How to Find Joy in Our Circumstances

Sometimes God needs to teach us certain things several times. I wrote something very similar to this in 2011, but the message still holds true for me today. I know Whose I am and the value He sees in me, but apparently, I need to keep relearning this. Every time I try to do more than I know I can handle, I’ve compromised my health—again. Praise God that He doesn’t give up on me! I decided to share this today in hopes that God will use it in your lives too.

Genuine, authentic faith must be definite and free of doubt. Not simply general in character; not a mere belief in the being, goodness, and power of God, but a faith which believes that the things which “he saith, shall come to pass.” 
—E. M. Bounds¹

Job2-10-DarkPurple-Blue-Green-PaintedBackground-30--AMP

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women speaks.
Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity?”
In all this Job did not sin with his lips.
—Job 2:10

Don’t you wonder how Job could say this after everything he went through? Does it make you shake your head and think, “yeah, right”? How could Job even think to say this after everything—and I do mean everything—was taken away from him?

Job had it all: a loving family, great wealth, a thriving business and good health. He was loved and respected by his family and the community because he was a very gentle and loving man. He indeed had it all … until suddenly it is all taken away and he is left helpless and hopeless.

Oh, did I say hopeless? Hardly.

Like many of you, I live with daily chronic pain. Among the several illnesses I endure, my most persistent “thorn in the flesh” was daily migraines. I say was because I do not get them every day because they are finally under better control from some special treatments I have been having. Although I can still tell I’m having a migraine because of blurry vision and sometimes nausea, I do not have the head pain most of the time.

Over the last 19 years I have tried many migraine medications and treatments, as well as for Fibromyalgia (FMS) and Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Either they did not work at all for me, or the side effects were horrendous.

So many times over the years I have felt as if I was sliding through what I called wasted days—when all I was capable of doing was sleeping, resting, eating and some light household chores. I have spent lots of time praying and asking God why these things were happening to me and if they would ever end. I thought my days were wasted because I wasn’t doing anything that I deemed valuable, but in reality, God was doing a work in me that I finally understand… and hopefully will remember.

Before this time of pain and frustration, I understood how to be joyful in spite of my circumstances. However, I finally understand that God has shown me how to be joyful and thankful because of those same circumstances. In effect, God increased my faith by allowing me to travel through those tough times in order to bring me to the realization that not all bad things are bad!

God allows circumstances and situations in our lives that are sometimes very difficult to navigate, and all He wants us to do is trust that He knows what is best for us. It is all about having faith in spite of not seeing or knowing the why of it. When we cannot understand the meaning behind our suffering, we immediately want to tell God how angry and frustrated we are. I know, because I’ve been there.

Now faith is the confidence in what we hope for,
and assurance about what we do not see.
—Hebrews 11:1

Faith essentially does not make sense to our human way of thinking. I guess that’s why it’s called faith— “a belief that is not based on proof,” according to the dictionary definition.

When we pray in faith, we are saying in effect that we believe God knows what is best for us—in spite of what our circumstances appear to be and that we ultimately acknowledge what we know to be true: God knows all and we do not!

In spite of that, we want to breeze through life without experiencing any kind of pain or disappointment. We think that “if only” this or that wasn’t happening in our lives, everything would be so much easier or better. If only we had more money or more time or better health or a larger home or a different job… and the list goes on. What if the circumstances in our lives—good or bad—are there to make us stronger? What if—bear with me here—we try to change our outlook so that the “bad stuff” doesn’t seem so bad after all?

Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to. —George Seaton

Beloved, if life on earth was one big picnic would we ever yearn for heaven? Would we truly be able to appreciate Jesus’ sacrifice for us on the cross?

Oh, and our friend Job? In spite of all the horrible things that happened to him, “Job did not sin with his lips.” Obviously, Job was not happy that he had lost so much and did not like what God was allowing in his life, but he trusted God even as he was going through that terrible time. Oh, that we could all be as Job and exhibit such trust in our Creator!

All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen. —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Life here on earth is meant to grow our faith, to show us how to live joyfully and victoriously because of our circumstances, not merely in spite of them. How about if we try to keep foremost in our minds that what we are going through is for our good and God’s glory? That kind of attitude will cause us to remember that we are not alone in our misery and enable us to praise Him for always being with us.

I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
—Psalm 104:33


¹ The Necessity of Prayer by E. M. Bounds

Is God Ever Unjust?

Today I’m sharing from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Is God Ever Unjust?

by John MacArthur

Have you ever considered the stark contrast between Judas Iscariot and the thief on the cross? One was a close disciple of Jesus Christ and gave three years of his life to the best, most intensive religious instruction available anywhere. But he lost his soul forever. The other was a hardened, lifelong criminal who was still mocking everything holy while being put to death for his crimes. But he went straight to paradise forever.

The difference in the two men could hardly be more pronounced—nor could the endings to their respective life stories be more surprising. Judas was a disciple in Christ’s closest circle of twelve. He preached, evangelized, ministered, and was even given power “over all the demons and to heal diseases” (Luke 9:1). He seemed like a model disciple. When Jesus predicted that one of the twelve would betray Him, no one pointed the finger of suspicion at Judas. He was so thoroughly trusted by the other disciples that they had made him their treasurer (John 13:29). They evidently saw nothing in his character or attitude that seemed questionable, much less diabolical. But he betrayed Christ, ended his own miserable life by suicide, and entered into eternal damnation laden with horrific guilt. Christ’s words about him in Mark 14:21 are chilling: “Woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been good for that man if he had not been born.”

The thief on the cross, on the other hand, was a career criminal—a serious enough villain that he had been sentenced to die by the slowest, most painful form of capital punishment known to man. He’s called a robber in Matthew 27:38—the Greek word there speaks of a brigand or a highwayman. He was crucified with a partner—both had been slated to be executed along with Barabbas, an insurrectionist and killer (Luke 23:18–19). All of that indicates that the thief on the cross was part of a gang of cutthroat ruffians who stole by violence and lived by no law but their own passions. He was clearly vicious, mean-spirited, and aggressive because in the early hours of the crucifixion, both he and his cohort in crime were taunting and reviling Jesus along with the mocking crowd (Matthew 27:44).

But as that thief watched Jesus die silently—“oppressed . . . afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter” (Isaiah 53:7)—the hardened criminal had a remarkable last-minute change of heart. Literally in the dying moments of his wretched earthly life, he confessed his sin (Luke 23:41), uttered a simple prayer: “Jesus, remember me when You come in Your kingdom” (Luke 23:42)—and was ushered that very day into paradise (Luke 23:43), clothed in perfect righteousness, all his guilt borne and paid for in full by Christ.

Apparent Injustice

Those who think heaven is a reward for doing good might protest that this was throwing justice out the window. The thief had done nothing whatsoever to merit heaven. If it’s possible to forgive such a man so completely in the dying moments of a wretched life filled with gross sin, wouldn’t it also be proper for Judas’s one act of treachery to be canceled (or mitigated) on the basis of whatever good works he had done while following Christ for three years? People do occasionally raise questions like that. The Internet is dotted with comments and articles suggesting Judas was dealt with unfairly or judged too harshly.

Judas himself seemed to be the type of person who kept score on such matters. He protested, for example, when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus with a costly fragrance. He knew the precise value of the ointment (equal to a year’s wages), and he complained, “Why was this perfume not sold for three hundred denarii and given to poor people?” (John 12:5). He no doubt would have thought that the grace Jesus showed the thief was inappropriately extravagant as well.

People who have devoted their lives to religion do sometimes seem to resent it when God reaches out and graciously redeems someone whom they deem unworthy of divine favor.

Justice vs. Grace?

What we have to bear in mind is that all people are totally unworthy. No one deserves God’s favor. We are all guilty sinners who deserve nothing less than damnation. No one who has sinned has any rightful claim on the kindness of God.

Read the rest here.

The Faithfulness of Christ in the Little Things

Sharing today from Tabletalk Magazine.

The Faithfulness of Christ
in the Little Things

by Sinclair B. Ferguson

It is a principle in Christ’s kingdom that “one who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much” (Luke 16:10). But in that kingdom, the Lord Jesus also practiced what He preached. His whole life illustrated “little-things faithfulness.” The theme merits book-length treatment, and this brief essay is intended simply to encourage us all to notice some of the little things we may have tended to overlook in the life of the Savior. Here are five of them.

1. Jesus was an Exodus 20:12 boy: He observed the command to “honor your father and your mother.” We know this was already true of Him when He was only twelve, as we see in Luke 2:41–52. When Joseph and Mary took Him to the Jerusalem Passover feast that year, they actually “lost” Him. “And when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it . . . but then they began to search for him” (vv. 43–45). When they eventually found Him in the temple, Mary’s frayed nerves snapped a little: “Why have you treated us so? . . . Your father and I . . .” (a phrase most boys recognize as a hefty rebuke). She blamed Jesus even though He was their responsibility (v. 48). But watch Jesus: He gently explained that He had gone to the one place in the city they should have known where to find Him (“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?”). And then notice what Luke adds: “He went down with them . . . and was submissive to them” (vv. 49–51). Yes, although they had wrongly blamed Him, Jesus honored His Father’s fifth commandment in obeying His earthly parents. Indeed, He paid detailed attention to all His Father’s commandments.

Our Lord’s faithfulness in little things was simply the reflection of the perfect beauty He saw in the face of His Father.

2. Jesus was also a Deuteronomy 8:3 man: He lived “not . . . by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God” (see Matt. 4:4). Every word. Jesus believed not only in “verbal plenary inspiration” but in obedient “verbal plenary feeding.” Each word of His Bible was vital to Him. He took a delight in detailed faithfulness—He wanted to know, love, and obey every single word God had breathed out.

Read the rest here.

Heads Roll

Heads Roll

By Pat Knight

When I was a little girl, playing with my dolls was a favorite pastime. Imagine the trauma I suffered when my doll’s head fell off! My Daddy was always willing and able to pop that doll’s head right back onto her shoulders again. I would go running to greet him at the end of his workday, hanging onto the two doll parts. He instinctively knew what would make a little girl’s heart happy, performing repairable doll surgery right before my eyes.

One day the three of us siblings were creating a loud verbal commotion inside our house. Our mother announced in measured tones, “I have a headache, and if you children don’t quiet down, my head is going to fall off.” Instantly, I envisioned a frightening mental picture of my mother’s head detached from her shoulders, just like my doll. So I was quick to assure her, “That’s all right, Mom, Daddy will put your head back on when he gets home tonight.” I remember confusion reigned when she broke into peals of laughter. This was not at all funny to me, but if she found humor in my remarks, maybe her headache would go away and we wouldn’t have to witness her head helplessly rolling off her shoulders.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our troubles,
so that we can comfort those in any trouble
with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
─1 Corinthians 1:3-4

Lessons the broken doll taught me prepared me for tragedies that would strike in my future lifetime, directing me where to turn for relief. Trusting my heavenly Father as the source of all help is the ultimate relationship the God desires all of us to enjoy with Him. He is the one “who comforts us in all our troubles” (2 Corinthians 1:4), the knowledge necessary to navigate this world and its trials. There is no problem too immense for our Lord to solve, no affliction too overpowering for Him to reverse, no grief too staggering for Him to comfort. God is our sufficiency, our answer to all of life’s difficulties.

Job was a broken man, but not defeated. He was declared “Blameless and upright; he feared God and shunned evil (Job 1:1b). Yet one day he suddenly lost all of his livestock, wealth, and family. He was struck with a skin disease of overwhelming proportions. However, he persisted in trusting God. Job knew that “All things are possible with God” (Mark10:27). He was not into the mode of blaming God for his calamities. Job rationalized his steadfast hope: “Shall we accept good from God, and not trouble?”(Job 2:10). Job decided to choose victory, as God promised. He took the high road of deep faith that would not shatter during a personal crisis.

I didn’t understand how my Daddy fixed my doll, but I trusted that he would. More importantly, he took responsibility for his little girl’s happiness. Isn’t this the reaction God wants from us, that we trust Him for our delight and joy?

God loves us and wants us to put our confidence in Him as the source for all of our help and protection. “The Lord your God is with you, He is mighty to save, He will take great delight in you, He will quiet you with His love, He will rejoice over you with singing” (Zephaniah 3:17).

Jesus taught His disciples in parables, using common objects to convey extraordinary lessons. He will also find the best way to reach out to us with His truths, even if it involves a simple object like a toy. Nothing in this world escapes God’s service.

Perseverance

“Ants are creatures of little strength,
yet they store up their food in the summer”
(Proverbs 30:25
).

Perseverance

 By Pat Knight

I was sitting on the lower step of the deck with my feet dangling, soaking up the spring sunshine, when I caught movement in my peripheral vision. It was only a black ant, but it claimed my rapt attention. Before long my eyes were intently following the industrious ant on its journey. The insect was carrying a disproportionately big load for such a tiny creature, quite possibly a morsel of food it was instinctively transporting to a large ant colony.

Obviously, in the caste system of ants, this member was classified as a worker. Its sole purpose in life was to labor to deliver food to the colony where various duties were delegated. The ant had a purpose and seemingly nothing would deter it. Up and over the pieces of dirt, branches, and grass it maneuvered. When it reached an impasse, the ant would retrace its steps until it discovered an alternative route. I watched it crawl the length of a blade of grass, only to reach a dead end (ants are not proficient at jumping). It then crawled back over the shaft of grass, persistent in locating another route, repeating the process several times until a clear path was found. All during its journey, the cargo remained tightly within the grasp of the ant’s pincers. I was amazed at the tenacity, persistence, and concentration exhibited by one of God’s smallest creatures. The ant also possessed the capacity to contort its body segments to avoid exposure to larger prey or to risk losing its cumbersome freight.

The little ant and its work ethic caused me to wonder how man would react to carrying a comparable weight. Humans are distinguished from the animal kingdom by their power of reasoning. How we approach a task often depends on our attitude. Details entangle us, which may cloud our vision or the outcome of the task. Alternatively, when we view a project worthy of our focus and energy, we push ahead, relying on God for help and strength. God wants us to depend on Him. Good attitudes combined with a vibrant faith in God result in accomplishments.  

At times we may assess our jobs as too demanding or difficult. Our normally ironclad will may crumble under adversity. In the face of hardship, discouragement erupts and we retreat. Our determination collapses. We ask ourselves, Why should I expend so much energy on an assignment no one notices? God, our resource of strength and encouragement, promises to provide energy for each task He regards significant.

“The Lord gives strength to his people; the Lord blesses his people with peace” (Psalm 29:11). God allocates specific talents to each believer to enhance the body of Christ. Dysfunction and inefficiency would occur from too many people choosing their favorite roles. God knows the talents needed for the greatest functionality. With the gifts He apportions, He also provides the ability to achieve at our best. Aware that God supports us in all of our endeavors, we claim with the Apostle Paul, “‘I can do all things through Christ who strengtheneth me’” (Philippians 4:13, KJV).

 When we mentally reclassify jobs as a calling from God, our work is dedicated to Him. Instead of seeking personal gratification, our efforts and the consequences are designated a gift from God. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters … It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Colossians 3:23-24b). By applying that mindset, even the most mundane task demands our best. Enthusiasm supplies added incentive.

In our workday, there are always challenges and obstacles to overcome. Like the ant who met dead ends on its journey, do we possess the flexibility to back up and try again? “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.” (Galatians 6:9). We need not feel repelled by strenuous work. It is good for the body and soul; an outlet for stress. When we tackle a worthy project, we may contribute to a larger goal affecting many people. Let us take another hint from the little insect: “Ants are creatures of little strength, yet they store up their food in the summer” (Proverbs 30:25). Work hard to plan for future needs.

Ants live in a highly complex community of socialization where members perform a variety of instinctive, specialized duties. Each ant’s lifetime assignment keeps the insect colony operating smoothly. Though humans are blessed with multiple abilities and talents, we are admonished to “Live a life worthy of the calling you have received” (Ephesians 4:1).

As incredible as it may seem, I followed the determined ant for an hour and a half that sunny afternoon. I observed it’s every advance and detour. Eventually, I had to walk from my position on the step to catch up to the ant’s sojourn; it traveled farther than my eyes could follow from one position. I am assuming the ant finally reached its destination, though I didn’t follow it that far. I had already learned the lessons God chose a humble ant to illustrate:

  • For utmost success, persevere with a positive attitude.
  • Nothing should interrupt our determination to get the job done.
  • Grumbling and complaining are futile and clash with God’s commands
  • Dividing a big job into smaller segments is less tiresome.

“Stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourself fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58). We are all God’s kingdom workers, spiritually united to live and work collaboratively and to grow together in maturity.

We learn from the work ethic of the ant. Perhaps one long journey was its only contribution to the colony during its short lifespan. If so, the ant’s single-minded tenacity was paramount. With our advanced, knowledgeable human minds, we learn the value of a superior work method from one of the tiniest of God’s creatures. There is no room for laziness and negative attitudes in God’s kingdom. He promises to supply the strength necessary to rejoice in His service.

“If anyone serves, he should do so with the strength God provides, so that in all things God may be praised through Jesus Christ. To him be the glory and the power forever and ever” (1 Peter 4:11). When Christians use the spiritual gifts God assigns, there exists tranquility when individuals cooperate with fellow believers for the benefit and harmony of the entire family of God.

Big Bang Evidence for God

Today I’m sharing from CrossExamined.org.

Big Bang Evidence for God

by

When I debated atheist Christopher Hitchens, one of the eight arguments I offered for God’s existence was the creation of this supremely fine-tuned universe out of nothing.  I spoke of the five main lines of scientific evidence—denoted by the acronym SURGE—that point to the definite beginning of the space-time continuum. They are: The Second Law of Thermodynamics, the Expanding Universe, the Radiation Afterglow from the Big Bang Explosion, the Great galaxy seeds in the Radiation Afterglow, and Einstein’s Theory of General Relativity.

While I don’t have space to unpack this evidence here (see I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist), it all points to the fact that the universe began from literally nothing physical or temporal.  Once there was no time, no space, and no matter and then it all banged into existence out of nothing with great precision.

The evidence led astronomer Dr. Robert Jastrow—who until his recent death was the director of the Mount Wilson observatory once led by Edwin Hubble—to author a book called God and the Astronomers. Despite revealing in the first line of chapter 1 that he was personally agnostic about ‘religious matters,” Jastrow reviewed some of the SURGE evidence and concluded,  “Now we see how the astronomical evidence leads to a biblical view of the origin of the world. The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same: the chain of events leading to man commenced suddenly and sharply at a definite moment in time, in a flash of light and energy.”

In an interview, Jastrow went even further, admitting that “Astronomers now find they have painted themselves into a corner because they have proven, by their own methods, that the world began abruptly in an act of creation to which you can trace the seeds of every star, every planet, every living thing in this cosmos and on the earth. And they have found that all this happened as a product of forces they cannot hope to discover… That there are what I or anyone would call supernatural forces at work is now, I think, a scientifically proven fact.”

Read the rest here.

My Lord is the Lifter of My Head 

My Lord is the Lifter
of My Head 

But you, O LORD, are a shield about me,
my glory, and the one who lifts my head.

─Psalm 3:3

For many years summer monsoon season has been a struggle for me. The combination of living at high altitude, plus the constantly fluctuating barometric pressure, used to keep me homebound and in bed. The way my body used to react to my migraines was to shut down, meaning that I slept most of the time. That was my before. As I write this, I still have migraines but the accompanying head pain is gone. Now I only know I have a migraine when my vision gets blurry and/or I have lots of nausea. This is my after.

The difference between before and after is that I have been undergoing special therapeutic treatments since January of this year. I am calling 2019 my year of healing because I truly believe that the Lord led me to this treatment because many people had been praying for me for many years.

While I was burdened with these daily migraines, I found it amazing that every time I went to sleep with a migraine I awoke feeling very hopeful that my migraine would be gone. And I did this over and over again, only to be surprised when I woke up to the same migraine I went to sleep with.

Why do I think this is amazing? Because instead of being disappointed when I awoke to the same pain time after time, I felt hopeful. I admit to a bit of discouragement, but I believe that God knows what I feel deep in my heart and soul, and since He is the “lifter of my head,” I believe He granted me the ability to praise Him with a joyful heart no matter how I was feeling.

I used to struggle with the why of my situation, wondering if it would ever end and why it had gone on for so long. Now there is a huge sense of peace within me because I know without a doubt that my Lord ─ my “shield” ─ was and is always with me to soothe and comfort me when I cry out to Him in pain. Even before I started the treatments that have eliminated my migraine pain, the frustration that at times consumed me is gone and has been replaced with “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7).

Beloved, have you ever been in a situation when you have questioned why God has allowed it in your life? Do you wonder if it will ever end? Are you so mired in despair that you find you can’t even talk to God about it? 

In the same way, the Spirit also helps our weakness; 
for we do not know how to pray as we should, 

but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us 

with groanings too deep for words. 

─Romans 8:26

Now what does the Spirit ask for when he intercedes for us? There are three ways the text points to an answer for this question: 1) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know we should ask for. Verse 26: “We do not know how to pray for what we ought.” 2) It says the Spirit asks for things that we don’t know to ask for because of our weakness. Verse 26: “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” 3) It says the Spirit asks for things that are in accord with the will of God. Verse 27b: “The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”¹

Although my migraine head pain is gone, I am still living with the chronic pain and other symptoms of Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. The treatments are also relieving most of that pain, and now my overwhelming symptom is unrelenting fatigue that nothing helps, but I am anticipating a release from that too as I continue these treatments.

God knows everything about us, even our doubts, frustrations and anxieties. He is our ultimate Healer ─ physically, emotionally and mentally. He longs to hold us close to His heart and soothe our tears of frustration, disappointment and grief. Allow Him to do so! Let Him into your heart and share your deepest feelings with Him, because He is always available to listen to you and comfort you.

I continually hold on to this hope: that one day all of my pain and exhaustion will be gone and I will no longer have any tears because of the incredible joy and happiness of being in heaven with my Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ. Only by abiding in Him can any kind of true joy and contentment be found.

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

And this hope will not lead to disappointment.

For we know how dearly God loves us,

because he has given us the Holy Spirit

to fill our hearts with his love. 

─Romans 5:4-5

Have you not known? Have you not heard?
The everlasting God, the LORD,

the Creator of the ends of the earth,

neither faints nor is weary.

His understanding is unsearchable.

He gives power to the weak,

and to those who have no might

He increases strength.

Even the youths shall faint and be weary,

and the young men shall utterly fall,

but those who wait on the LORD shall renew their strength;

they shall mount up with wings like eagles,

they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint.
─Isaiah 40:28-31


¹John Piper, Desiring God