The Red Sea in Front of Me – Reaching for God in Despair

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

The Red Sea in Front of Me –
Reaching for God in Despair

By

There is no escaping the painful realities that surround my family. Our own Red Sea looms before us while the relentless enemies of physical and mental illness, financial strain, layered losses, and temptations to lose heart, pursue us from all sides.

While crushing circumstances involving physical and mental health, finances, marital pressures, and loss have been sufficient to defeat us; it’s the inner turmoil and constant temptation to sin against God by doubting his goodness and wisdom that make me plead most for my heavenly home.

In recent suffering, the Lord brought to mind the Israelites, who I imagine felt similarly as they stood before the Red Sea. Not long after the Lord had miraculously delivered them from Egypt they found themselves facing imminent death, walled in by an impassable Sea and enemies closing in behind them. I resonate all too much with their response to Moses:

Is it because there are no graves in Egypt that you have taken us away to die in the wilderness? What have you done to us in bringing us out of Egypt? Is not this what we said to you in Egypt: “Leave us alone that we may serve the Egyptians?” For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness. (Exodus 14:11–12)

Though their response was irrational, portraying a distorted view of the reality of slavery, they spoke out of a very real sense of fear and helplessness. They wondered, Why would God free us from Egypt, only to lead us to our deaths? At that point, even slavery sounded better.

Why Was I Led Here?

Much like the Israelites stood terrified before the Red Sea, I have wrestled with similar thoughts. Why would a God who loved me enough to save me lead me into such awful and seemingly never-ending circumstances? I cannot save myself. I cannot save my family.

And as much as I wish I could say that my response has continually reflected Moses’s words to this complaining people — “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord” — I admit that it often has not. Rather, fearing our pain will never end; I have stumbled, pounded my fists in anguish and wondered if God is still fighting for us.

As followers of Christ, we all must face the reality that we are helpless to save ourselves. Whether it’s merely a traffic jam that makes us late for a job interview, or a life filled with inescapable pain, God mercifully brings us to impassable seas to help us see our need for him.

So how do we respond when we see no way out, no hope this side of heaven? We need to see, stand, and trust.

Read the rest here.

Cultivating Joy

Today I’m sharing an article by that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Cultivating Joy

When I was young, I thought that following God and being a Christian would lead to a life that was kind of easy, filled only with happiness and free from pain and sorrow. Silly me. I’m not even sure where I got that idea, except maybe from teachings spouted by TV evangelists who espoused a prosperity “name it and claim it” doctrine that was popular when I first chose to follow Jesus. It tickles the ears, doesn’t it? It’s so appealing, this thought that if you are a true believer you are spared suffering and gifted only with a positive existence.

It is also completely contrary to what the Scriptures teach.

If Jesus was perfected through His suffering, who are we to think we won’t be perfected through the same means? (Hebrews 2:10).

Now, don’t get me wrong, Jesus came that we might have life and life to the full (John 10:10), and it’s the joy of the Lord that is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). It’s just that this promised joy and life come to us in the midst of the easy and the hard, the triumphs and the travails.

The key, then, is to intentionally cultivate that joy in our hearts — to choose it — no matter what season we’re in, the easy or the hard.

And life is hard a lot of the time. This world we live in is not Eden. We are not in Heaven. Not yet. But, in the middle of this often difficult journey, God “has taken great measures to preserve our freedom of choice.”1 We have the freedom to choose to grow in joy or to retreat from it.

Said another way, life will inevitably be hard, and as maturing believers with our eyes set on Jesus, we will constantly be presented with opportunities to make choices that will either lead to a deeper joy or not. Here’s what I mean:

It’s hard to stand up against the group when they are going the wrong direction — spiritually or any other way. But it’s also hard on our consciences afterward if we don’t. That Jiminy Cricket won’t be quiet.

It’s hard to be kind to the mean, curmudgeonly neighbor. It’s hard as well to be convicted later of being unloving. It’s hard to not spend the money on the item we so desire.

It’s hard to save money. It’s also hard to be in debt.

It’s hard to have a loving but tough confrontational conversation with a friend. It’s also hard to not have one and then have offense and distance creep into that friendship.

What is Passion Week / Holy Week?

Sharing today from the GotQuestions? site.

What is Passion Week /
Holy Week?

Question: “What is Passion Week / Holy Week?”

Answer: Passion Week (also known as Holy Week) is the time from Palm Sunday through Easter Sunday (Resurrection Sunday). Also included within Passion Week are Holy MondayHoly Tuesday, Spy WednesdayMaundy ThursdayGood Friday, and Holy Saturday. Passion Week is so named because of the passion with which Jesus willingly went to the cross in order to pay for the sins of His people. Passion Week is described in Matthew chapters 21-27; Mark chapters 11-15; Luke chapters 19-23; and John chapters 12-19. Passion Week begins with the triumphal entry on Palm Sunday on the back of a colt as prophesied in Zechariah 9:9.

Passion Week contained several memorable events. Jesus cleansed the Temple for the second time (Luke 19:45-46), then disputed with the Pharisees regarding His authority. Then He gave His Olivet Discourse on the end times and taught many things, including the signs of His second coming. Jesus ate His Last Supper with His disciples in the upper room (Luke 22:7-38), then went to the garden of Gethsemane to pray as He waited for His hour to come. It was here that Jesus, having been betrayed by Judas, was arrested and taken to several sham trials before the chief priests, Pontius Pilate, and Herod (Luke 22:54-23:25).

Read the rest here.

Our Suffering Savior: A Physician’s Perspective

Today I’m sharing from Answers in Genesis

Our Suffering Savior

A Physician’s Perspective

During the Easter season, we usually hear again the stories of the Passion Week and the Crucifixion—Jesus’s betrayal by Judas, His unfair trial, the road to Calvary, Jesus’s last words. We also sing about the Old Rugged Cross. But few look beyond these stories to consider what our Lord Jesus Christ actually endured during those hours on the cross. Unlike first-century Christians, for whom crucifixion was a familiar reality, most of us have a sanitized view of our Lord’s suffering.

The physical suffering that Jesus willingly endured was beyond horrific. To better understand the extent of His suffering is to get a glimpse of His love for us.

In the Garden

The suffering began soon after the Last Supper when Jesus and His disciples went to the Garden of Gethsemane. Knowing that the time of His death was near, Jesus prayed intently. According to Luke 22:44, “Being in agony, He prayed more earnestly. Then his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground.”

Medical literature documents that bloody sweat, known as hematidrosis, does occur. This condition is seen in rare instances of extreme emotional stress. The resulting blood loss is not severe, but it does cause the skin to be exquisitely tender, making what was to come even more painful.

During His Trials

After these hours of emotional distress in the garden, Jesus was betrayed and arrested. His captors mocked and beat Him after He faced the Sanhedrin and the Roman authorities. He was ultimately sentenced to crucifixion on a cross.

Before sentencing Jesus to death, Pilate attempted to appease the Jews by having Him beaten. John 19:1 notes, “So then Pilate took Jesus and scourged Him.” However, this brief description does not communicate the brutal nature of what was to follow.

Scourging was a particularly vicious form of punishment. The victim was stripped of his clothes, and his hands were raised above his head and tied to a post. Then one or two soldiers would repeatedly beat the victim with a whip, usually made of several leather strips with jagged pieces of iron or sheep bone tied onto them.

One blow after another was delivered across the shoulders, back, and buttocks. Initial blows ripped gashes into His already tender skin, and those that followed dug deeper into our Savior’s tissues, tearing muscles and blood vessels. The subsequent blood loss further weakened Him. Torn and exposed nerves on the back caused indescribable pain.

This brutal scourging was only the beginning of Jesus’s suffering. After being untied from the blood-stained scourging post, the soldiers placed a scarlet robe on Him. Each breath, each movement of His body, caused the robe to rub against His torn flesh. Then a crown of thorns was placed on His head. As the trained Roman soldiers beat Him, these thorns drove deeper into His head, causing profuse bleeding and intense pain. Later, the scarlet robe was torn from His back, reopening the deep wounds.

How horrible was Jesus’s suffering at this point? Isaiah 52:14 says, “Just as many were astonished at you, so His visage was marred more than any man, and His form more than the sons of men.” Jesus had been so severely beaten, He no longer looked like a human being.

Read the rest here.

Be Hospitable

Be Hospitable

By Pat Knight

When the apostle Paul’s ship was forced to stop in the port city of Tyre of Macedonia to unload cargo, he found the hospitality in the New Testament church to be overwhelming. The Christian inhabitants gracefully invited Paul and his associates to stay with them. Paul spent quality time preaching, teaching, and encouraging the Christian disciples there. The people’s hospitality was rewarded by the traveler’s friendship and ministry. At the end of the week, in spite of the consistent warning from his friends that danger awaited him, Paul remained focused on his goal, ready once again to resume his journey toward Jerusalem. “‘And now, compelled by the Holy Spirit, I am going to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there. I only know that in every city the Holy Spirit warns me that prison and hardships are facing me; my only aim is to finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me, a task of testifying to the good news of God’s grace’” (Acts 20:22-24)

After ministering to their new friends, when the time arrived for Paul and his associates to sail, the whole town accompanied them to the ship. Envision the men, women, and children praying and weeping as they embraced the apostle and his beloved companions. Tell-tale round depressions clustered together remained, representing knee impressions in the sand made as the people knelt to pray.

Once Paul and his travelers boarded the ship and the crowd dispersed, there were scattered footprints leading from the seashore back up the path into town. Gradually the tide washed away the evidence of love and friendship in the sand, but the visual impressions remained in the minds of Paul’s followers, a memory that would not easily fade.

How often have we been disappointed when our plans to achieve a goal or arrive at a destination have been disrupted? We failed to recognize that with God our journey is as important as the outcome. While we focus our eyes on the destination, God uses each step of the journey to teach us. God doesn’t just plan to meet us at our next stop—He travels every mile alongside us, guiding from within our hearts.

Just as Paul was forced to disembark twice on his trip to Jerusalem prior to arriving in Tyre, God knew of Paul’s agenda on both occasions. He already had blessings planned along Paul’s journey. Is there any reason God would not have similar plans for each of us?

God is frugal of time and talent, wasteful of neither. He guided travelers to hospitable strangers in Tyre, who took them in and provided their needs. The hospitality was rewarded with Paul’s friendship and ministry—the kind that remains to comfort over the years. The travelers nearly forgot about being inconvenienced, for joy superseded their disappointment.

Our inopportune situations may not be as straightforward as what Paul experienced. We may not learn the purpose for an interruption of plans until later, if at all. We are comforted knowing God’s plans for us are perfect. God is faithful and always provides our needs.

“Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.
For we say with confidence,
‘The Lord is my helper;
I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’”
(Hebrews 13:5-6).

What an assurance from our loving God who always keeps His promises!

God makes plans for our lives. He perpetually considers our longings and safety. He never disappoints. God never fails to keep His promises nor will He ever desert us. Paul learned that God’s purposes are perfect and His schedules precise. “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). And, He is worthy of our trust!

Through All The Seasons. . . God Is Loving and Powerful

Today I’m sharing an article by Dr. David Jeremiah that was published recently on FaithGateway.

Through All the Seasons…
God is Loving and Powerful

By Dr. David Jeremiah

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 — Why has this passage endured the ages as one of the oldest philosophical poems in our literary canon? It’s certainly among the most pensive passages of God’s Word, a beautiful meditation that casts a near-hypnotic spell over readers of any generation.

The author was the wisest and wealthiest man who ever lived, and this book is a chronicle of his lifelong quest for true happiness and joy. Solomon tried wealth, wisdom, work, and wild living. At the end of his wide-ranging experiments, he concluded that everything was an empty exercise in vanity. It was like trying to capture the wind in his hands.

As we come to the third chapter, we find Solomon facing an even bigger challenge, a “problem with God.”

I know all about the “problem with God.”

I would not have chosen cancer as a path to spiritual growth, nor would I wish such fear and pain on anyone. On the other hand, I do not see my illness as a random event, some miscellaneous accident of health. And I do not believe there was a moment when God was absent from the physical, emotional, and spiritual crisis I endured.

In fact, I found Him everywhere during that time. I found Him as never before. I glimpsed His face among the doctors and nurses who cared for me so skillfully. I saw Him there in shining power among the family of my church, and intimately among the family circle of my wife and children. He met me in the private chapel of my soul, where with each passing day I felt deeper in His grace and comfort. I found my Lord more present and more powerful.

Knowing there must be pain and suffering for us all, I dearly wish everyone could travel the road I did. I wish every human soul could see the face of God in the fear and turmoil. 

So many walk a very different path; they experience only His absence.

Rabbi Harold Kushner, the author of When Bad Things Happen to Good People, when his own three-year-old son contracted a rare disease that took his life at a young age, penned his conclusions about God and suffering in order to provide answers to others in similar circumstances.

Kushner’s conclusion was a popularization of an ancient theological conundrum:

How can God be both perfectly good and perfectly powerful? The suffering in the world suggests that if He is God, He is not good; or that if He is good, He is not God. In other words, there must be something lacking in either His love or His strength, or He would cure every little pain.

Rabbi Kushner worked through the old enigma. He concluded that God is all-loving but not all-powerful. He cares deeply about the people He created, but after creating the world He backed away and allowed it to run without His interference.

Solomon had a different view entirely. He concludes that God is sovereign and in control, regardless of the imponderables that remain. Solomon sees God as being present with us but not helpful enough. The king wants to know why God does not improve the standard of life, do something about the aging process, show more favoritism to His children, and perhaps discontinue the program of human pain.

In his poem, there are fourteen negative statements and fourteen positive ones, and they fall into three separate categories. The first describes the influence of time on our bodies, the second focuses on our souls, and the last deals with our spirits.

And Solomon’s main thought? Well, it doesn’t take a Hebrew scholar to notice that the word time occurs twenty-nine times in these verses.

Time and Your Physical Life

To everything there is a season,

A time for every purpose under heaven:

A time to be born, And a time to die;

A time to plant,

And a time to pluck what is planted;

A time to kill,

And a time to heal;

A time to break down,

And a time to build up.

Solomon begins his contemplation with a sobering observation: birth and death both have their appointed times.

When my grandson, Ryland, was born, I flew to Baltimore for the event. As I peered through the nursery window at this beautiful new citizen of the world, it struck me that only a corridor away, some other citizen was being dispatched. Some family had gathered for the agony of farewell. It is not a lengthy walk between the nursery and the intensive care unit. We spend our own time making that trek between entrance and exit, womb and tomb.

Meanwhile, there is a time to plant and a time to harvest. Solomon refers to the food supply because he knows that God sets the boundaries of the seasons. God has built certain rhythms into His world. The steady repetition of the seasons provides comfort and a workable cadence to life.

We are a bit discomforted to read that there is a time to kill as well as a time to heal. Yet our bodies are in the process of dying every moment. Scientists tell us that every seven years we replenish all the cells within our bodies. There is an ongoing maintenance department in the human machine that is constantly changing out the old for the new. And it is governed by time.

Cancer cells, infection cells, or simply worn-out cells must be killed — so even killing has its time, and we are grateful. There must be a time to kill so we might also have a time to heal.

And what of “a time to break down, and a time to build up”? We build up in our early years, and we start breaking down as we get older — painful but true. How old is old? I was enjoying a birthday when David Todd, my six-year-old grandson, crunched the numbers on my age. He said, “If Poppy was a dog’s age, he’d be dead!” He was right.

There is a time for breaking down, but God is there. He is as powerful as He is loving, and you have the opportunity to experience His power all the more effectively and vividly when you turn to Him in the breakdowns of life.

Read the rest here.

How God Changes Our “Why Me?” Questions in Suffering to “Why Not Me?”

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

How God Changes Our
“Why Me?” Questions
in Suffering to
“Why Not Me?”

By Randy Alcorn 

There was a time when I could not fully accept any explanation for evil and suffering that didn’t make sense to me, start to finish. However, over the years, and through the process of writing my book If God Is Good, I’ve come to trust my own understanding less, and God’s Word more.

I find a strange delight in being swallowed up by the immensity of God’s greatness and by the divine mysteries that once disturbed me. Know­ing that I’ll sit before God’s judgment seat—not He before mine—I choose to trust Him. And the more I do, the more sense the story makes to me.

And I am certain about this: the best answer to the problem of evil is a person—Jesus Christ. I’m convinced He is the only answer. The drama of evil and suffering in Christ’s sac­rifice addresses the very heart of the problem of evil and suffering. And one day it will prove to have been the final answer.

So whenever you feel tempted in your suffering to ask God, “Why are you doing this to me?” look at the Cross and ask, “Why did you do that for me?”

In this excerpt from his 2018 book God’s Grace in Your Suffering, David Powlison writes about how God changes our “Why me?” questions in suffering. (My thanks to Justin Taylor for sharing this ohis excellent blog.)

So often the initial reaction to painful suffering is

Why me?

Why this?

Why now?

Why?

You’ve now heard God speaking with you. The real God says all these wonderful things, and does everything he says.

Read the rest here.