11.30.2018

The weaker we are - the stronger we can become!

Last week Dennis and I were unable to join our church body for worship because we needed to stay home while he recovered from shoulder surgery. We enjoyed a nice, quiet morning together, but soon learned we had missed out on a most excellent sermon. I was finally able to sit uninterrupted to listen to it in its entirety this afternoon, and my goodness was I blessed by doing so!

Whether you read my notes below or listen to the actual sermon, I pray you will be equally encouraged, challenged, and convicted to stop focusing on the thorn that causes your particular suffering, but instead focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you in the first place.

Suffering Grace
The strength of weakness

Our text: II Corinthians 12:1-10
It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a one was caught up to the third heaven. And I know such a man—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter. Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me.
And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong.


Our human nature wants the thorns of life removed.
But what if there is a beauty, and a purpose, in KEEPING them?

Our thorns make us weak.
Our weakness makes us needy.
Our need points us to God.
God makes us strong through His grace.

Suffering handled correctly will see an increase of grace in our lives!

➤The PROVIDENCE v.7

●The Picture of the thorn 
(ambiguous because the Scriptures do not name it)
- painful and hurtful, Greek word means "a stake"
- possibly a physical ailment/sickness
- possibly a reoccurring temptation
- possibly the constant opposition to his leadership
- possibly oppression by the enemy

●The Purpose of the thorn
(not at all ambiguous)
- to buffet Paul (buffet = to hold someone down and beat them)
- to keep Paul from being conceited with spiritual pride
- to give Paul a supernatural strength through grace

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an advantage!

God uses discipline to correct past sins
and
to prevent future sins.

●The Providence of the thorn
- While satan is the one who attacked Paul, God permitted the attack. (Job 1, 2)
- God, in His sovereignty, will use satan's harassment to strengthen and humble His people

Paul's difficulty had Divine design written all over it.
There IS a purpose in our pain for God is WORKING in our pain.

There is a GOOD "bad."
"Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Apparently, he roars to frighten us, he stalks and plots against us, but like the lion at the zoo, he is only free within the parameters of his cage. He roams only where God permits." - Erwin Lutzer

➤The PRAYER v. 8
- Paul naturally and rightly prayed for relief from his thorn
- He prayed repeatedly for relief
- Finally, Paul concluded that God was not going to answer the way he wanted God to answer, and the thorn was going to remain

If dependence on Christ is the goal then weakness is an ally!

The thorn is a weapon in the hand of satan - and a tool in the hand of God.

●God does not always heal.
Our health and our happiness are not Gods main concern.
God is concerned with our HOLINESS.

The outer man is dying
but
the inner man can be renewed day by day!

God healed Paul from the need to be healed.

●God does not always answer prayers in the fashion we prayed them.
He answers: "Yes", "No", "Wait", and sometimes, "Yes, but not the way you imagine it."
God did not remove the thorn from Paul but gave Paul the ability to BEAR the thorn through His grace.
Are you willing to trust God with His answer? Even if it looks nothing like your own will?

➤The PROMISE v. 9
- the thorn will remain but God promises to help Paul ENDURE the pain through the gift of His abundant grace and His sufficient strength
- His grace is CONSTANT
For from His fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. John 1:16
- His grace is sufficient to fill us up WITH that grace so we are able to face the trials of life day after day no matter how difficult or how long they may last
- His grace flows freely, pouring over us again and again as long as we need it
- As it flows over us, we will GROW in grace!

➤The PERSPECTIVE v. 10
- Thorns have a value!
They are tools in the hand of God. So put down the hedge clippers!
- We may not want the thorn or like it, but we must appreciate it and trust that the Lord leaves it where it is for a reason
- Our weakness shows His strength because we know we could not do it on our own. We need Him!
- Paul's physical weakness guarded him against spiritual weakness (pride)

Stop focusing on the THORN and focus on the One who allowed it to pierce you.
For the harder we lean on Christ - the stronger we become.

LISTEN to the sermon here ...

11.07.2018

A Night of BEAUTY - and - COMMUNITY.

beauty 
noun
1: the quality in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit: loveliness
2: a beautiful person or thing 
3: a particularly graceful, ornamental, or excellent quality

Synonyms: 
attractiveness, beauteousness, beautifulness, comeliness, cuteness, fairness, gorgeousness, handsomeness, looks, loveliness, prettiness, sightliness

He has made everything beautiful in its time.
Ecclesiastes 3:11

And last night, the Lord drew seven women together and used them to remind each other of the beauty of motherhood, the beauty of special/learning needs, and the beauty of the body of Christ.

I used to plan a detailed agenda for nights like these, wanting everything to be "perfect" and leaving no stone unturned to ensure that each woman would feel blessed and encouraged by the time the evening came to a close. I wanted every need met and every sorrow turned into joy. And then, with my perfect plans placed before me I would pray, "Lord, BLESS IT!" And because He is a faithful God, He did. Even though I was asking for my agenda to be blessed. Not His.
Now, after many hard lessons from His hand, I simply pray, "Lord, do whatever You want!"
And He does.
And every single time, it looks nothing like I imagined it would.
It's BETTER.

Last night was no exception.
Dennis bought me the yellow tulips the night before he left for Cambodia. I love tulips, and the vivid yellow color of this bunch is particularly stunning. I chose to use them as the focal point of the treat tray for our Mom's Night, and when I looked at them again after closing the door behind the last mom to leave, it struck me that the flowers captured the theme of our night together as women. 
Beauty.
the beauty of humility
the beauty of truth
the beauty of transparency
the beauty of empathy
the beauty of compassion
the beauty of sharing
the beauty of listening
the beauty of affection
the beauty of prayer

Because each woman was willing to display these characteristics so freely, we connected with each other in a way that was both needed and desired. And a community was born. It is not a closed community, for all are welcome, and all will be received. We need each other. We have a responsibility toward one another. And with God's grace, we will faithfully and successfully live out the beautiful charge in Scripture:
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. Hebrews 10:24, 25

Father, thank You for an incredibly uplifting night of mutual understanding and edification. You knew the need of every woman before she walked through the door, and it was You who gave each one the courage to share the realities of her days and the hurts of her heart. It was, truly, a night of beauty, and one that will not be forgotten. Thank You, Lord, for Your abundant love for Your children.
How we need You!

11.06.2018

DEPRESSION. An excellent and encouraging sermon!

Sunday morning I sat down in our church sanctuary expecting to hear my pastor's voice resound from the pulpit, but instead, the Lord used another godly man to break down a wonderful Psalm to encourage the hearts of those who battle with depression. And, it was, by far, the BEST sermon I have ever heard preached on this particular passage. His exegesis of the chapter was biblical and on point, but what impressed me more was the gentleness and sincerity that rang out clearly in each word he spoke. His compassion for those who fight against depression was palpable, and his hope that our God can help and heal is apparent.

I could barely keep up with him as I scrawled notes across the pages of my notebook. There is so much truth tucked within these eleven verses! I included the passage here, along with my favorite quotes, but this is a sermon that should be heard and studied in full. Therefore, I included a link so everyone who desires to watch it (and be blessed) may do so!

As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls;
all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42

➤ Depression has always troubled God's people, therefore, it needs to be addressed and responded to biblically.
“I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” - C.H. Spurgeon, preaching to his congregation

➤ The Psalmist paints a vivid picture of what the spiritual battle of depression looks and feels like by sharing his personal reasons for his depression and then declaring the remedy for his depression.
He is not content to remain in his depressed state.
He stops listening to his own voice and starts speaking to himself about the truth of who God is.
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God. Psalm 42:11

➤ Depression is a real battle, and a battle in which the believer must not surrender - but FIGHT!
Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise Him, my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember You
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar. Psalm 42:5

➤ When you feel defeated, dry, despondent, depressed ... do you long for and seek after God more than anything else?
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for You, O God.
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God? Psalm 42:1,2

➤ The cure to depression is not always immediate.
There will be seasons of living between hope and despair.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life. (v. 8)
I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?” (v. 9)

➤ When in the depths of great sorrow, we as believers can recognize God's sovereign hand while also recognizing His faithful kindness toward us.
Deep calls to deep at the roar of Your waterfalls; all Your breakers and Your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love, and at night His song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life. Psalm 42:7,8


Listen to this fantastic sermon in full here.