I Believe in the Unusual

THE UNUSUAL

Seeing an orca is pretty unusual.  You’d have to spend time hanging around the ocean on a boat to see them or go to Sea World.  In 2000, I watched two killer whales, a mama and her baby playing in the wake of the cruise ship we were on.  It was pretty cool, they would swim back and forth and through the boat’s wake, playfully enjoying that moment.th (1)

Surviving a den full of hungry lions or a fiery furnace is pretty unusual.  In fact, I have never heard of any story where this happened other than Daniel and the lion’s den and Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah (Babylonian names: Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego) in the fiery furnace.  For most people that is very unusual, and pretty frightening if they were condemned to those fates.

But, God in his power and wisdom protected and saved these men.  He closed the mouths of the lions and prevented the fire from hurting his servants, who stood firm and faithful even though the culture said just go along with it, and the law said these are the consequences if you don’t.

What is unusual may be that someone had that kind of faith.  The CIA teaches their recruits that when they are captured by an enemy, the interrogation and cruel and inhuman treatment will continue, relentlessly, and endlessly until they break and reveal their secrets or they die.  So the first rule for a CIA operative is do not get caught.

Christian history is filled with countless followers of Christ who stood firm like Daniel and his three friends, and either died for their faith as these men were willing to do, or endured persecution until they were released.  God does not tell us do not get caught; he does say stand firm and trust me.

I believe in the unusual.

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I Believe in the Extraordinary

THE EXTRAORDINARY

Today we struggle to overcome atheism, apathy, and sexual issues, but in Elijah’s day, he fought idolatry. elijah and fire from GodUnfortunately, Israel was worshipping the false God’s Baal and Asherah (Baal’s fertility goddess).  This was because the evil queen Jezebel had promoted idol worship and her husband; King Ahab (king of Israel) allowed it and bowed to the idols too.

Elijah was one of the few in Israel to be completely faithful to God refusing to bow to the idols.  He made a challenge to prove to God’s people who the real and true God was.  So, Elijah, the prophets of Baal and Asherah, and the people of Israel assembled on Mt. Carmel for the contest.  The idol’s prophets cried out to their god and he failed to respond.  Their sacrifice lay on the altar rotting.

Elijah built an altar to God, had wood and the sacrifice placed on the altar.  He had a ditch dug and gallons and gallons of water poured over the sacrifice: to make it more difficult for God? No, he did it to enhance the understanding of God’s power when he would burn the sacrifice.  God sent fire from heaven and burned up the sacrifice, the wood, the altar and licked up the water.  Pretty extraordinary!  1 Kings 18

We expect healing, we expect, the sun to stand still, we even expect donkey’s to talk, but we don’t always expect the extraordinary.  I believe in the extraordinary.

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I Believe in the Overwhelming

THE OVERWHELMING

The battle of Thermopylae where 300 Spartans held off the Persian army of well over 100,000 is pretty fantastic.  The movie I saw didn’t show the 700 Thespians and 400 Thebans, 1400 in all that fought the battle, but 1400 is nothing compared to a massive army bent on overwhelming and destroying.

Yet, that is exactly how God used Gideon and the Israelite fighters.  There were 300 iimages (30)n all and they saw the army of the Midianites, Amalekites and other peoples from the east, an army of 120,000 beaten.  Only 15,000 of them escaped alive.

God used faith, fear, and confusion to overwhelm and overcome an army that was about to reek destruction on Israel.  Gideon started with 32,000 men.  By most standards, 32,000 is still too small to fight 120,000.  God said, this is too many, send every home that is scared and 22,000 left.  Still too many, so they went down to the water and the ones that drank by putting their face in the water were told to leave.  Only 300 remained.

And God, almost 1,000 years before the Spartans fought off the Persians, thwarted the army of the Midian and her allies.

I believe in the overwhelming.

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He’s Important to Me

I volunteer at a teen residential facility, leading spiritual initiatives as a sort of a chaplain. Earlier this week I visited the thisismyprayerforyouedited-640x360students hoping to encourage them and inspire a walk with Christ in them. A father of one of the young ladies was visiting that day. She brought him to me and introduced us and told her dad that I was the spiritual guy. I explained to him what that meant so her father would understand the role of our Sunday Spiritual times. Then the young lady told her father that I was important to her and explained why. She self-harms and I encourage her not too. I basically told her I don’t like it when she it hurt, even if she is the one hurting herself and asked about how long she had gone since the last time without harming herself. She told me and added it had been four days this time. I encouraged her to go for the goal of one more day than the last time and then we set the goal of one more day each after.

I am important to her because I don’t want her to hurt herself. honestly, it hurts my heart to know that she would purposely  hurt herself. She wants to have a relationship that builds and holds her up. One that she can trust and rely on for support and help. Knowing her background, she has the love and support she needs, but a couple of things have blocked her understanding (besides the confusing messages our world, media and her friends give). One is her understanding about herself which got sidetracked at some point and another is her parents, though they love her, haven’t learned how best to make that understood in her life.

I am not casting blame here, I am citing reality.

One of the things that provided an open dialog between this young lady and myself is that I told here I have prayed for her. She had been struggling one day when I was visiting about 6 months ago and it took her back. She asked in surprise, “You pray prayfor me?” She was shocked. I told her that I do. I told her I prayed for every one of the students there and especially when I know she is struggling, I pray for her more. Apparently, that touched her. She responded, “No one ever prayed for except my mom.”

What she doesn’t realize is that there are others who pray for her besides her mother (and father) and me. There are coaches, who are saints (i.e. Christians) who pray for her as well. I’ll bet there is other family and maybe family friends praying for her.

What she is realizing and God seems to be using me to help bring this realization into her life, is that she is important, even extraordinary (thank you Aaron Chambers*). God loves her and cares for her. People love her and care about her. She is learning that when she feels safe, it is with people who are people of God. She understands that this God-thing is real and it is reaching deep into her life and bringing here hope and even joy, when she remains in her understanding of God’s love. She is realizing, “For God so loved the world,” that God loves her.

Due to confidentiality, I cannot tell you anymore, but I ask that you pray for her. God will know who you are praying for even if you do not know her name or where she is. He knows because he cares, because he loves her too.

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*Remember Who You Are, Unleashing the Power of an Identity Driven Life, by Aaron Chambers, Standard Publishing, Cincinnati, Ohio, 2007, citing chapter 9; http://www.standardpub.com/Products/24324/remember-who-you-are.aspx

Why Does God Allow Bad?

This first appeared in the August 28, 2002 LaPlata Home Press with the title “What?”

In 1977, Becky Conway of Urbana, Illinois, learned she had cancer in her knee. The cancer was bad enough that the doctors saw the need to amputate the leg. She was homecoming queen, a cheerleader, and an outstanding track athlete with a promising future and she was a PK (Preacher’s Kid). Everyone, even her parents, were down about her loss, but she never once lost her faith, never complained, and remained filled with joy because she knew God had something greater in store for her other than track. She had the opportunity to witness to schoolmates that wouldn’t have listened to her before because she was a PK and it was expected of her to be a witness. Several did come to faith in Christ because of her character and witness following the amputation (Moody Monthly article “…why is she smiling?” by Kay Oliver, Volume 79, #10, June 1979, pages 17-19).

Too many people see difficult and tragic events as unjust and unfair. Usually the question that is thrown around is “Why would a loving God allow or cause such terrible things to happen, especially to good people?” A lot of people have a pessimistic outlook and are actually looking for bad things to happen or to come out in people. They usually find it and then blame God, not knowing nor understanding all the details involved. So they ask “why” or “how?” These are the wrong questions. The proper question is what does God have in store?

Job is often called the most patient man in the Bible. To some extent this is true, but he asked the wrong questions when he lost everything and kept wondering what he had done that would cause God to allow or even bring such calamity upon him. God spoke with Job and asked, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” Job 38:4. God’s emphasis was that HE IS IN CONTROL. Nothing is beyond his knowledge and understanding is beyond his grasp or power. God’s plan may allow calamity simply to bring you to faith. Job, you, and I are just people. God (sic) on the other hand is Almighty God, the creator and sustainer of all life. When bad happens, God still has something outstanding in store, or as Peter wrote, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold-may be found to result in the praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:6-7

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Distressed

A few years ago, I transported a pre-school child to Macon (Missouri) and back for school. She had mental and learning disabilities and needed special teaching, but was a very, very sweet girl. She was curious about everything, asking a lot of questions all the time. She thrived on all the attention she received. I believe her smile could melt any heart.

She had difficulty pronouncing my name correctly. One day on the way to school, she asked, “Jeff Jord you goin’ pick up me?” She was really concerned that someone other than myself would be picking her up that day.

“Let not your heart be troubled, believe in God believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many dwellings-for I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself. That where I am, there you may be also” John 14:1-3. Jesus and his disciples were in the upper room when he spoke these words to them. He had washed their feet (John 13:1-20). He identified who would betray him, which baffled them (John 13:21-30). Jesus predicted that Peter would deny him three times before the rooster crowed (John 13:31-38). He even gave them the Lord’s Supper which represents his death (Matthew 26:26-29). Before all this happened, Jesus predicted his own terrible death (John 12:27-50).

All of this troubled and confused the apostles. Jesus’ words had dashed all of their kingdom hopes. He was going away and was going to die. They didn’t like what he said as well as not understanding what he was telling them either. In their troubled hearts they were in essence asking the same thing little Julia asked that one day. “Are you goin’ a pick up me?”

Jesus reassured them that in fact, he was coming back for them. They were even going to stay with him in his Father’s place. How like children we are with questions and doubts, seeking reassurance from Jesus that he didn’t just leave us but will for those become children of the Father through faith in Jesus.

This first appeared the August 10th, 2002 LaPlata Home Press

(Scripture quotations are from the New American Standard Version of the Bible)

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Figuring Out What Romans 8:28 Means

A lot of people go through life with the philosophy, “keep a good thought.” If you have positive thinking and look for the good in everything, then you can handle anything.

Romans 8:28 is often perceived in about the same way as if it is the spiritual version of” keep a good thought.”

A simple examination of the immediate passage that these verses are a part of should correct a lot of the misconceptions people have about these Biblical statements.

So we come back to Romans 8:28 which says, “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

A lot of people think this means that since I love God he will fix everything just fine.

Like a football player, a little undersized and short on experience going up against a player who even has muscles in his ear lobes going into the game saying to himself, “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength.” Or the person who has been asked to do a job they have no clue about doing, “I can do all things through him who gives me strength.”

Most people apply this thought and the common interpretation when relationships break, jobs are lost, the house goes into foreclosure, and so many more situations. But is that what this passage means? Not really. There are problems with this particular interpretation.

The problems are:

  1. This is pretty naïve. The good thought – God will work it all together for my benefit. The rest of scripture doesn’t bear this out. That would mean that everything has a good and positive result in the end when it doesn’t. The Bible actually teaches us that we will have problems and many will come from our own decisions, some will come because we stand by our faith in Christ.
  2. Also, the context doesn’t imply it either. The section of verses Romans 8:28 is a part of is going to give us a different view of what God does. It is for our benefit but not exactly how a lot of people take it to mean.
  3. What do you do with it when God doesn’t work it together for your benefit, for your good? Because it doesn’t always happen this way.

Listen to Tim Geddert’s testimony about his misinterpretation of this verse:

“That is how I once memorized Romans 8:28 many years ago. It has often been a word of hope for me, assuring me that all things, even “bad” things, “work out” for people who love God. In fact there was a time when I interpreted this verse to mean that there really are no “bad things” that happen to believers. If things seem bad, but really serve to fulfill God’s good purposes, then even these things are ultimately good. I guess at the time it did not seem unjust to me that only those who love God are promised the benefit of “everything working out.” Nor was I troubled by the fact that I often did not see the “bad things” magically transformed into “good things.  I once thought Romans 8:28 was about “all things working out”. . . ”

Actually many have found the sweeping assertion, “all things work together for good,” difficult to believe. Faced with sufferings and catastrophic experiences of life, many believers and even Christian leaders have found it difficult to accept this assertion. In relation to the current War America is involved in, a prominent preacher designated Romans 8:28 as “the hardest verse to believe.” While willing to admit that the countless ravages that have occurred to the human race are the logical consequences of mankind’s sin and rebellion against God, many a devout believer, when some shattering experience has befallen him, has cried out in confusion, “Why does God allow this to happen to me?” How can this kind of experience be reconciled with Roman 8:28?

What is the book of Romans about? The core aspects of Romans is about your salvation, the grace of God in your life, and whether you are a Jew or a Gentile, God has provided salvation to both because all people have sinned and need salvation.  Paul explains:

  • Justification by faith, just like Abraham
  • Peace with God through justification
  • Death came through Adam and life came through Jesus
  • We are dead to sin and alive to Christ
  • That we have and live life in the Spirit

Romans 8:18 – 39

Let me ask you, what is in store for the believer? The answers are all related.

  • Heaven
  • Our glorification in Christ
  • Eternity with God

Our eternal glory that we like to read about in Revelation 21. God and his people together and every tear wiped away. Your back won’t hurt any more.  Your illnesses will never affect you longer. You won’t have another broken relationship again. Heaven where we love God in person, where his glory is experienced first-hand.

We are here, on this earth where sin has taken hold and brought about separation from God and even affected the existence we have here. Not only did sin introduce spiritual pain and death, it introduced problems to the physical universe; to our bodies, to our planet, and probably to the whole universe and maybe every universe.

Yet in this suffering, God plans to redeem not just the lost, he also intends to redeem the world and Paul notes how our world is “groaning” under the effects of sin, and the suffering we endure here is nothing in comparison to what will be revealed in us.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:35-56 tells about our resurrection bodies. Verse 49 states, “just as we have borne the like of the earthly man so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.”
  • And John says in 1 John 3:2, “But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him.”

I get that when we get to heaven and receive the glorification God will give us, we shall be like Jesus.  Whatever Jesus is like, what he looks like we will too!  Peter, James, and John got a glimpse of this on the mountain when Jesus was transfigured.

You get to glow! That’s pretty cool in my book.

While we struggle through life now, we have the Holy Spirit who is the seal of our salvation.  But he does more than just seal the deal in each believer’s life he helps us in our weakness. He intercedes on our behalf to God. He does it according to God’s will but he brings our cares before God and pleads with him on our behalf in ways we can’t. He expresses what we cannot.  He displays our needs, our words, and emotions with words and feeling we can’t even hint at.

This is all while we wait for glory, for Jesus’ loving return to bring us our reward in our faith.

Because we know that God is getting the whole of what we are pleading with him about because the Spirit who knows our heart and minds and the heart and mind of God is presenting our plights to God, we can then know that God is working for our good.

  • What good?
  • How is God working?
  • What’s this really about?

What is the good that God wants to do in the world? He wants to save the world, to bring them into the likeness of his Son, Jesus Christ.

“God isn’t slow in keeping his promises as some count slowness, but patient toward you not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” 2 Peter 3:9. God wants to save people and we know that salvation is through faith in Jesus.

Look at 2 Corinthians 3:18-19.

Paul is revealing how much greater the glory is in the new covenant than was in the old covenant.  And that those who still live by the old covenant have veiled themselves to the glory God intends in the new covenant for them. And then he says that we are “being transformed into the likeness of Christ.”

This new covenant in Christ’s blood, the covenant of grace, the covenant which saves us is about our becoming like Christ, even now, while we live this life.

So, God is working together in our lives to bring about this transformation.

Romans 8:28-30

Long before God created the world, he fully intended that those who are in Christ, those who have accepted him as Lord and Savior will become like his son. He is the heir, but God makes the believer an heir, we become “children of God.” We get the inheritance we already talked about; we are glorified, we get to go to heaven, we get to spend the time with God in person.

Conforming to the image of Christ is the good that God is working together with us, in us, bringing it about.

As long as we hold strong to Christ, we remain in him, we continue to grow into and conform to his likeness we will continue to have our eternal hope.

That’s why Paul says, “If God is for us, who can be against us” in verse 30. That is why he says that we are More than conquerors through him (Christ) who loved us” in verse 37. That is why life and death, angels and demons, the present and the future, powers, even height and depth “nor anything in all of creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus” in verses 38 and 39.

All of this is true when we are in Christ.

I am finding a promise here in Romans 8:28 that tells me what God is doing together with my soul, making me Christ-like. I am involved. I know that God works in circumstances and even guides us through those difficult and troubling circumstances, but he didn’t promise to make them good, not in the physical-material sense.

  • He didn’t say I’ll turn your job loss into a better job yet to come.
  • He didn’t say I’ll make your body whole so you won’t have to suffer sickness or injury.
  • He didn’t say I’ll heal your broken heart by bringing someone new to love that is better than you’ve known before.
  • He didn’t promise anything like that.  Though he could do stuff like.

What God has promised is according to what salvation is about. He intends to bring us into Christ’s likeness.

Verse 32 has become a very happy verse for me.

“He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?”

Is your identity in Christ? If so, God is working in you to make you into the likeness of Christ and specifically heirs, subjects of eternal life.

I’m longing for heaven.

At the same time, your trust in God and his word are the tools to help you spiritually, emotionally, and practically through whatever struggle you have. Though Romans 8:28 isn’t the cure-all scripture many take it to be, faith does rely upon God to strengthen and support in good and bad times, when hope is blinded and when life is good. Always trust God, rely on his Spirit, and seek guidance from the Bible, God will see you through it though things may not turn how you wish them too.

God is good and faithful and through your faith in Christ he is your life.

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