Archive for August, 2021

Don’t Look Back

As an historical example of our spiritual conquest we have a beautiful Old Testament example.

Joshua and the children of Israel, in their possession of the land of promise, is a beautiful example of what the Lord has in store for us.

Joshua had been the equivalent of a second lieutenant in Moses’ army. He had served Moses in battles against such formidable foes as Amalek. He had been entrusted to go into the promised land on a reconnaissance mission. He reported they should occupy the land in a spirit of formidable opposition. His report was derided by many and he was criticized for being so foolish.

Moses was a man he had loved, served, and trusted. Then God said to Joshua, “Moses my servant is dead.”

Joshua’s moment had come. He was thrust into the leadership role bringing with him memories of all his past failures and criticism. Evidently he was looking back on Moses and his monolithic leadership. If so, he was feeling very inferior. 

Have you ever felt that way? Many adults carry with them into adulthood memories of their failures and putdowns. 

In saying “Moses my servant is dead” God was saying, “Joshua forget your past failures —- you are my man.” It was time for Joshua to admit God’s great investment in him. He must now put the past behind and lead.

Jesus put it this way, “No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God” Luke 9:62.

Paul expressed it, “Forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus” Philippians 3:13,14.

God uses the same tactics for us He did for Joshua. How does God help us become more than conquerors? By giving us grace for the disappointments, strength for the trials, by giving us hope for the end of life.

The whole land of Cana was given to them but they could possess only what they would claim. The blessings God has provided for us are ours but we must possess them. How?


God Said, “You’re Gonna Make It”

Well, not exactly in those words, but we are taught it all through the Scripture. As a matter of fact Scripture notes, “… in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” (Romans 8:37) 

The Greek translation gives us a modern expression we can understand. HUPERNIKOMEN is the Greek word translated “we are more than conquerors.” The prefix, HUPER, means “over and beyond,” actually “super.” The root NIKE is a word for modern athletic wear. It means “champion” or “conqueror.”  In Christ we are super-champions, winners. We are conquerors.

That is encouraging, but before you get too confident thinking that means things are going to be easy, they aren’t. To conquer means there is some opposition or obstacle, even a temptation needing to be overcome. Don’t forget that lurking in the encouraging following text is that word “tribulation.”  

He who was the greatest of all conquers said, “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)

Having overcome the world, He has provided us insights into how we can become more consistent overcomers.  To follow His instructions it is not the circumstances that are around us, but commitment that is within us that enables us to surmount impediments to our spiritual victories. He spoke of His word abiding in us. To abide means to reside. Is His word right at home in your life and lifestyle?

For it to be, you must do as Scripture notes and “study to show yourself approved unto God a workman that needs not to be ashamed.” Establish a study pattern and don’t just read the Bible, but study it. You may need a good study source to guide your study. There are a number available. 

Once you have begun more in-depth study, one more thing is needed.

Mary’s comment to the servants at the wedding in Canna of Galilee are words we need to respond to positively, “Whatever He says to you do it.” (John 2:5) To know His word and not do it is little better than not having it. He never tells us to do something He does not give us the ability to do.

Know that in doing His will you might very well have some battle wounds. In the judgment, the scars resulting from those wounds will be considered trophies. At that judgment He potentially has trophies He wants you to earn. You must take the initiative under His Lordship to obtain them. He has designed them, provided them, and will enable you to possess them; BUT you must be His responsive servant and earn them in battle. Go forth and conquer.  

A question is asked and answered in I John 5:5: “Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

Are You Coping or Collapsing?

Optimism is a choice of will and hope, rather than a reaction to the world. If your optimism is challenged by current conditions in our culture, it can be renewed. Supercharge your optimism by plugging it into the faith socket. Christianity is a system of optimism. The stronger your faith, the more optimistic you are.

Don’t let your genes or glands control your outlook on life. Optimism is toxic to cynicism and pessimism. Neither should it be denied, both are influential and should be considered, but not allowed to be controlling.

Optimism is the force that enables us to get up and try again when we fall, and everyone does at some time. It makes the difference between coping and collapsing. It is your choice. 

A pessimist complains that roses have thorns. An optimist rejoices that thorns have roses. Both thorns and roses are there, you choose on which to focus. 

Flood your mind with the promises stored in your reservoir of Scripture. When Joshua was entering an unknown land and facing a formidable foe, he had reason to be pessimistic. God’s reminder to him is also a confidence builder for us: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”  (Joshua 1:9 ESV)

To do this you must “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.” (Proverbs 4:23 ESV)

As self assurance and an encouragement to others “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.” (Ephesians 4:29 ESV)

Essential factors in developing optimism are prayer, application, and thanksgiving. Therefore, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.” (Philippians 4:6 ESV)  

Add to this, read God’s Word, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)

There is a simple technique that can stimulate your optimism in difficult times, it is “act as if.” Though you don’t feel thankful, express thanks to the Lord. Though conditions are a challenge to your optimism, pray. Talk to the Lord about it. Express yourself fully to Him. The text includes supplication which is asking God to supply your needs. Do it, then —- 

“May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

When Things Go Wrong, Don’t Go With Them

Life can turn around some sharp curves, making it difficult to maintain an optimistic outlook. It is often challenging to face life’s unknowns and stay upbeat. Don’t be disappointed with yourself; at some point, everyone needs encouragement that things will work out. Neither allow yourself to be engulfed by the high tide of doubt. The fact you don’t have an answer to an issue doesn’t mean there is no answer. The Bible offers spiritual light in those dark times.

In Gethsemane when facing the cross, Jesus prayed. If with the events of eternity swirling around Him He needed to pray, so do we in troublesome times. Ironically it is often at such a time we assume authority and act as though we can handle the issues if we just worry and fret enough.

Remember this brief Irish blessing, “If things go wrong, don’t go with them.”

Jesus gave us this anchor for stormy times: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27) Repeat that to yourself several times, meditate on it.

“Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” (Colossians 3:15)

Take a break and prayerfully “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (I Peter 5:7)

When you do you can say “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.” (Psalm 94:19)

Now “Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”  (Matthew 6:34) Worry about tomorrow does nothing to improve the conditions of today.

Then you can say in retrospect “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”(Proverbs 3:5-6)

“I sought the Lord, and he answered me; he delivered me from all my fears.” (Psalm 34:4)

Resolve that, as of now, you will “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

When the superstructure of our life seems to cave in on us Scripture can help us cope. If overwhelmed by conditions, never underestimate the power of Scripture to help you rise out of the crowd mired in anxiety.

These dark days afford an opportunity to quit playing defense and go on the offence. Don’t just inhale faith stimulating truths, exhale so that others may be encouraged by your faith.

God rules, let all the earth rejoice …. and you, too.

When things are going good many like to quote, “This is the day the Lord has made, I will rejoice and be glad in it.” To quote it fervently when things aren’t going good builds up you and those around you. Pray, “Lord make me a blessing today.”

The Greatness of God

In my book entitled “Farewell to Fear” I wrote, “The God who conquered Canna said, “Fear not.” It was at the time when relations between the US and Iran were at their worst and there was apprehension regarding what was going on there. I received a letter from a young pilot when grew up in our church. He wrote, “I am flying spy missions over Iran in an unarmed spy plane. I’ll admit it is a scarey thing. I gained my composure when I read in your book, ‘The God who conquered Canna said, Fear Not.’”

In this uncertain and discomforting time in our country we must remember our God said, “Fear not” many times. The verb tense literally means “Stop being afraid.” Now that you have gotten the message, what are you going to do about it?

In southeast Georgia there is a vast area known as the Marshes of Glenn. A former Poet Laureat of Georgia, Sidney Lanier, observed a marsh-hen and wrote of it:

As the marsh-hen secretly builds on the watery sod, 
Behold I will build me a nest on the greatness of God: 
I will fly in the greatness of God as the marsh-hen flies 
In the freedom that fills all the space ‘twixt the marsh and the skies: 
By so many roots as the marsh-grass sends in the sod 
I will heartily lay me a-hold on the greatness of God….”

Engage in the mental exercise by memorizing those few lines and repeat them to yourself often. At least memorize that last line and do what it says, lay a-heartily hold on the greatness of God.

So many things we have grown to find comfort in are being eroded. The foundation of many has been shaken. Perhaps you are one such person. If so, apply a principle I recently shared with a downcast doctor. He explained he was in a funk and asked if that ever happened to me. I acknowledged it did. He asked how I got out of it. I said I reminded myself disappointments are inevitable, discouragement is a choice, and then set about praying myself out of it. That is the only way out of a morose mood.

“Fear not!” is the most repeated command in the Bible. Fear and its close companion “worry” hound and haunt many. Stressors, according to the experts, have produced an age of unprecedented anxiety.  For that reason He reassures us repeatedly against them. In His will you can be bold in the unknown.

Therefore, in these dark days stop being on the defense, and go on the offense.  It is a grand time to let you light so shine that people can see your good works and glorify you Father who is in heaven.

The contemporary Christian chorus has this great truth.

“Oh no, You never let go
Through the calm and through the storm
Oh no, You never let go
In every high and every low
Oh no, You never let go
Lord, You never let go of me.”