Rest for the weary

Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.
Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me,
for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.
For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.

—Matthew 11:28-30, NASB

Faith That Works

Sharing today from John MacArthur’s Grace to You blog.

Faith That Works

by John MacArthur

Saving faith is a divine gift, not a human work. But that doesn’t mean true faith is passive or unaccompanied by good works.

The faith God graciously supplies produces both the volition and the ability to comply with His will (cf. Philippians 2:13: “God . . . is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure”). Thus faith is inseparable from obedience.

Louis Berkhof sees three elements to genuine faith: An intellectual element (notitia), which is “a positive recognition of the truth”; an emotional element (assensus), which includes “a deep conviction [and affirmation] of the truth”; and a volitional element (fiducia), which involves “a personal trust in Christ as Saviour and Lord, including a surrender . . . to Christ.” [1] Augustus Strong argues similarly concerning the volitional element of faith, saying that it involves “surrender of the soul, as guilty and defiled, to Christ’s governance.” [2] Modern popular theology tends to recognize the intellectual and emotional elements of faith but dispenses with the volitional aspect. Yet faith is not true faith if it lacks this attitude of surrender to Christ’s authority.

Writing about the verb “to obey” (peithō), W. E. Vine says:

Peithō and pisteuō, “to trust,” are closely related etymologically; the difference in meaning is that the former implies the obedience that is produced by the latter, cp. Hebrews 3:18–19, where the disobedience of the Israelites is said to be the evidence of their unbelief. . . . When a man obeys God he gives the only possible evidence that in his heart he believes God. . . . Peithō in N.T. suggests an actual and outward result of the inward persuasion and consequent faith. [3]

So the person who has believed will yearn to obey. Because we retain the vestiges of sinful flesh, no one will obey perfectly (cf. 2 Corinthians 7:11 Thessalonians 3:10), but the desire to do the will of God will be ever present in true believers.

Romans 7 is the classic text describing the believer’s struggle with his sinful flesh, and in that passage Paul acknowledged his changed attitude to sin despite the ongoing struggle. He wrote that the desire to do good was his consuming passion as a believer:

I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. (Romans 7:15)

The willing [to do good] is present in me. (Romans 7:18)

I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man. (Romans 7:22)

I myself with my mind am serving the law of God. (Romans 7:25)

Although the apostle Paul described himself as the “foremost” of sinners (1 Timothy 1:15), those who love reveling in debauchery will not find a kindred spirit with him.

Read the rest here.

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.

Shoe Leather

Shoe Leather

By Pat Knight

How long could we wear one pair of sandals before the construction or materials deteriorate? Since the 1950’s the garment industry has manufactured what has become known as disposable clothing. Due to its lower production costs and cheaper materials, a substantial amount of our clothing is considered dispensable after a season. The concept of shoes and clothing with lifetime endurance is a foreign idea.

“During the forty years that I led you through the desert, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5). When the Israelites wandered in the wilderness, their sandals and clothing were supernaturally preserved by God for four decades. From the very beginning of the wilderness journey, God delivered food from heaven with explicit directions of how to gather and prepare it. This sustenance became known as manna, a daily provision of balanced dietary nutrients the Israelites ate for the next forty years.

Peter Jenkins, author of Walk Across America and The Walk West, walked from the east to the west coast of the continental United States from 1973-1979. During his prolonged walk, he wore out thirty-two pair of boots. He also wore threadbare a pair of sneakers in just eleven days while journeying across rugged terrain.

Walking over rough ground erodes shoe leather from the exterior as perspiration deteriorates interior shoe components. Walking with a broken down pair of shoes can be dangerous. When all support from within the shoes is diminished, back and hip pain may result. A flopping sole could cause one to trip and fall.

God eliminated any health hazard from ill-fitting, worn-out sandals during the Israeli’s wilderness walk by miraculously preserving their footwear. During their forty year march, the wandering Israelites wore the same pair of sandals and outfit of clothing, ate only the food God distributed every morning, and were protected from communicable diseases that could have swept through the camp of millions of people, devastating their population. “Remember how the Lord your God led you all the way in the desert these forty years, to humble you and to test you in order to know what was in your heart, whether or not you would keep His commands” (Deuteronomy 8:2). 

God established a covenant with His people, explained by an “if-then” formula. When the Israelites obeyed God, He blessed them; if they disobeyed, then God punished them. There were consequences for their actions. God “has watched over your journey through this vast desert. These forty years the Lord your God has been with you, and you have not lacked anything” (Deuteronomy 2:7). In response, the people consistently disobeyed and broke the covenant they established with God. Sadly, they suffered the consequences.

In Genesis 14, we learn of the first recorded war in the Bible. When Abram was alerted that his nephew, Lot, had been captured by an alliance of rulers from surrounding countries, Abram amassed a small army from his household members to rescue Lot. With only 318 fighting men for his cause, Abram was greatly outnumbered. But, due to God’s help Abram developed military strategy that freed Lot along with all of the other captives. He then confiscated all the booty plundered by the enemy forces from the city of Sodom.

Following the victory, the King of Sodom generously offered Abram all of the spoils of battle. Abram refused the gift, explaining that he had sworn an oath to God not to accept any of the plunder from the battle. Abram’s only desire was to save Lot and praise God for the victory.

If Abram refused to accept the booty, the King of Sodom would be unable to claim any responsibility later for any portion of Abram’s riches. He wanted to give God total credit for any wealth he attained. Abram was completely obedient and for His loyalty and worship, and God rewarded him. Abram was eighty-five years old when God announced His plan to give him a son as his heir. God then took Abram outside to gaze at the stars, He promised, “So shall your offspring be” (Genesis 15:5). God later confirmed His promise to Abram: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17). It would be difficult to gain an inheritance that exceeded the generosity of God.

Abram’s obedience was the compliance God expected from the children of Israel for whom He supplied all material possessions during their wilderness wanderings. God wanted His people to know that whatever wealth they eventually accumulated in the Promised Land would not occur as a result of their own efforts, lest their hearts swelled with pride and they forgot how God miraculously provided for them. Due to His provisions during their walk, it was obvious only God possessed the ability to feed, clothe, and maintain the health of His people. God wanted them to be constantly reminded of His love and faithfulness.

“I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God” (Deuteronomy 29:6b). The Lord was testing His people’s obedience; most of the time it was lacking.

God desires to interact in our lives as much as He was fully involved with the children of Israel. He cared for His people when they were wandering in the wilderness just as He promises victorious journeys to us in this current age. Whenever our Lord provides answers to prayers, protects us from harm, or performs a miracle in our lives, it is for the foremost purpose of shining His light in a dark world to bring glory to His name.

The Israelites didn’t need a change of clothes or shoes; neither of them deteriorated for forty years. What miracles God performed in His children’s lives! It is His desire to do the same for us, to be intimately involved in every aspect of our lives. After all, aren’t we all wandering through this wilderness of life? It is best to travel with God’s guidance and provisions. “My God will meet all of your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:19). Depend on His promises, for they are vast!

Jesus the Son of God—Part 3

Sharing Part 3 of this series today from Unlocking the Bible. You can read Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 3

By Colin Smith

It is important to observe that “Son of God” when it is applied to Jesus means something quite different from “sons of God” elsewhere in Scripture (e.g., Job 1:6; Mat. 5:9; Rom. 8:14). So how is Jesus’ identity as the Son of God unique?

Our Lord refers to himself as the Son
“No one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him” (Mat. 11:27).

The Scriptures refer to Jesus as the only Son
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

There is a great difference between the sonship of Jesus, who has always been the Son of God by nature, and the way in which we become the children of God through adoption by grace: “To all who did receive him … he gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12).

Read the rest here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 2

Sharing Part 2 of this series today from Unlocking the Bible. You can read Part 1 here.

Jesus the Son of God—Part 2

By Colin Smith

“Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” Luke 2:49

In these first recorded words of Jesus, he speaks of God as “my Father.”

Jesus spoke about God as his Father in a way that was quite different from the way any worshiper would speak of God. This difference was quite clear to the Jewish leaders who heard Jesus speak. John tells us that they wanted to kill Jesus because he was “calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18).

There is a special intimacy about the way Jesus addresses God as his Father. We see it in the Garden of Gethsemane: “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will” (Mat. 26:39). And we see it when he is nailed to the cross: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34).

Read the rest here.