2 Corinthians 4:16-18
Therefore, we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.
Trials – The Unseen
If you have ever operated a car, you know that if you see a careless driver, you turn the other direction. You stop at stop signs and lights and you may even yield to oncoming cars. It is because we rely on our eyes and common sense to tell us to detour. When we trust God, we are not steering. He takes us to the unseen and the unbeaten paths so that we will trust Him. Not one of us is exempt from a trial. We are given trials according to His goodness and He gives us the strength to be steadfast. I know there have been many times I’ve wondered, ‘are you absolutely sure that I can handle this God? Cause I’m not sure’. I think I’ve dealt with the same trials that everyone else has, some less and some greater. But you know what? I have survived 100% of my trials and each time that I make it through another one, God is there saying, yes child, I knew you could handle it. The important thing is to not lose heart just like 2 Corinthians 4:16 tells us. Everyday our mortal bodies die a little but inward (our souls) are renewed each day.
These verses should give us hope. Every morning His mercies are new and each day we can be renewed if we allow God to penetrate our hearts and souls. Those trials work for us to give us eternal glory and faith in the unseen. God wants us to look past the trial and see Him. Look past the storm raging and cling to the anchor. Whisper His name into the storm, you will find peace there. Do not focus on the temporary but the eternal Godly things. I wish I could tell you that it is easy. I wish I could tell you that life is a cakewalk, but it isn’t. Not even close. Do not place your faith in man but only in Christ.
Put on Righteousness
Isaiah 59:17 tells us, “For He put on righteousness as a breastplate, and a helmet of salvation on His head; He put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloak.” How is a helmet like salvation? How many stories do we hear that state, ‘if only he had on a helmet he would have not suffered a brain injury’? A helmet would have saved their life. Her parents said that she would have been killed without the helmet. Being without a helmet will cause you harm. Being without salvation will take you to hell. Salvation means to be delivered from something. If you are saved, you are delivered from hell. 1 Timothy 2:3-4 “For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” Psalm 27:1 “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Psalm 62:7 “In God is my salvation and my glory; the rock of my strength, and my refuge, is in God.” So, by seeking God through trust, faith and hope, we receive knowledge of truth, peace and strength. We have a place to turn in times of trouble and a place to hide when we need rest. I know that I rest in the palm of His almighty hand and nothing can take that away from me. No matter how terrible things can get, we can still rest there because He will protect us from all unrighteousness and His kingdom will prevail.
Roman Soldier and his righteousness….
What does this Roman soldier’s sword teach us about using the Bible to fight our battles? In Roman infantry, the soldier would typically go into battle with more than one type of weapon. Swords, daggers, darts and spears were all used. They were heavily armed because once you attacked during the battle, that was it; there was not a do-over or a time out to pick up your weapon. It was basically a one-shot deal. But interestingly enough, Paul lists the sword as the only weapon here in Ephesians. That is because there is only one weapon we need in our arsenal. There is only one way to the truth. There is only one way to knowledge. There is only one way to the light of the world. Psalm 119:105 “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path.” His word illuminates our lives so that we can see where we are going. He only gives us just enough light so we can see where we are going one step at a time but He always supplies that light. We got bogged down in darkness that we fail to flip the switch and acknowledge that He lights our path. We fail to look to Him in all circumstances, good or bad, and give thanks in every season. Did you know that God is unchanging? Whether we are on the mountain or in the valley, God is the same and He loves it when we meet with Him each day. He loves to talk to us and He does so through His word. Hebrews 4:12 “For the Word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.”
In this life, His Word is all we need. It is the most powerful form of defense that we have in this life. It is our source of life, strength, hope and power. Without it, we are nothing. Swords were also used for close combat not for fighting from a distance. This is because God wants us in the middle of the action fighting battles on His behalf. We cannot fight a good fight from the perimeter. That is the difference between a spectator and a participant. God wants us to participate and spread the Gospel. He desires for s to be the hands and feet of His word. He longs for us to be courageous and be the mouthpieces of truth. He gives us the strongest sword we can carry and the most powerful defense in the world and He will send the strongest army to back us up when we need help. Against His word there is no defense.
I Know the Plans
We all have plans. Plans that have been made and fell through. Some plans change midstream. Some plans never take off. Some plans end in disaster and some are fruitful. We constantly make plans, dream, rearrange our lives about everything and anything. Who will I marry, where will I go to school or where will I live? In making those plans, how often do we consult the One who really knows what is going on? Jeremiah 29:11-13 tells us everything that we need to know about our plans and plan making skills. ‘For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon Me and go and pray to Me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek Me and find when you search for Me with all your heart.’ Let’s dwell for a moment on the face that He thinks about us. Not only does He think but He plans. He plans peace, future and hope. He doesn’t want us living in turmoil or living in defeat but we do that often. I would also like to point out that it states that when we pray that He will listen to us. When we earnestly seek His face, He listens to us and, when we are still, the opportunity to hear from Him presents itself. Proverbs 16:9 also tells us, ‘a man’s heart plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.’ Making plans without God’s direction is fruitless. He places desires in our hearts, if those plans are for us, He will fertilize the seed He planted and pave the way for a bountiful harvest. He knows our future and He will guide us if we completely surrender to Him and allow Him to be in charge. He wants to give us peace, a future and a hope but for us to receive all His blessings He has for us, we must search for Him with all our heart.
New Every Morning
Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed because His compassions fail not. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul, “Therefore I hope in Him!” To lament simply means to cry out. This book goes through many emotions in its short five chapters. Remorse about God’s judgement on Judah’s sin, hope in God’s compassion, disgrace and God’s faithfulness. Despite everything and how much we mess up, His compassion never fails. Mercy…we don’t deserve it yet He pours out His love, grace, goodness, forgiveness, truth, compassion and faithfulness. He never fails and grace never fails. Sometimes we don’t understand His ways, but He never leaves us. Every morning is a do-over with God. His forgiveness cannot be compared to anything. Faithfulness is the basis of our belief system. We believe that the cornerstone of life is Christ and no matter where we go, what we do, we can always fall to the cornerstone for strength, trust and hope. He will never fail us or forsake us.
There was a multitude of sins during this time in Jerusalem and these sins caused horrific judgement from God. Judah was taken captive to serve as slaves in Babylon. There was pagan worship, they had become vile and suffered great sorrow as a nation. They were remorseful. The comforter who should restore lives was far from them. God covered the daughter of Zion with a cloud of anger. He allowed them to suffer by withdrawing His hand of protection. He poured out His fury.
Lamentations 3:21 ‘This I recall to my mind; therefore, I have hope.’ Despite everything, there is hope. His compassions never fail, they never cease and they are as reliable as the rising and the setting of the sun. The word mercy is referenced over 250 times in the Bible. God’s gracious love, His love, grace, mercy, forgiveness, truth and faithfulness. Compassion is love with shoes on. God is our portion and He is good to those who wait patiently on Him. In our time of waiting, v.40-41, we must search and examine our ways, turn back to Him and lift our hearts and hands to Him. He redeems us and calls us His and it doesn’t matter how far we stray. He remains forever and will never forget you. It may take you years to stray but one second to return to Him. Yes, He is that kind of God.
Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
When you have strong feelings towards something, you draw near to it. It may be an object, a person, a craft, a cause, a career or even a place. Even stronger feelings cause a person to dive into their interest with both feet instead of toeing the water. God wants us to be completely immersed in Him. Dive in with both feet. Stop toeing the water to check the temperature. Dive. Completely and totally bathe yourself in God. Draw near to the Living Water. Completely. You will not regret it and you will not look back. As James tells us, if we draw near to Him, He will draw near to you. That is the closeness that I want with God. I want Him so close to me that I become more like Him every moment of every day. I don’t want to be the old me. I want the new and improved version who seeks Him earnestly each day. I desperately want to cleanse my hands and purify my heart. Unfortunately, each day, we all do things that cause us to stumble or heaven-forbid, make our brothers and sisters stumble. You see, cleansing ourselves and bathing ourselves is a constant, everyday process. It doesn’t matter how ‘good’ you are, what matters is that we ask forgiveness. Everyday forgiveness. If you think back on your last hour, I’m sure you said something, thought something or done something that may not be pleasing to God. It totally went against His word. It was probably unintentional, but it happened. Those are the moments that we are to draw near. Get as close as you can. Snuggle under the covers, go to the prayer closet, get away from the busyness, dive and quiet yourself. Talk to the Father, He is waiting for you.
Praise Him in the Sanctuary
Let all things praise the Lord. Praise the Lord. Praise God in His sanctuary. Praise Him in His mighty firmament! Praise Him for His mighty acts. Praise Him according to His excellent greatness! Praise Him with the sound of the trumpet; Praise Him with the lute and harp! Praise Him with the timbrel and dance; praise Him with stringed instruments and flutes! Praise Him with loud cymbals; praise Him with clashing cymbals! Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!
What does praise look like to you?
All things are to praise the Lord. Not just some. Not the ones at just this church or just that church. All things. Praise. Everywhere. At all times. Praise Him at church. Praise Him for His mighty acts. Praise Him for his deeds. Praise Him with the trumpet. Praise Him with the guitar and piano. Praise Him with the tambourine and dance. Praise Him with flutes and clashing cymbals. In other words, praise Him with everything.
But what exactly is praise? Admiration, acclamation, tribute or approbation is the short answer. Praise looks different to each person though. My form of praising God may look different than yours and that is okay. I believe that God doesn’t mind various forms of worship if you are praising. We praise because it is a privilege, not an obligation. We should look forward to it. It should never be something that we dread or avoid. I believe in those moments of true praise, we hear God speak. It is in those times that he says things that we need to hear the most. We hear the still small voice of our King. Praise can be quiet, loud, in a prayer closet, in your bathroom while you are getting ready for your day, on your back porch, in the kitchen, at church with a full band or even while you are in bed at night. God chooses to interrupt our day so that we can focus on Him. We should beg God for those interruptions so that we can see more of Him. He wants us to be still and focus on His purposes, His plan and the life that He has for us.
The Hour is Coming
Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshippers will worship the Father in Spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him, God is Spirit and those who worship in spirit and truth.
Everyone seems to know the story of the Samaritan woman (vs. 1-20). We pick up there. Jesus and the Samaritan woman are still talking. He had already told her everything about her life right there at that well, in the middle of town, at noon. He told her, it really doesn’t matter where you worship. Just worship. You think you know about worship and salvation but you really don’t. The time is coming, aka now, to worship in spirit and truth. He looks to and fro for those who will worship Him, true worship. Not the show that we sometimes see on Sunday morning. Remind me to tell you how I feel about our need to be entertained at church. When we worship Him in spirit and in truth, we give everything to Him. There is no barrier between us and Him. True, honest, wholesome, no wall between us. Even though He told her everything about her, she still said, ‘I know the Messiah is coming.’ She believed but she wasn’t completely sold on the idea that He was truly the Messiah. We believe but we resist His power. We aren’t really sold. How many times have you said to God, wait…not said, begged God to unleash His full power? What if you begged, He answered and you experienced Him fully? Just rest in that a moment. Experience Him fully? Honestly, I don’t think any of us know what that is like. I’m not sure that we could handle His full power. He tells her v.26, I AM the Messiah. You see, He is everything. Even things that we don’t understand. We fail to give Him full and total praise. Life seems to get in the way. Even at church, during worship, we aren’t fully there. Our minds are elsewhere. It is so important to clear our minds and prepare for worship long before we show up at church. Of course, worship can happen anywhere, therefore; constantly having our minds on Him will allow us to worship without inhibitions. He really wants that from us. True, honest, unadulterated worship simply because He IS the Messiah.
10 characteristics of God to encourage and strengthen you.
God can’t get tired.
Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, neither faints nor is weary.
God can’t take on a job he can’t handle.
Ah, Lord God! Behold, you have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for you.
God can’t be unholy.
And one cried to another and said: “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!”
God can’t be prejudiced.
In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears him and works righteousness is accepted by him.
God can’t break a promise.
My covenant I will not break, nor alter the word that has gone out of my lips.
God can’t remember sins he’s chosen to forget.
I, even I, am he who blots out your transgressions for my own sake; and I will not remember your sins.
God can’t make a loser.
Now thanks be to God who always leads us in triumph in Christ.
—2 Corinthians 2:14
God can’t abandon you.
Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, he is the one who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you.
God can’t stop thinking about you.
How precious also are your thoughts to me, O God! How great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they would be more in number than the sand; when I awake, I am still with you.
God can’t stop loving you.
Yes, I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore with lovingkindness I have drawn you.
Are you spiritually bankrupt? Have you gotten to the end of your rope only to find that the know is untied? Are you fighting an uphill battle with no end in sight? Here’s hope…. Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Our lives are like a car wreck. Sometimes we spin out of control. Our worlds are flipped upside down. We lose control of the wheel because we didn’t see another car coming. Sometimes the music is too loud that we cannot focus on the road. Stopping the spinning is what God does best. He can make sure the seat belt is tightened and readjust our focus. Sometimes we must have the wreck so that He can get our attention. We must rest in the promise that no matter what happens, God is still in control. He doesn’t want to be the co-pilot but rather the pilot. He doesn’t want us drifting around on the water but rather He wants us to anchor to Him. Once we stop and sit at His feet for a while, we can see the other car coming and we can focus on the path that we are on so that the distractions of life do not get in the way of our worship. Because of this, we can have hope in Him. We place our hope in many things. Our family (they will always disappoint us), our friends (some have their own agenda), our jobs (everyone is replaceable). What if we placed our hope in Someone who truly deserves it? Fire, earthquakes, famine, war…. after these take place, what is left? Put your faith and hope in God Almighty. Put your faith and hope in the One who truly deserves of our time and energy. He created us to worship Him. He created us to have hope in Him.