Help in Unexpected Ways

Even when we think we’ve dotted the ‘i’s and crossed the ‘t’s, trouble can still fall upon us. Most of the time, our prayer list is filled with other people’s needs. But there are times when we urgently need God to make a way where there is no way. When we are in need, we should remember one of the many names of God, Jehovah Jireh, meaning “the Lord will provide.”

And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.

Philippians 4:19

Divine Help

You may remember the account in the Old Testament when the servant of Elisha walked outside and saw that a large army had surrounded the city they were in. He rushed to Elisha and shouted, “Oh no, my lord! What shall we do?” Elisha didn’t even break a sweat. Instead, Elisha probably put his arm around him and said, “Don’t be afraid. Let’s take another look.” Then Elisha prayed, and his servant’s eyes were opened, and he saw, “the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.” (2 Kings 6:15–20)

If we could see as Elisha saw, we would see a world not only filled with tangible objects – people, pets, buildings, and roads – but we would also see God’s celestial beings as well as the devil’s fallen angels. My guess is that we would often find God’s angels in unexpected places, and the same for fallen angels. We know from God’s Word that sometimes the enemy interferes with the angels of God (Daniel 10:12–14). 

Angels Watching Over Me

The idea of angels at work in our lives may seem surprising but we need to remember Hebrews 1:14. Angels are “ministering spirits sent out to serve for the sake of those who are to inherit salvation.” Many years ago, the Christian singer/songwriter Amy Grant recorded a song called Angels Watching Over Me. I know that at least once in my life, God sent an angel to deliver me from serious trouble. I had an immediate need, and God provided help in an unexpected way. You may not believe that spiritual warfare still takes place in our modern world, but having experienced God’s hand of deliverance by an angel, I can tell you that it does.

So, when you experience real trouble, crushing heartache, or a total sense of being overwhelmed, take your problem to Jesus and leave it with Him. I’m not just writing some pablum to soothe your mind. I am testifying to you that God still changes times and circumstances when a child of His prays in faith.

If you’re unsure how to pray, I recommend this passage of Scripture. Pray it to God. Believe Him.

I love you, Lord;
you are my strength.
The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my savior;
my God is my rock, in whom I find protection.
He is my shield, the power that saves me,
and my place of safety.
I called on the Lord, who is worthy of praise,
and he saved me from my enemies.

Psalms 18:1–3 NLT

Good News

There is no problem so big that God cannot solve it.

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Image by Maurizio Lanciotti from Pixabay

The Same is The Same Until It Isn’t

The Same Thing May Not Have the Same Results

I know Einstien defined insanity as repeatedly doing the same thing but expecting different results. Still, the same is the same until it’s different. This is a lesson that young people rarely learn, but adults know as true.

Just recently, a local Pizza Hut® closed. For as long as I can remember, it was our area’s preeminent Pizza Hut® restaurant. Its core business was seated customers. We’d go there, and the jukebox would be playing and people talking and everyone spying on the type of pizza the many waitstaff drew from the kitchen. It was a fun place, a destination for Friday night family outings and Saturday night high school dates.

That Pizza Hut® buzzed with customers for 50+ years, and then it didn’t. That thing called COVID–19 killed the owner’s business model. Now it’s being converted into a seafood and chicken restaurant. That Pizza Hut® restaurant was the same until it was different.

God Changes Things

This life lesson is found in the book of Acts. The Holy Spirit told Paul to warn the captain that they should stop their voyage and spend the winter in the closest port. But the captain and the owner of the ship disregarded Paul’s warning. And why not?

The captain and the owner of the ship had made this journey to Italy many times. Each of their voyages had been successful. So, they reasoned that concern from a Roman prisoner was an insufficient reason for them to change their journey. Every trip had been fine, but this time it wouldn’t be.

10 “Men,” he said, “I believe there is trouble ahead if we go on—shipwreck, loss of cargo, and danger to our lives as well.” 11 But the officer in charge of the prisoners listened more to the ship’s captain and the owner than to Paul. – Acts 27:10–11

Whether discussing pizzas, nautical journeys, or conversations with loved ones, we need to keep an eye on the Holy Spirit’s newsfeed. We need to ask ourselves, has God changed times or circumstances? Might this be the last time we talk with our child before Jesus returns? Is this the last time we may have the privilege of talking with our dads before God calls them home?

God Desires Us To Live in His Will

We are not to live in fear or worry, or sadness. None of those is God’s will. We find in Psalms how God would have us live.

“Teach me to do your will, for you are my God. May your gracious Spirit lead me forward on a firm footing.”

Psalm 143:10 (New Living Translation)

Our prayer must be, “Oh my God, lead me forward on a firm footing.” God is patient, but when He acts, He typically does so suddenly. Let’s remember the characteristic that Jesus said we, as Christians, have.

“The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” John 3:8

The Creek Don’t Rise

We are not our own; we have given our lives to God. So, let’s walk on God’s firm footing. Let’s make all of our plans be subject to His will. Let’s apply that Appalachian saying, “The good Lord willing, and the creek don’t rise.” This places our plans under God’s will.

Image by Thomas Grau from Pixabay

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Omnipotent God

After I finished reading my Bible this morning, I leaned my chair back – I have a motorized recliner – and I thought about God, about how Jesus is the Son of God, how God, Himself, came to earth as a “real-life” man. That thought staggered me. We all know this but there are times when we need spiritually recharged. That’s what God did for me this morning. But the Holy Spirit didn’t stop there.

As I continued to meditate on the Lord, I was reminded of a small need I have. It’s not just small; it’s nothing when compared to anything, yet, to me, it is something. Well, I just asked Jesus to intervene. I’ve been a Christian for a long time and many times I have taught about God’s omnipotence. Yet, this morning, I hesitated to ask Him to intercede for me. That’s when the Holy Spirit dropped what I’m about to write into my heart.

God is infinitely powerful. If I ask Him for anything, what I ask does not diminish the power of God at all. God is not like a car. If my car carries me to Walmart, my gas tank is diminished; it has less gas. God isn’t that way.

We can ask God for anything, from the most infinitesimally small thing to a world-changing thing, and He can do it without any loss of His power. It is us that restrain God. We do this by lack of faith or asking for things against His will. But we must remember, I must remember, that God desires to show Himself to us and the world. He is not the God of limited power or resources.

How much remains when we subtract one from infinity? The answer is infinity (∞ – 1 = ∞), and that is how God’s omnipotence is. I should never constrain God with my preconceptions which include thinking something is too small or too big to ask for God’s help. Jesus gave us a wonderful promise:

Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened.

Matthew 7:7–8

I’m just finishing this post, and I checked; my prayer has been answered. From the time I started writing until I finished writing, God answered my prayer. God answers our prayers. He will do the same for you as He has done for me.

Image by Pavlofox from Pixabay

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Who Am I?

It is the Holy Spirit in us that makes us helpful to others. It is our imperfections (not sin) that make us relatable to others. Consider what the Apostle Paul wrote:

13 You know it was because of a bodily ailment that I preached the gospel to you at first, 14 and though my condition was a trial to you, you did not scorn or despise me, but received me as an angel of God, as Christ Jesus.

Galatians 4:13-14

Moving on from the fourth chapter to the fifth chapter, Paul wrote:

If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Galatians 5:25

Who Am I?

It is God living in me that makes me valuable to others. Who am I that I would think for a moment that I can guard, encourage, deliver, bless, or in any way benefit someone else from my flesh? I can barely put my socks on in the morning. But when God lives in us, He not only will use us to affect change on the behalf of others, but He will make it clear that the glory that falls upon the ones to which we minister is from God alone.

It is clear that you and I do not possess gems of wisdom but only the sameness of others, things that all can relate to. We may need glasses to read the news or new tires for our car or to pass on a lunch get-to-gather because this month’s expenses are greater than expected. It is this comfort of commonality that people learn that we all put our pants on one leg at a time.

It is in our shared likeness with others that we avoid being off-putting and gain being relatable. And it is in the words of God that come from our lips that proclaim the Truth and Glory of God that feeds people, rescues people, and asks of them to change their direction.

38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

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The Luthier

Before God spoke anything into existence, He selected a purpose of each of His children. Then God crafted His intent into us.

We are God’s workmanship

For those of us that have received Jesus, and in Him, we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28), I’ve got good news!

I read the following verse for the umpteenth time. I love God’s message to us in this brief verse. However, as the Holy Spirit so often does when we read God’s Word, a little question popped into my mind. “Gary, did you catch that?” Catch what, Lord? I know this verse forwards and backward (despite my lack of ability to remember the book, chapter, and verse😉 ) Hmmm. Perhaps I should reread the verse.

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Ephesians 2:10

So here’s a metaphor to communicate what I found in this verse.

A pile of wood is not a guitar

When a luthier (a maker of stringed instruments such as violins or guitars) gathers wood to begin making a guitar, he has already decided what he will craft and all the characteristics it will have to fulfill the luthier’s purpose for it. He knows what he’s doing. He knows that when it’s finished, it will not just look like the guitar he envisioned; its form and function will be what he expected.

The Luthier knows the tone it will possess. The guitar won’t strive to have that tone; the beauty will be in and of his guitar. All the qualities of his guitar are no surprises but are the outcome of the luthier’s skill. The guitar’s resonance, range, and responsiveness are all imparted as the luthier crafts his one-of-a-kind guitar.

The guitar has no characteristics that enable it to do anything other than what the luthier intended. The guitar simply is. How foolish it would be for a guitar to wish it were a violin (1 Corinthians 12:15-26). And how ridiculous it would be for a marvelously hand-crafted guitar to remain in a display case; never played.

God is the luthier of people

God is the Luthier of people. Before God spoke anything into existence, He selected a purpose for each of His children. Then God crafted His intent into us. And He made us like spiritual epoxy glue. We can’t be what God hand-crafted until we come in contact with Jesus. Only when Jesus enters us are we complete and become who God made us to be.

We don’t need anything except to be used

As Christians, it is foolish to ask God to make us into something; He already did that before He made heaven and earth. It’s silly for us to ask God to enable us to use His gifts in us. His gifts are crafted into us. Let me state that differently. God’s gifts are in us through the spiritual keys, frets, bridge, arch-top woodwork, and so forth God used to make us. I don’t need to ask God to give me “frets.”

We need to pray for us to get our foolish selves out of the way (Matthew 10:38). We need to ask God to help us throw off the sin that so easily entangles us (Hebrews 12:1). And we need to ask God to give us the boldness to be used by Him as the instruments He created (2 Corinthians 3:12).

I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

 Galatians 2:20

Photo by Austin Ramsey on Unsplash

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Someone Greater

Still, in His majesty and greatness, Jesus loves us individually. He knows us intimately. He cares for us unceasingly.

One of the many things I love about marriage is that I have someone that I can turn to in good times and bad, in joy and sadness. I love how my wife strengthens me by the smallest of her actions. I can carry the world on my shoulders if there is peace in my marriage.

Still, whether we have someone that we can turn to or not, we all need more. This world is irrational and cruel. We need someone greater than relationship problems, greater than financial problems, greater than the problems we cause. Every one of us needs assistance.

Out of the love of God’s heart, He gave us His only Son. The Holy Spirit conceived Him. He was born by a virgin. He was reviled by those that were waiting for His arrival. And He was crucified for doing all that was right. Nevertheless, Jesus overcame the world, its injustices, the viciousness of the progeny of Adam, the lies of the enemy of God. 

Jesus Knows Us Intimately

Still, in His majesty and greatness, Jesus loves us individually. He knows us intimately. He cares for us unceasingly. And He waits for our cry for His salvation. He when we are His, He watches to see if we will turn to Him in our joy and our sorrow, in our successes and our failures. He is determined to be there for us, no matter what. We simply need to turn to Him.

Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy to bear, and the burden I give you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 NLT)

Photo by Neal E. Johnson on Unsplash

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Cockle Burrs

As we talked, my wife’s friend meticulously pulled each burr from the dog’s fur. Watching her, I realized that the dog required help, for the animal was unable to remove these painful burrs herself.

Recently, my wife and I met with her best friend from high school. My wife’s friend lives on a farm, so she has all manner of animals, one of which is a large airedale that lives outdoors.

When this large dog came lumbering up to us, we could see that cockle burrs filled her fur. It was challenging to find a place to pet the beast without tearing our flesh! It seems the dog had decided to play in the thickets. 

Pulling Cockle Burrs

As we talked, my wife’s friend meticulously pulled each burr from the dog’s fur. Watching her, I realized that the dog required help, for the animal was unable to remove these painful burrs herself.

That reminded me of Galatians 6:1 (NLT):
Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself. 

There may be times when we have a sin with which we cannot overcome without the help of a Christian brother or sister. Other times we may be that brother or sister that a fellow Christian needs to overcome their sin.

If you’re in a situation like the one I just described, remember to “be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself.”

Photo credit: mrd00dman on / CC BY-NC

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Zoom It, Henry!

The dream of almost every child in America is to have a chance to play in baseball’s World Series. In the 1993 movie, “Rookie of the Year”, the lead character, a young boy named Henry Rowengartner, gets that chance. It’s a fun movie.

The dream of almost every child in America is to have a chance to play in baseball’s World Series. In the 1993 movie, “Rookie of the Year,” the lead character, a young boy named Henry Rowengartner, gets that chance. It’s a favorite family movie of ours.

Throughout the movie, Henry’s coach called him every name in the book except Henry until the very end. Nevertheless, Coach always kept his eye on Henry and made sure he was cared for.

Likewise, we can rest in our walk with Christ. We read in Isaiah 41:13 (NIV), “ For I am the LORD your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, Do not fear; I will help you.” and in Psalm 34:15 “The eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, and his ears are attentive to their cry;

All the politics and opposing team’s tricks can’t thwart the will of God, and faith in God’s Son puts you right in the middle of where the action is! That’s the place to be and the place where you are the most protected. Remember, you’re in the big leagues! And, that’s good news.

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