Is it true that everything happens for a reason?

Another great one from the GotQuestions? site.

Question: “Is it true that everything happens for a reason?”

Answer: Does everything happen for a reason? The short answer is “yes”; because God is sovereign, there are no random, out-of-control happenings. God’s purposes may be hidden from us, but we can be assured that every event has a reason behind it.

There was a reason for the blindness of the man in John 9, although the disciples misidentified the reason (John 9:1–3). There was a reason for Joseph’s mistreatment, although his brothers’ purpose in what they did to him was very different from God’s purpose in allowing it (Genesis 50:20). There was a reason for Jesus’ death—the authorities in Jerusalem had their reasons, based on evil intent, and God had His, based on righteousness. God’s sovereignty extends even to the lowliest of creatures: “Not one [sparrow] falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will” (Matthew 10:29, NET).

Several factors help us know that everything happens for a reason: the law of cause and effect, the doctrine of original sin, and the providence of God. All these demonstrate that everything does happen for a reason, not just by happenstance or by random chance.

Read the rest here.

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Today’s great post is from the Desiring God blog.

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Bethlehem 2018 Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders | Minneapolis

By John Piper

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial
when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ,
you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 4:12–14

December 6 last year at 6:45 in the morning, I was sitting in my chair in our living room. It was still dark outside, and my one reading light was on beside the chair. My iPad was open to my daily Bible reading portion. I had just spent my 36 minutes on the treadmill in the attic, showered, made myself a cup of hot tea, and settled in to enjoy a time of fellowship with the Lord Jesus over his word.

Read the rest here.

Where does the Bible talk about love?

This is a great article from Overview Bible.

Where does the Bible talk about love?

by Jeffrey Kranz

We all know that “God so loved the world,” that “God is love,” and that when it comes to love, nobody exemplifies it better than Jesus (Jn 3:161 Jn 4:8Jn 15:13). We’ve often heard First Corinthians’ “love chapter” (1 Co 13) at weddings.

But if you wanted to take a closer look at how the Bible talks about love, where would you go?

Let’s look at the books of the Bible that talk about love most, and then drill into a few chapters that really focus on love.

The Bible talks about love a lot

The word “love” shows up in the English Bible a good deal—though the precise count varies a bit from translation to translation.

  • NIV: 762 mentions
  • NASB: 529 mentions
  • KJV: 419 mentions
  • NRSV: 791 mentions
  • HCSB: 766 mentions
  • ESV: 745 mentions

That count varies because some translations saw “love” as the correct word to communicate what the original Hebrew, Greek, and Aramaic texts said. For example, the NIV translates sex acts in Genesis as “made love,” while the KJV and ESV prefer “knew,” and the NASB uses the highly romantic “had relations.”

By the way, these counts include variations like “loved,” “lovely,” and “loves.”

Now, let’s see where all this talk of love happens in the Bible.

Read the rest here.

Great Expectations

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

Great Expectations

By Pat Knight

As I gazed out the window at the bleak winter landscape, I detected a definite lack of color, a bland outlook with no life stirring. With barren expectancy, we prepare our hearts for desolation, reflected in our attitudes and conversation. Are we so mentally programmed with gloominess that even our anticipation of future events is dulled?

Comparing heart focus with environmental conditions is risky, thwarting inward hope and personal growth. It is easy to be affected by the lack of sunshine and warmth in winter. Let us not permit exterior influences to eclipse the radiance with which Jesus penetrates darkness by reflecting His light through our lives. Joy is quickly extinguished by despondency.

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Hebrews 11:1). After Jesus’ disciple, Thomas, conquered his disbelief at Christ’s post-resurrection appearance, Jesus taught the eleven disciples, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have  not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29). In today’s vernacular we would explain Jesus’ teaching as “blind faith.” In spite of our circumstances, our beliefs don’t change; they are locked securely inside our hearts. Faith in God is the consequence of trust; trust the outgrowth of belief.

If we constantly focus on the negative, our hearts will languish with despair. We’ve all been exposed to a curmudgeon who  projects a pessimistic approach so hopeless that black clouds spontaneously open, dispensing chilly water on a new idea. Cynics have an intimidating influence on positive thoughts, much like the austere environment in winter.

With whom do we communicate to enliven a joyful spirit? God is the Author and Creator of all things good. “Jesus answered, ‘No one is good except God alone’” (Mark 10:18). The good God constantly imparts to us is a reflection of His own divine character of purity and holiness.

After gazing outside at the monotonous winter panorama once again, rather than a change of scenery, I discovered the need for an attitude adjustment. God has the ability to change our perspective with His gifts of joy and peace. Man is unable to conjure up sovereign gifts independently with the power of positive thinking, as some assert. We must depend upon our Lord to supply us with His limitless gifts, always available to those who seek Him. “Take on an entirely new way of life—a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you” (Ephesians 4:24,The Msg).

We are commanded to fellowship with God, the glorious, victorious Creator of life and peace, joy and light, grace and love. In the new year, let us establish enlightened priorities, recognizing the capacity to alter our lives forever by placing them in God’s care. “Submit yourself, then, to God. Come near to God and he will come near to you” (James 4:7a-8).

Winter, with its unique season of dormancy and hibernation for many living things, is also a period of refreshment, preparing for regrowth; for a magnificent burst of beauty and fragrance that identifies the imminent season of spring. Let us not bear winter grudgingly, but joyfully use the time to develop attitudes pleasing to God. There is beauty during winter unseen at other times of year. Shadows on snow peek around trees, marching like toy soldiers as the sun manipulates the imaginary forms. Sunsets of magnificent proportions and beauty light up late afternoon skies with unequivocal displays of prismatic colors. The deep green of softwood branches and the silhouettes of stark hardwoods in the foreground of high, pristine snowbanks create fantastic visual delights. A full moon illuminates light blue blankets of snow when the dark draperies of night are pulled down upon the world.

What do you envision in the winter season of your life? The bleakness of financial, health, or employment woes, or the unprecedented power, protection, and provisions offered by God Himself? The new year holds unimaginable possibilities and victories. Seek an attitude that reflects Jesus’ submission, humility, and obedience toward His Father. “Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will” (Mark 14:36).

Jesus could release His deepest hope to His heavenly Father, assured that even at such a late hour God could perform the impossible by cancelling His Son‘s crucifixion. Yet, Jesus believed that His Father’s perfect plan would be accomplished. Christ was convinced that His hope wasn’t misplaced by cross-your-fingers wishful thinking, but as confident expectations resting on God’s promises, free of worry and nail-biting. Jesus trusted in God’s sovereign ability to answer his prayer custom designed for His Son alone. He does the same for us.

Hope is like an restraining anchor at the bottom of the sea. The Christian anchor rises up into the heavenly realms, guaranteeing our personal security. We are sheltered by our sovereign refuge.

We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure” (Hebrews 6:19).

It is essential for us to value God above all else in our lives. He freely extends joyful delight, anchoring hope and unconditional love. Ask God to transform your priorities. He will lavish you abundantly with the righteousness of Jesus. To live right before God (righteousness) is His ultimate goal for each believer. “The Lord delights in those who fear him, who put their hope in his unfailing love” (Psalm 147:11).

Hope is expressed when we turn toward God with confident expectation during times of trial.

“And the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:7). With inner tranquility, believers relinquish their worries to God and dwell on them no more. Then the victory of God is theirs to enjoy. The full dimension of God’s love and provisions are beyond our comprehension, motivating us to trust Him explicitly.

During one final peek outside, I focused on the glory of God’s creation. Just as the outside world perpetually changes, believers also experience consistent growth and renewal deep within their hearts. We learn patience and perseverance, but most marvelous of all is the imperceptible growth in hope, trust, and faith our Lord accomplishes by His power at work within us, transforming our lives. Expect the unexpected from an exceptional, extraordinary God!

What God’s Hope Is, What It Isn’t, and Why It Matters

What God’s Hope Is, What It Isn’t,
and Why It Matters

By Lee Strobel

God’s hope is different from what you might expect. We use the word hope all the time to mean different things. In fact, much of what we call hope could fall into three categories: wishful thinking, blind optimism, and personal dreams.

Wishful thinking is when we try to hope things in or out of existence. It’s when we blow out the candles on our birthday cake and say to ourselves, “I hope I stay healthy for another year.” It’s when we pick up the Wall Street Journal and say, “I hope the prime rate drops again.” It’s when spring training begins and we say, “I hope the Cubs don’t disappoint me again this year.” (Hey, hope springs eternal!)

Wishful thinking is a kind of hopeful feeling that maybe, somehow, some way, things will go the way we want them to, even though we really don’t have any power whatsoever to make it happen.

Another kind of hopeful attitude is blind optimism, like the guy who fell off a thirty-story building and yelled out as he passed the fifteenth floor, “Well, so far, so good!”

While it’s good to have a generally optimistic outlook, some optimists see everything through rose-colored glasses. They paper over their problems as if they didn’t exist. They avert their eyes from the ugly aspects of the world. To them, everything’s just fine all the time-never mind the facts.

It’s like the joke about the parents of two young twins. One of the boys was a depressed pessimist; the other was an incessant optimist. The parents were getting worried because each child’s personality was becoming increasingly extreme. So just before Christmas, the father said, “We need to do something to break them out of their molds.”

The parents decided to put dozens and dozens of shiny new toys in the pessimist’s room, and to fill the optimist’s room with piles of horse manure, hoping this would change their attitudes.

The children went to their rooms for a couple of hours, and then the pessimist came out. “Did you play with your new toys?” the father asked eagerly.

“Nah,” moaned the pessimist. “I never even opened the packages. I was afraid that if I touched them, they’d just break, and then I’d be disappointed.”

That’s when the optimist came bounding out of his room that had been filled with horse manure. He was all smiles. “How come you’re so happy?” asked the dad.

The little boy beamed and said, “I just know that if I keep digging long enough, I’m going to find the pony!”

Do you know people like that—optimists who pretend everything’s always great and who gloss over problems in their lives?

And then there’s hope that takes the form of personal dreams. These are the lofty goals we set for our lives and which we work so hard to achieve. In other words we don’t just hope for a new car, but we begin saving for one. We don’t just hope we’ll become a better golfer, but we take lessons and spend time on the practice tee. We don’t just wish for good health, but we begin to watch our diet and participate in an exercise program.

Generally, there’s nothing wrong with that. But problems arise when our personal dreams are restricted by our own limitations or when they fall victim to factors beyond our control.

For instance, I suppose a lot of General Motors workers had personal dreams of job security and retirement, but that didn’t stop GM from announcing one day that they were going to eliminate thousands of employees. Unfortunately our dreams are often at the mercy of others.

Biblical hope is different. For most people, hoping is something that they do, but the Bible talks about hope as something they can possess. We can actually grab hold of it. For someone who follows Jesus, hope is the secure expectation that He is both willing and able to make good on the promises He has made to us.

The Bible refers to this as “living hope,” because it’s linked directly to the resurrection of Christ. The apostle Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:3-4: “In [God’s] great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you.”

You see, through His decisive conquest of death, Jesus demonstrated that He really is God and that He really does have the power to fulfill His promises in the pages of Scripture. Promises to change our lives. Promises to guide us. Promises that He’ll cause good to emerge from our personal difficulties. Promises that His followers will spend eternity with Him.

“We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure,” says Hebrews 6:19. Usually I hate to use sailing analogies because I can get seasick drinking a glass of water, but an anchor is a great metaphor. Our hope is only as good as what we anchor it to.

Let’s face it: In and of itself, hope doesn’t have any power to change reality. We hope for this, we hope for that, and we might feel better for a while. We may even fool ourselves into thinking everything’s okay. But the only way hope has any real power is when we anchor it to the God who has real power. And not only real power, but a heartfelt desire to help.

And I think Jesus would say to you, “Whatever you’re facing, I can infuse hope into your life—a hope that’s firm and secure. In fact, let Me describe for you two specific ways I can introduce hope to you—by absolving you of your past, and by assuring you of your future.”

Presented By Bible Gateway

Grumbling in Paradise

Sharing today from Desiring God.

Grumbling in Paradise

How to Break Through Discontent

by Scott Hubbard

June 14, 2010, sticks out like a redwood tree in the orchard of my memory. For the previous two years, I had wandered through a spiritual wasteland of discontentment, doubt, and morbid introspection.

But on this summer day, God breathed a wind over my parched and cracked heart. I had just spent the afternoon reading a chapter in John Piper’s The Pleasures of God about God’s joy in his creation. As I walked out of the dim-lit, air-conditioned coffee shop into the bracing warmth of a summer afternoon, the words became real: God’s pleasure rang out in birds chirping, leaves whispering, dust motes soaring, cattails swaying. Earth and sky resounded in a chorus of praise to the God of glory, and for the first time in a long time, I heard the music.

Joy swelled my lungs and broke out in spontaneous laughter. My inward gaze exploded outward to find a universe of marvels. My discontentment fled the scene like a thief at daybreak. I discovered, in other words, a lost weapon in the fight for happiness and contentment: wonder.

Grumbling in Paradise

Wonder is that wide-eyed awareness of creation that leaves us hushed, self-forgetful, and brimming with gratitude. Where wonder reigns, contentment flourishes; where wonder is dethroned, discontentment takes root. Exhibit A: the garden of Eden.

……………………………………………………………………..
Here’s the scene. Adam and Eve live in a garden of delights, where God has “made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food” and has said, “You may surely eat of every tree of the garden” except for one (Genesis 2:916). The first couple bathes in a wonderland of spiritual bliss, marital intimacy, and created splendor.
…..
But then a liar slithers in and opens his mouth. And in a matter of a few sentences, Adam and Eve’s world shrinks from a pleasure-packed universe to a cramped backyard. The Maker of the galaxies walks in the garden. Birds and beasts chant his praise. A world of raptures awaits discovery. Adam and Eve grumble.

So too with us. 

Read the rest here. 

Jehovah Father

jehovah-majesty-amp

  In this manner, therefore, pray:

Our Father in heaven,
Hallowed be Your name.
Your kingdom come.
Your will be done
On earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts,
As we forgive our debtors.
And do not lead us into temptation,
But deliver us from the evil one.
For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.

—Matthew 6:9-13