Archive for June, 2014

My wife is a very sweet person. She is easy to love. Yet, for a long time I often found my self-centeredness blocking me from making her feel loved. So, I would redouble my efforts to love her better. But alas, she would tell me time after time that this or that did not make her feel loved.

I finally concluded that I was not going to make her feel loved without some outside help. I felt helpless!

Also, for all my life I have relied on my body as being indestructible. I could rely on it supporting me in whatever I did. But nine months ago it began to wobble on me. After four hospital stays in the last nine months I have finally concluded that my body is not indestructible. Where do I go for physical security? I feel helpless!

What It Means to be Helpless

It means that we know deeply that we can’t do what we need to do without God’s help.

A few years ago I finally realized that I couldn’t help people grow spiritually without God working, no matter how skilled and knowledgeable I became.

Why Knowing Our Helplessness Is Good

It is good to know our helplessness because we will often not rely on God to help us unless we know deeply that we can’t do it. If there is even the slightest chance we can avoid dependency on God, our independent spirit will tend to go it alone.

And if this is what we do often, we are wasting our lives- for only that which is done in obedience to God’s will, in his power (as a result of knowing our helplessness) and for his purposes will be rewarded in heaven (I Corinthians 3:10-15).

I am currently mentoring a small group of medical students. I told them this week how hard it will be down the road for them to accept their helplessness so that they may receive God’s supernatural power.

They will have to deal with the temptations that will come from being gifted intellectually, the respect and approval they will get from society, and their material status. They will be sorely tempted to be motivated to forgo the humbling process of accepting their helplessness and God’s help and instead rely on their resources to earn worth, approval, and security.

But it doesn’t have to be that way for them, or for the rest of us.

How We Can Live in the Reality of Our Helplessness

We live in the reality of our helplessness by depending on the importance of admitting our helplessness, so the door to receiving God’s Almighty strength is opened.

This happens as we ask and depend on God changing us so that we can accept our helplessness and rely on his presence and strength.

We can learn like Paul did you to rejoice in our helplessness.

And He has said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in [helplessness].’ Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my [helplessness], so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with [helplessness], with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am [helpless] then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:9-11).

So, rather than running away from the truth of our helplessness, we need to embrace it. We need to face the reality that to live for God we need to become content with our helplessness.

But accepting our helplessness is so painful. It’s much easier to live in the illusion of self-sufficiency that the world tries to get us to buy into. But the truth is that we are helpless to live the wonderful life that God has designed for us to live (Ephesians 2:10).

The verse that helps me the most to accept my helplessness is Jesus’ reminder in John 15:5 that “apart from Me you can do nothing of [eternal benefit].”



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 After being hospitalized four times in the last eight months, my confidence in my indestructible body has taken a beating. I no longer think that serious physical problems are what happen to other people. My reality has expanded to include an awareness that my body will not last forever.

When I asked the Lord, “Will these things happen to me again?” his response was “No, unless I have a good reason to allow them to happen again.” In other words, “Trust me for your physical security, not your ‘indestructible’ body.”

A few days ago I was talking to a friend about why he hasn’t found a career job after looking hard for four years. “Why has God taken away a career job from me?” was the question of his heart. I suggested that maybe God had a new vision for his life, one that did not include a career job as he has had in the past.

But aren’t our health and career jobs good things? Isn’t God supposed to be good? Why does a good God take good things away from us?

May I suggest that God takes good things away from us so that we can receive better things.

At the right time, he will take away from us any blessings that we cling to instead of him. “ Every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:2). What does that mean?” you may ask.

Respected theologian and preacher John Calvin says, “Our hearts are an idol factory.” God wants to take away the false things we cling to give us a sense of security and importance.

Good health and career jobs can be idols to us if we depend on them rather than God to make us feel safe and important. We depend on God by depending on his promises like, “Do not fear, I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10); “You are precious” (Isaiah 43:4).

Good health and career jobs are broken cisterns that will not hold up to the attacks of life in providing us with a deep sense of safety and worth (Jeremiah 2:13).

Instead, God says to us, “Come to the waters, and you who have no money come, buy and eat, Come buy wine and milk without money and without cost” (Isaiah 55:1).

However, we would prefer to rely on always having good health and a career job that makes us feel important and safe. But life teaches us that we can’t always rely on these things. Bad things do happen.

God asks us, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance” (Isaiah 55:2).

We are wasting our life and living in a false reality when we rely on good health and jobs to give us the strength and importance that God has already promised that he has given us.

He says to us, “I am your strength and shield” (Psalm 27:8, paraphrased); “I see all your ways, and number all your steps because you are important to Me” (Job 31:4, paraphrased).

So, God takes away good things, in order to give us better things. We will not depend on him unless we quit depending on these good things so much.

Ask God today to show you any good thing that you are depending on too much instead of God to meet the needs behind the good thing. Ask him to help you to put off this false dependency and put on depending on him and his promises to meet your needs in this area (Ephesians 4:22-24).

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I was looking forward to the Memorial Day weekend. So many happy memories are tied into this holiday for me. Probably the biggest blessing is that it means the beginning of summer is here!

So I planned to have a relaxing weekend with friends and watching old war movies in honor of the veterans who have given their lives to preserve our wonderful way of life.

But God had different plans for me. I spent much of the weekend in the hospital. Last Friday I was admitted to the hospital with stroke-like symptoms. However, the tests showed no evidence of a stroke, so they called it a TIA (temporary stroke). I was released on Saturday.

Then on Sunday, I had to be taken by ambulance from the church service to the emergency room of a local hospital because I nearly fainted. This time it was due to dehydration as a result of being prescribed a double dose of blood pressure medicine.

So, my plans were blown apart. Little happened that weekend that I had planned.

So, what is God trying to teach us through my example?

One thing is that we do not control our circumstances. He does. Whatever we think our future will be, it will only be if God determines it will be. It will not be based on random luck or probabilities.

 “How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow? Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone. What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants us to, we will live and do this or that”’ (James 4:14-15).

One of my first struggles after the weekend was to get some assurances that these circumstances will never happen again. God’s response to me was this: “The circumstances will never happen again – unless I cause them for my good purposes.”

His response does give me some comfort. But my deep desire is to be assured that I will never have to go through these scary circumstances again.

I then recalled how I had had tuberculosis 32 years ago and was cured. I asked the doctor then what assurances do I have that this will never happen again. I never received that assurance.

But tuberculosis never did return.

So, another thing God wants to teach us is that even though we do not control our circumstances, we do not need to be afraid because he is good. “Surely your goodness and unfailing love will pursue me
 all the days of my life” (Psalm 23:6).

But we will be sorely tempted to retreat into good circumstances to feel safe. But God warns us that we will not find our peace there.

“Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows (that rob you of your peace). But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

So, how do we live with peace knowing that we live in a dangerous world that is out of our control?

God says to us, “Do not fear, I am with you” (Isaiah 41:10).

Is that all you have to say God? Our reason not to be afraid is simply that you are with us?

But he also promises us that because he is with us, “I will strengthen you,

“Surely I will help you,

“Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand” (Isaiah 41:10).

He promises us in Psalm 46 that he is not just a spectator of our troubles but a very present help in enabling us to get through them in a godly way.

No, we can’t be assured that nothing threatening will happen to us. Yet, we can be assured that many of the dangers we fear, will never happen to us because he is good. But if they do, God will empower us to meet the challenges with his strength and grace (Deuteronomy 33:25b).

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