Power in Weakness

Dead River FallsThere was a time in my life where I was so weak, so broken and so despondent that I got down on my face in my bedroom and cried out to God for help. That night I had a dream. In the dream, I was in a worship service with my hands raised. A lady from church laid her hands on me and I blacked out and fell backwards. Then I woke up. Something had changed, God had touched me.

Immediately upon waking up, my phone rang. It was my mom; she was calling me at about 6 in the morning, something she rarely did, if ever. Something had changed in the spiritual atmosphere. I could sense the presence of God. My problems did not magically go away in that moment, but God gave me the strength to carry on when I desperately needed it.

Psalm 143:8 says,

“Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love,
for I have put my trust in you” (NIV).

Sometimes God allows us to come to the end of ourselves. He stretches us beyond what we may think we can endure, “beyond measure” (see II Corinthians 1:8-11, NKJV). But He always shows Himself faithful if we will place our trust in Him.

There is a power that God releases in our lives through our places of brokenness. Our deep place of brokenness becomes a source of great power. That power is a life-changing force which flows through us to bless others.

Sometimes God does not completely remove a problem from our lives, but He gives us the strength we need to carry on in it. At times, I have experienced a heavy weight of oppression in my life. It used to be quite crushing, to the point I questioned whether I could hold up under it. I praise God that today I do not struggle nearly as much as I used to. God has given me victory. It has been a slow victory as I have learned to walk with God and take ground from the enemy “little by little” (see Exodus 23:30 and Deuteronomy 7:22, NKJV).

It is reassuring to know that Jesus faced attacks from the enemy until the day he died. In fact, in God’s divine plan, He actually uses the enemy to strengthen and perfect our faith. We learn to “rule in the midst” of our enemies (Psalm 110:2, NKJV).

God has used the weaknesses of my life and the assaults of the enemy to refine my character and perfect my faith. I have experienced some instantaneous deliverance in my life, on a few occasions, but usually breakthrough is a gradual process.

The Apostle Paul states,

“Therefore, in order to keep me from becoming conceited, I was given a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (II Corinthians 12:7-10, NIV).

The Bible does not define Paul’s thorn, only that God used it as a tool to keep him humble. Perhaps this is significant for us? What might your thorn be? Just to be clear, a thorn could never be a sin because the Bible is clear that God has called us to live and walk in holiness. Whatever your thorn might be, God’s grace is sufficient for you to walk in victory.

Our deepest places of brokenness can become the place from which emanates the sweet fragrance of Christ. Indeed, He gives us “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3, NKJV). Suffering is not fun, but it draws us closer to the heart of God. The cross is where our Christianity becomes most real. Pressed up against the cross, will we run and hide or will we press in and surrender? As we embrace the cross, His love becomes more real in us and our brokenness becomes a place of power.

God’s grace is sufficient for us in the midst of trials and difficult circumstances. Those circumstances may not change immediately, but as we press on through them, we will press through to the other side. He does not always deliver us from the difficulty, but He delivers us through the difficulty. He uses trials to make us strong. His power is perfect in your weakness.

“For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead, who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us, you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.”

-2 Corinthians 1:8-11, NKJV

You are Valuable to God

cross-in-mexico-e1537670483673.jpgYou are valuable to God. He sees past your sins and struggles and sees a person of incredible worth and value. 1 Corinthians 6:20 states that “you were bought at a price.” That price was the precious blood of Jesus. God gave His best for you. Jesus gave His all for you. He gave His all so you can have eternal life with Him in heaven. God wants to spend forever with you, that’s how much He values you.

Imagine being imprisoned in a foreign country with no hope of release or escape. How would you feel if I traded my son to that country in exchange for your life so you could return to the United States? It would be hard for me to do that. In fact, I probably would not! I love my son so much, I wouldn’t trade him for anything. He is precious and valuable to me. But this is exactly what God did for you and me. He exchanged His Son so we could be purchased from the enemy’s prison.

Several years ago, the Lord reminded me of a rummage sale that my mom and I went to when I was a boy. As I recall, we drove out of town to a small building that was filled with clothes and perhaps other sundry items. We rummaged through lots of clothes to find something worth purchasing. The stuff was discarded  by someone, but we hoped to find something that would be useful for us. When the Lord reminded me of this, I felt the Lord speak to me, “love her like you loved that rummage sale.” At that time, I was dating a girl while in Bible school (whom I did not end up marrying), but I believe God was actually speaking to me about my future wife.

When God brought Leslie and I together, she had some “junk” in her life (and I did too). We both brought hurts from the past and anger into our marriage. Marriage has been a healing journey for us, and we’re still on that journey. Yet, God has called me to see past her problems and see her heart, to value her because she is valuable to Him. Often Leslie has to look past my problems and see my heart as well.

God sees past the junk in our lives and sees that within us that is of value. God sees the heart. “For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (I Samuel 16:7). My wife has a heart of gold, a beautiful heart full of love and generosity. Will I love her on the basis of her problems or will I love her on the basis of the value God places upon her?

This is how God loves us. He doesn’t look at our problems, hurts, or bad attitudes. He looks at us through the lens of the blood of Jesus. He looks at us based on the value He has placed on us. He looks past the “junk” in our lives – the sins, mistakes, wounds, and failures – and sees a person of incredible value and worth. His love makes us valuable. His grace makes us beautiful. He gives us “beauty for ashes” (Isaiah 61:3).

I Peter 1:18-19 says,

“you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”

God gave His best and Jesus gave His all for you – you are valuable to God!

Assignment:  Read Ephesians 1:15-23 and make a list of who you are in Christ. Spend 15-30 minutes this evening, before you go to bed, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.

Be Still

ThHead on Cheste moments when I feel closest to my son is when he is still on my chest. I think this may be his favorite place to sleep. When he was first born, he liked to be cradled in my arms, but now he likes to be upright with his head on my chest. There is a sense of closeness with him that I feel in these moments, when he is still. Perhaps the Father longs for the same with us?

I am reminded of the scene in the Bible where the disciple John leans his head on Jesus’ breast (John 13:25). To me, this is the most precious moment of intimacy in the Bible. A man laid his head on the breast of God incarnate. John was “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 21:20). Perhaps it was not that Jesus loved John more, but perhaps it was simply because John chose to draw closer to Jesus. In fact, he drew nearest to Jesus in Jesus’ suffering on the cross.

God loves everyone, but He is not close with everyone. We can be as close to Him as we want to be. James 4:8 says, “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” Or, “Come close to God, and God will come close to you” (NLT).

When my son is fussy, I still love him. When he cries, I still love him. No matter what he does, I am still going to love him and provide for him. But, when he is still, I feel closest to him. It makes my heart feel good as he rests in my arms. I wonder if God feels closest to me when I am still?

Certainly, we can cry, we can fuss, we can complain at times. But how much better is it if we would just simply trust?

Psalm 46:10 says,
“Be still, and know that I am God;
I will be exalted among the nations,
​​I will be exalted in the earth!”

The waters may roar and be troubled and the mountains may shake (v. 3), but “There is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God” (v. 4). The nations may rage, but the Lord is our refuge (v. 6, 11). There is a place in God where, no matter what is going on around us, we can be still. Be still and know that He is God. He is taking care of everything.

Isaiah 30:15 says, “In repentance and rest is your salvation, in quietness and trust is your strength…” (NIV).

The truth is, everything we need is found in God. His provision is all-sufficient. Right now, everything my son needs he finds in my wife and I (mostly my wife, because she feeds him). Likewise, when we crawl in Father’s lap, lay our heads on His chest, we can rest in His all-sufficient provision. He will not fail us.

We can cry, fuss, complain, get upset, or have a bad attitude. God is merciful. He still loves us. But how much better is it to simply learn to be still and trust? Take your eyes off your circumstances, look to Him, praise Him and trust Him.

Proverbs 3:5-6 says,
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
And lean not on your own understanding;
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He shall direct your paths.”

When we lean on our own understanding, we become self-focused, anxious and fearful. When we lean on Him, we find peace, joy, rest, and healing. If we will take time every day to simply sit with Him, I believe that it not only blesses His heart, but in this place of stillness we also find the freedom and healing that we need.

Your Identity in Christ

 

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Have you ever felt overlooked or marginalized by others?

Even if not intentional, sometimes others fail to see our potential. One time, I requested a job promotion for a position I thought had opened up. After about four months of waiting and seeing the position had not been filled, I discovered that I needed to speak with the President of the company to find out why I had not been given the position. So, I requested a meeting with him.

In the meeting, I learned that although the supervisor of the department wanted me in the position, the President did not or was at least resistant to the idea. I had been with the company for over ten years, had worked hard and was excellent in my work, and felt that I deserved the promotion. I made my case and he gave me the promotion. It felt good that I got what I wanted, but I also felt a bit hurt and rejected. My supervisor believed in me a great deal and saw my potential, but the President did not. What I’ve learned is that some people, no matter how well I do or how hard I try, won’t believe in me or see my potential.

I’ve learned that what others think about me is not that important. I need to be open to listening to constructive criticism and be willing to receive correction, but what is most important is what God thinks about me. And thankfully God has placed other people in my life who do believe in me.

There’s no doubt that the words of others can hurt, but the most important words in our lives are the words of God. Even if everyone else says you don’t matter, God says you do. If God says you matter, then it doesn’t matter what other people think.

Once, after going through a long season of personal testing, the Lord told me that I had passed the test. Honestly, I did not feel like I had passed the test. But God clearly told me that I had passed. I have learned that if God says “yes” when I feel “no”, “yes” it is! So, in addition to placing God’s words above those of others, we also have to place God’s words over our own self-opinion.

Sometimes we can think of ourselves more highly than we ought (see Rom. 12:3). In this case, we need to temper our self-opinion with the truth of God’s word. Often, however, we think too low of ourselves and we need to elevate our self-thinking based on what God says about us.

Romans 14:4 says,

“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand.”

When you one day stand before God in heaven, what others have said about you will not matter. What will matter is what God says about you. This the way we should live our lives – with a humble estimation of ourselves and with a confidence in who we are in Christ. Jesus was wholly confident in who He was as God’s Son but also lived humbly, knowing He could do nothing without the Father (John 5:19).

As a new dad myself, I want to speak positive words over my son. I want to call forth his purpose and destiny in Christ. I want him to know that I believe in him and his potential. He’s just a little guy right now, but all of God’s potential is presently in him, it just needs to be developed. I don’t want to hold him back. I want to give him opportunities to grow and fulfill his purpose. I want to provide instruction and discipline to help guide him in the right direction. Most importantly, I want him to know that he is loved and that I am proud of him. Our Father in heaven feels the same way about you. He loves you and believes in you. Even if you feel poorly about yourself, He is proud of you!

I have found it helpful to declare out loud who I am in Christ. Declaring what God says about me in His Word increases my confidence in Him and reminds me that I am loved and accepted even if I feel unloved. I want to challenge you to take some time to declare God’s word over your life. Sit by your beside or sofa or pace the floor in your room and declare God’s promises over your life. Absorb the truth of God’s word deep into your soul, let your identity in Christ become ingrained in your soul and spirit.

Assignment:  Read Ephesians Chapter 1:1-14. Make a list regarding your identity in Christ (for example, “I am blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ” or “I am adopted as God’s son or daughter”, etc.). Also, make a list of qualities of God’s character (for example, “God is full of grace” or “God is full of wisdom”, etc.). Spend 30 minutes this evening, meditating on these truths and confessing them over your life.

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