True Happiness Begins with Knowing God

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

True Happiness Begins with Knowing God

By Randy Alcorn

Human history is the story of our desperate search for true and lasting happiness. Even those people who appear to “have it all” long for something more, and sadly, they often give up hope of ever finding contentment and joy.

In the midst of hopelessness, God offers the good news of his transforming grace, mercy, love, and eternal happiness: “Let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who wants it take the water of life free of charge” (Revelation 22:17, NET).

It’s the Lord Who Truly Satisfies

Our greatest needs and longings can be fulfilled only in God, the “fountain of living waters” (Jeremiah 2:13).

Despairing people everywhere thirst for gladness, trying to derive it from sources that cannot ultimately satisfy. They eagerly drink from contaminated water surrounded by huge signs with neon letters flashing, “Fun and Happiness!”

Sometimes there’s no fun at all, and usually what little happiness there is quickly evaporates, leaving shame and regret. If the signs were accurate, they would warn, “Deadly Poison,” with the caveat underneath: “May taste good before it kills you.”

God laments the poor choices we make when searching for happiness: “My people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water” (Jeremiah 2:13).

When we’re thirsty, we don’t look up “water” on Wikipedia. We don’t go to social media to find out what others say about water. We don’t drink out of the nearest puddle. Personally, I go to the faucet and satisfy my thirst by drinking some of the world’s best water from the Bull Run water system here in Oregon.

Similarly, in the spiritual realm, I find God to be pure, refreshing, and satisfying. My happiest days are when I drink most deeply of him. I also know that if I don’t drink of him, whatever else I drink from will leave me thirsty, dissatisfied, and sick.

George Whitefield wrote, “I drank of God’s pleasure as out of a river. Oh that all were made partakers of this living water.”

Most Offers of Happiness Are Fraudulent

Jonestown was a socialist community and cult in South America. In 1978, after murdering a US congressman and four others, Jim Jones gathered his cult members, who had relocated from the United States to Guyana, and served them a grape-flavored drink laced with cyanide. He killed himself and 912 of his followers.

Read the rest here.

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.

Outrageous Grace

Outrageous Grace

By Lee Strobel

“This is embarrassing,” my friend said to me over the phone.

“That’s okay,” I assured him. “Go ahead. You can tell me.”

He sighed. “Well, we found out our little girl shoplifted a book from the church bookstore. We were really surprised because she’s a good kid. Anyway, I was wondering whether you would help us out with something.”

Frankly, I was relieved the news wasn’t more serious. “Sure,” I said. “What can I do?”

“We’d like you to represent the church so she can come in and apologize,” he replied. “Maybe you could figure out some sort of restitution. We want to use this as a teaching moment.”

I agreed to help, but I have to admit I had an even bigger lesson in mind.

The next day, the parents and their eight-year-old daughter walked hesitantly into my office and sat down. The girl was so small, she was almost swallowed up by the chair. Her eyes were downcast; her mood was somber.

After I exchanged some pleasantries with her parents, I sat down on the edge of my desk so I was facing the girl. As gently as I could, I said to her, “Tell me what happened.”

She hesitated, her lower lip quivering. “Well,” she said as she started to sniffle, “I was in the bookstore after a service and I saw a book that I really wanted, but I didn’t have any money.” Now tears pooled in her eyes and spilled down her cheeks. I handed her a tissue, which she used to dab her eyes before continuing.

“So I put the book under my coat and took it,” she blurted out, almost as if she wanted to expel the words as fast as she could so they wouldn’t linger. “I knew it was wrong. I knew I shouldn’t do it, but I did it. And I’m sorry. I’ll never do it again. Honest.”

She was so contrite that it broke my heart. “I’m glad you’re willing to admit what you did and say you’re sorry,” I told her. “That’s very brave, and it’s the right thing to do.”

She nodded slightly.

“But,” I continued, “what do you think an appropriate punishment would be?”

She shrugged her shoulders. I knew from her parents that she had already thrown out the book to hide the evidence. I paused for a moment, then said, “I understand the book cost five dollars. I think it would be fair if you paid the bookstore five dollars, plus three times that amount, which would make the total twenty dollars. Do you think that would be fair?”

“Yes,” she murmured, though I could see fear — almost panic — in her eyes. Her mind was whirring. Where was she going to come up with twenty dollars? That’s a mountain of money for a little kid. She didn’t have the five dollars to buy the book in the first place, and suddenly her debt had spiraled completely out of sight.

At that moment, I got up and walked behind my desk. Sitting down, I pulled open the top drawer. The little girl’s eyes narrowed. She couldn’t figure out what I was doing. I pulled out my checkbook, picked up a pen, and wrote a check from my personal account for the full amount that she owed. I tore off the check and held it in my hand. Her mouth dropped open.

“I know there’s no way you can pay the penalty that you deserve,” I told her. “So I’m going to pay it for you. Do you know why I’d do that?”

Bewildered, she shook her head.

“Because I love you,” I told her. “Because I care about you. Because you’re important to me. And please remember this: that’s how Jesus feels about you too. Except even more.”

With that, I handed her the check, which she grabbed and clutched to her heart. She simply blossomed with a look of absolute relief and joy and wonder. She was almost giddy with gratitude. The same little girl who had slinked into the office under the weight of shame now left lighthearted and skipping.

I don’t know how God ultimately used that teaching moment in her life. But I do know this: once a person, even at a young age, experiences a taste of the kind of grace offered by Christ, it leaves an indelible mark on the soul. Who could resist being attracted by the forgiveness and unmerited favor extended by Jesus?

This is one of the greatest dimensions of the unexpected adventure. The message we convey isn’t based on condemnation or shame. We’re not offering people a life sentence of hard labor to try to somehow make themselves worthy of heaven. Instead, we have the privilege of telling people how they can find complete forgiveness as a free gift that was purchased when Jesus died as our substitute to pay for all of our wrongdoing — past, present, and future.

“Grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us more,” writes Philip Yancey in his classic book What’s So Amazing About Grace? “And grace means there’s nothing we can do to make God love us less. . . . Grace means that God already loves us as much as an infinite God can possibly love.”

Wow! When I try to let that sink in, I’m just as overcome with gratitude as that little girl. At the same time I feel a renewed desire to let others know about this incredible message of redemption and reconciliation. After all, with good news like that, how could we possibly keep it to ourselves?


From Investigating Faith by Lee Strobel

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

Roll Your Burdens onto God

Prayer is such a big part of our Christian walk so I hope you enjoyed the last few weeks of prayer posts. Here is a wonderful article about prayer from Desiring God.

Roll Your Burdens onto God 

By Scott Hubbard

There was no more money for milk.

Donations to the orphan house had been drying up for months. Week after week, they had gotten by with barely enough: a dollar here, some pennies there, drips compared to the river of provision they had once known.

The director rose from bed and thought of the hundreds of children still sleeping. They would wake up soon. They would come to the kitchen expecting milk, a staple breakfast food at the orphan house. And if God did not intervene, they would go away hungry.

He prayed on the two-minute walk to the orphan house. He asked that God would show compassion like a Father to his children, that he would not lay on them more than they could bear, and that he would somehow provide the money they needed for milk.

Poor and at Peace

If anyone had a right to be worried, George Müller did. For decades, he walked through trials of faith that would leave many of us shattered in mind and body. More than ten thousand children depended on him for food, clothing, and shelter throughout his lifetime. His orphan houses lived for years on the edge of poverty. And he had committed early on to never ask anyone but God for money.

But few people walked with more of the peace of God that “surpasses all understanding” (Philippians 4:7). Over and over in his autobiography, or in his shorter book Answers to Prayer, readers find Müller poor, pressed down with cares, and yet at peace.

The key for Müller was prayer. John Piper writes, “When George Müller was asked how he could be so calm in the middle of a hectic day with so many uncertainties at the orphanage, he answered something like, ‘I rolled sixty things onto the Lord this morning’” (The Satisfied Soul, 308). How did Müller handle the burdens of ten thousand orphans? He took them, one by one, off his own shoulders, and he rolled them onto God’s.

In a sermon on Philippians 4:6–7, Müller tells us how.

1. Hear God’s Invitation

When we bring our worries to God in prayer, we will never meet a deaf ear or a reluctant glance. We will instead find a Father who gladly bends his shoulder to bear our burdens.

The children of God, Müller says, “are permitted, not only permitted but invited, not only invited but commanded, to bring all their cares, sorrows, trials, and wants to their heavenly Father. They are to roll all their burdens upon God.”

The command Müller has in mind — “Do not be anxious about anything” (Philippians 4:6) — is just one example in a Bible full of invitations to roll our worries onto God. When we search the pages of Scripture, we see a Shepherd who gathers us up in his arms (Isaiah 40:11), a Bridegroom who makes our troubles his own (Ephesians 5:25–27), a King who hides us away in his tower (Proverbs 18:10), a Warrior who fights our battles himself (Exodus 14:14). On nearly every page, God invites us to come out of the howling winds of our worries and into the warmth of his home.

Our worries may feel close to us, but in Christ, our Father is closer. Hear his invitation, and come.

Read the rest here.

What is Prayer?

Sharing today from Got Questions?

Question: “What is Prayer?”

Answer: The most basic definition of prayer is “talking to God.” Prayer is not meditation or passive reflection; it is direct address to God. It is the communication of the human soul with the Lord who created the soul. Prayer is the primary way for the believer in Jesus Christ to communicate his emotions and desires with God and to fellowship with God.

Prayer can be audible or silent, private or public, formal or informal. All prayer must be offered in faith (James 1:6), in the name of the Lord Jesus (John 16:23), and in the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26). As the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia puts it, “Christian prayer in its full New Testament meaning is prayer addressed to God as Father, in the name of Christ as Mediator, and through the enabling grace of the indwelling Spirit” (“Prayer” by J. C. Lambert). The wicked have no desire to pray (Psalm 10:4), but the children of God have a natural desire to pray (Luke 11:1).

Prayer is described in the Bible as seeking God’s favor (Exodus 32:11), pouring out one’s soul to the Lord (1 Samuel 1:15), crying out to heaven (2 Chronicles 32:20), drawing near to God (Psalm 73:28, KJV), and kneeling before the Father (Ephesians 3:14).

Paul wrote, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6–7). Worry about nothing; pray about everything.

Everything? Yes, God wants us to talk with Him about everything.

Read the rest here.