Achievement or Something Else?

Philippians 4:13
I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”

I would imagine for a lot of people this scripture is one of the most commonly used or known verses in the Bible. A lot of us immediately think of all the instances we have seen it used in a speech or writing to describe the overcoming of adversity. We think of how often people immediately proclaim it when they claim victory in an area of their life.

For me personally, when I read this verse I think of how motivating this phrase has been for me. I think of the poster I had in high school- of a basketball player jumping just a little higher than his opponent to get a rebound. Because of that it’s fairly simple to follow my obviously stated chain of logic:
1) I have a problem or obstacle.
2) I can’t overcome it by myself.
3) I realize I believe in a mighty God.
4) I understand only through God I can receive the strength to overcome my obstacle.

I guess I was just feeling that the use of this verse in that way can sometimes become somewhat narrow and defined. It’s almost as if we believe the very utterance of the phrase will push us beyond our abilities and we can instantly overcome whatever struggle lies before us. In addition to hearing it, I have also seen this verse as a tattoo several times as though having this constant reminder inscribed on our body creates an energetic mindset to overcome a hurdle in our path. One article I read described how Phil. 4:13 has become a superstition or spiritual rabbit’s foot surmising that if we look at our circumstances in light of this verse we will always succeed. I think that view is rather extreme, because it’s accurate to ultimately believe we are capable of achieving much in our lives when we acknowledge the supernatural power we can receive from Christ.

In the end though, I’ve only wanted to understand if Phil 4:13 was largely just a motivator and way to rise above our struggles or something more. I read the previous verses to gain a contextual reference I began to see the message (at least for me) in a different light.

Phil 4:11-12
11 I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. 12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.”

The answer and explanation seemed to jump right off the page in front of my eyes. In one distinct word it changes my whole view of the scripture. That word which is repeated several times is “content.” It automatically shifts our view from achievements and triumphs to being content with the circumstances of our life. As Paul points out he knows what it is to be in need but also to have plenty. I think the variance between living high on the hog, as they say, or being in the lowest season of our life is something that we can all identify with. Paul is saying that he learned to be content with either scenario. When you follow those thoughts with “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me,” it feels like that is saying that through Christ you are able to be content in either situation, AS LONG AS YOU HAVE HIM.

When I compare this new thought to my poster in high school I think of it very differently. Maybe I shouldn’t think that because I knew Christ I should have succeeded as an athlete. Instead I should have thought “I did my absolute best and while I won some and lost some I am capable of handling either outcome in a Christ-like manner.”

I guess my only clarification to this view would be that it doesn’t mean we have to lack motivation and just be content with anything this world deals us. Instead we can live our lives knowing that we have already won any battle and overcome any obstacle…because Christ already paid the ultimate price for us to be successful. Always remember that in the highs or lows, successes or failures, we have Christ and that will always be far more than enough.

~Kenny Stahl

Let Him Heal

He healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds.” ~Psalms 147:3

I recently came across this verse of scripture when a friend of mine posted it. I was immediately swept up in a whirlwind of emotions realizing not only the hurt but also the hope this person was exhibiting.

Unfortunately, as we find ourselves in the midst of the holiday season, it can be an extremely difficult time for countless people. Naturally, our own human spirits can tend to dwell not on the blessings we have in front of us, but on those things we have lost in recent years, months or even days. This can come in numerous variations as we are reminded of certain people, relationships, comforts or simply a time when we were at peace. This turmoil our mind puts us through can be excruciating at times and the silence from a loss felt can be deafening to many.

As I have spent the recent weeks praying for the needs and comfort of others as well as myself during this time, I found such peace in this verse. There seems to be a finality or certainty in what the writer is talking about. He’s not just saying that God will help things a little or that some conditions might improve. He’s writing about God completely healing a broken heart and entirely binding and closing up our wounds.

If we are left to heal on our own it can be an insurmountable task. Our mind will allow us to dwell in the past and keep our focus on the loss and nothing else. It is only with the divine power of Jesus Christ that we can be healed completely. We have to be able to put that faith in Him. As we exude this faith and feel His presence we can become certain of His healing and experience true peace.

I’m not saying at all this is easy, in fact for some just that first step of faith can be a mighty leap in itself. Unfortunately, it’s not just a switch we can flip and allow Him to heal us. We must realize though that in this promise He gives all of us that He will see us through the pain and into healing. He leaves nothing undone and He is telling us here exactly what we can have in Him.

Lastly, you don’t have to fight this battle alone. I would encourage us all during this holiday season to reach out to others and join together in receiving the blessings God has for each of us. We never know the hidden pain another could be going through and sometimes the simple comfort of a friendly smile or gesture can be the first step in allowing His healing to happen.

**I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and wonderful season in Christ’s love and blessings. It has been a privilege to share my thoughts through Inscription over the last year and I appreciate all of your support and comments to guide me.

Extreme Faith

When Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to him, asking for help. “Lord,” he said, “my servant lies at home paralyzed and in terrible suffering.” Jesus said to him, “I will go and heal him.” The centurion replied, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof. But just say the word, and my servant will be healed.” ~ Matthew 8:5-8

What an amazing recount of extreme faith in the power and authority of Christ! In the subsequent verse, the Bible says that 10 When Jesus heard this He was astonished and said to those following him, “I tell you the truth, I have not found anyone in Israel with such great faith.”

As a side note, it is difficult at best for me to imagine doing something that would amaze my Lord and Savior. As such a broken and sinful vessel the thought of me pleasing Him in such a way seems to be beyond possible, yet this scripture shows us otherwise. We can live our lives to please Him and certainly possess the capability to do so.

In breaking down this scripture I first looked at the centurion or soldier. What made him so unique or special that he could amaze the Lord? First, we see him coming to Christ in compassion, namely for a servant. Also, in coming to Jesus he believed that Jesus had all the power and authority necessary to carry out his request if Jesus saw fit. Next, we see that he is coming from a most humble position when he says, “Lord, I do not deserve to have you come under my roof.” Finally, the centurion’s words show such a strong faith. He truly believes that Jesus needn’t even come to the servant, but that if Jesus commands healing it would be done.

There are multiple ideas that I take from Christ’s reaction to this showing of faith and request. First, I believe that great blessings and answer to prayer are available to us when we exhibit strength in our faith. To have this strong faith we should first believe in His power and authority to hear and grant our prayers. Then we should go compassionately and humbly before Him. Sometimes, in order to have such a strong faith, we will often be required to seek Him when we do not have the capability to access answers and solutions on our own. Also, I believe that “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (I Samuel 16:7) especially when it comes to what and how we are asking Him.

Billy Graham is recognized for using the quote “God will not reward fruitfulness, He will reward faithfulness. The centurion showed extreme faith at great lengths and I believe each of us has the same potential.

Suit up!

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes.” ~ Ephesians 6:10-11

Beat down, exhausted, drained, weary…..just plain weak…

I know these are feelings that we all experience at different points in our lives. In all actuality, they can be feelings we come in and out of on a daily basis. Our earthly bodies and minds are flawed, imperfect as well as virtually dying from the moment we are brought into this world. We are also born with an enormous target on our backs. The truth is that Satan is focused on nothing more than creating suffering and pain for us all. There are times when we feel this attack much stronger…

Literally speaking I have never worn armor. I have never gone through the process of placing each individual piece on my body, each with its own intent to protect me from a certain manner of attack. I can, however, imagine putting on armor and being suited up for battle. I believe I would feel strong and safe at the same time. I would feel impervious to whatever attack was brought upon me. I would be prepared for whatever I was about to face.

The truth is that the armor of God is absolute protection in our battle against evil. We should feel this exact way when we put it on- strong and safe. Only with each specific addition to our suit of armor are we prepared to battle Satan. I won’t go into each piece that scripture describes but encourage all of us to study what each one means. The full armor of God is made up of: the belt of truth, the breastplate of righteousness, feet fitted with readiness (gospel of peace), the helmet of salvation, shield of faith and the sword of the Spirit (Word of God).

As we study His word and learn about this very powerful yet protective weapon against Satan let us all feel strong and safe. Finally, in verse 18 we are reminded that even when we have on this full armor that we must still pray. We must pray in the spirit on all occasions, with all kinds of prayers and requests. Only by doing this will we stay alert and truly be prepared to fight in the strength that is given by the Holy Spirit.

Every Bit of You… All the Time

May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and he will do it.” ~ 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

By its very nature, this verse depicts so much of what Christ has intended for each and every one of our lives. Its notice and intent are both clear and direct from the beginning. God himself wants all of us to be sanctified; that is to be set apart and declared holy in His eyes. While this scripture is very direct it is also a calling for us to act.

One section of this verse seemed to really jump out at me more so than the rest. That part is the description of the wholeness of ourselves that we are to keep blameless. I understand that “whole spirit, soul and body..” would relate to the entire being of a person. I think what jumps out at me is the not so ironic fact that Christ knew what His creation (mankind) was to be and how they would behave. Seldom is a time that we truly place our entire being in the completion of any undertaking. God Himself knew that we would need to be reminded to really put our proverbial backs into what He was saying.

He also knew that for this to happen, I mean in order for us to put our entire being into being kept blameless, we would have to certainly allow Christ to be involved in each and every aspect of our lives.

We cannot separate our “spiritual or religious” lives from the rest of what we are. We also cannot obey God in only parts of our lives. Finally, we certainly must not allow ourselves to be the lukewarm Christian and only live for him a few hours or a day a week. If our entire being is to be kept blameless at His coming we have to act in such a way until that time comes. Simply stated: if we have everything to gain we should only be required to risk everything to get there.

 

~Kenny Stahl

Photo Credit: Xavier Coiffic

Feeding The Good

Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation, now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.” ~ I Peter 2:1-3

It matters not how long and to what depth you have been a believer in Christ for these ideals to apply. From the individual who has spent their whole life living for God to someone who has just begun their spiritual walk we are the same in that we must be fed to grow in our salvation. What we need as this scripture relates is pure spiritual milk that is of the Lord in order to grow. Like a newborn we will not see growth without this milk.

This passage also makes a point to list those negative behaviors that we should all strive to rid ourselves of in order to grow in this manner. It would be difficult and problematic at best if we were to try to grow in the Lord while maintaining traits such as malice, deceit, hypocrisy or envy. As it would seem, when this happens we are not only hindering our walk with Christ we are also portraying a very poor image of what Christ is to the world around us. Basically stated milk that is impure does not allow the newborn or the believer to grow.

As in so much this situation presents a choice. Do we choose the behaviors we know to be wrong and sinful in nature or do we choose what we know to be good and of the Lord? The answer reminds me of a familiar story and that is the Cherokee legend of the two wolves. It basically states that there are two wolves fighting within us. One is evil and exudes anger, jealousy, envy etc. The other is good and embodies joy, peace, love and hope. When asked which wolf wins the fight the answer is: the one you feed.

To grow, we must seek what is good spiritually and be obedient. We do this by seeking pure spiritual milk and seeking the Lord. Finally we grow by avoiding these negative behaviors and feeding those that are pure and good. As time goes by in this obedience to good we will see that wolf win.

~ Kenny Stahl

 

Photocredit: Josh Felise

Avoiding the Thorns

A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed…Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants…
The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.”
From Matthew 13: 3-4, 7 & 22 Parable of the Four Soils

(The parable of the four soils highlights the sewing of seed in 4 different places, I chose to focus on only one: the seed among the thorns.)

What happens in this scenario? What happens when someone has heard or understands the word and allows himself or herself to be distracted? The very thing that we are doing is taking our mind off of God and directing all of our attention to our situations in life. We completely lose focus and our priorities are thrown into total disarray.

The alarming part about this is that when this happens it’s to somebody that has heard the word and understands it. It can happen to the extent that you still hear from and agree with God, yet have intention of following and obeying him. We are giving lip service to our Lord by realizing and denouncing our own ways and still we do nothing to change the situation.

That could be so important in our own lives that we would jeopardize our relationship with the only one that grants us eternal life? When these choices are placed on a scale, what could possibly be worth this? How desirable do the “things” of this world look when you place them in this balance? To quote the old adage “what good is it if a man gain’s the world yet loses his soul in the process?”

Naturally, the answer is that nothing is as important as our relationship with Jesus. No amount of wealth, or anything else, will ever amount to what we have in Him. What we must do is to find a way to keep our focus on Him and not allow our minds to dwell elsewhere. We have to pray to Him earnestly when we feel our focus slipping (and at all other times). Finally, when we start recognizing this beginning to happen we must not dismiss the Word we hear from him. Instead, we have to use it to foster change in our thinking priorities. We must hold on to Him and hold on to His Word and the worries of light will soon be overtaken in the balance of our lives.
~Kenny Stahl

Photo Credit: Austin Ban

Forget About It

You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea. ~Micah 7:19

How difficult can it be for any one of us to not only forgive the transgressions of another but to also forget about them? Forgiveness itself can be problematic at best, let alone just forgetting the incident or wrongdoing ever took place. So often we all want to hold that grudge against another even after we have said we forgive. The difficulty to forgive and especially to move on is simply our human nature as usual.

However we are capable of achieving this based on one supreme reason: we are made in Christ’s image. Much like him we have the ability to have compassion towards others showing them tenderness and grace despite our will to seek revenge. We have the ability to show ourselves like Christ and to pardon the guilt thereby rendering sin powerless. Finally we can hurl all of these iniquities into the depths of the sea. Normally we would keep an account of things, a record of the ALL the wrongdoing done against us. This scripture quickly reminds us of what He does and therefore what we should do.

The only other thing I can say is that by no far stretch of the imagination is any one of us perfect. While we sit reading this and thinking about the sins we have personally forgiven and need to let go of we have to consider the opposite. We are hoping that others take this same stance towards us. We have all wronged somebody in our lives and so we are asking for the very same, and that is to have our sin forgiven and forgotten. We are asking Christ to do this and we are asking our fellow man to do this. I pray we can all take this path and save ourselves from the power of sin.

Get a Check Up!

Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you—unless, of course, you fail the test?” ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5

How many of us really relish in the thought of taking a test or exam? How many of us look forward going to the doctor for a checkup? I know there are some people that probably aren’t as bothered by these notions while many of us would prefer to avoid them at all costs.

Whether it be a test we are required to score well on for a curriculum of some sort or a doctor’s visit that could yield good or bad results it all means the same thing….we either pass or in some way we fall short and possibly fail. In any case the obvious understanding is that nobody enjoys failure and certainly nobody wants to receive bad news. We all want to succeed in what we strive for and also live prosperous lives in every way possible. Whether it is academic accolades or a clean bill of health we all desire to achieve our goal or status.

So what about in our faith?

In this scripture, Paul is urging the church in Corinth to stop and examine themselves. He’s not doing this to get them to go for a doctor’s visit or get an A on their chemistry exam. He’s reminding them that if they genuinely have Christ in their hearts and are living for God and that they should take and pass that spiritual test.

I believe what he is also trying to say (and what we should all strive for) is to live in such a way that the presence of the Lord is apparent in our lives. If we’re not able to pass this test of faith then it could be a sign that instead of growing in Him we are growing away from Him. So, if we truly want to live for Christ we must periodically stop and analyze ourselves in regard to our faith. We must take the test…we must go for the check up…

~ Kenny Stahl

Photo Credit: Brooke Cagle

Don’t Put Yourself on the Shelf!

And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.” ~ Ephesians 4:23-24

This has always been one of my favorite verses in the Bible. As with many that get quoted and used for Inscription this verse is a pretty familiar one. I can remember it being the theme of entire series of sermons or seasons of study as well as being a close and very personal scripture. I believe the reason for its wide use is because of the many different aspects of Christ it presents us.

First, I love and think we can all identify with the freedom this verse (like so many others) gives us. Any of us can renew ourselves in mind and spirit any time we choose to. It points to the access that we have to Christ. He is truly our personal Lord and Savior. He is not a god hidden away in a temple for only certain people to see. We do not have to be dressed a certain way or say an exact phrase to enter into His presence. We can renew ourselves in Him anytime we want and see the change in our mind and spirit. We have to only take him up on this free offer.

I believe this verse also reminds us to show the world this change. If I renew my mind in Him but keep it to myself I am doing my Lord a huge disservice. I am also failing not only those around me, but also myself. Much like we have said in the past- we should be so excited to share the news about Christ that we can hardly contain ourselves. This also makes me think of how my renewed mind and spirit is not only something I can talk about but that the world sees on me. It should be obvious to the world that I, or we, are truly different.

I am truly excited that we can all be renewed in the spirit and be able to show this wonderful change to those around us.

Photo Credit: Matt Artz