Counting on Mercy in Suffering

Sharing today from from UnlockingTheBible.org.

Counting on Mercy in Suffering

By Lianna Davis

From the pits of grief and suffering, the human heart and soul can yearn to know the cause of earthly pain. Did a particular sin bring this suffering upon me, or did I need discipline?

Tender answers might pour into the soul from Scripture—Job was a noble man who suffered and grieved (Job 1:8). And the man born blind in John’s gospel was not provided by Jesus with a personal sin corresponding to his pain (John 9:2-3). We cannot always draw straight lines between cause and effect for our individual suffering (Isaiah 55:9). In How Long, O Lord?: Reflections on Suffering and Evil, D. A. Carson writes,

It is the uncertainty of reading what is going on that sometimes breeds pain. Is the particular blow I am facing God’s way of telling me to change something? Or is it a form of discipline designed to toughen me or soften me to make me more useful? Or is it part of the heritage of all sons and daughters of Adam who live this side of the parousia, unrelated to discipline but part of God’s mysterious providence in a fallen world? But must we always decide? If a little self-examination shows us how to improve, we ought to improve. But there are times when all that the Christian can responsibly do is to trust his heavenly Father in the midst of the darkness and pain. (Carson 66)

“Must we always decide?” We can heed Carson to welcome needed growth in obedience that “a little self-examination” uncovers. Yet, he also warns that our inability to understand the full purposes of God behind our suffering can cause us sorrow on top of sorrow.

Draw Near to the Merciful Savior

While we sit in the mysteries of God’s providence, there is a promise we can be certain of. It’s a theme Carson repeats throughout his book: “From the biblical perspective, it is because of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed” (Carson 44).

As I grow to have a higher and higher view of God being God—creating and owning me, being pure and dwelling in unapproachable light, and deserving of my unwavering devotion and holy fear, I am increasingly unable to view any of my sins as insignificant or any of my fleshly contributions as meaningful. This principle Carson writes of has been crucial for me, especially in the seat of suffering.

Read the rest here.

God’s Greatest Miracles Happen in and Around Us All the Time

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

God’s Greatest Miracles Happen in and Around Us
All the Time

By Randy Alcorn

Recently I listened to John Piper answer the question, “Why Do We See So Few Miracles Today?” on his Ask Pastor John podcast.

His answer is great. It also got me thinking about something else I would add to what John says: that visible miracles are reminders of the reality of greater invisible miracles, which in fact are happening all the time as God regenerates hard human hearts. Hence, God is doing far more miracles than we realize. That’s what this blog is about.

The Costly Miracle of a New Heart

Our Lord transforming human hearts, through stunning acts done daily around the globe, is every bit as miraculous as Jesus transforming water into wine. In fact, these redemptive acts make the dividing of the Red Sea, the falling walls of Jericho, and the raising of Lazarus from the dead actually pale in comparison. Is that an overstatement? No, because the greatest physical miracles cost our all-powerful God nothing, but the miracles of salvation, sanctification, and glorification cost the very life of God’s Son.

God gives us a new heart (Ezekiel 36:26), makes us new in Christ (Ephesians 4:24), and changes our destiny from death to life, from Hell to Heaven (John 5:24). He takes drug-addicts, sex-addicts, pride-addicts, gossip-addicts, and every variety of sin-addict and works a transforming miracle in us.

As we yield our wills to Him daily, He provides yet another series of sanctifying miracles for us, so that cumulatively, if we have eyes to see, we’ll realize there have been thousands of intervening miracles of grace in just our own lives, and countless millions more in the lives of others. (For more on this, see The Wonderful Miracle of Conversion.)

When God drew me to faith in Christ, as a 15 year old, my life changed radically. One of the hundreds of verses I memorized was this one: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5:17). And the only explanation of this was nothing less than miraculous. As the next verse says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself…” (v. 18). Miracles are things which God does that cannot be explained by natural processes or human actions. Hence every true conversion—which is not the same as every outward profession—is by definition a miracle.

God’s Miraculous, Empowering Grace

Often when someone dies it’s said, “We prayed for a miracle, but for some reason God chose not to answer.” I understand this, and indeed it’s true that God sometimes doesn’t perform the miracle we asked for.

When that’s the case, I think we would do well to realize this: “While he didn’t perform the miracle we asked for, He performed many other miracles of grace and encouragement, inspiration and comfort, personal transformation and increased dependence on Jesus, worship and deepened relationships, faithfulness and perseverance, empowerment, and open doors of evangelism…and almost certainly many other miracles we don’t yet know of but one day will. And some—perhaps many—of those miracles happened because the miracle we prayed for didn’t.” (See “If I Have Enough Faith, Will God Heal Me?”)

Read the rest here.

When I’m dealing with disappointment…

It’s been quite awhile since I’ve shared one of my devotionals that was published in Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleThis particular devotional is included in the section titled “Prayers of Supplication.”

When I’m dealing with disappointment . . .

Unrelenting disappointment leaves you heartsick, 
but a sudden good break can turn life around. 
—Proverbs 13:12 MSG

 

Without counsel purposes are disappointed:
but in the multitude of counsellors they are established. 

—Proverbs 15:22 KJV

 

You heard their cries for help and saved them; 
they were never disappointed when they sought your aid. 
—Psalm 22:5 TLB

 

We know that all things work together for good for those who 
love God, who are called according to his purpose. 
—Romans 8:28 NRSV

 

Why then be downcast? Why be discouraged and sad?
Hope in God! I shall yet praise him again. Yes, I shall again 

praise him for his help. 
—Psalm 42:5 TLB

 

. . . I will pray.

My Loving Father,

If only I hadn’t gotten my hopes up, but I did—and now I feel so disappointed and discouraged. Sometimes I wonder if anything will ever work out for me. Everybody keeps telling me it’s just a little bump in the road, but it doesn’t feel like a bump to me. It feels as I’ve gone off the road completely.

I know I’m probably overreacting, and I also know that I probably wouldn’t be feeling this way right now if I had taken time to talk to You about this situation in the beginning. Would You have steered me in another direction? Or allowed me to move ahead for some higher purpose in my life? I’ll probably never have an answer to that. The point is that I didn’t give You a chance to help me see things from Your perspective.

Lord, take this disappointment I’m feeling and transform it into something positive—a reminder to seek Your guidance; a renewed sense of Your presence with me when things work out and when they don’t; and compassion for others when they feel hopeless and disappointed.

Thank You for being the God of second chances.

Amen.

There is no disappointment to those whose wills are 
buried in the will of God. 
—Frederick Faber


[From Anytime Prayers for Everyday People. Copyright © 2006 Bordon-Winters LLC

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

Shared from Unlocking the Bible.

Let’s Talk About Your Worry

by Eden Parker

Yep, we’re gonna talk about worry. You’ve heard the command:

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life… (v. 25)

But a good friend of mine told me to always ask, “What’s the therefore there for?” What was said before this to birth Matthew’s imperative? Earlier in the chapter, we read, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (6:21) and, “No one can serve two masters” (6:24). God in his Word has reminded us that he is our Father and Master, and out of this reality we find the command to live free of anxiety.

When we labor for the Lord, it’s not a part-time employment—he’s the Master. When we fight for the Lord, it’s not a temporary deployment (2 Timothy 2:4)—he’s the King. But one of the ways Christians side-step service to the King and dishonor his Lordship is by worrying.

We know this deadly enemy by our fret and sweat, the jitters, the “oh-no!”s about tomorrow, the thoughts surrounding events that make our palms sweat and elevate our heart rates. But really, worry is our heart’s response to a deeply rooted belief that we are our own master; a deeply felt responsibility that we are our own king; and a deep craving to meet our own needs.

I read Matthew 6, and I write now to admonish my own failure. There are four things, among many more, we can learn about the root of worry—what’s really going on in our heart—from this passage. As we consider God’s Word, I pray he works in us both to put to death this sin in our heart.

Four Things That Happen When You Worry

1. You have disordered priorities.

Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? (v. 25, emphasis added)

Life is more than the sum of solutions to the things we worry about. What things does God warn us not to worry over? Food, drink, clothes, our body. These are real needs, but they’re not worth one minute of faithless fretting.

Read the rest here.

The Secret of Being #Content

I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty.
I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation,
whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want.

I can do everything through him who gives me strength.

—Philippians 4:12-13

Are we really content or do we pine away for what we don’t have but think we need? How can we find true contentment? I believe the answer lies in our perspective, our priorities, and our source of power.

Perspective

We are a tiny speck in God’s grand design, but He can see the bigger picture and knows everything that is going to happen to us before we ever do!

I know of a writer who suddenly became quite ill. It took some time for the doctors to diagnose her illness and then she suffered through a long recovery period. During all of this, she never gave up. She firmly believed God would carry her through. In fact, she found contentment in her situation and praised God for granting her that period of rest and recuperation. She could have bemoaned her circumstances and blamed God for it, but instead she chose to use the time to get closer to Him.

Afterward she said she could not wait to get back to her writing because she really had some great things to put down on paper based on what God had revealed to her while she was ill. What a good example of how we can turn something bad into something positive! She exhibited a peace and contentment that transcends all earthly understanding.

Priorities

Is God at the very top of our list of priorities? If we believe that God created all things, why can’t we remember that He can also guide us in all things?

God wants only the best for His children and He reveals this to us in many ways. His love and care for us are evident as He works in us through the people in our lives, and through the Bible, prayer, the church, and the circumstances of our lives.

How many times have we heard (and perhaps even said ourselves), “Why is God letting this happen? Why didn’t He do anything to stop it?” Suppose your child is fighting the ravaging effects of leukemia, or you go into work one day only to find you’ve been laid off. Where is God and how can we find contentment in situations such as these?

As so often happens, the Lord wants to see where our priorities lie. Have we just been giving lip service to our faith and trust in God to provide for our needs, or do we really believe this? It is sometimes difficult, but that trust is another kind of contentment—knowing God will take care of us and resting in that knowledge without worrying about the outcome.

Power

What is the source of our power? Do we turn first to God for help or do we try to solve the problem ourselves? We can do nothing on our own. It is only through the strength of Jesus Christ that we can find any kind of strength at all!

If you’re anything like me, you have struggled with an unruly shopping cart more times than you can remember The first inclination is to fight the rebellious cart, trying to “bend” it to your will—in other words, trying to make it move straight ahead instead of sideways. Usually we finally give up and exchange the stubborn cart for another one, hoping the second one will be easier to steer.

Isn’t this similar to how we oftentimes react to God’s power in our lives? When He tries to show us the error of our ways in a particular situation, we dig in our heels and pretend there’s no problem. We might even turn away from God’s guidance. But when we finally allow God to do His work in our lives, there is a contented and peaceful heart after that struggle with what we know is right.

The more we seek the Lord, the more faithful He is to grant us the emotional means to deal with our lives. True contentment is when we are in stressful situation but remain calm and at peace because we know He is with us no matter what.

God Never Slumbers or Sleeps

Sharing today from Unlocking the Bible.

God Never Slumbers
or Sleeps

by Austin Bonds

I recently came across a tweet by Matt Smethurst, Managing Editor of The Gospel Coalition, quoting Mary Crowley: “Every evening I turn my worries over to God. He’s going to be up all night anyway.”

I wouldn’t be surprised if Crowley’s words are based on Psalm 121:3-4. The psalmist writes,“He will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.”

Psalm 121 is a bold word for the weary. “I lift up my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come? My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth,” the writer declares at the outset (v.1).

While every follower of Jesus can turn to this short song for clarity and strength in times of uncertainty, it takes on fresh significance for new parents who find sleep elusive and fatigue as commonplace as dirty diapers.

Three hopeful observations about God’s character emerge from Psalm 121.

Three Observations About God’s Character from Psalm 121

1. He’s an Able Helper

The psalmist says that our help is from the one “who made heaven and earth” (v.2). God is able. God is capable; and he is waiting for us to let go of the prideful urge to “go at it” alone, and call out to him in prayer for strength.

But how does God practically help us? Supernatural aid comes from the intercession of the Holy Spirit. He prays for us to faithfully endure during seasons of weakness (Romans 8:26-27). Help also comes from a spouse dealing with their own exhaustion, who is willing to strengthen their marriage by serving their beloved through sacrificial love (I Corinthians 16:14, 1 Corinthians 13:7, 1 John 3:16). And it comes from family members and friends who graciously offer to babysit so lethargic parents can recoup some lost shuteye.

In short, between the holy Trinity, a spouse, and family and friends, this collective cloud of witnesses (Hebrews 12:1) surrounding new parents is substantial help delivered down from God on high.

Read the rest here.

The #JOY of #HOPE in the Lord {Reblog}

2016 was the year of JOY for me. 2017 has been all about HOPE. Today’s post is about how JOY ties in so closely with HOPE.

What is true JOY? Charles Spurgeon describes it this way:

 “The JOY OF HOPE—who shall measure it? Those who are strangers to it are certainly strangers to the SWEETEST MATTER in spiritual life. With the exception of present communion with Christ, the JOY of a believer in this present state must be mainly the JOY OF HOPE.

“It does not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him just as He is (OUR HOPE),” (1 John 3:2) We thank God that we shall be satisfied when we wake up (from the sleep of death) in the likeness of Jesus! This ANTICIPATION (HOPE) of Heaven makes (the hurt of) earth become endurable! And the sorrows of time lose their weight when we think of the “far more exceeding and eternal weight of Glory (Our future HOPE). (2 Corinthians 4:17)”

Recently I’ve been contemplating the phrase Quality of Life. Here are some of the definitions of Quality of Life, also referred to as QOL:

Wikipedia: is the general well-being of individuals and societies. QOL has a wide range of contexts, including the fields of international development, healthcare, politics and employment. Quality of life should not be confused with the concept of standard of living, which is based primarily on income. Instead, standard indicators of the quality of life include not only wealth and employment but also the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging.

The Free Dictionary: Noun, quality of life- your personal satisfaction (or dissatisfaction) with the cultural or intellectual conditions under which you live (as distinct from material comfort); “the new art museum is expected to improve the quality of life” gratification, satisfaction – state of being gratified or satisfied; “dull repetitious work gives no gratification”; “to my immense gratification he arrived on time” [Based on WordNet 3.0, Farlex clipart collection. © 2003-2012 Princeton University, Farlex Inc.]

Medicinet.com: The patient’s ability to enjoy normal life activities. Quality of life is an important consideration in medical care. Some medical treatments can seriously impair quality of life without providing appreciable benefit, whereas others greatly enhance quality of life.

BusinessDictionary.com: Daily living enhanced by wholesome food and clean air and water, enjoyment of unfettered open spaces and bodies of water, conservation of wildlife and natural resources, security from crime, and protection from radiation and toxic substances. It may also be used as a measure of the energy and power a person is endowed with that enable him or her to enjoy life and prevail over life’s challenges irrespective of the handicaps he or she may have.

As you can see, there are differing opinions on what quality of life actually means. Some people use it as a measurement of how happy and fulfilled a person is. Others think of it as a way to gauge how someone can enjoy life in spite of physical handicaps or limitations. And many others consider it to be an indication of how much people have overcome in order to enjoy their life no matter what obstacles they face.

Where is God in all of this?

“The world is filled with people trying to adjust to the pain, trying to deal with life without total collapse, break down, burn out, hopelessness, fear, apathy or just giving up. And all of that really is a matter of learning how to endure. And that’s our key word this morning because the passage in front of us gives us the secrets to endurance…the secrets to endurance. How can we endure the pain of life? The profound difficulty of life? The great disappointments, broken dreams, broken bodies, broken homes, broken lives, broken relationships? How can we handle all of that? How can we face life like the Apostle Paul did who said back in verse 8 of this chapter, “We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but not destroyed”? How can we live like that? How can we be so triumphant?” —John MacArthur, GraceToYou.org

So, how can we think more like Paul? Is it possible to be afflicted and still triumphant? I have shared with you before that I live with several chronic pain illnesses. Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome and chronic migraine plague me every single day. Some days are worse than others, but I can honestly count on one hand the number of pain-free days I have had in the last 15 years and still have fingers left over. And yet I still have more JOY than I ever thought possible.

To me, the HOPE of JOY = the JOY of HOPE.

I do not think we can have one without the other because each produces the other. For example, I can have the HOPE of JOY because . . .

I know that my redeemer lives, and that in the end he will stand on the earth and after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes— I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!
—Job 19:25-27, NIV

And I can also have the JOY of HOPE because of this . . .

May the God who gives endurance and encouragement give you the same attitude of mind toward each other that Christ Jesus had, so that with one mind and one voice you may glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. May the God of HOPE fill you with all JOY and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with HOPE by the power of the Holy Spirit.
—Romans 15:5-6, 13, NIV

Beloved, don’t you see? It doesn’t matter what is happening in our lives as long as we continue to hang our HOPE on our Savior. That thought alone produces so much JOY that it is impossible to stay down or depressed about our circumstances for long.

Choose JOY!

Yes, JOY is a choice that we make every single day. If we have invited Jesus Christ into our hearts as our Savior and Lord, then we have the certain HOPE of everlasting life in heaven with Him. And if we have that certain HOPE, how can we be anything but JOYFUL, no matter what our circumstances?

My Redeemer lives!

Please enjoy this video of Nicole C. Mullin singing one of my favorite and comforting songs, “My Redeemer Lives.” I know it will fill you with as much HOPE and JOY as it does me!

If for any reason you cannot view the video, read the lyrics here.


[Emphasis on the words HOPE and JOY are mine]