13 Oct

It’s Okay to Be Vulnerable

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If Adam had tripped while running around in the Garden of Eden, could he have hurt himself? If, impressed by the birds, Eve tried to fly by jumping out of a tree, would she have injured herself? Or died?

I ask these questions to suggest that Adam wasn’t Superman. Shoot at the Man of Steel and the bullets will bounce off his chest; fire at Adam and he’ll bleed to death.

Eve may have been the apex of creation, but she’s not Wonder Woman.

The first couple was vulnerable, even in the Garden of Eden. Were they defective? God doesn’t seem to think so. He called his creation “very good” (see Genesis 1:31).

What Adam and Eve had going for them was a relationship with God. Although the Lord created them with the potential to suffer harm, He would not allow their vulnerabilities to be exploited. Whether by granting wisdom or getting involved, He would protect them.

Adam and Eve damaged their relationship with God when they sinned. The security they had enjoyed degraded. From that time on, they and their descendants would know pain and difficulty.

“To the woman He said, ‘I will make your pains in childbearing very severe; with painful labor you will give birth to children. Your desire will be for your husband, and he will rule over you.’ 17To Adam He said, ‘Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, “You must not eat from it,” cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. 18It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. 19By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return.’” – Genesis 3:16-19

The frailties of human nature were now exposed. Dangers can destroy us.

But God defends those who trust Him.

“You will not fear the terror of night, nor the arrow that flies by day, 6nor the pestilence that stalks in the darkness, nor the plague that destroys at midday. 7A thousand may fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand, but it will not come near you. 8You will only observe with your eyes and see the punishment of the wicked. 9If you say, ‘The Lord is my refuge,’ and you make the Most High your dwelling, 10no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.” – Psalm 91:5-10

The psalmist David was no superhero, impervious to enemy attacks or immune to diseases. He was a shepherd, a warrior, and a king, who put his confidence in God’s power. The Bible describes him as “a man after God’s own heart” (see Acts 13:22).

Jesus Himself demonstrated how the Father looks out for those who are His.

“All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this. 29They got up, drove Him out of the town, and took Him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. 30But He walked right through the crowd and went on His way.” – Luke 4:28-30

When Jesus had announced that His ministry was launching the Kingdom of God, the residents of Capernaum reacted with outrage. Offended by messianic pretensions they considered blasphemy, they drove Him out of the synagogue and sought to throw Christ off a cliff.

Superheroes can beat back hostile crowds, but Jesus strolled through the mob without abuse. How? Wasn’t He vulnerable? Yes, flinging Him off the precipice could have killed Him. But God covered His Son.

Paul, too, demonstrated God’s ability to preserve His servants.

“Paul gathered a pile of brushwood and, as he put it on the fire, a viper, driven out by the heat, fastened itself on his hand. 4When the islanders saw the snake hanging from his hand, they said to each other, ‘This man must be a murderer; for though he escaped from the sea, the goddess Justice has not allowed him to live.’ 5But Paul shook the snake off into the fire and suffered no ill effects. 6The people expected him to swell up or suddenly fall dead; but after waiting a long time and seeing nothing unusual happen to him, they changed their minds and said he was a god.” – Acts 28:3-6

The crowd misjudged Paul twice. The apostle was neither a murder nor a god. He was Christ’s ambassador and the Lord rescued Him.

In what ways do you feel susceptible to the hazards of this world? Do you wish you were stronger or smarter, so you can better fend for yourself?

Being a superhero won’t help, there’s always kryptonite!

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But when you choose to be a disciple of Jesus, you learn firsthand that He is more than enough for you.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for My power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10

 

06 Oct

When the Personal Pales

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America has been pounded. Three hurricanes in rapid succession, followed by the worst mass shooting in the nation’s history. We mourn the death count, ruined lives, and destroyed properties and dreams.

There’s so much to process and too many difficult questions to work through. It’s easy to let yourself get overwhelmed by everything that’s happened.

Perhaps you’re hoping that no one asks you about God. Where was He in the midst of all that gunfire? Why did the Lord allow those hurricanes? People pose these questions to you but you may be asking them yourself. What can you say? You want to help others make some sense out of all this, but where do you begin?

Start with yourself.

Remember the line that flight attendants repeat? “In the event of an emergency, put your oxygen mask on first before helping others.” It’s not selfish; you can’t help someone if you’ve passed out!

Take Jesus as your role model.

“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where He prayed.” – Mark 1:35

“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” – Luke 5:16

To communicate God’s heart, to share wisdom that can comfort the grieving, you have get ready. You don’t have to know all the answers. You only have to quiet your soul; then, you can offer His message of hope.

“My heart is not proud, Lord, my eyes are not haughty; I do not concern myself with great matters or things too wonderful for me. 2But I have calmed and quieted myself, I am like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child I am content. 3Israel, put your hope in the Lord both now and forevermore.” – Psalm 131

When God’s peace rules your heart, you’ll be in the right frame of mind to help others deal with disaster.

Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” No doubt he was contrasting the power of imagination with past events and future possibilities. But his quip also applies to the suffering of our country.

It’s natural to feel upset by the magnitude of what Americans have endured. Four horrible occurrences. What’s to keep these from happening again? Will the future be as dark as the recent past?

What’s inside you? Anger, fear, worry? Or generosity and courage?

Consider the “Cajun Navy”–men and women who traveled from southern Louisiana to rescue those in the Houston area imperiled by Hurricane Harvey. And in Las Vegas, brave people shielded others from the hail of bullets. Some survived, others didn’t.

“Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

Again, follow Jesus as your example.

“This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.” – 1 John 3:16

But you don’t have to talk yourself into self-sacrifice. Instead, recognize who you are in Christ: dead and raised!

“For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.” – Colossians 3:3

“Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with Him.” – Romans 6:8

Before you confront the issues and needs of the day, take time to reinforce your personal identity. Align yourself with Jesus, crucified and resurrected. His death is your death; His life is your life. Secure in Christ’s victory, you’ll find all the strength, wisdom, and resolve you need to serve others.

“I have told you these things, so that in Me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” – John 16:33