Monday, March 30, 2015

JESUS - MEEK AND MILD??


Pictures of Jesus.

There are so many, aren't there?

I don't know about you, but I've seen a bunch.  Some pictures make Him look way too attractive, in my opinion, for someone the Bible tells us "…had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him."  Other pictures make Him look weak and frail, like He needed a good tan and some weight training.

I don't know if any of them come close to the way He actually looked.

All I know is that my impression was always that Jesus was meek and mild.

And not necessarily in a good way.

The word that always came to my mind was – dare I say itWIMP.

So, yeah, I always knew Jesus was my friend.  But I wasn't sure that He was the guy I wanted on my side in the playground of life.

Sure, if I got knocked down He'd be there to pick me up.  But then He'd tell me, "Turn the other cheek" and walk slowly away from the bullies.

Or He'd tell me to "Love your enemies"when what I really wanted was someone who'd squish my enemies like bugs.

So yes, I learned that Jesus was sweet, gentle, and kind.

And I appreciated those qualities.  But, I secretly wanted something else, something more.

I wanted a Savior who was strong.

Tough, powerful…maybe even a little scary.


Let me tell you something.

I finally met this Jesus when I read through the New Testament!

The first time I did that, I tried to insert myself into the Gospels.  I tried to picture myself right there beside Jesus and the disciples.  I tried to use my senses to engage the moment – the sights and sounds, the smells.

I tried to imagine Jesus' tone of voice as He spoke.

Sometimes the Bible translates His speaking by using the words – told, said, answered…

But I wonder sometimes.

Scripture tells us WHAT He said, but I wonder – HOW did He say it?

Did He whisper or shout, did He speak with anger or with sympathy, did He smirk or smile or laugh, did He speak with a twinkle in His eye or a scornful frown?

What was His tone, what was His facial expression, what exactly was He conveying?

These things captivate me!

As I perused those cherished *words in red*, a new picture of Jesus began to emerge.

Sometimes He was angry, sarcastic, condescending.  Sometimes He was patient, sympathetic, caring.  Sometimes He spoke quietly, and sometimes He spoke harshly.

Jesus was a multi-faceted person – a PERSON just like you and me.

And upon my reading it became very clear to me that Jesus was not a wimp.

The words that began to form in my mind were these: intelligent, clever, cagey, articulate, combative, confrontational, bold, confident, audacious, daring.

Jesus used His words like weapons when needed.  And He used them wisely and incisively.

He chose His words intentionallyand they were keen, perceptive, insightful, penetrating.


Let me relate one example.

This past week I've been working on my taxes.  Ugh.

And I got to thinking about a particular encounter between Jesus and some spies.  Jesus' enemies were always on the lookout for an opportunity to "trap" Him.

This situation was no different.

First of all, they approach Jesus with false flattery and smarmy groveling:

"Teacher, we know that you speak and teach rightly, and show no partiality, but truly teach the way of God."  (Luke 20:21, ESV)

OK, so they're hoping to *butter up* Jesus by using a flattering title and complimentary words.  They're trying to manipulate Him, trying to steer Him to an openness and freedom of conversation with them so they can then ensnare Him.

(As if Jesus is going to fall for this…)

"Is it lawful for us to give tribute [taxes] to Caesar, or not?"
(Luke 20:22, ESV)

(The trap is laid…)

And then, there is this – the part that I just love:

"But he perceived their craftiness…"  (Luke 20:23, ESV)

Other translations use these words: duplicity, trickery, deceit, cunning, guile, scheme.

Jesus KNEW their hearts, knew what they were plotting, and pointedly addressed their intent:

"Why tempt ye me?"  (Luke 20:23, KJV)

OK, so here is one of those times when I try to imagine how Jesus said this.  Did He glare at them with squinty eyes and say this quietly under His breath so only they could hear?  Did His words drip with barely-contained wrath?  Or did He say it loudly so that their plot was exposed to everyone within hearing distance?

And how did they react?

Did they jump back in surprise and fear – even just for a moment?

Then Jesus answers their question:

"Show me a denarius.  Whose likeness and inscription does it have?" 

They said, "Caesar's."

He said to them:

"Then render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's."  (Luke 20:24-25, ESV)


Do you see how clever this reply was?

Jesus was smart, and He was also wise.

And He used His words perfectly.

I have a vision of Him saying this loudly to the crowd, and then turning back around to the spies and looking them full in the face as if to say:

"Aha!  You have your answer, and yet, you have not trapped Me!"

I think Jesus might have smirked in triumph…just a little.

Finally, my favorite part:

"And they were not able...to catch him in what he said, but marveling at his answer they became silent."  (Luke 20:26, ESV)

Other translations say they were: surprised, astonished, amazed, stunned.

But the part that I like the very best?

THEY. BECAME. SILENT.

Yup!

Shut up, speechless, thunderstruck, bowled over, flabbergasted.


You know, I'm kinda re-thinking that whole scene that I mentioned earlier – the encounter on the playground of life.

Perhaps Jesus doesn't walk away from the bullies.  Perhaps He just uses His words, His Word, and they are silenced.

And that, my friends, is not meek and mild.  It is not weak or wimpy.

It is strong, tough, powerful…and yes, maybe even a little scary.

In a good way.


As we ready ourselves for Easter this year, I would encourage you to read those beloved *words in red* in your Bible.

Let them speak to you anew.

Contemplate and ponder – 

How might Jesus have said them?

What was His tone of voice and His intent?  What were His facial expressions? Did He say them with sarcasm or pity or impatience or kindness?  Were they spoken quietly or loudly?

Put yourself there.

And look at Jesus.

The REAL Jesus.

The Jesus who will one day squish our enemies like bugs.  Who will confront those bullies with more than words.  Who will vanquish the foes, win the victory, and reign like a champion, a conqueror, a King.

Jesus.

This Jesus, who died for us.

Paid the price.

So we would never, ever again have to cower in fear.

For He defeated the greatest weapon of our greatest enemy.

He overcame death, and overpowered Satan.

And uttered these triumphant words:

"It is finished!"

"Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, 'Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!'  And having said this he breathed his last."

(John 19:30 & Luke 23:46, ESV)


Nope.

Jesus is not a wimp.

Not a coward, not a pushover, not a featherweight, not a fool.

He is the strongest man that ever lived.

And He is, indeed, my Friend.

How about you?!






He's got the whole world
in His hands.



(The actual words of Jesus Himself are italicized):


"And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written." (John 21:25, NASB)

"Then the high priest asked him, 'Are you the Messiah, the Son of the Blessed One?'  Jesus said, 'I AM.  And you will see the Son of Man seated in the place of power at God's right hand and coming on the clouds of heaven.'" 
(Mark 14:61-62, NLT)

"'But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers in the heavens will be shaken.  And then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory.  And then he will send out the angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of heaven.'" (Mark 13:24-27, ESV)

"In that day the heir to David's throne will be a banner of salvation to all the world.  The nations will rally to him, and the land where he lives will be a glorious place." (Isaiah 11:10, NLT)

"Stop weeping!  Look, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the heir to David's throne, has won the victory." (Revelation 5:5, NLT)

"'To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.'" (Revelation 3:21, NIV)

"Jesus replied, 'I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Man sits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones...And everyone who has given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or property, for my sake, will receive a hundred times as much in return and will inherit eternal life.'" 
(Matthew 19:28-29, NLT)

"'Look, I am coming soon!  My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.'" (Revelation 22:12, NIV)

"'I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me.  Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows.  But take heart, because I have overcome the world.'" (John 16:33, NLT)



What do you think about Jesus?



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Monday, March 23, 2015

THE TWILIGHT ZONE


Mr. Alarm Clock.

He and I have had a complicated relationship through the years.

I can remember the blissful years before I met him.  I didn't even know about his existence.  You see, I didn't need him in my life.  I had my dad.

Oh yes, my dad – a true *morning person* if there ever was one.

He loved mornings.

Loved getting up and taking a brisk shower first thing.  Loved breakfast – (Dad, the guy who always said, "Breakfast is the most important meal of the day") – loved his morning cup of coffee, loved having his family with him at the breakfast table.

Me?

Let's just say that the understatement of the century is that I am NOT a morning person.

So, for many years, Dad woke us all up.

His preferred method?

Raising the blind, or pulling the curtains wide open while singing, "Oh, it's fun to get up in the morning!" or "Rise and shine, rise and shine, that's what makes our bottoms shine!"  (Mornings were bad enough without music, just sayin'...)

You can imagine how horrific this cheerfulness was to me.

Like Dracula, I shunned the morning sun like poison.  I shrieked in pain, whipped my blanket "cloak" over my batty eyes, and burrowed deeper into the abyss that was my pillow.

This was not acceptable behavior to my dad.

He'd leave, but if you weren't at the table within 5 minutes, he came back.  And usually, Round Two involved whipping off all the blankets so you were left lying there startled and shivering.

Needless to say, this tactic usually succeeded in getting Dracula to the table.

Then of course, we were forced to eat.

Let me tell you, if you don't like mornings, you don't like breakfast.

Dad had his hearty meal, while I tried to choke down a bowl of Trix.

Oh, and Dad was a big tease, too.  So he'd enjoy putting a spoonful of coffee into my milk.  He thought that was hysterical – I thought it was akin to child abuse.  And of course you had to drink it…all.  It's a miracle to me that I like coffee now – although, truth be told, I didn't develop a taste for it until I was 45!  (Truth!)

Somewhere in my teens I met Mr. Alarm Clock.

He was a far sight better than Dad.  But still.

I knew in my heart that he was a necessary evil, like root canals and taxes, but I hated him.  His glowing little face, and his blaring voice, and his insistence upon being heard…annoying.

Now, I have to admit, as much as I despised Mr. Alarm Clock, I did have a love affair with his cousin, Mr. Snooze Button.

Oh the joys of prolonging the moment of truth!

I was sorta notorious for setting my alarm anywhere up to an hour before I actually had to get up!  I know, seems silly…but, for me it was a restful reprieve I cherished.


OK, fast forward to now.

I am fortunate enough to not have to work.

So I don't really need an alarm clock anymore – except for appointments and church.  But, I still like to set one so I don't sleep in too late.  You see, I still enjoy sleeping, and I am still not a morning person – but I have no desire to be known as Mrs. Rip Van Winkle – or Winky, as "The Hub" likes to (affectionately??) call me.

In this age of technological advances, I no longer need Mr. Alarm Clock.

Now I've hired his torturous brother, Mr. Klaxon Bell.

These days I use my phone, and ironically, my phone names the sound I use, *Alarm* – which is like calling the sound of an earthquake, *Movement.*  "Alarm" is more accurately the emotion that floods my senses when that thing goes off.  It sounds like the warning sound on a submarine – "Incoming Depth Charges!  Dive, dive, dive!!"

OK, so yes, to answer your question, I still set my alarm early – now about 45 minutes before I want to get up.  This way I can enjoy Mr. Klaxon Bell about 5 times before actually arising.

The challenge with Mr. Klaxon Bell is remembering to turn him off if you reset him to a later time.  If you forget, this oversight can lead to great embarrassment – like that one time I forgot and a really terrific Sunday sermon was interrupted by a lively rendition of "Dive, dive, dive…"  (You can read about that here).


So, where is all this frivolity leading?

Well, today I want to talk about those times when I wake up before the alarm clock goes off.  Those times when I wake and know it's morning, but that it's still early morning.

There is a blessed lighthearted (and lightheaded??) feeling that overtakes me.  The sense that I have no worries or agenda or chores or tasks knocking at my door yet.  It's hush-quiet, and nature-silent, and peaceful.  It's a wonderful time.

I call this time The Twilight Zone.

Sometimes I go back to sleep, but most of the time I just float along in a half-conscious, pleasant daze.  Neither here nor there.  

Do you know that this time seems to be when I feel closest to the Lord?

I do.

And I've been contemplating why that might be.  And what He might want to teach me about that.

First of all, I have this sense that there's no one else in the whole wide world except He and I.  It's like I sense our spirits interlocked like no other time.  There's an intimacy that comes, a unity, a joining of my natural with His supernatural.

A time when I know that I am indeed His beloved child.

It's precious.

"For his Spirit joins with our spirit to affirm that we are God's children." (Romans 8:16, NLT)


Secondly, I think this is a sweet time with the Lord because I am not off-and-running on my busy day yet.  I have an "excuse" to linger and talk with Him.  My mind is free of distractions, and I listen to Him better, for I'm listening in a different way than when I'm fully awake.  It's like my floating mind is open to what He might want to say.

This is a time when I feel especially attuned to God, eager to hear.

It reminds me of that scene in 1 Samuel:

"So Samuel went and lay down in his place.  The Lord came and stood there, calling as at the other times, 'Samuel!  Samuel!'  Then Samuel said, 'Speak, for your servant is listening.'" (1 Samuel 3:9-10, NIV)


I also love this time because it’s *free* time – bonus time, if you will.

It reminds me of the first day of summer vacation when I was young. When I woke up expecting Mr. Alarm Clock to go off at any second, and then gloriously remembering that school was over!!  No homework, or tests, or term papers.  Only fun!

It's a time when in my hazy, semi-conscious moments I feel what can best be described as JOY!  A sense of being given a reprieve, an official pardon, a release from responsibility.

Doesn't that sound like GRACE?!

That tangible sense of a great weight, an expectation of punishment being lifted off your shoulders – and instead, you're offered freedom in its place!

A sigh of relief in my soul.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.  Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1, NIV)


And finally, I love this time because it's a time when I feel uniquely secure. Tightly wrapped in warmth and softness.

Usually this time of year in the mountains I need about 3-4 blankets to get through the night – (two of them are lamby, fleecelike blankies!).  And early morning is usually when it's the coldest.  So, I love that delicious feeling when I realize that I do not have to brave the coldness that permeates the house.  I'll often turn over, pull the blankets up close to my head, and close my eyes again.  

This is a moment of unmitigated peace.

And it's a good reminder of the warm and snug security that comes because of my relationship to the Father.  

"The eternal God is your dwelling place, and underneath are the everlasting arms." (Deuteronomy 33:27, ESV)


So, though I am (still) not a morning person, and though I (still) dread getting up – though I (still) have a complicated relationship with Mr. Alarm Clock (or more often, his brother, Mr. Klaxon Bell) – I am rather enraptured with The Twilight Zone.

A time when the Lord and I sorta *float* along together, a time when intimacy and security is acutely felt, a time when I hear Him especially clear, a time when I cherish the freedom from distractions, responsibilities, and daily worries.

A time when life takes a backseat to wonder and peace and stillness.

What might God want to teach me about that?

I think it's this…

I think He wants me to realize that I can have this time, this special time, at ANY time.  I can experience this unique, quiet communion with Him, even in the MIDDLE of waking busyness.

It just takes a conscious effort to enter into a place where I remove myself from the urgency and insistency of *regular life.*

Might we all be better off if we took the time during our days to find Him in this way?

(Helpful hint: The answer is YES!)


Maybe we all ought to take a few moments and lie down on our beds, gently rest our heads on our pillows, pull up a blanket (or more), and close our eyes.

Might we find this time to whisper quietly to Him:

"Speak, for your servant is listening."

And might we take these moments to really wait for Him to say something.  

Might we take these moments to reflect upon the Truth that we have been granted grace – and we are released from condemnation and pardoned from punishment.  

Might we take these moments to thank Him that we are free.  

Might we take these moments to feel the security of belonging to Him, the warmth of being His child.


Might we take the TIME…

…to remember.





God
has made everything
beautiful
in its time.

Whatever God does,
it endures
forever. 



"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven..." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, ESV)

"...do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day." (2 Peter 3:8, ESV)

"For God says, 'At just the right time, I heard you.  On the day of salvation, I helped you.'  Indeed, the "right time" is now.  Today is the day of salvation." (2 Corinthians 6:2, NLT)

"Therefore be careful how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of your time, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16, NASB)

"Teach us to realize the brevity of life, so that we may grow in wisdom." (Psalm 90:12, NLT)

"...as for me, I trust in You, O LORD, I say, 'You are my God.'  My times are in Your hand..." (Psalm 31:14-15, NASB)

"[Jesus] said to them, 'It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.'" (Acts 1:7, ESV)

"God has now revealed to us his mysterious plan regarding Christ, a plan to fulfill his own good pleasure.  And this is the plan: At the right time he will bring everything together under the authority of Christ – everything in heaven and on earth." (Ephesians 1:9-10, NLT)

"'For I know the plans I have for you,' says the LORD.  'They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.'" 
(Jeremiah 29:11, NLT)

"Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me all the days of my life, and I will live in the house of the LORD forever." (Psalm 23:6, NLT)

"...the holy ones of the Most High will receive the kingdom and possess it forever, yes, forever and ever." (Daniel 7:18,  Holman CSB)

"And they will reign forever and ever." (Revelation 22:5, NLT)



Are you a morning person?



Linked with:

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BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, March 16, 2015

IN THE SHADOW OF WINGS


Today I am NOT resting.

I am fretting, worrying, stewing, ruminating, obsessing, thinking incessantly about a particular problem that has bothered me for quite a while now.

Why is it that there are some situations that are easy to hand over to the Lord?  And there are some that are nearly impossible??

This particular situation is one that is fraught with emotion, anxiety-ridden, and painful – I suppose that’s part of the reason why it’s hard to let go.  And this situation causes pain for people I care about – that’s another reason I can’t let go.

It’s one of those situations I want to FIX!

Here, let me get out my little toolbox – I’d just love to use my trusty hammer to pound some sense into people.  Maybe I could wrench some reactions here and there to make things better.  I’ve got some pliers to twist around some emotions.  Oh, I’m sure I could screw up everything if I tried hard enough.

And don’t even get me started with my Sawzall!

Feeling impotent – out of control – confused – useless.  Not feeling good.

No, I am NOT resting today.


You know, there was this other guy, a long time ago, that I think really understood what I’m talking about.

He was hiding in a cave at the time.

Here’s what he had to say:

“Have mercy on me, O God, have mercy!
I look to You for protection.
I will hide beneath the shadow of Your wings
until the danger passes by.
I cry out to the Most High,
to God who will fulfill His purpose for me.
He will send help from heaven to rescue me…
My God will send forth His unfailing love and faithfulness.”


Did you recognize the voice of David?

Cowering, surrounded, troubled?

Feeling powerless against his circumstances?

I am moved by the image of hiding in the shadow of God’s wings.

One of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen was an eagle gliding over snow-dappled mountains, high in the mountains of Colorado.  I was well above sea level – probably at about 10,000 feet – and yet, this eagle soared.

He was strong, majestic, powerful.

Those are the wings I want to hide under.

The wings that understand the shifting air currents of life.  The wings that fly where there is hardly enough oxygen to breathe.  The wings that glide above a cold and forbidding landscape.

The wings that soar.


I want to learn the lesson of resting in the shadow of His wings.

A place of refuge and safety.  A place where calamity can blow like crazy around me  but all I feel is the warmth of His wings, where I am stilled by His heartbeat, and all I hear is His breathing  steady and sure and reassuring.

OK, Lord – maybe today I’m not resting too well – but I can hide.

And I will.

I will tuck myself into You.  Lean into Your strength.  Trust Your power and goodness.  Listen to Your heartbeat – its steady, strong beat.  I will synch my breathing with Your own.

I will be reassured by the confidence I have in Your love and faithfulness.


“Clink, clink, clink…”

Oh, don’t mind that noise – I’m just putting away my toolbox.

There’s an Eagle waiting for me.





There is peace
underneath
His wings. 



"...let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  Consider him who endured...so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted." (Hebrews 12:1-3, ESV)

“He will cover you with His feathers.
He will shelter you with His wings.
His faithful promises are your armor and protection.
Do not be afraid…” (Psalm 91:4-5)

"...those who trust in the LORD will find new strength.  They will soar high on wings like eagles.  They will run and not grow weary.  They will walk and not faint." (Isaiah 40:31, NLT)


"Therefore, since God in his mercy has given us this new way, we never give up...We now have this light shining in our hearts, but we ourselves are like fragile clay jars containing this great treasure.  This makes it clear that our great power is from God, not from ourselves.

We are pressed on every side by troubles, but we are not crushed.  We are perplexed, but not driven to despair.  We are hunted down, but never abandoned by God.  We get knocked down, but we are not destroyed...That is why we never give up.  Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! 

So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen.  For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever."

(Selections from 2 Corinthians 4, NLT)


(NOTE: I've been traveling this past week, and had no time for writing!  So, this is a reprint of a post written on December 9, 2010.  Funny how timely it is for me again!!  I hope you enjoyed it! )



Where are you hiding today?



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BLOG = "Blessedly Leaning On God!"

Monday, March 9, 2015

PLEASE STOP TESTING ME


"Testing, testing, 1, 2, 3…"

I don't know about you, but to me one of the most annoying things is people testing audio systems.  It seems like they repeat this little mantra over and over again.

After the umpteenth time, I'm ready to shout, "Enough already!!  It's working!"

Another annoying phrase?

"Can you hear me now?"

OK, yes, I'll admit that this made for a pretty clever catchphrase for one particular wireless company.  But honestly, sometimes I feel like shouting back:

"YES!  I HEAR YOU!"

Now, if I've got to be perfectly honest, I sometimes feel like God is doing the same thing.  Sometimes it feels like God is saying to me, "Testing, testing, 85, 86, 87…Can you hear Me now?"

And I am sorely tempted to reply:

"Enough already!!  It's working!  I HEAR YOU!"

Sometimes I just get tired of feeling like my life is a series of spiritual tests.  Meted-out situations that try my faith, and make me feel like I'm constantly being evaluated.

Sometimes the tests are pop quizzes – and sometimes, they're hand-written, lengthy essay, this-will-determine-your-whole-grade final exams.

Can I get an amen?!

And sometimes I just get weary.  Overwhelmed.  Discouraged.

And honestly, maybe just a tad resentful at times??


So, this is what's on my mind today.

I'm in contact with a lot of you out there in Blog Land – some personally, and others through your writing.  And, I've got to admit, there's an awful lot of testing going on.  I have often found myself turning to the Lord and saying, "Lord, why?  This person has certainly had enough."

OK, now I’m remembering another irritating little phrase:

"Things come in threes."

Well, truthfully, in my life and in many of your lives, it seems like things come in batches of 103!

Like the incessant waves of the ocean, one thing after another seems to crash upon the already storm-churned shores of our lives.  And we are left breathless and gasping for air.

Another amen?!

So, today I want to probe this subject a bit.  I want to start by dissecting another phrase that bothers me.  It really bugs me when you're in the middle of some trial (or twenty) and people say something to the effect:

"Don't worry.  God won't give you more than you can handle."

Yes, sometimes people mean it sincerely, and it is a genuine way of expressing heartfelt sympathy.  But sometimes, hearing that makes me feel dismissed, invalidated, belittled.  Like I've received a very "nice" spiritual pat on the head and kick in the you-know-where.

"OK, I've done my duty…buh bye."

And more often than not, if I'm feeling like I am NOT handling the *it* then I get to pile on a bunch of internal judgments.  Now I'm a crummy Christian, I have no faith, I'm caving in to the enemy, I'm weak…

Ya know???

So, first of all, I'd like to point out that this phrase is not an accurate quote.  Nowhere in the Bible does it say that God won't give us more than we can handle.  I believe this thought comes from a misinterpretation of this verse:

"No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man.  God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:13, ESV)


You see, this verse is not talking about overwhelming circumstances or daunting situations.  It is talking about temptation.  And the promise is that God will not allow temptation to overtake us without Him providing a way to escape it.  Certainly our free will comes into play.  We can choose to fall into temptation.  But if we turn to Him, He will always give us an *escape route.*

The danger of believing the misquote is that if we are faced with trials that severely test us, and if we feel that we honestly cannot handle themwell, it's not a big leap to then think that God has somehow let us down by allowing this to happen.

"But Lord, You promised not to give me more than I can handle…and I can't handle this!"

Well, actually, the Lord did not promise that in Scripture.

But, He did promise something else.  

He promised to be with us in the testing, to give us His grace, strength, and faith to endure.

These verses:

"For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself.  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death.  But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.  He delivered us from such a deadly peril, and he will deliver us.  On him we have set our hope that he will deliver us again." (2 Corinthians 1:8-10, ESV)


I think God allows things in our lives that we can't handle all the time.

ALL. THE. TIME.

Think about it.  Moses' speech impediment was never cured.  Jacob's hip was never repaired.  Paul's "thorn" was never relieved.  Over and over God allows His people to experience situations that are humanly impossible so that He receives the glory.  

Life brings *stuff* that is much more than we can handle and that is the whole point! 

God's power shows up to see us through.  And, in every moment that we are tested, we are promised Someone who cares.

Now, yes, sometimes God allows tempting to come into our lives.  He even allowed Jesus to be tempted by Satan himself.  But, God is never the tempter.

"Let no one say when he is tempted, 'I am being tempted by God,' for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one." 
(James 1:13, ESV)

So, testing can involve temptation, but more often than not, it's just the trials and travails of living that become crushing.


Here's my second train of thought.

Sometimes I am sorely tempted (!) to ask the Lord to stop testing me.  To maybe just cut me some slack.  To perhaps just leave me alone for a while so I can catch my spiritual breath.

Sometimes I can identify with Jonah.  Buy me a ticket on the next boat to Tarshish so I can run away from it all for a *life vacation.*  

"…hoping to escape from the LORD..." (Jonah 1:3, NLT)

I remember years ago when I returned to the Lord after a period of not following Him very closely.  I remember the great sense of forgiveness and redemption.  I remember the precious sense of renewed intimacy.

And I remember the underlying fear.

I felt like I had a target on my back.  For, when we desire to follow Jesus closely, we will find ourselves on the enemy's radar.  We become a threat, and he comes after us.

I knew that my renewed commitment to discipleship was going to come at a cost.  There would be testing.

Jesus knew this:

"'And if you do not carry your own cross and follow me, you cannot be my disciple.  But don't begin until you count the cost.'" (Luke 14:27-28, NLT)

And though I feared the testing, I desired to follow Him more.


One thing that I have found greatly encouraging in the middle of everything is that testing is not without purpose.  God is not malicious, frivolous, or mean.  He does not derive vicarious enjoyment from our suffering.  He is not a bully.  Quite the opposite, in fact.

I believe that He grieves with our grief, cries at our tears, suffers our suffering, feels our pain, and empathizes with every weary bone in our bodies, every exhausting thought in our minds, and every sigh of discouragement in our souls.

He knows what we feel – for He listened to the cries of His Son.

Take this cup.

I thirst.

Why have You forsaken me?

And yet, there was something greater that God had in mind.


So, what are some things that testing accomplishes – what is its purpose in our lives?

This:

To develop perseverance and spiritual endurance.

To increase the virtue of patience.

To prove our character.

To teach us trusting obedience.

To demonstrate His power.

To infuse us with His strength.

To impart His peace.

To transform us into the image of His Son.

To teach us, instruct us, guide us.

To discipline us with love.

To deepen our faith.

To increase intimacy with us.

To open new channels of communication.

To experience His presence.

To comfort others in their suffering.

To allow us to identify with the suffering of Jesus.

To make us long for our eternal home.


So sure, sometimes I want to tell God, "Please stop testing me."

And yes, sometimes I turn to the skies and cry out from the depths of my heart:

"Enough already!!  It's working!  I HEAR YOU!"

And sometimes I think I desperately want God to leave me alone.

But at the same moment that my wearily-tested soul mutters, "Leave me be" – it is quickly followed by the deeper truth, "Please don't leave me."

And I realize once again that when I am tempted to tell God to leave me alone, I hear His unmistakable response:

"No, I love you too much."





In the fire,
I am refined...

And when He tests me,
I will come out
as pure as gold.




(LOTS OF SCRIPTURE THIS WEEK!  But it's all soooo good!  Be sure to check out the quote at the end):


"Remember how the LORD your God led you through the wilderness for these forty years, humbling you and testing you to prove your character, and to find out whether or not you would obey his commands." (Deuteronomy 8:2, NLT)

"The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but the LORD tests the heart." (Proverbs 17:3, NIV)

"Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts…and lead me along the path of everlasting life." 
(Psalm 139:23-24, NLT)

"Test me, Lord, and try me, examine my heart and my mind; for I have always been mindful of your unfailing love and have lived in reliance on your faithfulness." (Psalm 26:2-3, NIV)

"'I the LORD search the heart and test the mind, to give every man according to his ways, according to the fruit of his deeds.'" (Jeremiah 17:10, ESV)

"'Behold, I have refined you, but not as silver; I have tested you in the furnace of affliction.'" (Isaiah 48:10, NASB)

"'I will refine them like silver and purify them like gold. They will call on my name, and I will answer them. I will say, 'These are my people,' and they will say, 'The LORD is our God.'" (Zechariah 13:9, NLT)

"…he knows where I am going.  And when he tests me, I will come out as pure as gold.  For I have stayed on God's paths; I have followed his ways and not turned aside.  I have not departed from his commands, but have treasured his words more than daily food." (Job 23:10-12, NLT)

"But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.  For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps…" (1 Peter 2:20-21, NASB)

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.  For just as the sufferings of Christ are ours in abundance, so also our comfort is abundant through Christ." 
(2 Corinthians 1:3-5, NASB)

"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.  And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment.  For we know how dearly God loves us..." (Romans 5:3-5, NLT)

"Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4, NASB)

"These trials will show that your faith is genuine.  It is being tested as fire tests and purifies gold – though your faith is far more precious than mere gold.  So when your faith remains strong through many trials, it will bring you much praise and glory and honor on the day when Jesus Christ is revealed to the whole world." (1 Peter 1:7, NLT)

"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 of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.  For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities.  For when I am weak, then I am strong." 
(2 Corinthians 12:9-10, ESV)



"We tend to interpret God's love by looking at our circumstances...Instead, we must allow the strong and secure love of God to become the lens through which we interpret everything that happens in our lives.  When we see our suffering through the lens of God's love, we see that our suffering has meaning and purpose.  And while we may never label the suffering as good, we have the consoling confidence that God is going to use it for our good and his glory.  The love of God supports us and sustains us."

-- Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of HOPE




Are you being severely tested?  What truths are you holding on to?



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