Strength In Weakness

For my account of yesterday’s events follow THIS LINK.

We experienced another great worship service at The Exchange yesterday morning. The worship was intense and invigorating, and the message was amazing. Thank you, Joel, for that word! His message was on “Spiritual Burnout,” and he used the familiar passage in 1 Kings when Elijah ran from Jezebel right after defeating the 400+ prophets of Baal. His main point was that, “Even when we are burned out, God never gives up on us.” Believe me, I have seen that truth in my life. I have experienced “spiritual burnout” more than once in my life, and I know that God has not given up on me. I have received evidence of that fact at least twice in the last six weeks, as I have heard two different messages now in which I believe God told me that my original calling from him is still valid! It is very reassuring to hear that.

Later yesterday evening, we went back for a “Night of Worship.” It was a good time of worship and prayer, as we sang some worship songs, and prayed together, both individually, and in groups. We prayed for ourselves, individually, then prayed for the church, the community, and our country as we gathered in groups. It was a very meaningful time. We didn’t know several of the songs, so that had a slight effect on our worship time, but it was still good.

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
2 Corinthians 11:16-33
16 I repeat, let no one think me foolish. But even if you do, accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast a little. 17 What I am saying with this boastful confidence, I say not with the Lord’s authority but as a fool. 18 Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast.
2Co 11:19 For you gladly bear with fools, being wise yourselves! 20 For you bear it if someone makes slaves of you, or devours you, or takes advantage of you, or puts on airs, or strikes you in the face. 21 To my shame, I must say, we were too weak for that!
But whatever anyone else dares to boast of–I am speaking as a fool–I also dare to boast of that. 22 Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I. 23 Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one–I am talking like a madman–with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. 24 Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. 28 And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?
30 If I must boast, I will boast of the things that show my weakness. 31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. 32 At Damascus, the governor under King Aretas was guarding the city of Damascus in order to seize me, 33 but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall and escaped his hands.

Paul is resorting, momentarily, to the same tactics used by the false apostles that the Corinthians were listening to. “Since many boast according to the flesh, I too will boast,” he says. He says several times in the passage that he is speaking as a fool, or as a madman. He goes through this incredible list of trials that he has been through for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And at the end of all those, he adds the “daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” So not only is he suffering beatings and imprisonments, he is also experiencing a high anxiety for the churches in the area. Nevertheless, at the end, he says he really only wants to boast of the things that make him appear weak. Because, as he has said elsewhere, when he is weak, the Lord is shown to be strong.

Joel 3

This is a passage of future judgment on the nations. After he has restored the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, the Lord says he will gather the nations of the world to the “Valley of Jehoshaphat.” Later in the chapter, that place is called the “valley of decision.” Its location is unknown. But in this place, he will punish the nations of the world, bringing judgment upon them for their treatment of Israel and the Lord. The are called out for war, and he says “the sun and moon are darkened, and the stars withdraw their shining.” (v. 15) The Lord is seen as “roaring from Zion,” but as a “refuge to his people, a stronghold to the people of Israel.” The last few verses speak of a glorious future for Jerusalem. It will be holy and “strangers shall never again pass through it.” (v. 17) The ensuing description sound a lot like heaven to me. If that is the case, then “Israel” in these verses equals the “new Israel,” which is the Church, the body of Christ.

Psalm 146
1 Praise the LORD! Praise the LORD, O my soul!
2 I will praise the LORD as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.
3 Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth; on that very day his plans perish.
5 Blessed is he whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the LORD his God,
6 who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, who keeps faith forever;
7 who executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry. The LORD sets the prisoners free;
8 the LORD opens the eyes of the blind. The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down; the LORD loves the righteous.
9 The LORD watches over the sojourners; he upholds the widow and the fatherless, but the way of the wicked he brings to ruin.
10 The LORD will reign forever, your God, O Zion, to all generations. Praise the LORD!

The last few of the Psalms are glorious praise Psalms, singing of praise to the Lord, and his trustworthiness as he is our strength, our fortress, and our refuge. This one admonishes us to not trust in men, because even the richest of princes cannot provide us with salvation. Salvation is in the Lord alone. The Lord’s benefits are listed in verses 8-9.

Father, I thank you for the great worship we sent up to you yesterday, and the great message that was brought down to us. I thank you that you do not give up on us, no matter what we are experiencing. I did not choose this race. You chose it for me. And the beauty in that is that, in that choosing, you also provided me with everything that I need to finish this race. It is simply up to me to avail myself of these resources. I do not trust in any man for my salvation, Lord. I do not trust in men for my provision. I do not trust in men for my protection. I trust in you alone! As we move forward, Father, I ask that you make us even more aware of your presence in our lives, your influence in our lives and family, and your protection over all of us. I ask for your holy arm to make itself known in all the branches of our family, from this house to Rachel and Justin, to Carol and Don, to my parents, and even to members of Christi’s step families. You are sovereign Lord, and you control all things. Let it be known, Lord. Let your great name be known in all the world!

I pray, as always, as this week starts, that it will be a good one. Let it be stress-free for Christi, Lord. I pray that her week will go smoothly. They have a big project going live this next weekend, and I pray that you help her keep her head through all that goes on. I pray for success for the project, and that her company might prosper. I also pray for success for my work, during this week, and that we might prosper as well. Finally, I pray for the nation, Lord, that you would show our leaders the right paths to take.

If we must boast, let us boast in the Lord, and how he is made strong in our weaknesses.

Grace and peace, friends.

Be Exalted, O God, Above the Heavens!

I had a much better night last night. The stomach seems to be settled down a bit.

We had a nice day yesterday, for the most part. We made it a church called “Crossroads Church of Fort Worth,” in time for their 11:00 worship. It’s not a large group, which suits us just fine. The music portion of the worship was not polished very well, but it was very sincere and meaningful. I only knew one of the songs, but I don’t let that deter me, as long as the words that are being sung are relevant, and they were. The people were pretty friendly…we got greeted several times. The pastor’s message was very good, and at one point during the message I was almost in tears, because of the relevance that it carried for me, specifically. I don’t have a big enough ego to think that God had this guy bring a message that was solely for me, but there is no doubt in my mind that Crossroads Church of Fort Worth was exactly where I needed to be yesterday morning. I don’t know if it’s where we will wind up staying, but it’s where we were supposed to be yesterday. He preached from John 21, the passage where Jesus “restores” Peter. If you are a Bible student, you’re probably familiar with the fact that Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times in a short period of time, while Jesus’s illegal trail was starting up. After Jesus had died, resurrected, and even appeared to them, Peter decided to go back to fishing. Early the next morning, Jesus appeared to them on the shore. First, he asked them if they had caught anything. Not recognizing him, they simply said, “No.” He told them to cast their nets on the other side of the boat. When they couldn’t even bring the net into the boat because of the number of fish they caught, John realized who was speaking to them. Peter, being the impulsive one, rather than waiting for the boat to sail back to shore, jumped in the water, fully clothed, and swam back to the shore. After breakfast, Jesus pulled Peter aside and asked him, three consecutive times, “Do you love me?” At each response, Jesus said, “Feed my lambs,” “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep.” Now, I know you’re asking, “What on earth is relevant to me about that?” Here’s the key. The pastor made a simple statement about what was going on. Jesus was reinstating Peter’s CALL! I believe that I was there to hear that message, telling me that God is not done with me. I’m not sure what I am to do with that information, yet, but my soul is uplifted. I feel, once again, that have some purpose.

Okay…sorry about that lengthy tale. Let me get on to the devotion. Or perhaps I already started it, right?

Today’s Bible readings from Discovering the Bible, by Gordon L. Addington:
John 18:1-27
When Jesus had spoken these words, he went out with his disciples across the Kidron Valley, where there was a garden, which he and his disciples entered. Now Judas, who betrayed him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons. Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.”
Joh 18:8 Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.” Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s servant and cut off his right ear. (The servant’s name was Malchus.) So Jesus said to Peter, “Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?”
(vv. 1-11)

The Reformation Study Bible makes note that the word “he” in verse 5 and 6, is supplied in the English translations. In other words, Jesus simply said, “I AM.” This is the name for God used in the Greek translations of the Old Testament. There’s no explanation of why the soldiers “drew back and fell to the ground,” but I’m pretty sure that they were NOT “slain in the Spirit.” That’s another one of those made up things that was popular in the past few decades in charismatic meetings. It’s also not Biblical. Simon Peter (remember…he’s the impulsive one) whacks off the servant’s ear with his sword. John is the only one who mentions the servant’s name. Oddly, John doesn’t include Jesus re-attaching the ear. Different writers have different focuses. Jesus calmly told Peter to put his sword away. This was all part of the plan, Peter.

So the band of soldiers and their captain and the officers of the Jews arrested Jesus and bound him. First they led him to Annas, for he was the father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. It was Caiaphas who had advised the Jews that it would be expedient that one man should die for the people. (vv. 12-14)

The interesting thing about this part of the trial is that Annas had no official position at the time. He was not high priest. His son-in-law Caiaphas was high priest. So the illegal nature of this kangaroo court continues.

Simon Peter followed Jesus, and so did another disciple. Since that disciple was known to the high priest, he entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, but Peter stood outside at the door. So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the servant girl who kept watch at the door, and brought Peter in. The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” Now the servants and officers had made a charcoal fire, because it was cold, and they were standing and warming themselves. Peter also was with them, standing and warming himself.

We assume that “another disciple” refers to John. We know that Peter, James, and John were the closest ones to Jesus, and John never mentions himself by name. We don’t (and never will) know why Peter denied that he was one of Jesus’s disciples. But whatever the reason, the first of three is recorded here, and this was just a servant girl, no one worthy of fear.

The high priest then questioned Jesus about his disciples and his teaching. Jesus answered him, “I have spoken openly to the world. I have always taught in synagogues and in the temple, where all Jews come together. I have said nothing in secret. Why do you ask me? Ask those who have heard me what I said to them; they know what I said.” When he had said these things, one of the officers standing by struck Jesus with his hand, saying, “Is that how you answer the high priest?” Jesus answered him, “If what I said is wrong, bear witness about the wrong; but if what I said is right, why do you strike me?” Annas then sent him bound to Caiaphas the high priest. (vv. 19-24)

There’s some confusion here, because Annas is called “high priest” at the beginning, and then sends Jesus to the “high priest” Caiaphas at the end. More than likely, it was reputation and habit because Annas had been high priest. Kind like how we still call men “President” after they no longer hold the office. Jesus was treated to a typical tactic…if they don’t say what you want them to say, just hit them until they do.

Now Simon Peter was standing and warming himself. So they said to him, “You also are not one of his disciples, are you?” He denied it and said, “I am not.” One of the servants of the high priest, a relative of the man whose ear Peter had cut off, asked, “Did I not see you in the garden with him?” Peter again denied it, and at once a rooster crowed. (vv. 25-27)

Peter denies Jesus twice more. After the last time, the rooster crows, which is a reminder to him of the words of Jesus. John does not record Peter’s bitter weeping, nor does he record that Jesus made eye contact with Peter after the last denial. My heart breaks for Peter. I’m so like him at times.

1 Chronicles 25-26
David organizes musicians, gatekeepers, treasurers and other officials. That’s pretty much it.

Psalm 108
1 A Song. A Psalm of David. My heart is steadfast, O God! I will sing and make melody with all my being!
2 Awake, O harp and lyre! I will awake the dawn!
3 I will give thanks to you, O LORD, among the peoples; I will sing praises to you among the nations.
4 For your steadfast love is great above the heavens; your faithfulness reaches to the clouds.
5 Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let your glory be over all the earth!
6 That your beloved ones may be delivered, give salvation by your right hand and answer me!
7 God has promised in his holiness: “With exultation I will divide up Shechem and portion out the Valley of Succoth.
8 Gilead is mine; Manasseh is mine; Ephraim is my helmet, Judah my scepter.
9 Moab is my washbasin; upon Edom I cast my shoe; over Philistia I shout in triumph.”
10 Who will bring me to the fortified city? Who will lead me to Edom?
11 Have you not rejected us, O God? You do not go out, O God, with our armies.
12 Oh grant us help against the foe, for vain is the salvation of man!
13 With God we shall do valiantly; it is he who will tread down our foes.

There is a popular worship chorus from a few decades ago written from the first few verses of this Psalm. There is great resolve and determination to praise and exalt God in this Psalm. There is also a desire for the glory of God to be seen all over the earth.

From today’s “Tabletalk Magazine,” I got this: “The longer we are Christians, the easier it can be to forget the greatness of our salvation and the incalculable price that our Father paid to adopt us as His children. Yet we must never allow ourselves to consider the blood of Christ lightly, for it was the death of the perfectly righteous God-man that brought us near to God. Let us take a few moments this day to consider the grace and mercy of the Lord shown in the atonement of Christ Jesus.”

Father, I pray that you will constantly remind me today of the beauty and value of the sacrifice that brought me to you. Let me never take lightly the blood of Jesus. Let me never forget the grace and mercy that you have shown me.
I know, Jesus, that I have denied you in my past. I have never said, as Peter did, “I don’t know him,” or “I am not one of his followers.” Never said that, at least not in words. But when I went into places that I didn’t belong and did things that I shouldn’t have done, didn’t I say it in actions? The moment I walk into a place that I should not be, I tell everyone in that place that I’m just like them. That, in effect, denies my affiliation with you. I pray that encounters like that remain, as they are, in my distant past. I only remember those to note that I am no better than Peter. I don’t judge Peter, Lord. I feel sympathy with him. Because I know how it feels to have denied you. It brings a feeling in the pit of the stomach that takes, sometimes, years to go away. I know that you have forgiven me, just as you forgave Peter. So there is no more guilt over these events of the past. There is simply a reminder that this is our nature as human beings, when we walk without your wisdom and guidance.
I thank you for the message I heard yesterday, giving me some assurance that you still have something for me to do. Now that I have that assurance, I pray for direction. Show me what it is, and where we need to be until it becomes clear to me. I will wait patiently, but I also need some direction while I’m waiting. I will seek that daily.
I pray for this week for Christi. Let her have a good week this week. I pray for this week for Stephanie. I pray that she manages to keep herself occupied and not get too bored.
I pray for my friend Andy. He’s feeling depressed these days, and is experiencing confusion over a scheduled meeting today. I pray that you give him clear direction as to what he should do. I also pray that you give him the adequate tools he needs to work effectively on his music.

Even though it’s not Sunday, and most of us won’t attend any kind of corporate worship, we can still sing his praises among the nations. Sing a song of joy and praise to the Lord today!

Grace and peace, friends.