Sunday, August 24, 2014

Wrestling Match

Lately I have been struggling in my Christian walk. During my time away on vacation I was captured by a verse from Genesis chapter 32:24, "So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.'' According to the text, the so-called "man" with whom Jacob wrestled was God Himself which Jacob came to realize after his struggle. (Genesis 32:30) A question that popped into my mind was, how can one wrestle with God without being totally destroyed? Yes, Jacob was left with a dislocated hip, so he did not come away unscathed. (Genesis 32:31-32) However, God also gave Jacob a new name, "Israel" which means he who struggles with God. (Genesis 32:28a) Moreover, the passage tells us that Jacob struggled with not only God but also men and was an overcomer. (Genesis 32:28b) I wondered what did it mean that Jacob was an overcomer? Jacob in his struggles was clear that he would not release the individual whom he was struggling with until the man blessed him.(Genesis 32:26) In a way I can identify with Jacob. I sometimes get focused on the struggles in life and feel like I'm "wrestling with God" to try and understand what's happening amidst the daily challenges I experience. Sometimes I feel like the Christian life is just too hard. But deep in my spirit I know that I will not let Jesus go until I receive that ultimate blessing, the eternal life He has promised. Please don't misunderstand, I receive daily grace from God just in the fact that I am alive and well. But my ultimate reward lies with seeing the Lord face to face and dwelling with Him forever. The Lord has also promised that like Jacob we will receive a new name. (Revelation 2:17) I don't know what that new name will be but more than that I long for the day when my Lord says, "Well done good and faithful servant. You have wrestled on this earth with the things of God that were unknown or not understood. You have wrestled with the sins of men that have come against you and you have overcome." The Lord has promised to all who overcome they will receive a crown of life. (James 1:12) The truth is the only way I can declare victory is because of Jesus. I can "wrestle with God" and not be totally destroyed because Jesus has opened the way to the Father's throne of grace. Jesus has walked the road before me. He wrestled with men in His ministry on earth and struggled emotionally with the Father in the Garden of Gethsemane and ultimately on the cross. Like Jacob, Jesus was literally wounded in His struggle but He overcame in His resurrection! Now Jesus reigns with the Father and has many Names by which we have come to know Him and describe His glory (Savior, Redeemer, Wonderful Counselor, Almighty God, King of Kings, Lord of Lords, etc. and the list goes on and on!) Even though I may struggle on any given day, I know that I do not do so in vain. For as James tells us, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." (James 1:2-4) 
Thanks be to God!
Pastor Sheree

Monday, August 4, 2014

Believing Is Seeing

I was reading a meditation from one of my favorite devotionals, "Streams In The Desert." A particular line jumped out at me, "believing is seeing." I thought about this concept for awhile and recognized that the world is wedded to the notion that "seeing is believing". The question occurred to me, what do people really see? Is seeing relegated to that which is tangible and visible? If I can put my hands on it and experience it with all my senses then I can know it's real? However, our so-called "knowledge" can be oh so flawed. Our knowledge is usually tainted with pride. I began thinking about the account in John 20:19-31 where the resurrected Lord appeared to the disciples and then to Thomas. I wondered why did Thomas fail to believe his fellow disciples when they reported that they had seen the Lord? Thomas appeared to be operating out of the "seeing is believing" mode. What if he had responded differently to the news and simply accepted with gladness the fact that Jesus had risen? Would the Lord then have reappeared in that moment as Thomas believed and thus could see? I noticed that Jesus waited one week before appearing again to confront Thomas. Why? Did the Lord want Thomas perhaps to wrestle with what he had heard from the other disciples? When we believe first, then we become so much more open to seeing God manifesting Himself in so many different ways. If we insist on seeing first, we close ourselves off to God's Presence right in front of us. I believe this was a part of Jesus' point to Thomas when He told him, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29b) These are the people who open themselves up to truly seeing the Lord moving in their midst. One of my favorite contemporary Christian artists is Steven Curtis Chapman. Several years ago, his young adopted daughter, Maria, was killed in the family's driveway when their son accidentally ran over her. It was a devastating time for all involved especially their son who was behind the wheel. Out of that painful experience, Steven's wife, Mary Beth Chapman wrote a book entitled, "Choosing To SEE." In the book she shares intimate details of the family's life before and after the death of their daughter. The book allowed her to work through her own personal grief while her husband produced a CD entitled, "Beauty Will Rise" as his way of working through the trauma. After the funeral and the family's attempt to live with a new "normal" Steven and Mary Beth were looking through Maria's toys. They found a piece of paper with a flower drawn in crayon. There were six petals which they surmised represented the members of the family. However, only one of the petals was colored in blue. Next to the drawing, Maria had written the word, "SEE." The Chapman's believe this was their daughter's way of saying goodbye and uniquely telling them to see beyond their grief. To believe that all is well in the presence of her Heavenly Father. That one simple word, "SEE" was the healing balm they needed for their souls. I feel this is God's word to me. Believe so you can "SEE." I pray that you will move beyond the limitations that this world places on us and believe in the Lord so that you may truly "SEE."
Peace In Christ, Pastor Sheree