God Never Changes

I am the Lord, and I do not change.
—Malachi 3:6, NLT

Here in our part of the Southwest, we don’t enjoy the same drastic change in seasons as those who live in the North. I was born and raised in New England and have many fond memories of crunching autumn leaves underfoot. Raking those leaves was a chore but jumping into piles of raked leaves was certainly fun.

Right now our autumn daytime temperatures are starting to fall below 70. In the high desert area of Arizona where we live, we don’t have the privilege of viewing the brilliant autumn hues without traveling further north.

Sometimes the seasonal changes up here are subtle, but most of the time our hot summers are followed by warm autumns which change to chilly winters that make us shiver. Most winters we even have snow up here that only lasts a few days. And the re-emergence of warmer temperatures heralds the arrival of spring. 

There isn’t much in life we can count on except for one: God never changes. He is the same yesterday as He is today and will be tomorrow. My pain levels ebb and flow, sometimes in tune with the change of seasons. I can be in despair one minute and joyful the next, but I can always be sure that God is unchangeable. What an assurance that is to me.

How patient and loving God is with us! Even though we constantly strive to do things on our own, He patiently waits for us to remember that He is in control and will help us through our days. That part of His unchangeable personality soothes and reassures me as I struggle to understand and deal with the constant change going on around and inside of me.

No matter how much things change in my life because of what I can or cannot do, I can rest on the promise that God is always with me. He holds me close to comfort me as I lean on Him in faith—no matter what is going on in my life.

I am so utterly thankful for my Lord of the past, the present and the future!

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!

—1 John 3:1

Job’s Trials

Job’s Trials

by Joni Eareckson Tada

“Then the Lord said to Satan,
‘Have you considered my servant Job?'”
–Job 1:8

The Bible infers that God always eventually gets His way. But what does that say about Him? God’s favorite planet has experienced a lot of evil over the years. Why hasn’t He stopped it or, at least curbed it? If God’s the boss, is Satan His employee? Let’s look at Job.

Job had it all — money, land, status, family. One day in God’s throne room, Satan broached his disgust over Job’s pious reputation. “The man loves you because you bribe him,” the devil argued. “But stretch out your hand and strike everything he has, and he will surely curse you to your face.” God answered, “Job is yours, only don’t lay a finger on his person.” The words were scarcely out of God’s mouth when lightning killed Job’s sheep and shepherds, a Chaldean raiding party plundered the cattle and herdsmen, then a mighty wind collapsed a roof on Job’s children. So we ask, who caused Job’s trials?

At the most basic level, natural forces did — desert winds blew and lightning struck. On the same level, evil people caused Job’s trials — greedy men killed and plundered. On another level, Satan caused Job’s problems — he leaves God’s presence, we scarcely blink, and carnage is everywhere; Satan engineered it all: the fire, the wind, and the sword. But on the deepest level, nothing happened that God did not decree. God permitted what He hated, to accomplish something He loved: the worship of a wiser Job.

Satan’s motive was to wreck Job’s life and mock God. God’s reaction to the devil was merely to lengthen his leash. God’s decree made room for evil to occur, but God didn’t do it. He simply exploited the deliberate evil of wicked people, as well as the impersonal evil of some bad storms without forcing anyone’s hands. How does God pull it off? Welcome to the world of finite human beings trying to comprehend an infinite God!

Almighty God, how unsearchable are Your judgments and Your ways past finding out! I simply praise You that Your decrees are perfect.

www.joniandfriends.org


Copyright © 2006. Pearls of Great Price by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

Patience

Patience

By Pat Knight

The Bible book of Job opens with a snapshot of its namesake: In the land of Uz, there lived a man named Job. This man was blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1:1). Job was also “the greatest man among all the people of the East” (Job 1:3), a respected elder in his community, admired for his civic leadership and justice.

God granted Satan permission to test His servant Job, to prove Job’s righteousness and faithfulness. Within a day Job lost his enormous wealth in livestock, his house, and his servants. Worst of all, his ten children were killed in an accident. Soon Job contracted a disease, with “sores from the soles of his feet to the crown of his head” (Job 2:7).

Job’s entire body was wracked with gnawing pain day and night (Job 30:17). The infection caused festering sores (v. 7:5), scabs that peeled and turned black (vv. 30:28, 30), disfigurement with a repulsive appearance (vv. 2:12; 19:19), nightmares (v. 7:14), bad breath with loss of teeth (vv. 19:17, 20), physical emaciation (vv. 17:7; 19:20), and fever (v. 30:30), which may have caused delirium and hallucinations   (v. 7:14).

Job’s wife helplessly observed her husband deteriorating before her eyes, scraping his sores with broken pottery glass. Job struggled with thoughts of shame, insignificance, and injustice. He cried out to God, but heard only silence. Suspecting Job would soon die, and aware of the law stipulating death for blaspheming the Name of the Lord (Leviticus 24:15), Mrs. Job suggested a way to hasten her husband’s death: “‘Curse God and die’” (Job 2:9b). Job refused, saying, “‘Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?’ In all of this, Job did not sin in what he said” (Job 2:10).Though stretched to the limits of human endurance, Job refused to give up. He clung to God with all his might.

Three friends traveled to comfort Job. Ideally, they should have provided Job with encouragement, an oasis in the desert of his suffering. But they offered only a mirage, another disappointment for Job to reconcile. He received callous arguments from his friends, who branded him a hypocrite. Job desired friendship, dependable counsel, and spiritual guidance, costing his friends nothing, but which would have proved most valuable to a wretched man. Job responded, “‘One should be kind to a fainting friend but you accuse me without any fear of the Almighty’” (Job 6:14, NLT).

“The patience of Job” is a phrase commonly but inaccurately used. The book of Job omits such a characterization. Job claimed the right to bellow and complain that he was wounded and forgotten by God. He rued the day he was born (v. 3:11). He accused God of excessive criticism (v. 7:20). Job was adamant that he had done nothing wrong to invoke God’s discipline or punishment. The more he argued, the more arrogance he acquired. He came perilously close to implicating God of wrongdoing. Job complained of God’s apparent injustice and insensitivity, accusing God of abusing His power, attacking him, and disregarding his pleas for mercy. “‘You have become cruel toward me. You use your power to persecute me’” (Job 30:21, NLT).

The believer’s spiritual gift of patience (Galatians 5:22) includes more than just waiting. It implies the calm bearing of trials without complaining. Inherent in patience is submissive relaxation in the comforting, assuring arms of Jesus. Serenity and praise are implicit factors, trusting the plans of God without necessarily knowing His purposes. At its core, patience requires humility and submission to the will of God. “If we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently” (Romans 8:25).

“When we let circumstances come between us and God, God is shut out, and as a result of that we lose the sense of His presence. We get to the place where there is worry and distress instead of peace in our souls, and we do not feel His fatherly hand upon us. We become fretful and impatient and irritable and fault-finding. We get far away from God and out of communication with Him. We do not see the hand of God in all circumstances. All the while He wants to bring us back to Himself in brokenness of heart and humbleness of mind” (J. Vernon McGee).

If we intend to exhibit the fine art of patience during adversity, Job is not the model to emulate. Jesus Christ is our divine example. During His thirty-three years on earth, Christ encountered the gamut of human experiences. Both in His purpose and in His performance, Jesus patiently carried out the plan established for Him in the heavenly realms. He showed patience toward the Pharisees and Jewish religious leaders whose design it was to taunt and entrap Him. Jesus never sinned. He never lost His temper unjustly. He never dishonored His Father in heaven or people on earth. Jesus was humble and patient with men and submissive to His heavenly Father. “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved” (2 Peter 3:15, NLT).

In the Garden of Gethsemane, the Tempter offered Jesus the crown without the cross. Jesus patiently and obediently committed Himself to God, praying, “‘Father if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.’ And in anguish, He prayed more earnestly and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:42-44).

Jesus is the perfect, patient Son of God, the only Person qualified to suffer in our place. The ideal model of patience in weakness is the cross of Christ! Now He strengthens us by the power of His resurrection.

Though there is no mention of Job’s patience in the Old Testament, later Job is remembered. “You have heard of Job’s perseverance and have seen what the Lord faithfully brought about. The Lord is full of compassion and mercy” (James 5:11). Job was not patient, but he exhibited steadfast trust. Job persevered because he had already established a devout personal relationship with God prior to his losses. Satan was sure Job would capitulate in defeat under the heavy weight of loss and suffering, but he didn’t count on his victim’s enduring faith. Job’s belief of a future reward in heaven sustained him during the long months of tribulations. “‘Then I would still have this consolation—my joy in unrelenting pain—that I had not denied the words of the Holy One’” (Job 6:10).

Our responsibility is to “Be patient in trouble, and keep on praying” (Romans 12:12b). It pleases Jesus’ to know that His followers inherit His divine attributes. Like Job, we must learn patience, the ability to respond with quiet, uncompromising endurance under stress.

Let us implement the gift of patience that characterizes Christ,
leaning hard on the Rock, resting in His divine help and power.
Then God will be glorified by your patient, adoring acts of faith.

When You Want to Trust but Life Won’t Let You

Today I’m sharing a great article from the Bible Gateway blog. I think this is something we can all relate to.

When You Want to Trust
but Life Won’t Let You

By Craig Groeschel

“I want to believe God cares about me; I really do,” she told me, wiping tears from under her darkened, bloodshot eyes. Under the harsh fluorescent lights of the hospital corridor, Marci barely resembled the vibrant girl I remembered, that kid I’d watched grow up in our youth group at church. When she was a teenager, Marci was outgoing, fun-loving, and full of life, even as she was growing more and more serious about her faith, coming early to youth group and staying late. No one loved to worship and talk about God more than Marci.

Then, in her early 20s, Marci met Mark, a great Christian guy with a charismatic personality. They fell in love practically overnight, marrying almost a year to the day after they met. Mark’s dynamic personality served him well, helping him land a great sales job. Before long, he was making more money than most other professionals his age. They bought their dream home, and as Mark and Marci served God together at our church, they just knew life couldn’t get any better.

But then it did.

After just two months of trying, they learned they were pregnant with their first child. When beautiful little Chloe was born, my wife, Amy, and I joined Mark and Marci at the hospital to thank God for his blessings. Celebrating with them was amazing, all of us thanking God for this wonderful family that he was growing in his presence.

Back then, none of us could see even a hint of cracks around the foundation of their lives. But as the years ticked by, Mark’s job had him working longer and longer hours and required ever more frequent travel. Even so, when he came home one day and informed Marci that he was leaving her—for one of her closest friends—she never saw it coming. Devastated, Marci found herself battling on two fronts, coping on the one hand with Mark’s betrayal and struggling on the other as a single mom trying to build a new life for herself and Chloe. She took small comfort in thinking that at least things couldn’t get any worse.

Until they did.

Read the rest here.

Covenant Vows

Today’s post is from Theology for Women, but this article is good for all husbands and wives to read.

Covenant Vows

By Wendy Alsup

A covenant is a binding agreement. Our world acknowledges a myriad of secular covenants, particularly in the financial realm. Financial covenants, like a mortgage or business partnership, aren’t to be entered lightly, and it is good that there are serious consequences to those who break such financially binding agreements. Economies can fail when parties default on such agreements, particularly en masse.

Secular covenants give us a tiny glimpse of the importance of spiritual covenants. The covenant vows of Christian marriage are a serious thing. We stand before God, friends and family as our witnesses, and repeat vows to another person. In sickness and in health. For richer and for poorer. Til death do us part. The ordained minister of the gospel speaks a final word of blessing and warning, “What God has joined together, let not man put asunder.”

But in the 1970’s California became the first state to pass no fault divorce laws. What God had joined together became much easier for man to put asunder without Biblical cause or process. Soon, believers who benefit from God’s faithful covenant with themselves began taking advantage as much as unbelievers of the government’s easy path to undo such covenant vows.

Marriage vows are not the only covenants we make with another. My denomination takes the vow of church membership quite seriously. I covenant with pastors, elders, and other church members to pursue the purity and peace of my church. I covenant with them that they can count on me, and they in return covenant that I can count on them.

I’ve made covenant vows to my children as well. When I chose to bring them into this world and not give them up for adoption, I committed, at least in God’s and the government’s sight, to protect and provide for them. My commitment to my children feels a lot like God’s to Abraham in Genesis 12-17. God took both sides of the vow with Abraham. He would fulfill His covenant with Abraham because God was faithful, not because Abraham was. Similarly, I bear the heaviest weight of my covenant with my children. They may rebel, but I will remain their mother. They may run from me, but I will pursue them nonetheless. To do less would be to abdicate my responsibilities in their lives.

We tend to make covenant vows, particularly the marriage kind, in the filtered sunlight of a warm (but not hot) spring day. We make them as the sun shines and the flowers bloom. Loved ones smile warmly around us. And the ones with whom we are entering covenant welcome us toward them.

But the shining starts of our covenants aren’t the point of these covenants. They aren’t the reason for these covenants. The vows we make in front of God and family in our white dresses and tuxes, with filtered spring sunlight illuminating our pictures, aren’t for these days. The sweet days of filtered sunlight and happy smiles don’t require binding agreements to keep folks together. No one has to twist your arm to love your spouse, care for your child, or persevere with your church on such beautiful days glowing with the warmth of new hope and promise for the future. No, covenants aren’t for those days at all.

Read the rest here.

If Today Was Your Last Day

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

If Today Was Your Last Day

By Benjamin Vrbicek

We’ve all heard some version of the question, “If today was your last day on earth, what would you do?” The question is designed to get us thinking about what truly matters and what doesn’t.

There is a helpfulness to this question, I suppose. I certainly don’t want to spend my last day before seeing Jesus perfecting my yo-yo technique or binge-watching Dora the Explorer.

But to be frank, I find the “last day” question paralyzing. It’s overwhelming to consider all the things that could possibly be done. How does one decide what’s the most effective, impactful, God-honoring thing to do when your toes are on the precipice of eternity? How could I know if it’s better to sneak into North Korea—should it even be possible—and preach the gospel, or to track down all my unsaved friends and family so I can preach the gospel to them? Maybe I should also drain my life savings so I can give it away—but who should I give it to?

I have no idea how to answer these questions. Besides, thinking about the most effective thing to do on your last day seems to me like the silly meme that gets shared online: “Jesus is coming; look busy.”

Does being prepared for the second coming of Christ merely involve some extraordinary acts of obedience moments before he returns?

According to Jesus, it doesn’t.

What Does It Mean to Be Ready for Jesus’ Return?

In the Gospels, Jesus frequently charges his followers to stay ready for his return. One such place is Luke 12:35-48. Through a couple short parables about different kinds of servants, Jesus illustrates for his disciples what it means to be ready.

Stay Dressed for Action

In this passage—contra the logic of the “last day” question—being prepared for Jesus’ return means doing the kinds of things appropriate for your context, however ordinary and mundane they might seem. If you’re a teacher, be found grading midterms to the glory of God. If you’re a Christian who works in a factory, be found working until the whistle blows.

Jesus commands, “Stay dressed for action and keep your lamps burning” (v. 35). The literal rendering of the phrase “stay dressed for action” is, “let your loins stay girded.” Back in the day, to have your loins girded meant that a man was ready to work because he had pulled his long, flowing robe around to the front and tied it tight so that it wouldn’t interfere with action.

Read the rest here.