No doubt it is quite natural to desire the easier ways of life. None of us love difficulty for its own sake.  We would all like to have good things come to us as gifts, as favors, without toil or sacrifice or cost.  But life’s best things do not ordinarily come to us this way.  Nor would they be the best things if we received them in this way.

After Israel had entered the holy land, the people of Joseph came to Joshua with the complaint concerning their allotment in the promised land.  They said, “Why have you given us but one lot and one portion for an inheritance, seeing that we are great people?”

Joshua responded, “If you are great people, then go up to the high country and clear the forest from the mountains and drive out the enemy, and take possession of it.”

These people wanted to be recognized as the most important tribe, but they wanted this prominence to be bestowed upon them without exertion of their own.  Joshua may have seemed a little unkind to his own tribe, but he really was not. Our best friends are not those who make life easy for us; our best friends are those who put courage, strength, and resolution into our hearts.

Many people would prefer God to pamper them, but this is not God’s way with us.  He does not promise to make life easy for us.  God, in His wisdom, does not clear the forest before us but puts the axe into our hands. He does not remove the enemies there, but puts the sword into our hand and says, “I will be with you.”

If there is a great difficulty in your life, perhaps God is using it to make you stronger, to work godly character in your heart. The place of honor is often a result of the hardest places in life. Be teachable, be humble, maybe God is doing a work greater than you could imagine.

Your servant,

Rich

Jesus stood silent before Pontius Pilate.  “What is truth?”  He asked.  Pontius Pilate had never asked a more important question in his life.  And, though the man of whom he asked it did not utter a single word in reply, no one ever received a more complete and articulate answer. Jesus, the master of encounter, the supreme scriptural debater, stood mute.  The silence was not born out of a lack of truths.  He possessed truths in abundance. No, He was not silent because he lacked truths, but because he was full of truth, because he was truth.

“I am the Truth,” Jesus said to His disciples, implying that truth is more than the sum of right answers.  It is not something to have at all but something, first and above all else, to be. Truth is a person, a life; and this person, this life, is the way, the only way to the Father.  “I am… the truth, and… no one comes to the Father but by me.” (John 14:6)

God’s desire is not merely to inform us, but to transform us; not to just fill us with truths, but to make us true.  This is unfamiliar territory for many.  We know what it means for a statement or a doctrine to be true, but what does it mean when a man declares, “I am the truth.”

Many people are far more at home with a religion that is occupied by having and doing.  But a relationship to God is animated foremost by a desire to be. Many people see to possess truth, to have truth; but God seeks to make us true. There is a vast difference between these things and the kinds of men produced by each pursuit are vastly different as well; and will have vastly different effects.

It does little good to do a research paper on truth.  Without the Spirit of Truth and a desire to be true, we are not changed.  I praise God that in our church there is a hunger for truth, for God’s Word, but may we also seek to be changed; to be true.

Your servant,

Rich

Adapted from The Spirit of Truth by Arthur Katz

As Moses was watching the flocks he took them near mount Horeb and as he came up the mountain he came upon a bush that was ablaze, but was not consumed! We know this story. This was when God spoke to Moses and called him to lead Israel out of Egypt and out of slavery and oppression. But let’s think about this bush for a minute. Did God select just the right bush? Did he look at all the bushes on the mountain and say, “Ah, now that’s an amazing bush, I couldn’t find a better bush in all the deserts of Arabia! It’s perfect for making my power known to Moses!”

Not at all; I’m convinced that the bush had little to do with it. God wanted to make His power known and any bush God chose would have come ablaze with God’s glory. And that’s where there is a personal application for us. Many people strive and fight and struggle wanting some godly change or for God to use them in some wonderful way. This seems to be a very difficult lesson for us to learn.

Luis Palau came to America as a fiery Argentinean wanting to be trained as an evangelist at Multnomah University, but by the end of his first semester, dedicated as he was, he was on the verge of giving up on his hopes and dreams. The problem was not that Palau saw any lack in God, but, because I was weary of fighting and struggling and seeking on my own to persevere through sheer dedication.  I was exhausted, and exhaustion can breed cynicism… I knew the other side of life was hopeless.  But there was a monumental emptiness when I knew I was in the right place but still could not find the answer.

The answer came right before Christmas break when Palau was touched deeply by a message, “Any Old Bush Will Do.”  After hearing that message, a once frustrated Palau ran back to his room and in tears fell to his knees next to his bed.  He prayed, “Lord, now I understand!  The whole thing is ‘not I, but Christ in me.’  It’s not what I’m doing for you, but rather what you’re going to do through me.” “What peace there was in knowing I could quit struggling,” said Palau later.  There was freedom; there was joy… “The Lord changed the way I thought, the way I felt about people, the whole way I went about life.” Let’s rest in stronger faith knowing that God is the power and strength of our lives. It’s not by our strength we prevail, but by God’s strength working through us!

Your servant,

Rich

There are many things in this world that are sweet to the taste yet make you sick in the soul. Some things are sweet simply because they’re wrong. “Stolen water is sweet; and bread eaten in secret is pleasant,” Proverbs 9:17

But then he adds an ominous warning, “But he does not know that the dead are there, and that her guests are in the depths of the grave.” He’s referring to worldly pleasures. They may be pleasant at first, but then comes the aching in the soul that is deeply painful.

The enemy knows not to make sickness smell like death, otherwise, you immediately recoil from it. One smell of putrefaction in enough to keep anyone away!

In contrast, the Lord says, “Wisdom is sweet to your soul; if you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off,” Proverbs 24:14. Wisdom is not just sweet to the taste; it’s sweet to the soul.

How difficult this is to fully comprehend. It’s a truth we would rather tell others than receive for ourselves. But it’s a truth that brings great promises. Wisdom calls out, “Whoever is naïve, let him eat of my food, let him drink of the wine of understanding. Forsake the world’s way and live, forsake the pain in the soul and be blessed in the places deep in the soul.”

Your servant,

Rich

What is love? It’s a question people seldom ponder but should. Many think of love as something you either have or don’t, you’re in love or you’re not. But there is much more we need to understand; for God Himself is love.

A discussion about love wouldn’t be complete unless we mentioned “true love.” I’m not exactly sure the difference between regular love and true love, but it must be a lot because so much is made of it. It’s what everyone longs for, but apparently few experience.

The Greek culture has it right because they have several words for love. In English, we have just the one word – love. We use it for everything. We love ice cream; we love our dog and we love our favorite basketball team. But we also love our children and of course, we love our spouse. It’s probably a good idea if we meant something different when we use the word love in each of those cases.

The best definition is God’s perfect love; it’s based on the character of God Himself. All of us fall short of that kind of love, but I submit we fall short in various degrees. Here’s my point; love requires maturity and there are differing degrees of maturity.

“Okay,” someone might ask, “what does maturity have to do with love?” It has everything to do with it. Immaturity is when a person favors himself at the expense of others. Maturity is favoring others at the expense of self. God loved the world so much that He gave His only begotten Son… Because of love, He gave of Himself; He favored us at His expense.

Maturity is something we grow into. I submit that love is something we grow into as well. Love is not something we either have or don’t; love is something we have in degrees according to our maturity. We all want the blessings of loving and being loved, but we experience the depths and height of love as our character increases, as we grow in maturity and become more like our Lord. God is love and when we grow in our relationship to Him, we become more like Him.

Your servant,

Rich

An ostrich is a strange bird. It will gulp down anything and everything that looks interesting – an orange, a tennis ball, a pocketknife – opened or closed- a paperweight or a ripe apple.  That he survives at all is a testament not to his intelligence but to his tough constitution.

There are some Christians like that.  Because they must believe certain things, they feel they must believe everything.

Faith requires discernment. True faith engages the person and promises of God and rests upon them with perfect assurance. Whatever has behind it the character and Word of the living God is accepted by faith as the last and final truth from which there is no appeal.  Faith never questions when it has been established that God has spoken.  “Let God be true, but every man a liar” (Romans 3:4). Faith honors God by counting Him righteous and accepts His testimony against the very evidence of its own senses.  That is faith, and of such faith, we can never have too much.

The Christian, however, should never be like the ostrich, swallowing anything and everything.  Some Christians think that because they believe the invisible, they must go right on to accept the incredible. God can and does work miracles, but to them, everything that passes for a miracle must be God.  God has spoken to men; therefore, every man who claims to have a revelation from God must be a prophet.  Whatever is unearthly must be heavenly, etc. This is dangerous logic and can be as injurious as unbelief itself.

Along with faith in God must come healthy disbelief in every strange thing that passes for religion. There is so much toxic matter in the world today that has no place in the life of a true Christian.  We have Christ; He is the way, the truth, and the life.

Your servant,

Rich

 

How do you react when things don’t go your way? Many people become bitter and allow their faith to be shaken, or worse; shipwrecked. Whenever I see someone endure difficulties and especially tragic difficulties with faith, then my faith is encouraged.

Fanny Crosby was born blind, but her faith was not shattered because somehow God did not give her sight. Instead, her faith was strengthened. “I firmly believe that God intended that I should live my days in physical darkness so that I might be better prepared to sing His praise and lead others from spiritual darkness into eternal light.  With sight, I would have been too distracted to have written thousands of hymns.”

It was Fanny Crosby who gave us our hymn, “Blessed Assurance.” The words of that hymn reflect her spiritual insight as well as her spiritual sight. Listen to the words as she who is blind was given heavenly seeing.

“Perfect submission, perfect delight, visions of rapture now burst on my sight; angels descending bring from above, echoes of mercy, whispers of love.

“Perfect submission, all is at rest, I in my Savior and happy and blest, watching and waiting, looking above, filled with his goodness, lost in his love. — This is my story, this is my song, praising my Savior all the day long.”

Is it possible that we can not only accept our challenges and hindrances but that God could actually use them for His glory and our blessing? It’s a question of faith. Believe and be blessed, or be bitter and depressed. It’s a poetic paradox but filled with an edifying word. We are blessed in believing that God knows what He is doing in our lives and live according to that faith.

Your servant,

Rich