Thoughts and musings on faith and our mighty God!

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Suffering with Jesus

Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-14 and 5:6-11

Verse 10: “The God of grace… after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast”.

Peter is writing to encourage the followers of Jesus Christ who are in trials and sufferings. As foreign as this sounds to us, suffering for their faith was a regular event. For much of the first 300 years of the church, it was dangerous to be a Christian. The Jews and the Romans were both openly hostile towards Jesus’ disciples and followers. Yet the church thrived and grew. Today we see this same thing happening in places where there is a potential cost to following Jesus. The willingness to risk and to pay the cost refines and bolsters the faith.

Peter encourages the early church to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ”. The disciples in the early church were grateful to suffer for Christ because they understood that they were suffering with Christ. They were literally doing what Jesus did. I once read or heard a quote that roughly said: “If you are not suffering a little for your faith perhaps your faith is too little”. In essence the author was getting at the idea that if no one notices you are a Christian, are you really a Christian? There is a lot of truth to that. Too often we like to fly our faith below the radar.

Peter identifies and warns his disciples about the cause of their suffering. We fly low for the same reason. In verse eight he reminds them that “the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour”. Imagine the power of that verse as the Roman practice of throwing Christians to the lions ramped up. The devil continues to prowl today. His favorite weapons are still fear, doubt, anxiety, worry… Peter encourages the early church and us today to “resist him, standing firm in the faith”. Trust that God is really in control. Remain in Jesus Christ just as he seeks to remain in you.

Peter closes with this promise: “The God of grace… after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm, and steadfast”. Yes, we will suffer at times if we are really living out the gospel faith that Jesus modeled. Yes, we will. God is not only with us in the sufferings, but he will always bring us through stronger and with a deeper faith. May we trust in our Lord and Savior, stepping where he leads us today.

Prayer: Lord God, no one likes to suffer. I don’t like to suffer. Yet at times you call me to do just that. I can rejoice and even thank you for my times of suffering. They have been fruitful and have led to growth in me and in my faith. May your Holy Spirit help me to be willing to do whatever you call me to today. Amen.

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Thy Word

Reading: Luke 4: 1-13

Verse 13: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time”.

Jesus heads out into the desert to fast for forty days as a preparation to begin ministry. During this time of denying self He is tested by the devil. The three temptations that we read about today come at the end of the 40 days. It is when Jesus is at His weakest that Satan tempts Him in these ways.

The first test concerns food. No food for 40 days – this is the perfect test. It gets right at Jesus’ human need. How often does Satan tempt us here too? Yes, I deserve that bowl of ice cream or that drink. It was a hard day. Satan helps us twist things too. This can lead to accumulating things for ourselves and to not being generous with our gifts, talents, and time.

The second temptation is for power and authority. Feeling weak after 40 days of self-denial – wouldn’t a little power feel good? Just worship the deceiver and all this can be yours. But will it really be ours if we worship the ruler of this world? Yes, there is much splendor in the world. But all that is shiny and bright does not really satisfy – it just leads to wanting newer or better or more. This too can get twisted. Pride and ego kick in and lead us to think things would be so much better if we were in charge. Then it becomes easier to cut a corner, to not quite be so moral…

The third temptation comes down to testing God. Satan quotes from Psalm 91 in encouraging Jesus to put God to the test. Just jump off and God will save you. God’s word says He will. Is it true? This idea can catch us too. We can be pretty good at trying to wheel and deal with God. Those if-then prayers are an attempt to bend God’s will and plans to our will and plans. Like Satan we too can twist and cherry-pick scripture to try and get our way or to make our point. This too is a way to test God.

For each temptation, where does Jesus turn? He turns to scripture. In each case today, Jesus quotes from Deuteronomy. In each case, the bottom line is the same: trust in God, not in the things of man. This should be our model when we face temptation.

Our passage closes with this line: “When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left Him until an opportune time”. Satan keeps coming back. Jesus was tested over and over and over. In the next moment of weakness or frustration or exhaustion, Satan came right back at Jesus. We too can expect the same. Satan is ever on the lookout for the next opportune time to test us. Like Jesus, may we also immerse ourselves in the word of God, ever readying ourselves for the next inevitable attack.

Prayer: Lord, may I dwell in your holy word so that it richly dwells in me. May it be my wellspring of life. Amen.

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Stand Firm

When life is going well we feel that God is with us, watching over us, guiding us, blessing us.  We feel the God of love’s presence and offer up thanksgiving for His role in our life.  When life seems a little bit sideways or the struggle comes to our little corner of the world, then often we wonder where God is.  The answer, of course, is that He is just as close in the trial as in the smooth sailing.  But for some reason our natural inclination is to assume God has abandoned us when life gets challenging.

Paul encourages us to put on the full armor of God.  By doing so we will be able to stand firm in times of trial.  The fully prepared Christian has truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, and God word.  To put these on means to use and train with them each day as a Roman soldier would with his shield, sword, and armor.  If one does not train and practice daily, one is not fully prepared when the challenge arises.  We need daily practice of the disciplines of faith so we are strong and ready when the battle comes our way.  If we are diligent each day, we will be ready all the time.

When the waters get a little rough it is not because God has left the building.  It is because Satan has entered and stirred up the waters a bit.  In this moment we can flex our spiritual muscles and fall back on our training.  We can draw strength from God’s promises of salvation and peace.  We can gird ourselves up with truth and righteousness.  We can live strongly in our faith.  The full armor of God will allow us to withstand the devil and put him to flight.  Stand firm in the full armor of God today!

Scripture reference: Ephesians 6: 10-20

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In Every High and Every Low

The times that Satan chooses to tempt us are often like when he chose to tempt Jesus.  Jesus had just fasted in the wilderness for forty days.  He was tired and hungry – that is when Satan came.  Evil plies him when he is at his weakest.

Isn’t that when Satan usually tempts us too?  Evil doesn’t come knocking in the middle of a good day at work or while we are enjoying a nice dinner with the family.  Evil comes after a long day at work when we come home feeling a bit grumpy.  Evil comes just after we have been scolded for something we ought to have don (or not done).  We are angry, tired, offended, grumpy – whatever.  It is then that temptation can win.

But Satan is good – he can also enter when we are feeling great.  That sermon or presentation or game that we thought went really well?  Didn’t “I” do well?!  Here too we can be caught.  It is so easy to think that the things done well are the result of something we did instead of something God blessed us with.  Here too we can be caught.

Just as Satan’s attacks are constant, so too must be the attention we give to our walk with Christ.  Just as Jesus answered every temptation from the Devil with scripture from God, so too must we know the Word.  When we call on the mighty name of the Lord, Satan will indeed flee.  When we pray out to God, He is faithful.  He will answer.  In Ephesians 6: 11 and 14 we read: “Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes…  Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.”