The Family Tree

Today I’m sharing another of Pat’s wonderful devotionals. And don’t forget that Pat’s new devotional book, FEAST OF JOY, is available at Amazon, Apple Books, Barnes & Noble and Xulon.

 


The Family Tree

 By Pat Knight

“Then the King will say…
‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father;

take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you

since the creation of the world.’”

─Matthew 25:34

During a recent TV documentary, historians speculated about Adolph Hitler’s family history.  Even today investigators are at a loss to identify Hitler’s relatives because he ordered all of his family records destroyed, including birth certificates, photos, and personal letters.  He so obsessively pursued creating the perfect society that under his tutelage genealogists eliminated the records of his biological family and recreated new documents, permitting the dictator to manipulate people into and out of his family tree.

“You can choose your friends, but not your family” is a recognizable quip that applies to most of the human race. An exception to the rule was most recently illustrated when Adolph Hitler appropriated the ability to redesign his own family. His lineage has been so entirely revised that researchers are trying to piece it together now, more than seventy-five years after the dictator’s death. The German Chancellor of the Third Reich had three step-nephews who currently live in total seclusion in the USA, refusing to cooperate with investigators probing for the truth regarding their family history.

With the small amount of progress gained in retrieving Hitler’s original family tree, a psychiatrist has determined that there was a genetic predisposition to mental disorders within his family. As a child, young Adolph was subjected to his father’s abuse. Disillusioned as an adult, Hitler could not tolerate imperfection, especially within his own family. To avoid humiliation, he merely interchanged his family members with those people he perceived to be of superior quality.  

The one, perfect God opens His arms wide and accepts all who request salvation, a birthright into His holy family. Imagine being a member of the family of God! It is blessed reality, a truth taught by Jesus when He walked this earth. God’s family is a composite of all human life beginning with Adam and Eve and descending through the ages. “Then the King will say … ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world’” (Matthew 25:34).

Because God is sovereign, He could be highly selective of those who will live with Him in heaven for eternity. He could choose among candidates who are physically superior or attractive. However, God reminds us in His Word that exterior appearances are deceptive; He is not impressed with man’s emphasis of achievement or beauty. God looks deep within a person’s heart. Since that is the case, one might further assume God prefers those who possess the most innocent or altruistic thoughts. That is the reasoning man tends to use. “The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Mankind has always been separated from God because any sin, pondered or committed, is offensive to Him. Our Father is holy and sinless. He sacrificed His only pure Son to redeem a sinful people who are separated from Him by a deep chasm of impurity. We cannot reach God without the bridge of His Son’s shed blood to redeem and unite us. “Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom He promised those who love Him?” (James 2:5).

Since Jesus has redeemed us by willingly sacrificing His sinless, pure life, God has promised we will inherit eternal life; co-heirs in eternity with His own Son, Jesus. If you were notified that you had inherited a mansion where you could live in untold riches for an eternity, wouldn’t you hasten to accept the gift? That is exactly what God is offering each one of us. He refuses no one who genuinely believes and in humility accepts Him as Lord and Savior. Though God is reproached by sin, He is willing to forgive the most heinous acts of indecency. “‘I, even I, am He who blots out your transgressions, for my own sake, and remembers your sins no more’” (Isaiah 43:25).

God is merciful, desiring that no one perish. The eternal King lavishes us with His love and welcomes us into heaven as His children. It is unnecessary to bribe or manipulate, but only believe. We are promised an eternity in paradise where the only illumination is supplied by the absolute glory of our holy, heavenly Father. 

Perfection on earth is impossible. Adolph Hitler’s delusions caused world-wide suffering.  Millions of people were annihilated in one man’s quest to create an ideal family and a perfect society. The one perfect Son of God substituted His flawless life to save a world of lost sinners. Even those who endeavor to manipulate their family tree on earth must succumb to the Lord’s rules to access heaven. There perfection shall reign eternal!


Image credit: Sweet Publishing / New Harvest Ministries International at http://www.freebibleimages.org/

What Makes It Possible for the Christian to Rejoice in the Midst of Pain and Anxiety?

Today I’m sharing from the Ligonier blog.

 

What Makes It Possible for the Christian to Rejoice in the Midst of Pain and Anxiety?

From R.C. Sproul

In 1993, my wife and I were involved in an historic train wreck. The crash of the Sunset Limited into an inlet from Mobile Bay killed more passengers than any Amtrak accident in history. We survived that eerie accident but not without ongoing trauma. The wreck left my wife with an ongoing anxiety about being able to sleep on a train at night. The wreck left me with a back injury that took fifteen years of treatment and therapy to overcome. Nevertheless, with these scars from the trauma we both learned a profound lesson about the providence of God. Clearly, God’s providence in this case for us was one of benign benevolence. It also illustrated to us an unforgettable sense of the tender mercies of God. In as much as we are convinced that God’s providence is an expression of His absolute sovereignty over all things, I would think that a logical conclusion from such a conviction would be the end of all anxiety.

However, that is not always the case. Of course, our Lord Himself gave the instruction to be anxious for nothing to His disciples and, by extension, to the church. His awareness of human frailties expressed in our fears was manifested by His most common greeting to His friends: “Fear not.” Still, we are creatures who, in spite of our faith, are given to anxiety and at times even to melancholy.

As a young student and young Christian, I struggled with melancholy and sought the counsel of one of my mentors. As I related my struggles, he said, “You are experiencing the heavy hand of the Lord on your shoulder right now.” I had never considered God’s hand being one that gave downward pressure on my shoulder or that would cause me to struggle in this way. I was driven to prayer that the Lord would remove His heavy hand from my shoulder. In time, He did that and delivered me from melancholy and a large degree of anxiety.

On another occasion I was in a discussion with a friend, and I related to him some of the fears that were plaguing me. He said, “I thought you believed in the sovereignty of God.” “I do,” I said, “and that’s my problem.” He was puzzled by the answer, and I explained that I know enough about what the Bible teaches of God’s providence and of His sovereignty to know that sometimes God’s sovereign providence involves suffering and affliction for His people. That we are in the care of a sovereign God whose providence is benevolent does not exclude the possibility that He may send us into periods of trials and tribulations that can be excruciatingly painful. Though I trust God’s Word that in the midst of such experiences He will give to me the comfort of His presence and the certainty of my final deliverance into glory, in the meantime I know that the way of affliction and pain may be difficult to bear.

Read the rest here.

Life in Exile

Photo credit by Tammi Rhoney

When you pass through the waters I will be with you.
─Psalm 43:2

Life in Exile 

By Tammi Rhoney

Many of us with chronic illnesses and pain feel like we live life in exile, separated from the rest of the world because of the isolation caused by our illnesses. With the Coronavirus causing havoc around the globe and forcing businesses, schools, churches and restaurants to close, others are going to feel the isolation and loneliness that we live with on a daily basis. I have suffered with Myalgic Encephalomyletis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), a severely debilitating complex chronic illness that has kept me mostly housebound for twenty-seven years, almost half my life. One friend accurately named M.E. “the leprosy of the twentieth century.” It’s easy to become discouraged because we feel so disconnected, but God has a reason for our captivity.

In the book of Daniel, when Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, were held in captivity by King Nebuchadnezzar, they sought to glorify God and refused to eat the king’s food and bow down to his golden image (Daniel 1:8, 3:18). They knew the Lord and wanted to obey, worship and glorify Him, even in very difficult circumstances, and they chose to trust God no matter what the outcome. God had a reason for their captivity and that was to bring glory to Himself.

The same is true for us. We worship the same God as in Daniel’s time.  While in captivity with our illnesses, we can find new ways to glorify God and worship Him. I enjoy listening to the dramatized Bible via audio on the Bible.is app because it takes less brain energy than reading and brings God’s Word alive with music, sounds and voices.  We can listen to on-line sermons, memorize and meditate on short Scripture verses, send cards to others and call someone who is lonely when we feel up to it. The more afflicted we feel, the more important it is to spend time in prayer, praise and worship to God each day and keep our focus on Him and not on our circumstances. Psalm 16:8 says, “I keep my eyes always on the LORD. With him at my right hand, I will not be shaken.”  

There are some similarities and differences between Daniel and his friends’ life in exile and our daily exile caused by poor health. One main difference is that we know God sent Israel into exile as punishment for their sin, while today’s chronic illnesses often are not God’s punishment for specific sins, but part of living in a fallen world. Both are from God’s Hand (Job 2:10, Isaiah 45:7). Scripture says that God is completely Sovereign and free to do as He wills for His own glory (Psalm 15:3; 103:19). His Sovereignty determines the length, duration and severity of our illnesses, just as He determined the duration of captivity for Daniel and his three friends. If it is God’s will, He chooses when and where to deliver us, how and when only He knows (Ecclesiastes 3:11). Daniel and his friends didn’t know that they would be delivered from the fiery furnace and lion’s den, but even if they were killed, they still intended to remain true to God (Daniel 3:16-18).

They also didn’t know that a theophany of Christ would appear with them in the furnace that was heated seven times hotter than normal (Daniel 3:19, 25). God chose to reveal His awesome power in and through them as their clothes were not even singed and there was no smell of smoke on their garments (Daniel 3:27). Dr. Bill Barcley, our senior pastor, said, “God reveals His power and glory in and through us, especially in times of trial and through our perseverance.”

We’re never alone; God promises to be with us because we are His very precious, redeemed people (1 Peter 2:9). Remember that God says, “I have redeemed you, I have called you by name, you are Mine” (Isaiah 43:1-3, ESV). Yet God doesn’t always save His saints from death or disease. Our calling is to trust and obey Him and leave the rest in His Hands.  As Paul proclaimed, weakness is one of the ways God displays His strength and power through us (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

Life in exile is fruitful because:

Even as believers, we are a very sinful, idolatrous people, but thankfully our sins are covered by Christ’s precious blood (1 John 1:9).

Sometimes God chooses to remove all distractions from our lives so that He becomes our most important and treasured possession.

While life in exile is not fun, it’s sometimes necessary in God’s plan. We should ask Him to help us give thanks to Him for this time of refining in our lives and for how He’s going to use these fiery trials for our good, the benefit of others and His glory (Romans 8:28).

10 Key Bible Verses on God’s Sovereignty

Today I’m sharing from Crossway.org.

10 Key Bible Verses on God’s Sovereignty

God Over All

When life feels out of control, it can be comforting to remember that we’re never out of the sight of our Creator—and he never loses control. Be encouraged by the following Scriptures about God’s sovereignty with commentary from the ESV Study Bible and rest knowing he rules over all.

Ephesians 1:11

In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will . . .

Making those who believe in him heirs with Christ was not an ad hoc event; God had planned it from all eternity. By definition God is sovereign, directing all things freely according to his royal counsel. This is in sharp contrast with the pagan gods of the time, who were understood to be often fickle or bound by an inscrutable and arbitrary fate. God’s predestination gives his people tremendous comfort, for they know that all who come to Christ do so through God’s enabling grace and appointment (Eph. 2:8–10). Who works all things according to the counsel of his will is best understood to mean that every single event that occurs is in some sense predestined by God. At the same time, Paul emphasizes the importance of human responsibility, as is evident in all of the moral commands later in Ephesians 4–6 and in all of Paul’s letters. As Paul demonstrated in all of his remarkable efforts in spreading the gospel (Acts 13–28; cf. 2 Cor. 11:23–28), he believed that doing personal evangelism and making conscious choices to obey God are also absolutely essential in fulfilling God’s plan. God uses human means to fulfill what he has ordained. With regard to tragedies and evil, Paul and the other biblical writers never blame God for them (cf. Rom. 5:122 Tim. 4:14; also Job 1:21–22). Rather, they see the doctrine of God’s sovereignty as a means of comfort and assurance (cf. Rom. 8:28–30), confident that evil will not triumph, and that God’s good plans for his people will be fulfilled. How God’s sovereignty and human responsibility work together in the world is a mystery no one can fully understand.

Romans 8:28

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

God weaves everything together for good for his children. The “good” in this context does not refer to earthly comfort but conformity to Christ (Rom. 8:29), closer fellowship with God, bearing good fruit for the kingdom, and final glorification (Rom. 8:30). Christians can be assured that all things work together for good: God has always been doing good for them, starting before creation (the distant past), continuing in their conversion (the recent past), and then on to the day of Christ’s return (the future).

Matthew 10:29–31

Are not two sparrows sold for a penny? And not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not, therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.

Sparrows were customarily thought of as the smallest of creatures, and the penny was one of the least valuable Roman coins (cf. 5:26). apart from your Father. God is sovereign over even the most insignificant events. Fear not, therefore. Since the heavenly Father gives constant sovereign supervision even to seemingly insignificant creatures, surely he will also care for his disciples in their mission to proclaim the good news of the kingdom. more value.

Colossians 1:16–17

For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

Christ is Lord of creation. Jesus is the Lord, the maker and upholder of all things in the universe. Jesus did not come into existence when he was born of the virgin Mary. He was the agent of creation through whom God made heaven and earth (John 1:3 and note; 1 Cor. 8:6). Jesus cannot be the first thing created (as the ancient Arian heresy claimed) since “all things” without exception were created by him. Paul is using the current Jewish terms for various rankings of angels (although he doesn’t explain their relative ranks). His emphasis here may be on the evil angels, since they play a significant part in this letter (Col. 2:8, 10, 15, 20). This would not mean, however, that Jesus created evil angels; all spiritual powers were created by Jesus, but some later chose to rebel against God and so to become evil. Jesus is not only the agent of creation but is also the goal of creation, for everything was created by him and for him, that is, for his honor and praise. Since Jesus is in this sense the goal of creation, he must be fully God. Christ continually sustains his creation, preventing it from falling into chaos or disintegrating (cf. Heb. 1:3).

Isaiah 45:7–9

I form light and create darkness; I make well-being and create calamity; I am the LORD, who does all these things. “Shower, O heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain down righteousness; let the earth open, that salvation and righteousness may bear fruit; let the earth cause them both to sprout; I the LORD have created it. Woe to him who strives with him who formed him, a pot among earthen pots! Does the clay say to him who forms it, ‘What are you making?’ or ‘Your work has no handles’?

The Lord’s creative will and wise purposes stand behind everything. Therefore, his people should not be discouraged when the appearances of history seem contrary to his promises. Far from a problem to cope with, God’s sovereignty over all things is the only hope for the flowering of salvation and righteousness in this world. Isaiah warns against challenging God’s right to do his will in his own way. Putting God under suspicious scrutiny is a serious offense. Created beings may not demand explanations from him (cf. Rom. 9:19–21).

Read the rest here.

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

Sharing today from Randy Alcorn’s Eternal Perspectives Ministries (EPM) blog.

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

By Randy Alcorn

God never guarantees that the Christian life will be smooth or easy. In fact, he promises the opposite: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). We’re not to be surprised when we face great difficulties (see 1 Peter 4:12).

All the psalms of lament, the book of Lamentations, and many other Scripture passages reveal the importance of realism and sorrow in the Christian life. No treatment of joy and happiness should deny or minimize such texts.

Indeed, a truly biblical worldview and an authentic doctrine of joy and happiness fully recognize and embrace the realities of suffering in this present age.

The happiness described in Scripture is all the richer because it doesn’t involve denial or pretense and can be experienced amid severe difficulty. Christ-followers don’t preach the flimsy kind of happiness that’s built on wishful thinking. Instead, our basis for happiness remains true—and sometimes becomes clearer—in suffering.

Rejoicing Is Rooted in Our God, Not Our Circumstances

Rejoicing always in the Lord (see Philippians 4:4) may seem unrealistic at times. But we must remember that this rejoicing is centered not in a passing circumstance but in a constant reality—God Himself, and His Son, Jesus, who died for us and rose again.

On the one hand, we might suppose that Scripture doesn’t command us to rejoice in our nation’s condition, our culture’s trajectory, our spouse’s attitude, our child’s struggle, our church’s conflicts, our job loss, or our poor health. On the other hand, we’re told to “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Likewise, Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

I don’t think this means that we are to rejoice in evil, per se, since God hates evil (Zechariah 8:17Proverbs 6:16-19) and commands us to hate it (Psalm 97:10Proverbs 8:13Romans 12:9). I do think it means that we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.

Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things.

We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and to “consider it all joy” when we face hardship (James 1:2, NASB). Choosing to rejoice, by rehearsing reasons to be happy and grateful while suffering, affirms trust in God. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us.

This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.

The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.

We Have a Sovereign and Loving God

The deeper our knowledge of God’s character, the deeper our reservoir of strength, perspective, and happiness in hard times. Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like?

As we have dealt with her cancer over the past two years, Nanci and I have spent time meditating on the attributes of God, rereading and listening to audiobooks such as The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Our hearts are lifted in praise as we contemplate His holiness, grace, justice, mercy, and every facet of His being revealed to us in Scripture.

Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. We can’t be happy, and remain happy, without believing in the sovereignty of a loving God. The beauty of the Christian worldview is that while we’re encouraged to take initiative and control what’s within our power, we also know that the enormous part of life we can’t control is under God’s governance.

Scripture tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). It assures us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). And since God is eternally wise and good and happy, and we’re not, we’re far better off with Him, not us, in control.

Read the rest here.

The Artist’s Palette

The Artist’s Palette

By Pat Knight

Quickly they flutter to earth like thousands of brightly colored confetti pieces. They crunch when we walk, rustle in the wind, and swirl around our feet. Autumn leaves in New England are delightful. The bright reds and oranges, the most brilliant of all, are products of the sugar maple trees. Birches add yellow, while the reddish-brown leaves fall from stalwart oak trees. All of them in an assorted mixture form breathtaking landscapes.

While the leaves remain attached to the branches, iridescent splendor shines a blaze of autumn hues in the sunlight. En masse the foliage creates a surge of brilliant color, while individually the leaves resemble startling tongues of fire. As the leaves dry and float to the ground, they are scattered by autumn breezes. They flail against vertical surfaces, congregate in heaps, and dance in circles, spinning into a mini-twister before collapsing into an exhausted pile. Such provocative scenes awaken the senses during the dramatic transformation into the fall season.

Change may be comforting or threatening depending on circumstances and individual interpretation. When the cool, crisp days and nights of autumn burst on the scene following the suffocating heat of summer, it offers great relief. In that case, transformation is appealing. The phenomena of changing temperature and magnificent foliage is an anticipated ushering in of the fall season of the year. In the Northeast, we experience four distinct seasons. We are accustomed to change. No season lasts longer than a few months before the next one is introduced. It is the variety of seasons that entices many to live in northern states.

Though variation is interesting and often necessary, there are some things we expect to remain constant or immovable. God’s love and sovereignty are steadfast and reliable. “‘I am the Lord. I do not change’” (Malachi 3:6). When God establishes a covenant with man, He always keeps His promise. God cannot transmute His character. He is pure, holy, divine, and powerful.

Though neither God nor His promises vary, He has masterminded the change of seasons. He could have created a colorless transition, but God chose to splash His beautiful palette throughout the earth. Consider His splendor in sunsets, rainbows, rock sculptures, spraying sea mist, purple mountains capped with snow. God has authored natural beauty. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows” (James 1:17). Our Lord remains constant, complete, and fulfilled. His character is dependable.

When God commanded Moses to lead the Israelites out of bondage in Egypt, Moses wanted to know whom he should tell his people had sent him on the mission. God’s reply was quick and sure. “‘I AM who I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). God has always existed and always will. He declares, “‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.’” (Revelation 22:13). In order for God to create the world and everything in it, He existed before the world.

For centuries God promised the Israelites a Savior. When Isaiah 53 was written in approximately 700 BC, the Man of Calvary was described in detail. The people expected their king to reign with power and conquer their enemies in his kingdom on earth. Few believed that the baby born in Bethlehem was the prophesied Messiah. God had kept His Word. His Son brought God’s promised love and saving grace to the world. He preached a personal, innovative Gospel that enraged the legalistic religious leaders. When Jesus professed to be the Son of God, the temple worshippers were infuriated by His claim. They “took him to the brow of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw Him off the cliff. But, He walked right through the crowd and went on His way” (Luke 4:29).

Denials and persecution of Jesus didn’t change His sovereign status; He remained Lord. Repudiating God’s deity will never alter the fact that He existed before the beginning of time. God is constant, stable, unswerving, and steadfast. In spite of individual disbelief, one day every person shall confess His Lordship. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Philippians 2:10-11).

Throughout Scripture, God affirmed His Son’s authenticity and authority. “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the Head over every power and authority” (Colossians 2:9). Jesus is our secure, unmovable, unchanging Lord and Savior.

God is an artist, painting both softly muted and brightly sparkling scenery. Daily He changes the pigments on His canvas. Though God makes sweeping modifications of landscape, His character is unchangeable.

“But you, Lord, sit enthroned forever; your renown endures through all generations. You remain the same and your years will never end” (Psalm 102:12, 27). We invest our lives in a God who is forever the same, who keeps His promises, and who desires to live with us forever. “Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the whole world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God” (Psalm 90:2). He is eternal. Because He lives forever, He offers us an identical future. “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

With each new day I am more sensitized to my surroundings, attributing their magnificence to God, the creator, artist, and pigment-maker. Encompassed with such visual luxury, I am going to allot more time to appreciate the changing beauty apparent in each new day, confident that Almighty God will never change.

Prayer and the Difference it Makes

Today I’m sharing from Focus on the Family.

Prayer
and the Difference it Makes

By Robert Velarde

“Hear my prayer, O LORD, listen to my cry for help.” –Psalm 39:12 (NIV)[i]

“Lord, teach us to pray.” –Luke 11:1

“After Jesus said this, He looked toward heaven and prayed.” –John 17:1

“They all joined together constantly in prayer.” –Acts 1:14

“And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.” –Ephesians 6:18

“Pray continually.” -1 Thessalonians 5:17

Throughout the Bible, believers are called to pray. But what is prayer? What does it mean to “pray without ceasing?” And does prayer really make a difference? Before delving too deeply into the topic of prayer, it will be beneficial to first define the term, as well as the focus of our prayers—God.

Prayer and God’s Nature

Let’s start with the second part. In order to develop a clear idea of prayer, we must first have a clear idea of God. Biblically speaking, God is a personal being. This is critical to prayer because it means that God is a person we can interact with, that He has a will and that we are able to relate to Him on a meaningful level. If He were impersonal, then prayer would not be meaningful. If He were personal, but uncaring and distant, prayer wouldn’t serve a purpose.

Not only is God personal, He is also loving (1 John 4:8, 16; John 3:16). This is also important in relation to prayer. If God were personal, but uncaring or unkind, then prayer might do us more harm than good! But God is not only loving, He is all loving (omnibenevolent). In relation to prayer, this means that God always desires the best for us because He loves us.

God is also all powerful (omnipotent), meaning that no prayer is beyond His ability to answer, “For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:37). If God were less than all powerful, then we would have no assurance that He could answer or even hear our prayers.

The fact that God is all-knowing (omniscient) is also significant to the concept of prayer. If God were limited, then He would not know all that is happening in His creation. If this were the case, He might overlook our prayers because they might be beyond His knowledge. Fortunately, the Bible is clear that God knows everything (see, for instance, Psalm 139:2-4; 147: 4-5; Isaiah 46:10). In relation to God’s omniscience, Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:8).

God is also wise and holy. He knows what is best for us, as well as what will lead us to holiness rather than sin. He is also immanent, meaning that God is active in His creation in a personal way, not only directing greater matters of history, but also involved in the life of everyone. This means that no prayer is too great for Him, but also that no prayer is too small for Him.

While we cannot explore all of God’s attributes here, one final one to note, of utmost importance to prayer is God’s sovereignty. God is supremely in charge of everything that happens in His universe. Nothing takes Him by surprise and nothing happens in our lives without the knowledge of God, even though we may not always understand His actions: “‘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).

In hearing and responding to our prayers, then, we are assured that God will do so on the basis of His many attributes. His personal nature, love, power, knowledge, wisdom, holiness, immanence and sovereignty all play a role in how we relate to God in prayer and how He relates to us.

Read the rest here.

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.

Attentive Listening

Attentive Listening

By Pat Knight

Mary of Bethany, a sibling of Martha and Lazarus, possessed enviable listening skills. When Jesus visited their home, she sat at His feet with her rapt attention hanging on each of her Master’s words. Mary unabashedly worshipped Jesus, captivated by her Friend to the exclusion of all others present.

 On the same occasion when Mary and Martha prepared a dinner for Jesus and His disciples, Martha demanded. “‘Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!’” (Luke 10:40). To Martha’s surprise, the Lord commended Mary’s actions, tenderly replying, “‘Martha, Martha, you are worried and upset about many things, but few things are needed—or indeed only one. Mary has shown what is better, and it will not be taken away from her’” (Luke 10:41-42).

Both Mary and Martha loved their Lord, but Martha allowed distractions to divide her devotion. No doubt she wanted a delicious, perfectly presented dinner for her guests, straight from Martha Stewart’s handbook. But, it was Mary who displayed compassion, kneeling before Jesus, intently absorbing every word, noticing each gesture, studying His facial expressions, and discerning silent or spoken aspects of His conversation. Mary listened audibly and visually.

On that evening of dinner fellowship six days prior to Christ’s crucifixion, Mary poured a pint of expensive perfume over Jesus’ feet in anticipation of His upcoming sacrifice. She didn’t ask her Lord’s permission; she intuitively knew that Jesus would approve of her gracious act. Surrounded by men, Mary wasn’t intimidated. Loosening her long hair to wipe Jesus’ feet of excess oil displayed Mary’s humility; a respectable woman didn’t unbind her hair in public. Her submissive spirit was apparent; caring for feet was servant’s work. Mary’s actions spoke volumes. By anointing Jesus’ feet, she demonstrated that she understood Jesus’ teaching about His future death and burial far better than His disciples did.

Listening is an active art. It takes commitment to heed God’s words. To hear well, we must concentrate fully, not permitting distractions to eclipse our attention. Adequate listening skills allow us to know the will of our heavenly Father for our individual lives. We hear God speak to us through His Word as He communicates His love, commands, and our relationship to Him and to others.

God has surely listened and has heard my prayer.
Praise be to God, who has not rejected my prayer or withheld his love from me.
—Psalm 66:19-20

Prayer time without listening is simply a one-sided conversation, a monologue rather than a dialogue. “Love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life” (Deuteronomy 30:20). Prayer and praise, listening and love, complement one another as we interact with Jesus Christ in a personal relationship.

God no longer speaks audibly or in dreams to believers as was His custom in times past. Now the Holy Spirit interprets God’s messages and illuminates God’s written Word, making His personal guidance and wisdom available to us.

While Jesus was teaching in the temple courts, the large crowd was listening to him with delight” (Mark 12:35a; 37b). When was the last time you listened to your Lord during prayer, from His Word, or while reading Christian literature, reacting with extreme satisfaction and great pleasure, the kind of attention Almighty God deserves?

Let us not miss the sovereign plans about which God desires to advise us through His Spirit. Live in anticipation of His words, confident that our two-way communication is functioning to full capacity. More than any other discernable sound in our world, yearn to recognize God’s soothing words. He provides power to persist toward the ultimate goal of spiritual victory as we listen, follow, and trust Him explicitly.

A father used a game of ball toss as an object lesson to instruct his son regarding a well-balanced conversation. For a while the two threw the ball back and forth, settling into a predictable rate. Then, the father dropped the ball and refused to continue the volley. When the bewildered son asked his parent to explain his behavior, his father compared his actions to those of an unbalanced verbal discussion: just as dropping or hogging the ball disrupts a game, such is the way with conversation involving an unequal exchange of listening and speaking. Concentration is required to keep the ball in motion just as shared dialogue keeps conversation moving. Prayer, like a game of ball, is participatory activity. The alternative is talking to oneself, and we all know how non-stimulating that can be!

Our Lord is never too busy, distracted, or preoccupied to harken to the emotions attached to each word. God listens with love. Though He is aware of the intent of our hearts before we speak, God is pleased to hear from us. “‘Before they call, I will answer; while they are still speaking, I will hear’” (Isaiah 65:24).

If we maintain candid, vivacious communication with God, as Mary of Bethany demonstrated, our listening skills will soon produce pleasing acts of worship to Him and service to others. Jesus promised, “‘You are my friends if you do what I command’” (John 15:14). What a privilege, to claim the sovereign Savior as a personal friend, who listens to us and expects attentiveness to His voice. Could there be anything more satisfying?

Before you pray, ask the Holy Spirit to clear your mind of entangled thoughts and distractions, to focus entirely upon the glory of God. Then your heart will be receptive to His guidance. In the quietness of your prayer time, ask God to reveal Himself. He will gladly open your mind and heart to reveal paths to follow Him. “Listen to my instructions and be wise; do not disregard it. Blessed are those who listen to me” (Proverbs 8:33-34a).

Learn to be attentive to your Savior with the bold singlemindedness Mary exhibited. Incredible interactions occur at the feet of Jesus as we submit, weep, confess, and listen for our Master’s divine words designed solely for our needs.

#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.