A Way Out

From God comes…

From God comes a way out.

At times, we all feel trapped by our trials. Some circumstances are beyond our control. Life can be overwhelming. We think we have no way out. We pray for God’s deliverance but nothing seems to change. Academically, we know God is our refuge, strength, and ever-present help in times of trouble. (Psalms 46:1) Our all-powerful God can indeed make a way for us where there seems to be no way. (Isaiah 43:16, 19) However, God’s way may not be the way we envision.

The purpose of prayer is not to always get us immediately out of our troubles, but to get us through them. In order to get out, we may have to go through certain challenges. Prayer doesn’t always change our circumstances, but prevailing, persevering, and passionate prayer can change us. It can give us a spiritual perspective so we don’t feel that God is letting us down. It can give us the patience to wait for God’s timing. It can teach us to trust God because He loves us dearly. We learn to praise God in spite of our hardships. We realize God’s solutions will be best for us and His plan for our lives, and will bring glory to Him.

Sometimes the roads we travel are filled with mountains to climb and rivers to cross. We get tired and weary. Our faith grows weak. Perhaps sorrow and grief seem greater than we can bear. Our strength is depleted—and if we are only relying on our own strength, chances are we might not make it. However, God has promised to “pass through the waters” with us.

When Ancient Israel went through distressing times, God had words of comfort and hope to offer them through the prophet Isaiah. “…Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow you…” (Isaiah 43:1-2).

The Israelites had been dispersed and scattered by the Assyrians. Judah was being taken captive by Babylon. Yet even though these overwhelming events were happening, God told them He would be with them. When they had to “pass through” difficult times, God would be with them. This was His promise to them—and to us—and God keeps all His promises. (1 Kings 8:56)

How can we be sure that God will “pass through” with us? Because God says, “Fear not! I have redeemed you! I have called you by name and you are mine” (Isaiah 43:1). We are God’s. He has purchased our eternal salvation. We are precious to God. And while it’s true that we must sometimes “pass through” trials in order to have a way out, God is always with us. Christ is in us.

This quote from missionary Elisabeth Elliot sums it up nicely: “The secret is Christ in me, not me and a different set of circumstances.”

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…” ~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Spiritual Companionship

From God comes…

From God comes spiritual companionship.

Companionship is not just fellowship but intimacy and closeness. Spiritual companionship goes even deeper because it means we never have to feel abandoned, alone, or forsaken. It’s the reason Paul could say that he was troubled, but not distressed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken, and cast down but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8-10)

When Christ was born, He was named Emmanuel which means “God with us.” (Matthew 1:23) God desires to be with us—so much so that He came to us. He is with us all the time. He’s with us in the good times and bad times. He’s with us when we feel like we can’t go on. He’s with us when our hearts are breaking. He celebrates with us. He cries with us. He feels our pain, plus helps us cope, keep perspective, and survive.

God will never leave or forsake us. (Hebrews 13:5) In fact, the very last thing Jesus told His disciples before He ascended to heaven was that He would never leave or forsake them. (Matthew 28:20) He did not want them to feel alone. He wanted them to know He would be with them everywhere they went and in everything they would do. The same promise applies to us. Even if we walk through the shadow of death, we have nothing to fear because God is with us. (Psalm 23:4)

Not only is God with us, He understands us. Our high priest Jesus can empathize with everything we go through because He knows our weaknesses. (Hebrews 4:15) Not even our best friends, spouses, or family members understand how we feel all the time, but God does! To be honest, half the time we don’t even know why we feel the way we do, but God does! God knows us better than we know ourselves.

God even knows why certain things happen in our lives. Believe it or not, we don’t always need to know why things happen. All we need to know is WHO we can rely on during the tough times. Emmanuel is our spiritual companion. God is with us! God is even in us! (Colossians 1:27) There is never a reason to feel abandoned, alone, or forsaken because you can’t get any closer than that!

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…” ~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Abundance

From God comes…

From God comes abundance.  

Christ came so we might have life and have it more abundantly. (John 10:10) Some modern ministers want us to believe this refers to wealth and prosperity. They encourage people to go boldly before God and claim this promised abundance. These “health and wealth” or “name it and claim it” preachers measure faith by how much God blesses us materially. That is not what this scripture means.  

In fact, Jesus said that a man’s life does not consist of the abundance of the things he might possess. (Luke 12:15) If we seek first the kingdom of God, we won’t have to be overly concerned about such matters. (Matthew 6:31-33) If we humble ourselves before Him, He will exalt us when the time is right. (1 Peter 5:6-7)   

I’m not saying an abundant life precludes riches or worldly success, but it does not depend on it either. Paul knew this better than anyone. He knew how to be abased or exalted, have a full tummy or an empty one, to abound or suffer—and through it all be content and give thanks. (Philippians 4:11-13; Ephesians 5:20) In other words, we can experience the abundant life even if we are going through major trials or poor as church mice.  

The life Jesus refers to in John 10:10 is eternal life, everlasting life, or life without fear of death. The phrase “more abundantly” is the Greek word “perissos” meaning “beyond, more, and above measure.” It refers back to the word “life.” Not only did Jesus come to give us eternal life, but even more than that, He lives His life within us right now. His very presence in us adds something immeasurable to our existence. He is what makes our life worth living in spite of how much money we have in the bank.

If we read the whole passage of John 10, we see it says that Jesus is our shepherd, we sheep hear His voice, and His door is always open for us. The whole context is about us having access to God. And that, my friend, is what the more abundant life is all about. Not only do we get eternal life, but as an added bonus we can have a relationship with Jesus Christ—the very One who makes it all possible.

Man views abundance in terms of physical possessions. God has a different perspective. His abundant life is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, gentleness, self-control, compassion, humility, character, wisdom, enthusiasm, dignity, optimism, confidence, honesty, and a relationship with Him. In other words, the more abundant life is full of all the things money can’t buy.

Abundance is not always about having more possessions; sometimes it’s about having enough.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Identity

From God comes…

From God comes our identity. Our identity is in Christ.

A lot of people are confused today about who they are and have what is called an identity crisis. People try to define themselves based on their occupation, looks, education, gender, success, lack of money, or background. Sometimes they let others define them which can be tricky since each person we meet views us differently. Images we have of ourselves can be hazy, like looking through a carnival mirror full of distortions. Our mirror needs to reflect who we really are in Christ, not some ambiguous likeness full of uncertainty.

Once we turn our lives over to Christ, our identity is in Him, not in what the world would have us think. From that very moment, we become a new person. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Ephesians 4:24) Learning to view ourselves as God sees us, can make a difference in how we live our lives.

God calls us His children. (John 1:12) He has chosen us to be His. (Ephesians 1:4-5) He loves us unconditionally. (Romans 5:8) He has forgiven us. (1 John 2:12) He accepts us. (Romans 15:7) He redeems us. (Ephesians 1:7) His grace has justified us. (Romans 3:24) He does not condemn us. (Romans 8:1) He frees us from being slaves to sin. (Romans 6:6) He lets the Holy Spirit dwell in us. (1 Corinthians 6:19) He blesses us. (Ephesians 1:3) He completes us. (Colossians 2:10)

We have done nothing to earn these things. They are freely given to us because of who we are in Christ. While we may want to change our behavior to reflect our identity in Christ, we do not need to earn our salvation. (Ephesians 2:8-9) God has welcomed us into being members of His household and heirs. (Ephesians 2:19; Romans 8:17) Sometimes it helps to see ourselves as God sees us and He sees us as His children. (1 John 3:1)

Embracing our identity in Christ brings a certain peace. We have no need to seek the world’s approval. We don’t need to compare ourselves with others which usually leaves us feeling like we will never measure up. We don’t need to fear the unknown. We can even have confidence in what the future holds for us eternally because God has everything under control.

If we already know who we are, we don’t have to waste a lot of time trying to figure it out. Recognizing our identity in Christ gives us more time to live a meaningful life.  

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Power

From God comes…

From God comes power.

Often we hear the adage that there is power in prayer. That may be a little misleading because prayer by itself has no power at all. The power actually comes from the One to whom we pray—God!

David understood this. In 1 Chronicles 29:12, he praised God by saying, “Both riches and honor come from You and You reign over all. In Your hand is power and might.” In God’s hand is power! We pray to the One who has all the power!

Prayer is not a means of coercing or manipulating God into doing what we want. It is a process of recognizing His power and plan for our lives. We yield our lives and circumstances to the Lord and trust Him to act in His time and in His way. We have faith in on God‘s grace, not only for the outcome of our request, but for the process as well. We can trust God’s wisdom in our situation because we know He loves and cares for us. (John 3:16; 1 Peter 5:7)   

For our own growth and edification, God may think it’s best not to give us everything we want instantly. Instead of healing, He might give us strength. Instead of deliverance, He might give us perseverance. Instead of a sparing a loved one’s life, He might give us peace. Instead of winning the lottery, He might give us a job.

How foolish we would be not to continuously access power that is available to us! God wants us to pray. Prayer acknowledges that we know how great God is. Prayer lets God know we depend on Him, not only for our emergencies, but our daily needs. Praying that God’s will be done and not our own shows God that we trust Him!  

Trying to rely on our own feeble attempts to produce a desired result is shortsighted. Only God has the power to mend the broken heart of a mother or father whose son has died. Only God has the power to grant peace and calm to someone facing a cancer diagnosis. Only God has the power to give a caregiver strength to deal with a spouse who has Alzheimer’s. Only God has the power to restore a family full of grudges and deep resentment. Only God can grant understanding. Only God can reveal Himself to others.

God has the power, but we have to pray to access it. You might say that a day without prayer is a day without tapping into the power available to us. Life is hard. I don’t know about you, but sometimes I need all the power I can get to just make it through one more day!   

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Unlimited Access

From God comes…

From God comes unlimited access to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Today our access to many things is quite restrictive. Guest lists are screened. Only certain ones get invited to prestigious events. Sometimes extensive background searches are conducted to keep out those who don’t measure up.

Plus, there are many places we cannot enter with signs stating No Trespassing, Authorized Personnel Only, Keep Out, No Parking, Restricted Area, etc. This is not necessarily a bad thing. Certain boundaries are necessary in today’s society. However, we all have unlimited access to God.

This was not always the case. Having an intimate relationship with God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is a big deal and was not really possible for the common man before the death of Christ.

In Old Testament times, the High Priest was the mediator between God and the people. Only he could enter the Holy of Holies in the temple. (Hebrews 9:7) The Holy of Holies was a special place, considered the earthly dwelling place for God’s presence. A veil or thick curtain divided it from the rest of the temple, where man could dwell.

However, when Jesus died for our sins, that veil or curtain was miraculously “rent” or torn from top to bottom. (Matthew 27:50-51) God no longer dwells in temples made of hands. (Acts 17:24) The way to God the Father is not through the temple, but through Christ His Son, because Jesus is now our High Priest. (Hebrews 10:19-22) We don’t need to go through another person like a priest, a minister, a guru, a psychic, or an angel to have access to God.

We now have direct unlimited access to the Triune God. (Ephesians 2:17-18) And God places no restrictions on who can come to Him. He places no restrictions on how often we can come. He places no restrictions on what we can discuss.  

In fact, God beckons us to come. If we are tired and weary, God says if we come to Him, He will give us rest. (Matthew 11:28) If we are thirsty, He will fill us with living water. (John 7:37) In fact, He says that He will not drive away any who come to Him. (John 6:37)

You might say God has an open door policy. God is always available and His door is always open to any who want to come. You might say that we always have a VIP ticket of entry. I find that kind of comforting in a world where my name is not on the access list to many prestigious places.  

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Acceptance

From God comes…

From God comes acceptance, not rejection.

We all have a fear of rejection. The roots for this can start with childhood experiences. Maybe it stems from parents constantly belittling their children or being chosen last for a team. We feel like failures when we are turned down for dates, don’t get into the college of our choice, don’t get the job we want, don’t place in the contest, don’t receive the promotion, don’t win the election, or a loved one leaves us for another. Most of us writers have more rejection slips than pay stubs for manuscripts we’ve submitted to editors.

Fear of rejection has us look for the approval of others, rather than God. Many build walls of protection around themselves hoping to never get hurt again. Most spend their lives trying to avoid rejection rather than learning to deal with it. Unfortunately, there are no courses on “How to Bounce Back 101” so we travel life’s highway feeling unwanted and unloved. This feeds into lies Satan wants us to believe like: we are alone, we aren’t good enough, no one cares, and God has forsaken us.

The Bible is full of stories of rejection. Joseph was rejected by his brothers. (Genesis 37) Moses was rejected by those he put himself in jeopardy to help. (Exodus 2:14) David was rejected by King Saul although he was Saul’s loyal servant. (1 Samuel 18:7-11) Paul was rejected, stoned, and left for dead by those to whom he preached. (Acts 14:19-20)

No one is immune from rejection—not even Jesus Christ. Jesus was rejected by those in His hometown. (Matthew 13:54-58; Mark 6:1-6). He was rejected by many of His followers. (John 6:60) He was rejected by those He came to save. (Isaiah 53:3) After everything God had done for the Israelites, they rejected Him and wanted a physical king like other nations. (1 Samuel 10:19)

Perhaps this is why in God’s plan of salvation everyone is accepted. (Acts 10:34) No one is unloved or unwanted. God loved us from the beginning. While we were sinners He died for us. (Romans 5:6-11) God wants us and loves us just the way we are. Of course, we might want to make a few changes but not so we can earn God’s love because we already have that. God does not want anyone to feel inferior. We are automatically part of the in-crowd, on the team, chosen, winners, and loved.

God created us for acceptance not rejection. That’s why He accepts us and will never reject us. God will not force Himself on us, but He will invite us into a relationship. The tricky part is that we need to say, “Yes!” We have the power to reject God, but He will never reject us.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Our New Name

From God comes…

From God comes our new name.

Changing one’s name is not a unique concept. Movie stars used to do it all the time. Doris Kappelhoff became Doris Day. Marion Morrison became John Wayne. Issur Danielovitch became Kirk Douglas. Leonard Slye became Roy Rogers. Eugene Orowitz became Michael Landon.

Most film stars don’t change their names anymore. We just learn how to pronounce Chiwetel Ejiofor, Amanda Seyfried, Lupita Nyong’o, Joe Manganiello, Saoirse Ronan, Zach Galifianakis, Gal Gadote, Idris Elba, and Timothee Chalamet or go see a different show. Annette Funicello once asked Walt Disney if she should change her name. He advised her not to do it because once people learned how to enunciate Funicello, they would never forget her. And although Schwarzenegger rolls off the tip of our tongues now, doesn’t mean it came easy the first few times we tried to say it.

God was not beyond changing a few names in the Bible, usually to remind people of their new identity in Him. (Isaiah 43:1) Or perhaps to let them know He had something special in mind for them.

For example, Abram means “high father,” but God changed it to Abraham meaning “father of multitudes.” (Genesis 17:5) Sarai means “my princess,” but God changed it to Sarah meaning “mother of nations.” (Genesis 17:15) Jacob means “holder of the heel” or “supplanter,” but God changed it to Israel which means “having power with God.” (Genesis 32:28) Simon means “God has heard,” but God also called him Peter meaning “rock” to indicate that he would help lay the foundation for the church. (Matthew 16:18; John 1:42)

Saul became Paul. (Acts 13:9) We have no reason given. However, Paul means “little or small.” Saul was a haughty, proud man until his transformation. He then became a humble servant of God. (Philippians 3:7-11)

Name changes can have a profound effect on people. Years ago, I heard an NPR interview with Father Gregory Boyle, founder of Homeboy Industries which works with L.A. gang members. He said that when kids get inducted into a gang, the first thing done is to give them new names like Scrappy, Bugsy, or Spike. These new names give a sense of belonging and become their new identities. They write them on walls to acknowledge their existence.   

Today, when we encounter Christ, God changes our names as well. We are called Christians. Our personal encounter with Christ is just as significant as when God changed the names of those in the Bible. We put off our old identity and get a new one in Christ. We are not the same person. (2 Corinthians 5:17) We belong to Christ.

People will know us by our God given new name because metaphorically we write it everywhere we go by the way we live our lives.

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Something New

From God comes…

From God comes something new.

The word “new” sounds hopeful and happy. As kids we relished that new toy. As a teen we loved getting that new car. It might have been a second hand Toyota, but it was new to us. As adults we dreamed of moving into a new home or getting a new higher paying job.

God likes giving us new things, too. In fact, He tells us in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold I will do a new thing.” He loves to give these new things to His chosen people. (Isaiah 43:20-21)

In the Bible, the word “new” is often used in reference to the Christian life. Once we surrender our lives to Christ, new things begin to happen. Our old selves pass away and we become a new creation in Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:17) God actually makes us a new creation. This is a miracle! We begin to realize that we should no longer live for ourselves but live for Christ. It’s a new concept for us but we discover that we actually belong to Christ. We are His and He lives in us. (Galatians 2:20)

This gives us a new focus. We see the world through spiritual eyes. It doesn’t happen instantly but progressively as we journey with Jesus. We learn to abandon our old ways and embrace a new way to live. (Colossians 3:9-10) Kindness, humility, meekness, forgiveness, and love become our new motivation. (Colossians 3:12-17) By following Jesus, we learn how to put off our former conduct so we can live a new and better life. (Ephesians 4:20-24)

When we become a new creation, God puts a new song in our mouths to praise Him. (Psalm 40:3) He gives us a new commandment which is to love others the same way He loves us. (John 13:34-35) He gives us a new heart and spirit so we can walk with Him. (Ezekiel 11:19) One day, God will give us a new body to replace one filled with aches and pains. (Philippians 3:21) Until then, God’s love and mercies are brand new every morning so we can benefit from receiving them daily. (Lamentations 3:22-23) Each day is an opportunity to experience every new thing God makes available to us. (Psalm 118:24)

A life lived for God is never dull or boring. It’s full of joy and hope for the future. We can anticipate the new heaven and earth that is coming. (2 Peter 3:13) We can look forward to the time when God makes all things new. (Revelation 21:5) God is amazing and He is always doing something new!

*****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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Reminders

From God comes…

From God comes continual reminders.

My life is an endless cycle of walking into rooms and forgetting what I went in there to get. Although some of this can be attributed to aging, humans in general have a memory problem. That’s why we continually need to be reminded of certain things.

God was well aware of this, so the Bible is full of exhortations to remember who God is, what Christ did for us, why we are here, where we are headed, and how we will get there. Philippians 1:6 reminds us that we are work in progress. God began that work in us and will faithfully complete it. To help complete this work, God sends us continual reminders of His greatness and who we are in Christ.

Sometimes a ritual can help us remember things. Baptism reminds us that Christ died for our sins and we should die to self as we are resurrected into a new life in Christ. Partaking of the bread and wine in a Communion service reminds us to stay connected to God. It helps us remember who Christ is and who we are in Christ. 

Other Christian habits such as going to church, reading the Bible, meditating on God’s words, or praying reinforce this as well. Just like Communion reminds us to stay connected to God, going to church reminds us to stay connected to others. Reading the Bible reminds us of who God is and His plan for our lives. Meditating on God’s Word reminds us to apply it in how we live. Prayer reminds us that God is in charge.

C.S. Lewis put it this way in his book Vice and Virtue, A Dictionary of the Good Life: “…once you have accepted Christianity, then some of its main doctrines shall be deliberately held before your mind for some time every day. That is why daily prayers and religious reading and churchgoing are necessary parts of the Christian life. We have to be continually reminded of what we believe. Neither this belief nor any other will automatically remain alive in the mind. It must be fed.” 

If we are spiritually receptive, we can sense God’s reminders every day. The sun, moon, and stars can remind us of God’s vast power as Creator and Sustainer. The spring season can remind us of God’s message of rebirth, renewal, and hope. A hymn can remind us of God’s faithfulness. The sound of an ambulance can remind us we live in a hurting world that only God can heal. A child’s laughter can remind us to become like little children so we can enter the Kingdom of Heaven. The list is endless.

God knows we can be forgetful, so He arranged that everything we experience can be a continual reminder of who He is and who we are in Christ. They are there if we know how to look for them.

****

“Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God…”

~James 1:17 (NLT)

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