Each Day Is More Impossible – Hope on the Long Road of Suffering

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Each Day Is More Impossible-Hope on the Long Road of Suffering

By

It’s been eight weeks since I went in for my fifth ankle surgery, uncertain of whether it would restore my ability to walk. As I remain couchbound, waiting to see what walking ability I will be left with, I’ve been wrestling with doubts and fears over all the seemingly impossible circumstances that God continues to allow in my life.

I’m a mom to four young children and currently unable to walk; we’re a family suffering with Lyme Disease in a medical world that denies its existence; we’re parents navigating a type of special needs that doctors seem to have no answers for; and the only possible relief in sight seems to lie in treatments that we cannot afford. After eleven years of praying, seeking, and sacrificing for answers and healing — or anything that might bring relief — our earthly hope has dwindled. The longer we wait, the more impossible our circumstances become.

He Believed Against Hope

This week, as I’ve felt nearly paralyzed by the complex and layered trials in our life, I’ve found encouragement in a fellow believer who faced his own impossible circumstances with unwavering faith in the Lord.

After being promised he’d become a father of many nations, the child of promise had not come. Both he and Sarah were far beyond the age to bear children. It appeared hopeless to conceive, even as the Lord told him they would, but while he and his wife initially laughed, Abraham came to believe.

In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, “So shall your offspring be.” He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb. No unbelief made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:18–21)

Abraham didn’t weaken in faith when he considered the reality of what seemed impossible. He believed in the hope that God was fully able to do what he had promised. And he did.

Abraham’s experience reminded me that it’s not unlike God to allow his children to face situations that are hopeless from our perspective. It’s precisely through these impossible situations that God expands our view of him, exercises our trust in him, and most powerfully displays his glory. So, what can we learn from these verses about Abraham when we face our own impossible circumstances?

1. Know what God has (and hasn’t) promised.

Abraham’s faith was based on what God had promised, not what seemed possible. “In hope he [Abraham] believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told” (Romans 8:18). Though he didn’t see any way for that promise to come to pass in their old age, he believed that God would somehow be faithful.

We can’t base our hope on what we want God to do or what we think he will do, but what he has promised us in his word. If we don’t know what those promises are, however, we will be devastated if our hope of healing falls through, when the trials worsen after praying for relief, or when all earthly options seem to run out.

In order to know God’s promises, we have to be in his word. We need to be students of the Bible — praying, reading, meditating, and memorizing. We must be careful to read in context to make sure we don’t misunderstand God’s will and promises and feel bitterly disappointed when we don’t receive what he never promised.

As you read through the word, record all that God offers us in Christ. As you do, remember that his promises are given in light of eternity, not our own short-term understanding (2 Corinthians 4:16–18). And by faith, trust that God knows the best way and time for his promises to come to pass.

Read the rest here.

When It Feels Like God’s Not Doing Anything

Sharing today from the True Woman Blog at Revive Our Hearts.

When It Feels Like God’s
Not Doing Anything

One of my favorite ways to study Scripture is to consider the mindset of those in each Bible story. (Perhaps this is why I love the Old Testament so much.) What was Noah’s wife thinking when they were seventy-five years in to building the ark and there was still no water? What was going through Sarah’s mind when not just once, but twice, Abraham made her join a king’s harem? 

What doubts about God did Joseph struggle with after the cupbearer forgot about him in prison? Did Moses feel rejected by God as he fled into the wilderness after killing the Egyptian? What was Daniel thinking as he and his friends were being marched as prisoners to Babylon? What about his mother? Was she killed? 

It puts a different spin on things to think of these Bible characters as real people we’d probably have over for dinner, had they been born in our era. Because that’s what they were—real people, with real struggles, real doubts, real fears and issues and hopes and dreams and thoughts. 

And just like we struggle to believe God is working in our lives, I have no doubt they did too. We can simply turn the page to see the outcome of their story, but some of our favorite Bible heroes waited years to see God’s active hand in their lives. 

Yet God Was Still Working

Actually, Hebrews 11:39 says all of them are still waiting, seeing only glimpses of God’s promise in their day. Yet many (especially those listed in Hebrews 11) are commended for their faith. They didn’t lose heart; they believed God. But the question is, can we say the same for ourselves?

When circumstances turn sour or take too long, it’s easy to think God’s forgotten us or would rather not deal with our issues. But to think He isn’t doing anything—to think God doesn’t care—is simply not true. He is still just as much in the details and the outcome of our lives as He was in Bible times. 

The stories we read in Scripture aren’t just there for our entertainment, but to remind us that He is still working. God is still active and powerful and sovereign and providentially aligning all the details, even when it doesn’t feel like it. 

Consider David:

It’s no secret that David struggled with doubts of God’s care and concern. In Psalm 13:1 we see David crying out to God, “How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?” He was anointed as the next king of Israel, yet was chased in the wilderness for years on end by Saul who longed to see him dead. Yeah, if I were David, I would have wondered too.

Yet God was working in David’s life, solidifying his faith and preparing him to be king. And what’s more, God was indeed doing something! Just look at the Psalms we have because of David’s time in the wilderness. While David hid in caves, seeking for encouragement through song, God was writing His Word! 

Read the rest here.

The God Without … A Thanksgiving Message

This is my annual Thanksgiving message thanks to Grace Thru FaithMay you all enjoy a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving Day!

The God Without …
A Thanksgiving Message

A Thanksgiving Message by Jack Kelley

Shout for joy to the LORD, all the earth. Worship the LORD with gladness; come before him with joyful songs. Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.   For the LORD is good and his love endures forever; his faithfulness continues through all generations. (Psalm 100)

Each year on the 4th Thursday of November we celebrate Thanksgiving Day in the US.  It’s a holiday begun by the early settlers to express their gratitude to God for a bountiful harvest, and it’s patterned after the Jewish Feast of Tabernacles.

After the harvest Israelites from all over the country would gather in Jerusalem for a week-long celebration. This was to commemorate the time God had spent with them in the wilderness and to give thanks for another good harvest. All year they saved up their tithes, the first-born of their flocks and herds, the first sheaves of grain, the first grapes, figs, olives and other fruit and vegetables and brought it all to Jerusalem in the fall where they cooked and ate everything in a national celebration of praise (Deut. 12:5-7).

After surviving a very difficult year in the new world, the Pilgrims of New England instituted a similar, though much smaller, thanksgiving feast, again with the intent of praising God.   This event finally became a national holiday in the US in 1863, but it took until 1941 to settle on the 4th Thursday of November as its official observance.

My parents made sure we never forgot that it was the Lord who provided for us and so Thanksgiving was a religious observance in our house. Prayers were offered and each family member gave thanks to the Lord for all the good things we had received.

Read the rest here.

Why is Giving Thanks so Hard?

Sharing today from Precept Ministries.

Why is Giving Thanks
so Hard?

What are you grateful for? I realize most of us have the same basic answers. We are grateful for Jesus, salvation, family, spouses, and children. If we are really honest a few of us will say we are thankful for coffee, warm beds, comfortable chairs, and chocolate.

But, in this day and time perhaps the question should not be “What are you grateful for?”, but “How in the world can you be grateful?” With so much change, so much uncertainty, and the whole world being turned upside down how can you be truly grateful for anything?

In our world worry, fear, stress, and anxiety seem more natural than thanksgiving. But, worry and fear are the cancer that destroys thankfulness, and at the same time thanksgiving is the cure for worry and fear. What do we do? Where do we find an anchor to hold us so we can look trouble in the eye and still give thanks?

The short answer is Romans 8: 28-39. The longer answer is the whole counsel of the Word of God.

The fundamental truth behind the ability to give thanks in all circumstances is this –

God causes all things to work together for good for those who love Him. – Romans 8:28

The simplicity of the statement is a little unnerving.

God causes ALL things…..

All means all. Whatever circumstances you face, God is at work causing those circumstances to work together for your good.

What are you facing? Cancer? Death of a loved one? Financial struggles? Job loss? A child walking in sin before God? Rejection from the one you love? You can trust the Father because all of these things are covered under that little word “all”.

God causes all things to work together for our good.

Did you notice that “things” is plural? All things – each individual thing – are working together for good. The stress and troubles of life are all working in concert together under the direction of the Master Conductor for our good. God is orchestrating the events of life so that they work together for our good.

This happens in such the grand scale of life and it is not necessarily seen in the moment by moment or day to day events. We all know that days, weeks, months, and years can be painful and heart breaking. But, even when I can’t see how God is working I can trust that He is working, and that He is causing all of my pain and suffering to work out for my ultimate good.

It is important to point out here that Paul did not say all things are good. Clearly not everything that happens to us is good. But God is at work

And in this, we can give thanks regardless of what we face.

Read the rest here.

Pity Us

Photo credit: FreeBibleImages.org

One of them, when he saw he was healed,
came back, praising God in a loud voice.
He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—
and he was a Samaritan.
Jesus asked, “Were not all ten cleansed?
Where are the other nine?
Has no one returned to give praise to God
except this foreigner?”
Then he said to him,
“Rise and go; your faith has made you well.”
─Luke 17:15-19

Pity Us

By Pat Knight

Had you lived when Jesus walked the earth, you may have required the restorative powers of the Great Physician, willing to comply to whatever Jesus requested to be healed of an incurable disease. With only a few minimally educated physicians and no medicines or hospitals available, debilitated people were desperate. Unless Jesus pronounced them cured, all hope of recovery was lost. Leprosy was one of the most dreaded diseases of the day. According to Jewish law, once the disease was suspected, it must be confirmed by the priest. The person was then shuttled off to a colony outside of town, where all lepers lived in seclusion from the rest of society, an early form of quarantine. Because the disease was considered contagious, whenever lepers approached from a distance, they were required to shout “unclean” so contact with them could be avoided.

While traveling toward Jerusalem, Jesus met ten lepers who “stood at a distance and called out in a loud voice, ‘Jesus, Master, have pity on us!’ When he saw them, he said, ‘Go show yourselves to the priests.’ And, as they went, they were cleansed. One of them, when he saw he was healed, came back, praising God in a loud voice. He threw himself at Jesus’ feet and thanked him—and he was a Samaritan. Jesus asked, ‘Were not all ten cleansed? Where are the other nine? Has no one returned to give praise to God except this foreigner?’  Then he said to him. ‘Rise and go: your faith has made you well’” (Luke 17:13-19).

It was the one Samaritan who turned around amid his trip to the temple priest to thank and praise Jesus for his instant healing. Samaritans were considered half-breeds and despised by Jews, who normally refused to affiliate with them, but living conditions within the leper colonies necessitated relaxation of typical social segregation. The healed Samaritan was ecstatically grateful, demonstrating vocally in a loud voice and physically by throwing himself at his Master’s feet, a display of humility, unworthiness, and worship. As a result, Jesus granted the Samaritan the spiritual healing of salvation in addition to his physical healing.

The quintessential question arises: why did the nine lepers not return to offer gratitude and praise to the Great Physician? They were recipients of a divine miracle, visible immediately as their skin cleared to a perfectly robust condition. Was it their intent to rush to be checked by the priest? If so, they could easily have returned later to the site where Jesus was ministering, announcing the priest’s decision of complete healing to all of the people gathered there. Though we could offer plausible excuses, the behavior of the nine was inexcusable. Rather, through the ages they have served as the epitome of selfishness.

Before we rush to judge the nine lepers, let us consider how we may have reacted. Or, evaluate how we currently respond to similar gifts from our Lord Jesus. Is it our habit to thank God for medications to treat our illnesses, or for complete reversal of symptoms following surgery? Though physicians now have more knowledge, research, and technology at their disposal than at any other era in history, they are still incapable of curing disease.

Physicians treat; God alone heals.

The Lord is the source of all wisdom and knowledge, truth and righteousness, mercy and grace, and the conqueror of sin and sickness. He delights in confounding physicians with miraculous healings they cannot explain scientifically.

Though the Samaritan leper knew the least of the ten about Jesus and Jewish law, he unabashedly threw himself at the Healer’s feet. Jesus viewed the intent of his heart and discovered his desire to know the Master Healer and to repent in gratitude. What does Jesus see inside our hearts? Our motives are of utmost importance to God; an attitude of gratitude pleases Him.

Only when we are focused on God, when our hearts yearn to obey, love, and serve, will our lives overflow with thanksgiving in response to Christ’s atonement for our sin. For such an incredible gift, the psalmist vowed to praise God. “‘I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness; I will sing the praises of the name of the Lord Most High’” (Psalm 7:17). Praise is a predictable result of deliverance, as demonstrated by the healed leper. How many times in our lives have we been rescued from health, financial, employment woes or social conflicts? How often do we praise God for His overwhelming protection and provision? “Give thanks for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NLT). No item or occasion is excluded from praise and thanksgiving.

 Adoration praises our Lord for who He is. Thanksgiving worships God for what He does. Praise exalts His character and His actions. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). To pray without ceasing is to recognize God’s constant presence in our lives and our dependence on Him; to acknowledge His supremacy and authority. He peers into our hearts to ascertain our intents, expressed by continuous submission and obedience to Him, revealing personal praise and thanksgiving that permeate all of our thoughts and actions.

When we view a gorgeous sunset, perfect rose petals, ferocious ocean turf, or snow-capped mountain ranges, do our hearts spontaneously erupt with praise for our Creator’s magnificent design and visual gifts for our enjoyment? Or, are we guilty of neutrality toward the commonplace—a ho-hum, I’ve-seen-it-all-before complacency? We are commanded to worship the One, true God and Creator of our universe, superior in character and accomplishments. “Praise him for his acts of power; praise him for his surpassing greatness. Let everything that has breath praise the Lord” (Psalm 150:2, 6). We are commanded to worship the Lord in the splendor of His majesty.

On Palm Sunday, when Jesus inaugurated Passion Week by triumphantly entering Jerusalem, His followers publicly announced His royalty by spreading clothing and palm branches on His path, rejoicing and praising their Messiah and King with loud voices for His mighty works. “‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mark 11:9).

Jewish religious leaders were incensed by the public worship afforded Jesus. “Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, ‘Teacher, rebuke your disciples! ‘I tell you,’ He {Jesus} replied, ‘if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out’” (Luke 19:39-40). His religious opponents were livid that Jesus accepted public praise and refused to silence the large crowd. Jesus recognized the progression of events that must occur leading to His crucifixion. This was His time to be honored, praised, and glorified as Messiah and King of the Jews. He graciously accepted the reverence from those who worshipped Him then, just as He does from us today.

Humankind and inanimate objects are compelled to shout acclamations to the Messiah. If human praise is suppressed, then all creation will exclaim Jesus’ exaltations. Tangible objects stand as a testament to God’s creative powers, written in the sky and the earth’s landscape, motivating glory and praise simply by demonstrating the purpose for which each item was designed. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them; let all the trees of the forest sing for joy” (Psalm 96:11-12).

Gratitude is the echo of grace as it reverberates through the hollows of a human heart. Gratitude is the unashamed acceptance of a free gift and the heartfelt declaration that we cherish what we cannot buy. Therefore, gratitude glorifies the free grace of God and signifies the humility of a needy and receptive heart.
─John Piper

As we reflect on the euphoric thanksgiving reaction of the healed Samaritan leper and the ungratefulness of the remaining nine men cured of leprosy, let us assess our own responses to the love and grace God lavishes upon us. Believers live thankfully. Pity the unbeliever who has no source of help or healing or the privilege of bowing at Jesus’ feet in worship.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

Sharing today from The Gospel Coalition.

Why Did Jesus Need to Be Baptized?

By 

If we were to compile a catalog of practices that are essential to the Christian faith, what would be included? Among other essentials, baptism would certainly need to be high on the list. Baptism is one of the means by which Jesus commissions his followers to make disciples (Matt. 28:18–20). It’s also central to the preaching of the gospel at the inception of the church at Pentecost (Acts 2:38). In short, the idea that Christians should be baptized—regardless of when or how—is central to the Christian faith. This should come as no surprise.

What may come as a surprise, however, is that Jesus himself was baptized. Baptism wasn’t just something Jesus commanded his followers to do, but an experience he also underwent. As familiar as we may be with the Gospel accounts, the fact that Jesus submitted himself to baptism may still strike us as odd.

The plot thickens even more when we consider that the baptism Jesus submitted himself to was John’s baptism, which is described as (1) accompanying “repentance” (Matt. 3:2); (2) in conjunction with people “confessing their sins” (Matt. 3:6); and (3) as the means by which to “flee from the coming wrath” (Matt. 3:7).

It doesn’t take much pondering to realize that this doesn’t seem to fit with the rest of what the New Testament says about Jesus—that he was God’s virgin-born (Matt. 1:19–25), sinless (2 Cor. 5:21Heb. 4:15), perfectly obedient Son (Heb. 5:8–9John 17:4), fully pleasing to the Father (Matt. 3:17), who pre-existed as divine but laid aside his glory to take on flesh (Phil. 2:5–8). Nonetheless, Jesus says it is fitting and appropriate that he be baptized (Matt. 3:15).

All this leads to an important question: Why did Jesus need to be baptized?

Why Was Jesus Baptized?

Both Mark and Luke record this story but don’t raise the question (Mark 1:9–11Luke 3:21–22). John’s Gospel doesn’t give us the events of Jesus’s baptism but emphasizes the same effect as the other Gospels—that the Spirit of God descended on Jesus, anointing him as the Son of God (John 1:32–34). Only Matthew raises the issue by including a piece of the story that the other Gospel writers don’t—John himself was hesitant to baptize Jesus. John, aware that Jesus wasn’t just another person coming to repent and confess his sins, protests: “I need to be baptized by you, but you are coming to me?” (Matt. 3:14).

Jesus’s answer to John’s reluctance is instructive, both in answering our question and also in revealing an important aspect of Matthew’s theology. Jesus said, “Let it be so, for it is fitting in this way for us to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). This is a weighty answer, containing two words—“fulfill” and “righteousness”—that are central ideas in Matthew’s Gospel. Something important is going on here.

Nonetheless, Jesus’s response to John remains a bit esoteric for most readers today. So allow me to offer the following paraphrase: Jesus is fulfilling his role as the obedient Son of God by practicing the required righteousness of submitting to God’s will to repent (i.e., to live in the world wholeheartedly devoted to God).

Read the rest here.

The Hope That Does Not Disappoint

We can REJOICE, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they help us develop endurance.

And endurance develops strength of character,
and character strengthens our confident HOPE of salvation.

And this HOPE will not lead to disappointment.
For we know how dearly God loves us,
because he has given us the Holy Spirit
to fill our hearts with his love.

—Romans 5:3-5, NLT

Is it really possible to rejoice in our sufferings? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes moan and groan instead of rejoicing. I am klutzy by nature and tend to do things that cause pain. A few years ago I got out of the passenger side of our truck at church and backed up while trying to keep hold of my Bible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay attention to both my Bible and my steps at the same time and tripped backward on a piece of wood that was sticking up as a marker for our parking lot. I fell down hard, whacking the back of my head on the gravel. We never did make it to the worship service because Rick had to take me to the ER for some staples in my noggin. 

Last week I did almost the same thing as I backed away from our mail carrier’s car while laden with packages. I completely forgot that the concrete driveway right behind me is about 2 inches higher than our rock landscaped front yard. Down I went onto the rock but somehow I remembered to keep my head up so I wouldn’t hit it hard on the rocks again. I don’t recall rolling to my right side but in the process managed to bruise my right elbow and hip. Sigh… it’s not easy being me at times. I can’t say I was rejoicing after those spills, but I did thank God that I was not hurt worse. 

I tend to be quite optimistic, but what is there to rejoice about when you wake up with the same pain you had when you went to bed last night? When I rest my aching head on my pillow while trying to ignore the various aches and pains that plague me, I still hope to wake up without any pain at all. However, the nature of chronic pain is that it is almost always there in one form or other plus add to that the extreme exhaustion of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)  that has decided to stay with me at all the times now. 

Beloved, please believe me when I say there is hope for those of us who feel like things will never get better. We have a hope that transcends anything here on earth and that hope lies in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, ensuring eternal life for all who believe. Even though our earthly bodies may suffer, we have the assurance that our heavenly bodies will experience no pain … ever.

How’s that for the hope that doesn’t disappoint? In spite of how I used to react to such things, I have been purposely trying to hold on to that hope as I persevere through the pain I live with during the short time I am here on earth. Compared to living in heaven for eternity, my time here is thankfully very limited. I live in hopeful anticipation of a pain-free eternity with my LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what would I do without the promise of Your hope? Help me to remember that through my trials I can develop the kind of character that leads to the hope that does not disappoint. May I always be found faithful to lean on Your strength for help in my earthly suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.