The Wrong Piece

colored puzzle pieces

It is annoying, downright annoying, when assembling a jigsaw puzzle, to find that a piece is in the wrong place. One part of the piece that connected to the other pieces fits correctly. And it seemed to match the corresponding picture. Yet when you try to connect the other pieces to it, they just will not fit. You analyze the region around the problem area, and the picture the puzzle is cut from, and then go back to the offending pieces. You begin to grow frustrated with what should be working out just fine. The other pieces connect to each other without any problem. Why can’t they connect to this piece? They fit all of the other pieces around this problem piece. You eventually succumb to brute force. With the bottom of a heavyweight cup, you pound the offending areas into place. Problem solved! you gleefully think to yourself. But, wait, now the result doesn’t match the rest of the bigger picture! After some careful inspection, you realize that you were wrong and that one problem piece did not belong there all along. With a little more searching in the vast pile of untouched pieces, you find one you had overlooked. Then, much to your delight, it all works out fine (until it happens all over again in a different place).

How often in your life’s puzzle does a particular piece not quite fit right? No matter what you do, there ends up being a portion that won’t connect to the other pieces. So you analyze your life thus far, and conclude that everything seems right. Well, maybe, not one hundred percent. Actually, it is more like eighty percent—although it really could be only sixty-five percent complete—but it is getting better all the time, you tell yourself. Yet, in reality, your life never will be complete. Why? Because you are trying to solve it all yourself and make everything fit your way.

God did not design you to solve the puzzle of your life by yourself. He did not create you to be self-sufficient and completely independent. He wants you to be dependent on Him for everything. God is not a crutch for the weak and ignorant.

“For by thee I have run through a troop: by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect; the word of the Lord is tried: he is a buckler to all them that trust in him. For who is God, save the Lord? and who is a rock, save our God? God is my strength and power: and he maketh my way perfect…Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy gentleness hath made me great” (2 Samuel 22:30-36).

When you start trying to solve all of your problems by yourself, you are working in your own fallible strength. You begin putting wrong pieces in place thinking that you doing the right thing and conclude that the correct pieces you inserted earlier are now wrong. You continue this cycle over and over until you reach a point where you are weary in your own strength and give up. You might also reach a point where you have become so accustomed to having the wrong pieces in place that you begin forcefully trying to make the surrounding pieces fit too, only to find that now none of it looks right. It is then that you go for help outside of your self. Yet you find that the problems are still not solved; instead, they are just adjusted so that they appear to be solved, leaving you with hidden pain.

So what is the solution? How can anyone get the ‘wrong’ pieces to fit in to the right places? Where do you go for help when all of the ‘help’ is struggling with wrong pieces in their own lives (and many times not even aware of it)? Who can take away the pain, both inward and outward, that these wrong pieces are causing in your life?

The answer is very simple—it is Jesus Christ. When you turn all of the issues, pain, and problems over to Him, and let Him take care of them, you will find that the pieces will start to fit correctly again. But if you take over your own life again, and return to assembling your puzzle by yourself, or you become proud of the picture formed by your life’s puzzle, that is when you will find those wrong pieces reappearing. It is only when you surrender your ‘puzzle’ over to Jesus, and let Him do the assembling, that the pieces will fit where they belong each and every time. Jesus loves you more than you could ever know. He wants to assemble your life’s puzzle correctly. But it will only happen when you let Him. You need to “Draw nigh [near] to God, and he will draw nigh to you” (James 4:8a). All it takes is a simple prayer like this:

Jesus, I am sorry for running my life in my way and in my own strength. Please forgive me for sinning against you. I now give my heart and life over to you, and will stop trying to force the wrong pieces in my puzzle to fit. Please come into my heart and assemble the puzzle of my life with the right pieces in the way that You know is best. I am tired of the hurt and pain that I battle with. I lay it all in Your arms and I surrender my will over to You. Please use me and direct me in the way that You know is right. Amen.

Remember, what you thought was right all along turned out to be the wrong piece. Sure, it seemed right when you first placed it in the puzzle. The colors and pattern appeared to be right, but it was still the wrong piece, and the surrounding pieces will never fit properly with it there. As long as you continue trying to assemble the puzzle of your life and to make it complete in yourself, in your own strength, you will always have wrong pieces in place. You must turn over the assembling of your puzzle to Jesus and let Him put in the right piece in the right place. Jesus knows your life better than you ever will. He is the only one who can remove the wrong piece and replace it with the correct piece at the appropriate time. Don’t let the pain and frustration of having all of these erroneous pieces in place get you down. Give your pieces over to Him and He will make a way for you.

Advertisements

Trusting Your Way

old library

Trapped of his own accord, he suddenly found himself captive in a strange world of literature, caverns, and old, scratched tile floors. While this new world would seem very warm and humid to others, he found it quite pleasant, no different than the land he had become detached from. He determined that an extremely tall, thin, flexible mesh obscured his passage to freedom. He carefully crawled across to another panel of the same mesh. Was there hope for freedom there? Of course not! In fact, this side harbored even less of a chance of escape—if only he had known it. He observed the world that lay on the other side of this flexible surface, a world he had once been part of. He breathed in its fragrance and longed for more, but with less hindrance. Making a sudden glance in the opposite direction and a quick maneuver, he sprang back to the other side. Seeing no improvement in his situation there, he pondered some more and made his next move to the painted wood surface adjacent to his current position.

Inch by inch, he scaled the towering white wall. Upon reaching a small landing, he carefully traversed it while surveying his newfound domain. It was a vast (and not necessarily inviting) continent with odd structures in the center. Did he find any part of this unusual world appealing? No. But he did ascertain a need to explore the odd cliffs and caverns just a crumb’s throw beneath where he was stationed. His appetite and thirst beckoned him to find some means of satisfaction. After lurking around and behind the works of Lescroart, Macomber, Meltzer, and Patterson, he grew dissatisfied and returned to his post to observe the world below him again. It seemed little had changed in his brief absence. Oh, how he longed to be in his own familiar world again, with its abundance of delectable morsels and refreshing afternoon showers!

Then he descended back along the narrow painted wall and onto the mesh surface again with exquisite agility. Had there been any improvement in detecting a means of a retreat from this land of captivity? Following another routine search, he came to a negative conclusion. Think. Think. Think, he told himself. There must be a way to return to the joyous land of no restraint. His sharp eye spotted a small hole in the mesh. Could it be? He knew he was of the lesser variety in terms of size and diameter, but definitely not that much. Disappointed again, he turned, and with much haste, journeyed back up to his elevated observation post on the top of the towering wooden wall that lay next to the great bulwarks of Coulter, Crichton, and Cussler.

This time, he realized he was not alone. But the huge living creature he spotted seated in the center of this vast land was not of a variety that he would choose to enter into fellowship with. His monitoring of both the strange surroundings, as well as the strange, almost motionless giant proved uninteresting. Yet he sensed that he was being observed as well. After an extended period of lingering, he concluded that this immense territory needed to be explored in areas far beyond what he had previously investigated, not to mention the fact that he was now quite hungry. After a momentary pause, he quickly returned down the wooden tower and rechecked the mesh surface for any changes of its impenetrability. After seeing that it was still not possible to make an easy exit, he then proceeded to scale the vast caverns and corridors of the opposite side of this challenging (and very dry) world of paper, ink, and wood.

Meanwhile, back in the center of this “vast land,” the “giant” continues to write his narrative about a little gecko lizard that managed to slip in through an opening in the frame of a window screen of a warm, cramped library. He noticed how easily and innocently the lizard managed to get himself into the room, but could not figure out how to get himself out again. Then the “giant” pondered how easily people also get themselves into a predicament, and then try to figure out on their own how to escape. He noted that, like this lizard, they often search and search for the exit, never realizing it is only a short distance away from where they had been looking. How often they travel all around the exit, but never actually to the exit itself.

gecko on computer mouse

The lizard tried to find its way out, yet all it did was retrace its steps over and over again. When it branched out into what it thought was another way out, it only moved farther from its entry point and a way of escape. It would very likely never escape if left to its own devices. When someone makes a commitment to God, they have chosen to follow and obey only Him. They have no right at that point to chart their own path, because they now belong to Him and have come under His direction and care. Those who surrender their life to God cannot go off into just any place on their own initiative.

Many people seem to think that they can agree to surrender their life to God while continuing to chart their own course without Him.

This is what happens when people refuse to seek God for direction in their life. They let self be lord over their life, and not God, through His Son, Jesus. While they may not do this intentionally, they still hurt Him when they want to continue on without Him. It is not that God desperately needs them—God doesn’t need anyone! Rather, everyone needs God. What is the point of having a relationship with someone else if one person goes off in his own direction while the other goes the opposite way? When a person surrenders his heart and life to God, then God wants love and companionship and obedience to Him and what He says in His Word, the Bible. “Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him…” (Psalms 37:5).

arrows graphic

This lizard thought it knew where it was going. How right it seemed, yet it was still trapped and could not find the way out. How many times does this happen in your life? How often do you simply let go and let God order your steps? When was the last time that you determined that you were going to trust in God, and then actually trusted in Him? You need to “trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding” (Proverbs 3:5). The more you trust in God, the less you will want to trust in yourself. Then you will begin to see just how helpless you really are and how helpful He is. This lizard may never find his way out, but this does not have to be the end result for you. It did not have the means to have a personal relationship with God and His Son. But you do! Put your trust in God and keep it there. Let Him be your guide to lead you in the right path, instead of yourself.

Little is Much

 

 

kneeling at cross

 

 

“And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came unto him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed: Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat. He answered…Give ye them to eat. And they say unto him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat? He saith unto them, How many loaves have ye? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes. And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies upon the green grass…And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and brake the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all. And they did all eat, and were filled. And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes. And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men” (Mark 6:35-44).

Jesus had been teaching the people in a solitary part of the region for much of the afternoon. They had come because they were hungry, not for physical food, but for the truth (spiritual food). The people sought Jesus because they knew He taught the truth. Even though Jesus was physically tired at this point, (since He had originally come with His disciples to this desert location for rest), He was strengthened by the people’s desire to hear and learn God’s Word.

Jesus’ disciples, however, grew more concerned with getting physical food for the people than about them hearing the truth.

As the evening drew near, the disciples urged Him to send the people away to find something to eat. The idea never occurred to them that perhaps Jesus could provide for their physical needs as well as their spiritual needs. Of course, Jesus was fully aware of their concerns. “When Jesus then lifted up [His] eyes, and saw a great company come unto him, he saith unto Philip, Whence shall we buy bread, that these may eat? And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do” (John 6:5, 6). Surprised (and perhaps shocked) at His response, the disciples immediately looked to their own selves to provide food for this great assembly. (Some scholars believe that there could have been over 15,000 individuals present). They replied, “…Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth [several thousand of dollars worth] of bread, and give them to eat?” (Mark 6:37). They really believed that Jesus might be out of His mind at this point, because He was expecting them to meet all of these people’s needs. They had probably expected Jesus to respond, “You’re right, we really ought to send them back to the nearest villages and let them get fed there.”

Jesus wasn’t fazed by all of this though. Instead, He let them see for themselves just how little they had for such a great need. If they hadn’t known what they had begun with, then the full depth of the miracle that Jesus was about to perform wouldn’t have been realized. After they took the smattering of provisions (enough for only a few to eat) over to Him and had the people sit in an orderly manner on the grass, He blessed and broke the bread, then the fish, and gave them to the disciples to be distributed among the people. Notice that He never gave any of these provisions directly to the people Himself—it was always through His disciples. In the end, there was so much distributed from the hands of Jesus that everyone was able to eat and be filled. No lack was mentioned and a dozen basketfuls were still leftover.

How many times do we believers in Jesus Christ go to Him first for our needs, both great and small? When Jesus is trusted solely, a small amount yields an overabundance.

Trying to meet a great need by ourselves is the same kind of problem as the disciples trying to feed the whole multitude with the tiny provisions that were available. Jesus never told them to go and buy all of the food, or to take the loaves and fishes and give everyone just a crumb or two of bread. (We won’t even try to determine how much of a portion of those two fish they would have to give!). That is why Jesus told them “you give them something to eat.” He knew that in their hearts that they would say “We can’t; He will have to do something!”

God wants us, as His children, dependent upon Him for our needs. When we look to our self, we take our eyes off of Him, and meeting our need becomes more and more insurmountable to us. The need doesn’t have to be just for food. It can also be in other areas, physical or spiritual. “But Jesus beheld them, and said unto them, With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible” (Matthew 19:26).

The problem comes when we limit God. The disciples tried to limit God, as in the example above of the five thousand being fed, by implying that the people needed to leave in order to be fed.

They felt that Jesus was so absorbed in teaching and healing the people that He had forgotten about the basic needs of the people and that He needed the disciples to remind Him of this. How often do we limit God, or put Him “in a box,” by saying that He can meet these particular needs, but He probably won’t be able to meet these other needs? How many times are we impatient with God meeting our needs and end up taking care of them ourselves? How many times do we hurt or insult God by not having complete faith in Him?

We must remember that God is always in control of the situation; we are the ones that lose control and become anxious. We are to place our needs and circumstances in the hands of Jesus and let go, not picking them up later when He doesn’t respond or do anything in our anticipated timeframe. If we take back the needs that we laid in His hands, we are effectively saying that we don’t fully trust Him in everything and that we will take care of it ourselves. Again we are back to limiting God. [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Remember that the disciples never even asked Jesus to provide for the people’s needs. How much more will He respond when we really do ask and fully believe?

God Will Take of You

“… [Cast] all your care upon him; for he careth for you.” (1 Peter 5:7)

There are times when the Lord God chooses to put His people into intensely difficult situations which appear to lead to a position where there is no way of escape. If He were to ask you in advance what you think about them, you would never choose to be involved in such predicaments on your own. Are you in such a situation right now, where it seems like a dark cloud is coming over you, engulfing you against your will? Then keep this in mind—no matter how dark the cloud you are sensing might seem to be, it will not stay forever. After the dark storm clouds pass, morning always comes again. Your cloud will move on. And then God’s mercy will fall on you like rain.

 

Are you struggling to carry a tremendous weight that God doesn’t seem to notice? The weights we think are so unbearable are like minute grains of sand to Him. These matters seem so grave and upsetting to us, but to God they are right on target in His plan for you. In the end, you will find that His handling of your situation is just, and that it has brought you right where He wants you—to a position of seeking Him, confessing that you cannot rely only on yourself. In fact, the very scene you’re in right now provides a stage to showcase the mighty power and grace of God.

Don’t doubt that His grace is working in your time of suffering. Don’t stop believing that He loves you in times of tribulation as much as in times of happiness. God will deliver you, and He will leave you with a lesson you won’t dare to forget.

Every time you return to this scene in your memory later, your spirits will be uplifted when you remember what God has done for you. Then you will be able to thank God over and over for doing just what He did.

The heavenly Father is continually watching over His children. His heart feels your distress and despair and He takes pity on you. Doesn’t He see that even the tiniest bird has food to eat? Then won’t He see that you are taken care of too? He will come to you and bandage your wounds. He will heal your broken heart. Don’t just lie there in a pool of despair—keep on hoping, and never give up.

Where does this burden you carry belong? It belongs to the Lord! Give it to Him. His powerful hand will be there with the help you need when you need it. He will calm your sorrow if you transfer all your concerns into His hands. Allow yourself to lie still in His hands, letting His will be your own.

My suffering brother or sister, be patient. Realize that God has not overlooked or forgotten you; He really does care for you! Why don’t you let the One who is your Provider do your providing? Has He ever refused to carry your burdens? Has He ever collapsed because they are too heavy for Him? If this same God really cares so much for you, why do you worry so much about yourself? God will take care of you!

–Alana Pangburn

New Life Out of the Old

tree stump beside water

“If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; 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 4:21-24).

I recently observed a tree that had long since died and fallen into the water nearby. This particular type of tree decayed very slowly and had obviously been on the shoreline for some time. But the interesting thing about it was, that another plant had grown up from within this dead tree’s root system. While this is not uncommon, it made me think how Jesus brings this about in our lives when we surrender, or yield, to Him. When we come to Jesus, this worn-out physical body of ours does not die. Our inner self (our morality, etc.) dies and is reborn out of the old as a new ‘inner self’. This time, we are not the same old person deep inside as before, but one with a new ‘spiritual heredity’ that seeks to please God and not the Devil. We now put off the old, and live in, and through, the new ‘self’.

With this new self, Jesus can now work though us, not only to change and improve our lives, but also as a tool to impact others around us. As the familiar chorus goes:

Jesus on the inside
Working on the outside
O, what a change in my life!

The key is to let Him do the work, and not us. The moment we try to make ourselves right, then we negate, or make ineffective, the finished work of Jesus on the Cross. When that plant I mentioned earlier grew out of the old, dead tree, did it grab a can of green spray paint and make itself green? Did it read any self-help books on how to effectively grow better or improve its self-esteem? Did it watch someone on the television and buy the DVD on how to be delivered from bacterial infestation acquired through the dead tree? No! It grew naturally from the biological processes God gave it in the beginning. It never tried to make itself better; in fact, it couldn’t do it by itself. That young plant was totally dependent on something else to protect and nurture its fragile self. This is just what God expects of us when we accept His Son, Jesus, into our hearts—total dependence. Now most of us, at this point, may want to respond, “This may work for you, or him, or her, but I CAN’T do it!” This is actually quite true. I will be the first to admit that I can’t do it either. But this is just the position God wants us to be in, not dependent on ourselves.

We must stop trying to clean up our lives and make ourselves right. It is a lot like a pig trying to clean himself up with the mud he was wallowing in—it just won’t work!

The focus of our faith is to be on Jesus, and Jesus alone, not on some multi-step plan or self-help program, not some human leader (parent, pastor, president, etc.). If we are focused in our faith on Jesus and the work He did on the Cross, then we can’t add or include something else too. Multiply five times five and you’ll end up with twenty-five; you can’t add six or multiply by three, and still end up with twenty-five!

Of course, this leads us to ask, ‘How do I do this without doing anything on my own?’ That’s a good question, and the answer is—relationship. When you accepted Jesus into your heart you began a personal relationship with Him, not physically, but spiritually. It is a lot like the bond you may have with a dear parent, spouse, or child, only much, much deeper. You aren’t actually tied or otherwise attached to them, but there is a closeness that can’t be easily explained in words. The relationship you have entered into with Jesus has to be developed and refined. While He may know much about you, you know so little about Him. The way to increase your knowledge of Him is to talk and listen to Him in prayer and to read His Word, the Bible.

When a couple gets married, they must each take time out to really get to know the other person better; and the same idea applies in your relationship with Him. Take time out and talk with Him. Spend as much time as you can, which means taking time away from less important things.

If you think you can’t give up anything, then you need to think about what (or who) is more important in your life.

As well, read and dwell or meditate (contemplate or reflect) on His Word and ask Him to illuminate it to you. Don’t let it overwhelm you. Read it over and over, and each time you read, ask Him to make it more real to your heart and mind. As time goes on, you’ll start seeing things you didn’t notice before, and you will begin to discover that you don’t want to stop reading. Most importantly, never give up praying and reading. If you don’t give up, He won’t give up! Before long, you’ll find that, just like the plant growing out of the old, dead tree, you are growing up in Him out of your old dead self!

–James Pangburn