Not Just a Puncture Wound

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And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.  Matthew 6:13

We are all being led somewhere.  Some of us are leading ourselves.  Some of us are letting the world or others lead us.  And some of us are letting the Master of the Universe lead us.  Now, I’m here today because I believe this is where You have led me, Lord.  I was praying for someone and asking You to give me wisdom in praying and You put Your prayer in my head.  This is what You used when Your disciples asked You to teach them to pray.  And this part is what is standing out this early morning in me.

I want this for me and I want this for the family I’m praying for.  And it’s not that they’re doing bad things or being tempted per se.  I mean, not if I think of temptation like we usually do.  But what if temptation isn’t as obvious as I think?  What if temptation goes deeper than I think?

Skip Moen likened temptation to a puncture wound.  Think about it.  A puncture wound doesn’t seem so bad.  It covers itself back when the damaging instrument is pulled out.  There’s not much blood.  It hurts when it happens but then seems OK.  But let me tell you something, you better have your tetanus shot up to date.  You better keep an eye on it because there is probably an infection within coming up.

Temptation is like that.  It sinks a barb in and we think we’ve handled it for the moment.  But it may have gone deeper than we think.  There could be thoughts we haven’t handled or doubts that we haven’t noticed.  Think of a situation you are praying for.  What if it doesn’t turn out the way you want?  What will your response to God be?  Will you be angry?  Will you curse God?  Or will your response be like Job’s after he lost his wealth, all his children, and his health?  “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in Him…”  Don’t tell me he wasn’t inflicted with many barbs of temptation.  I mean, his wife told him, “Curse God and die.”  I think temptation comes in all forms; even in the form of trials and difficult situations that test our faith.

I mean, who would think that suffering would tempt me?  But it does, doesn’t it?  Doesn’t my pain, whether in sickness or job loss or family problems sink deep?  And my faith may look strong on the outside but what about the doubts or thoughts being harbored on the inside?  Am I handling them rightly?  See, it’s so easy for me to think I’ve got everything covered when it’s an “outward” difficulty.  But I can’t forget that even though something attacks me on the outside, I’m not just waging a “battle of the flesh.”  Am I taking care of the spiritual warfare that is going on within?  Am I letting a stronghold creep into my heart?  Or am I attacking every thought, every doubt that’s raising it’s ugly head against Your truth, Lord, grabbing it, identifying it, and utterly destroying it?  If I’m in You, Jesus, Your divine power is there to enable me to do just that.

Paul knew we’d go through this.  So he powerfully reminded us “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man, and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able; but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it.”  (1 Corinthians 10:13)  The Corinthians that Paul was talking to were going through some hard times and situations.  But what they were doing was fleeing to idols instead of You.  “Well, I’m not going to flee to an idol!”  Really?  What if I come into a hard situation, and I don’t “agree” with the way You are handling it, Lord?  Do I continue to trust You even when I don’t understand and can’t make sense and hurt like there’s no tomorrow?  Or do I trust in my own reasoning, my anger, my justification, or whatever else?  Isn’t it “funny” how I turn to myself as an idol without even realizing it?  I didn’t even realize what that puncture wound had done.

But Paul is telling me that when the tough times and decisions hit me, that You will get me through it.  You don’t snatch me out of it,  Your ultimate way of escape is for Your provision of strength and power for me to ENDURE it.   You know everything about me.  You know my limits.  And You know what You created me to be able to handle better than me.  Which means that every thing that happens in my life, no matter how terrible, is do-able and do-able well in Your power.  You give me the power to overcome in every situation.  I just need to act and think in belief, in agreement with You and Your word.   Because You have recreated me and renewed me to “endure living in a broken world.”  See, Your idea of enduring is from the Greek word “hupophero.”  It’s  the idea of  bearing “up under pressure.  It does not imply removal of the opposing force.  It implies the ability to resist that force, to bear the load.”   Because the whole point is, in You, I never have to bear the load alone.  And the fact is, that You bore the heavier load already for me when You went to the cross.  And look how You overcame.  So, I’ve got that same resurrection power behind me, if I’m in You.

So, prayer empowers me when I pray rightly.  Prayer should be me remembering who You are and what You are doing and Your promises to me.  I obey.  Every thought.  I follow Your path, even if it’s just in my thinking.  I handle the wrong thoughts, by capturing them and slaughtering them.  The truth is, I don’t need any devil whispering temptations to me.  I’m my own idol easily enough.  My desires kick in too easily.  I need every reminder of You.  And I must act upon those reminders immediately.  I must not ignore You or Your instructions.  I have to grab on because they are my weapon that will take me through and make me an overcomer in You.  I need to drop my pride and ask for directions from You.  I don’t want to wander off, and believe me, wandering off is very easy for my active mind.  “Lead me not into temptation.”  Don’t let me wander off Your path.  You would never lead me off, it’s me who wanders.  Help me!  But all the help is right here.  I have all I need in You and in Your word, if only I will rely on it and act upon it and guard it and do it and think it and live it.

So, Lord, deliver me from evil.  Evil is from the word “poneros”, from “ponos”, which means toil, to labor in pain under intense demands.  The Hebrew equivalent word is “atsav” “describing the toil in sorrow that accompanies the Fall.”  So what if evil isn’t just bad deeds?  What if evil includes the effects of sin, like death and pain and hardships?  Why?  Because I live in a broken world and evil is all about that brokenness.  Evil is about the lack or absence of God.  It’s all about independence from Your authority.  I live in a broken world that doesn’t acknowledge You as God.  But what about me?  Am I refusing Your authority in any situation?  Do I want to make this situation my own?  How’s my worship?  Because if I’m refusing Your authority, I’m going to lose in the area of worship.  I may win my way, but I’ll also win emptiness, because I’ll lose my intimacy with You.

No matter how hard this evil in the world is around me, in You, I can get under it’s weight and stand strong.  I’m stronger than Atlas, bearing the world on his shoulders.  When I respond rightly in You, I have Your strength strengthening me, and You hold all of creation by just the power of Your word.  You don’t even have to raise a pinky.  Atlas has to use his muscles.  Not You.  Evil hurts.  It stands in the face of You.  But evil is puny compared to You.  And You’ve got my back.

Paul wasn’t the only one trying to get me to understand this truth.  So did John.  And he used that word “poneros” too.  He reminded, “I have written to you fathers [spiritually matured believers], because you have known Him that is from the beginning [Jesus].  I have written to you, young men [believers in their earlier walk], becaue you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the Evil One [Satan and sin].”  The truth is that Sin is rampant.  This world is filled with it.  But in Christ, when I know Him, I am strong.  I am “ischuros.”  I am powerful, mighty, valiant!  In You, I’m empowered to tear down strongholds.  But it’s better, Lord, if I don’t let them get built in the first place.

Lord, no matter what happens in my life, to me, or the people around me, I want to keep a right focus on You.  I want to apply Your word rightly in my life and in my mind.  Bring to mind and point out everything I need for each moment.  And keep me constantly seeking You in Your word and in prayer and in fellowship.  Because I’m going to face hard, evil things.  But I abide in You.  And that’s where I want to stay, abiding in You.  And I want to make sure that Your word abides in me.  And you’ve already told me that I have overcome the Evil One.  And that means that I’ve already overcome every evil thing that gets thrown at me, because You have already empowered me in You.  So let me live in the middle of Your authority, Your control, Your power, always giving You the glory no matter what.  Let me remember that Job lost everything but You were still worth more.  Let me believe that though You slay me, yet will I trust You.  Let me believe that You are my salvation.  Let me trust in You for my justification.  Just don’t ever withdraw Your hand from me and don’t ever let Your dread make me afraid.  Let me hear Your voice, always.  Let me obey.  Hear my voice when I cry, and direct me to what I need to hear and obey.

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Of Love and Faith

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“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends…” (I Corinthians 13:7,8a)

O.K.  So is this about love today or about believing?  It’s about both because You can’t keep believing with out love because believing is more than a statement; it’s an action.  It’s more than a way of life; it’s Someone’s life being lived in and through me.  And after I come to respect and honor and value that Someone above all things, once I come to see my need for You Jesus, and surrender my life and my all to You, then I come to experience Your love in and through me.

Maybe it seems as though this is giving license to toleration.  Absolutely not in the worldly sense.  But it does shoot us back to a particular characteristic of Yours, God.  John tells us in 1 John 4:8 that “God is love.”  He’s the beginning of love, the definition of love, the essence of love.  If it has to do with what love really is or what love really looks like, then look at God and you’ll know.  Amidst all the character traits of You, Lord, is love, all balanced perfectly with justice, righteousness, holiness, and all the rest of You.

Because of the love of God in me and for me, I am not ashamed to look forward to all Your promises and Your presence with excited anticipation.  Why?  Because, as Paul said in Romans 5:5, “the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”  Head on to Romans 8:39 and Paul reminds us that nothing, neither “height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Now it’s one thing to basque in the love of God for me.  But it’s another thing to apply the love of God in me and through me.  See, God set the example of love high, higher than it had ever been set before.  Let’s look at the standard of love that God set as put forth by Paul in Ephesians 2:4-7.  “But God, being rich in mercy, BECAUSE OF THE GREAT LOVE WITH WHICH HE LOVED US, (italics my own) even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with Him and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages He might show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”

Wait, let me understand again what this GREAT LOVE looks like again.  Here’s the real picture.  Perfect God.  Holy God.  God who is full of truth and compassion.  Yet You are Holy and You are Justice and You are Perfect and Righteous and without sin of any amount.  Absolute Light.  Absolute Purity.  So Holy that to look at You in our humanity we would not be able to withstand that purity and goodness and we would be so overwhelmed and terrrified by the truth of it that it would kill us, not because You wanted to but just because of the magnitude of the greatness of who You really are.  I would be overcome with fear.  Why?  Aren’t You a God of love?

Yes.  But remember all those other characters that are You also.  And there is such a big discrepancy between me as a person who owns sin just by my nature and You who are sinless.  And it’s not just that I naturally sin by accident.  That’s enough to separate me from You and condemn me.  But I deliberately deny Your deity either wholly in my life or in any one moment.  Forget the lies, the mean thoughts, the envy, and cheating.  To not acknowledge You for who You are at any moment in my life is sin.  After all, You are my Creator and You own every right to me.  My life was created by and for You.

So, does it look like God owes us a pat on the back?  I don’t think so.  We don’t deserve the love You have shown us, Lord.  But in Your mercy, because of the GREAT LOVE you have for us as Your creation, even when we were dead set against You and crusty with our sin, You offered us life with You in Christ.  That was no easy thing.  You designed that Your Son, Jesus, would suffer in my place.  That, though He was Perfect, and Sinless, and Love, and Goodness, and Justice, and Righteousness, and everything that You are, He would pay the penalty of death and separation and the weight of Your fury and wrath upon sin on Himself.  Talk about unfair!  But You loved us so much that Christ counted Himself of less value than me.  I was more valuable than His own life, than His own honor.  This is grace in action.  This is love in action.  This is what is called agape love, self-sacrificial love.  You gave Your life for mine and when I place my belief in You, I am raised up in newness of life in You and all the riches that belong to You in Your spiritiual kingdom flow into me from Your presence inside me.

Grace did that work for me.  Grace sacrified.  Grace broke the chains of sin and death.  Grace works in me by  the power of God in Christ Jesus in me.  But grace is only activated in me by faith, by acting in that belief, by living in that belief.  It’s the moment that belief becomes my life.  It’s that moment that Jesus, You become my Life and my Life Source.

So there’s the Source.  And I can know that I am in the Source by this evidence.  “…whoever keeps His word, in him truly is the love of God perfected: this is how we know that we are in Him.”  ( 1John 2:5)  How’s my love for Your word?  How’s my obedience to Your word?  And here is another evidence that His love dwells in me.  “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loves is born of God, and knows God.”  (1 John 4:7)  So, how is my love for others?  Not such a simple question when I compare it to God’s standard through Jesus.  Am I demonstrating His agape, self-sacrificial love even when others aren’t accepting what I have to offer?  And maybe that’s where this original verse was heading me.

Love bears all things.  Does love put up with all things?  That’s not what this is about.  Remember, our mark that we’re shooting off of is God’s love.  God does not put up with things and brush things under the rug.  His righteousness and justice won’t allow that.  But the word bear means to cover over, not to hide.  It’s the way that God covers us with the righteousness of Jesus Christ and covers us in His protection and love.  No matter what demons or past or present bring, if I am living in Christ, He has covered me with His love and righteousness.  His grace continually rescues me as I am wrapped in it.  No matter the severity of the situation that I must go through, I am covered by the arms of Christ!  God is not passive.  He is actively covering me.  Am I acting like that toward others?

Love believes all things.  Now this doesn’t mean that love believes whatever it feels like.  The actual Greek uses “panta” with pisteuo (believe).  That implies that it “believes fully (completely)”  And we can’t start with my love or your love here.  Remember, it all starts with God’s love.  God’s love provides everything we need in our relationship with Him.  There is no lack in God’s love.  To walk in Your love, to be Yours, is to be filled with Your love and all that comes with it.  As I live in my belief in You, I am full of everything that exemplifies and is the love of my Heavenly Father.  This is what Christ has provided for me.  No matter the situation, I am full of Your active, continuing, overflowing, powerful love, that not only fills me but acts through me to others.  Am I allowing Your love to be fully demonstrated through me?  Am I fully trusting in the power of Your love.  Am I leaning all my weight on it?

Love hopes all things.  The Greek word for hope is “elpizo”, to expect or confide.  But what am I expecting or confiding in?  Am I expecting that all things around me will work out well?  Well, Scripture tells us that sometimes we are delivered and sometimes we have to face the lion.  What kind of hope is that?  Am I waiting for that day when I will be in Heaven?  How can that be?  I’ve heard that some people wanted to get there so much and leave their troubles that they have attempted to take their own lives in that “hope.”  But what if this is all about You, God, again?  What if this is about all my expectations and confidence being in who You are and that You will show Yourelf True and Faithful.  So, no matter the severity of the situation I must face, whether it be hard by life or death, I have full (panta) confidence in Your character.  I have full confidence in the truth and power and presence of Your love in me, over me, for me.  I have full confidence in all that You are, not only for me, but for the world.  You are God, no matter what fails in my life or around me.  You will never fail me.

Love endures all things.  Wait a minute!  Love puts up with anything?  The Greek word for endures is “hupomeno” and it means to stay under, to bear.  The essence of the word means ‘to stay behind, to stay alive, to expect, to stand firm, to endure, to bear, to suffer’.  It’s saying that love stands firm while it actively waits.  Isaiah 7:9b says, “Without firm faith you will not be firmly established.”  Skip Moen shares, “It bears.  It suffers.  It never, never, never gives up.  The sense is courageous endurance, active patience, bearing the wound, accepting the strokes of a world out of sorts with its Creator, knowing (believing and hoping) the righteousness of God.  English might better render the phrase as “love steadfastly bears”.”  It’s also the mark that I trust Your character, God, so much, that I exhibit it myself by standing fast in Your word.   But also, part of faith, part of enduring is suffering.  Remember how God is love?  Remember how Jesus endured the cross?  What about me?  1 Peter 2:21 reminds me that “For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in His steps.”  Peter is talking of Jesus’ suffering and how I am to follow His example in suffering.  And I can in the power of His love because it is living in me as I live in faith in Him, in His word.

But Love didn’t just endure the Passion, God’s love did not just endure the cross.  From the minute that sin entered the world, You, Lord, have patiently endured and are still enduring.  Hmm.  Your example takes supernatural strength to be able to follow.  I’m so grateful that Your love gives that supernatural strength in You.

Love never fails.  But the word translated as fail here is actually the Greek word “pipto.”  I’ve looked into that word before.  It means to fall.  We fall down or trees fall or buildings fall or walls fall down.  It hurts.  Relationships fall apart, plans fall to ruin, civilizations fall into ruin.  But Love never falls.  God, in love, stands firm.  Your relationship is held together by You and You never fall.  You don’t even slumber or sleep!  You don’t need to.  You never tire.  You never lie.  You never make a mistake.  You are constant and always stand strong and firm and true no matter what.  Nothing can move You.

Now, people fall away, people can be unfaithful.  But You can and never will be unfaithful.  But if my relationship is anchored in Your love, then it can never fall, it can never fail, because You will keep it.  It’s wrapped up in Your divine character, not mine.  It’s not going away because You are forever.  It’s about Your character and compared to that, what is mine?  It’s less than a pale comparison.  My character falls.  I am insufficient.  But the truth is that You are sufficient for me!  Your grace and Your love are sufficient to turn my character upside down!  Your character of love is flowing from who You are.  Skip Moen puts it so well when he says, “And so we are blessed, knowing that ultimately Love does not depend on our performance, on our inner character.  Love is not anchored to us.  It is anchored to God.  That means that, in spite of our falling, we can always count on Him.  Rejoice!  God is there.  Love prevails.”

God, Your are love and You are more.  But Your love is continually active.  Your love will never cease to be.  Your love is continually acting in and through the hearts and lives of those who surrender to You in belief, who entrust their whole being to Your being.  Your love is so much more than my love.  My prayer is that You would change my love so that I learn to love like You.  These truths about Your love today, are only part of that truth, but if I only exhibited even that part, my life would be gloriously changed and have a glorious effect on others.  Lord, I’m learning and may I be constantly yielding to Your teaching, to being changed into Your image more and more moment by moment.  May I learn to cover others the way You cover me, to stand firmly in You no matter what goes on around me,  to bear patiently and with active love every situation that You bring into my life, and to live believing that You will never cease to uphold me in You and that above all, You will never cease to be God not just in my life, but over all things.  I am so glad that my God is love to the fullest.  There is no love like Yours.  Thank You beyond measure.

One more thought, Lord.  Sometimes I feel as overwhelmed as those men probably feel because of typhoon Mario right now (Yes, that’s a current picture from the Philippines right now, thanks to whoever took it).  And in my feeling overwhelmed, I start letting go of that love that never falls.  I’m so glad You never let go of me.  I need You to keep me focussed on the power in Your love and not to worry so much about the effect of “things” on me.  Take me to the point where I can flow with Your love to others, regardless of what’s going on around me.  So that I can love others with Your agape love whether they love me or not, whether they mistreat me or not, whether they understand me or not.  Because the truth of the matter is, when have I really totally understood Your heart and met all Your expectations?  I can’t.  And if You shower me with Your grace and love regardless of my shortcomings, regardless of my lack of ability, then, Lord, let me shower others with Your grace and love through me regardless of their shortcomings and their lack of ability.  Let me love others as You love me, in all Your fullness, by Your power, and in Your grace.  You are sufficient to make me efficient in You.