thorns

My Thorns Have Become My Praise!!!

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I have received full payment and even more. (Philippians 4:18)

It is now T-15 days and counting until my wife and I are able to hit the ground running for Jesus. We have suffered greatly in our inner persons while serving our house arrest time, but we have also been blessed tremendously by God in study and increase of knowledge.

In one of my wife’s gardening books there is a chapter with a very interesting title: “Flowers That Grow in the Shade.” It deals with those areas of a garden that never catch direct sunlight, and it list the kinds of flowers that not only grow in the dark corners but actually seem to like them and to flourish in them.

There are similarities here to the spiritual world. There are Christians who seem to blossom when their material circumstances become the most harsh and severe. My wife and I lost everything fighting this case we have now served 350 days out of 365. We have faced sheer destitution and couldn’t rely on our own strength to provide. Like these flowers we have grown in the darkness of uncertainty and shade. If this were not true, how could we otherwise explain some of the experiences of the apostle Paul?

When he wrote the above verse, he was a prisoner in Rome. The primary mission of his life appeared to have been broken. But it was in this persistent darkness that flowers began to show their faces in bright and fascinating glory. Paul may have seen them before, growing along the open road, but certainly never in the incomparable strength and beauty in which they now appeared. And words of promise opened their treasures to him in ways he had never before experienced.

Among those treasures were such wonderful things as Christ’s grace, love, joy, and peace, and it seemed as though they had needed the circumstance of darkness to draw out their secret and inner glory. The dark and dingy prison had become the home of the revealed truth of God, and Paul began to realize as never before the width and the wealth of his spiritual inheritance.

Haven’t we all known men and women who begin to wear strength and hopefulness like a regal robe as soon as they must endure a season of darkness and solitude? People like that may be put in prison by the world, but their treasure will be locked away with them, for true treasure cannot be locked out of their lives. Their material condition may look like a desert, but “the desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom”(Isaiah 35:1)

Every flower, even the most beautiful, has its own shadow beneath it as it bask in the sunlight. Where there is much light, I’ve learned there is also much shade.

I have never thanked you for my thorns

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I love those who can smile in trouble, who can gather strength from distress, and grow brave by reflection. ‘Tis the business of little minds to shrink, but they whose heart is firm, and whose conscience approves their conduct, will pursue their principles unto death.

Leonardo da Vinci

2 Corinthians 12:10

New International Version (NIV)

10 That 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.

personal-struggle

The literal translation of this verse adds a startling emphasis to it, allowing it to speak for itself with power we have probably never realized. It is as follows: “Therefore I take pleasure in being without strength, being insulted, experiencing emergencies, and being chased and forced into a corner for Christ’s sake; for when I am without strength, I am “dynamite”.

The secret of knowing God’s complete sufficiency is in coming to the end of everything in ourselves and our circumstances. Once we reach this point, we will stop seeking sympathy for our difficult situation or ill treatment, because we will recognize these things as the necessary conditions for blessings. We will then turn from our circumstances to God, realizing they are the evidence of Him working in our lives.

George Matheson, the well-known blind preacher of Scotland, once said, “My dear God, I have never thanked You for my thorns. I have thanked you a thousand times for my roeses but not once for my thorns. I have always looked forward to the place where I will be rewarded for my cross, but I have never thought of my cross as a present glory itself. “Teach me, O Lord, to glory in my cross. teach me the value of my thorns. Show me how I have climbed to You through the path of pain. Show me it is through my tears I have seen my rainbows.”

Our Savior does not cast us off
Because we fail or turn aside;
He will forgive when we repent,
Then in His love will abide

Champions of faith are people who have learned from their failures. Lift your voice and say “My God is awesome”.

Being shaped into Christ Identity

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Psalm 32
1 Blessed is the one
whose transgressions are forgiven,
whose sins are covered.
2 Blessed is the one
whose sin the Lord does not count against them
and in whose spirit is no deceit.
3 When I kept silent,
my bones wasted away
through my groaning all day long.

“We will face the reality that although we are fruit trees by the grace of God, we still have thorn bush responses to life. The THORN bush represents the fact that, as sinners, we all tend to respond sinfully to the circumstances of life.” Confessing our inward faults and sins is the beginning to change. Fumbling around what our sins are only keeps us in the deception mode and bound by the enemy. I am elated that God has increased me past this deception.

I have been taking a look at how it is that God changes our lives, and shapes us into the identity that is ours in Christ. Because of His death, and His subsequent presence in our lives, we have been changing into His image in a process that He does in our lives through our every day circumstances. We are literally “New creations” in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17). Note the process in the above verse. The point is, God is using the “HEAT” in our lives to shape us into the people He wants us to be. We need to be sensitive to that, and open to change. Is your identity being defined by your circumstances then they are by the grace of Jesus Christ? It is important to realize that you are a “New” person in Christ, complete with a new heart that is able to be transformed, and act in obedience to God and His word. Change, however, begins in understanding that the thorns still are present. We still act out in anger, we still numb our spiritual senses with work, possessions, substances, we still take our identity from the things we do and the things that people say, and we still find our joy in everything except God.

Today is my start to take a real look the at the thorns in my life because it is in taking this hard look at myself that I am able to see what God wants to change in my life. We could all benefit from meditating and praying Psalms 139:23-24 on a daily basis. We are called to an “Ongoing recognition and confession of our ‘thorny’ responses to life.” How do you respond to the daily heat in your life?

1. Our sin is worse than we can imagine, but God’s grace is greater than our sin!
2. God is concerned about transformation at the heart level, not the behavior level.
3. We should benefit from our relationship with Christ here and now, and in eternity.
4. God calls us to grow and change.
5. Our Christian life is a lifestyle of Repentance and Faith