Boasting in the Lord

We have all met people who like to boast. It seems that they always turn the conversation back to themselves as they craftily work into the dialog their accomplishments or their possessions. You will find people who boast about worldly things and you will find those in the church who also boast about their achievements. Social media has become a forum for many to boast and to announce their accomplishments and good deeds.

The Apostle Paul wrote a lot about boasting in his second letter to the Corinthians. Paul is having a difficult time with the church at Corinth. Many in the church at Corinth have accepted Paul and his authority as an apostle but there is a group that is committing slander against Paul. They accuse him of being bold when writing to them but timid when meeting them face to face.

Paul writes that he will boast only about the work of spreading the Gospel that the Lord has given him to do. 2 Corinthians 10:13: “We, however will not boast beyond proper limits, but will confine our boasting to the sphere of service God himself has assigned to us, a sphere that also includes you.” Paul is adamant that he will not boast or take credit for the work that others have done. 2 Corinthians 10:15: “Neither do we go beyond our limits by boasting of work done by others.” Paul then concludes chapter 10 by saying: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord. For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends” (2 Corinthians 10:17-18).

Paul is being forced to defend his ministry which was given to him by Christ. If anyone could boast, it certainly would be Paul. However, Paul reminds us that we must always be careful to give all of the glory back to God for anything that we are able to accomplish in His name. As weak and mostly ineffective human beings, we must be careful to not become arrogant or overstate our own self-importance. We should remember that it is only by God’s power that we are able to accomplish anything worthwhile in His name. “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”

If Paul had the internet back then he could have boasted to everyone about “being flogged, exposed to death again and again, being beaten with rods, ship-wrecked three times, in danger from rivers, and from bandits, as well as from his fellow Jews and also Gentiles.” He could have bragged about being hungry and thirsty and being cold and naked, as well as facing the daily pressures of caring for all of the churches that he helped to establish. (See 2 Corinthians chapter 11).

But Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 11:30: “If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness.” You see, that’s how God works. He chooses those of us who are weak to carry out His work, because in our weakness, God’s power and glory is made known. I find that to be especially true of my own life, because I could not do what I do, except for the power of God, that He gives to those of us who are weak. Like Paul, we must boast only in our weakness through which the power of God and the Cross is made evident. Let your work be commended, not by your own boasting, but through God.

“For to be sure, he (Christ) was crucified in weakness, yet he lives by God’s power. Likewise, we are weak in him, yet by God’s power we will live with him in our dealing with you” (2 Corinthians 13:4).

Surrendering to God

Psalm 37:7 (NIV): Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him.

How do I surrender to God? Is it even possible to “be still” and to listen for God? And how am I going to be able to “wait patiently for him?” These are challenging questions that many of us ask God almost every day. We pray for God’s will to be done but we want God to act on our schedule. We are an impatient people when it comes to being still and waiting on God.

Lately, I have been engaged in an epic struggle on how best to surrender my whole life to God. I tell God that it would best, and easier, if He would just listen to me and do what I ask. Of course, God doesn’t operate that way but He will allow us to continue down that dead end path until we stop and ask Him for guidance – and surrender to Him.

It’s difficult for many of us to surrender to God because we have been raised to be self-sufficient and to “pull ourselves up by our bootstraps.” We feel as if we have failed when circumstances and things go wrong because we continue to rely on our own power and understanding instead of surrendering to God. We are fearful of getting out of God’s way and allowing Him to do the work in our lives that He has planned. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Philippians of this very thing: Philippians 2:13: for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose. God is ready and willing to act if we will only surrender ourselves completely to Him.

Jesus prayed this prayer of surrender to God in the Garden of Gethsemane: Going a little farther, he fell to the ground and prayed that if possible the hour might pass from him. “Abba, Father,” he said, “everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:35-36). God does not ask us to surrender in our own strength; we are only able to do it by God’s strength and grace. 

We don’t know when God’s timing will come and we don’t know how God will bring about our prayer or situation to change. As believers, we are called to follow God without knowing what lies ahead. We must trust and have faith that God will act or work out circumstances in order to fulfill his good purpose in each of us. Instead of trying to do God’s work for him, we must surrender and allow God to have complete control over our lives. Making the choice to surrender is not easy, but it is something we must do in order to allow God to accomplish his good purpose in each of us.

Finding Rest for the Weary

This post was originally published on 08/06/15.

Matthew 11:28 (NIV): Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

In our society today, it seems that everyone is in a hurry. We rush around aimlessly trying to fill our lives with material things that will satisfy us and make us happy. It’s important to us that we appear successful and in control of our lives and our destiny. We fool ourselves, and we try to fool others, with the pretense that we live perfect, stress free lives. For many of us, the lives we lead are anything but trouble and worry free.

Many people misread these words of Jesus from Matthew’s Gospel. As believers, we are not promised an easy, stress free life. Our bodies will be physically tired and we will face troubles, worries, and burdens. However – through Christ and the Holy Spirit – we are enabled to encounter this daily life of stress and worry with a higher power that makes our very soul content. We can find rest and peace, not necessarily for our body, but for our soul. 

Isaiah 40:28-29 (NIV)
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.

This demanding and unforgiving world that we live in is often not a friend to those of us who feel weary and weak. War, terrorism, and violence seem to fill the earth and that can cause us to worry and even waver in our faith. We must remember that the same God who created the earth is still in control of what transpires on this planet. This passage from Isaiah helps us to remember that our creator God remains in control and is tirelessly working to provide strength for the souls of the weak and weary.

Psalm 62:1 (NIV)
Truly my soul finds rest in God; my salvation comes from him.

Make an effort to unplug from this world and rest in quietness with God. Allow God to refresh you with His Spirit and to give you rest and the strength needed to face each day. Instead of worrying about what the day ahead holds, trust that God will be with you and will supply you with what you need to make it through the day. Pray for God’s presence and trust that He goes ahead of you to prepare the way. End your day by thanking God for guiding you and sustaining you, for being present with you.


A Grace that is Sufficient

2 Corinthians 12:7-9: To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three time 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.

Max Lucado, in his book, In The Grip of Grace, tells a story that illustrates the sufficient grace of God.

Here is the scene: You and I and a half-dozen other folks are flying across the country in a chartered plane. All of a sudden the engine bursts into flames, and the pilot rushes out of the cockpit. “We’re going to crash!” he yells. “We’ve got to bail out!”

Good thing he knows where the parachutes are because we don’t. He passes them out, gives us a few pointers, and we stand in line as he throws open the door. The first passenger steps up to the door and shouts over the wind, “Could I make a request?”

“Sure, what is it?” “Is there anyway I could get a pink parachute?” The pilot shakes his head in disbelief. “Isn’t it enough that I gave you a parachute at all?” And so the first passenger jumps.

The second steps to the door. “I’m wondering if there is any way you could ensure that I won’t get nauseated during the fall?” “No, but I can ensure that you will have a parachute for the fall,” said the pilot.

Each of us comes with a request and receives a parachute. “Please captain,” says one, “I am afraid of heights. Would you remove my fear?” “No,” he replies, “but I’ll give you a parachute.”

Another pleads for a different strategy, “Couldn’t you change the plans? Let’s crash with the plane. We might survive.”

The pilot smiles and says, “You don’t know what you are asking” and gently shoves the fellow out the door. One passenger wants some goggles, another wants boots, another wants to wait until the plane is closer to the ground.

“You people don’t understand,” the pilot shouts as he “helps” us, one by one. “I’ve given you a parachute; that is enough.”

Only one item is necessary for the jump, and he provides it. He places the strategic tool in our hands. The gift is adequate. But are we content? No. We are restless, anxious, even demanding.

Too crazy to be possible? Maybe in a plane with pilots and parachutes, but on earth with people and grace? God hears thousands of appeals per second. Some are legitimate. We, too, ask God to remove the fear or change the plans. He usually answers with a gently shove that leaves us airborne and suspended by his grace.

This is one of my favorite Max Lucado stories because for me it illustrates how sufficient and perfect the grace of God is for each of us. We want more, we demand more, but God reminds us that the grace he supplies to each of us is sufficient for our needs. If we are completely honest, we would admit that we don’t believe that most of the time. We ask God for healing, a raise or a better job, or even a miracle. And God says, not yet, for now my grace is all you need.

May the grace and peace of God be with you!

Source Used: In The Grip of Grace, Max Lucado, pages 129 and 130.

Persistent Prayer And Faith

Psalm 88:13-14 (NASB):
But I, O Lord, have cried out to You for help,
And in the morning my prayer comes before You.
O Lord, why do You reject my soul?
Why do You hide Your face from me?

Have you been praying for something for a long time? The psalmist in Psalm 88 was apparently near the point of death and is pleading with God to “hear” his prayer. “May my prayer come before you; turn your ear to my cry” (Psalm 88:2). As I read this passage, it gives me hope to see that other believers face the same questions that I do when prayer goes unanswered. What we do in response to that “unanswered” prayer reveals how strong our faith is. Do we continue to pray and trust God when things don’t go as we had planned or hoped? Or do we just give up and doubt God and His power to drastically change our circumstance?

Proverbs 3:5-6 (NASB):
Trust in the Lord with all your heart
And do not lean on your own understanding.
In all your ways acknowledge Him,
And He will make your paths straight.

So often, we try to “fix” things ourselves. And God says, “Go ahead, try it yourself and see how it works out.” We often try to “lean on our own understanding.” We arrogantly think that we know better than God how to best solve our problems. It is only when we turn to God and trust in Him that our situation will improve and our “path” will be made “straight.”

Luke 18:1(NIV): Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up.

Jesus emphasized the importance of persistent prayer to his disciples. As believers, we also should continue to pray even when we can’t “see” any change in our circumstances. This “persistent” type of prayer serves to increase our faith and our trust in God. Faith is believing in what we can’t see, so when we persistently pray and we do “not give up,” we say to God that we trust Him with our very lives.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (NIV): Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

The Apostle Paul puts things in the correct order for us. We are to “rejoice always” instead of wallowing in self-pity and complaining about our circumstances. We are to “pray continually” instead of praying only when things get bad enough that we begin to pray for relief from our problems. And finally, we are to “give thanks in all circumstances.” Did you notice the word “all?” We are to give thanks in good times and especially in bad times. Why? Because this is “God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” God will make us stronger as we endure difficult moments in our lives. God is always with us, He will never “leave us or forsake us” (Deuteronomy 31:6). 

I have been praying for something for over eight years now and although God has not answered my prayer, he has given me many indications that he will one day. I choose to believe in God’s will for my life and to have faith. Some days it’s not easy but it is the only way I know. I may get frustrated with God for what I perceive as his silence but I will never cease praying. I have the faith to believe that, one day, God will finally answer my prayer.

Hebrews 11:1 (NIV): Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see.


A Time of Refreshing

Acts 3:19 (NIV): Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord.

As I was reading in the Book of Acts this morning, I came across this familiar phrase that really spoke to me: “Turn to God, so that…times of refreshing may come from the Lord.” All of us could certainly benefit from a time of refreshing from God, especially considering the busy and hectic lives that we often lead. This was a reminder to me this morning to slow down and to allow God to direct my pace of life. It is only when I realize that I am not in control, and I give my worries and doubts over to God, that I can begin to experience this “refreshing” that comes only from the Lord.

How can we be refreshed? For me it involves:
• Time alone with God – quiet, still time
• Listening to God as He speaks through the Holy Spirit and through other believers
• Prayer
• Reading the Bible
• More time contemplating the things of God instead of the things of this world
• Developing a mindset that has its focus on God and not on self

Colossians 3:2(NASB): Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth.

The Destination Matters

A new year brings excitement and anticipation, but it can also cause us to worry or wonder about what the future holds for us. As believers, we can feel anxious about the immediate future, just as unbelievers do. While we can’t predict what lies ahead of us in 2016, we can be sure of who is in control of our future. God is in control, and through His Son, Jesus Christ, death and the sin of this world already stand defeated. It is crucial that we always bear in mind our ultimate destination, as we go through the many joys and trials of life on this earth.

The destination matters to the Christian, because we know that our ultimate destination is heaven. Paul, in his letter to the Philippians, called the Christians at Philippi, citizens of heaven (Philippians 3:20). He wanted these early Christians to realize that they were first and foremost, citizens of an even greater land, a “city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (Hebrews 11:10). Even though we live in this world, and are fully involved in this world, we are not of this world. Paul reminds us that the destination matters.

Jesus said, “I came from the Father and entered the world; now I am leaving the world and going back to the Father.” “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:28, 33). This world will always be unkind to those who follow the way of the cross instead of the way of the world. The believer can trust in the promise that God is in control and we must always live out our life with the ultimate destination in mind.

Jesus speaks again of our ultimate destination in John 14:1-6: “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also. And you know the way where I am going.” Thomas said to Him, “Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” Yes, the destination matters!

The destination always goes by the way of the Cross. God sent His one and only Son as a sacrifice for our sins. Our passage from the Gospel of John reminds us today that we can only gain eternal life through faith and a personal relationship with Christ. We are called to “deny ourselves and to take up our cross daily and follow Christ” (Luke 9:23).

Saint Augustine wrote: “We are but travelers on a journey, without as yet a permanent dwelling; we are on our way, but not yet in our native land; we are in a state of longing, but not yet of enjoyment. But let us continue on our way, so that we may ultimately arrive at our destination.” Yes, the destination matters!

The following is a link to my sermon from this past Sunday, “The Destination Matters.”