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Tuesday Thoughts 4-10-18

There’s a special sense of wellbeing on days after I’ve had a huge headache (I call them “rotten” headaches).   They happen often enough to be annoying, but they are not debilitating like some stories I hear of migraine sufferers.  Nevertheless, a day with a rotten headache is challenging, draining and long.   And unlike some, laying down in a dark room with a cold cloth over my eyes only makes it feel worse (TV is the best distraction for me…go figure!).  When I wake up the next day absent the pounding, I feel a little euphoric, like after a shot of morphine during a kidney stone attack (5 times and counting).  I know that sounds strange but (well…I am) but honestly, I feel invincible for a few hours the day after.  As much as I would love to feel that way all the time, reality proves that impossible.  Expecting a constant high in the spiritual realm isn’t realistic either, but sometimes Jesus-followers (and their leaders) have been a bit guilty of painting a picture of a continual, euphoric experience as the mark of a true Christian.   Make no mistake, there should be an active, powerful, evident presence of the Spirit accompanying most of our experience, but we are at war and the battle is fierce.  This brings me to the biblical hero Paul (my favorite human example).  We know him to be a man of incredible faith and wisdom, someone who so often had words of encouragement in the darkest places (check out the New Testament book of Philippians!), but even his life wasn’t all dancing worship and warm happiness.  Paul was on the front lines of spiritual battle and today’s scripture captures both highs and lows within nine sentences.  In the twelfth chapter of the book of 2 Corinthians, he tells of a vision of heaven too wonderful for words (verses 2-4), followed by a physical affliction from the enemy (Paul calls it a “messenger from Satan”) that came as a direct result of the spiritual high.  It caused a spiritual low.  Can you hear both in the end of this story? “Three different times I begged the Lord to take it away. Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. My power works best in weakness.” So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ can work through me. That’s why I take pleasure in my weaknesses, and in the insults, hardships, persecutions, and troubles that I suffer for Christ. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”  2 Corinthians 12:8–10 (NLT).  The ecstatic experience of a heavenly vision was followed by pain that caused pleading!  Please notice what Paul didn’t do.  He did not blame God, turn from God, or whine.  He did what all of us need to do when the battle is raging…keep going and ask for help!  Just look at the results…from begging to boasting, pain to pleasure…another spiritual high!  See how the evil intent of the enemy was turned into the faith-building work of Jesus?  It won’t happen if we allow the sense of the battle to cause us to lay down our weapons and hide.  One more thing.  You are not an army of one…rely on the rest of the troops and reach out for prayer when the fighting is intense!

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