weakness

God Commends the Weak

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Did you know that in the book of Revelation, the church in Philadelphia was commended because it had “little strength"?

In our modern world that is a very strange basis for being commended. Modern society values strength. Our media driven culture beckons us to be men of steel and women of iron. The city in which I live heralds, for example, that we are “Baton Rouge Strong” and “Baton Rouge Proud.” God, however, says that it is the weak, those that have recognized their minimal strength who are to be commended. Why is that?

Let’s ponder Moses for example; he was a man of great strength. Raised in the court of Pharaoh to be a leader in the nation, he was trained to be a warrior. When he thought the time had come for him to deliver his people, he mustered all the strength he could and killed an Egyptian, but failed to rally the people around him and ran like a scared rabbit into the desert.

There, he spent the next 40 years tending sheep and growing weak. How do we know that? Because when God appeared to Him, to call Him to lead Israel into freedom, he bemoaned that he was not the kind of man God was looking for. Early in his life, Moses thought he was that man because he was strong, but now that he was weak he could not dream of being a leader. He thought himself a nothing and informed God that he could not speak very well. Ironically, the book of Acts tells us that Moses was the most eloquent man in all the earth!

So how are we to explain that? Some say that after spending 40 years with a bunch of sheep, any of us would speak b-a-a-a-a-d too! I don’t buy that. I believe that after his failure, Moses no longer trusted in his natural resources, he recognized that he was not up to the demand, which forced him to depend on God in a way he would never have without his failure. His failure opened his eyes to his true state of weakness so that he could then see the greatness of God that would be exercised by God on his behalf; transforming him into a man who received the strength of God!

Though this is a hard lesson for most of us to learn, it is one that we desperately need to understand. The Holy Spirit told Paul that when he was weak, then he would truly be strong because he would no longer be trusting in himself, but in God. This is why God would offer that “not so strange” commendation for those who have little strength. I want to hear that commendation, and I hope you do too, for it is the true path to the strength we desperately need to secure to live victoriously in this fallen world.

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A Very Real Word of Encouragement

So yes, as the ancient writers encouraged, "Be strong!"  That, however, is not really much of an encouragement.

So yes, as the ancient writers encouraged, "Be strong!"  That, however, is not really much of an encouragement.

In most ancient letters that we hold in our possession, the standard "good-bye" was erroso meaning "be strong." 

That was obviously intended by the writers of those letters to be an encouragement to their recipients. It is also though, a commentary on the world we live in. We need to be encouraged to be strong because this is a dark and scary world. We need strength to navigate our way through its savage twists and turns that it all too often brings our way. So yes, as the ancient writers encouraged, "Be strong!"

That, however, is not really much of an encouragement. At least, not to an honest man or woman who has encountered just how treacherous this world can be.

Why? Because the trials of life teach us that we are not really all that strong.

It is like we are on battery power and the demands of life all too easily burn out our batteries. I believe most of us use the time in between difficulties as a means of providing us with a way to somewhat re-charge our batteries for the next round of difficulty we are going to have to face.

The ancient New Testament letters, however, did away with the word erroso as a standard means of saying goodbye. They chose to use instead the word charis meaning grace. Now that is a glorious and very real word of encouragement. Grace is the offering to us, of the very Person of God. It is the new economy established by Jesus in the New Covenant, that God is no longer distant and unreachable, but actually, lives inside all of us who have placed our faith in Him.

Grace means that at the moment of faith, God will be all that He is, to all that we need. Because of grace, we no longer have to navigate through this dark and desperate world by ourselves and with our own resources. Wherever we go, God goes with us. Whatever we endure, He is right there offering His strength for us to stand victorious in the midst of the dark days that a fallen world can bring to us.

I bid you, His grace!

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Starting My Day

Since we cannot live the Christian life, and Jesus is the only one Who can do so...
Since we were designed to live in a garden paradise and THIS IS NOT IT...
Since we are living in a world that we were never meant for...
Since we now experience what we were never designed to experience...

Let me share with you how I start my day and attempt to live my days:

"Father, I am living in a world that I was not designed to live in and today I am going to experience many things that I was never designed to experience...

Father, I am not up to the demands of this day, but you are!
I do not have the strength nor the wisdom for this day, but you do!
I can't, but you can. Father, I place my trust in You!
I believe you, please help by unbelief.
Bring on the day."

And then, with eyes fixed on Him, I seek to live according to the Friedmann Family motto:

"TRUST GOD AND KICK BUTT!"

We live in a world that allows no room for wimpy Christians! Jesus is the Lamb of God... He is gentle, and kind, and patient, and tender... Wonderful! But He is also the Lion of Judah... A warrior! Strong, Courageous, Powerful! He is all that we need, brought to us in the moment of faith!

I will say it again: TRUST GOD AND KICK BUTT!"

Get Off the Treadmill of Having to Be Like God!

I once had a young minister in my office that I was seeking to lead into the LIFE that Jesus wants us all to experience... I asked him to turn to a particular passage, and he could not find it. As he searched frantically, he blamed the Bible I had handed him, saying he was not used to that Bible. Hmmmm.... What was the issue here? He was embarrassed that he as a pastor could not find the passage quick enough.

Naturally, I sought to lead him into an understanding that God was trying to reveal to Him in that moment how "blitzed" he was by the fall of man into rebellion against God. His thought process was that he should be able to find it quicker --- HE SHOULD KNOW WHERE THAT PASSAGE WAS!!!

Remember what the lie was that we were all birthed under? "You shall be as God!" Oh, what a horrid thing... I have to be strong! I have to be in control! I have to know all things! Oh my goodness, do you realize the burden that is on us because of that lie? We have to be like God, when we lack the resources to be God!

NO! That is a lie! We were never created to be strong, we were created to be dependent on the One Who is strong! We were not designed to be in control, we were designed to be dependent on the One Who is in control. And we were never supposed to know everything, we were supposed to be dependent on the One Who knows all things. We were designed to be children, who have a really great Father!

Take yourself off the treadmill of having to be like God, that is way too much pressure for anyone to live under. Decide to be what you were created to be... a weak human being, who doesn't know very much at all, but oh what a God you have... He offers to be all that He is, to all that you need at the moment of faith... 

In other words, relax! Do not take yourself too seriously. God has built His church just fine without you for 2,000 years. I have a feeling He will continue to build it just fine long after we are gone.

Cake and Icing

There are two main Greek words used in the Bible for life. One is the word “baios” from which we get biography. It refers to life as man lives it. The other word is “zoe” which refers to life as God lives it! The dynamic of what the Bible teaches is that we have the potential to experience both of those at the same time, which is something the unbeliever cannot do.

An unbeliever has “baios” life bestowed upon him by God, and he lives his life in this world. When we place our faith in Jesus, and He takes up residence within us, we now have the opportunity to experience and express the “zoe life” – life as God lives it, at the same time we experience “baios” life, as we ourselves as man live it. Amazing!

I want to illustrate it this way. “Zoe” life is like having cake. Cake is a wonderful thing to have. It is sweet and wonderful. Cake can often come with icing, and cake and icing are really what I want to have most in this life. Icing is when “baios” life, is going very well. Icing is when the kids are happy and obedient, and my spouse is happy and content, and there is money in the bank, and I am feeling really good. That is cake and icing, and I really love icing with my cake.

The problem, is that “baios” life, life in this fallen world, is all too often not a very good thing. Very often my kids are in trouble, and I am at odds with my spouse, and there are bills piling up, and there is no icing for me. BUT HERE IS THE KEY! I still have my cake, and will always have my cake. No one and no circumstance can ever take away my cake. I may prefer to have icing, and it may hurt to not have the icing, but I HAVE MY CAKE! I have my “Zoe” life to enjoy even in the darkest days that I experience in a fallen world.

Let me put it another way. There may be tears of sorrow and grief cascading down my cheeks (no icing, fallen world baios life), but at the very same time because God lives in me, I experience peace, joy, and rest (cake; Zoe life). Praise God for this wonderful mystery, now revealed, Christ in us, our hope of glory! (Col. 1)

How Much Will God Give You?

There are many phrases that are often quoted in church, but not in the Bible: 

"Cleanliness, is next to godliness." That is a good one, cleanliness is important, but it has nothing to do with godliness. NOT IN THE BIBLE!

"God helps those who help themselves." A good call for a work ethic, but again NOT IN THE BIBLE!

"God will never give you more than YOU can handle." Sounds good, but again NOT IN THE BIBLE!

There is a verse in the Corinthian letters, that God will not allow you to be "tempted" beyond what "you" are able because "HE" will provide a way out... but that is talking about temptation, not the traumas of living in a fallen world (though the enemy can use those physical traumas to tempt us)...

The truth is that God will allow more than you can handle in this world in terms of physical trouble. In II Cor 1, Paul says that so much trouble had come into his life, that he was despairing of life. Can you imagine what would happen in our modern church with its health and wealth doctrines if Paul shared that in a testimony meeting? He would probably be rushed off the stage.

Paul had so much trauma in his life that he despaired of life, until he recognized, affirmed, and experienced in the present moment that God was allowing the experience of death in this fallen world to lead Paul to God, so that in faith Paul would experience at that very same moment the resurrection power of God!

Just to make sure we understand this, Paul repeated it again in II Cor. 4. Every day he said, he experiences death in this fallen world, that he might also experience the power of the resurrection life of Jesus that overwhelms his experience of death.

And again in II Cor. 12, Paul said it a third time, that God is on an agenda of making us weak (bringing to us more than we in our own strength can handle). Why would God do such a thing? So that when we look to Him in faith, we will find ----- NOT that our strength is sufficient, but that His is.

The truth is that God will allow into our lives MORE THAN WE CAN HANDLE, to expose to us our true state of utter and desperate weakness apart from Him. In this manifestation and revelation of our weakness, we are offered the provision of His strength.... and by faith we find Him to be God to us in ways that we never would have known before.

Knowing this profound promise of strength, and incredible experience of God, Paul then said, "bring on the afflictions"!!!

Can I paraphrase this dear man?

Though these "trauma times" in life may be more than I can handle, they are not more than God can handle, and through them, I come to know and experience God and the power of His very own glorious, resurrection LIFE in ways I never knew before...."