early and encamped beside the well of Harod, so that the camp of the Midianites was on the north side of them by the hill of Moreh in the valley.

And the Lord said to Gideon, “The people who are with you are too many for Me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel claim glory for itself against Me, saying, ‘My own hand has saved me.’ Now therefore, proclaim in the hearing of the people, saying, ‘Whoever isfearful and afraid, let him turn and depart at once from Mount Gilead.’” And twenty-two thousand of the people returned, and ten thousand remained.

But the Lord said to Gideon, “The people are still too many; bring them down to the water, and I will test them for you there. Then it will be, that of whom I say to you, ‘This one shall go with you,’ the same shall go with you; and of whomever I say to you, ‘This one shall not go with you,’ the same shall not go.” So he brought the people down to the water. And the Lord said to Gideon, “Everyone who laps from the water with his tongue, as a dog laps, you shall set apart by himself; likewise everyone who gets down on his knees to drink.” And the number of those who lapped, putting their hand to their mouth, was three hundred men; but all the rest of the people got down on their knees to drink water. Then the Lord said to Gideon, “By the three hundred men who lapped I will save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand. Let all the other people go, every man to his place.” So the people took provisions and their trumpets in their hands. And he sent away all the rest of Israel, every man to his tent, and retained those three hundred men. Now the camp of Midian was below him in the valley. Judges 7:1-8

My daughter lives in Lynn Ma which is South and East of my home in Winchendon MA. The most direct route to her home involves going North before I go South. That seems strange doesn’t it? It would seem the fastest way to get somewhere should be to head directly toward that place. If my daugther lives South and East then it would seem that going South and East would be the fastest way to get there, but it is not. Oh, eventually I do have to go South but starting out that way actually takes longer.

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That’s how it is in the kingdom of God too. I am not sure it is how God is but, I do know for certain it is how He works in the world. I think something in the fallen nature of our world causes the journey to our God-goals to start out by going away from the goals themselves. Scripture bears this out, for instance: God saves the world by killing all but eight people in the flood; God begins to create a unified Kingdom in the world (a process that has been going on for some five thousand years) by separating people into language groups; God raises up a powerful army by reducing it’s size 98%; God brings His life to the world by dying, and so on and so on….

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We really shouldn’t be surprised when our lives and projects, once committed to God, begin to reflect the patterns of Scripture. Set backs are a part of God’s plan. They are a part of the journey. They are the way God forces us to keep Him included in the process.

Are you facing a trial or a setback today? It could be the Devil trying to shut you down. Then again it could be God too. Maybe, just maybe, it is a little bit of both. That is why we so desperately need the Holy Spirit’s guidance. Our world is a series of roads going North that actually lead South. What seems like a wrong way to us looks like a perfectly acceptable pathway to Him. He knows the things we will have to give away in order to obtain the better promise. He knows the dreams that have to die in order for THE GOD DREAMS to  be resurrected. He knows the areas we have to be weakened in so that we can become stronger. BUT WE DON’T KNOW THOSE THINGS!

Jesus said these words to His disciples just before His crucifixion and if they were true then they are true now.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 

12 “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. 

John 16:7-15

Are you on a road heading North While trying to go South? Ask the Holy Spirit for help. He knows the way.

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When Your Heart Is Disturbed

This is for that reader who’s day has gone off the rails a bit. Isaiah the prophet counsels you with these words,

This is what the Sovereign LORD,

the Holy One of Israel, says:

“Only in returning to me

and resting in me will you be saved.

In quietness and confidence is your strength. Isa. 30:15

So don’t look to the world or for worldly solutions to bail you out. Look to Him and remember

The LORD is the everlasting God,

the Creator of all the earth.

He never grows weak or weary.

No one can measure the depths of his understanding.

29He gives power to the weak

and strength to the powerless.

30Even youths will become weak and tired,

and young men will fall in exhaustion.

31But those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.

They will soar high on wings like eagles.

They will run and not grow weary.

They will walk and not faint.

Isa. 40:28-31

It is going to be all right!

Morning Direction From Scripture 4-6-16

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And now, brothers and sisters, we want you to know about the grace that God has given the Macedonian churches. In the midst of a very severe trial, their overflowing joy and their extreme poverty welled up in rich generosity. For I testify that they gave as much as they were able,and even beyond their ability. 2 Corinthians 8:1-3

Grace caused joy and poverty to become generosity in the lives of Macedonians. What would grace add to your current hardship to create a supernatural blessing?

Pastor Wrinkles: Little Heroes, Big World Pt. 4

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Today we continue with Pt. 4 of “Little Heroes, Big World”.

If you missed any of the previous installments of this study they can be found by clicking on:

Little Heroes Big World Pt. 1

Little Heroes Big World Pt. 2

Or

Little Heroes, Big World Pt. 3

Now here is the next installment for your consideration

 In our previous installments we have seen that Haggai has some great advice for people who are feeling like little Heroes with little power in a big world. If the work God has called you too is bigger than you are. If life is a little overwhelming just now God says to you three things through the prophet Haggai.

The first things he recommends is Be Strong!

“But now be strong, Zerubbabel,’ declares the Lord. ‘Be strong, Joshua son of Jozadak, the high priest. Be strong, all you people of the land,’ declares the Lord,” Hag. 2:4

The word used for “Be Strong” here is  the word “chazaq” and the idea behind it is to strengthen yourself by having or taking hold of, retaining, holding up, sustaining or supporting yourself.

The Bible tells the story of David living among the Philistines. While he was with them he acquired a city for himself and his people called Ziklag. One time while he was away on campaign fighting, enemies broke through the gates burned Ziklag and kidnapped all the wives and children of the city. When David and his armies returned to find their homes burned and their wives and children kidnapped the men turned on David and began speaking against him but David refused to give up. The Bible tells us that “David encouraged Himself in the Lord.” He then organized his angry men and set off on a rescue mission that ended up bringing the restoration of all the wives and children and many of the possessions they had lost. David had chosen to “Be Strong”. He held on. He didn’t give in to despair. He sustained himself IN THE LORD. And as a result he won even when everything stood against him.

We are called to Be Strong  like David was and there are things we must do to accomplish this task

First we must encourage ourselves in the Lord…BY

Praying  over everything and I do mean everything.; And once we have prayed let us worship God that He is about to bring and answer!

Second, start thinking positive. Christian, It’s not over! It is just a new beginning! You aren’t dying! You are entering newness of life. You haven’t lost! You just have another battle to fight, and you are going to win!!!!

Finally, we have to refuse to believe the evil in the report. Don’t ignore the facts but refuse to accept that those facts are God’s final word. The battle you are currently facing is not God’s final word. It is only a sentence in the book, and God hasn’t written “The End” yet. There is a lot more of your story still to be written but you and God have to determine to write it together.

So what do you need to do to be strong? Pray more? Think positive? Stop believing the evil IN  the report? I would love to hear your thoughts on being strong!

Little Problems Pt. 2

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“For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison” 2 Cor. 4:17

I have been reblogging a lot of great thoughts from other writers these last few weeks, mostly because my own schedule continues to remain massive as far as ministry is concerned.  Our pastor’s wife fell in the church fellowship hall a week or so ago and shattered her knee. She had surgery on Wednesday to put in a plate. Pastor has been staying with her and working from home for the last few days. So I am running the services at church tomorrow and planning the funerals for Monday and Tuesday (yep two more folks).

A few day ago I wrote a post entitled  Little Problems.

This post is a continuation of those thoughts and I write it in light of all that has gone on in our church this last month.

Now perhaps our present problems aren’t quite as big as Paul the Apostle’s (or maybe they are). I guess it doesn’t really matter problems are well… problematic and by their very nature they cause us pain. Problems and pain…pain and problems…the two things are inextricable. They are two sides of the same coin. Whether it’s a broken toe or bankruptcy or someone’s taken a hit out on us problems are painful. But there is something else problems can be. They can be creators of glory.

Paul said just that very thing to the Corinthians in his second letter.

James the Lord’s brother said it this way, ” 2Count it all joy, my brothers,b when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. 4And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” Jas. 1:2-4

And Peter said this, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed’ 1 Peter 4:12

In the world as it stands in order to get glory released there must be affliction. Victory comes at the end of a battle. Miracles come to resolve unresolvable conflicts and resurrection only happens after death. It is the way it works in the fallen world. Even secular voices understand that.

“No pain, no gain.” Jane Fonda

“No guts no glory.”  Cath Crowley

“Be still sad heart and cease repining;
Behind the clouds the sun is shining,
Thy fate is the common fate of all,
Into each life a little rain must fall,
Some days must be dark and dreary.” Longfellow

Here’s the thing, not every problem creates glory. Some problems just create pain. What becomes of all our little problems is determined by what we do with them. Do we wallow or do we worship? In the face of our difficulties do we blame others or do we become new and better in our own behavior? Do we groan or do we grow?

What eternal weight of glory is being released in your life today?

Little Problems

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Paul the apostle wrote, “ we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, ” 2 Corinthians 4:16,17

Now I don’t know about you, but when I think of momentary light afflictions I think of things like having to wait too long in the line at the grocery store or forgetting my wallet at home and realizing it after I have pumped the gas into my tank at the gas station. These are problems easily solved and while irritating, in the grand scheme of things they don’t really change our lives for better or worse. But Paul defines the things he considers his momentary light afflictions a few chapters later in 2 Corinthians and let me just say the things I mentioned certainly don’t make his list. Here are Paul’s momentary light afflictions:

…far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28Apart from such external things, there is the daily pressure on me of concern for all the churches. 29Who is weak without my being weak? Who is led into sin without my intense concern?

      30If I have to boast, I will boast of what pertains to my weakness. 31The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, He who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32In Damascus the ethnarch under Aretas the king was guarding the city of the Damascenes in order to seize me, 33and I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and so escaped his hands. 2 Cor. 11:23-33

This list kind of makes most of our afflictions look like luxuries doesn’t it?

Let me ask as I finish up today, What do you think made Paul consider his list, of what I can only call tragedies, as momentary LIGHT afflictions?

Bigger Angels

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I once heard Joyce Meyer preach a message in which she said that when you go to a bigger level you are going to face a bigger Devil. That is the truth. The enemy tends to oppose us in increasing strength as we grow closer to God. While I think there is some merit in recognizing this truth, so as not to be caught unawares; It is important to remember that this is only a part of the truth.

As we grow closer to God we may face greater attack or resistance from the Devil but we also receive more power from the presence of the Living God. if we are confronted by “bigger devils” then God will always be faithful to send us “bigger angels” to war on our behalf.

We have to remember that God and Satan are not coequal. However much power the Devil might have at His disposal, he is quickly outmatched by the power of God. In fact, comparing the devil’s power to God’s is like comparing a static electric shock to an atom bomb.  And God’s power is dedicated to seeing us through every valley of shadow the Devil with his power creates.

However else it might sometimes feel, Christians never fight from a disadvantage. We always wage our warfare (which by the way looks different from any other warfare in the world) from the already-won victory of the cross and resurrection.

Bigger levels (growing closer to God) bring bigger devils, ’tis true. But the far more important info to cram into your head is that bigger levels also bring bigger angels.

It’s OK That It’s Not OK

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One of the terms my grandfather used for this world after my grandmother passed away was “This vale of tears”. Gramps was a pretty cheerful and easy-going guy but Grams passing knocked a lot of the wind out of his sails. He didn’t curl up and die exactly but he just wasn’t the same after her death.

I think there are few who can relate to the pain of losing a spouse after 61 years of marriage but each of us have life events that rock our worlds in foundational ways.

I remember during one of my own earth shaking events a well-meaning brother walked up to me in church and asked, “How are you doing J?”

“I am OK.” I answered ( I wasn’t really but then the moment wasn’t right for a sit-down-and-cry).

His response was to wrinkle his nose and say, “Just OK? Not fantastic?”

The brother knew what I was walking through at the moment and I was a little… no a lot flabbergasted by his insensitivity. But I didn’t haul off and clock him, Pastors aren’t supposed to do that.

Instead I simply said, “Sometimes, brother, OK is good enough.” Then I went to my office and had a sit-down-and-cry.

Can I just say that sometimes it’s Ok not to be “good” or “fantastic” or even “OK”. There are life events that are just so wrong or hurtful that it is OK to not be OK for a bit. Further it is OK to think and feel that your situation is definitely not OK. While God may work all things together for good not every situation is good, in fact some situations just suck.

We have had four deaths connected to our church in the last week-and-a-half, six in the last month. Today I prayed with two  men in church who wept through the entire service. What they are walking through is definitely not OK and I wouldn’t be OK if I were in their shoes.

Hope isn’t found in pretending that everything is coming up roses while your really sitting under a pile of manure. Hope is found when we realize that though we may be walking through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, God is with us through all of it.

Brother…Sister, It’s OK to admit that it’s not OK right now. In fact admitting that to yourself and others is the first step in moving to a better place. Being honest about where you are now is part of figuring out how to move beyond it. Here’s a song to help you in your meditation this evening.