Tuesday, May 22, 2018

He Changed His Behavior

In Psalm 56, David talks about an experience that he had with fear.  He writes “O God, have mercy on me, for people are hounding me.  My foes attack me all day long.  I am constantly hounded by those who slander me, and many are boldly attacking me.” (Psalm 56:1 – 2 NLT)  Now, when David talks about enemies hounding him and attacking him … this wasn’t hypothetical.  Throughout his life he had literal enemies seeking to kill him.  

The history of this Psalm is based upon the story of when David was seized by the Philistines in Gath.  This story is found in 1 Samuel 21.  David is on the run. King Saul had been trying to kill him for some time. And, as David is running from Saul, he does something unexpected.  He runs away from one enemy and in to the hands of another.  1 Samuel 21:10 – 11 reads, “So David escaped from Saul and went to King Achish of Gath.  But the officers of Achish were unhappy about his being there. ‘Isn’t this David, the king of the land?’ they asked.  ‘Isn’t he the one the people honor with dances, singing, ‘Saul has killed his thousands, and David his ten thousands?’” 

Then we come to verse 12.  This verse is interesting to me.  Here we have David … and if you know a little bit about him, you know that he’s quite the warrior.  He was brave enough to kill a bear … bold enough to kill a lion … courageous enough to face and kill Goliath.  David has killed his “ten thousands.” He seemingly wasn’t afraid of anything. But, in 1 Samuel 21:12 we read this:  “David heard these comments and was very afraid of what King Achish of Gath might do to him.”  There was obviously something about Achish or the situation that David was in that made him very afraid.  

In my own experience with fear, I often find that facing the unknown is what often produces the most fear in my life.  An “unknown” is always followed by a “what if.”  What if this happens and my life ends up in shambles?  What if I do this and I fail? What if I’m left all alone?  What if I let someone down?  What if others think poorly of me?  What if my family suffers? What if I can’t do it? What if?  What if?  What if?

For David, I believe the fear was, “What if I’ve made a mistake in coming to this guy for safety?  Could this be the mistake that ends my life?” So, what did David do?  1 Samuel 21:13 tells us:  “So he changed his behavior before them and pretended to be insane in their hands and made marks on the doors of the gate and let his spittle run down his beard.” (ESV)

That doesn’t sound very brave, does it?  That doesn’t sound like a man who people sing songs about. It does sound like a man who is afraid and it causes me to ask one simple question: How do I change my behavior when I’m afraid?  

It’s really easy to trust God when things are going well and when life is stable.  But, when the storms come and the foundation begins to shake, I can easily find myself living differently.  Fear has a way of shaping what I believe, which will in turn begin to shape the way I live. When that happens, I notice that I often stop living in faith and I start living in fear.  What does that look like?

Faith trusts. Fear panics.  
Faith stands. Fear retreats.  
Faith endures. Fear rejects.  
Faith believes. Fear deceives.  
Faith liberates. Fear enslaves.  
Faith anticipates. Fear worries.  
Faith moves mountains. Fear sees mountains.  
Faith says, “Why not me?” Fear says, “Not me.”  
Faith believes God’s word. Fear believes my own eyes and ears.  

In this story, David’s fear began to shape his behavior … and if it can happen to David, it can happen to any of us.  But fear, like any emotion, can actually be something God uses.  When our fears are surrendered to Him, we discover that God begins to shape us even more than our fear.  

David wrote Psalm 56 as he reflected back on this entire situation.  I can’t say this for sure, but I wonder if, as David was looking back on it all, if he thought to himself:  “What was I thinking?  Why did I change my behavior?  Why did I live in fear and not in faith?”  As he is writing out his thoughts to God, he begins to remind himself of a few things. In Psalm 56:3 – 4 David writes: “But when I am afraid, I will put my trust in you. I praise God for what he has promised. I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  What can mere mortals do to me?”

It’s almost as if he is saying, “If I’m put in the same situation again, I will respond differently.  When I was afraid, I made a foolish decision and ran to the Philistines. Next time, I will put my trust in God. When I was afraid, I made a fool of myself in front of the Philistines.  Next time, I will put my trust in God.” He surrendered his fear to God. This led to him being shaped by his God more than his fear.

In Psalm 56, David reminds himself that he has a lot of enemies … and those enemies are after him.  Most of us do not have actual enemies seeking to kill us, but life does throw a whole lot our way.  None of us are promised tomorrow.  None of us have complete control over any situation.  We’re all only a tragedy away from life being completely turned upside down.  In life, something will happen that causes us to be afraid. So, the question isn’t, “Will I be afraid?”  The question is, “What will I do when I am?”  

In verse Psalm 56:10 – 11, David once again says, “I praise God for what he has promised; yes, I praise the Lord for what he has promised.  I trust in God, so why should I be afraid?  What can mere mortals do to me?”

Just because we may not see God working doesn’t mean He’s not working.  What this means is that we can be afraid and yet still step toward things with a confident hope.  We know that we do not place our feet anywhere that God has not already been … and we can trust that He is for us.

Are you afraid today?   Is that fear causing you to “change your behavior?”  Is it shaping the way you live? It can happen to the best of us.  If it’s happening to you right now, take some time to pray through Psalm 56 and surrender your fear to Him.  Ask God to remind you of who He is and to shape you through this surrendered fear. What you choose to believe and who you decide to trust will make all the difference in the world.

Monday, May 7, 2018

Little Moments vs. Big Moments

I spent some time reading the story of Esther recently. The most popular verse in the book is Esther 4:14.  The last part of that verse says, “Who knows, perhaps you have come to your royal position for such a time as this.”

The reason we read about Esther today is because of the decision she made in that moment.  Her life was in danger.  Her people were on the verge of being wiped out.  And yet we read about her today because she decided to trust God, put her life on the line, and stand up to save her people from destruction.  

That was a huge moment for Esther … but the truth her life was not made up of huge moments like that.  Her life, like ours, was made up primarily of small moments, not monumental ones.  

The reality for us is that most of our decisions will not go down in history. Most of our moments are not going to be recorded for all to read.  Most of our moments in everyday life are just simple, everyday moments … ordinary, routine, and even unexciting.

When we read a verse like Esther 4:14 … that you were created for such a time as this … we often tend to think that means we were created for some huge moment.  The problem is that if we keep searching for the huge moment, we’ll miss the thousand little moments that come our way every day.  One author wrote: “The truth is that you and I live in little moments, and each of these moments is loaded with opportunity.” 

Don’t make the mistake of spending your life looking for the one or two big moments.  You will do so at the expense of the countless little moments of opportunity that will cross your path every day.  The character and quality of our life is forged in those little moments.  And, it’s in those little moments that God wants to meet you and empower.  

So, who knows … maybe you have come to this little moment for such a time as this … The little moment of dropping everything to focus on your wife … The little moment of putting your phone down and playing with your kids … The little moment of being kind to the barista that messes up your order … The little moment to choosing to forgive … The little moment of going out of your way to help someone.

I don’t know if God will bring a huge moment your way. I do know that He will bring you a whole lot of little moments, though, because these are the moments that make up our lives and help shape us into the person He wants us to be.  What that means is small does not mean insignificant. Over time, small acts of kindness, small acts of commitment, small acts of generosity, small acts of discipline will add up and become “big” in our life or in the life of someone else


Two Questions to Consider:

Where do you see God working in your little moments?

How do the little moments prepare you for the bigger moments?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

In My Distress

If we feel bad about feeling bad, we are in danger of missing the Gospel.  As I look at my own life and reflect on the times I have dealt with “negative” emotions such as sadness, grief, anxiety, or shame, I have caught myself often trying to:

  • Run from these feelings through escapist behaviors.
  • Keep a stiff upper lip and remain unemotional through it all.
  • Stuff them further and further inside pretending as if nothing is happening.
  • Add stress to my distress by circling whatever is happening again and again, unwilling to think about anything else.


The prophet Jonah offers a much healthier way to engage these types of “negative” emotions … a way that enables us to know our Savior even in the midst of our darkest times.  In Jonah 2:1 we read, “Then Jonah prayed to the LORD his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried, and you heard my voice.” 

There are two words to highlight here and two phrases to which we need to pay attention.  First, the two words: 

1. Distress which means “extreme anxiety, sorrow, or pain”

2. Sheol, which is a Hebrew word referring to the realm of the dead, the grave, or death itself.

It’s an understatement to say that Jonah is facing a pretty difficult situation here.  The “distress” he is referring to is that he had been thrown overboard in the middle of a raging sea … a storm so bad that seasoned sailors were terrified.  The waves are crashing over him.  He’s fighting for every breath.  His muscles are beginning to fatigue.  His lungs are crying out for air.  He is feeling death grab him and slowly pull him further and further down.  He literally felt as if he was in Sheol, experiencing death itself.

Jonah’s situation may not be ours and his distress may not be our distress, but we all know that pain is pain.  Hurt is hurt.  Distress is distress.  Sometimes we experience those things at no fault of our own and other times the reality is that it is completely our fault.  Whatever the reasons, if we choose to run from the feelings, remain unemotional through them, stuff them, or ruminate over them, we are in danger of doing more harm than good.  Is there a better way? This leads us to the two phrases:

1. "I called out to the LORD"

2. "You heard my voice" 

Jonah, in his prayer, repeats a very common phrase throughout the Old Testament:  “In my distress I called to the LORD.”  (2 Samuel 22:7, 2 Chronicles 15:4, Psalm 18:6, 86:7, 118:5, 120:1)  This shows us that we can take all of our situations, and the “good” and “bad” emotions attached to them, to the Lord.  I don’t have to be afraid of Him.  I can engage Him in the midst of what I’m feeling.  Why?  He hears our voice.  Throughout the Old Testament, every time God’s people called out to Him in their distress and asked Him to take notice … He did.  What that means is we can engage God by engaging our emotions.  If we run from them, ignore them, stuff them, or add greater stress to them by ruminating over them, then, as Jonah says in 2:8, we are turning our back on all God’s mercies.  “When we do anything besides engaging God with our emotions we are actually short circuiting the very purpose of our emotions.  God is wanting to use these to draw us toward Him.” (Alasdair Groves)

The Psalms give us a beautiful picture of how to do this.  In Psalm 4:1, David writes: “Answer me when I call, O God of my righteousness! You have given me relief when I was in distress. Be gracious to me and hear my prayer!”  Please allow me to refer to what Paul David Tripp says about this verse: 

“In the midst of trouble, David remembered the acts of God. Notice how the above phrase is in the past tense – ‘you  have  given me relief when I  was  in distress.’ He’s not thanking the Lord for currently relieving his distressing circumstances.

What can we learn from David? In times of trouble,  it's helpful to remember with specificity the past acts of God’s relieving mercy and grace.

You and I have such a short-term memory. Because of sin, we’re all about the gratification and pleasure of today. When trouble comes knocking, we get absorbed in the immediate, forgetting what God has delivered us from in the past and what he’s transforming us into for the future.

David speaks gospel sense to his soul: “Remember, this is not new. I’ve experienced trouble in the past and God was good to me then. He remains good to me today, and what I’m facing is not out of his loving and wise rule.”


We will be more willing to engage God in this way when we remember who He is.  This is what Jonah did.  (Jonah 2:7) When we remember that, “You, Lord, are forgiving and good, abounding in love to all who call to you” (Psalm 86:5) and that “You, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness” (Psalm 86:15), we will be more willing to run to Him rather than run away from Him.  As we do, I believe we will begin to experience the grace that could be ours and see the words of Psalm 94:19 become truth in our life:  “When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

How God Speaking to Us Can Help Us Know How to Speak to Him

I was reading an article recently that studied the impact of parents talking with young children who were just learning to talk. The researchers found that no matter what a family’s economic or social situation, the more that parents engaged in daily conversations with their children, the more rapidly the children’s vocabularies grew (Hart & Risley, 1999).
Nearly all families talk with their children to get things done. If you have kids, phrases such as “You need to finish your dinner,” or “It’s time to get dressed,” or “Stop cleaning the window with a hotdog bun,” (well, maybe that’s just my family) are probably very familiar to you. The point is, we all talk to our children in order to get things accomplished, but the real magic happens when we talk to them simply for the pleasure of talking to them. Not only does this strengthen our relationship with our kids, but also the research in the article stated that this type of conversation is highly related to children’s vocabulary growth.
I believe the same is true in our relationship with God. God has initiated a conversation with us by giving us the Bible. Through his Word, God reveals to us who He is and what He does and who He is calling us to be. And, the more I immerse myself in his Word, the more I am able to learn how to pray. In his book called Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God, Tim Keller wrote, “We speak only to the degree we are spoken to.” Eugene Peterson also wrote, “All speech is answering speech. We were all spoken to before we spoke.”
Just as studies have shown that a child’s vocabulary grows the more their parents speak to them, I believe our prayer lives can grow the more we allow God to speak to us through His word. As that happens, we’ll discover a few things:
  • Our minds are being renewed and we can better know God’s will (Romans 12:2)
  • We will know how to better pray according to God’s will (1 John 5:14)
  • We will pray with greater faith (Romans 10:17)
  • Our motives will become less self-centered and more God-centered (James 4:3)
  • Our lips will overflow with praise (Psalm 119:171)
  • We will know how to pray God’s great and precious promises (2 Peter 1:3–4)
This is a journey, for sure. An important thing to remember is that when we see others further along in some area than we are, we have to remember that they did not start out where they are now. They started out where we are now. Don’t be discouraged if you’re not quite where you’d like to be when in comes to spending time with God. Tim Keller went on to write, “If the goal of prayer is a real, personal connection with God, then it is only by immersion in the language of the Bible that we will learn to pray, perhaps just as slowly as a child learns to speak.”
My children did not learn to speak overnight. It was a very long process. It started with one word. It moved to two, three, and four words. Those words slowly turned in to short phrases. Those phrases slowly turned in to sentences. Those sentences are now conversations and they continue to learn new words every day and we are able to have more in depth conversations every day.
Now, I didn’t love my children any less when they only spoke one word to me at a time. I was just as happy to hear their voice one word at a time, as I am now one conversation at a time. We’re invited to come to Jesus in the same way… as little children. The journey might be a slow one, but the more we come to Him and allow Him to come to us, our relationship with Him will deepen and our prayer lives will as well.
For more on allowing the Bible to guide our prayers, feel free to watch this message from the previous weekend.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Hope

In the 1960’s a psychologist by the name of Martin Seligman performed a study on dogs.  If you’re a dog lover, you may want to stop reading right now.  While conducting experimental research on classical conditioning, Seligman would put a dog in a cage, lock the door, and would then administer a mild electric shock, if there is such a thing.  At first, the dog would frantically try to escape but would ultimately come to the realization that, in spite of its best efforts, it could not evade the shock.  At that point, the dog would just just lie down and whimper, realizing that there was no way for it to avoid this uncomfortable experience.

The same dog was then put into a different cage … a cage from which it could easily escape.  What Seligman discovered, though, is that when the electric shock was administered, instead of walking free from the cage, which it could have easily done, the dog would just lie down and whimper, believing that there was no hope of escape.  In other words, since the dog had learned to believe there was no hope of escape, it responded to the situation without even trying to free itself. It had lost hope.

Have you ever felt like that poor dog?  Is there an area in your life where you have lost hope?

Hopelessness never travels alone.  It’s always preceded by a sense of powerlessness.  If we feel powerless to change our circumstances or even someone else’s, it’s not long before hopelessness shows up on the scene.  And, when it does, it begins to wrap its greedy little hands around our lives.  Dreams die, courage fails, longings are numbed, faith falters … and it’s here that Jesus meets us because He’s always willing to show up in the messiest of places … the hopeless of places … the deadest of places. 

Brennan Manning writes:  “The Bethlehem mystery will ever be a scandal to aspiring disciples who seek a triumphant Savior and a prosperity Gospel.  The infant Jesus was born in unimpressive circumstances, no one can exactly say where.  His parents were of no social significance whatsoever, and his chosen welcoming committee were all turkeys, losers and dirt-poor shepherds.  But in this weakness and poverty the shipwrecked at the stable would come to know the love of God.” 

If you’re feeling hopeless today, my hope is that in your weakness and poverty, you too will come to know the love of God.  The questions behind hopelessness are often, “Does God care?  Does it matter to Him that I’m hurting?  Lord, do you love me?”  God answered each of those questions by leaving the non-violence and tranquility of heaven to step in to this world and rescue people full of shattered dreams and broken lives. That fact alone reveals so much about God.  It shows me that God is not afraid of stepping in to my brokenness.  It shows me that I can allow Him to see the worst of my life, the worst of what I’ve done, the worst of who I am, the worst of what’s been done to me, the worst of what is happening to me and it doesn’t scare Him away.  It doesn’t push Him away.  If anything, what Advent reveals is that Jesus is willing to run toward the mess and He is willing to sit there in the brokenness of our life, see all the ugly parts and still say, “I’m not going anywhere.  I’ve come to offer you hope.”

Not only has Jesus come to rescue us and offer us hope for today, but also He will come again.  And when He does our rescue will be complete and we will never experience a sense of hopelessness for the rest of eternity.  Hope, by definition, is the unshakable confidence that in the future, we will be what we were created to be and have what we long for the most. We want more than what we have in this life, because “God has set eternity in the hearts of men.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)  We long for perfection; perfect love, perfect relationships, a perfect sense of meaning and purpose in our lives, the absence of all sin and pain.  This is the future that God promises to His children and it’s why the return of Christ is called our “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13. Our inheritance is waiting for us.  But, until it’s ultimately received, “I wait for the Lord, my soul waits, and in His word I put my hope.  My soul waits for the Lord more than watchmen wait for the morning, more than watchmen wait for the morning.  Put your hope in the Lord, for with the Lord is unfailing love and with him is full redemption.”  (Psalm 130:5 – 7)

Come, Thou long-expected Jesus,
Born to set Thy people free
From our fears and sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s Strength and Consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear Desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart. 


​Verses to Consider:  Psalm 42:11, Psalm 139:5 - 7, Jeremiah 29:11, Romans 8:25, 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, December 21, 2017

How Will This Be?

When the angel Gabriel came to Mary with the incredible news that she would give birth to the Messiah, Mary responded by saying, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?”  That’s a fair question.  Up to this point in her life, Mary could have taken 100 pregnancy tests and they all would have come back negative for one very simple reason:  Virgins do not have positive pregnancy tests … that is until now.

“How will this be?”  It’s a question I find myself asking often.  “God, you promise to finish in me the work You started.  How will this be?”  “Jesus, you say that if I’m weary and burdened that I can come to You and You will give me rest.  How will this be?”  “God, you say that I am more than a conqueror, but that’s not how I’m feeling right now.  How will this be?” 

If you’re anything like me, I sometimes find it easier to tell God what He can’t do rather than allowing Him to tell me what He can. Christmas is, once again, a reminder that when I ask the question, “How will this be?” the answer is always “with God all things are possible.”   All things … not some things … not a few things … not simply things that fit within our limits … but ALL things are possible.  Do you believe that today?

“How will this be?”  "I am the LORD, the God of all the peoples of the world. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27)  How will this be?  "O Sovereign LORD! You made the heavens and earth by your strong hand and powerful arm. Nothing is too hard for you!” (Jeremiah 32:17)  How will this be?  “Overhearing what they said, Jesus told them, ‘Don’t be afraid: just believe.’” (Mark 5:36)  How will this be?  “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.’" (Matthew 19:26)  When Mary asked the question, “How will this be?” Gabriel’s answer was consistent with God’s character since the beginning of time:  “For nothing is impossible with God.”  (Luke 1:37)


One day our last breath will mean that we are, at last, standing before the King of kings and the Lord of lords.  I’m not exactly sure what that moment will be like, but I’m pretty confident that even my best thoughts about who God is will be far below the reality I will one day see. Until that day, I pray that we will all be able to see Him as one “who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.” (Ephesians 3:20)  As we inch closer to celebrating the birth of our Savior, may our faith will be anchored in a God who still likes to show off His power and may we will discover, as Mary did, that nothing is impossible with God. 

Verses to Consider:  Jeremiah 32:27, Jeremiah 32:17, Mark 5:36, Matthew 19:26, Ephesians 3:14 - 21

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Refined

While in college, I worked in a department store.  One of my co-workers was an attractive young lady and we began to develop a bit of a friendship. Late night phone calls, movies together, dinner with friends, and shared memories all allowed this friendship to continue for over a year.  While I was happy to be her “friend,” I didn’t want our friendship to turn into the “friendship trap.”  My heart wanted more. After a year, I began to talk to her about how I was really feeling and my desire for more than just friendship.  She was reluctant.  I was patient.  Finally, my charm and chiseled good looks won her over and we became “official.”  I thought great things were lying ahead for us ... until our first Valentine’s Day four months later.  Since this was going to be our first Valentine’s Day together, I wanted to go big.  I purchased some special gifts, ordered some roses, and then had it all delivered to her house so it would be waiting for her when she got home from work. I could not wait to hear from her about how good of a boyfriend I was.

That night, I received a phone call from her that went something like this:  “Happy Valentine’s Day, Rich.  Thanks so much for the gifts.  That was really nice.  By the way … I don’t think we should date any more.”  She broke up with me … over the phone … on VALENTINE’S DAY!  It felt like someone had sucked all of the air out of the world as well as all of the sunshine.  Ugh! 

What does that have to do with Christmas?  Well, I think that’s about as close as I can come to feeling what Joseph must have felt when Mary told him that she was expecting.  They were engaged to be married and had saved themselves for each other … or so Joseph thought.  The next thing you know, Mary is telling him some story about an angel, the Holy Spirit, and a prophecy that says “and the virgin will conceive,” and she just happened to be the virgin.   Put yourself in Joseph’s place.  I’m sure it was all a bit much for Joseph to believe and I can only imagine the hurt and betrayal he must have initially felt.  Yet we are told that “Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.”  (Matthew 1:19)

How does one respond in that way?  To be shamed and yet still be unwilling to put Mary to shame says a lot about who Joseph was as a man.  Some say that troubles build character.  While that’s not untrue, I’m not sure it’s completely true.  While troubles do help build character, they reveal character as well and, in this case, we discover that Joseph was a “just man.” This type of character is not forged overnight.  No doubt, God had been refining Joseph’s character for a long time.   

What my very own “Valentine’s Day Massacre” revealed was that my character was anything but “just.” I was hurt.  I was angry. And, I, unfortunately, was more than happy to put her to shame. I would say very unkind things about her behind her back and THINK even more unkind things about her in the silence of my own mind.

Her actions against me never justified my actions against her, though.  If anything, what her actions did was reveal the true condition of my heart. The cruel words I would say about her, and the even more cruel thoughts I would think about her, all revealed what had been lying dormant in my heart.  Her treatment of me was simply the opportunity those things needed to rise to the surface.  

We can think of our hearts like a snow globe.  If someone had never seen a snow globe before, they would not know that there is all of this flaky white stuff lying dormant on the bottom of the globe.  But, once the globe gets shaken, it’s then that we see all of the flakes start to swirl around. It’s the same with our hearts.  We often do not know what is lying underneath until life begins to shake us a bit.  If and when that happens, we often begin to see the ugliness of sin lying underneath the surface.  When we do, I think it’s important to remember that the Holy Spirit reveals those things not to condemn us, but rather to refine us. Circumstances, people, events, longings unfulfilled, desires unmet … they’re all often used to bring to the surface what God longs to transform because making us holy is God’s unwavering agenda for His children.      

We all need to be refined.  Proverbs 17:3 reminds us that: “The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the LORD tests hearts.”  Because we know that God is with us and for us, we can also know that the “fires” of life are meant to refine us and not consume us.  As God continues His work in us, we can be confident that “the testing of your faith produces perseverance.  Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. (James 1:3 - 4 NIV) 

If Joseph was anything like us, I’m pretty confident that the first time … probably even the second, third, and fourth time he faced a “fire” in his life, he didn’t respond the way he did in Matthew 1:19.  Being refined into the image of Christ is a process and we’re all at different points in that process.  And, as we allow the Holy Spirit to do His work, we’ll discover that “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.   And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.   And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love.” (Romans 5:3 – 5 NLT)

We know that "he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ." (Philippians 1:6 ESV)​ One day we will be refined perfectly.  One day we will all be able to say, “At last I am completely free of sin!”  One day our lives will fully reflect the final and completed work of God and we know that “when he appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.”  (1 John 3:2)  For now, though, we are being refined and we can trust that God is working inside of us. As one person has said:  “God will take you where you haven't intended to go in order to produce in you what you could not achieve on your own.”  As we walk with God, we can trust that He is before us, that He is behind us, and that He is with us.  He will make sure we are heading in the right direction as long as we keep our eyes on Him.  

Verses to Consider:  2 Corinthians 6:3 – 10, James 1:2 – 4, 2 Peter 1:5 – 9  

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