spiritual growth

Why God relates to us differently

Then Jesus asked them, “When I sent you without purse, bag or sandals, did you lack anything?” “Nothing,” they answered. He said to them, “But now if you have a purse, take it, and also a bag; and if you don’t have a sword, sell your cloak and buy one.” Luke 22:35-36 (NIV)

This is a curious passage of scripture, one which could make someone who is familiar with the nature and teaching of Jesus to do a double take. What in the world is Jesus talking about here?

This advice seems contrary to everything we know about Jesus from both His teachings and His dealings with His disciples. It appears to contradict His many exhortations to faith in God’s provision and to trust in God’s protection. The very idea of now being told to essentially lookout for oneself after the comfort of experiencing God’s miraculous interventions seems ludicrous.

But the reality is, Jesus’ manner in relating to His disciples is about to change. He is preparing them for His impending arrest, crucifixion and death. In the next breath He tells them: “It is written: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me.’” (vs. 37)

This change in the rules of the game ushered in a very difficult time for the disciples. No one suffered more than poor Peter. First he took Jesus’ advice about the sword too literally. At Jesus’ arrest he overstepped the will of the Lord and wielding his sword cut off a man’s ear. Jesus had to rebuke him saying “No more of this!” and healed the man. Then Peter ended up denying Christ three times and going out into the night weeping bitterly. (vs. 47-62)

Stressed? Where to look for help.

“My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:1 NIV)

I have been battling some stress lately, feeling deluged with last minute details for an upcoming event in which I have some major responsibilities. It dawned on me this morning that the stress was having a cumulative effect upon me. I had to acknowledge that I had been trying to carry things in my own strength rather looking with eyes of faith to God who is the burden bearer. Consequently fear and anxiety were robbing me of my peace during the day and my sleep at night. Perhaps you can identify with me.

Basically what I realized was that I had been looking in the wrong places for answers and help. It reminded me of the man in Psalm 121 who had a similar revelation in his journey through a trying time. As I read this psalm it helped me get back into a place of faith as I focused on where real help comes from.

Psalm 121 is the second one in a series of 15 psalms called the Psalms of Ascent or the Pilgrim Psalms. These psalms, from 120 through 134, were written describing the pilgrimage each Israelite was required to make annually to Jerusalem to worship at the great feasts. They were songs the pilgrims sung, journeying from their respective towns and villages, climbing steadily through the Judean hills and valleys, battling adversity both from within and from without, ever looking for a glimpse of Mount Zion where they would eventually enter God’s presence in the temple courts.

These psalms are also descriptive of the spiritual journey that each of us must make in order to grow in our faith relationship with God. Spiritual growth can only begin when we acknowledge the mess our souls are in, our need for change and the necessity of looking to God as the change agent.

3 reasons God tests us

Don’t you wish that when God sends a test your way that there would be some kind of warning like one of those loud pulsating alarms or a flashing light that says “This is a Test!” Knowing that would bring a heightened awareness to focus on God and respond in a way that is pleases to Him. Why does God test us anyway? There are three basic reasons.

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