New Strength for a New Year

But they who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint. Isaiah 40:31

There are a number of verses in the Bible about new beginnings and getting fresh starts in light of the New Year that is upon us.

This verse, however, stood out and it only touches newness. It instead is a call to restoring our strength every day.

For many reading this, 2020 has been somewhat of a disaster or worse. Everyone I know wants a “Do Over.” Society and the economy is in upheaval, unemployment is through the roof, the Church is questioning what to do regarding meeting together regularly, and even the science seems all over the map regarding the virus. It’s enough to just weight you down, throw up your hands, and just give up – whatever that means in your life.

And economists, politicians, and scientists are saying it could get worse in 2021!

First of all, we need to remember that God is in control.

Nothing surprises Him.
Nothing throws Him for a loop.
Nothing worries Him.

He’s got this, whatever “this” is.

Secondly, knowing that He’s in full control, we can wait on Him to give us the strength we need to face each day. He will give it to us when we ask. Only He can give us that strength. Others can encourage and build us up, but strength from God will get you through each wearying day.

My prayer for you is that you will get that strength you need each day. Don’t let a day go by without that strength. Throughout the day when your tank is low, call on Him again.

He is more than eager and willing to give you strength.

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Prayers for Persecution

Prayers for Persecution

14 For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of God’s churches in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your own people the same things those churches suffered from the Jews 15 who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone 16 in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. The wrath of God has come upon them at last. 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16

Paul continued to heap praise on the church, encouraging them in their walk with Christ. He also railed against those who were hostile to the Gospel, Jews and Gentiles alike.

Not much has changed in all these years. Many – even religious people – are still hostile to the Gospel. Don’t be surprised if they are. Not all will be, but some may be.

In fact, hostility towards the Gospel and persecution may even be an answer to people’s prayers. Let me explain.

James T. Draper, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention for Baptist Press, noted that some in the China house church movement are praying that America is persecuted. According to one believer, “We, in fact, are praying that the American church might taste the same persecution, so revival would come to the American church like we have seen in China.

What will you do with that thought? I’d be curious to know.

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9 Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we preached the gospel of God to you. 10 You are witnesses, and so is God, of how holy, righteous and blameless we were among you who believed. 11 For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, 12 encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you into his kingdom and glory.

13 And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. 1 Thessalonians 2:9-13

Paul makes a significant point in verse 13: the Word of God is just that, the very words of God. Yes, they were written down by man but wholly inspired by God.

In this post-modern era where there is no objective truth, we can rely on the word of God.

Many in the culture use this phrase: well that’s your truth. Truth is truth regardless of who told it.

As you read this many are gathering in Washington DC to stand for truth in the U.S. election system. What was the truth of this election?

Federal electors are meeting.

Both houses of Congress are meeting together

Hundreds of thousands of people have come from across the country in a rally to determine the truth of the election. Even as I write this in the evening, many are praying to that end.

As you read this, pray for the direction of this country. Pray that the truth will be revealed.

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More Than Sunday Morning

More Than Sunday Morning

7 Instead, we were like young children among you. Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, 8 so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the gospel of God but our lives as well. 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8

For Paul it was important that he share his life with those in Thessalonika. Throughout my years as a believer, and especially as I was young in the faith, others older in the faith befriended me and took me under their love and care. I didn’t know then what I know now, but they were sharing their family and lives with me. After church on Sunday they’d invite me over to their home and they always threw in an extra potato, as they liked to say. Did I learn great theological treatises under them? Probably not, but that wasn’t the point. I saw how they lived, how they welcomed singles into their home.

When I went salmon fishing with them one weekend, and Jean found out I wasn’t tied off to a vehicle and almost drowned because I slipped and my chest high waders started filling up (sneaking off to do early morning dipnetting fishing), she rightly read me the Riot Act, just like a mother would. The more I think about it, the more that family embodied verse seven, caring for me, nurturing me – and yes, rebuking me when I deserved it.

“Living life” with relative strangers was as natural to them as raising their own family.

The Christian Life is more than Sunday morning teachings and worship, that is, when we were all meeting together. It’s making the time to get to know others, yes, sharing our lives with them, crying and laughing with them, giving and taking rebuke when warranted.

Blessed be the name of the Lord!

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The Struggle of Pleasing People

The Struggle of Pleasing People

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not without results. 2 We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you his gospel in the face of strong opposition. 3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. 6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority. 1 Thessalonians 2:1-6

in the middle of this passage is the phrase “We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts.” Pleasing people is so easy until you realize that they will never be satisfied.

I recall actress Patricia Heaton making a statement that rings so true, because in her Hollywood world, image and pleasing others is critical to success: “On a personal level, as a Christian, it will not be Barbra Streisand I’m standing in front of when I have to make an accounting of my life.”

Heaton understands clearly that she will not have to answer to Streisand or any other person in the world when her life is through. The sad truth, though, is that they all will stand and give an account.

I say they, but we should probably bring it closer to home.

While it’s easy to denigrate the selfish and hedonistic ways of the elite, pleasing people is a very natural thing to do. We are easily programmed by the media to want more because we deserve more and “quite frankly, we’re worth it!” We laugh at these words, but they’re truer than we know. When this philosophy is drilled into you daily (in a variety of formats and methods) for years, you begin believing it.

If man were not in the picture, it would be easy to please God. We all have “filters” for what we do or do not say around others (even those who say they don’t have filters still have them – they’re harder to find but they exist). Those filters do come in handy but they also can be a hindrance.

The goal then is to become like the 1960s Klondike Kat “Savoir-Faire is everywhere!” What does that mean exactly? According to Wikipedia: savoir-faire is French noun phrase that means being adaptable and adroit, knowing what to do in any situation.

Fortunately, we have the Holy Spirit to guide, prompt, and filter what we say if we let Him. He’s also there to help us speak out when we need to. The Holy Spirit is the ultimate savoir-faire so it’s always wise to be guided by Him.

Very few of us want to be people pleasers. But as long as we are in this body, we will struggle to one degree or another. Don’t worry though. The Holy Spirit will help us, that is, if we let Him.

We are not in the struggle alone.

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