Let’s See How Well You Can Float

Have you ever heard the term “between the devil and the deep blue sea”? Back when shipbuilders made ships out of wood, the lowermost seam in the hull of the ship was called “the devil.” It was the toughest spot to reach and awkward to repair. Since this seam was the only thing separating the ship from the deep sea, there was literally “nothing between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Obviously, if this couldn’t be repaired, there was a strong possibility the ship would sink.

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I’ve often mentioned in my teaching that a spiritual trial is not the same as a test.  A test is when a temptation may suddenly come, and we make a decision good or bad.  A trial, especially a Christian trial is unique. In my book,  How to Walk on Water, I go through various definitions of the word “trial”. One definition is something designed to test our quality, value, or usefulness.  You know, like when a pharmaceutical company sends it’s drugs through clinical trials, like that.

Have you ever heard the term “between the devil and the deep blue sea”? Back when shipbuilders made ships out of wood, the lowermost seam in the hull of the ship was called “the devil.” It was the toughest spot to reach and awkward to repair. Since this seam was the only thing separating the ship from the  deep sea, there was literally “nothing between the devil and the deep blue sea.” Obviously, if this couldn’t be repaired, there was a strong possibility the ship would sink. The phrase later symbolized being caught between two equally dangerous problems. For Christians, the grave dangers are Self and the World. Of the two, Self is probably the most dangerous and hardest to recognize. Christina G. Rossetti’s poem, “Who Shall Deliver Me?” from Poems, 1876, called Self “my hollowest friend, my deadliest foe, my clog whatever road I go.” It’s essential to crucify Self to stay afloat in our walk with the Lord.

Overcoming the dangers of Self to be good ambassadors for Christ means staying afloat. Romans 6:1-2 and 8:36 teach us that we are always dying to Self and will be until we die physically. If we build, correctly, realize that Christ is the foundation of the Christian’s experience. Self-denial is the mortar holding everything together. If a Christians stops denying Self, the growth will stop also. Self-Denial bases itself more on arresting and crucifying the lusts and desires of the old man (see Romans 6:6, John 17:15-16, Colossians 3:9, and Ephesians 4:22) than on cloistering ourselves away to avoid temptations. Killing the old man takes full surrender.

That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; (KJV) Ephesians 4:22

Unfortunately, too many of us take lightly complete submission to God and then wonder why we begin to sink during long stretches of troubled times. Walking with the Lord means obeying His voice. Before the Lord filled me with the Holy Spirit, He knocked on every door in my spiritual house and touched every area of my life to ask, “Do you love me more than these?” He put His finger on my attitudes and other things that didn’t match up with the teachings of Christ, including my personal philosophies, old boyfriends, clothing choices, music, places I went, and circle of friends. Even my language became a point of conversation between the Lord and me.

Once I opened my heart to the Lord, He wanted it all. It scared me to a point, and I struggled with some things more than others, but as I obeyed God, He brought such peace to my heart that I just wanted more of Him. I looked behind me and around me, and as I continued to walk in the light of His word, I found that all I wanted and needed was God. The putting off of the old man was a good thing and the things I thought I had lost were not important anymore. I was gaining a better life. Then one day when I didn’t expect it, God sent the fire of the Holy Spirit in my heart which was the beginning of a deeper religious experience.

If there is no surrender, there will be no power. Countless people have started the Christian race and stopped running because they wouldn’t completely surrender their hearts to the will of God. Complete submission to his Word is necessary for grace to rise above our circumstances. It’s a package deal. We have a covenant with God to obey His Word, and in turn, He promises to help us endure our temptations.

Our prayer should be “Lord, give me the grace to endure,” not “Lord, please take this away.”

Are You Seaworthy?

Rough seas are not always bad things. The best floatation devices we can have are prayer and obedience when we find ourselves adrift in the sea of a long-lasting trial. While the churning waves seem to be the most frightening, experienced sailors know that calm waters are more dangerous because there is no wind or movement to carry them to their destination.

The real test of a ship’s seaworthiness is the pressure it can handle in the high waves.

The pressure of the storm brings any weaknesses or flaws to the surface.

It’s under pressure that God shows us the holes that need patching, the planks that need stabilizing, and the compass that needs fixing. If we can see the holes and patch them, we can sail on, but we must work on ourselves to keep sailing.

Our usefulness to the Kingdom of God increases when we conquer ourselves. John 3:30, “He must increase, but I must decrease,” should be our cry. How many of God’s people have captured the world’s attention for Christ, only to destroy their testimony with un-Christ-like behavior, causing the Gospel to be “evil spoken of”? (see 2 Peter 2:2) We have a great responsibility to let the light of Christ shine through our lives, so our goal should be to keep moving forward without dowsing that light. Even as we hurt, grieve and pray about issues, let your love for Christ shine through.

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The Other Side

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And he spake a parable unto them to this end, that men ought always to pray, and not to faint; Luke 18:1
The current misconception among modern Christians is that Christian character and victory comes without effort. That if I simply attend church, I am faithful enough. Every Christian that has gone through deep trials of affliction and emotional pain knows that great effort in prayer without ceasing is the key to the victorious Christian life. By victorious I mean, Christians that suffer but come out on the other side, with their faith in-tact. Jesus told the disciples, “let us pass over to the other side.” Mark 4:35. Notice Jesus didn’t require them to take the journey alone. He wanted His disciples to pass over with Him. This was going to be a joint venture not a sole proprietorship. Let “us” pass over. Jesus had just finished giving them more truths to ponder, why would he let them die? The disciples were confident of the journey until:

And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? (Mark 4: 37-38)

How often, Jesus blesses us with his word, gives us direction and then, because of what we see happening around us, we shake with fear, and become filled with doubt. It was amazing to see the transformation of the disciples from trusting and abiding to trembling and accusing. Is this not the process many of us go through? We forget about the power of God over all situations and circumstances and quake with fear of the impending doom, and then move to accusations that God must not care about our needs. Maybe he’s asleep and doesn’t see. If we follow this story, Jesus was asleep but not because of lack of concern but because there was truly no need to panic.

Jesus knew who he was and who his Father was and knew that his mission was not over. He understood God’s plan. A hole could have opened up in the sea to swallow them, and I believe Jesus would have had the same calm. Why? Because he had power over the waves. In this story of Jesus, he did not choose to walk on the water, He made the water behave. God will do the same for the waves of trouble that seem to overwhelm us. He will cause them to cease in his own good time. Our job is to trust that he’s on the ship with us, and to do our best to stay on the ship where Jesus abides.

DON’T QUIT TOO SOON

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I, therefore the prisoner of the Lord… Ephesians 4:1

We know that Paul in this scripture is speaking in a spiritual sense.  Our life is not our own when we become a follower of Christ, and we are bound to serve and obey the God that called us. But sometimes our situations seem confining.  Prison is a perfect analogy for trials and tribulations. Being locked into situations that you cannot escape is like being sentenced to hard labor.  If you were in prison, and the doors to the prison were wide open would you walk out? The obvious answer is yes, if given the choice.  God’s prison is special.  The choice is yours.  You can always walk out and your choice is never taken away.  You can choose not to listen to God’s commands but what are the consequences.  Well, not only broken fellowship but you break God’s heart.

My son asked a question during family devotion that was difficult to answer about heaven and hell.

He said, “Mom, if God gives you free will, is it really free, if your choice will land you in Hell.  To me that‘s not really free choice.  I mean why give free choice, if men make such bad choices.”   Out of the mouth of babes.  I think he was 12 at the time. Continue reading “DON’T QUIT TOO SOON”

Why is God Taking So Long?

waiting on busYears ago when I was a teenager in Chicago, we used to ride what we affectionately called the “green limousine”–the CTA or Chicago Transit Authority.  Winters were the worst. We would stand in the cold, hoping our transfers wouldn’t run out.  In those days, the CTA gave out time-stamped, paper transfers that were good for only two hours.  This was always a  joke because the buses were extremely slow.  So disgruntled riders would stand at the bus stop, with their  huddled and downtrodden fellow sufferers, and jump up and down and move side to side trying to stay warm.  Inveitably, someone would break away from the huddle, walk out to the middle of the street like a sailor desperately looking for land, and see if they could spot the outline of a bus. As the person would walk back to the huddle, we’d all look at him or her for an answer.  “Any bus yet?” someone would ask. Then, someone else would look down the long corridor of the avenue and hope, just hope that you could see the bus; and on and on this dance went.   The cruelty of this dance of deception was that when we saw a bus, the bus was either empty and out of service or it would turn some other way.

When the bus would finally come, it was filled to capacity and no one could get in.  The bus driver, knowing he was full, would zoom past the stop while motioning to the waiting riders that bus behind him was coming.  When that bus would stop, we’d all cram on the back of the bus just to get out of the miserable cold.  Nearly everyone was highly irritated and near violent by the time the bus arrived. No one could make you feel helpless like the CTA. The wait was way too long.

Many Christians treat God with this same level of irritation and angst.  They run out into traffic and look down that long proverbial avenue trying to see when their bus wil come.  They check every so often to see when their trial will be over, or rather when God will come their way and fulfil his promise.   “God, why are you taking so LONG?” is their cry.

Just to encourage those who put their faith in scripture. God’s design is not to make our lives miserable but He allows delays to help us mature in our spiritual life.  Consider this. If you gave a child everything they wanted whenever they wanted it,  the child would be extremely spoiled and unappreciative. Waiting on God builds christian character. Patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit.   Jesus reminded us that we all need patience in our lives.  He said “By your steadfastness and patient endurance you shall win the true life of your souls” (Luke 21:19, Amplified Bible).  Faith is essential to helping us stay on that bus stop (in our trials) until the bus (fulfillment of the promise) comes.  It helps us go though job loss, losses of loved ones, rejections, and divorces.  Never doubt God’s intent for your life. God’s desire toward His children is always good.

So how do we hold faith when we don’t see when the change will come?.  Romans tells us that if we see everything, then there is no point in hoping. (Romans 8:24). Faith would not be necessary.  Hope is defined as desire with expectation of obtainment (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hope).  It is difficult to be patient and wait on God when we are anxious about the outcome.  Learn to rest.  God may not come when you think he should, but he’s never been late.  God doesn’t have oops moments.  He is omniscient (he knows all).  He is omnipresent (he is everywhere). He is omnipotent   (all-powerful).  A God like that does not forget our requests.  He does not misunderstand our needs. To hold faith is to realize all these truths.

Abraham, the great patriarch, was promised that he would have a son from Sarah his wife.  Imagine as time kept going by how that promise must have seemed like a mistake. Abraham had moments of doubt.   Yet, Abraham’s example was not that he held perfect faith (don’t forget about Hagar) but that he held on to the promise in spite of the slip ups and doubts. When Paul describes Abraham’s faith in Romans, he does not mention the doubts of Abraham, but the faith of Abraham.  The negative never inspires; only the positive. Paul is trying to tell us that Abraham still held on to God’s original promise that through Sarah God would give him a son and that all the nations of the earth would be blessed through his seed.  Abraham didn’t let the sound of the ticking clock and the changes in his body drown out his belief in the promise.

God’s time is not our time, and even though our anxiousness can get the better of us, God wants us to get back on board believing that our request will be answered according to His will.