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.

Billy Graham: Made for God’s Purpose, Not Your Own

Sharing today from the July-August 2019 issue of Decision Magazine. This sermon was originally preached in 1956.

Billy Graham:
Made for God’s Purpose,
Not Your Own

By Billy Graham

“Then I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was, making something at the wheel. And the vessel that he made of clay was marred in the hand of the potter; so he made it again into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to make. … Look, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are you in My hand” (Jeremiah 18:3-4, 6).

What an accurate portrayal of men and women this is! The Prophet Jeremiah portrays God as the divine Potter and a man or woman as the clay that the Master Artist seeks to make into a vessel of usefulness. But in the process, the vessel becomes marred—a flaw appears in the work—and tenderly the skilled Craftsman of life refashions it to His own liking.

Three ideas stand out boldly in this parable of the potter: made, marred and made again.

We humans, in our vaunted pride and self-styled wisdom, would claim that we are self-created. We would wrest ourselves from the skillful hands of the Potter, and cry, “I evolved, and I am the product of natural law; I am self-created!”

But the only true record and the only true evidence indicates that it was otherwise.

The Bible states that God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness. … So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him. … Then God blessed them” (Genesis 1:26-28).

Notice, He did not make men and women haphazardly, but with an infinite plan and purpose. He made us in His own image and likeness: creatures with whom He could commune, companion and fellowship. You were made for God’s fellowship, and to fulfill any other purpose is to fail to fulfill your destiny.

That heart of yours, despite its waywardness and evil, in its serious moments reaches out for the stars and cries out for fellowship with the infinite God. That mind of yours, so fraught with evil imaginations, sensual images and earthly aspirations, longs for communion and affinity with the divine Potter—God. That body of yours, tired of its labors and wanderings, aching with loneliness, hungers for companionship with the One for whom you were created.

Race, ethnic background and language make no difference—all hearts repeat the words of David: “My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God” (Psalm 84:2).

There are thousands of people who admit that they are unhappy. Economic security, recreation, pleasure and a good community in which to live have not brought them the peace and happiness they expected. The reason is that we were created in the image of God, and we can find no complete rest, happiness, joy and peace until we come back to God.

You were not only made for a purpose, you were made with a will of your own. This will of yours is capable of obeying or disobeying, of choosing life or death, darkness or light, Heaven or hell, sin or the Savior.

If there is no will, there can be no true love. God wanted us to love Him willingly, with a free heart, by choice. This was a calculated risk on God’s part, but it was the only way true love and fellowship could be achieved.

Read the rest here.

My Friend Sammy

Image credit

My Friend Sammy

By Pat Knight

Our four-year-old grandson informed his mother he was sure he was a boy because “girls have square heads and mine is round.” And how did he discover this morsel of childhood truth? “Because Sammy told me!” Of course, the logic of childhood has conquered another subject.

In allotting some of my thought to this physical inequity between boy and girl, it did occur to me that a square head might be useful. The brain could occupy the main part of the box-shaped head. Then, tucked away in the corners could be all those important dates and lifelong trivia we long to recall instantly. No longer would I forget birthdays. The dates would be squeezed into a corner, perhaps attached by a sticky note on a permanent brain corkboard. Appointment dates for the entire family at times require a filing system all their own. There would be another head corner available for those remembrances. It is a daunting task to remember clothing sizes for everyone in a growing family. The shoe and sock sizes, shirts and jackets, pants and gloves, hats (square) and boots; all could be neatly catalogued in another corner of the square skull. The remaining corner could be delegated to lists, those aggravating necessities of daily living. What a possibility for superior organization and efficiency, with every thought and job catalogued in corners of our boxy heads!

The square head might be a little top heavy with all of the informative corners assigned.  Perhaps it would be wise if we kept the original mold, after all. God knew how to configure people for optimum function and fulfillment. There are parts of our brain used exclusively for empowering the body with its mechanical prowess. All of our senses are neatly provided a unique section. Reasoning, learning, memorization, problem solving, wisdom; all have been compartmentalized.

God designed us long ago with His plan that has never outdated. The human body and mind must be one of only a few items in this world that have not been altered or improved over time. God alone possesses the pattern for creation of Homo sapiens and He is not likely to release it. We are children of God, made in His image. Who would want to tamper with that relationship? “God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Genesis 1:27). Notice the triple repetition of being made in God’s image, a fact He doesn’t want us to take lightly.

With the reasoning minds God constructed, we are capable of grasping the enormous gift of fellowship with Him. God could have built the most palatial residence in heaven for His abiding place. After all, He is the One, Exalted, Supreme God of the universe, mighty in power and riches. God could live anywhere He chooses, but miraculously, He has chosen our hearts! God will reside in each individual heart and mind of the person who invites Him inside.

God not only created us, but He knows every intimate detail of our lives. He didn’t leave us to our own fickle devices. As our heavenly Father, Lord, and Savior, He is deeply involved in our lives and lifestyles. “You preserve my thoughts from afar. You discern my going out and my lying down; you are familiar with all my ways” (Psalm 139:2-3).

Adam and Eve tried hiding from God in the Garden of Eden after they deliberately disobeyed His command. They recognized their perilous error which they had been warned was punishable by death. Imagine hearing God’s voice call to you as He did to Adam and Eve after they hid among the trees. They were afraid, embarrassed, and for the first time, guilty. But God was merciful and spared their lives, just as He has saves us from our sins and the required death to atone for them.

God also stands ready to protect us. “‘Because he loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘I will rescue him. I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name. He will call upon me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him’” (Psalm 91:14-15). God loves His creations, taking personal responsibility for us, as our earthly fathers have learned to do.  God is a loving, sensitive Father who provides for all of our needs.

Many are the times God protects us from harm, times of which we are unaware. When we complain because our plans are interrupted or detained, God may be protecting us from danger. His plans and timing are always perfect. God maintains personal peace in each of our lives.

Our Lord also offers comfort and healing from suffering. “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds” (Psalm 147:3). God cares for our total being, physically and emotionally. He responds to our cries for help. “So we can say with confidence, “‘The Lord is my helper, I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’ ” (Hebrews 13:6).

In His mercy, God daily pours out His love for us. In place of death, God provides for our eternal life. To adjust for the sins we commit, God continually forgives when we confess. “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

Who can even speak of God’s eternal and faithful love? It is impossible to comprehend His love completely unless He reveals it in small portions. In faith we accept it; in trust we rely upon it; in obedience we share. “ ‘For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.’ ” (Isaiah 55:8-9).

 From the beginning God created us in His image. We have evidence from when Jesus’ lived on earth that His physical attributes resemble ours. That tells us something about the square head theory—let boys be boys and let girls have the same shaped head!

Waiting in Faith, Trust and Hope

Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength;
they will mount up with wings like eagles,
they will run and not get tired,
they will walk and not become weary.

─Isaiah 40:31

Waiting in Faith,
Trust and Hope

You may have noticed that I did not publish any blog posts last week. That’s because of some wonderful news I get to share with you today. Rick and I were in Phoenix because our family has officially increased by two precious babies.

Our journey with twins Austin and Alex began in June 2016 when they were just four months old. They were brought to Alan and Denise (my son and daughter-in-love) through the foster care system. Unsurprisingly we all immediately fell in love with them and have spent the last 33 months hoping, praying and waiting for everything to work out so that Alan and Denise could adopt these sweet little ones. Last week that long-awaited event happened and Rick and I were there at the adoption hearing, along with many family and friends.

I often write about faith, trust and hope. Over the past three years, all of us have been praying and praising God with faith, trust and hope during the waiting. Admittedly there were times when we all wondered if the adoption would ever happen. We repeatedly found ourselves high on the mountains of good news, only to be thrust down into valleys when those hopes were dashed. Still, we continued to rely on God for his comfort and peace while we waited.

Years ago, a fellow writer shared this gem with me about waiting. I have shared his wise words before and they never get old. It definitely applies to our situation:

Even though it was very hard at times to keep on trusting and believing that God was working out the details for the good of all of us, including the babies, we never gave up hope that adoption day would finally happen. The most important thing we learned from everything we went through is that God already had a plan in place, and last week we witnessed the fruition of that plan.

So here we are, almost three years later. Because of the anonymity and protection required for children in the foster care system, we haven’t been able to speak publicly about this … until now.

Oh, dear Lord, this Meemaw is utterly thankful to be able to finally tell how You walked with us through all that waiting. To You—our awesome and everlasting God—be the glory for allowing us to be part of such an amazing journey with these two precious children.

To the King of the ages, immortal, invisible, 
the only God,
be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.
─1 Timothy 1:17

As I was writing this post, the song To God Be the Glory kept running through my head, so here is a video of Nicole C. Mullen singing My Tribute (To God be the Glory)/My Redeemer Lives:

Kids and Kindness

Kids and Kindness 

By Pat Knight

The six-year old was staying overnight at his grandparent’s house. During the night the young man left his bedroom en route to the bathroom. He walked past his grandmother sound asleep on the couch. As he retraced his steps to his bedroom, he halted beside the couch. In hushed tones he spoke, “Nanny, Nanny, I didn’t flush ‘cause I didn’t want to wake you up.” Then, he trudged back to his bedroom, satisfied he had been thoughtful enough to prevent his Nanny from awakening! Meanwhile, Nanny was shaking her head in bewilderment. She wanted to laugh out loud, but in the silence of the night, there was no one awake to listen. She chuckled to herself and fell back to sleep, thanking God for her dear little grandson.

Under the rule of the Pharaoh of Egypt, the Israelites were an oppressed people in a foreign land. They were living as slaves in abject poverty, forced to build cities out of the bricks they made. Their captors were brutal and demanding. Though they were in bondage to Egypt, their numbers continued to grow. Their masters were fearful and threatened by their rising population. Several methods were tried in an attempt to squelch the rapid growth, but when all else failed, the Pharaoh issued a vicious executive order that every Hebrew newborn boy be thrown into the Nile River. (Exodus 1)

Jochebed was a godly Hebrew woman who gave birth to a healthy baby boy, but her great love for her son prevented her from announcing his birth to the authorities. So, she successfully hid him for three months. What a chance she was taking! The Egyptian soldiers regularly patrolled the Israelites’ living area for the sole purpose of confiscating baby boys.

When Jochebed realized she could no longer muffle the loud cries of her infant, she was not going to stand idly by while hateful murderers drowned her child. Jochebed worked tirelessly, fashioning a tightly woven ark out of bulrushes. Meticulously she daubed the exposed seams of papyrus with tar and pitch to prevent water seepage. Because Jochebed loved and trusted her God, He was merciful to her and gradually revealed His plan for saving her son.

Jochebed must have repeatedly rehearsed with her daughter, Miriam, her participation in the plan to save her infant brother. With tremendous faith, the infant’s mother placed him in a little sea-worthy, waterproof ark. It was Miriam’s responsibility to surreptitiously carry the precious bundle to the river. There she found a shallow area in the reeds where she stealthily eased the precious cargo into the water.

There were many dangers inherent in Jochebed’s plans: alligators roamed the waters of the Nile River, an Egyptian soldier could have intercepted Miriam, or the tiny ark could have floated away without discovery. However, faith prevailed. God’s plan was perfect, much larger and involving many more thousands of people than Jochebed could have imagined. “In his heart a man plans his course, but the Lord determines his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). Jochebed was confident that her God would answer her prayers. With innocent faith, she became an important participant in world history.

Miriam closed the lid on her brother’s custom-made houseboat, secretly slipped it into the river, and waited. Soon, the royal participants in the drama arrived. Pharaoh’s daughter and her attendants went to the same secluded shallows of the river to bathe where Miriam had maneuvered the ark into the water. Abruptly, the princess spied the mysterious basket floating among the reeds and instructed her servant to fetch it. When the lid was opened, a beautiful baby was revealed. Although the princess immediately recognized the infant as Hebrew, “he was crying and she felt sorry for him” (Exodus 2:6).

Right on cue, Miriam emerged from hiding, asking Pharaoh’s daughter, “Shall I go and get one of the Hebrew women to nurse the baby for you?” (Exodus 2:7). The princess agreed, ultimately offering the baby’s mother the opportunity to nurse the child and receive payment for her services. What an exceptional reward God granted Jochebed for her faithfulness! She was allowed to serve as surrogate mother to her own son during their bonding years. When her son grew older, Jochebed delivered him to Pharaoh’s daughter, who raised him as her own

“She named him Moses, saying, ‘I drew him out of the water’” (Exodus 2:10).

God had promised His people delivery from slavery; this scene was but a small portion of the plan God chose to liberate nearly a million people. He had selected Moses prior to his birth as the leader of his people. It took many years for God to reveal His plan to Moses, but he eventually became God’s spokesman before Pharaoh, to plead for his countrymen’s release from slavery. 

From the time Moses was born to Hebrew slave parents, there was potential for his life’s plans to fail. Infant mortality was excessively high with soldiers drowning boys in the river. But, when God has a plan, He uses the most unlikely people in the most absurd situations to facilitate His purposes. We have proof that God intervened in the lives of His oppressed people in a miraculous way.

Pharaoh had every intention of eradicating the Israelite nation by attrition; drowning all newborn boys. He did not account for the sensitivity and weakness of his own daughter displayed when she opened Moses’ papyrus basket. She was unwittingly manipulated by God for His purposes. Moses was nurtured by the princess, nourished at the table of kings, educated in progressive Egyptian schools, and protected by their vast army. That baby grew up to save the nation of Israel—a foretaste of the baby of Bethlehem.

How history would have been altered forever if Jochebed had not obeyed her Lord and allowed Him to use her practical trust for His good purposes! God uses each of His believers throughout their lifetime to accomplish His will. God wants us, like Jochebed, to use our common sense, resourcefulness, and intelligence to serve Him. Then, believing that God will use His love and empower us to develop His plan, we march forward in faith, doing what we know God is directing us to do. 

Let my heart be broken with the things that break the heart of God. —Bob Pierce, Founder, World Vision

It is our privilege to respond to the issues that tug on the heart of God. His goals transform to our goals, His priorities become ours, and we develop passion for all of God’s projects. Then we will be prepared for use in accomplishing His goals. 

It was the squealing life of a forbidden Hebrew baby boy who wrenched the love from the heart of the princess. Even the grandchild who was so considerate of his Nanny spoke volumes of love and kindness with his simple act. With his extraordinary sensitivities, he, too, may someday fulfill God’s plan as he learns to trust in Him and give his life for God’s purposes. 

“From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise” (Psalm 8:2). God may speak to us through our children of lofty purposes we may not recognize in any other way. Let us seek to learn the same innocent and straightforward love children have for Jesus. It will greatly improve our faith and our lives.

#Waiting {Reblog}

This is simply a random thought I had the other day when someone mentioned how difficult it often is to wait on God’s timing.

Waiting

There are times when we wait and pray about something
for what seems like forever,
but since God is perfect,
that means His plans are perfect ─
which means the waiting time is part of
His perfect plan for us.
This is part of His refining and pruning process
to bring us closer to Him and His will for us.

When We Are Neediest

When We are Neediest 

When you are the neediest, He is the most sufficient.

When you are completely helpless, He is the most helpful.

When you feel totally dependent, He is absolutely dependable.

When you are the weakest, He is the most able.

When you are the most alone, He is intimately present.

When you feel you are the least, He is the greatest.

When you feel the most useless, He is preparing you.

When it is the darkest, He is the only Light you need.

When you feel the least secure, He is your Rock and Fortress.

When you are the most humble, He is most gracious.

When you can’t, He can.

—Source unknown