The Hope That Does Not Disappoint

We can REJOICE, too, when we run into problems and trials,
for we know that they help us develop endurance.

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 5:3-5, NLT

Is it really possible to rejoice in our sufferings? I don’t know about you, but I sometimes moan and groan instead of rejoicing. I am klutzy by nature and tend to do things that cause pain. A few years ago I got out of the passenger side of our truck at church and backed up while trying to keep hold of my Bible. Unfortunately, I couldn’t pay attention to both my Bible and my steps at the same time and tripped backward on a piece of wood that was sticking up as a marker for our parking lot. I fell down hard, whacking the back of my head on the gravel. We never did make it to the worship service because Rick had to take me to the ER for some staples in my noggin. 

Last week I did almost the same thing as I backed away from our mail carrier’s car while laden with packages. I completely forgot that the concrete driveway right behind me is about 2 inches higher than our rock landscaped front yard. Down I went onto the rock but somehow I remembered to keep my head up so I wouldn’t hit it hard on the rocks again. I don’t recall rolling to my right side but in the process managed to bruise my right elbow and hip. Sigh… it’s not easy being me at times. I can’t say I was rejoicing after those spills, but I did thank God that I was not hurt worse. 

I tend to be quite optimistic, but what is there to rejoice about when you wake up with the same pain you had when you went to bed last night? When I rest my aching head on my pillow while trying to ignore the various aches and pains that plague me, I still hope to wake up without any pain at all. However, the nature of chronic pain is that it is almost always there in one form or other plus add to that the extreme exhaustion of ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome)  that has decided to stay with me at all the times now. 

Beloved, please believe me when I say there is hope for those of us who feel like things will never get better. We have a hope that transcends anything here on earth and that hope lies in the fact that Jesus Christ paid the penalty for our sins, ensuring eternal life for all who believe. Even though our earthly bodies may suffer, we have the assurance that our heavenly bodies will experience no pain … ever.

How’s that for the hope that doesn’t disappoint? In spite of how I used to react to such things, I have been purposely trying to hold on to that hope as I persevere through the pain I live with during the short time I am here on earth. Compared to living in heaven for eternity, my time here is thankfully very limited. I live in hopeful anticipation of a pain-free eternity with my LORD and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Prayer: Heavenly Father, what would I do without the promise of Your hope? Help me to remember that through my trials I can develop the kind of character that leads to the hope that does not disappoint. May I always be found faithful to lean on Your strength for help in my earthly suffering. You are great and greatly to be praised! Amen.

They Sang a New Song

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

They Sang a New Song: Charles Spurgeon’s Reflections on the Heavenly Hymn in Revelation 5

By Randy Alcorn

In a sermon on “The Heavenly Singers and Their Song,” Charles Spurgeon wrote this:

“They sang a new song, saying, ‘Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth’” (Revelation 5:9-10). I must take away the poetry for a moment and just deal with the doctrines of this heavenly hymn.

The first doctrine is that Christ is put in the front; His deity is affirmed. They sing, “Worthy are you.” A strong-winged angel speeds his way over Earth and Heaven and down the deep places of the universe, crying with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll?” (Revelation 5:2). But no answer comes, for no creature is worthy. Then came One of whom the church cries in its song, “Worthy are you.”

Yes, beloved, He is worthy of all the praise and honor we can bring to Him. He is worthy to be called equal with God; He Himself is God, very God of very God. And no man can sing this song, or ever will sing it, unless he believes Christ to be true deity and accepts Him as his Lord and God.

Next, the doctrine of this hymn is that the whole church delights in the mediation of Christ. Notice that it was when He had taken the scroll that they said, “Worthy are you to take the scroll” (Revelation 5:9). To have Christ standing between God and man is the joy of every believing heart. We could never reach up to God except that Christ has come to bridge the distance between us. He places one hand on man and the other upon God. He is the mediator who can lay His hand upon both, and the church greatly rejoices in this.

Remember that even the working of providence is not apart from the mediation of Christ. I rejoice in this, that if the thunders be let loose, if plagues and deaths around us fly, the child of God is still under the mediator’s protection. No harm shall happen to the chosen, for Jesus always guards us. All power is given unto Him in Heaven and in Earth, and the church rejoices in His role as mediator.

But now notice: in the church’s song, what is her reason for believing that Christ is worthy to be a mediator? The church says, “Worthy are you . . . for you were slain” (Revelation 5:9). Ah, beloved, when Christ undertook to be her mediator, this was the extreme point to which His pledge to be her substitute could carry Him—to be slain! Jesus is never more glorious than in His death. His substitutionary atonement is the culmination of His glory, as it was the very utmost depth of His shame. Beloved, we rejoice in our mediator because He died.

A thing that is redeemed belonged originally to the person who redeems it, and the redeemed of the Lord were always His. “Yours they were,” said Christ, “and you gave them to me” (John 17:6). They always were God’s. You cannot go and redeem a thing that does not belong to you. You may buy it, but you cannot redeem it. Now that which belonged originally to God became indebted through sin. We, having sinned, came under the curse of the law. And though God still held to it that we were His, we were yet under this embargo: sin had a claim upon us.

Christ came and saw His own, and He knew that they were His own. He asked what there was to pay to redeem them, to restore His ownership. It was His heart’s blood, His life, Himself that was required. He paid the price and redeemed them, and we tonight sing, “By your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth” (Revelation 5:9-10).

He has, by redeeming us, separated us to Himself and made us a holy people, bought with blood in a special sense out of all the rest of mankind.

This redemption is the grounds for the distinction of God’s holy people: “By your blood you ransomed people for God” (Revelation 5:9).

God never wearies of the precious blood, nor will His ­people who know where their salvation lies. They do not, even in Heaven, say that it is a dreadful word to mention. I heard a man the other day say of a certain minister, “Oh! We want another minister; we are tired of this man. He is always talking so much about the blood.” In the last great day, God will be tired of the man who made that speech.

Read the rest here.

Trapped in My Own Mind – Three Lies Depression Loves

Today I’m sharing from Set Apart.

Trapped in My Own Mind –
Three Lies Depression Loves

By

I can’t live like this anymore!” I cried through sobs. “I just want to die!”

I sat on my bed and tried to make sense of what was going on inside. I was tired of the chronic pain, the frequent bouts of illness, and the weariness of dealing with my kids’ struggles. But what broke me was the torture of being a prisoner in my own mind. It took everything in me just to keep breathing, while part of me wished my breathing would just stop.

Oh, how I longed to be with Jesus — free from my aching body and broken mind. But I knew deep within me that my life was not my own and that the Lord must have a purpose for these days.

Constant Cloud

Zack Eswine captured my own inner reality — the constant cloud of depression — in his book Spurgeon’s Sorrows,

Painful circumstances . . . put on their muddy boots and stand thick, full weighted and heavy upon our tired chests. It is almost like anxiety tying rope around the ankles and hands of our breath. Tied to a chair, with the lights out, we sit swallowing in panic the dark air.

These kinds of circumstances . . . steal the gifts of divine love too, as if all of God’s love letters and picture albums are burning up in a fire just outside the door, a fire which we are helpless to stop. We sit there, helpless in the dark of divine absence, tied to this chair, present only to ash and wheeze, while all we hold dear seems lost forever. We even wonder if we’ve brought this all on ourselves. It’s our fault. God is against us. (18)

Depression can cloud our view of God, weigh down our spirits, distort reality, and tempt us to question all that we’ve known to be true. Sometimes, our depression is due to circumstances that have pounded us, wave upon wave, until we can no longer hold our heads above the water. Other times, it comes as a result of illness, as Charles Spurgeon writes, “You may be without any real reason for grief, and yet may be among the most unhappy of men because, for the time, your body has conquered your soul” (“The Saddest Cry from the Cross”).

In Good Company

If you have experienced this kind of darkness, you are in good company. Job, after initially responding with faith in the immediate aftermath of his loss, suddenly found himself walking in the valley of despair as his suffering continued:

“When I say, ‘My bed will comfort me, my couch will ease my complaint,’ then you scare me with dreams and terrify me with visions, so that I would choose strangling and death rather than my bones. I loathe my life; I would not live forever. Leave me alone, for my days are a breath.” (Job 7:13–16)

I thank God that he gives us a glimpse into the darkest days of Job’s life. Job’s story assures us that we aren’t alone in our battle with despair, and it offers us perspective when we struggle to feel God’s presence on our darkest days. Whether we are battling depression or trying to encourage someone who is, we must remember three truths in the face of depression’s lies.

1. Depression does not mean God is punishing you.

It’s easy to believe that our despair is a sign of God’s displeasure. Though at times we may feel the heavy hand of God upon us in order to draw us into repentance (Psalm 32:3–4), depression often fills our minds with lies, tempting us to believe that our feelings are an accurate reflection of our relationship with Christ.

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

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.

Power Tool

Power Tool

By Pat Knight

If you were asked to identify the most precious, on-going blessings in your life, would prayer be the preeminent item on your list? Prayer is a spiritual gift that underpins all others. The ability to communicate with the Creator of the entire universe is an unprecedented privilege.

When Jesus lived on earth, people swarmed around Him constantly to listen to His astonishing messages and to observe miracles. To relax and refresh, Jesus spent time conversing with His heavenly Father. “Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed” (Mark 1:35). If Jesus required the renewal and serenity inherent in prayer, how much more we need a sovereign boost of energy. Jesus teaches us the mental and physical benefits of relaxing as we seek the peace our Lord offers.

Conversation requires talking and listening. Such is the posture of prayer. Listening is an active art. To listen well, we must concentrate to eliminate distractions. “When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to the Father, who is in heaven. And, there your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you” (Matthew 6:6, 18). The emphasis is talking to God in private.

I am going into my closet to talk with you, God. Quite possibly that closet may be only as far as behind my eyelids, while scrubbing in the shower, or when driving distances alone in the vehicle. God is pleased when we choose a quiet, undisturbed place where we give Him our undivided attention. He desires to fellowship with us, to accept our praise and adoration, and to hear our needs and concerns. No matter is too small or too large to present to our Lord.

The Greek word for a closet probably indicates the storeroom, for it was the only room in ancient houses that had a door that could be closed, providing privacy. We are instructed to pray as Jesus did. Seek a quiet area where interruptions do not compromise our effort. Distractions easily dissuade us from focusing on God alone. Our human minds easily wander and soon we lose sight of our intent. Satan loves to confuse our prayer efforts; to minimize our devotion and worship of our Lord, the supreme listener.

Though audible, public prayer is appropriate, Jesus mainly instructed His disciples in silent, secret prayer, a one-on-one private conversation between only God and the Christian. In our technological world, there is precious little individual privacy still existing. But, our Lord always keeps our confidence. We can share with Him details of our lives, including emotions we would never dream of divulging to another human.

Beyond secrecy and silence, Jesus commands steadfastness. He requires loyalty, dependability, and unswerving devotion.

Prayer is a power tool entrusted to believers for the benefit of all.

Let us be responsible with the tools with which Jesus equips us, to boldly request God’s miraculous interventions. God “is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond all that we ask or think, according to the power that works within us” (Ephesians 3:20, KJV). The most fantastic scenario our minds are able to contrive cannot equate to the splendiferous answers our Lord provides. Recall the marvelous answers He has furnished in the past and trust Him for the magnificent provisions He will provide to sustain you in the future.

Though God encourages us to request needs for ourselves and others, He is not a magician who jumps to do our bidding, giving us everything we want from a shopping list we present to Him. God’s priority is first of all a close relationship with Him predicated on the forgiveness of sins provided by His Son on the cross of Calvary. Prior to Christ’s sacrifice there was a wide chasm, an impasse between the Creator and the creature. When Jesus atoned for our sins, lavishing us with His redeeming grace, the abyss was closed forever, permitting communication with God the Father and God the Son.

At its most basic form, prayer is talking with God. We often complicate God’s commands with self-made rules when our heavenly Father wants us to follow the guideline established by Jesus. “Let us approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16). Although we are encouraged to pray with boldness and confidence, we are to extend reverence and awe when speaking to God.

Our Lord already knows the thoughts of our minds, but He desires that we personally express them to Him. “For your Father knows what you need before you ask him (Matthew 6:8b). Intercessory prayer is our privilege of presenting the needs of others to Jesus. We are commanded to “Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2). The willingness to help others with a selfless attitude is the hallmark of a Christian.

Christ is the conduit through whom our intercessions are made known to the Father. Prayer was conceived by God, made acceptable by the sacrifice of the pure Son of God, and is expressed for us by the Holy Spirit. All three personalities of the Deity participate in the important mechanism of prayer. The Holy Spirit teaches us God’s Word; the Son of God opens the pathway to prayer; God accepts our prayers in Christ’s behalf.

Prayer is a privilege; prayer is powerful; prayer is a problem-solver. The results of prayer are phenomenal! We converse with God in prayer and He speaks to us through His Word.

In the deepest of our being where our thoughts emerge, be open and frank, expressing doubts and worries. Dare to share dreams and aspirations. If our respectful minds form the words, then those thoughts are acceptable to God. It has been said that prayer is more an attitude of life than an action of the lips. Prayer is a healthy habit to develop. Soon, habits repeated transform to an integral part of one’s life.

We are commanded to “Pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17). With the power tool of prayer in hand and praise in our hearts, let us prioritize walking the pathways of continual prayer. We will then be the beneficiaries of one of the most precious interactive gifts available anywhere on earth!