“Be Empowered!”

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And lest I should be exalted above measure through the abundance of the revelations, there was given to me a thorn in the flesh, the messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I should be exalted above measure.

For this thing I besought the Lord thrice, that it might depart from me.

And he said unto me, My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore will I rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” 2 Corinthians 12:7-9

Oh, that thorn in the flesh syndrome. That persistent thing that seems like it will never be gone from your life. I would venture to say that most people have dealt with or are currently dealing with that one nagging thing that keeps – well, nagging you! That one thing that causes us to say, “Lord, if You would just move this one thing from my life, I would be alright.” Thorns are hurtful. They are irritating. And yes, they can get in the way of the one who wants to enjoy the blossom. There may be a beautiful rose on the end of the stem, but the thorns can hinder the full enjoyment of holding on to it.

There are times when one may be trying to enjoy the beauty of God’s promises that hurtful things may arise. As one tries to draw nearer and nearer to Him, particular thorns may make it hard to hold on. Thorns can “spring up and choke them,” Matthew 13:7. Nevertheless, despite what our outside circumstances may be telling us, we are taught that we can still live an empowered life. Though we have “infirmities” (and we all do), “grace” is still at work. Grace – that unmerited favor makes room when obstacles get in the way. And God says His grace is “sufficient.” It is enough.

There is only one man who lived in this world perfectly, and that’s our Lord Jesus Christ. The rest of us are surviving off God’s grace. We depend on it every single day though we are undeserving of it. He has empowered us through our Lord Jesus Christ to progress on this journey despite all our shortcomings. Every obstacle that we face in life is not going to go away. Oh, how I wish it would. But, what the apostle Paul is teaching us is that we can still succeed in Christ. We can still have a blessed Christian life through His power that “rest upon” us.

Have you ever played tag as a kid? Somebody tried to tag you and get you out, but you gave them the slip and got away. Have you ever, in a victorious romp, stuck your thumbs in your ears as a kid while waving your fingers and chanting, “Nana nana, boo, boo?” Paul had a victorious romp of his own. After he prayed, he realized despite all he was going through, the grace of God was still at work in his life and that it was God’s strength that was being made perfect in Paul’s weakness.  Therefore, Paul confidently declared, “Most gladly… will I rather glory in my infirmities.” 

Don’t you love that? Despite it all, God is still at work in us and through us. He is perfecting some stuff in us and for us, and we can rejoice with Paul.  We are not rejoicing because of the trouble or hurt we experience or encounter. We are rejoicing because we believe in God’s grace, and that allows the power of Christ to rest upon us because we have yielded to Him.

The empowered life is one that yields to Him and recognizes it is His strength being perfected in us. The empowered person can still push forth knowing that God is still at work: “If God be for us, who can be against us?” Romans 8:31. The hurt may not be over or gone but it’s as if God is reminding us: “I have all you need to make through.”

Please note: Talking about empowerment can easily cause one to divert and take a humanistic view. But, I have strived to keep this God-centered. Everything we need is in Him, and when we can grab hold of that, we become truly empowered.

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“Exam Time, Check it Out!”

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“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves . . .,” 2 Corinthians 13:5

When was the last time we really pushed the envelope with ourselves to see what we have in us?  When watching television, I sometimes come across shows where people are doing what seems to be the impossible; people who love the adrenaline of seeing just how far they can go with a particular feat.  Some of the things I see just make me want to shake my head, and yet, others are actual, honest assessments of endurance; to see if they have what it takes to make it all the way, or to break some sort of record.  It’s a testing of one’s strength and stamina.

Tests, for most people, are not pleasant at all.  It doesn’t matter if its elementary age level test all the way through college, or a learner’s permit; tests make individuals uncomfortable because they are designed to see what one has in them.  If speaking in terms of education, it is probing one’s intellect to see if enough knowledge has been retained and also able to be applied.  If speaking in terms of physical endurance, it is working out in the body to see if one is deficient in a particular area, to point out any weaknesses that need to be strengthened for one to gain a particular goal.

This is why tests are not pleasant.  Because, it goes beyond the façade on the outside to see what one really has in them.  No truer is this more prevalent then in our spiritual lives.  The stuff on the inside is quickly hidden as we enter the church doors on a Sunday morning.  No one else can see the battles or struggles going on inside.  That is, no one else, but God.  “For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7).  And, it is the test of the heart that really matters; the places where others can’t see.

I live around the corner from a prominent cemetery in our area.  It serves the needs of all people, but they specialize in handling the burials of fire fighters and police officers.  It is not unusual to see a processional of cars go by on any given day to lay a loved one to rest.  Sometimes the line is long and sometimes it is short.  If it is one of those specialized burials, then the whole affair is catered to honor the life of the one who has served.  There are what seems like hundreds of police cars from all over, horses, raised flags, gun salutes, honor guards and the like.  It becomes a beautiful send off in the midst of sorrow.

No matter who it is I often wonder about the individual being laid to rest.  It becomes a stark reminder for me to follow the prudent advice of Paul and examine myself.  We all have areas that need improvement; things that we can do better.  Sometimes a close, personal examination is the only thing that will draw it out of us, to see “whether ye be in the faith.”  Are we where we need to be when our time comes to be at the head of that processional?  Do we have that quality of faith that will settle our eternity positively?  Maybe it’s time we take a deeper look inside of us.

“Exam Time, Check it Out!”

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Photo Credit: Wallpaper4god.com

“Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves . . .,” 2 Corinthians 13:5

 

“What? School just started back!”  No, that’s not what I’m talking about.  When was the last time we really pushed the envelope with ourselves to see what we have in us?  When watching television, I sometimes come across shows where people are doing what seems to be the impossible; people who love the adrenaline of seeing just how far they can go with a particular feat.  Some of the things I see just make me want to shake my head, and yet, others are actual, honest assessments of endurance; to see if they have what it takes to make it all the way, or to break some sort of record.  It’s a testing of one’s strength and stamina.

Tests, for most people, are not pleasant at all.  It doesn’t matter if its elementary age level test all the way through college, or a learner’s permit; tests make individuals uncomfortable because they are designed to see what one has in them.  If speaking in terms of education, it is probing one’s intellect to see if enough knowledge has been retained and also able to be applied.  If speaking in terms of physical endurance, it is working out in the body to see if one is deficient in a particular area, to point out any weaknesses that need to be strengthened for one to gain a particular goal.

This is why tests are not pleasant.  Because, it goes beyond the façade on the outside to see what one really has in them.  No truer is this more prevalent then in our spiritual lives.  The stuff on the inside is quickly hidden as we enter the church doors on a Sunday morning.  No one else can see the battles or struggles going on inside.  That is, no one else, but God.  “For the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart, (1 Samuel 16:7).  And, it is the test of the heart that really matters; the places where others can’t see.

I live around the corner from a prominent cemetery in our area.  It serves the needs of all people, but they specialize in handling the burials of fire fighters and police officers.  It is not unusual to see a processional of cars go by on any given day to lay a loved one to rest.  Sometimes the line is long and sometimes it is short.  If it is one of those specialized burials, then the whole affair is catered to honor the life of the one who has served.  There are what seems like hundreds of police cars from all over, horses, raised flags, gun salutes, honor guards and the like.  It becomes a beautiful send off in the midst of sorrow.

No matter who it is I often wonder about the individual being laid to rest.  It becomes a stark reminder for me to follow the prudent advice of Paul and examine myself.  We all have areas that need improvement; things that we can do better.  Sometimes a close, personal examination is the only thing that will draw it out of us, to see “whether ye be in the faith.”  Are we where we need to be when our time comes to be at the head of that processional?  I pray that we all are.