Kicked Forward by Beth Smith

jason-briscoe-149781-unsplash

We all have troubles in our lives, but take a look at the life of the Apostle Paul:

  1. Given thirty-nine lashes five different times
  2. Beaten with rods on three occasions
  3. Stoned once
  4. Shipwrecked three times
  5. Adrift on the open sea for a whole night and a day
  6. Exposed to danger from flooded rivers, robbers and those who hated him
  7. Imprisoned
  8. Denied needed sleep
  9. Plagued by hunger and thirst
  10. Cold because he lacked proper clothing

Pretty horrible, right? Yet here was Paul’s response:

I have strength for all things in Christ who empowers me. (I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him who infuses inner strength into me. I am self-sufficient in Christ’s sufficiency)” (Philippians 4:13 AMP).

If Paul had quit, had lost his faith in God’s power because of his difficulties, we would be missing ten books of the New Testament. But Paul knew a secret about his strength. He had a “thorn in the flesh.” No one knows for sure what it was. He begged God to take it away, but God’s response was, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” Then Paul said, “So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10 NLT).

We all have problems, and plenty of weaknesses, but we can be strong in the Lord. God never tells us to do something without giving us the power to do it. And he uses our hard times.

  • Four of Paul’s letters were written when Paul was a prisoner in Rome.
  • Martin Luther translated the Bible while forced to hide in a German castle.
  • John Bunyan wrote Pilgrim’s Progress while in prison in Belford, England.
  • Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrote monumental Christian literature from a concentration camp.

What might God do with us if we use our misfortunes to draw close to him?

Dr. E. Stanley Jones wrote this about the Apostle Paul: “If Satan was to kick him, then Paul would determine the direction in which the blows would take him—forward!”

It’s during the difficult times of life that we get kicked forward. Those are the times we draw closer to God.

When Paul wrote that he had the strength for all things through Christ, he was in prison. Still he knew that God was using him and empowering him. Nothing can happen to us that won’t “kick us forward,” if we are determined to depend on and trust in our loving, heavenly Father. I can just see us as making the devil cringe when we say, “Go ahead! Make my day! Kick me forward!”

 

Photo by Jason Briscoe @Unsplash

 

 

Advertisements

How Faith Comes (by Beth Smith)

ear pixa 5 16 18When times are tough, we may feel as if we’re losing our faith in God. That’s when we need these verses:

Faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:17 NASB). I’ve heard the Word for sixty years, so why does my faith wax and wane? Well, there’s hearing and there’s hearing .

Proverbs 4:20-23 says, “My son, pay attention to what I say; turn your ears to my words…Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.”

What comes out of our hearts? Jesus said, “The mouth speaks what the heart is full of” (Matthew 12:34 NIV). We find out what’s in our hearts by noticing what we say. If our hearts are full of God’s words, his truth, then that’s what will come out of our mouths.

What we say is really important. Jesus said we would be both justified and condemned by our words. Good words should come out of our mouths! I remember an old song that said, “You’ve gotta accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative, and latch on to the affirmative. Don’t mess with Mr. In-Between.”[1]

Sure, we’re going to have troubles and heartaches. We live in a fallen world. That’s why we need a strong, confident, consistent faith—faith in Almighty God, faith that carries us through anything and everything. We need to use the promises he gives us, and let our faith be activated by his words.

For example, if we’re feeling afraid, we can turn to Psalm 56:11 (NIV), “In God I trust and am not afraid. What can man do to me?” The Bible is full of verses we can rely on when we’re afraid. Once we see and hear the words, and let them into our minds, they begin to guard our hearts. And then, faith is produced.

Faith comes by hearing. That’s a great promise! If we go through a time of doubting, we needn’t worry. Faith comes. It comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.

[1] Words and Music by Harold Arlen and Johnny Mercer, 1944.

 

Heavenly (by Beth Smith)

heaven pixabay 1 10 18

Lots of things are described as “heavenly.” Some years ago Chock full o’Nuts was advertised as the heavenly coffee. There’s Angel Soft bathroom tissue, and there’s even a candy called Heavenly Hash. (Although I happen to think all varieties of chocolate are pretty heavenly.) Today I want you to tell you about Biblical truths regarding the heavens.

Genesis 1:1 illustrates the first truth. “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  That’s pretty clear. God made the heavens.

Psalm 89:11 declares, “The heavens are yours, O Lord, and yours also the earth; you founded the world and all that is in it.” So we have no doubt about the owner and founder of the universe.

Then here is Psalm 19:1-4 (NLT), “The heavens proclaim the glory of God. The skies display his craftsmanship. Day after day they continue to speak; night after night they make him known. They speak without a sound or word; their voice is never heard. Yet their message has gone throughout the earth, and their words to all the world.” The heavens do not say, “Isn’t nature wonderful?” Instead, they declare, “How glorious is our God!” What God has created should lead us to believe in the Creator.

We have a place in heaven. “For we know that when this earthly tent we live in is taken down (that is, when we die and leave this earthly body), we will have a house in heaven” (2 Corinthians 5:1). Jesus said that he has prepared a place for us. Believe me, it isn’t a little cabin tucked into a remote corner of eternity. Jesus said his Father’s house has many mansions, and that’s where we will have our eternal home.

We have someone in heaven pleading our case for us, interceding for us. “Who dares accuse us whom God has chosen for his own? No one—for God himself has given us right standing with himself…Christ Jesus died for us and was raised to life for us, and he is sitting in the place of highest honor at God’s right hand, pleading for us” (Romans 8:33-34). Isn’t that so very comforting? We know how weak and unclear our prayers can be, but we know that Jesus explains us to the Father and speaks on our behalf.

Heaven is where we should heap up our treasures. They include the first and best of everything we have: our time, our talents, and our money. “Store your treasures in heaven, where moths and rust cannot destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal” (Matthew 6:20). When we give much to the Lord, we are investing in eternity.

God made the heavens. They belong to him and declare his glory. We have the assurance of our Father that a home is waiting for us there, and we can store up treasure ahead of our arrival.  Now, isn’t that heavenly?

 

No Bones About It (by Beth Smith)

skeleton-2883761_1280 bones 1 16 18

Have you heard these expressions?

  • “Man! I am bone tired today.”
  • “I can feel it in my bones.”
  • “I’ve got a bone to pick with you.” (Uh, oh, that usually starts an argument.)

King David mentioned his bones in the Bible: “Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint; heal me, Lord, for my bones are in agony” (Psalm 6:2).

When confessing his sins to God, David referred to his bones again: “When I kept silent (before I confessed) my bones wasted away through my groanings all day long” (Psalm 32:3 AMP). When he was restored, he expressed his gratitude by saying, “With every bone in my body I will praise him: ‘Lord, who can compare with you?’”(Psalm 35:10 NLT).

Let’s think about how to have healthy bones in a scriptural sense. David has already given us one way: we confess our sins and then let God forgive and cleanse us.

Here’s another daily requirement for our bones. “Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones” (Proverbs 3: 6-8).

A third necessity for healthy bones is found in Proverbs 17:22. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” If we don’t want dry bones, we need a cheerful heart. How do we get one?

  • Rely on the Lord for help, and be confident in him.
  • Live by the wisdom found in God’s Word.
  • Be kind and merciful to the poor.
  • Reverently worship the Lord.
  • And follow these wise words of Paul, “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things” (Philippians 4:8).

We want to keep our bones healthy, and we don’t want to be boneheads. So let’s get some back bone and bone up on God’s Word. Let’s confess our sins and let God cleanse us. Let’s trust God and keep our confidence in him alone. Let’s seek a happy heart. We can do it! The Bible tells us so!

God’s World (by Beth Smith)

world pixabay 1 10 18

We can get pretty depressed about our planet earth. Nearly every day something happens that causes me to shake my head and wonder, “How did the world get so crazy?” God didn’t create the mess it’s in now. Sin has done that, through man. We can dwell on the negative aspects of our world, or we can proclaim God’s ownership—of the world, of our lives, and of our circumstances. How do we begin?

  • A young boy once told his dad, “I know what the Bible stands for.”
  • The father answered, “Oh, really? Can you tell me?”
  • The boy replied, “BIBLE – Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth.”

Cute, but also true. We begin to place our world in God’s hands by relying on his Word. Here’s an example of what he tells us to do.

“Let the whole earth sing to the Lord! Each day proclaim the good news that he saves. Tell everyone about the amazing things he does. The world is firmly established and cannot be shaken. Let the heavens be glad, and let the earth rejoice! Tell all the nations that the Lord is king. Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good!” (I Chronicles 16, abridged).

That’s our response to God.  And what’s God’s response to the world?

“For God so loved and dearly prized the world that He even gave up His only begotten son, so that whoever believes in, trusts in, clings to, and relies on Him shall not perish, come to destruction or be lost, but shall have everlasting life. For God did not send the Son into the world in order to judge, reject, condemn or pass sentence on the world, but that the world might find salvation and be made safe and sound through Him” (John 3:16-17 AMP).

Let’s embrace his love, mercy, forgiveness, and grace. If you’ve never done that, you can do it today. I did it one Monday morning many years ago after all my young children were off to school. Alone in the house at the foot of my bed, I became one of the “whosoever believes” people talked about in John 3:16. It has made all the difference. Let’s put him at the center of our worlds. Let God be in charge and in control. Try it. You’ll love it.

I love the old hymn “This Is My Father’s World,” written by Maltbie D. Babcock in 1901. The last verse reads:

This is my Father’s world, O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong,
God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world; why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad.

I pray that this truth will make us glad this week.

 

God’s Sweet Gift by Beth Smith

honey-bee-469560_1280 pixabat 1 11 18

Bees are remarkable creatures! It takes the nectar from about 2,000,000 flowers to make just one pound of honey. To produce that amount of honey, bees travel a distance equal to twice the circumference of the earth. It’s no wonder honey has been a treasured substance throughout history.

·       In the Old Testament, when Jacob wanted to send a valuable gift to Egypt, he included honey.

·       Manna, the food God supernaturally supplied to his people when they were wandering the wilderness, is described as tasting like wafers with honey.

·       In 1 Kings 14:3 a package assembled to bribe the prophet Ahijah contained bread, cakes and a jar of honey.

In many places in the Bible, the words of God are equated with honey.

·       “The decrees of the Lord are firm, and all of them are righteous. They are more precious than gold, than much pure gold; they are sweeter than honey, than honey from the honeycomb” (Psalm 19: 9b-10).

·       How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth” (Psalm 119:103).

·       Know also that wisdom is like honey for you: If you find it, there is a future hope for you, and your hope will not be cut off” (Proverbs 24:14).

In God’s Word we find wisdom and our eternal hope. We need to “eat” God’s Word—to read, devour, search, and study it. Long ago, honey was hard to come by. It was searched for and treasured. We no longer think of honey in that way. We can go buy a five pound jug of honey that required bees to travel the equivalent of ten times around the earth. We don’t give that a thought. We don’t really treasure honey any more.

We often take the Bible for granted as well. Maybe, because we can pick up a Bible any old time, we no longer think of it as precious. What if, suddenly, there were no Bibles? What if we had to depend upon each other for memorized verses and stories? What if it were against the law to have a Bible or to speak the scriptures out loud? Then would we realize how precious God’s words are?

I hope every time we eat honey, or anything sweet, our thought will be “Yum, that’s good! But the Word of God is even better.”

·       Get a Bible.

·       Read it.

·       Taste and see that the Lord is good!

And have a bit of sweetness in every day.