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building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Abide in Jesus”

To Stay Under

Last night, I wanted a good movie to watch. I didn’t want fluff. I wanted substance. I found Corrie Ten Boom’s story called The Hiding Place. I read the book many years ago and I had forgotten the details. I remembered it was about her life in the concentration camp.

Before the time of hardship, their family led a quiet life until the Nazis showed up in their world. The Ten Booms decided to take a stand. They decided to help anyone who came to their door. They had a safe place for Jews to come until they could make their way out of the country. It was because of that stand that eventually led to the family’s arrest.

Corrie, her elderly father, her sister Betsy and her two brothers were arrested. Her father died soon after the arrest. Her two brothers died while in prison. Corrie and Betsy were taken to the same prison and eventual concentration camp. Betsy seemed to have had the greater faith. She encouraged Corrie not to hate but to thank Jesus in everything even the hardship.

Their conditions were harsh. Betsy was beaten because she could not keep up with the work. They stayed in an infested dorm room in overcrowded conditions. But Betsy kept telling Corrie, even in the deepest pit, Jesus is deeper still. Betsy thanked Jesus for the conditions of the room – the lice kept the guards out of their space. It gave them opportunities to read the Bible and talk about Jesus to others.

This morning, I got up with the message of hope in this trying time. This is nothing in comparison to what the rest of the world suffers every day. Yes, we’ve lost some of our comfort and our normal way of life. Maybe it will come back some day, but we may be in this storm for another month or two or ten. Who knows? But hardship is the perfect way of seeing what’s beneath the surface.

Both Pastor Louie Giglio and Pastor Andy Stanley used James 1:2-5 in their messages this morning. Okay, seems important to remember that trials are for our good. Trials help us to persevere. To persevere means to remain or to stay under. James, the brother of Jesus, reminds us trials are a way for God to finish His work in us. It matures us and makes us complete. That’s why we’re supposed to find joy in our trials. God is working in us to complete what He started.

Our trials or hardships are a way of finding out what’s underneath the surface of our faith. Is it rock solid or is it made of sand? Without storms in our lives, we would never know the authenticity of our faith. Faith is a muscle that has to be tested in order to become stronger.

Jesus told Peter Satan had asked to shift Peter. Peter said he would follow Jesus to his death. But was it true? Peter needed to see what was underneath his declaration “I will die for you.” The story didn’t go as planned for Peter. He denied knowing Jesus on three different occasions. Peter had to see his fault in order to become the man he was saved to become. There was a greater work that would be soon coming where he needed a deeper, abiding faith.

We may not like this time we’re in, but God has allowed it for our good and for His glory. We may want this pressure to end. But it’s best to stay under and let God complete His work. I don’t want to get through this time and not see progress on my faith journey. I want this to change me (in a good way). Pastor Louie reminded his listeners that God does not send us storms to destroy us but to refine us. This could polish and perfect us and transform us into the image of Jesus. That’s our purpose as believers in Jesus – to be conformed into His image.

God uses shifting from the enemy. He also uses shears to cut off any branch that isn’t fruitful. For the fruitful branch, He prunes in order to produce more fruit. Living the life we’re meant to live means we have to go through hardships in order to be useful to God and to glory Him. Hardships get us to the place we are meant to be and to be the people we were born to be. We cannot allow ourselves to get out from under the pressure before the work is done or the next storm we face, we may not be able to withstand it.

Corrie Ten Boom’s faith was tested. But in the end, after she was released from the concentration camp by clerical error, she went on to live a life glorifying God and proclaiming His goodness even in the deepest pit. She reminds us even in this hard time we face, He is deeper still. This is our time for shifting to see what is beneath our faith; our time of cutting off the thing that is not producing fruit and it’s time for pruning what remains to become more fruitful. Stay under as long as it takes until what God wants is polished to shine in perfection. Keep the faith – He is deeper still.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:2-4

Rock and Truth

A couple of weeks ago, my small group started reading the book Adamant by Lisa Bevere. Since the first chapter, I have had this picture in my head. In the first chapter, Lisa writes about the Rock, the Cornerstone of our faith. Somewhere in the midst of that chapter (which I could not find to reference), there was a word picture of being in the rock – not that we stand on the rock, but we are actually planted in the rock. So the picture I have in my head is my feet firmly within the rock – my feet have become the rock.

Lisa’s point about being part of the rock was that if we stand on a rock, any wave that hits us can knock us off; but if we are firmly within the rock, no wave will overtake us. We are firmly grounded and nothing can move us. The book’s tag line is Finding Truth in a Universe of Opinions. The rock is Jesus, the cornerstone, the unmovable, never-changing Truth. If we are firmly grounded in the Truth, we cannot be moved by the tides of change in our ever-changing culture.

It’s easy to get off track when we listen to others opinions. It’s easy to get into disagreements based on our perceptions. But when we stand on the Truth, nothing can move us because absolute truth never changes. Absolute truth does not shift. Gravity will always be gravity whether we believe in gravity or not. God will always be God whether our culture believes in this God or not. Nothing changes absolute truth. Lisa wrote “for something to be truth, it must be true at all times.” Jesus claimed to be the truth.

Jesus said that He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6). All of these things are true or they are all lies. If Jesus is the way, then there is only one way to God because Jesus said He is the Way. There are not many roads to heaven – only one and it’s through Jesus Christ. If Jesus said He was the way, then He is also the Truth. Lisa said it a better way. “If Jesus lied and misrepresented who he was and he is but one of many ways to the Father, then he cannot be the truth.” She also stated “if he is not the truth, it is impossible for Jesus to be the life.”

We cannot believe half-truths. Actually that’s what Eve did when she believed Satan’s word instead of God’s. Satan is a distorter of truth. It’s impossible to know truth without being in God’s Word. This is the place to know God, to know Jesus and to know the Truth. Satan will deceive us all day long unless we are imbedded in the Truth. Our feet have to be firmly in the Rock. The word picture comes back into play.

Jesus said it better this way – I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing (John 15:5). We are to be planted firmly in Him. The vine gives life to the branches. If a branch is broken, the life force has been removed. Only if the branch is grafted back in will it live again.

When I was in high school, I took horticulture for a couple of years. In that class, I learned how to graft a branch to a different tree. We used apple trees for the process of learning this procedure. We cut one branch from one tree and tied it securely to a cut branch attached to another tree. Eventually, the branches will be indistinguishable. The two will become one. The graft will be complete when the two are one and the branch begins to bear fruit. This is what Jesus said of us – those who are grafted in will become one and will bear much fruit.

We have much to learn from God’s Word. It has the absolute Truth that we need to live by. It will not be a popular decision to live this way because culture is going further from the truth each and every day. Jesus said there will only be a few who will live this way. The road is narrow and only a few find it (Matthew 7:13-14). It’s not that only a few are allowed to enter. Actually, God’s grace and mercy is for all people, but only a few will follow Jesus and His Way to God the Father. All are invited to follow, but only a few will take up the challenge to do so.

God’s truth does not change. It is an unmovable, invincible, irresistible and unbreakable Rock. It’s time to plant our feet securely in the Rock so that no wave will ever overtake us. Culture will change again. Life as we know it will be different tomorrow. But we can be secure in our knowledge of Truth and in this Rock.

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. John 1:14, 17

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever—the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. John 14:16-17

Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” John 8:31b-32

Distractions

For a while now, I have been saying I am in the process of writing my story. I don’t know how many times I have said this in my blog but it’s been a lot! I wish I could say it’s getting done. I wish I could say I have it all wrapped up. It is Christmas time after all. I am a bit perplexed though why it’s not done. Why am I procrastinating about finishing it? It’s aggravating to say the least. I want it to be done but I don’t want to sit down to actually write. Every time I think this is going to be the day that I write, I get distracted with other things. Oh, the things I am distracted with are all pretty good excuses. There’s been a Bible study I have been involved with. There’s been works of service that have come along. Many things get me distracted.

I am reminded of Mary and Martha on the day Jesus came to visit. Martha was busy in the kitchen preparing for the feast for Jesus. Mary was at the feet of Jesus listening to His every word. Martha was upset because Mary wasn’t helping. (I’ve had those thoughts recently.) Jesus tells Martha:  “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41-42)

Maybe the distractions are better at the time they are presented to me. Maybe I need to make sure I am choosing what’s better. But as Christmas is approaching, I need to make sure I don’t get distracted with shopping, parties and all the festivities that I forget to remember what I am celebrating. This is a joyous occasion. Jesus is coming for a visit. I don’t need to be distracted by all the preparations. I need to stay focused on the reason for the season. I need to be at the feet of Jesus listening to His every word. This is the reason He came so that we could know Him and know His Father. If I miss this important message, then all the preparations mean nothing. It’s just another holiday party. Yes, I will be socializing with friends and family. But I want to make sure Jesus is in the honor seat at the table.

Jesus maybe visiting now, but He’s here for an extended stay. When He is finished telling me all He has to tell me, then I can sit down and finish what I have started. The book will be finished when it’s time to finish. I just need to be sure that the obstacles coming are from Jesus, not Satan. Jesus may be delaying me for the right timing. Or Satan might be distracting me because he doesn’t want me to tell what Jesus has done for me. Is the distraction helping or hurting? Is it for my benefit or for others? I will choose the best for the kingdom for preparations both for Christmas and my heart to tell the right story that gives God all the glory.

I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. John 15:15-17

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