Apostle Paul

The Nagging Thorn


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Everybody has at least one nagging thorn that keeps digging into your flesh. And you are longing to have it go away. But every time you petitioned your heavenly Father to remove it, your prayer seems to go unanswered.

Still yet, the thorn you carry around may be there to help remind you of who you are now and who you were before you met Christ.

Paul, the beloved and great apostle had a thorn that lingered throughout his Christian life. Here is what he wrote in his second Epistle to the Corinthians 12:7-9.

“And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing, I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore, most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

Are you a stuck-up Christian?


Fellow Christians and non-Christians, John 8: 7 (“He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”), is undoubtedly one of the most powerful yet humbling Scripture in the New Testament. Unfortunately, many Christians either do not think the context of the passage apply to them, or they flatly do not understand it.

I have arrived at this harsh conclusion after observing fellow Christians for many years. I have realized that many of us, especially some who preach from the pulpit, are pompous and stuck-up. Like the Scribes and Pharisees mentioned in John 8, we enjoy pointing out the sins of others but we cover up ours. We even look down on the people we labelled as sinners with disdain.

Naturally, one do not expect a follower of Jesus Christ who truly understand Jesus’ mission and what He meant when He said: “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), to exhibit  a repulsive attitude toward the people Jesus came to save. Unfortunately, none of us is blameless in this regard.

But if we are going to talk gospel according to Jesus and the disciples, then we must first come down off our high horses and face the harsh reality. The church cannot grow if we continue to pour water into the faces of those who need Jesus in their lives. Many of these people do not know that they need Jesus. Therefore, it is our solemn duty to tell them why they need Him.

As Christians, we must never forget where we were when we found Jesus. Some of us had been in similar situations as the people we now condemn. But just like Paul, we had an awakening and we turned our life around. Notice, Paul never forgot the life he had lived before he met Christ, but he never returned to it. And most noticeable, he was never Stuck-up, pompous, judgmental, or condemning.

Thank you God for saving me


 “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:8-10).

Sing for Jesus


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“When you came to Christ, you were “circumcised,” but not by a physical procedure. Christ performed a spiritual circumcision—the cutting away of your sinful nature. For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.

You were dead because of your sins and because your sinful nature was not yet cut away. Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins. He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross. In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross” Colossians 2:11-15).

Can you really give thanks in suffering?


Recently I read an extraordinarily inspiring post titled: “Give Thanks in Suffering,” in About Christianity @ www.about.com. I thought I would share it here.

The post reminds me of my struggles with an autoimmune disease. I was backed into a corner with two choices. Either I continue to lean on my understanding and die, or trust God and live. I chose the latter.

Giving thanks when you’re suffering seems like an idea so far-fetched nobody could take it seriously, yet that is exactly what God asks us to do.

The apostle Paul, who knew more than his share of sorrow, counseled his young apprentice Timothy to do just that:

Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Timothy 5:16-18, NIV)

Paul understood the spiritual benefit of giving thanks when you’re hurting. It takes your focus off self and puts it on God. But how, in the middle of our pain, can we possibly give thanks?

Let the Holy Spirit Speak for You

Paul was well aware of what he could do. He knew his missionary work was far beyond his natural strength, so he relied heavily on the power of the Holy Spirit within him.

It’s the same with us. Only when we stop struggling and surrender to God can we allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through us. When we become a conduit for the Spirit’s power, God helps us do impossible things, like give thanks even when we’re hurting.

Humanly speaking, you may not see anything you can be grateful for now. Your circumstances are miserable, and you’re desperately praying they will change. God hears you. In a very real sense, though, you are focusing on the bigness of your circumstances and not on the bigness of God. God is all-powerful. He may allow your situation to continue, but know this: God is in control, not your circumstances.

I tell you this, not by theory but by my own painful past. When I was unemployed for 18 months, it didn’t seem God was in control. When important relationships fell apart, I couldn’t understand. When my father died in 1995, I felt lost.

I had cancer in 1976. I was 25 years old and could not give thanks. In 2011 when I had cancer again, I was able to give thanks to God, not for cancer, of course, but for his steady, loving hand through it all. The difference was that I was able to look back and see that no matter what happened to me in the past, God was with me, and he brought me through it.

As you give yourself to God, he will help you through this hard time you are in now. One of God’s goals for you is to make you totally dependent on him. The more you depend on him and sense his support, the more you will want to give thanks.

One Thing Satan Hates

If there’s one thing Satan hates, it’s when believers trust God. Satan encourages us to trust our emotions instead. He wants us to put our faith in fear, worry, depression, and doubt.

Jesus Christ encountered this many times in his own disciples. He told them not to be afraid, but to believe. Negative emotions are so strong that they skew our judgment. We forget it is God who is reliable, not our feelings.

That’s why, when you’re hurting, it’s wise to read the Bible. You may not feel like it. It may be the last thing you want to do, and it’s the last thing Satan wants you to do, but again, there’s an important reason to. It brings your focus away from your emotions and back onto God.

There is power in God’s Word to fend off Satan’s attacks and power to remind you of God’s love for you. When Satan tempted Jesus in the wilderness, Jesus drove him off by quoting Scripture. Our emotions can lie to us. The Bible never does.

When you’re going through trouble, Satan wants you to blame God. In the middle of Job’s worst trials, even his wife said to him, “Curse God and die.” (Job 2:9, NIV) Later, Job showed extraordinary faith when he promised, “Though He slay me, yet will I hope in Him; ” (Job 13:15a, NIV)

Your hope is in God in this life and the next. Never forget that.

Doing What We Don’t Want to Do

Giving thanks when you’re hurting is like one of those tasks we don’t like to do. Perhaps dieting or a trip to the dentist, but it’s immensely more important because it brings you into God’s will for you. Obeying God is not always easy, but it is always worthwhile.

We seldom grow more intimate with God during good times. Pain has a way of drawing us close to him, making God so real we feel we can reach out and touch him.

You don’t have to give thanks for the thing afflicting you, but you can be grateful for God’s faithful presence. When you approach it that way, you’ll find that thanking God when you’re hurting does make perfect sense.

The grass is not always greener on the other side


How many times have you heard a family member, a co-worker, a friend, a neighbor, or even an acquaintance complained about how much they hate their jobs and how they cannot wait to find a new job? This is a particularly common occurrence in the work place today. I have even found myself in a similar situation once before. I still regret making the transition.

But, my situation was not half as serious as one of my best friends’. We both worked at the same place and were doing very well; until, for some unknown reason Tim developed an eagerness to jump ship for greener pastures.

Sadly, it was no more than seven months after Tim left his old job for the coveted greener pasture, he got laid off, and that was the beginning of a string of bad luck for the poor guy.

As I reflected on mine and Tim’s poor decision making skills from many years ago, I cannot help thinking about my late grandmother. She mastered the art of idiomatic expressions. She had one for every situation. Her favorite ones were, “A bird in the hand is worth a million in the bushes”. “Don’t be like the greedy dog who let go the bone to catch its shadow”.

Now that I am older and wiser, I understand that the grass is not always greener on the other side. It may look green from afar, but a close up view reveals the faults and blemishes.

That is kind of what Satan, the adversary does to us Christians. He paints a nice and fuzzy picture of the world to trap us back into the old way of living, and if we are not careful we will find ourselves eating among swine like the prodigal son. Thank God,  many of us have been there and done that, so we know exactly what it is really like on the dark side–dismal. Nevertheless, some of us still allow the adversary to scam us time and again.

Friends, there is no short term result in the Christian race. That is the reason the apostle Paul who gave up the pleasures of the world to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ, advises us to run with endurance the race God has set before us. He even tells us how to do it–by keeping our eyes on Jesus, the champion who initiates and perfects our faith. Paul goes on to say, “Because of the joy awaiting Him (Jesus), He endured the horrible cross, disregarding its shame. Now he is seated in a place of honor beside God’s throne” (Hebrews 12:1-2 NLT). ( Isn’t that wonderful?)

Therefore, brothers and sisters, our reward is not temporary like the glitz and glamour of the world. It is real and lasting, but do not look for it on earth. It is in heaven.

Why do you worry so much?


images[4]Worrying seems to be part of our lives. We cannot not worry about something or the other. Some of us worry about our kids, and rightly so. Those of us who are employed worry about our jobs. We worry about financial security, health and safety and whatever else we can find to add to the list. Still, worrying never solve anything, so why worry.

Worrying is an addiction for some of us. Often we worry about things over which we have no control. Mind you, there is a difference between worry and concern. Once we zero in on something to worry about, we put up barriers making it difficult for family and friends to convince us to do otherwise. Jesus had His hands full convincing His disciples not to worry, when He told them that His time had come to return to the Father.

“Let not your hearts be troubled”, He said. “If you believed in God; believe also in me” (John 14:1). That, however, was not enough to convince the disciples not to worry. After all, these men had given up everything they owned to follow Jesus. Furthermore, it was only three years in, so they were not about to let Jesus off the hook until He did some more explaining.

Obviously, the disciples had good reasons to worry, but worrying is not a good thing. Worry is a tool of the devil, and when worry gets out of control it can have a devastating effect on health, family and even your Christian life. Jesus warns against worrying (read Matthew 6:32-34). And the beloved apostle Paul, admonish us in the following verses: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7).

Therefore, brothers and sister, the next time you get the urge to worry about something, ask yourself the following questions. “Why do you worry so much?” “Do you not know you are a child of a King?” Then take your burden to the Lord and leave it there.