Beyond Understanding

When you are praying regularly, having your conversations with God and just talking to Him and asking Him to do as He will, you ever get this strange calm where everything just melts away and the problems or whatever you were talking to Him about, doesn’t seem so big anymore.

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I will readily admit, there are a lot of things and people in this world that I do nut understand.  I don’t understand how if we are continually told we should eat healthy supermarket chains continue to raise prices on foods that will allow a person to do so.  I don’t understand how some businesses treat people like commodities rather than a living, breathing person made in God’s own image.  Most of all, I do not understand how God can look at me, see my past and see some of the rotten and messed up things I’ve done, and still love me.  And if you are like me, you also wonder this very question about God.

Today’s reading comes from Philippians 4:6 where it says:

Philippians 4:6

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

While this is a wonderful Scripture verse for anyone who constantly worries and a great formula for handling any situation we may come across, my heart was immediately drawn to the subsequent verse:

Philippians 4:7

and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

Now looking at these two verses separately, they are things we should be doing and looking for, praying to God and letting our requests be known to Him and seeking His peace.  That’s the key here…God’s peace.  As I’ve said many times before, we are people, human, limited, therefore, while we walk this earth, we will be troubled by it.  But there is a way to get through that trouble.  Lay it all before Him in prayer.

One of the most powerful weapons we have against the enemy is prayer.  In the Old Testament, whenever Israel was steadfast in their prayer life, they prospered.  Contrast that with their captivities where they would get away from prayer and get into trouble.  But let’s make it more personal shall we?  When you are praying regularly, having your conversations with God and just talking to Him and asking Him to do as He will, you ever get this strange calm where everything just melts away and the problems or whatever you were talking to Him about, doesn’t seem so big anymore.  Yes, my friend, that is God’s peace.  I opened with things I didn’t understand and honestly, this phenomenon is one of them.  The issues are still there, but the anxiousness and worry about it are simply gone.  And that is what it means to have God’s peace and we don’t have to understand it, just accept it.

Envying the Wicked

Envying anyone will inevitably give the enemy a foothold in your heart. Delighting where the Lord has you is showing your trust in Him.

“Wow.  Look at John Smith’s new car.  I wish I had a car like that and not my clunker.  Yeah, John doesn’t spend much time with his family or live his life the way I do, but look at all the stuff he has.”  Does this sound like a familiar conversation you have had with yourself?  You know the one.  The one where you are looking at the “things” someone else has and wondering, why you don’t have those things?  Yeah, me too.  Here’s the answer to that conversation, don’t envy the wicked.

See what you don’t know, is the long hours Mr. Smith is spending at work are spent with his secretary going over paperwork and she flirts with him, causing his heart to have already committed adultery.  That nice, new car he has, he owes money on it, which causes him to stress.  He misses his son’s/daughter’s baseball games.  There have been canceled day trips and the list goes on and on.

The focus of today’s reading was on delighting in the Lord from Psalm 37:4.

Psalm 37:4

Delight yourself also in the LordAnd He shall give you the desires of your heart.
If you read the whole Psalm though, you hear a word of warning in this as well.  Don’t envy the wicked.  As I’ve discussed in previous blogs, God knows us in and out.  He also knows time back and forth.  He knows what we want, what we need and the pitfalls that come with certain things we may want that are going to harm us and the benefits of things that are not.  But the envy will not only come from looking at the wicked, it can also come from envying our fellow believers in the Lord.  When we look at our brothers and sisters in the faith and think, “Well I am just as faithful as they are, why don’t I have [insert generic term}.”  And that my friends, is coveting, which is a gateway to sin.  So how do we avoid these pitfalls of the enemy?  Well you get the answer right in today’s key verse.
When you trust God with everything, which is what the entire Psalm for today speaks about, He is undoubtedly going to do what He promises to do.  That’s hard.  But what’s really hard, is delighting yourself in Him.  Enjoying where God has you right here and now and just taking in what He has for you and what He wants you to do.  Or He may not even have a task for you, He may just be having rest in Him and wanting you to delight in that rest period.  In any case, as the apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11 “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content.”  Delight yourself in the Lord, wherever He has you today, or tomorrow, or a week from now.  Envying anyone will inevitably give the enemy a foothold in your heart.  Delighting where the Lord has you is showing your trust in Him.

A Fighting Spirit

Being willing to rise to any challenge the Lord gives me, has definitively made me a stronger person…But I cannot take on any challenges without Him.

For those that are close to me and know me well, they know I have a fighting spirit, a warrior’s heart, if you would.  I take on any challenge at any time if it is something I feel and know I can do.  And if the Lord tells me, “I’m giving this to you to grow you.”  But here’s a secret, I wasn’t always like this.  I didn’t start out this way.  It didn’t happen until 2008 and even then there was a training and growing process to be able to look a challenge in the eye and say, “I will win this, because He has already told me I will.”

Today’s reading is a repeat performance from the book of Psalms.  In Psalm 25 David is praying to God for three things, defense, guidance and pardon.  Why do we need these three things when faced with a challenge?  First, the enemy, once said challenge is accepted, is going to come at us hard.  See the enemy doesn’t want us accepting any challenge the Lord gives us, but, at the very best, to just give up on the challenge.  The enemy will come at us with the physical, illness or injury, something in that vain.  Second, the enemy will come at us with spiritual, well meaning brothers and sisters whose words will seem like wisdom, but who are really agents of the enemy, unwittingly and unknowingly, of course.  Finally, and most dangerous, the enemy will whisper into our own ears.  He will use our own minds as traps to make us think we cannot do what God has already told us we can.  So how do we deal with all these?  A simple paradox I have mentioned many times before, trust in God.

Psalm 25:15

15 My eyes are ever toward the LordFor He shall pluck my feet out of the net.
The three step formula Psalm 25 provides us with is the best way to deal with any challenge God gives us.  First, you pray for the Lord to protect you while you stepping out in faith on said challenge.  Second, you pray for His guidance on how He wants you to go about it.  Don’t make the mistake of thinking you know the best way.  He gave you the challenge, He’s all knowing, therefore He knows the best way to handle it.  Finally and most importantly, based upon the second and third way the enemy will try to dissuade us from the challenge, pray for pardon.  Sometimes, when a challenge gets particularly difficult, we go off the reservation and off His plan and way of doing it.  Or we may become angry with well meaning brothers and sisters and lash out due to our own frustrations.  This, my friends, is called…wait for it…sin.
Having a fighting spirit, a wolf’s spirit, a warrior’s heart is a good thing.  Being willing to rise to any challenge the Lord gives me, has definitively made me a stronger person for Him.  I’ve only failed at one.  But I cannot take on any challenges without Him.  As the key verse from today’s reading says, I have to keep my eyes on Him and He will pluck my feet from the net.  Trusting in Him makes me stronger.

Under the Weather

Hello Brothers and Sisters who have been reading,

I must beg all of your forgiveness.  I have been under the weather this entire week and have just started today to begin doing the things which I have neglected this week.  I have been keeping up with my own personal studies of the Lord’s Word, but have lacked the focus to write.

Starting tomorrow, I will be continuing with my personal insights into what God is saying to me and may very well be saying to you as well.  Thank you for your patience and I look forward to sharing with you again.

A.R. Bodon

Foolish Pursuits

When one part of the human body is sick, the whole body feels it. That’s how it is in the body of Christ.

You ever feel like you’ve messed up so badly that God couldn’t possibly love you anymore.  Yeah, I know that feeling.  If you have been following this blog, you’ve read that I have definitely felt that way.  Due to certain decisions I made over the previous year, I thought I fell too far away.  First, let’s make things clear, that’s a tactic of the enemy to keep us isolated and out of fellowship with Him.  Secondly, and this is where today’s reading and the lesson come in, and it’s something I have mentioned previously, if you are a believer, you cannot ever fall too far away from His love for you.

2 Timothy 2:13

13 If we are faithless, He remains faithful; He cannot deny Himself.
In his second letter to Timothy, where Paul is giving his spiritual son advice on how to lead the Ephesian church.  It is the last of the “Pastoral Letters” Paul wrote to guide Timothy, the others being 1 Timothy and the book of Titus.  Today’s reading focused on the unconditional love and faithfulness of God.  But the meat and potatoes of today’s reading, for me, came from the rest of the chapter.  It came from something that I struggle with all the time, foolish pursuits.
2 Timothy 2:22-26
22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 
I have a confession to make…I can be a real jerk sometimes.  I am not always pursuing peace with those who are my brothers and sisters in Christ.  As a matter of fact, I find it hard to show my disdain for their behavior when they hurt or manipulate someone I love or care for.  In my head, they can do whatever they want to me, but don’t treat the folks I care for negatively.  I will say this, though, He is proving faithful to work on it in me.  He knows me, knows how I can be and since He wants me to pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace with those who call on Him, my brothers and sisters in Christ, and He knows that I want these things as well, He’s working on it in me.  And for this, I will always be thankful.
Ask yourself this, amongst your brothers and sisters in the faith, what are you pursuing?  We, as the body of Christ, need to be unified.  No gossiping, back stabbing, tale bearing or any of those other things that cause strife within the body.  When one part of the human body is sick, the whole body feels it.  That’s how it is in the body of Christ.  We need to stop with foolish pursuits and pursue Him, our Example, our Savior.  Only then can we, as the body and church, keep the enemy at bay and show the world there is something different about us.

Working Hard

Without faith in Christ, any of the good we do, is about us, not Him. Works, good deeds and being a good person, are a result, not the means by which we are reconciled to God.

Here’s something we can all identify with, we all have jobs.  In this world we live in, it’s nearly impossible to survive without one.  We need a job to pay our rent and bills, to feed and clothe ourselves.  These are given circumstances for this fallen world we live in.  What if I said doing all of that is useless?  What if I told you in the long run, none of that mattered?  You’d say to me, I was crazy.  And you’d be right.  But here is the paradox…so am I.

As believers, this world and the things in it, are not what we should be clinging to, because once we hit that wall known as death, and we are all going to hit it, what will truly matter is what or whom we have faith in, which is the crux of today’s reading.

Ephesian 2:4-8

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, 5 even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up together, and made us sit together in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, works, lest anyone should boast.

You see, salvation is a gift from God.  God is the One who offered His Son for us.  Jesus is the One who offered Himself for us.  Being all powerful, Jesus could very easily have dealt with the Sadducees and the Pharisees in the blink of an eye, but if He did, where would that have left us?  Without a guiding principle or example in what faith in God, His Father, could do.  Jesus allowed Himself to be crucified so that we could be reconciled to God through faith in Him.  That’s not something you can earn, no matter how hard you try.

Many misguided folks, well-meaning and honest folks, get it in their head just going out and doing good deeds and being good people, can get you into heaven and reconcile a person to God.  Not to diminish what their doing or the heart behind it, but it can’t.

Faith in Christ as your personal Lord and Savior is the only way to be reconciled to God.  If you could earn your way into heaven through good deeds and being a good person, then ask yourself this, what was the point of Christ being crucified?  He endured the most embarrassing, humiliating, excruciatingly painful way to die and then took on our sins and was separated from His Father.  Again, if we could earn our way into heaven through works, good deeds and just being a good person, then all that He did for us was moot.  Without faith in Christ, any of the good we do, is about us, not Him.  Works, good deeds and being a good person, are a result, not the means by which we are reconciled to God.

For those who are lawyers, you can use the logic law of the contrapositive, which means if a statement is true, then reversing the statement and the subject matter, must also be true.  What do I mean?

James 2:17

17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

With this verse from James, it’s telling us that faith without the result of works and you showing people what God has done in you and for you, is pointless.  But now we look at the contrapositive, and please don’t think that I am trying to re-write Scripture, I’m simply using this as an example.  If we have works, good deeds, but we don’t have faith in Christ, then who do people see doing those good deeds.  Do they see the person or do they see Christ-like behavior?  Do they see us or Him?

Hard Faith

Faith, complete and total, is a hard thing to maintain. Sure it’s easy with the things we can see, touch, feel and experience. It’s a lot more difficult when you can’t see the end game or the One whom you are putting your faith in.

Happy April readers!  May the Lord bless you and keep you all.

Today’s devotional touches on a subject that effects each and everyone one of us, including believers and is a subject I have touched on before, belief.  There are some who find it so easy to believe in things that don’t exist…fairies, aliens, an uncorrupted government…yes, I went there.  Today’s devotional speaks about belief in something real, but still unseen, Jesus’ direct influence, personally, in our own lives.

John 20:29

29 Jesus said to him, “Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

This area of Scripture occurs after the Resurrection, when Jesus had already been in the tomb for three days.  The disciple Thomas, known affectionately as Doubting Thomas, had earlier stated he would not believe unless he saw the the nail holes in Jesus’ hands and put his finger through them.  So when Jesus finally appears to the disciples, (He had made several stops along the way to them; see Luke’s gospel), the Lord essentially told Thomas to put his money where his mouth was.  Could you imagine being put on the spot like that?  But isn’t that what always happens with us?

If we are going to be real, there are times in our lives where we give lip-service to the Lord about how much faith we have in his influence in our lives.  We sit there and profess our faith and trust to Him, but then like Doubting Thomas, we don’t.  Don’t believe me.  Ask yourself this question.  How many times has something, in your opinion, taken too much time and you decide, well I am going to just do this [insert generic term for taking matters into your own hands].  I have news for you, that is the moment you start doubting.  You stop having faith in Him.  It’s not to say there are certain things He has not made us responsible for, but once those things are handled, we have to let go and let Him do what He needs to do.  To use an Old Testament example of how disastrous not having faith can be, look at the cluster bomb Abraham caused in not waiting for when the Lord told him he would have a child.

Faith, complete and total, is a hard thing to maintain.  Sure it’s easy with the things we can see, touch, feel and experience.  It’s a lot more difficult when you can’t see the end game or the One whom you are putting your faith in.  You know what you want and where you want to be, but when you’re patience runs thin, that’s when faith really needs to be utilized.  Faith in Jesus’ personal influence in your life needs to be renewed sometimes on a minute by minute basis.  And I am not just speaking as someone giving insight.  Anytime I have written one of these entries, there is always a personal element to them where what I am imparting is a lesson I either had to re-learn or just learned.  To come full circle, just because you can’t see Him, doesn’t mean to doubt Him.  He has already blessed us with eternal life with Him, but let’s take a moment, every single one of us who call ourselves believers, and have the faith and belief, no matter what we are going through or circumstance we are looking at, that He’s there, that He’s alive He’s got us.