But There Are Giants in the Land!

“Fear is a manipulative emotion that can trick us into living a boring life.” ― Donald Miller

When’s the last time you came face to face with a giant? How did it make you feel? Afraid, uncertain, faithless, ready to run?

Giants come in all sorts of disguises.

  • Some rear their ugly heads, over and over, pushing back and preventing us from making important transitions to the next step.
  • There are monsters that seem to lurk very near. We believe lies about who we are and we carry around terrible and heavy baggage from the past.
  • Some giants are new and appear as we reach different passages in life like marriage, children, career, sickness and loss. They strike fear as we face our inadequacies and realize hidden dependence.

Facing big challenges is an unavoidable part of living. Children of God typically have two choices when confronted with giants – cower in fear or march headlong with that shield of faith. Where have you got your shield stored these days?

The little brother David (maybe as young as 15) said this when he marched out to face the nine-foot tall Goliath…

“You come to me carrying a sword and spear and javelin as your weapons, but I come armed with the name of the Eternal One, the Commander of heavenly armies, the True God of the armies of Israel, the One you have insulted. This very day, the Eternal One will give you into my hands.” – 1 Samuel 17:45-46 (The Voice)

In this life, there’s always going to be something in your way. It’s unrealistic to expect a life with an empty horizon. Please don’t saddle yourself with unnecessary guilt because you have to face dark monsters along your way. We all do. Just remember that when you come up against these big obstacles in your life, there’s never anything in God’s way.

David could conquer this nine-foot tall fear monger because he marched forward without looking, only believing. Go back and read his challenge again. The most important thing to remember is that the real giant that you and I face is our lack of faith. Faith is the most important building block that God uses to transform our lives.

 “You don’t have enough faith,” Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.” – Matthew 17:20

And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well. Go in peace. Your suffering is over.” – Mark 5:34

In addition to all of these, hold up the shield of faith to stop the fiery arrows of the devil. – Ephesians 6:16

And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him. – Hebrews 11:6

So Peter went over the side of the boat and walked on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw the strong wind and the waves, he was terrified and began to sink. “Save me, Lord!” he shouted. Jesus immediately reached out and grabbed him. “You have so little faith,” Jesus said. “Why did you doubt me?” – Matthew 14:29-31

When the young shepherd David was anointed King of Israel in a private family ceremony, the Prophet Samuel addressed the family’s concerns with this deep truth: “The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” – 1 Samuel 16:7

God is in the business of transforming what matters eternally. He’s always at work trying to get us to believe first and see last. That nine-foot tall Goliath had the entire army of Israel trembling in fear. He looked terrifying. He went down with just a little rock from the river bed. Who would have believed it?  “For we live by believing and not by seeing.” – 2 Corinthians 5:7

The army of Israel was watching with their eyes and trembling in fear. David ran headlong into the conflict with only his belief to carry him to victory. How are you going to get past your giant? God’s not really worried about Goliath. His interest is focused on what’s happening deep inside your soul. He’s looking at your heart. Look around, there are little rocks all over the place. Pick up a few and put them in plain sight so you’ll remember how easy it is to knock down that giant. “Anything is possible if a person believes.” (Jesus, Mark 9:23)

“It is often in our weaknesses that God’s strength is most clearly perceived, and it is often in doing something the world sees as backwards that we are taking spiritual steps forward.” –Trevin Wax

Be Inspired

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Blessed is the man that heareth Me, watching daily at My gates, waiting at the posts of My doors. – Proverbs 8:34

 

See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. – 1 John 3:1

 

Till men have faith in Christ, their best services are but glorious sins. – Thomas Brooks

 

…there is a God in heaven who reveals mysteries… – Daniel 2:28

 

Since He hath looked upon me my heart is not my own. He hath run away to heaven with it. – Samuel Rutherford

 

What matters in life is not what happens to you but what you remember and how your remember it. – Gabriel Garcia Marquez

 

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. – Colossians 3:12

 

You will be dead as long as you refuse to die. – George MacDonald

 

Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the [a]Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. – Matthew 27:27-31

 

 

Remind Us

But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you. – John 14:26

A tap on the shoulder

A familiar look from across the room

Another “a-ha” moment at just the right time

That last ounce of courage when the darkest moment comes

Thinking before you say something that won’t taste very good later

Isn’t this a wonderful promise and description about the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives? He teaches us as we grow up and face every new circumstance. He then reminds us of each important lesson we’ve already learned. So many of those lessons we weren’t even paying attention to at the time. We didn’t know how important it would be later on, how dearly we would need that truth to grasp with all our might when things fell to pieces.

We rationalize and make excuses for basic selfishness. The Holy Spirit is deep within to remind us about sacrifice, devotion, eternity and most of all love. He reminds us about what it means to carry a cross. His voice is there in our ear as when we turn our cheek to another insult. That voice beckons us to our knees to pray first and without ceasing. He draws our eyes heavenward to seek that realm and that will rather than the petty and tarnished castles and kingdoms we so crave here on earth.

The Holy Spirit reminds us that are redeemed to live a new life.

Since you have been raised to new life with Christ, set your sights on the realities of heaven, where Christ sits in the place of honor at God’s right hand. Think about the things of heaven, not the things of earth. For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God.  – Colossians 3:1-3

The Spirit that Jesus has left with each one of us reminds us of who we really are and what we are really here to do. It produces within us a peace that passes our everyday understanding. It makes our cares subside and our thoughts fall into order. We cannot find this gift and its benefits anywhere else, though we search our whole lives. It is here, dwelling within our soul, speaking words of wisdom, comfort and guidance each and every moment. Are you listening? Are you watching? Do you remember?

I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. – John 14:27

The Searcher

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Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. – Colossians 1:15

Humans have always been searching for God. Jump on Amazon, there are hundreds of books written about the topic. The search continues.

The very young, who I encounter in college every day, seem so certain they’ve found all they need in their brief search. I always have one student who’s just brimming with confidence and answers. It’s inspiring.

I’m still searching for answers as I navigate through the shipwreck of this world. Long ago, when I was young and filled with answers, I assumed that one day the search would end.  Someday I’d get to a point where I had it all figured out. Still waiting. God remains a mystery. As He should be.

While I’m searching for the right path to take and looking for more answers to the multiplying problems I keep tripping over, the only certainty that comforts my spirit is what I discover about the words and actions of Christ. More and more, He becomes for me the answer to my restless soul as I search for God each day.

Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel he had around him. – John 13:5

Putting my vanity out the door and bending my knees to serve someone else (who doesn’t even expect it) – that’s where I know I can find God.

“But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you!  In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven.” – Matthew 5:44-45

Treating people who seem to be out to get me as if they were the dearest of friends is the most difficult of journeys to make, and yet that’s where God is waiting.

“But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail.” – Luke 22:32

While enduring his own most agonizing trial of faith, Jesus invests his heart and mind in the life of his friend. As big as they might seem, I can’t let my own problems distract me from caring about the lives of others. This is where God is calling all of us and where He can always be found.

 Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.” – Luke 23:34

Putting down that grudge and taking up my cross is another certain way in which I will find God today. He is always there in the midst of forgiveness. Waiting at the gate to welcome home the wandering child. Pouring out a wealth of forgiveness to ones who owed a debt of sin. “But all the wickedness in the world which man may do or think is no more to the mercy of God than a live coal dropped in the sea.” – William Langland

As I search, I can look to the words and deeds of Christ and always find what I’m longing for.

Walking to Emmaus Part 3

 

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Then one of them, Cleopas, replied, “You must be the only person in Jerusalem who hasn’t heard about all the things that have happened there the last few days.” “What things?” Jesus asked. “The things that happened to Jesus, the man from Nazareth,” they said. “He was a prophet who did powerful miracles, and he was a mighty teacher in the eyes of God and all the people. But our leading priests and other religious leaders handed him over to be condemned to death, and they crucified him.  We had hoped he was the Messiah who had come to rescue Israel. This all happened three days ago.” – Luke 24:18-21

The great works of God were in the past tense for these two disciples. They were now in retreat. They had misunderstood who Jesus was, had sold him short. They described to this stranger a different kind of conflict because they had expected a different kind of rescue. Their savior was someone who could be “handled” by the authorities, someone who could not control events as they happened to him, a victim. What a crushing feeling of disappointment must have been written across their faces.

If only they had really heard what Jesus had been trying to communicate all along.

It makes me wonder about things that I might be missing. I wonder what the Holy Spirit has been trying to tell me and then I wonder what I’ve actually been hearing.  Sometimes it’s hard to hear life changing messages when you’re very busy propping up an agenda about yourself:

  • You see I want to make a point
  • I need to appear strong, not weak
  • I want to be moving forward in my spiritual journey, not backward
  • When people ask, I should have answers
  • Why would anyone come to me for help if I look unsteady?

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul? – Matthew 16:24-26

It is increasingly difficult for the visible man to hear and understand eternal truth.

Did you pick up any “attitude” in Cleopas reply? “What kind of dumb hick are you? Let me explain what’s been going on.”  They are walking in the wrong direction yet are able to maintain a clear air of superiority. I wonder what that feels like, I’m glad I never act like that (ha!).

This part of the story is that constant and classic reminder to us all that we often misunderstand God’s will and then go about constructing and living in a different reality (Gordon-Conwell Seminary estimates that there are 43,000 Christian denominations world-wide, all reading the same Bible). That’s why Jesus taught his disciples to pray for God’s will on earth as it is in heaven. That’s why he came and joined these two on the crooked road to Emmaus, to straighten things out.

And He gives grace generously. – James 4:6

He is Alive and Still Praying

Who then will condemn us? No one—for Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us.  – Romans 8:34

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I may have stirred everyone up today. I told people in my Sunday School department that Jesus wasn’t living in their hearts. That’s not a nice thing to say on Easter Sunday.

Lot’s of fidgeting around in their plastic chairs. I was racing to get it all in before members of the choir had to leave early and everyone else needed to exit in time to get a seat for the packed Easter worship service that follows. I wish I had slowed down and let people process what they were hearing. That always works best. It may be a lot to think about if you’ve grown up singing “Since Jesus came into my heart…”

“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift each of you like wheat. But I have pleaded in prayer for you, Simon, that your faith should not fail. So when you have repented and turned to me again, strengthen your brothers.” – Luke 22:31-32

I had never noticed this before. As we were studying the life of Christ these past few years, I saw for the first time Jesus talking with Peter about His prayers and what He hoped the results would be. As I thought about this I wanted to remind my class that Jesus wasn’t living in their hearts (like our hymns might wrongly teach us) but he was still fully human, fully God and still fulfilling His mission in Heaven.

God has sent the Holy Spirit to reside in our hearts.

“If you love me, obey my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you.”  John 14:15-18

Remembering that Jesus isn’t in my heart but instead is in heaven helps me to realize what He is doing for me there. He has ascended as victor over death and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He is preparing a place for me. He is going to return one day as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords. Now he is interceding for me as He did for Peter, pleading in prayer, that my faith would not fail.

Notice that he told Peter not that he was going to pray that all of his problems would go away nor that he would be able to avoid his trials with a happy attitude. He prayed for Peter’s faith, that it would not fail. Not that Peter would necessarily feel better about himself, but that he would have the maturity and wisdom to lift up his fellow apostles. Jesus was praying for Peter and his faith so that he could use that faith for the sake of others and in so doing launch the church. Instead of sinking into self-destructive despair because of his denial, Peter becomes one of the key leaders in the birth of Christianity.

Jesus was already praying for Peter as he prepared Himself for the cross.

Therefore he is able, once and forever, to save those who come to God through him. He lives forever to intercede with God on their behalf. – Hebrews 7:25

He is alive, He has risen from the dead.

Jesus is now in Heaven and He is praying for me – He is praying for you.