Saintly Arrows

“A saint’s life is in the hands of God as a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer. God is aiming at something the saint cannot see.” -OSWALD CHAMBERS.

I read this statement this morning and thought for a moment about how I go about my life. I usually get up with a plan in my head for how the day will unfold. Sometimes it happens and many times it doesn’t. I am sure that you can identify! But, regardless, I start off with a plan of what I want to accomplish. It’s just the way I’m wired.

Fortunately, especially as I have gotten older, I also start the day asking God how He wants to use me. I walk through the day with an eye on my plan, but also an eye on what God may do that was not in my plan at all. I walk with expectation and anticipation of “divine appointments” that I surely do not want to miss.

So many times we make the mistake of thinking we are the archer. God is the archer…we are the arrow. The arrow does not see, not does it need to see, what the archer is aiming at. The arrow simply needs to fly true. Am I doing my best to be “straight” and focused, true to my calling as a child of God every day? Am I willing to patiently sit, waiting for the Archer to release me to His intended target? Am I comfortable that I am not the one aiming the bow?

There is a lot to learn in this analogy. Are you willing to be the arrow, or are you trying to be the archer?

2 Samuel 22:15 New International Version
“He shot his arrows and scattered the enemy,
with great bolts of lightning he routed them.”

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved

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Satan’s Conflict Phrases

I want to share a weekly message I receive from Peacemaker Ministries, an organization that has changed my life. We all need to hear this warning about Satan weaving his values into the world around us, tricking us in the process! Note at the end that you are free to forward this on to your contacts. If you found it helpful, I would also encourage you to sign up for this weekly delivery.

Six of Satan’s Favorite Conflict Phrases
“Submit yourselves, then, to God.
Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” James 4:7

Satan promotes conflict in many ways. Among other things, he tempts us so we give in to greed and dishonesty (Acts 5:3), he deceives us and misleads us (2 Tim. 2:25-26), and he takes advantage of unresolved anger (Eph. 4:26-27). Worst of all, he uses false teachers to propagate values and philosophies that encourage selfishness and stimulate controversy (1 Tim. 4:1-3). Here are some of the expressions that often reflect the devil’s lies and influence:
“Look out for Number One.”
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“Surely God doesn’t expect me to stay in an unhappy situation.”
“I’ll forgive you, but I won’t forget.”
“Don’t get mad, get even.”
“I deserve better than this.”

Satan prefers that we do not recognize his role in our conflicts. As long as we see other people as our only adversaries and focus our attacks on them, we will give no thought to guarding against our most dangerous enemy.
Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict
by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 50-51.

Food for Thought
Read Jesus’ responses to Satan’s temptations in Matthew 4:1-11. Note that in contrast to Satan’s favorite expressions noted above, none of Jesus’ responses contain the word, “I.” What’s more, none of Jesus’ responses to Satan even contain the word, “you”–usually our second favorite word in conflict! How do we prevent Satan from getting a foothold in our conflicts? We keep our conflict responses (and our words) God-centered, remembering that if God is not at the center of our thoughts during a conflict, Satan will be altogether too happy to quietly take God’s place.

Need a a quick, practical read with the biblical guidance needed to bring peace to relationships?
Resolving Everyday Conflict is a practical, biblical, and concise guide to peacemaking in everyday life that can turn your troubled relationships into peaceful ones. With the proven advice found in this book, authors Ken Sande and Kevin Johnson show you how to achieve not only a cease-fire but also unity and harmony.
Visit our online bookstore for more information or order!

PeaceMeal is a weekly e-publication of Peacemaker Ministries (www.Peacemaker.net). All Rights Reserved.
Don’t forget to pass the peace! If you found this PeaceMeal helpful, please forward it on to friends. If you’d like to reprint PeaceMeal in your church bulletin or newsletter each week, see the guidelines at http://www.Peacemaker.net.

Getting Closer to God

Don’t you want to get closer to God? Scripture tells us that this should be the desire of every Christian. And, seriously, we all desire it…but on what (or whose) terms?

What does it mean to draw closer to God? I think it means being more connected. We all want that, don’t we? Don’t you want to feel like you are walking more in the Spirit, more in tune with where God wants you, having your thoughts aligned more with what He is concerned about as opposed to what the world is focused on? And if I can get all that without having to make any drastic changes in my life, well that would be pretty awesome!

But, on God’s terms, drawing closer means being more dependent on Him as the answer to every need we have in life.

This is the screaming question: what am I depending on for my peace, my security or my comfort other than God? And if I really want to get closer to Him…do I have to give it up? What if it’s not really “that bad”? Do I still need to give it up…really…forever?

Scripture has a term for these “things” on which we depend. It calls them idols. And having them violates the first commandment and a whole lot of other scriptural principles.

I don’t need to share with you what my idols are to make my point. All I suggest you do is that you take the risky step of asking God, in His mercy, to reveal your idols to you so that you can put them aside…forever. This (among other things) will draw you closer to Him, because as you jettison those things that you are holding onto for your security, you will feel very vulnerable; maybe even scared. And when we are vulnerable, weak and scared, we turn to God. It is a simple equation and a timeless truth.

And if by now you hate what I am saying, especially if it rings true, let me reassure you that there is good news. Those things that you need to toss aside, well they were never really going to save you anyway. What they were really going to do is keep you more distant from a loving Father who wants to be nearer to you too. A loving father who wants to meet your every need as you depend totally on Him.

Don’t put off asking God to let you see what idols are in your life. Don’t continue to ask to get closer to God on your own terms that allow you to keep holding onto what actually separates you from Him. It does not and cannot work that way.

And if you ever want to talk more about what might be an idol in your life, feel free to connect with me…unfortunately, I have a lot of experience with them!

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

The Fulcrum Principal

(Note: This devotional was written by Kelly McFadden and received it by email from a third party source.  I felt that the message was so good that I wanted to share it, with all credit to the original author– Steve) 

The Lord is my rock, my
fortress and deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and
the horn of my salvation.
He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior… —2 Samuel 22:2

One of the classic playground equipment pieces is the teeter-totter. Up and
down, a child rides with a partner. Each of them pushes up into the sky. You
could try to sit on it alone, but that would get you nowhere. So a child grabs
a friend to ride with them, sometimes soaring high and other times hanging low.

There is one steady spot on the teeter-totter: the fulcrum. This pivot point
does not move but remains stationary. This is just like life. Like the
teeter-totter, there are high points and low points. Sometimes you soar high in
the sky, laughing and enjoying everything around you. Other times there are
lows, when the ride is less fun.

But, in all of life there is one thing that remains the same through the highs
and the lows: The love of Jesus is our fulcrum, our balance. Whatever is
happening in your life, there is a loving God who wants you to know that He is
your rock. And take note in this: As you get closer to the fulcrum, the high’s
become a little less high and the lows a little less low. When we live our
lives with Jesus as our center point – we balance – experiencing the
realization that God knows us, loves us, and has a plan for us.

Even with Jesus as our fulcrum, we will still have both great days and bad
days. But, there is a perspective change. How you view the world changes as you
come closer and closer to knowing the saving love of Jesus, who is your rock,
fortress, and deliverer.

GOING DEEPER:
1. Think back to a time in your life where you felt things couldn’t get worse.
How did God reveal Himself as your rock?
2. What are ways that you can change your perspective so that you can rely on
Jesus, the rock, in the good and bad times?
FURTHER READING:
Psalm 18:1-4Matthew
7:20-24
1 Corinthians 10:4

Be Careful Not to Judge

I was in a conversation a month or so ago with a person who was wrestling with how to address an interpersonal struggle. I was explaining how Matthew 18:15-17 lays out a framework for approaching another believer to resolve conflict. The next statement from this person is one I had heard before: “Well, the way ______ is acting, I doubt if he even is a Christian, so I am not sure I need to follow those verses!” 

Ouch! 

When we are angry at someone else, particularly another believer who we feel has hurt us, we can be quick to judge their entire character based upon the one act that caused us pain.  Even worse, little by little we walk through the mine field of assumptions and select a long list of the “whys” and the “I bet ifs” to carefully paint the other person in the worst light possible, often before we have even heard their explanation.  Pain can make us react this way. So we need to be extra careful, especially when we feel that we have been attacked and when we feel the pain caused by controversy, to be sure we respond correctly. 

Earlier in Matthew, Jesus said “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matthew 7:1-2). If I have been hurt by another person, particularly another Christian, and I judge their whole character on this one event, this verse tells me that I should expect others to judge my whole character on any one action I might take; a very scary thought unless you happen to lead a perfect life!  This other person may have hurt me, but I need to recognize that they are not perfect, just like I am not perfect. Do I want to be judged on my imperfections? Of course not!  Then neither should I judge someone else who just slipped up.  What I need to do is exactly what Matthew 18 tells me to do: go to them and talk it through. I do not need to strike back, impugn their character and decide that they obviously have not been saved by the blood of Christ. I need to admit that I have either done the same thing or am at least capable of doing the same thing and that we both need the forgiveness of Christ.  We are the same; we both screw up and we both need help. 

So, the next time you are hurt by someone else, go immediately to the cross of Christ. Ask for forgiveness for when you hurt others and ask for the grace to forgive this person who has just hurt you. This will reshape your attitude so that you can start down the Matthew 18 path of reconciliation with the right heart for your brother or sister who needs Christ every day, just like you do. 

Just like we all do. 

 

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.

Obedience During The Tough Times

When I look at Biblical standards concerning giving to the poor, ministering to widows and orphans and generally looking out for the marginalized and downtrodden, I am always looking for the complementary verse. You know, the “when” verse; the one that tells me that I only need to do these things “when” I have extra time, extra money and extra emotional energy. 

The “when” verse isn’t there.

I was just reading a wonderful devotional blog from Joe Gibbs (www.GamePlanForLife.com).  He says this: 

Just because prices are up and wages are down, biblical truth is not temporarily suspended. Lean years don’t exempt us from pursuing God’s way of doing things. In fact, it’s in times like these—when real need is a lot closer to your front door than it may have seemed in days past—that the blessing of giving is actually the greatest. Your generous, sacrificial acts of service and care in Christ’s name have more potential for touching hearts now than they ever did.” 

It’s tough to give when resources are low and the future does not look bright. Ask the widow who put two small copper coins into the temple coffers when they were all she had left. (Matthew 12:42 and Luke 21:2). Jesus called his disciples together to showcase her as an example of faith. 

I am not writing to put you on a guilt trip.  I want us all to be on a faith trip; faith in a God who rewards obedience, especially obedience that is costly. Faith in a God who will not let you fall when your heart is set on helping others. 

The person you are giving to probably knows times are tough and will appreciate it even more.  

So will God.

Unclean

Three weeks ago I developed a case of the shingles. Pain, fever, blisters and eventually more and different pain, scabs… you get the point. God blessed me in that the affected area on my head, face and neck was relatively controlled, but I still developed a new level of respect for Job and his sores! 

I also developed a sense of being “unclean” like the lepers in the Bible. Infected, contagious and unpleasant to look at. I did not want to be around anyone; I did not want to be seen. Those around me had questions. Could they come close? Could they catch something?  When would the danger be gone? 

I began to look around.  Who does society see as “unclean” and unapproachable? The addict?  The prostitute? The person with HIV?  What about the felon who no one will hire or the homeless? Do you ever wonder how that person begging on the street corner feels when no one will even make eye contact with them? 

Now bring the question a step closer.  What about the person in your world who has so many scars from life that they feel utterly alone, almost invisible?  That person may sit beside you at work or they may be cleaning the building or bussing the tables at your favorite restaurant. 

As a Christian, called to bring the light of the gospel into the world around you, what do you have to give them? The third chapter of the book of Acts tells the story of Peter and John interacting with a lame beggar at the temple gate.  He was asking for money, but they gave him more than he asked for. “Look at us” was the first thing Peter said. Interesting. Peter then went on to heal the beggar in the name of Christ, commanding him to rise up and walk. 

I had lunch yesterday with a Pastor who ministers in the inner city.  I asked him what to do when asked for money by someone begging on the streets. “Get them to look at you” he said, “and ask them their name.” He went on to talk about how so many of the homeless on the street have deep wounds of rejection from their past, how they have no sense of dignity and worth and how this often leads to addictions that numb the pain. Tears came to my eyes as he told me how he gave a position of responsibility in his church to someone who the world would say was “unclean” … and watched as this person’s sense of dignity as a child of God was restored! We can give that gift to those around us. Ask the Spirit to lead you and keep your eyes open for opportunities to give worth, respect and dignity to someone in your path.  

Be smart. Do not put yourself in a dangerous situation by walking into an area where you have no experience. But I can assure you that you will not have to walk far.  There are folks in your current circle of contacts who feel unaccepted like they are “unclean”; they need to hear that they are highly valued in God’s eyes, that they are loved, have dignity and are worthy of respect. 

Look around for someone who looks like they consider themselves “unclean” and help them rise up to a position of dignity.  Tell them that they are created in God’s image and that He loves them with all of their blemishes… just like He loves you and me.

Risk enough to develop a relationship that allows you to bring the light of Jesus into their world. 

You may be the only person who will. 

©Stephen B. Hatcher. All rights reserved.