Arise

Arise

By Michael W. Raley

Arise out of the darkness,

Though it be familiar and convenient.

Fight and flee from what holds you down.

Mute the increasing clamor

And listen for that quiet inner voice.

Arise and re-focus your mind.

Filter everything as if this was your last day,

Ask yourself, “At the end, will this matter?”

Your time and energy are limited,

Make the most of them.

Arise, manage your judgments and perceptions

To find that tranquility and contentment

You so desperately desire.

Do not stumble on what is behind;

Look and walk ahead with clarity.

Arise, be the change you want to see.

Though the tide be against you, keep swimming.

Seek the love and faith that lies outside of yourself,

For it is there you will find the love, acceptance, and grace

You have denied yourself. Arise! Arise! Arise!

The Testament of Jesus’ Resurrection

The Lord Jesus Christ is the most influential person to ever walk on this earth. Over the course of 2,000 years, the influence of Christ has rippled through history as a stone thrown into a pond. Until recent politically correct times, the calendar was defined as times before Christ and after Christ. As we conclude this Holy Week with Resurrection Sunday (or Easter, if you prefer), we will no doubt focus on the Gospels, but what about the testament of Jesus’ resurrection outside of the Gospels?

First Corinthians was written in approximately 55 A.D., roughly two decades after the events of the Gospels and even precludes the writing of at least one Gospel, the Gospel of John, which could have been written in the late First Century. In 1st Corinthians chapter 15, the Apostle Paul systematically lays out the Gospel, Jesus’ resurrection appearances, the consequences if Jesus did not rise from the dead, our assurances as believers, and the transformation of our mortal bodies into our glorified spiritual bodies. However, I want to focus on Paul’s Gospel, his accounts of Jesus’ resurrection appearances, and the consequences if Jesus did not rise from the dead.

Paul’s Gospel

*Paul states that Jesus died for our sins (1 Cor. 15:3).

*Jesus died as fulfillment of Scripture (1 Cor. 15:3).

*Jesus was buried (1 Cor. 15:4).

*Jesus rose again on the third day (1 Cor. 15:4).

Jesus’ Resurrection Appearances

*Jesus appeared to Peter and the other disciples (1 Cor. 15:5).

*Jesus appeared to 500 people,many of whom were still alive when Paul wrote this letter (1 Cor. 15:6).

*Jesus was seen by His brother, James, and the other apostles (1 Cor. 15:7).

*Jesus appeared to Paul (1 Cor.15:8).

It is important to note that the biblical standard for testimony was based on two, even three witnesses. In the case of Jesus’ resurrection and Paul’s writing, potentially hundreds of people could have stepped forward and refuted his claims, which could have stopped the Gospel dead in its tracks.

If Jesus was not Risen…

For many religions, including Christianity, there is a belief in an afterlife. For other religions, there’s belief in reincarnation. There are others who simply do not believe that we live on after we die; death is simply the end of existence. However, what separates Christianity from other faiths is that our Savior rose from the dead. No other faith has a resurrected Savior, which is a bold claim to make. Paul goes on to explain the reality if Christ did not rise from the dead.

*If there is no resurrection of the dead, Christ is not risen (1 Cor. 15:13; 15:16).

*Our preaching and faith are in vain (1 Cor. 15:14; 15:17).

*We are false witnesses of God because we have testified that God raised Christ from the dead (1 Cor. 15:15).

*We are still in our sins (1 Cor. 15:17).

*Those who have died believing in Christ are lost (1 Cor. 15:18).

*If Christ is our only hope in this life, then we are miserable and pitiful (1 Cor. 15:19).

As we come to the conclusion of another Holy Week, let us take the time to examine what we believe in why we believe it. Outside of Christ, what do we have? With Christ, what do we have? An empty tomb and hope. God bless you all.

Confronting Our Self-Doubt

If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt as far as possible all things.” -Rene Descartes

Doubt- fear’s annoying little brother. “Do you really think you can do this?” “Are you sure?” “What if your gut feeling is wrong?” “How do you know what you believe is true?”

Everyone has doubts- which can be useful at times, as we may avoid potentially painful episodes in our lives. Doubt also allows us to seek after the truth in a world where we cannot believe everything we see, hear, or read.

However, doubt becomes a problem when it brings us to a place of anxiety and inaction. Doubt will make us question long-held beliefs about ourselves, our abilities, or even the nature of our relationship to God. Doubt in its most crippling form brings uncertainty and a lack of conviction. Doubt also causes us to waver and hesitate with our actions. We try to save face and justify not going forward with a statement such as, “It just wasn’t the right time.”

“Whoever watches the wind will not plant; whoever looks at the clouds will not reap.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, NIV).

There is no condemnation here for anyone who has ever doubted or maybe you are going through a time of doubt. Jude 22 tells us to “Be merciful to those who doubt.” (NIV). Show love, mercy, and compassion to those who are going through such a difficult time.

To make use of a cliché, doubt is literally “the oldest trick in the book.” Consider the serpent’s (Satan’s) encounter with Eve in the Garden of Eden.

“Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, ‘Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1, NIV).

Satan planted the first seeds of doubt concerning God’s word. However, Eve responded with the truth of what God said.

“The woman said to the serpent, ‘We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden,and you must not touch it, or you will die.’”(Genesis 3:2-3, NIV).

Eve 1, Satan 0. Satan then digs deeper into his bag of tricks, where he questions the truth of God’s word and God’s motives for His commandment. In essence, Satan responds with an attack of God’s goodness and nature.

“’You will not certainly die,’ the serpent said to the woman. ‘For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.’”(Genesis 3:4-5, NIV).

Eve 1, Satan 1. Eve then eats the forbidden fruit and gives some to Adam. Sin infects all of creation and humanity is cursed through the fall. Eve 1, Satan 2. Game, set, match.

Thousands of years later, Satan tries the same tactics on Jesus as outlined in both Matthew 4 and Luke 4, but is unsuccessful. With his temptation of Jesus, Satan tries to make Jesus doubt His identity by uttering “If you be the Son of God.”

We can believe in the Bible, we can know our salvation is secure, we can know that we are loved, but we can still be riddled by self-doubt. This self-doubt will keep us in a lowly place and continue to feed the negative thoughts and emotions which poison our streams of Living Water. If we are so hindered by doubt, the temptation is always there to quit. Just give up. However, if we reach down and reach outside of ourselves, we can conquer our doubts.

I spent the last two months struggling with doubt and perceived looming failure. I have mentioned this in previous posts, but I decided at the age of 40 to go back to school to start a new career. I was doing great on the homework and keeping up with classwork despite working six days a week. However, I was not unable to pass the certification tests, which are essential to the career field I have chosen. I have always been a pretty good student, but these consecutive failures wore on my confidence. I had placed too much pressure on myself concerning this next test I was scheduled to take. This was going to be my last stand. Failed it. The next morning I wrote an email to my instructor, a school administrator, and the assistant campus director, informing them I was withdrawing. I was fully aware of the financial ramifications of my actions. I placed my failure solely on me, it was not the school’s or the instructor’s fault, it was me.

I received a reply back from the assistant campus director who wanted to discuss the matter further. My wife and my parents were encouraging, and so was the school. I decided to stick it out and the school placed me with a tutor, who worked with me on a previous test, and I passed. I have one certification under my belt. This boosted my confidence and changed the whole dynamic of me believing in myself. I know that abilities come solely from God, yet we must make use of the resources He provides.

If you are struggling in your self-confidence, here are some practical steps you can take to help you reach your goals:

  1. Realize that it’s going to be difficult.

  2. Realize that everyone goes through this.

  3. Focus on what you can control.

  4. Don’t worry about what you can’t control.

  5. Stop comparing yourself to others

  6. Realize your talents are unique to you.

  7. Progress, no matter how small, is progress nonetheless.

  8. Don’t allow your age to hinder you.

  9. Swallow your pride- make use of your resources.

God bless you all.

Process, Perception, and Victory

“Victory has a thousand fathers, but defeat is an orphan.” -John F. Kennedy

The sweet taste of victory can be quickly replaced with the bitter taste of failure. The elation of going to the championship game in any sport can be countered with the agony of a crushing defeat.  The whole season can be and is often judged as a failure because the team did not take home the trophy. I have heard championship winning athletes discuss how the losses stuck with them longer than the victories. So it is with our lives as defeat and failure loom larger than any successful endeavor.

Think of the most successful person you know. Have they always been on top of their game? Were they always the company’s best salesperson? Were they always the best musician? Were they the best money manager?  Were they always this wise, Yoda-like person? Probably not.

Success and failure are a matter of perception. We may see someone’s external success, but we never see the internal struggle. We compare their success to our current situation, but we never take into account they could have at one point faced our obstacles. Statistically speaking, we will have more perceived failure than perceived victories.

If you were to ask the most casual or non-observant sports fan to name a historical or current Major League Baseball player, I sure the name George Herman “Babe” Ruth would come up. Until 1974, Babe Ruth was the all-time home run hitter in MLB, with 714 home runs. Ruth also won 94 games as a pitcher and had a lifetime batting average of .342. Ruth also won a total of seven championships with the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees. That’s a rock-solid resume of baseball immortal, right?

What if I you that Babe Ruth struck out 1,330 times? Does that change your perception of him? Or take Ruth’s lifetime average of .342. That means that if  Ruth went to bat 1,000 times, he would get a hit to get on base 342 times. So, almost two-thirds of the time Babe Ruth did not get on base. I am not disparaging Babe Ruth, I am simply illustrating how we look at the successes, but not look at the struggle. People remember the home runs, not the strikeouts.

(Statistics courtesy of http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/r/ruthba01-bat.shtml accessed 5 February 2017).

Life is a process. All of us must go through our process. Failure is not fatal. A setback is an opportunity to step back and reassess the situation. If our process is flawed, we can correct it. If it is something beyond our control, we must have the wisdom to know that as well. We, like Babe Ruth, will not always hit a home run in life, but we must keep getting up to bat. If we were to view our struggles as preparation for a larger moment, we will have a solid foundation to fall back on when our next challenge comes.

David was one person from the Bible who recognized the value of the process. David being the youngest brother, had the job of tending his father’s sheep. David had older brothers in King Saul’s army who were being taunted by Goliath. Neither David’s brothers nor the other soldiers accepted Goliath’s challenge. However, David recognized that the process he went through prepared him to take down the giant.

“But David said to Saul, ‘Your servant used to keep his father’s sheep, and when a lion or bear came and took a lamb out of the flock, I went out after it and struck it, and delivered the lamb from its mouth; and when it arose against me, I caught it by its beard,and struck and killed it.” (1 Samuel 17:34-35, NKJV).

David learned the process of taking down creatures larger than himself, thus he knew he could defeat Goliath.

“Your servant has killed both lion and bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them , seeing he has defied the armies of the living God.” (1 Samuel 17:36, NKJV).

Notice how David referred to Goliath: “this uncircumcised Philistine.” David did not acknowledge Goliath’s height or his might as a warrior. David instead grouped his challenge in with everything else. What kind of victorious mindset would we have if we were to think about past victories when we encounter obstacles? “I overcame this diagnosis.” “I came back from bankruptcy.”” I survived that bad relationship.” “I will overcome this too.”

We should not be prideful in our abilities, but recognize that our abilities, processes, and strategies come from God, who is preparing us for the next step. David is not being boastful, because he recognizes who gave him the victory.

“Moreover David said, ‘The Lord, who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.'” (1 Samuel 17:37a, NKJV).

The rest as they say, is history.

Our sanctification is a process. Gaining wisdom is a process. You cannot get the proper results without the process. Step back in the moment. Don’t think about the last pitch, focus on this one. One pitch,one swing. Don’t worry about the conclusion of your life story, write the current chapter one word at a time. God bless you.

 

 

 

Seneca, Providence, and Adversity

“Without an antagonist prowess fades away. Its true proportions and capacities come to light only when action proves its endurance. You must know that good men should behave similarly; they must not shrink from hardship and difficulty or complain of fate; they should take whatever befalls in good part and turn it to advantage. The thing that matters is not what you bear but how you bear it.”- Lucius Seneca, “On Providence.”[1]

 

I recently came across this quote and it gave me pause.  The obstacles and challenges of this life seem to converge and overwhelm us at every opportunity. If you have not been challenged in a while, you do not have to go looking for it, it will find you. We should not live in fear of what comes next, but we must draw on the reserve in our spirits and be ready to apply what we have learned from previous tests.

Every great hero needs a great adversary. Could you imagine Batman without The Joker? Luke Skywalker without Darth Vader? Sherlock Holmes without Professor Moriarty? Think of the countless great athletes who managed to step up their game when faced with an equally talented opponent. All of the training, prayer, study, sleepless nights, thinking, crying, frustration, pain, grief, loss, and hurt have come down to this: it is time to prove it to yourself. You cannot worry about what others will think, you must have the confidence in your God-given abilities. God leads us in and shows us the way.

“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; He will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13, NIV).

Seneca goes further to describe God’s role in our overcoming adversity:

“God’s attitude to good men is a father’s; his love for them is a manly love. ‘Let them be harassed by toil and sorrow and loss,’ says he, ‘that they may acquire true strength.’”[2]

On the surface, that sounds kind of harsh, but God has His reasons, He wants you to be strengthened and He is working on you to become a battle hardened soldier.

“Pampered bodies grow sluggish through sloth; not work but movement and their own weight exhausts them. Prosperity unbruised cannot endure a single blow, but a man who has been at constant feud with misfortunes acquires a skin calloused by suffering; he yields to no evil and even if he stumbles carries the fight on upon his knee.”[3]

We may never get an explanation in this life as to why something happened. Great thinkers, theologians, and philosophers may never answer the question of “Why do we suffer?” to satisfy everyone. But know, like Esther, you “were born for such a time as this.” I will conclude with a few more quotes from Seneca’s essay, “On Providence.”

“Prosperity can come to the vulgar and to ordinary talents, but to triumph over the disasters and terrors of mortal life is the privilege of the great man.”[4]

“Cruelty presses hardest on the inexperienced; the tender neck chafes at the yoke.”[5]

“The demonstration of courage can never be gentle. Fortune scourges and rends us: we must endure it.”[6]

“No tree stands firm and sturdy if it is not buffeted by constant wind; the very stresses cause it to stiffen and fix its roots firmly. Trees that have grown in a sunny vale are fragile. It is therefore to the advantage of good men, and it enables them to live without fear, to be on terms of intimacy with danger and to bear with serenity a fortune that is ill only to him who bears it ill.”[7]

May the Lord bless you and keep you.

[1] Moses Hadas, The Stoic Philosophy of Seneca. New York: W.W. Norton & Company (1958): 30.

[2] Ibid, 30.

[3] Ibid, 30-31.

[4] Ibid, 36.

[5] Ibid, 37-38.

[6] Ibid, 39.

[7] Ibid, 40.

The Irony and Significance of Names

A name can speak volumes about a person. A name can reflect one’s individuality and identity. A name can also reflect one’s familial, cultural, or religious heritage. In ancient biblical times, one’s name was often indicative of that person’s character and reputation. What is interesting is how many people in the Bible lived up or down to their names. The twelve spies sent out by Moses serve as a perfect example of the importance of a name.

The Israelites were on the doorstep of the Promised Land when God told Moses to send out people to inspect it. Moses picked one leader from each tribe and told them to gather information about the land’s people, defenses, natural resources, and agriculture. Moses also told the spies to bring back fruit of the land.

If you have ever heard this story taught in church or Sunday school, you can probably name only two of the spies: Joshua and Caleb. What about the other ten men? Here is the full list of the twelve spies and the meaning of their names:

*Shammua- “One who was heard.”

*Shaphat- “He has established justice.”

*Caleb- “Wholehearted.”

*Igal- “He redeems.”

*Joshua- “The Lord is salvation/the Lord saves.”

*Palti- “My deliverance.”

*Gaddiel- “God is my good fortune.”

*Gaddi- “My good fortune.”

*Ammiel- “People of God.”

*Sethur- “Hidden.”

*Nahbi- “Hidden/timid.”

*Geuel- “Pride of God.”

What is of particular interest is that ten of the twelve names reflect some aspect of God’s character and personality, while two names mean timidity and hiding. This is a bit of foreshadowing for what comes next.

The spies came back after forty days and brought back a cluster of grapes so large is had to be carried with staffs. The spies also brought back pomegranates and figs. The Bible does not say specifically, who gave the report, but what started out as confirmation of God’s word turned into complaining and discouragement.

“They [the spies] gave Moses this account: ‘We went into the land to which you sent us, and it does flow with milk and honey! Here is its fruit. But the people who live there are powerful, and the cities are fortified and very large. We even saw descendants of Anak there. The Amalekites live in the Negev; the Hittites, Jebusites and Amorites live in the hill country; and the Canaanites live near the sea and along the Jordan.’” (Numbers 13:27-29, NIV).

People in the crowd began to murmur amongst themselves when Caleb spoke up:

“We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it.” (Numbers 13:30b, NIV).

God said of Caleb in Numbers 14:24 that he had a “different spirit and follows Me whole-heartily,” however, the people did not listen to Caleb as the other ten spies went on:

“’We can’t attack those people; they are stronger than we are.’ And the spread among the Israelites a bad report about the land they explored. They said, ‘The land we explored devours those living in it. All the people we saw there are of great size. We saw the Nephilim there (the descendants of Anak come from the Nephilim). We seemed like grasshoppers in our own eyes, and we looked the same to them.’” (Numbers13:31b-33, NIV, emphasis mine).

People will often respond more to negativity than they will a positive message. Sometimes all it takes is one person with a rotten attitude to change the course of everyone’s day. The Israelites talked of rebelling and replacing Moses and going back to Egypt. Keep in mind this is the same generation that saw the Red Sea parted, the defeat of the most formidable army on the earth, water come out of rocks, and God supernaturally feeding them, yet they had a “grasshopper” mentality and could not see the giant God they served.

Moses and Caleb stood up before the crowd and encouraged them: “The land we passed through and explored is exceedingly good. If the Lord is pleased with us, He will lead us into that land, a land flowing with milk and honey, and will give it to us. Only do not rebel against the Lord. And do not be afraid of the people of the land, because we will devour them. Their protection is gone, but the Lord is with us. Do not be afraid of them.” (Numbers 14:7b-9, NIV).

However, the people still refused to listen and rebelled further. It was only Moses’ intercession that saved the Israelites from being destroyed on the spot. God decided that the Israelites would not enter the Promised Land until the rebellious generation died, save for Joshua and Caleb. Because of their rebellion, the Israelites had to wander the desert for forty years. Joshua succeeded Moses in leading the people to the land and Caleb sought to take a mountain from giants in his well advanced age.

As we go through this life, we will face our share of giants and obstacles. Many of these giants and obstacles will seem unassailable. We must remember that God is with us. No matter what our name is or means, believers in Christ have a new name: Christians. Our God is known by many names: Jesus, Yahweh, Jehovah, Elohim, Deliverer, Savior, Healer, Redeemer, Rock, Strong Tower, Shepherd, and many more. With the Lord on your side, you shall overcome. God bless you all.

Discovering and Using our Talents

Imagine for a moment you are given an extravagant gift- it could be anything. The person who gave you the gift waits for you to open it, but you just set it aside and say “Thank you.” The Gift Giver leaves and the gift sits on the table where you left it. The next day, the gift is still on the table, unopened. A week goes by and dust is beginning to settle on the gift. The next thing you know is that a month goes by, then a year, maybe longer, and you have yet to open the gift. As you are sitting down watching TV, there’s a knock on the door. It’s the Gift Giver and he wants to know how you enjoyed the gift. You show him the gift sitting on the same table and talk about how you were not sure how he would respond to your opening it. The Gift Giver becomes angry and takes the gift away from you, giving it to someone else.

The above story is an oversimplified, fictionalized, and partial version of the Parable of the Talents, as described in Matthew 25:14-30 (the Parable of the Ten Pounds is found in Luke 19:12-27).

Jesus tells the Parable of the Talents within the context of His Mount Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24-25), where He describes the prophetic signs of His return and what believers must do in order to be prepared. The parable describes the rewards received when one does his or her work for the Kingdom of God.

However, what if we were to examine the Parable of the Talents without the eschatological layers? What would we see? How can we relate this parable to discovering and using our gifts in everyday lives?

“For the kingdom of heaven is like a man traveling to a far country, who called his own servants and delivered his goods to them. And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one, to each according to his own ability; and immediately he went on a journey.” (Matthew 25:14-15, NKJV).

Of course, the man traveling to the far country is Christ ascending to heaven until His second coming. The servants represent all of us. The word “talent” is a term for a substantial amount of money. However, let us use the word talent to indicate our skills, gift and abilities.

From the onset, Jesus is telling us that life is not fair. Unfortunately, not all of us are born into wealth and privilege, nor do we choose the family we are born into, just as we cannot choose our skin color or country of origin. Not all of us have the same talents, skills, gifts and abilities.

The Bible states that the servants were given gifts according to their abilities. Hence, one servant received five talents, another received two talents, and the other received just one talent. The first two servants doubled their money and were commended and rewarded for their faithfulness, while the third servant buried his talent. The third servant let his gift sit on the table.

Listen and read carefully to the words of the third servant:

 “Then he who had received the one talent came and said, ‘Lord, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not scattered seed.  And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the ground. Look, there you have what is yours.’” (Matthew 25:24-25, NKJV).

The servant’s response of hiding his talent indicates two key factors in his decision: an improper understanding of his relationship to his boss (Christ) and fear. When we are not related correctly to Christ, we do not understand our freedom in approaching Him. If we have accepted Christ, we can come boldly to the throne of grace, yet we can hold ourselves back because of guilt and condemnation, believing God is going to “throw the book at us” like some harsh judge. The Bible disproves this unworthy mindset because:

*We can come boldly to the throne of grace (Hebrews 4:16).

*There is no condemnation in Christ (Romans 8:1).

*God took the book of your sins and nailed it to the cross (Colossians 2:13-14).

This unworthy mindset leads to fear. Fear of failure. Fear of making a mistake. Fear of what other people are going to think. Fear that we are diluting ourselves. Fear then drives us to inaction. Fear then causes us to lose out on the opportunity to use our talents. At the end of the parable, the man takes away the talent from the servant and gives it to the man who had ten talents, casting the servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth (Matthew 25:26-30).

Not only was the one talent servant paralyzed by fear, but he also failed to seek wisdom. The first two servants had wisdom on how to trade and invest. We must seek out wisdom and resources when it comes to using our gifts and talents. Wisdom is not reserved for a few people: wisdom is available to all. Godly wisdom is crying out in the streets, but so many reject it (Proverbs 1:20-24). Wisdom is simply applying knowledge and experience to a particular situation.

If you do not know what your talent is, take a personal inventory of what you enjoy. You may discover that you have more than one talent. Do not be afraid to try something. You cannot control what other people will think. You cannot control market conditions, the weather, or anything else outside of your thoughts, emotions, judgments, perceptions, and responses. Do not compare yourself and your opportunities to those of others, because that will only bring discouragement, doubt, and jealousy. God has equipped you for your mission or missions in life. You got this. God bless you all.

Arise and Praise During Your Midnight

At midnight I will rise to give thanks unto thee because of thy righteous judgments.

– Psalm 119:62, KJV

Life is not about how many times you fall, but how many times you rise. I know that when you are tired, you are angry, depressed, oppressed, rejected, dejected, feeling abused and used, living with the pain with no sign of the gain that it is hard to find the good in anything. Every time you seem to get your footing, life clotheslines you like a professional wrestler or delivers a punishing, bone-jarring tackle like a feared middle linebacker. I get it. I have been there. I am going through it, too.

Just as the Psalmist wrote, we must rise at our midnight and praise God. Acts 16:25-40 details the miraculous story of Paul and Silas in the Philippian jail. Paul and Silas were beaten, arrested, and thrown in jail for sharing the gospel. Just imagine the scene of Paul and Silas in jail, there feet bound with stocks of iron, their wounds were still fresh, still stinging, and still bloody. How did Paul and Silas respond to such treatment and an obviously unfair treatment?

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed.” (Acts 16:25-26, KJV).

I just want to encourage you that whatever horrible prison or pit you find yourself in, have the courage to rise and praise God. You are an overcomer in Christ. You are a survivor. Be thankful. Be joyous in spite of the circumstances.  Be mindful of God’s presence. Do not worry about what is not in your control, only work on what you can control- your thoughts, perceptions, actions, words, and responses.  You never know the affect your praise will have on those around you, as the whole prison was shaken and the chains fell off the other prisoners. God bless you all.

Place Your Confidence in God

I am a fan of professional football (American football if you prefer). One of the most exciting parts of the game is in the last two minutes when the losing team tries to comeback. If the losing team has a great or all-time great quarterback, the players and coaches have complete confidence that the quarterback can rally his team to victory. However, there are times when the comeback does not happen-the football is intercepted or fumbled; a normally sure-handed wide receiver drops an easy pass; the field goal attempt sails wide right or wide left; the opposing team wins on a trick play. The loss is devastating for the team and its fans and if left unchecked can shake the confidence of the team and affect the rest of the season.

Sports is a great analogy for life because every day we face opponents. Our opponents rarely wear uniforms, but they come in the form of Satan’s attacks, fear, addiction, depression, sin, bitterness, strife, loss, sickness, and the overall unfairness of life. Where we place our confidence during these times is crucial. If we place our confidence in the wrong person or we become arrogant concerning our own abilities, the loss can be devastating. Going back to football, it is said that great quarterbacks have short memories, meaning they do not dwell on the bad pass or the plays that did not work. These quarterbacks, instead, make the needed adjustments to make the next play work and put their team in position to win. When we go through the “bad plays” of life we also need to work on having a short memory about our mistakes and failures, so that we can place ourselves in a position to make a comeback and allow the Lord to direct us.

I believe it is important to be confident in life. However, our security should not rest in our abilities alone or in others, but we must rely on God to guide us through the difficult times. No matter the result, we can rest assured that God has our best interest at heart and is molding us to become more Christ like. If you were to do a word study of the Hebrew and Greek words for confidence, they mean much the same as our English word. The Hebrew words for confidence deal with “security or trust,” while the Greek words can deal with “assurance, persuasion, or even a foundation.”

“Though an army besiege me, my heart will not fear; though war break out against me, even them will I be confident…For in the day of trouble He will keep me safe in His dwelling; He will hide me in the shelter of His sacred tent and set me upon a rock…I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:2-3, 5, 13-14, NIV).

“In the fear of the Lord is strong confidence: and his children shall have a place of refuge.” (Proverbs 14:26, KJV).

“His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to His eternal purpose that He accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In Him and through faith in Him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.” (Ephesians 3:10-11, NIV).

“Being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV).

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are His house if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory.” (Hebrews 3:6, NIV).

“And now dear children, continue in Him, so that when He appears we may be confident and unashamed before Him at His coming.” (1 John 2:28, NIV).

“Dear friends, if our hearts do not condemn us, we have confidence before God and receive from Him anything we ask, because we keep his commands and do what pleases Him.” (1 John 3:21, NIV).

“This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us.” (1 John 5:14, NIV).

Where’s your confidence? Have recent events shaken you? Are you bound by fear and indecision that you do not want to make a move? I encourage you to place your confidence in God and His Holy Spirit will guide you. This time of your life is but a tiny piece of a mosaic painting- it is one picture, but we step back we see how God the artist is using that piece to form a bigger picture. God is not through with you. God is not angry with you. People or circumstances may have you down, but the Lord will pick you up and hold you up. Place your confidence in Him. God bless you.