building on the foundation of Jesus Christ

Archive for the tag “Perseverance”

The Word for Today

Have you ever noticed after a major event – whether it’s unprecedented weather, the solar events of late or even the death of Billy Graham – people voice their belief that Jesus is coming very soon? Anne Graham Lotz, Billy Graham’s daughter, spoke at her Daddy’s funeral about Jesus returning very soon. She talked about the day of Billy’s death related to the death of Moses. The actual day is significant in Jewish history as the day when Moses was taken to heaven (7th of Adar). Moses was taken to heaven before he was allowed to enter the Promised Land. However, he led God’s people to the very edge. Joshua was chosen to lead Israel into the Promised Land after the people mourned for Moses.

It’s interesting to hear Anne’s take on this. If Billy’s death is significant and reflects Moses’ death, then who would bring God’s people into the Promised Land? Who is the modern-day Joshua? It’s interesting to consider the name of Jesus – it’s the Greek form for Joshua. Well then, maybe we are really close to that time. Great! But if we still have to go through the desert for a few more years, then we need to buckle up and be ready to ride the roller coaster that will happen over the next few years.

I don’t know when the Church will be removed from this earth. I do believe it will happen one day, whether I see it from this side of heaven or not. Jesus said it would happen. He said it. I believe it. However, I have been wavering over the whole “pre-Trib/post-Trib” event. I have concluded it really doesn’t matter when it will be. What does matter is the fact we are to be ready regardless of the time of His appearing. We have to be able to endure the hardships until it’s time to meet Jesus face-to-face, whether in death or in the clouds. Only God knows the timing of events, we’re just told to be ready for them. We are told to endure through them so that we will receive our crown of life (James 1:12).

It’s hard not to know the future, what life will bring over these next few years. We might have a vision of how life is supposed to look. I have found though, it’s not always like the vision. Actually, it never looks the same. It’s a matter of trust in God to sort through our desires and refine them to match His desires for us and for His Kingdom. Unfortunately, our plans may have to burn in the fire of God’s refinement before we see anything come to fruition. Just be prepared for it. Trust Him to refine our vision because His plans are the best for us. It will be greater than we could ever ask or imagine.

Maybe this message is just for me. I have trouble enduring any hardship. I typically just quit when it gets too hard. I balk at the first “no” I hear. I turn into the scared little five-year old girl who runs to Mommy or Daddy to take care of the problem. At this time of my life, there is no Mommy or Daddy to run to. Mom died a few years ago and Daddy isn’t able to comprehend my need anymore much less fight for me. However, I have a heavenly Daddy that can take care of any need, any problem, or any fight that I could ever face. Sometimes I forget this though.

Endurance is the key to a greater faith. It’s the purpose of the trial. No matter what we have to get through, we can trust Jesus to lead us to the other side. It’s what He does. We’re called to trust Him in the process. It will always lead us to a better outcome than whatever we expect. No matter if it doesn’t happen as we expect, we are to be faithful in the process. Just do the next thing that Jesus leads us to. Every step has been ordained by God to strengthen us and to make us into who we need to be – who He has envisioned us to be since the foundation of this world. He saw us then and sees us now as that person – complete and fully formed in His image.

So whether or not Jesus is coming back soon, endurance is the word to bring about a greater victory. What a testimony we will have when we finally make it through those pearly gates. I can’t wait to hear yours. It’s going to be epic! The angels are already rejoicing in heaven over the victory Jesus gave us by His blood and we can believe it on this side of heaven. Victory has already been claimed. Endure, my friend. The end is almost here. Wait for it! Don’t quit when it gets tough, it’s just the beginning of something greater. Okay, I needed that; I hope you did too!

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


Persist with Joy!

So the message this past weekend was to count it all joy. All the struggles, trials and tribulations are for a reason. God wants to take us from Point A to B – from where we are to where we need to be. He is developing in us a greater faith. Faith always has to be put to the test. Heaven is for the faith-filled believers; the ones who endured to the end. We never like to go through the storms in life. We are so anxious to get out of them before we learn the lessons. But Book of James tells us to stay the course and count it as joy. The testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything (James 1:3-4).

In my readings this past week, I learned of the Wright Brothers tenacity. I read of the struggles in Auschwitz through Viktor E. Frankel’s Man’s Search for Meaning. And in The Greatest Salesman in the World, I am contemplating “persist until you succeed.” The theme this week is persistence or perseverance. You never know when the next step will lead you to the promise. It’s always right before you. The trouble is we give up before we find the answer. It’s always just around the bend.

I was intrigued by the Wright brothers’ determination to fly. It was all they thought about. They persisted until they succeeded. They went through many years of tweaking their design until it proved right through all their experiments. Time after time, they focused on getting it right. If this worked this time, how can it be made better for the next version? During that same time, many others tried to develop plans for an airplane. Some were close, but they weren’t close enough; they never sustained flight. The Wright brothers focused on the birds. They saw how a bird used their wings to fly. The brothers worked their designs in accordance to how nature works, and the airplane came to be in a very simplistic manner.

Viktor E. Frankel’s book gives his account of the struggles behind the walls of the concentration camp. As I was reading about his fight to live, I wondered if the lucky ones were the ones who were taken to the gas chamber right away. They didn’t have to endure the harshness and horrendous circumstances in the camp. In his account, Viktor wrote about the ones who lost hope and gave up. They died right before liberation came. Viktor lived for three years behind those walls; barely surviving on very little food – a small bit of bread and watery “soup” each day. They worked in snow and ice with no gloves or coats to keep them warm. Some had shoes with no laces or no shoes at all. I am reminded of the depravity of man when man has no soul. But Viktor survived; he made it to the end of the war and saw liberation day.

We are told in 2 Timothy 4:7, Paul fought the good fight; he finished his race and kept the faith until the end. Paul lived a life of testing. He endured the beatings, the shipwrecks, and various hardships. He stayed the course. After his conversion, Paul was told all that he must suffer for the sake of the Gospel. And he did it. He was the man for that hour – to get the message rolling through the known world. His tenacity brought the message to you and me. He introduced the Gospel message to the Middle East, Asia and Europe. And it spread like fire. He fought the fight so that we could keep it to ourselves. No, that’s not right. He did his work so that we could do ours.

We have our own battles to fight. We have our own hour to shine for Jesus. Our faith needs to be pure. It has to be tested and made sure. Like the refiners fire, the dross needs to be removed so that our faith is purified. When we suffer, we actually identify with Jesus. He took on our sin and shame and endured the cross for us. He suffered for us. So we shouldn’t be surprised when we too have to suffer in this life. It will either draw us closer to Him or it will drive us away. This is the testing of our “soils” to see if we have good soil or the word was sown in rocky soil; when persecution comes, we fall away. Faith has to be sifted. The rocks have to be removed. It’s the only way to know for sure where we stand. When we endure until the end, we succeed in obtaining the crown of righteousness. When we count our trials as joy, we keep the end in mind – the crown will one day be ours, if we persist. So, persist; it builds character in us and gives us the hope for liberation day. It’s coming – count it as joy!

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character; and character, hope. Romans 5:3-4

The Capacity

I like listening to different teachers. I stumbled upon a new teacher on Sunday. I’m not sure of the quality of his message, so I won’t give the person’s name. However, one thing stood out as I listened. “Count it as joy.” It’s not that noteworthy in just a simple statement. The passage in the Book of James (1:2), tells us to count our trials as joy. It seems impossible. But if we have our eyes upon Jesus, and realize that if He has brought us to the trial, then it is for our good. It is a test of our faith, which develops perseverance in us. We’ve heard this before. But what the speaker said about the future was noteworthy.

What if the amount of joy we exhibit here is reflected and experienced there in greater portions? If we practice joy here, then maybe we will have a greater capacity of joy there. Maybe the treasure we store in heaven is more than what we originally thought: i.e. good deeds, giving sacrificially, etc. Maybe it’s how we respond to events as well. The treasure from this life is stored for us to use there. This life is just the tip of the iceberg. It’s our practice field. This life determines our eternity. God has a purpose in our trials. It is shaping our character; character that will be used in heaven. Our gifting here is sharpened for eternity. This life is not all there is. There is so much more than we could ever imagine.

The message made me think of a lecture I heard on brain capacity. Dr. Caroline Leaf, a noted brain researcher, said that we only use only a fraction of our brain’s capacity (something like 6%) here on earth. She believes that we are given the greater capacity for our eternal life. We don’t know what eternity will actually be, but I believe it’s going to be nothing like we imagine it to be.

I heard another message this past weekend about replacement theology (my term). Louie Giglio talked about replacing bad habits with good, although the way to do it was not to take out the bad. His theory was to start with good habits. The good habits displace the bad. This theory points to the “renew the mind” passage in Romans 12. One of the places to start with good habits is to get under the authority of the Bible. Memorize, meditate and let it dwell in us. Our capacity to know God grows as we learn more about Him through His Word.

Another thought came from a message from Clay Scroggins at North Point Community Church. His message was on identity. Events happen in our lives. What we believe about the events shape our identity. We have to replace our beliefs of what we believe about ourselves with the message that God says about us. We become who we believe we are. My pastor says “our past doesn’t shape our future.” It doesn’t define us either. We have to replace the recorder of negativity in our minds with the recording of Scripture (memorize, meditation, dwelling in us) that displaces the negativity.

Events shape us. We can count the event as joy; receive the trial as a test of faith. We can renew our minds by replacing thoughts that are not true by the truth of God. If we are His, then we are not alone in our trials. He never leaves us or forsakes us. We are never separated from His love. His love endures forever. We can replace our mindset with the truth of God, and let it build a foundation in which we can take a stand. The capacity is there to grow us into the new creation we are in the process of becoming. Scroggins said “You can do what God has for you to do when you see yourself how God sees you.” We will achieve what the mind believes – as Henry Ford said “if you think you can’t or if you think you can; you are right either way.” The capacity to change is right in front of us – if we believe it.

It’s time to replace thoughts and renew our minds; our minds are a terrible thing to waste. The capacity is there for much more joy than we could ever imagine. Let’s just get through this next trial with a smile on our faces. God says He’s got this, and He has us in the palm of His hand. No other better place to be. Count on it! I believe Him. Do you?

Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. James 1:12

Potential Maker

God wants to develop our potential. It’s His plan of developing the potential that we shy away from. I tend to run when adversity comes much like Jonah. I would rather escape on a boat to whatever exotic location far from the adversity. Adversity may be the thing though that God sends to develop our potential. It might be the only thing that will bring our character into full alignment with who we are meant to be in Jesus. James said in his letter that we are to rejoice in our trials (James 1:2). We are not to run from it but to embrace it. In James 1:4 we see we are to “Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” There is potential building up in us – complete, lacking nothing. We are supposed to get something out of adversity. We need wisdom to understand the lesson we are learning through our trial. James goes on to write in verse five: If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.

Jesus teaches His disciples about being connected to a vine. John wrote about Jesus’ teaching in his Gospel found in chapter fifteen. It’s a wonderful picture of a gardener who is lovingly taking care of his orchard. For the branches that are in the mud and muck, the Master Gardener takes that branch and lifts it up. I can imagine the gardener tying that branch to something that is stable and where the branch will receive light. It hasn’t produced fruit because it wasn’t in the right environment to cultivate fruit. There is another branch that is fruitful; but in order to produce more fruit, the branch needs pruning. I am sure the pruning hurts the branch in the short-term – there is definitely cutting involved. The branch will have an open wound until a scar is formed and healing can take place.

Adversity may be the thing that prunes us to be better for God’s purpose. It may be a something that moves us into the right environment to start producing fruit. The trouble is: when we are fruitful, there will actually be more pruning involved. There will be more adversity to contend with! Oh boy – something to look forward to! This is a good thing, but we tend to ask God to remove it quickly. We don’t have the stomach to persevere. We want to cut the loss – move on; be done with it. James said “count it as joy” – we are producing fruit and will be producing more fruit because of the adversity.

I was listening to North Point Community Church getting this wisdom from the “Now what?” sermon series. The teacher was saying that every branch gets pruned. The pruned branches cause a dependency on the vine. The pruned branch experiences growth in new areas. And of course, pruning causes the branch to reach greater potential that was once impossible to achieve without the pruning. Interesting points that can be related to our own adversity battles. Like David who faced his own personal giant, David faced Goliath with a dependency on God to defeat his enemy. David reached his potential to become a mighty warrior. And David went on to become a man after God’s own heart.

Adversity is a good thing even in the midst of the battle – dependency on Jesus, increase in wisdom, and eventually a life-bearing significant fruit! Sign me up – for the battles that don’t have much pain involved; that don’t leave ugly scars; that leave me in my comfortable place. Will this develop my own potential? Will this give me an abundant life that Jesus said He came to give me? Will this make me a mighty warrior for Jesus? The new prayer for today: God, use this adversity before you chose to remove it – let your will be done. Mold me into an instrument for your purpose that will give you greater glory! (And send Jesus to bind up my wounds so that it doesn’t hurt so much.) Amen.

“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:1-2, 5

North Point Online, Clay Scroggins, March 29, 2015, “Now what – part 3”

The Unexpected

Last week I wrote about the warning signs. How ironic as I was considering all the warnings that had occurred for my neighbor, I get one as well. This warning wasn’t in the form she received but from a warning in my own house. My carbon monoxide detector went off in the middle of my dinner one night. I first thought it was a low battery warning. I got the detector in hand, about to remove the battery when I read the fine print of warning messages. The fine print said that four beeps is a real alarm. I began to pay attention to the details. How many beeps am I really hearing? Now, I am truly alarmed! With a quick call to 911, I found myself in the middle of my front yard wondering what happened to my quiet night at home eating my evening meal. It was an unexpected interruption. I kept reminding myself that none of this is a surprise to God. I was interrupted by a warning that I could not control, but God could help me in this time of trouble.

When the firemen had accessed the situation, I found myself homeless for the night. I found the uncertainty of my immediate future but temporary homelessness. This is not to compare to my neighbor’s unexpected homelessness. I slept very little that night running scenarios of “what’s next?” in my head all night. The heating unit was replaced, but the future of “what’s next?” is still uncertain. I have deemed this year the year of change. (Of course, aren’t they all?) But this year will be different. I can’t keep going along the way I have been going. Circumstances will need to change. Sometimes I will have to make the effort to change them. I need to find a job. I need to find the place to do ministry. I need to find the opportunities that God has placed in front of me that I am just not seeing right now!

God brought the unexpected into my life that particular moment. I didn’t see it really coming. I knew the heating unit was very old, and I knew it would need replacing soon. I was hoping for a few more months use. So it was unexpected at this time, but not totally out of the realm of possibilities. I knew as soon as the alarm sounded I had run out of time. I don’t know the future. I just know the one who does hold the future in His hands. God isn’t surprised of our circumstances. I just have to remember when the unexpected happens, God has the expected outcome in hand. He knows what He wants accomplished in our unexpected interruptions.

God was in the details of the right time for the alarm to sound. I wasn’t in a deep sleep. I wasn’t alone in my neighborhood during the day. It was in the early evening when people were coming home from work. One of my neighbors “happened” upon the situation at the time I was contemplating where I needed to go for the night. It was kind of them to offer their extra bed. My friend had already priced a replacement unit for me. I already knew what needed to happen. It was the timing of it all that reminds me that God knows when to give us warnings and knows when the warning needs to be heeded. We have to pay attention to the details. There is a lesson in the unexpected. We just need the wisdom to understand what God is doing in the details of the unexpected.

Interruptions put us in a place of readiness to hear – looking to Him for guidance; realizing we can’t handle things on our own; accepting our own limitations in the middle of the crisis and realizing our God is in control of all circumstances. We can lean on Him when our strength fails us; when our world is turned upside down. When the unexpected comes, it’s time to pay close attention to the details. God has something in mind, but the circumstances might throw us into a temporary tailspin. But it shouldn’t send us into the mindset of great fear. It’s time to focus on our God who has the world in the palm of His hands. Nothing throws God into a tailspin – He’s got this.

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

Between the Rains

A couple of weeks ago, I posted about waiting patiently. It was a profound moment when God answered my ranting. Sitting still is hard. I have been studying the book of James for the last eight weeks with Beth Moore’s study called “James Mercy Triumphs.” Beth has been instrumental in my last few years of growth. She has the right teaching leadership that I can relate to. Her heart is so tuned to Jesus that it resonates with me. I want that kind of relationship with Jesus too. I know I can’t compare myself to her. I have my own relationship, but I want it to grow deeper still (yes, that’s a play on words – she has a teaching conference called Deeper Still)!

As I am writing this, I have just sat through one of the sessions in the James study. She spoke into the camera for a Holy Spirit moment that struck a chord so deep in me, I had to stop and praise God for it. She titled the session “Between the Rains.” She spoke about the times when we experience the dry seasons when God is silent. These are the times when we have to walk by faith and not by sight. I am in that season right now. I am looking for answers but none are found right now. She reminded the listeners that crops cannot grow at flood stage. The waters have to recede in order for the ground to be ripe for growing. It’s in the dry seasons of our lives when real growth happens. It’s all great when God is speaking and faith becomes sight. The mountain top experiences are wonderful, but that’s not where we live out our lives. We walk in the valleys.

When the season is dry and lonely, prayer becomes a necessity. We never walk through the valleys alone. It’s good to have reminders that God never leaves us or forsakes us. This is the promise I have been given many years ago. I have held on to it. Even when I don’t feel His presence, I hold to the promise – He’s here with me. Beth’s teaching on this particular morning, was spot on with what I needed to hear. The underlying message was on patience. God is all about the process to get us to the promise. We have to be faithful and remember He is faithful and trustworthy. He is a good God. He has the best in mind for us. Even when we pray for our hearts desire, we have to remember He will only give us our answer when it is in alignment with His will. Our process is about getting in alignment. This is the purpose of patience. He is doing a great work, and masterpieces always take time. Praise God for the process!

Be patient, then, brothers and sisters, until the Lord’s coming. See how the farmer waits for the land to yield its valuable crop, patiently waiting for the autumn and spring rains. Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. As you know, we count as blessed those who have persevered. You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord finally brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy. James 5:7, 10-11

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