Evil. God. Good.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Evil. God. Good.
You'll get through thisby Max Lucado

Life turns every person upside down. No one escapes unscathed. We’d be foolish to think we are invulnerable. But we’d be just as foolish to think that evil wins the day. The Bible vibrates with the steady drumbeat of faith: God recycles evil into righteousness. Perhaps you’re in search of a quick fix for your challenges. “How to Overcome Obstacles in Five Easy Steps.” Sorry to disappoint. I don’t have an easy solution or a magic wand. I have found something—Someone—far better. God himself. When God gets in the middle of life, evil becomes good.

Don’t we see this in the story of Joseph? Saddled with setbacks: family rejection, deportation, slavery, and imprisonment. Yet he emerged triumphant, a hero of his generation. Among his final recorded words are these comments to his brothers: “You meant evil against me; but God meant it for good” (Gen. 50:20).

This is the repeated pattern in Scripture: Evil. God. Good. See the cross on the hill? Can you hear the soldiers pound the nails? Jesus’ enemies smirk. Satan’s demons lurk. Satan whispers, “This time I will win.”

For a sad Friday and a silent Saturday it appeared he had. Yet what Satan intended as the ultimate evil, God used for the ultimate good. God rolled the rock from the tomb. Jesus walked out on Sunday morning, a smile on his face and a bounce to his steps. You can almost see Satan scampering from the cemetery.
“Will I ever win?” he grumbles. No. He won’t. The stories of Jesus, Joseph, and a thousand others assure us that what Satan intends for evil, God uses for good.

For more tips and tools for thriving in turbulent times, read You’ll Get Through This by Max Lucado.

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Clarity of Vision & Judgement

speck2 

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will be judged; and with the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye’; and look, a plank is in your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the the speck from your brother’s eye.”  ~Matt 7:1-Matt 7:5 NKJV

We, as man, are so quick to arrive at a judgement concerning something we are in the process of doing, but others shouldn’t do. Perhaps it is a secret sin, or even something we are oblivious that we do; however, we are sensitive enough to know that it should not be done. Unfortunately, when we become Christians, we tend to believe that we are automatically righteous and clean…but guess what, we are neither!

We become righteous by the actions we display when others are, or are not, around to see, by living the life of the Christ in our daily lives. We become clean by changing our habits, speech, thoughts, etc. And guess what…it takes a lot of work. Every time we fall off the bandwagon of righteousness, we must seek forgiveness and begin anew. Again and again until our dying breath.

speck1We all have our stumbling block, so-to-speak, which we try as we may and it continually shows up at the most inopportune moments in our lives where we have another mistake/sin/terrible act which causes us to fall from God’s good graces. No matter who you are you have them, and if you are oblivious to them…you will become acquainted with them soon enough! Trust me!

We all have a judgmental streak, believe it or not, accept it or not…it is true! Jesus pronounced judgement based upon the word of God. He judged no one, but did judge their sin…in so doing, those who were sinful saw the error of their ways. Consider the adulterous woman and her accusers and others alike her. Then consider the ways of the Pharisees & the Scribes who sought to imprison and kill Jesus. Even though, this plan was to fulfill God word, the Temple leadership were made aware of the wrongfulness of their actions as there were voices of reason within but they refused to hear as God hardened their hearts.

By seeking forgiveness, God will help you back on to the straight and narrow, but you have much work to do in order to learn. And this includes the judgement of your fellow man. Even with all these cases with respect to homosexual couples attempting to force Christian businesses to make a cake for them and their special day. Your right to get married under the law does not trump my God given, or natural, rights. Though, they disagreed with their marriage of same sex couples as it (homosexuality) is denounced in the bible and thus is held to be sinful; therefore, non-participation. But instead, Christians are being denounced as “haters” and full of “hate speech”. Why is it hate to believe something is morally wrong? Why is it wrong to exercise your God given right of belief & self expression? So Paul reminds us:

Therefore God also gave them up to uncleanness, in the lusts of their hearts, to dishonor their bodies among themselves, who exchanged the truth of God for the lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever. Amen. For this reason God gave them up to vile passions. For even their women exchanged the natural use for what is against nature.” ~Romans 1:24-26

Considering the fact that the primary purpose of sex is to procreate, sex with a same sex partner cannot create human life.

speckThere is an old adage which seems applicable, to all people of all faiths:

Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak out and remove all doubt.” ~unknown

James told us that no matter the sin we commit, we are equal in God’s eye (ref: James 2:10). We are the masters of our mind’s focus, what we feed out mind and heart, will be what is regurgitated and sent out to others. Saying things in love or hate, all is centered from your heart and mind! Feed your soul wisely and be the Christ that others need to see, as we have been chosen as a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9) and have also been charged with “…making disciples of all nations…teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you…” (Matt 28:19-20)

We as Christians are to share the love of the Christ with all, no matter how they may treat us.

May God Richly Bless You All!

MK Murphy, PhD, DD

When You Can’t Feel God by J.D. Greear

Jesus, Continued…

Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, He was hungry. – Matthew 4:1-2

If the LORD is with us… where are all His wonderful deeds that our fathers recounted to us? – Judges 6:13 

By His Spirit, God is alive and active in His church. Nevertheless, if you think that walking with Jesus means an endless series of miracles, burning bushes, still, small voices, warm fuzzies, and sensations of peace that pass all understanding, then you are going to be disappointed.

Many of the greatest (and most honest) saints have confessed that they had to walk through many valleys with no sense of God’s presence, sometimes nearly going deaf from the heavenly silence.

C. S. Lewis wrote that during one of the most painful times of his life, he cried out to God and got… a door slammed in [my] face, and a sound of bolting and double bolting on the inside. After that, silence. You may as well turn away. The longer you wait, the more emphatic the silence will become.

He confessed that this heavenly silence made him doubt whether there was even a God at all:

There are no lights in the windows. It might be an empty house. Was it ever inhabited? It seemed so once… Why is God so present a commander in our time of prosperity and so very absent a help in time of trouble?

Somehow, these honest words seldom make it into anyone’s list of favorite C. S. Lewis quotes.

Have you ever felt this way?

I once told a group of interns at our church that if they ever had days when they couldn’t feel God’s closeness, experiencing regular waves of His pleasure and mercy wash over their souls, that was proof they weren’t really saved. You should have seen the looks on their faces. I realized they hadn’t gotten what I thought to be a rather obvious joke.

If that were true, none of us could be sure of our salvation!

Every believer has times in which they feel as though God is distant. Or absent altogether.

Many Christians assume that silence from Heaven means something has gone wrong, that the inability to “feel” God’s Spirit means God has turned His face away. But this is not what God’s Word tells us. His apparent silence is, in fact, an important part of how He works in our lives and grows us up into the men and women of faith He wants us to be.

An Ancient, Recurring Story

The greatest saints in the Bible often felt the absence of God. No less than the prophet Isaiah himself cried out in despair, “God where are your dramatic, awe-inspiring works of God in my day?” He had heard of “times past” when God would “rend the heavens and come down,” when people “quaked in God’s presence.” But where was that God now, Isaiah asked? He cries out in dismay,

You have hidden your face from us. – Isaiah 64:1-7

The psalmist Asaph says plainly, “We are given no signs from God; no prophets are left, and none of us knows how long this will be” (Psalm 74:9). And Gideon, right before God used him to destroy an entire Midianite army with only three hundred men, said to an angelic messenger, “If the Lord is really with us… where are all His wonderful deeds like the ones our fathers recounted to us?” (Judges 6:13, my paraphrase)

The experience of feeling like God is absent or silent, you see, is anything but new. So why does God leave us feeling that way sometimes? And what are we to do during those times?

White Space

When God calls someone to follow Him, He frequently sends them through times in the “wilderness.” Right after God first put into Moses a vision to see Israel led out of slavery, He exiled him into the wilderness for forty years to herd sheep. Only after a long, silent, four decades, did God finally appear to him in the burning bush with the command to go. Can you imagine what kind of despairing, “God, where are you?” conversations Moses must have had with God during those forty silent years?

Or consider the story of David. After being anointed as future king of Israel by Samuel, what was David’s next move? Did he…

… go straight to the palace to try on robes?

… immediately confront Goliath?

… get billed as one of the “sexiest men alive” in Israelites Today magazine?

None of the above. First Samuel 16 tells us he went straight back to the pasture to tend the sheep. When David encounters Goliath, he’s in between sheep-care and crackers-and-cheese runs for his brothers (1 Samuel 17:15). Samuel had anointed David as king in 1 Samuel 16:13. This means David went from being named “future king” and “man after God’s own heart” by the most famous prophet alive to “field hand shoveling sheep dung” and “Cheeze-It boy” for his big brothers.

Right after the conclusion of the last verse in the story of David’s anointing (1 Samuel 16:13), my Bible has a white space, and the author moves on to something else happening at a different place in Israel. In that white space is where David went back to the pasture. The space between the call of God and the fulfillment of the dream. Nothing is written there, for David or for us, and I’m sure it felt terribly confusing for David.

Are you in a white space right now?

White spaces are typically the hardest parts of life to endure: The white space of silence; the white space of singleness; the white space of sickness; the white space of finishing out a prison sentence; the white space of unfulfilled promises and unmet expectations.

How many times must Joseph — sold by his brothers into slavery, falsely accused of adultery with his master’s wife, overlooked for parole by the magistrates — have called out to God, “Where are you?”

After Jesus called Paul to be his apostle on the Damascus Road, Paul wandered in the desert for three years and suffered obscurity for another fourteen (Galatians 1:17-19; Galatians 2:1). Paul endured seventeen years in the background before he was appointed by the Church as a missionary (Acts 13:2)!

After Mary became pregnant with the Messiah, God waited for several months to tell her fiancé, Joseph, about the miraculous conception. Why did God wait? During that delay, Joseph (naturally) assumed she had cheated on him (I mean, what else could you assume?). This means that for several months, Mary had to go through the humiliation of pregnancy alone with everyone, even her beloved fiancé, assuming she was a cheater. God chose to do it that way. Why? Why did He wait so long to tell Joseph? Why the “white space”?

Why does God sometimes leave us feeling alone, deserted, humiliated, abandoned — like we are in darkness, like He doesn’t care — as though He’s abandoned us altogether? Why is the only sound we hear at those times the echo of a door slammed in our faces?

I don’t know the full answer, but I know that part of it has to do with the fact that He wants us to walk by faith, not by sight; and walking by faith means sometimes pressing on when we can’t feel or see Him.

God sanctifies us by humbling us.

He works His salvation out in us by taking us through the valley of the cross, which often means feeling alone and abandoned. This may be why God didn’t tell Joseph His plans for Mary at first; He wanted Mary to feel the shame of the cross. Moses had to endure the wilderness of isolation. Paul had to learn to suffer (Acts 9:15; 2 Corinthians 11:24-27).

In reality, we most certainly are not alone during these dark times, but walking by faith means believing that we are not alone even when we can’t feel the warmth of God’s presence.

Another reason God often leads us through dark, silent valleys is that He wants to purify our hearts. Why do we want to be close to God? Is it because of what He gives us, or is it simply because we want Him?

What is more valuable to us: God or His blessings?

Sometimes God withholds everything from us except His promises in order to make us ask ourselves, “Is this — His promise — enough for me?”

You can never know that Jesus is all that you need, you see, until He’s all that you have.

So let me ask you a very important question, one that the survival of your faith depends on. Can you walk by faith in God’s promises alone, even when you can’t see or feel anything? Can you delay gratification, even the gratification of “feeling” the Spirit?

Watch the Video for Jesus, Continued…

Watch the Video

Excerpted with permission from Jesus, Continued… by J.D. Greear, copyright Zondervan 2014.


Worry Is Worthless: God Takes Care of You by Charles Swindoll

My soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. — Psalm 57:1
Devotionals Daily


Worry Is Worthless: God Takes Care of You 
by Charles Swindoll, Wisdom for the Way

Meet Charles Swindoll

Editor’s Note: Wisdom for the Way collects some of Swindoll’s most classic insights into daily bite-size readings. Gleaned from the book of Proverbs, these devotions are wise words for busy people on topics such as contentment, character, work, and worship. Here are two short devotions on worry and trusting in God’s care for us.

Worry Is Worthless

My soul takes refuge in You; and in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge until destruction passes by. — Psalm 57:1

Worry is a complete waste of energy. It solves nothing. That’s why Jesus said,

Which of you by being anxious can add a single cubit to his life’s span? — Matthew 6:27

In essence He was saying, “You go to bed tonight and fret and fuss because you’re not five feet, eleven inches; you’re only five feet, nine inches. But when you wake up in the morning, you’re still going to be five feet, nine inches.”

Worry will never make you stretch! And it won’t solve that anxiety on your mind either.

Let me be completely candid here. Do you know why we worry? We have a quiet, hidden, love for worry. We enjoy it! When one worry is gone, we replace it with another. There’s always a line of worries waiting to get in the door. So as one goes out the back door, we usher in the next one through the front door. We enjoy entertaining them.

Worries are our mental and emotional companions. But Jesus says, in effect, that they’re worthless!

God Takes Care of You

Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go. — Joshua 1:15

Did you know that worry erases the promises of God from your mind. Jesus implies this when He says,

O men of little faith. Do not be anxious then, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘With what shall we clothe ourselves?’ — Matthew 6:31

The promise of God is that He will not allow His children to beg for bread. He will care for our needs and that’s the promise you can claim. Since He took care of our greatest need at Calvary by giving us Christ, then you can be sure He will take care of everything else He considers important for us.

Excerpted with permission from the Wisdom for the Way by Charles R. Swindoll, copyright Thomas Nelson.

Who’s My Neighbor?

neighbor1The discussions that Jesus had with others; more specifically, the question by the lawyer as to which was the greatest command (Matthew 22:36-40) and the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) pretty much sum up who our neighbor is.

samaritan_2I am, quite often, humbled at work. All too often people are not where they need to be in order to do their job, but those of us left in the area are the ones tasked to “pick up the slack” of those who choose not to be there. Especially since they are paid to be there to do the work. Unfortunately, in the past I have allowed those individuals to live rent free in my cerebrum. But God has moved me to a different place where I can show His love by just doing my job and moving in to their areas and get the job done, as I am paid to simply do a job that has specific tasking. If management chooses not to deal with the problem(s) at hand, then that is their problem.  I am there to work, not be the boss.

It is humbling, because you know we all have the same job to do…and some just don’t seem to want to work. In this manner, by not worrying about that garbage anymore, I can be a good neighbor. I no longer have to concern myself with anything else, because it is not my worry, I just get paid to do grunt work.

neighborAnd who is my neighbor? Everyone is my neighbor! I can show God’s love in a small, and perhaps insignificant way at work.  We can all do the same with those who live near by and are having problems. We cannot necessarily help everyone, but we can help someone…someone we know…maybe, even, someone we do not know. But we can help someone in some small and insignificant way in our eyes, but in their eyes it may be a big help and with others it may not even get noticed by those we help. But WE know we did something! Didn’t Jesus tell us:

“Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”” ~Luke 14:12-Luke 14:14 NKJV

In other words, we are to help those who cannot repay us. It is in their eyes that you may see the face of Jesus.

 

May God Richly Bless You All!

MK Murphy, PhD, DD

After Easter: 50 Forgotten Days the Church Desperately Needs by Ray Hollenbach 

We are big on Easter, and rightfully so—God the Father raised Jesus from the dead, putting an exclamation mark on the life of his Son. Some branches of the faith are big on Pentecost, celebrating the coronation of Jesus in heaven and the overflow of the Spirit dripping down to the earth.

Between the two, there’s a span of 50 days.

In the hubbub of Easter, we sometimes forget Jesus stuck around for another 40 days after resurrection. Apparently he had more to say and do. The very first verse in the book of Acts teaches us the gospels were about “all that Jesus began to do and teach.” The rest of Acts teaches us that Jesus is still doing and teaching in the days, weeks, months and decades after the gospels. The work of the first-century church was the work of Jesus. Isn’t that true today? It’s all too easy to substitute our work for his, to engage in ministry apart from his direction. What is Jesus doing and teaching in our day? Are we still working with him or simply working for him?

Jesus’ message in the 40 days of resurrection was really no different than his message during his three years of ministry: He taught about the Kingdom of God (Acts 1:3). Acts opens and closes with the Kingdom of God front and center. The very last verse in the book shows us Paul, three decades later, proclaiming the Kingdom of God (Acts 28: 31). Have we meditated on the meaning and importance of the Kingdom, or have we reduced the message of Jesus to only his sacrifice of the cross? Individually and corporately, we need to rediscover the Kingdom message.

The angels who were present at the ascension asked a pretty good question: “Why are you looking toward heaven?” (Acts 1:11). It’s a question worth considering. Frequently, we are more concerned with heaven than with the Kingdom of God. The breathtaking sacrifice at Calvary purchased the forgiveness of sins and the hope of heaven, but in our generation, many followers of Jesus have limited his work and message to heaven and heaven only. We should ask: If the gospel is only about going to heaven, why did Jesus invite us to take up the yoke of discipleship?

I’d love to get the podcast of everything Jesus taught in those 40 days, but it hasn’t shown up on iTunes yet. In the meantime, he invites us to work with him just as closely as the first disciples.

So why 50 forgotten days instead of 40? <read more>

The Resurrection Paved The Way For all

  

Friday, in history, our Lord was crucified for the sins of the world. Our sins were placed upon the cross with Him. The problem is that our sinful nature remains a part of us; meaning, we need to overcome our sinfulness with prayer and willfulness on our part. 

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be in the likeness of His resurrection, knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin. For he who has died has been freed from sin. Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no longer has dominion over Him. For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”    ~Romans 6:5-11 

Easter Sunday, in history, our Lord Jesus was resurrected from the dead. Death was conquered by the Son of the Most High God. But what is equally important, we were charged with a task by the Christ Himself:

“All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” ~Matthew 28:18-20 

We are to go out into the world and share the good news with all those we come in contact with. For some of us “the world” could be our neighborhood, city, our place of work, a little group we may be a member of, and the list could go on and on. 

As mentioned in my previous post “Three Ways to Revive a Faith That Has Turned Lukewarm by Pastor Rick Wellman” one of the ways to revive our faith is to Witness to the Lost. One thing this will do is help to strengthen your knowledge of the word & scripture memory. Your faith increases, as will your confidence in your actions. This aids us by keeping the task charged us and will help us fight by the will of God against our sinful nature by keeping God’s word at the forefront of our mind.

May God Richly Bless You All!

MK Murphy, PhD, DD