Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Finally, Someone Who Understands!

When I was a teenager, we rarely got through a meal in my house without some kind of outburst. Let me clarify: the outbursts were on my part. I was a passionate young thing with strong opinions. Unfortunately, they were usually opinions opposite to my dad’s. Many dinners ended for me when I went stomping away from the table, furious with my father, slamming my bedroom door for emphasis before landing face-down on my bed with a sob. “He doesn’t understand anything,” I would tell my pillow.

It is a lonely feeling when we know we are misunderstood. Last semester, I stood alone on a theological issue in my class. As I tried to make my conviction clear, the professor had a baffled look on his face; the rest of the class couldn’t get where I was coming from, either. I felt isolated and insecure, knowing they didn’t see things in the same light as me. It actually brought me to tears.

There is One who understands everything we must go through in this life. Hebrews 4:15-16 says, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Tempted in ALL things. No matter what we have to endure, Jesus has been there before us.

In the past few weeks, I have gotten in touch with several old friends via the internet. While it is wonderful to connect with them again, much of our communication has been heart wrenching. Divorce, suicide, bankruptcy, a death of a child—all terrible, tragic, excruciating events—have affected the lives of people I love. The agony they bear is beyond description. While I can’t even begin to empathize with their pain, I know that Jesus can. They can draw near to the throne of grace with the confidence of knowing they will be understood by the King of Kings. Because He has been there.

My friend’s husband walked out without a word of explanation after 30 years of marriage. Abandonment? Jesus knows all about that. At the hour when he needed his friends the most, Matthew tells us, “Then all the disciples left Him and fled” (26:56) Suffering abuse at the hands of another? Jesus is the expert on that one. “Then they spat in His face and beat Him with their fists; and others slapped Him” (Matt 26:67) Out of money? Jesus can identify with poverty. He was a king, but a palace wasn’t in the plans for His stay on earth. “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head” (Matt 8:20) Exhausted? Overworked? He's got that one nailed. “Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest" (Mark 6:31). Feeling like no one understands you? Jesus has been there. “Jesus said to them,” Why do you discuss the fact that you have no bread? Do you not yet see or understand?” (Mark 8:17).

Every problem we encounter, every ache in our heart, Jesus has felt before us. He is the one Person in our lives that really, really gets us. He is the only One who can say with confidence: I know how you feel.

The Hebrews passage doesn’t stop there. It reminds us why we would approach the throne to begin with: “So that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in the time of need.” Not only can He completely empathize, but He has the power to get us through the worst that life can throw at us.

What a friend we have in Jesus
All our sins and grief to bear!
What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Know Where to Look

Things were looking grim for the Kingdom of Judah. The kingdoms to the north and west had joined forces with the intent of eliminating Judah’s king, Ahaz. Their plan was to install a puppet king, Rabeel, who would do their bidding and unite with them against Assyria. As King Pekah of Israel moved in from the north, King Rezin of Syria moved in from the south. Emboldened by the threat to Judah, the Philistines approached from the west. Jerusalem was surrounded. King Ahaz was in trouble (2 Kgs 16, Isaiah 7).

It was at this crucial moment in time that Isaiah came to assure Ahaz of God’s protection. Ahaz had not been an obedient king. During his reign, he introduced pagan Assyrian worship to the temple in Jerusalem, sacrificed on the high places, and even sacrificed his son as a burnt offering to an idol. Yet in spite of the king’s wicked ways, God would not forget his people. He sent Isaiah to Ahaz to assure him of His faithfulness (Isa 7:4), offering a sign, any sign Ahaz might request, that would demonstrate God’s intentions of deliverance.

God’s pledge of faithfulness was not something new. Back when Ahaz’s ancestor, King David, sat on the throne, God had promised his sustaining power on the house of David. “When . . . you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you . . . He will build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. . . my loving kindness shall not depart from him . . . your throne shall be established forever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16) Ahaz was an heir to this promise! No matter how grim things looked, Ahaz could have taken courage in the promises of God. Instead, he turned his back and refused even a sign from God. He took matters into his own hands and appealed to Assyria for rescue. They helped Judah out of the immediate situation, but within a few years, having gotten their foot in the door, Assyria became Judah’s greatest adversary. Ahaz lost his power six short years after his rejection of God’s help.

Reading over the account in Isaiah and 2 Kings, we want to shake Ahaz. What was he thinking? He turned his back on the Living God and looked to an enemy nation for assistance? It baffles the mind.

There are several possibilities that might have moved Ahaz to act in the way that he did. His history as a wicked king was flagrant and consistent. Maybe he looked at his life and felt the dye was cast. It was too late for him. Another possibility is that he just didn’t believe God. He didn’t believe God’s promises or in His sustaining power. He had heard it all—and chose to believe in his own devises over the Creator of the Universe.

Whatever his reasons, it was a big mistake. He and the nation he led suffered grave consequences for his lack of trust in God.

Ahaz couldn’t get his gaze past his circumstances and onto the God who would save him. But before we judge too harshly, we need to take a good look at how we choose to run our lives. Have circumstances ever dictated your actions? Have you ever failed to trust God because of what was happening around you? I know I am guilty as charged.

Only when our gaze is fixed upon the Lord and what He has promised us in His Word can we hope to trust Him when the waves batter our boat. Peter was walking across the sea with no problems until he began to focus on the wind and the waves. As he began to sink, Jesus put out His hand and rescued him. Peter's help and sustaining power had been from the Master all along. If only he had kept his gaze on Him.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus
Look full in His wonderful face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.

The Testimony of Faithfulness

Colossians 3: 23-24: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.”

We can have a huge impact on neighbors and friends by simply being faithful in what God has given us to do, and by being content in where God has us. People will quickly spot peace in our attitudes and joy in our hearts. For those living with an unquenchable thirst, our lives will look like a cool refreshing glass of water. They will begin to think: I want to be content in my life. Why are they different? I want what they have. Our very lifestyle will make them thirsty for the Living Water we can offer them.

When my husband and I were dating, we often took advantage of the many things to do in nearby Washington, D.C. One night he brought me to the Lincoln Memorial, which is impressive during the daylight hours but truly awesome by night. After seeing the statue and writings of Lincoln, we stood on the steps and admired the view of the Washington Monument and Capitol Building reflected in the long rectangular pool below. Steve then took me around the back of the monument and pointed out the dark hillside which was Arlington National Cemetery, located just past the Memorial Bridge. We could see a light flickering on the hill in the distance very clearly. I asked Steve what it was, and he told me it was the eternal flame at President Kennedy’s graveside. The next day we walked through that cemetery and came to the site of the eternal flame. To my surprise, the light we had seen from a mile or so away was just a small gas flame about eight inches high. That small light could be seen from a great distance when it was surrounded by darkness.

We live around people who are living in darkness. God has called us to be light. We must view the drudgery of our daily routines as an opportunity to demonstrate an obedient heart. Our faithful service will be a testimony of a loyal response to a faithful God.

A man named Arthur Stace, resident of Sydney, Australia, was faithful in the day to day grind. After living a corrupt life in the streets as a drunk and a criminal, in 1930 he met Jesus Christ in a church meeting conducted for men who were down and out. On November 14, 1932, he heard a sermon that captured his imagination and passion with a single word: Eternity. The Lord put it on Arthur’s heart to write “Eternity” all over the city of Sydney. Each morning, he would be up before dawn, wandering though the streets. Every 100 yards or so, he would stoop down and write “eternity” in copperplate script with a crayon. Year after year, Arthur wrote his message. He wrote it an estimated half-million times. Years after his death, that word was still an inspiration to the residents of Sydney. On December 31, 1999, at the millennium celebration over Sydney Harbor, the word “Eternity” was spelled out in fireworks on the bridge for the world to see. One little man had a huge impact by remaining faithful at the simple task God had given him to do.

We don’t have to be Billy Graham to be used to inspire others to seek God. Just by being faithful in what God has called us to do, whether it is driving a truck, teaching school, or mothering small children, God can use our determination to serve to glorify him. And you can be sure our faithful obedience to him will be seen and noticed by others living in darkness.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Conquering Fear

Before I ever was diagnosed with Panic Disorder, I struggled for years with what I now know is a symptom of that ailment: irrational fear. I was afraid all of the time. There was no doubt in my mind that something terrible was just around the corner. If my husband was twenty minutes late coming home from work, I was already planning his funeral and my life as a widow. It was not unusual for me to wake my husband up in the middle of the night because I thought I smelled smoke or heard a noise. In those early years, Steve did quite a bit of traveling for his job. Not wanting to give my children an inkling that I was afraid, I would have to make myself turn off all of the lights at night as usual when he was gone overnight. Then I would lie in bed shivering in fear, praying to God for protection.

Fear is a crippling emotion. Rationality flees when we are afraid. We can’t think clearly or make good decisions. Fortunately, Scripture has a lot to tell us that will serve to calm our fears. When we learn to see our circumstances in the light of a spiritual perspective, we can put fear in its proper place.

Having a Godly perspective means understanding there is more at work than what we can see with human eyes. In II Kings 6, the prophet Elisha was being hunted down by the powerful king of Aram for his previous influence with Israel’s king. The king of Aram sent a great army and surrounded the city of Dothan, where Elisha was staying. Elisha’s servant was in a panic the next morning when he awoke and saw the city surrounded with horses and chariots. “O my lord, what shall we do?” the servant gasped.

Elisha knew that the servant did not have a full understanding of the situation. So Elisha prayed, “O Lord, open his eyes so he may see.” The Lord did just that. Suddenly the servant was able to see, really see. Aside from the forces of Aram surrounding the city, another great army was there. The army of heavenly hosts waited on the surrounding hills with blazing chariots of fire ready to protect Elisha. Suddenly things didn’t look so bad! God protected Elisha and delivered the opposing king and his army into the hands of the Israelites.

I often wonder what is going on in the unseen world that coexists with the material world we see with our eyes. Paul warned the Ephesians: “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, the authorities, the powers of this dark world, and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realm.” (Ephesians 6: 12) We have a very limited understanding of circumstances, because there is a whole world of forces and action that we cannot see. “So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. For what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4: 18)

We can trust God with our circumstances. Nothing escapes His notice. There are forces at work beyond our imaginings. And we have His promise, that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-9)

What do you fear the most? I am surveying for a book chapter. Leave a comment and help me out!

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Single-Minded Purpose

Today my daughter sent me a quote that she heard from a speaker named Sam Botts at Camp Berea this past summer. I researched it online and discovered it was written by a young pastor in Zimbabwe. It was found in his papers after he had been martyred for Christ. I found it inspiring in its focus and want to pass it on to you.

"My Committment as a Christian"

I'm a part of the fellowship of the unashamed. I have Holy Spirit power. The dye has been cast. I have stepped over the line. The decision has been made. I'm a disciple of His. I won't look back, let up, slow down, back away, or be still.

My past is redeemed, my present makes sense, my future is secure. I'm finished and done with low living, sight walking, small planning, smooth knees, colorless dreams, tamed visions, mundane talking, cheap living, and dwarfed goals. I no longer need pre-eminence, prosperity, position, promotions, plaudits, or popularity. I don't have to be right, first, tops, recognized, praised, regarded, or rewarded.

I now live by faith, lean on His presence, walk by patience, lift by prayer, and labor by power. My face is set, my gait is fast, my goal is heaven, my road is narrow, my way is rough, my companions few, my Guide reliable, my mission clear. I cannot be bought, compromised, detoured, lured away, turned back, deluded or delayed. I will not flinch in the face of sacrifice, hesitate in the presence of the adversary, negotiate at the table of the enemy, ponder at the pool of popularity, or meander in the maze of mediocrity.

I won't give up, shut up, let up, until I have stayed up, stored up, prayed up, paid up, and preached up for the cause of Christ. I am a disciple of Jesus. I must go till He comes, give till I drop, preach till all know, and work till he stops me. And when He comes for his own, He will have no problems recognizing me – my banner will be clear!"

-Commitment as a Christian

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Foxes and Wolves

“Foxes and wolves are not nature’s instrument to generate sheep.” John Shaw

I recently read this quote in Christ Centered Preaching, by Bryan Chapell. Mr. Chapell was using the quote to illustrate one of three necessary elements of a persuasive message: the ethos, or how the listener perceives the character of the speaker. Aristotle actually believed that the ethos was “the most powerful component of persuasion.” In other words, who you are will always have a greater impact than what you say, no matter how eloquent.

I have always known this intuitively. This knowledge came from years of being a teacher. Kids can smell a phony a mile away. As I endeavored to instruct my students in character and integrity, I was always acutely aware of my own sinfulness. Holding the kids accountable was always a little tricky, knowing my own faults were played out in front of the class regularly. My fear, of course, was that the kids would hear me say one thing yet observe me do another.

Long after they had left my classroom, I knew that they would remember very little of what I taught them. But they would remember who I was.

Paul exhorted the church at Corinth: “Be imitators of me.” That is one brave statement. Could you say that to your children? I’m pretty sure I could not. Yet as parents, the most effective way we teach is by example. Do you remember this poem? It has been around since 1959. But its point is well taken.

Children Learn What They Live
If a child lives with criticism, he learns to condemn . . .

If a child lives with hostility, he learns to fight . . .

If a child lives with fear, he learns to be apprehensive . . .

If a child lives with pity, he learns to feel sorry for himself . . .

If a child lives with ridicule, he learns to be shy . . .

If a child lives with jealousy, he learns to feel guilt . . .
If a child lives with tolerance, he learns to be patient . . .

If a child lives with encouragement, he learns to be confident . . .

If a child lives with praise, he learns to be appreciative . . .

If a child lives with acceptance, he learns to love . . .

If a child lives with honesty, he learns what truth is . . .

If a child lives with fairness, he learns justice . . .

If a child lives with security, he learns to have faith in himself and those about him . . .

If a child lives with friendliness, he learns the world is a nice place in which to live . . .


Dorothy L. Law

This principle, of course, can be applied to spiritual leaders as well. If we want to raise up sheep, we can’t go around acting like foxes and wolves.

Christ was was no stranger to this idea. He urged humility, self-sacrifice, and obedience to God on those who chose to follow Him. And He led by example.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Proving Ground

“Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:2-4)

These verses in James are familiar to most of us. They are a source of comfort when we face the worst, because we know God is at work in us through the circumstance to make us complete. Without the trial, we would be incomplete-- lacking something. And so we can face the circumstance with joy.

The word trial (or in some translations, test) is translated from the Greek peirasmos. What is interesting is that we get both trial and temptation from this very same word. Only the context determines the nuance of meaning intended by the author. However, in both cases, the testing does give us an opportunity to demonstrate our character. (James uses the second meaning when he gets to 1:13).

One of my seminary professors, Dr. Richard Yates, gave us an interesting insight into the idea of testing in class yesterday. He pointed out that the tests indicated in James 1:2-4 serve a purpose to those around us in addition to our own spiritual development. The character of our faith is proved to those who are watching us endure the trial. Over a decade ago, Dr. and Mrs. Yates tragically lost a son in a head-on collision with a drunk driver. Before the accident, they had faithfully shared their faith with their neighbors and friends with no response. But after the accident, as these same people witnessed the Yates continuing to trust God in their terrible grief, they got interested. What was it that sustained this couple? Suddenly the neighbors were all ears. Coming through the trial was proof positive that the Yates believed in a living, faithful God to those who were watching.

Not that a trial always consists of grief, but in my own life I have also had this same truth demonstrated. I was not ready to say good-bye to my mother when she died. She was only 69 and still had so much life to live. I still needed my mom. My sister Margie’s children were very young. They would have very few memories of their grandmother. Margie and I struggled under the terrible load of crushing grief for two long years. Yet since coming through the trial, I can see how God used even such a horrendous circumstance to demonstrate His glory to those around me. The journey I experienced eventually became the first chapter of my book, written to remind sisters in Christ of God’s faithfulness and wisdom within the challenges of life. I tell the story over and over again, because I know my trial serves as an encouragement to others of the hope we have in Christ.

Have you had a trial that eventually served to demonstrate spiritual truth to others? I’d love to hear your story! Please share your experience in the comments, so we can praise God together for how He is at work through every circumstance!

Keeping a Heart from Growing Cold

The prophets were not very popular people. Have you ever been friends with someone who insisted on seeing the glass half empty? They found the negative in every situation, when you thought things were going along just fine. We tire quickly of people like this, and we begin to avoid spending time with them; they are a “downer.” I imagine the people of Isaiah’s day felt the same about him. While they lived in prosperity and relative peace, Isaiah continually preached the same message of coming doom and judgment. However, Isaiah was no ordinary pessimist. He was relating a message from God.

Isaiah opens his book with a wake-up call. “Alas, sinful nation, people weighted down with iniquity, offspring of evildoers, sons who act corruptly! They have abandoned the Lord, they have despised the Holy One of Israel, they have turned away from Him.” (Is 1:4) Back when the Israelites first prepared to enter the Promised Land, God made a covenant with His chosen people. He gave them the Law, which would set them apart from the nations surrounding them. The Law was a reflection of the character of God, and in their obedience to it, Israel would be a testimony to their neighbors about God Himself: “So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples who will hear all these statues and say, ‘Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.’ For what great nation is there that has a god so near to it as is the Lord our God whenever we call on Him?”(Deuteronomy 4:6-7)

Apparently in Isaiah’s time, the people continued to fulfill the letter of the Law with their sacrifices. Yet this did not please God. “ ‘What are your multiplied sacrifices to Me?’ says the Lord. ‘I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats . . . bring your worthless offerings no longer.’ ” What was the problem? They were only going through the motions. Paul succinctly explains it like this: “They did not pursue [the Law] by faith, but as though it were by works.” (Romans 9:32)

The Lord had warned His people of this before they ever entered the land. God knew that their coming prosperity would cause the people to turn away from Him: “Then your heart will become proud and you will forget the Lord your God.” (Deut 8:14) God wanted their hearts, not their pious actions. “Now Israel, what does the Lord your God require from you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways and love Him, and to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. . . so circumcise your heart, and stiffen your neck no longer.” (Deut 10:12, 16; italics added)

Jim Elliot, martyred missionary, once wrote in his journal that while he spent time with the Lord before going to work in the mornings, he would again go to the Lord at lunchtime, because he knew his heart had grown cold during the morning hours. Jim’s honesty correctly identified the problem we all have. Keeping our hearts turned toward God can very quickly turn into just going through the motions.

I have found this to be a challenge even while in seminary, of all places. I go to school each day and learn about the Word of God. Wouldn’t you think that with my nose in its pages every day as it is, my heart would have no problem seeking God? Yet even the study of Scripture can easily become just an academic endeavor. How quickly my heart grows cold! How quickly I become a “stiff-necked” woman!

How do you all fight this battle? I’d love to hear your comments on strategies you use to have a heart that loves God.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Weakness is an Opportunity

Tomorrow a new semester begins. Even after successfully completing three semesters in seminary, I still have the same old dread threatening to overpower me that I had on my first day of graduate school. I will be translating all of 1 Corinthians from the Greek (16 long chapters!), studying the Old Testament prophets (yes, ALL of them) as well as Hebrews to Revelation. The amount of assigned reading is staggering, and there are many papers to write and exams to take. It is all overwhelming, to say the least.

Yet being in this position, feeling weak and doubting my own ability, is a very opportune place to be. God tends to do His greatest work through us when we are at the end of our own resources. Over and over again we see God accomplishing his purposes in Scripture using very flawed people. “But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong . . . so that no one may boast before him.” (I Corinthians 1: 27, 29)

Gideon was one such example. He is found in Judges 6. Gideon began his march against the Midianites with an impressive army of 32,000 men. God stopped him and told anyone who was afraid to turn around and go home. 22,000 men left. God then told Gideon he would pare down the numbers once again, and after observing how they drank water (a true test of a mighty warrior?!) he disqualified all but 300 men. Against all odds, Gideon and his measly 300 troops conquered a vast army with empty jars, torches, and a trumpet blast.

There are many other examples of God using small numbers or unimpressive people to win great victories. When you read these stories, you cannot miss that the battles were won by God, not by the fighting men. There is no mistaking who the power source is.

When we are in a position of weakness, we are primed and ready for God to use us. “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Paul knew this and welcomed his weaknesses. “So that Christ’s power may rest on me. . . For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (II Corinthians 12: 9, 10)

Many summers ago I received a call from Bob McCoy, the director of youth camp at Camp Berea, where I was to be a counselor. He wanted me to direct the Youth Choir. This was a special group of teen campers that practiced for a week, then traveled to a nearby conference center to give a concert. He thought of me because I was a singer, played the guitar, and led the worship at the camp (and he probably couldn’t get anyone else). However, directing a formal choir like that was way out of my comfort zone. I would have to conduct, teach kids their parts, and generally appear to know what I was doing! This responsibility was beyond my abilities. As I tried to refuse, Bob made a profound statement: “Julie, you will never know the power of the Holy Spirit until you put yourself in a position where you cannot succeed without him.” Convicted by his logic, I reluctantly agreed to do the job. In spite of me, the choir was wonderful and the people at the conference center were delighted with the teens. I was amazed at what the Lord had accomplished, knowing my inadequacies.

So I guess the semester is just another chance to see God at work through my shortfalls, once again demonstrating His power while utilizing a very cracked vessel. Someone remind me of this, please, around the beginning of April!!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

It's Not About the Messenger

Have you ever been given an opportunity to share your faith but did not do so because you were afraid you would mess it up? When I was in the hospital after giving birth to my second son, my roommate was a girl in her late teens and an unwed mother. As we watched the 11:00 news, the subject of the future came up after viewing some particularly disturbing story. She told me her grandmother used to say Jesus was coming back again and would end the world as we know it. I told her I also believed that. The conversation grew silent. Here was my opportunity to express that only those who believed in Christ for their salvation would be taken up at his coming. My heart pounding, I tried to form the words that would express my concern for her salvation. How could I bring up the subject without being offensive to her? What if I actually turned her off to the saving good news of Christ? What if I did it wrong? I hesitated too long. The conversation moved on. I had lost the window of opportunity because I couldn’t figure out just the right thing to say.

Feelings of inadequacy can paralyze us in doing the work of God. Before every retreat where I speak, I look in the mirror and wonder why anyone would bother to listen to this overweight, middle-aged woman. In our culture, appearance is everything. Countless shows on TV chronicle make-overs where women go from frumpy to fantastic. They emerge at the end of the show, confident in their new hair, makeup, and wardrobe, twirling and showing off their new look to family and friends. I am a make-over wannabe.

Yet the truth of the matter is this: when it comes to sharing truth about Christ, neither smooth talking nor a beautiful appearance is where the power lies. I was amused and rather struck to find this verse in 2 Corinthians 10:10. Paul is writing about himself. It has become my new life verse: “For they say, ‘His letters are weighty and strong, but his personal presence is unimpressive and his speech contemptible.’ ” Paul wrote strong letters, filled with astounding truth and depth. Yet when those who had heard his written words actually met him in person, they were shocked. Who was this dumpy, inarticulate guy? Could he actually be the author of such profound writing?

Our effectiveness has never been about us at all. We are mere messengers. The power is in the message. Our job is to get the truth of God out into the airwaves. God’s Word is powerful and effective. It changes lives. The Lord promised Isaiah: “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return there without watering the earth and making it bear and sprout, and furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so will my word be which goes forth from My mouth; it will not return to me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10,11). God will use His Word to accomplish His purposes. Success in its mission does not have anything to do with us at all. The power and effectiveness lies in the truth of the message. Paul’s writing was a result of the work of the Holy Spirit. The power in its words was the power of God. Not the power of Paul.

When I teach at a retreat, I am relieved to know this fact. If I am faithful to share God’s Word with the ladies in my audience, I can expect God to take His Word and work effectively to change lives. It is not about the messenger.

We can be confident in our sharing of the truth with others because we have a faithful God. It is HE who works in us and through our efforts. Don’t be afraid if you feel like an inadequate messenger. Know that God will use our fumbling attempts to accomplish His purposes, “for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).