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Once in a while we all have issues— times when we want to do things our own way. The trouble with doing it our own way is – it does not work out as well. When God is in it, we do better. Jacob learned this the hard way, in Genesis 32:24-26:
24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”
Jacob had finally realized that the best thing we can do in our pain is to hang on to God, at that point he will bless us in return.
A couple verses later, God did bless him, and Genesis records:
29… Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

When God blesses us, there are two things to learn:

  • God can do it better if we follow his Guidance.
  • Take a mental picture of the lesson learned, and do not forget it.

We never want to fall back into the wrestling routine with God that messed us up in the first place.

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It was during this week in the summer of 2009 when I ate a piece of steak that nearly killed me. Unknown to me at the time, it was a little too rare, and the rarity allowed a virulent form of e-coli to rampage through my body. Within 3 days I was in an induced coma as doctors struggled to get ahead of the bacterial storm that was attacking me, without mercy.

My heart nearly stopped. My gall bladder suffered a severe infection that required a drainage bag. My kidneys failed. My blood became septic.

My wife, Cathy, was told – the situation was critical. I could easily die. She rallied the prayer warriors:

My church:

  • Our International Denominational convention was happening that week. I learned that they lifted me up in prayer at the conference — over 10,000 participants.
  • My entire church congregation (about 150 people) —went to the alter on Sunday, and prayed for me. (During the next few weeks their prayers continued.)

My mother, several states away:

  • asked for prayer where she worked in a catholic diocese (a diocese with over 3000 people)
  • asked for prayer in her home church of 2000+ members.

My brother’s church

  • (over 1,500 people) lifted up a petition for God’s intervention also.

When I came out of the coma, I could feel the presence of God’s spirit, interceding. It was like a warm flood of well-being, flowing over me in wave after wave. The warm flood would subside for a few hours, then it would advance again like an ocean tide, in wave after wave. I was on an IV anti-bacterial drip, but this was no drug. It was so GOOD, it brought me to tears several times.

If I had to describe Grace, that is the best I could do. I did not deserve it. The prayers of thousands were lifted up, but the noteworthy thing was – it was up to God, and God alone, to DELIVER me. I had no doubt, it was Him alone.
Salvation is like that.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says
8 For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— 9 not by works, so that no one can boast.

There is nothing in this near death experience in which I could boast. The prayers of thousands sustained me. The grace of God saved me from this terrible bacterial attack, and spiritually, only God’s son could provide the needed provision to save me spiritually.

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You flip the switch, your computer happily starts itself up and connects to the internet.

  • The physical process is intact…. Check.

When my children first gained exposure to the internet, I was a nervous parent. I watched them carefully. I wanted them to stay safe. Are they being slammed with pop-ups? Is the website they visit legitimate? Are they learning to avoid the dangers that are out there?

  • Software protections and habits in place and enforced? …. Check.

“We got this dad, we can handle it now.”

I wanted to trust, but I would have been foolish and naive. I was not ready to let my little boys explore a dark alley in a foreign country by themselves. As an IT professional, I knew what lurked out there.

Likewise, we cannot assume that we know what we need in our steps of faith with God. We can easily think we know enough, but our knowledge about life in Christ can be superficial.

Luke 13:26-27 (NIV) says:
26 “Then you will say, ‘We ate and drank with you, and you taught in our streets.’ 27 “But he will reply, ‘I don’t know you or where you come from. Away from me, all you evildoers!’

In the long-run, we should not get comfortable. We should never think we have arrived into full knowledge of Christ. He loves us, and we love him – but superficial gains in knowing Him can cost us more than we can bear.

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If you are a person of skill and confidence, it can be difficult to be a peer/servant rather than a leader/supervisor. Of course,, if you are service oriented, it is psychologically easier to be a follower. The challenges with each of these personality types are different. In John 13:3-5, Jesus took the callused dirty feet of his disciples in hand, and washed away the dirt. He demonstrated an example, which was very much a call to action to all who follow him.

Regardless of our personality or our perspective of what Jesus means in our life, when we are called to follow, we come to realize that Jesus was NOT projecting a message leading to our success, reputation, or personal advancement. When I first realized this, years ago, I came to engage Christian life as service.
There is an ‘Ick!’ factor in service to the world. No one is born with a desire to ‘do the dirty work’. Nor do many people like tedious, repetitive work. Jesus pointed out that no one will understand it, at first. In John 13:7 Jesus said “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand.”
We might need to be drawn, kicking and screaming, until our reluctance is broken. Even Peter, the first leader in the church, was unwilling according to John 13:8-9. It is not an easy thing to follow, and serve.

But Oh, the wonder. In service to God’s kingdom, there is a butterfly affect – an unfolding plan that I am not fully aware of, but we can know it is happening, and effective. In John 4:34-37, we read:
34 “My food,” said Jesus, “is to do the will of him who sent me and to finish his work. 35 Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest. 36 Even now the one who reaps draws a wage and harvests a crop for eternal life, so that the sower and the reaper may be glad together. 37 Thus the saying ‘One sows and another reaps’ is true. 38 I sent you to reap what you have not worked for. Others have done the hard work, and you have reaped the benefits of their labor.”

There is a plan, associated with our service. We can realize that we are part of something that God is orchestrating. We no longer think about the “Ick!”. To put it more personally, it is not about what I think, and it is not about what anyone else thinks. I can do it, since I am happy to do it as “unto the Lord”.

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I remember a conversation with my son when he was feeling very overwhelmed by things going on in his elementary school. He was not yet at an age where he could grasp rational steps that might help him get through. I felt I had to respond with something visual and concrete. I shared a verse from Isaiah 40:31 “..but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

He responded tearfully, with little boy words. The essence of his response was:
“Dad, an eagle may carry me…. but when I am on the wings, it is a very scary, ride!”
I held him close, and marveled at how quickly he was growing. Sometimes even a comforting bible verse does not help. I was being too matter of fact about my own faith. The facts were there, in my head, but it was not heartfelt. I had not yet apprehended the truth I needed either.

Then, the Lord sent another verse to mind that helped — an answer we both needed. In John 16:30, the disciples had thought that they had gotten their mental act together, and they said: “Now we can see that you know all things and that you do not even need to have anyone ask you questions. This makes us believe that you came from God.”

Jesus replied. 32 “A time is coming and in fact has come when you will be scattered, each to your own home. You will leave me all alone. Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me. 33 “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.”

And there it was. A statement of truth that separates the Christian from the non-Christian as it relates to bad circumstances. Life can be bad. We are not guaranteed an easy ride through life. BUT, since Jesus has overcome the world, we can focus on where we are going rather than solely focus on obstacles. In looking beyond the ‘now’ moment, we know that He provides the strength we need to enjoy the ride.

The peace that comes through the Hope of Jesus Christ will get us through.

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