Tag Archives: Matt Maher

Opportunity or Threat?

Dear brothers and sisters, when troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy.
James 1:2, NLT*

Do you see troubles as an opportunity?

Maybe I’m still too much of a child inside, but I have the child’s response (mentally) of cowering and shrinking. Of thinking the trouble is too big, and fearing it will overwhelm me. Of seeing a threat.

Another part of me raises my defenses. It’s a win-or-lose struggle, and I can’t afford to lose.

James gives us a much broader perspective. Of course the pain and risk of trouble is great. (In verse 12 he talks about how “God blesses those who patiently endure.”) But he reveals a higher level of stakes.

Trouble isn’t one more bout with a larger danger that will eventually overcome us, as if life is really out to get us.

Trouble is one more opportunity to grow spiritually and to deepen our relationship with the God who loves us. (click to tweet)

It’s not a case of “fight until you can’t get up.” James says trouble tests our faith. To that he adds:

For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing. (James 1:3-4, NLT*)

How can we reach a perfect state of needing nothing? By becoming fully reliant on our God, who we’ve discovered is all-sufficient for any trouble that threatens us. Will that happen this side of Heaven? Maybe not, but we can grow toward it.

God who loves us and redeems us, please open us to see opportunity where our natural selves see only threats. Help us to allow the troubles in our lives to help develop our endurance. Give us the faith to trust You, so we can experience Your all-sufficient care for us.

We have another Matt Maher song this week, because it fits perfectly: “Everything is Grace.”

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Pain and Endurance

We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance.
Romans 5:3, NLT*

Most people’s natural reaction to problems and trials is a plea to get us out of there. We don’t like pain, and it’s often a signal of danger (think about touching a hot stove, or feeling symptoms of a health problem).

In a fallen world, pain is inevitable. Nobody wants it, but God can use even this. Let’s not waste it.

Today’s verse can remind us to invite God to work in our problems and to “help us develop endurance.” It shifts our focus from the trouble itself to God. Not that it diminishes the pain, but it restores perspective. We’re not alone. The God of the universe is with us. He cares for us, and He is our best and only hope.

Instead of slipping into self-defense mode, can we learn to ask what will God do here? Can we look for His help in anticipation and trust instead of watching fearfully for disaster?

The Message actually uses the words “alert expectancy” as we look “for whatever God will do next.” (Romans 5:3-5, MSG) That’s a challenge I can’t live up to, most days. But I want to.

God our Strength and our Shield, when You let us go through trials, help us remember that You are there with us. Help us keep our eyes on You. Teach us to look in alert expectancy for “whatever You will do” and to remember that however huge the crisis, You can give us what we need to endure it.

When I looked for an “endurance” song, I couldn’t get this one out of my head, so perhaps God wants to speak to someone through it… it’s definitely a good prayer for each of us: Matt Maher‘s “A Future Not My Own.” (See the background to the lyrics.)


*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Messages that Encourage Me

Messages that have resonated with me lately:

“God has given you praise as a weapon to defeat despair. ” Victory Over Despair, by Nike Chillemi

The Weapon of Praise, posted by Grace Fox.

“How do we most glorify God? By being completely satisfied in Him, realizing that the neediness we have is designed by our Creator in order to be fulfilled by Jesus. ” Satisfaction for a Thirsty Soul, by Jake Riddle

“Wait on God and He will work, but don’t wait in spiritual sulks because you cannot see an inch in front of you! Are we detached enough from our spiritual hysterics to wait on God? To wait is not to sit with folded hands, but to learn to do what we are told.” (Oswald Chambers, quoted at ochristian.com)

“Inadequacy can be one of the best blessings in your life if you respond properly.” The Good Side of Inadequacy, audio message by Dr. Charles Stanley (Do take 25 minutes and listen to this…)

Offline, what is God using most to speak to my spirit? Matt Maher‘s newest album, Saints and Sinners, and Eugene H. Peterson’s classic, A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.

When We Get into Trouble

“Didn’t I see you out there in the olive grove with Jesus?”
Again Peter denied it. And immediately a rooster crowed.
John 18:26b-27, NLT*

Peter loved Jesus. I’m sure he wholeheartedly meant his earlier vow that he’d never deny his Lord. (Matthew 26:31-35)

Yet here he was, doing that very thing. Matthew’s account says Peter’s denial was so intense it involved cursing. And that when the rooster crowed and he realized what he’d done, he fled, “weeping bitterly.” (Matthew 26:69-75)

Why did he do it? Was he afraid? Or was he trying to stay “under cover” in case there was a chance to rescue Jesus?

Whatever his motivation, Peter’s denial came because he was acting on his own initiative and in his own strength.

Isn’t that when we get into trouble, too?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take.
Proverbs 3:5-6, NLT*

Our best intentions can blow up in our faces. Peter’s experience reminds us how important it is to learn to listen to and rely on the Lord. He also reminds us of Jesus’ loving forgiveness when we mess up (see John 21).

Our God and Saviour, Your grace to forgive is beyond our understanding, but we receive it gladly and we rely on it often. Teach us to walk closer to You, to trust You instead of ourselves. Slow us down to listen before we leap. Make us people after Your own heart.

What better prayer than Matt Maher‘s “Lord, I Need You“?

*New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible. New Living Translation copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Why Jesus is Relevant

Our Saviour Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.
Titus 3:5a-7, MSG*

When I was a child, our church encouraged us to invite our friends to Sunday School, and to let them know that Jesus loved them.

I never knew what to say to them about Jesus. That lasted into early adulthood. All I had was, “You need to believe in Him so you’ll go to Heaven when you die.”

Eternity is important, but to the invincible hearts of youth, it’s not imminent. I used to pray, “How do I show them that Jesus is relevant now? In their choices and struggles today?”

He’s relevant in my life, and others will see it when I live authentically. Part of it is that I’m secure in my hope of Heaven because of His promises, but mostly it’s a growing assurance of His presence and His care.

The longer I live in faith, the more my experience proves God’s faithfulness. That doesn’t mean I always trust Him right away or never worry or get discouraged, but we have a history. A track record that reinforces my faith as I look back.

Nothing has been too much for Him yet, and I have His promise that He never changes. Or sleeps, for that matter! He won’t run out of energy or mercy or power.

Restored relationship with God – and our lives, given back to us. Life with a fullness we didn’t have before. God with us, to save, sustain and strengthen. We don’t have to be alone anymore.

That’s the Good News. It’s relevant. And it won’t end with death, although the pain will.

Why do we need Jesus? For the here and now… and for eternity.

Eternal Father, strong and compassionate to save, when we didn’t even see our need, You paid everything to rescue us. You promise to never leave or forsake us, and You keep Your word. Open our eyes to how deeply You want to be involved in our lives. Help us live in faith. Help us to share the truth and the relevance of the Gospel with those around us. Open their hearts to receive You.

Let Matt Maher‘s song, “Lord I Need You,” be our prayer today.

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

What Are You Looking At?

And Moses answered, “Look at me. I stutter. Why would Pharaoh listen to me?”

God told Moses, “Look at me. I’ll make you as a god to Pharaoh and your brother Aaron will be your prophet.”
Exodus 6:30-7:1, MSG*

God called Moses to a mind-breaking task: to lead the people of Israel out of Egypt and into the Promised Land. Oh, yes, and to be messenger to Pharaoh, who had no intention of letting them go.

Poor Moses, no wonder he felt overwhelmed from the moment God first called him. Exiled from Egypt as a murderer, living as a shepherd, and he had trouble speaking. Hardly an ideal mouthpiece for the Almighty.

Good thing he had no idea how the people would behave once he got them out!

By the time he reaches today’s verses, he’s already tried to talk God out of this several times. He’s back in Egypt with Aaron. They’ve spoken to Pharaoh, who responded by increasing the Israelite slaves’ workload. Now Moses’ own people are angry with him.

Moses complains to God, who repeats the command to confront Pharaoh and to lead the people out of Egypt.

Moses: Look at me! Everyone’s mad at me. I can’t even speak clearly! I can’t do this—it’s hopeless!

God: Look at Me.

We likely haven’t been assigned such an enormous task, although sometimes it feels that way. But don’t we respond the same way? Look at me, my weakness… the obstacles…?

Can you hear God’s whisper? Look at Me. (click to tweet this)

I don’t think He shouts it, in anger or blame. I think He whispers it. With encouragement, reaching out His hand to lift us up.

Our God, You are mighty to save and powerful to change hearts and circumstances. We praise You for dramatic miracles like the Israelites saw in the Egyptian Exodus. We praise You for invisible miracles that strengthen our spirits and enable us to serve You faithfully in the day-to-day of our lives. Forgive us for looking at our weakness. Teach us to look at You, Your strength and Your promises. Let everyone see the difference You make.

A good song to keep us focused is Matt Maher‘s “Your Grace is Enough.”

*The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

Love One Another

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
John 13:34-34, NIV*

Last week at Whatever He Says, Belinda posted on the importance of relationships, including the quote, “Relationship—with God and with people—nothing else matters”. It’s a powerful post, and worth reading (scroll up from where the link takes you). The novel I finished on the weekend, Just Between You and Me, made me think about it too. And the book I’m currently reading, Majesty in Motion, focuses on…you guessed it: relationships.

I didn’t plan any of this.

Did I mention our Bible study group at church is using the Experiencing God Workbook? We’re at the “relationships” section now.

God can be subtle with some people, but He knows I take a bit of prodding.

Loving one another doesn’t have a lot to do with warm, fuzzy feelings. Singer/songwriter Don Francisco called it an act of the will.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails [stops/ends]. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, NIV*

It’s intentional, deliberate, a choice we make. A choice we can only follow through on by relying on God’s love in us.

Father, I’m so thankful that You meet us where we are, but You love us too much to leave us there. You promised to grow us to be more like Your Son. Jesus saw people through Your eyes—with Your heart. Help me learn to do that too, and to be useful to You in encouraging and loving them.

Our song this week is Matt Maher’s “Hold Us Together”.

*New International Version (NIV) Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.