>No, It Is NOT Harder!

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I tire of people saying how difficult it is to reach today’s youth with the truth of the gospel.

Such statements limit God, and put too much emphasis on “us” in this amazing work of salvation.

As Jonah discovered in the belly of the great fish, “Salvation is of the Lord.” (Jonah 2.9) The God who “so loved” that “He gave His only” empowers His Word and His gospel to penetrate lives, minds, and hearts.

To be sure, the world of teenagers is different than it was five, ten, twenty years ago. But God’s Word remains “sharper than a two-edged sword” and is able to “penetrate,” “convict,” and “draw.”

To listen to some, God must be wringing His hands and moaning, “Oh, what do I do now to reach these poor students?”

Heresy!

God is sovereign in the affairs of man, and though God chooses to use weak vessels to accomplish His will, it is still His Spirit who does the convicting, convincing, and drawing.

Does it take more “work” to present the gospel in what some call as “post-Christian” world? Certainly! Those who “brag on Jesus” need to be careful to define terms, explain terms, and never “assume” that someone knows anything about the true God, Jesus, or the gospel.

But the impact of God’s Word projected is not negated. It is always relative, and the One who desires to relate to those outside His family remains omnipotent!

The job of the apprentice of Jesus Christ is to serve Him, to live for Him, to brag on Him, and to breath and share the gospel. Since “no one can come to the Son except the Father draws him,” our job is not to do the drawing, but rather the pointing (or, if it makes you more comfortable, “leading”).

Yes, the days are dark, and today’s teenagers are bombarded by negative influences of every stripe…but the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is more-than-able to overcome the darkness as the Body of Christ attacks in faith.

>Especially for those Suffering

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Televangelists and others beat people up by saying they are sick because of sin in their lives, or because of lack of faith. This may be the case, but the Spirit of God will make that clear to the afflicted one; they don’t need some dude in an expensive suit to tell them…

But just a reminder from the Word of God: (1 Peter 5.19) “Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

Suffering is part of living, with or without Christ. With Christ, He walks through it with us, and enables us to “consider it all joy.” With Christ, it all “works together for good.” With Christ we know suffering is temporary, and we look with great anticipation and hope to heaven.

And with Christ we don’t simply endure, but we continue “doing good” even as we suffer.

The extreme name-it-claim-it-blab-it-grab-it-your-best-life-now types have to clip 1 Peter 5.19 (and other verses) out of their Bibles. And they must, to be consistent, click their tongues and shake their heads at all the apostles (and Paul) who suffered and died because of their faith.

Don’t misread – God can, and does, still heal.

But one reason they are called miracles is because they don’t happen often!

>No Shocks or Surprises for God

>Here’s another great insight from Swindoll. Again, I heartily recommend the book to supplement your own Bible reading

Read Acts 9:1–4

For more than three decades, Saul controlled his own life. His record in Judaism ranked second to none. On his way to make an even greater name for himself, the laser of God’s presence stopped him in his tracks, striking him blind. Like that group of shepherds faithfully watching their sheep years earlier on another significant night outside Jerusalem, Saul and his companions fell to the ground, stunned.

That’s what still happens today when calamity strikes. You get the news in the middle of the night on the telephone, and you can’t move. As the policeman describes the head-on collision, you stand frozen in disbelief. After hearing the word “cancer,” you’re so shocked you can hardly walk out the doctor’s office doors. A friend once admitted to me that, after hearing his dreaded diagnosis, he stumbled to the men’s room, vomited, dropped to his knees, and sobbed uncontrollably. Life’s unexpected jolts grip us with such fear we can scarcely go on.

For the first time in his proud, self-sustained life, Saul found himself a desperate dependent. Not only was he pinned to the ground, he was blind. His other senses were on alert and, to his amazement, he heard a voice from heaven say, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” (Acts 9:4). Saul was convinced he had been persecuting people—cultic followers of a false Messiah. Instead, he discovered that the true object of his vile brutality was Christ Himself.

We live in a culture that regularly confuses humanity with deity. The lines get blurred. It’s the kind of sloppy theology that suggests God sits on the edge of heaven thinking, Wonder what they’ll do next. How absurd! God is omniscient—all-knowing. This implies, clearly, that God never learns anything, our sinful decisions and evil deeds notwithstanding. Nothing ever surprises Him. From the moment we’re conceived to the moment we die, we remain safely within the frame of His watchful gaze and His sovereign plan for us.

Taken from Charles R. Swindoll, Great Days with the Great Lives (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2005). Copyright © 2005 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

>Selling/Buying/Trying

>As our house is in the “let’s get to the closing date” stage; we are in Saint Joseph looking for house-to-make-home. Looked at tons, a few possibilities, several ain’t no ways…but time is crunching. Couple more to look at today after church; then Monday we will look and relook. Appreciate prayers.

As in all of lifes adventures, there are struggles and victories and times of waiting and, yeah, times of doubt.

Thought this quote from former Olympic skater Nancy Kerrigan was timely as it came into my in-box this morning:

“Part of being a champ is acting like a champ. You have to learn
how to win and not run away when you lose. Everyone has bad stretches and
real successes. Either way, you have to be careful not to lose your
confidence or get too confident.”

And, remember, we are not merely “champs,” but in Christ we are “more than conquerors.”

>Take Heart – Be Encouraged – Know Who You Are

>“God’s grace means that I can rest assured that I’ll have everything I need to be what he wants me to be and to do what he wants me to do in the situation in which he’s placed me.

I’m no longer restricted to the limits of my own strength and wisdom. By his grace, I’ve a new identity and a new potential. I’m a child of God; the risen Christ now lives inside of me. I need no longer fear people or circumstances; I don’t have to feel weak in the face of suffering or temptation, because I no longer rest in the resources of my own ability. I’m in Christ and he’s in me.

This new identity gives me new potential as I face the realities of life in this bent and broken world. God’s grace gives me reason to ‘take heart.’”

—Paul David Tripp

>Don’t Mope, Hope!

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The dictionary on my desk defines “hope” as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen”.

Hope is a marvelous, marvelous gift. Though non-Christians may speak of “hope,” the genuine gift of hope is for those who have been redeemed – Ephesians 2.12 describes our pre-salvation state as “…having no hope and without God in the world.”

Colossians 1.5 speaks of a warehouse-in-heaven, “…the hope laid (stored) up for you in heaven.” The psalmist confirms that the gift of hope is from God: “For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from Him.” (62.5)

Though the ultimate object of our hope is the Lord, He gives encouragement to hope in His Word: “Remember Your word to Your servant, in which You have made me hope.” (Psalm 119.49) and “Those who fear You shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in Your word.” (Psalm 119.74)

Romans 12.12 urges Christians to “Rejoice in hope…” and Romans 15.4 reminds us of the hope-giving power of God’s Word: “For whatever was written in the former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Some times the translators give the same word often translated “hope” the word “wait.” (as in “Those who wait on the Lord shall renew their strength”) At least for me this “translates” into sometimes gritting teeth even while I hope.

I’m not a good “waiter.” Yet even that impatience (sin) is laced with hope. And, ultimately, hope is not in circumstances, or realtors (!), or doctors, or anything/anyone else. Peter reminds me, “…your faith and hope are in God.” (1 Peter 1.21)

One heritage of my four years in the army is a tendency to make acronyms. For instance, I take my last name and use if often for prayer, that I would be Holy, Active, Gentle, Enthusiastic, Reliable.

So it’s not surprising I have an acronym for “hope”: He Oversees (and Overrules) People and Events.

A prayer for me, mine, and you is Romans 15.13: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope.”