Friday, October 28, 2016

Enabling Grace

When God has a plan, He has already made provisions for the outcome, and has given me the power to overcome any obstacles that come my way. When Caleb, Joshua, and 10 other spies were sent out to observe the land the Israelites were to overtake, the men did not all agree that God would do what He said would do and just give it to them. All 12 men saw the grapes big enough to feed giants, and the pomegranates and the figs of the land. They all saw that the land was overflowing with cows, and goats, and bees. The land was fertile and all that occupied it. And of course, they all saw that the people in Canaan were strong, and that there were giants, and that the cities were walled. Caleb said, "We can take 'em" a manner of speaking. "Let us go up at once, and possess it; for we are well able to overcome it" -Numbers 13:30. (At once!, he raved.) He was excited and ready to go. This was what they had been hoping for. A promise that was @ 600 years in the making.

The phrase struck me while this message was preached last night by my dad that Caleb said, "We are well able"...And after declaring Canaan to be conquerable, there were others who grew weak kneed and intimidated.

•They saw the people there were strong.

•They saw the cities were walled and were very great.

•And they saw the sons of Anak, 'which come of the giants' (Numbers 13:33).

•What the 10 spies did not see that Caleb and Joshua did, was the almighty hand of God.

When the two "good spies"  said, "We spy.. GREATNESS!", the other 10 said, "We spy.. TROUBLE!" - and a riot ensued. They protested, so much so that the children of Israel 'got on the bandwagon' and said it would have been better if they had died back in Egypt or in the wilderness. "They lifted up their voice, and cried; and the people wept that night"- Numbers 14:1. Good grief. Get a hold of yourself! Such drama. And what of the great Exodus? And the parting of the Red Sea? And the cloud by day and fire by night? And the manna? And and and.....on and on God was showing them that He would provide, yet they forgot. Or were just plain ungrateful. We can see just around the corner because it's recorded how it all works out that they were --just within reach-- of gaining the promised land. So close in proximity, yet so far apart from God's mindset. They despised the promise. Maybe it seemed too hard. Maybe they didn't want to have to 'work for it', when in reality, God was going to do the work and all were to receive the promise. They knew what work was. They had been slaves, after all, before God delivered them from Egypt and her taskmasters. Yet, because of their rebellion and fight against God's will, they missed out on entering the most incredible sights they ever would know.  Joshua and Caleb are hailed as heroes for their trust in God's way.  And the 10 trouble making spies? They are named as well (Numbers 13) and are forever etched in Scripture for all to see their lack of judgment. In Numbers 13: 3, it even says that their little ones would know the land that their elders despised.

Not much has changed since then. God still has a plan and it's to live by faith, to trust Him in any given situation. And there will always be those who say it's impossible to live by faith and not by sight-- 'God simply can't have something bigger out there'. Like Caleb and Joshua, I need to stand firm that blessings will come when I simply trust that God's way is better. Big faith = big blessings. What God says about Caleb is incredible in Number 14: 24 -"But my servant, Caleb, because he had another spirit in him, and hath followed me fully, him will I bring into the land..." Another spirit...not a spirit of scorn like the whole murmuring lot, but one of humility and obedience. And Caleb followed God fully. Fully! Not half-way, not half-hearted, but he was "all in" for the long haul. No tears. No weeping and gnashing of teeth. No drama. In vs 38, it is said of Joshua and Caleb that they "LIVED STILL" when the unbelieving and unrepentant breached God's promise and slandered the land (vs 34 & 36). The Israelites wandered in the wilderness for 40 years and died 'by the plague before the LORD' (vs 37). The doubters got what they wished die in the wilderness (those 20 years old and up). Such profound sadness. It didn't have to be that way.

To live STILL - when fear wants to take over. To live STILL - when I'm tempted to doubt that God will take care of me. To live STILL - when those around me are far apart from God's mindset... Faith brings life and I am 'well able' to overcome anything that will test my faith in His plan...giants larger than life, walls higher than high, mean people, whatever -because He is the Enabler. God doesn't give me life and a plan to serve Him without making provisions. He always extends the necessary power and grace to overcome obstacles and to exceed expectations.

May I have the confidence and faith to say, "I am well able to overcome...."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

The Fragments That Remain

I mentioned in my last post, A Good Work,  about a particular type of Bible study my aunt started on Facebook. It's set up as if you are going through a journey looking for a treasure and along the way you 'pick up' other things to observe.  Here are my latest thoughts in this format.

Treasure Word: Fragment: 1) A part broken off or detached 2) an isolated, unfinished, incomplete part  3) an odd piece, bit or scrap

Pack Words: Gather: 1) to pick up 2) to bring together 3) to collect
Remain: to linger
Lost: cast away

  The Journey:

     We were in the latter part of John 6 this past Sunday when my eyes glanced over to an underlined verse on the other page;

“When they were filled, he [Jesus] said unto his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost”, John 6:12.

The context here is the account of the feeding of the 5,000. A crowd had followed Jesus and the disciples soon after Jesus had healed a man on the Sabbath and was persecuted for it. Because of the wide spread news of Christ’s miracles, a lot of people followed him over the sea of Galilee after the healing. When Jesus saw the crowd, he asked Philip where they were going to buy bread to feed all the people. The disciples didn’t have the power to make food appear out of nowhere, nor did they have sufficient funds to purchase any. Christ knew the answer already and was going to prove His power to not only heal, but to provide. Andrew noticed a boy there who had 5 barley loaves and 2 fishes, but what were they among so many? (vs9) Jesus instructed the disciples to have the 5,000 men (besides the women and children) sit down. He took the 2 loaves, gave thanks for and blessed the offering, and distributed the food. I had written in my Bible, “Faith comes before the miracle”. Before the actual feeding of the crowd, Christ needed to be trusted to provide. Before anyone knew exactly how this was going to supply the need, there was a moment of thanksgiving for what was about to be done. And there was enough and more.

      And just a thought here about the underlined vs 12, Jesus said, “Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost.” John was the only one who remembered and recorded it this way. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all wrote about picking up the leftovers or fragments. There were 12 baskets full after the meal, but only John wrote that the fragments were picked up so that ‘nothing be lost’. John was a sensitive one– always close by Christ’s side. John must have had some insight and knowing Christ like he did, he might have figured out that something was going to be done with all that was not wanted. I doubt there was a "No Littering" sign on the lawn that caused them to pick up what was left. Were the leftovers passed around among the people? Did the disciples take them when they entered the ship to go toward Capernaum? Was it given back to the boy as a reward for his humble offering? As far as I could tell, we weren’t given that answer. But no matter what happened to the 12 full baskets of ‘fragments’, we are assured that nothing was lost. I wonder if John thought about the implications of how he recorded this miracle. I wonder if he remembered that in each of the disciples, Jesus had gathered up the fragmented pieces of their lives and did something amazing with them. “Heartaches, broken pieces, ruined lives are why He died on Calvary. Your touch was what I longed for. You have given life to me”, goes an old song.

In Christ, nothing is lost. He works in me and through me; the good, the bad, the ugly. Fragments—broken off pieces of dreams unfulfilled, feelings of incompleteness, odd pieces of life that don’t seem to make sense or ‘fit’ in the big picture. HE can bring them all together– the hurts that remain– so that nothing is cast away. So that ‘all things work together for good to them who love God’, Romans 8:28. Faith comes before the miracle. If I have put my trust in Him for my salvation, why would I not have faith that He can take my life and use it? Can I give thanks that He has the power to multiply what is given to me, even if I become broken for His glory?

What seemed like an insignificant lad, made history. What seemed like an insufficient lunch, made a lesson in trust not only for the crowd, but for all who witnessed it and who read this account of the miracle. What we see as insignificant and insufficient is more than enough for God to do something pretty amazing. Nothing is cast away. Christ knew where the fragments went and I can be assured that every last lingering bit was not lost or wasted.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

A Good Work

My Aunt Carol started a Bible study on Facebook that has a particular "Journey" format. The idea is that as you are studying a particular passage in the Bible, you look at it as going through a journey looking for the treasure. The "Treasure Word" is a word that sticks out to you that sends you off hunting for its meaning in a Bible dictionary or other sources that will help guide you to its significance.

There are 'Pack Words' as well; words you 'pack' along your journey that help move you through to what God will show in your life. Then, there's the journey itself where Scriptural background is acknowledged and studied. I found this type of study exhausting, but in a good way. It stretched me beyond a 5 minute quick morning devotional and some of my studies took me a few hours. And I enjoyed every minute of it and felt I came out on the other end of the study a little bit wiser.

Text: Philippians 1:6, "Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."

Treasure word: "Work" (noun) 1) exertion or effort directed to produce or accomplish something. 2) Productive or operative activity

Pack words:

Begun → in motion, in progress, under way

Work → labor, occupation, direction

Perform → achieve, complete, implement, carry through, satisfy


Paul starts out Philippians 1 so encouraging. He opens up the letter by writing, "Grace be unto you, and peace; from God our Father, and from the Lord Jesus Christ. I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy…"(vs 2-4). I can't imagine how I would feel if I opened up a letter that began with words like those.  And to know that in *every* prayer of the letter's sender, my name would be mentioned with joy. Wow. I think I would keel over to know what someone cares for me that much. Paul goes on to say that he's confident of this: that God who began a good work will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ. He is convinced that God is producing something good and that things are under way and are going in a specific direction. What kind of direction?

Verse 9 → Aiming toward abounding love in knowledge and in all judgment

Verse 10 → Approving (or favoring) the excellent things, behaving sincerely without offense or fault

Verse 11 → Being filled with the fruits of righteousness "which are by Jesus Christ, unto the glory and praise of God."

Paul goes on to share that the things that have happened to him in life have really just furthered the gospel and that because of this, more Christians are bold to speak about Christ and not be afraid.

So what does all that have to do with me? God not only set in motion His plan for the believers at Philippi, but also for every believer.  "He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ."… He has put in motion a direction and will carry through until a future time when Christ comes again; a continual motion, an ongoing process.

I am not a finished product. And when I get frustrated at myself for not learning life's lessons the first time, when I doubt that God is involved in even the smallest of details, I need to be reminded that I am still learning and will always be growing and metamorphosing while on this earth. News flash: I have not arrived. ((sigh))--so much more growing to do. And I think, "What is God doing? What does He want me to do?" I go back to vs 9-11..

  1. I am to aim for abounding love with awareness and wisdom.
  2. I am to favor the excellent things in life which means His ways, even if I don't know where He is leading.
  3. I am to live with sincerity and without resentment.

→ All this for the glory and praise of God.

"According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain." (vs. 20,21)

It's this: God is orchestrating the details of my life and my expectation and hope is that in nothing will I be ashamed. Is my earnest prayer that I will be bold for Him and that whatever good work He is doing will be magnified in my body -faults and scars and all? He knows the beginning and the end. And when I can't see the light at the end of the tunnel, so to speak, I can rest assured that He is working quietly in the details of my life and that ..His work in me is operative, active, usable, and key for His glory.