Search for One

Search for One

By Pat Knight

Mink do not usually expose themselves to humans, especially during daylight hours. One splendid, warm, summer day there were seven of us engaged in activities near the lake. While our three young grandsons were captivated fishing, the adults glimpsed a sleek, black, lithe creature slithering its way around the children’s sandal-clad feet on the dock. Our son commanded his boys to stand motionless, using only their eyes to observe the bizarre oddity of nature. 

The wet, glistening mink investigated the boy’s footgear and wet socks draped on a rock to dry. The mink’s nose never stopped sniffing, as it wove its body among every human foot firmly planted on the dock. Its conical snout, incessantly wriggling, was on a mission. What was bothering the mink so much that it would voluntarily wander among the enemy? We talked quietly. Then the mink slinked away as quickly as it had appeared. Our activity resumed in slow motion. The boys continued to fish, as they cast a wary eye in the direction of the intruder, wondering if it would return.

Soon, mother mink emerged, this time on a new quest. She had previously disappeared into the rocks near the shoreline, to the left of the dock, probably the location of her den. Now, with a limp kit helplessly dangling from her mouth, mama mink hastily scampered across the dock, without stopping to socialize, and plunged into the water, bound for the cribwork on the opposite side of the dock. There she remained with her kit, in an area her instincts told her would be much safer than their last home, far out of range of human activity. We weren’t privileged to see the mother mink or her kit again. Their short performance was astonishing, albeit, entertaining.

Jesus told a parable to His disciples: “Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, ‘Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep.’ I tell you that in the same way there is more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine who do not need to repent” (Luke 15:3-7).

Jesus taught truths using familiar objects his audience could understand. One hundred sheep comprised a typical modest flock for a shepherd of that day. Shepherds often worked in teams, so it would not be irresponsible for one shepherd to leave ninety-nine sheep safely in the open field for his companions to oversee. The shepherds would not take the remainder of their herd home until the lost lamb was found.

Throughout Scripture, Jesus is portrayed as the Good Shepherd; believers are His individual sheep or His collective flock. Sheep are without direction in life. They must be led to good grazing grounds and protected from danger. They are passive animals, unequipped to find their own food or to fight predators. A good shepherd supplies his sheep’s needs.

The picture we see in Jesus’ parable is one of the Good Shepherd protecting His own. He was willing to leave His glorious throne in heaven to search for the one who is lost. When that person is found, Jesus places His beloved on His shoulders—the place of strength—and rejoins the lost with the rest of His flock. Jesus always rejoices when His people turn to Him for salvation, safety, and guidance throughout life. 

The mother mink protected her one kit, going to great lengths and endangering her life by carrying her offspring past the enemy to safety. If need be, she was willing to fight fiercely for the security of her young. Though the scene of the kit dangling from its mother’s mouth looked pathetic to us, the instinctive submission and obedience of the kit saved its life. Though Jesus handles us much more gently, He requires our posture to be one of complete trust and reliance upon His care, submitting to His will for our lives. “‘I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down,’ declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak … I will shepherd the flock with justice’” (Ezekiel 34:15-16).

When confronting danger, are we willing to put our lives in the hands of the Great Shepherd, who incessantly rescues His wayward children from harm, one individual life at a time? Trust Jesus explicitly, as He readily enfolds you beneath His protective arms and leads you to safety. “The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms” (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Jesus went further than risking His life for our protection. He came to earth with the express goal to die a heinous death of crucifixion: His one perfect life given for mankind, to redeem us from our sins, and to carry us on His shoulders to refuge in heaven for eternity.

“Jesus said, ‘I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep’” (John 10:11). Jesus’ mission on earth was unselfish. He sacrificed His pure, unblemished life to save His sinful children, one-by-one. The Good Shepherd came to secure eternal victory for His wayward ones. Submit to Him, for His plans are always perfect.

The Seven Last Words of Jesus Christ

One of my favorite blogs is Got Questions? Their site has a wealth of good Biblical information, and under the “Ask a Question” tab, you can write out your question for them to answer.

Recently I came across this post that answered the question: “What were the seven last words of Jesus Christ on the cross and what do they mean?

Answer: The seven statements that Jesus Christ made on the cross were (not in any particular order):

(1) Matthew 27:46 tells us that about the ninth hour Jesus cried with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” Here, Jesus was expressing His feelings of abandonment as God placed the sins of the world on Him – and because of that, God had to “turn away” from Jesus. As Jesus was feeling that weight of sin, He was experiencing a separation from God for the only time in all of eternity. This was also a fulfillment of the prophetic statement in Psalm 22:1.

(2) “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Those who crucified Jesus were not aware of the full scope of what they were doing because they did not recognize Him as the Messiah. While their ignorance of divine truth did not mean they deserved forgiveness, Christ’s prayer in the midst of their mocking Him is an expression of the limitless compassion of divine grace.

(3) “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43). In this passage, Jesus is assuring one of the criminals on the cross that when he died, he would be with Jesus in heaven. This was granted because even at the hour of his death, the criminal had expressed his faith in Jesus, recognizing Him for who He was (Luke 23:42).

Read the rest here

The Wonderful #Cross

Have you ever wondered why the day Jesus Christ died such a horrible death is called GOOD Friday? Doesn’t it seem as if it should be the blackest day in history? What can possibly be GOOD about it?

Beloved, Jesus willingly allowed Himself to undergo the horrendous, torturous beatings and then be put to death so that we might live with Him for eternity! This is why it is commemorated as a GOOD day. We are all born as sinners and there is no way we can get to heaven apart from the saving grace and mercy of Jesus Christ’s death on that cross at Calvary. That one death paid the price for us to have the opportunity to be in heaven with Him when we die. 

Yes, we should mourn the death of Jesus Christ because He endured so much on our behalf. But even more, we should celebrate this day as the beginning of mankind’s chance to share in the intimate fellowship with Jesus forever! 

This is our HOPE!

Please enjoy “The Wonderful Cross” by  Chris Tomlin and Matt Redman. Remember and be JOYFUL that Jesus paid it all!

But He was wounded for our transgressions,
He was bruised for our iniquities;
The chastisement for our peace was upon Him,
And by His stripes we are healed.
—Isaiah 53:5

If for whatever reason you cannot view this video, you can read the complete lyrics here.

Live Happily Ever After

Live Happily Ever After

By Pat Knight

As young children, many sat cuddled with a person who read to them from a book of vividly illustrated fairy tales. Though a portion of the stories were frightening, the child snuggled with someone loved and trusted. Fairy tales encompass mystery and danger, the struggle of good and evil, and the triumph of right over wrong. The stories are fictional, interwoven with moral conflict. A hero or heroine is propelled into unsuspecting, treacherous situations, from where a rescuer mysteriously saves the day. The drama is typically summarized: and they all lived happily ever after.

Authors of children’s stories weren’t the first to introduce tales with happy endings. At creation, God embedded the capacity for eternity in every human heart. Each of us was created with the yearning of a future life in heaven. “He {God} has set eternity in the human heart” (Ecclesiastes 3:11). For those who accept Jesus’ gift of salvation, the forgiveness and grace that He secured by His crucifixion and resurrection, our earthly lives will be a mere drop in the bucket of time compared with life everlasting. In that respect, “they lived happily ever after” is realistically and personally applied to those who know Jesus intimately.

Life in heaven will be so incredibly opulent, we have no words in our vocabulary with which to describe it accurately. The Apostle John, personally viewed scenes of heaven, and was charged with recording the details in God’s Word. John often lacked the appropriate words to express sufficiently that which was revealed to him. However, the apostle recorded enough information to cause further longing for life in our heavenly home. God specifies there will be no sadness or suffering there. “He {God} will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In heaven, there will be no hospitals, pharmacies, funeral homes, or homeless shelters; no need for 911 systems, governments, or police. Everyone will be whole and holy; goodness and purity will prevail.

Life in heaven will be so incredibly opulent, we have no words in our vocabulary with which to describe it accurately. The Apostle John, personally viewed scenes of heaven, and was charged with recording the details in God’s Word. John often lacked the appropriate words to express sufficiently that which was revealed to him. However, the apostle recorded enough information to cause further longing for life in our heavenly home. God specifies there is no sadness or suffering there. “He {God} will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4). In heaven, there are no hospitals, pharmacies, funeral homes, or homeless shelters; no need for 911 systems, governments, or police. Everyone is whole and holy; goodness and purity prevail.

Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, reigns in excellence, transcending all the glory, honor, and pageantry we’ve known on earth. “The heavens, even the highest heaven, cannot contain you {God}” (1 Kings 8:27b). Our Lord is confined by neither time nor space. He shall rule supremely forevermore.

Heaven is free of hardship, disease, quarrels, or rivalry. There resides no competition for love or attention. Mankind co-exists in perfect peace. Neither floods nor natural disasters occur. ”The cow will graze near the bear. The cub and the calf will lie down together. The lion will eat hay like a cow. The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra. Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm” (Isaiah 11:7-8). Previously poisonous snakes or ferocious, carnivorous animals, serving as playthings for young children, illustrate the tranquility and safety of our heavenly home.

Only in eternity is the finite capable of comprehending the scope of the infinite.

John heard a voice from the heavenly throne exclaiming, “‘Look! God’s dwelling place is now among believers and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3). To dwell implies more than a residence. It indicates the permanence of settling down, the way God makes His home in the hearts of believers, and fills them with His purpose.

What God has created in heaven will endure forever. The same is true of our resurrected bodies. Even if we were able to discern John’s descriptions explicitly, our earthly vision of heaven would still be unclear. When I was diagnosed with cataracts in both eyes, my vision gradually grew blurry and colors faded in intensity. Directly after one lens was implanted, I was astounded at the brilliance of the world around me. Even on a cloudy spring day, every object grabbed my visual attention. Birch trees were suddenly bright white instead of the washed-out color that had insidiously crept into my field of vision. Patches of sky were no longer gray, but dazzling blue. My vision had been transformed from barren and blurry to reveal a crisp world ablaze before me.

As believers in Jesus Christ, such will be our reaction to heaven after decades of living in a fallen, failing earth among mortals. Heaven is glorious because God is glorious! “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then we will know everything completely just as God now knows me completely” (1 Corinthians 13:12, NLT). Our perception of heaven is at best cloudy, like blurry vision caused by deteriorating lenses. When we gaze upon King Jesus in our heavenly home, our spiritual vision will be amazingly clear, as if scales were peeled away from our eyes. Until that time, God views us through the lens of Christ’s righteousness; His characteristics infused in our lives through His redeeming sacrifice on the cross. In heaven we shall worship and praise our Savior face to face. What a magnificent promise, full of confident expectation, encouragement, and excitement!

We cherish the assurance of a grandiose and pure life in heaven. Only Christ offers everlasting intimacy and security. Jesus, the carpenter from Nazareth, assures, “‘My Father’s house has many rooms; if that were not so, would I have told you that I am going there to prepare a place for you? And if I go there to prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be there where I am ’” (John 14:2-3). Jesus guarantees an eternity of permanence and glory with Him.

Reflect on one event in your life that created the most ecstasy, the one resplendent scenario you love to replay on your mental movie screen. Then multiply the irrepressible joy you experienced, and you will barely reveal heaven’s bliss. In eternity, there are pleasures forevermore, a paradise heretofore unexposed to humanity.

John teaches that there will be no need for artificial light in the holy city. “They need no lamp nor light of the sun, for the Lord God gives them light” (Revelation 22:5). The Light of the World will be the consummate light of Heaven. God’s glory exclusively illuminates every corner.

The foundations of the city are inlaid with precious gems—turquoise, amethyst, emeralds, topaz, rubies, and sapphires. The streets are constructed of transparent gold, and each of the twelve gates of the city consist of singular pearls (Revelation 21:18-21), elegant and splendiferous!

Heaven will be the reward for believers who have faithfully followed Jesus on this earth, honoring the Lamb’s horrific sacrifice on the cross of Calvary, and His glorious resurrection from the dead, to redeem our sins. Our eternal benefits in heaven will far overshadow any hardships we have suffered on earth, for there we will live happily ever after!

Taking a Rest Break

O our God, will You not judge them?
For we have no power against this great multitude
that is coming against us;
nor do we know what to do, but our eyes are upon You.
—2 Chronicles 20:12

Taking a Rest Break

I am very thankful that I have been able to keep up with my blog over the past few months in spite of chronic illnesses that seem to take over my life. The writing contributions by Pat Knight and Tammi Rhoney (our newest contributor) are a huge help and I want to take the opportunity to thank them here from the bottom of my heart. The fact that they also live with chronic pain illnesses and are willing to add their writing to my blog is a huge blessing to me!

Recently I woke up with the words “I don’t know what to do but my eyes are on You” running through my mind. I believe this was God’s way of encouraging me to keep trusting Him in this difficult season of my life, no matter what. 

What others mean to you as evil God promises to use for good. He wastes nothing. —Chuck Swindoll

God wastes nothing. That thought is definitely worth repeating, pondering and praying about. It means that although God allows troubling situations in our lives, He provides us with the strength to live joyfully with those troubles, but more importantly, He helps us comfort others who are going through similar circumstances. 

Beloved, I’ll be back in a couple of weeks and will be praying for all of us who are going through trying times.

Heavenly Father, You are so wise and loving and good to us, and we are ever thankful for Your presence in our lives. Fill us with Your wisdom so that we will know how and when to share Your joyful message of hope and comfort with others who are going through similar things. You are great and greatly to be praised! We honor and glorify You for all that You do in our lives to shape us into the people You want us to be… in You. Thank You for another day in which to praise and honor You! In Jesus’ precious Name I pray this. Amen.

 

Welcome Tammi Rhoney!

I am happy to announce the addition of a new writer to my team. Tammi Rhoney and I met online years ago when we both wrote for the same chronic illness site, as did Pat Knight.

Like me, Tammi lives with ME/CFS (Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), and because she is also homebound much of the time, she appreciates being able to minister to people through her photography. She also writes for a couple of other sites.

Tammi loves Jesus, butterflies, bird watching, photography, sewing and stenciling. Her favorite seasons are spring and fall. She is an avid bird watcher and enjoys taking photos of wildlife and flowers. Tammi and her husband Todd live in North Carolina with Mini, their miniature dachshund.

Be looking for Tammi’s first post in the next couple of weeks!

Welcome to my blog, Tammi! I look forward to sharing your writing with my readers!


Photo credit: Kaitlyn Baker on Unsplash

Victorious Living

Victorious Living

By Pat Knight

I have always known that as a child of God, I have the ability to lead a victorious life. When I was young, I naively believed spiritual victory was instinctive. Now I understand that in order for victory to be won, a battle must be overcome. How will any of us achieve triumph without previously encountering conflict? How else do we experience trust unless we practice the art? During hardships, we are commanded to persevere, but we are incapable of acquiring perseverance without habitually practicing it. There is no healing without sickness; no power without weakness; no success without failure. Trials offer the opportunity to grow in faith, and as a result, we mature in our walk with Christ himself.

Few believers have been tested by God more intensely than Abraham. The patriarchs’ only son was a direct gift from God, through whom God would complete His promise to Abraham, with “descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky or sand on the seashore” (Genesis 22:17).

Abraham, commanded by God to sacrifice his covenant son as a burnt offering, was poised with knife in hand, ready to plunge it into Isaac, who was strapped to the sacrificial altar. On their three-day journey to the mountaintop, Isaac questioned his father as to where they would find the lamb for the altar. Abraham answered, “‘God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering my son’” (v. 8).

God was testing Abraham’s obedience. The best Abraham hoped for was that God might raise his son from the dead. He never questioned God, nor did his resolve falter. Just as the father was positioned to slay his son, “the angel of the Lord called out to him from heaven, ‘Abraham, Abraham! … Do not lay a hand on the boy,’ he said. ‘Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son.’”

“Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son” (vv. 11-13).

As we know, obedience is a difficult discipline, especially when the investment is so costly. However, our Lord accepts full responsibility for the consequence of our obedience. Not only did Abraham experience God’s faithfulness, but he also learned the measure of his own trust—the extent to which he followed and obeyed his heavenly Father.

Words are easily dispensed and often insignificant, but submissive actions require commitment, determination, and tenacious faith. Abraham could hardly have understood God’s reasons for providing a son in his old age, only to take him away. In spite of his lack of comprehension, Abraham believed in God so passionately, that His faith overwhelmed his doubt. He was willing to place all of his confidence in the Lord’s plans, for Abraham had witnessed His glory and faithfulness previously. He believed in Almighty God without reservation.

God already knew Abraham would react courageously that day, for He is omniscient (all-knowing). God tested Abraham so he would learn about His God and himself. Abraham’s personal, adamant faith and steadfast obedience were reinforced in the face of huge consequences. Most importantly, Abraham ascertained the unlimited extent to which he could trust the living God; His faithfulness, loving kindness, protection, and promises; God’s desire and ability to provide all of his needs (Philippians 4:19).

Abraham’s test of faith is included in God’s Word to stimulate in believers’ hearts a similar love of our heavenly Father. Satan tempts us to fail. God never tempts; He tests us to illustrate His love and mercy. It is important for every believer to acquire knowledge of self-motivation and priorities; any limits that might inhibit our growth in faith. Obedience is evidence of genuine faith. Questions are raised during a test of faith. To what extent do my actions reflect my love for God? Am I willing to yield to His will? How much of my life am I capable of surrendering in light of Jesus’ humiliating, heinous suffering on the cross to secure my redemption? Like Jesus, may we pray that God’s will be accomplished in all of life’s circumstances.

There can be no victory when there is no submission to the will of God. ─J. Vernon McGee

Some of our most important lessons are mastered while struggling with unrelenting trials. The apostle, Paul, admitted, “‘that is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, insults, hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong’” (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). Paul accessed God’s power, transforming his afflictions into spiritual victory. Hardships of any kind are best approached with confidence, acknowledging that God’s perfect plans, in His precise timing, are sovereign components to victory.

To navigate adversity, call on your heavenly Father, for “God is our refuge and strength, an ever present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1). God is always in control of His creation. We need never fear when He is directing our lives, a comforting declaration of his mighty, sustaining presence.

The apostle James instructs us how to react to the variety of adversities that assail us: “‘Consider it pure joy whenever we face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything’” (James 1:2-4). Joy results from recognizing that God has included our welfare in His plans, for He loves and cares for His own.

Christian maturity is an impossible journey without God’s abiding presence and assistance. When faced with hardship or grief, we learn to run straight into the arms of Jesus, trading our weakness for His incredible power, trusting Him unconditionally. The happy outcome is that we draw closer to our Lord, producing Christlikeness in our lives.

Experiencing joy amidst trials is an avenue to spiritual victory. We gain Christian maturity by navigating life’s trials with perseverance and steadfastness, obeying God in all situations. Our Lord’s mercy, grace, and compassion encourage us to navigate afflictions as we resolve to develop wholehearted faith. We are commanded to “rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4). There are no exceptions to God’s directive. His plans for our lives are perfectly designed and authenticated, with higher purposes than we fully understand. Our responsibility, then, is to acknowledge that God has chosen wisely for each of His followers. Such knowledge produces joy. Therein is the victory!

Songs in the Night

I have the fun privilege of announcing that Pat’s new book, A FEAST OF JOY, is now available for purchase! FEAST OF JOY is Pat’s third book of devotionals in which she connects real-life situations with Biblical truths. Pat’s writing is so vividly descriptive that you will easily imagine yourself present in each story. She sprinkles pertinent Scripture references throughout her writing to help you apply the verses to your own life. Her writing is sure to inspire and teach you more about how to live daily with joy no matter what your circumstances may be. Below her post, I have placed links to online booksellers where you can buy FEAST OF JOY.

Songs in the Night

By Pat Knight

The evening was still and peaceful. Only the water’s rhythmical lapping against the shoreline was detectable. Suddenly, out of the silent night, a cacophony of sounds erupted, as if a celestial baton signaled nature to commence a disharmonic concert. The large, common loons were the first to warm up, with mournful, eerie cries. The vocal wail usually opened the birds’ evening conversation, followed by yodels and hoots for social interaction. As their powerful voices were propelled across the waters, human listeners were privileged to peer into the private verbal world of the prehistoric loons. Their variety of strident sounds comprised night choruses. At times, the loons’ calls were eerie; at others, musical. But they always pierced the tranquility of the night, shocking listeners with sudden exclamation and impetuous strength.

As if on cue, perching owls began to softly but persistently hoot, the tone increasing in intensity with mating calls, vociferous and overbearing to human ears. Then, when the imaginary baton snapped the animal world to attention, the plaintive wails produced a rackety, raucous ensemble of dissonant notes. With no attempt to harmonize, neighboring dogs and an occasional coyote chimed in. It was increasingly more difficult to merely listen to the developing discord of sounds. I had the growing urge to leap through the front door, yelling my own primitive, obnoxious sounds, to add a little more confused clatter. It was then I was reminded that there are no clashes in nature. Just as God created the improbable blending of conflicting color hues to form beautiful blankets of wildflowers on land, so the animal kingdom comingles with songs in the night.

Praise to God is the ultimate expression of worship.

Shout for joy to the Lord, all the earth. Worship the Lord with gladness; come before Him with joyful songs. Enter His gates with thanksgiving and His courts with praise; give thanks to Him and praise His name.  For the Lord is good and His love endures forever; His faithfulness continues through all generations” (Psalm 100:1-2; 4-5).

Interestingly, God does not specify that we sing hymns of praise with perfect pitch or with trained voices. Our mass of vocal tones may reach God’s ears as discordant, just as we detect the animal concert. Of utmost importance to our Lord is our praise and gratitude, glorifying His name.

King Agrippa I (Herod) seized and imprisoned the apostle Peter, who was kept heavily guarded by four soldiers at all times. Peter prayed in prison, while in their homes, fellow Christians fervently petitioned God for his release. Assured of a guilty conviction, the night before Peter’s scheduled trial he was asleep in prison, chained between two soldiers. Guards stood at his prison door. Suddenly, an angel of the Lord appeared, shining light in the dark dungeon, reflecting the glory of God. With immediacy, the angel jostled Peter awake and persuaded him to get up. As Peter stood, the chains spontaneously fell from his wrists. The angel instructed Peter to get dressed and follow him out of prison. They walked past guards without incident. The prison doors opened to them, as the angel escorted Peter the length of a city street and disappeared, leaving the disciple to mentally grasp the full ramifications of the miracle that had just occurred. “Peter admitted, ‘Now I know without a doubt that the Lord has sent his angel and rescued me from Herod’s clutches and from everything the Jewish people were hoping would happen’” (Acts 12:11). When Christians pray, God graciously answers, often with miraculous results.

The early Christian church grew exceptionally fast numerically and in faith, in spite of rabid persecution. Jesus had taught them while on earth that if they had faith as small as a grain of mustard seed, “‘Nothing will be impossible for you’” (Matthew 17:20). The early Christians had embraced Christ’s teachings and were witnessing miraculous outcomes. When believers join in prayer, there is no limit to what God will accomplish in their lives, individually or collectively. God’s promises have not changed in centuries: His supreme power, like that which resurrected His Son from death, is available to each of us. “You do not have because you do not ask God. When you ask, you do not receive because you ask with the wrong motives, that you may spend what you get on your pleasures” (James 4:2b-3).

God is neither a puppet provider nor a magician, who caters to our every materialistic whim and desire. But, if we have sincere, pressing needs in our lives, God listens to our requests, and He promises to respond positively, if the petition conforms to His will.

 “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence,
so that we may receive mercy and find grace
to help us in our time of need”
(Hebrews 4:16).

Dorcas, an excellent seamstress, spent her days performing good deeds, helping the poor and sewing garments for the needy. As soon as her death was reported to the disciples, Peter traveled to her hometown of Joppa. The sight he witnessed was one of devotion and friendship: local widows readily displayed the clothing Dorcas had made for the desperate. Many recipients were in prayer for her recovery. Peter understood the loss of Dorcas’ love and good works to the community. When he prayed for her still life to revive, Dorcas immediately sat upright in response to the powers endowed on Jesus’ disciple. Her friends still talked about her miraculous healing days later, and many people believed in the Lord because of Dorcas’ life and her revival from the dead. Prayer by one or a multitude of people produces magnificent results. 

What a wonderful, unique privilege we are granted as children of the King! Our words are music to God, who separates the cacophony of sounds to create individual clarity from believers around the globe, all searching for Him at one time. Unlike the animal and bird calls that produce nighttime pandemonium, those seeking God approach the throne of grace with pure motives, making a joyful noise.


You can find FEAST OF JOY at:
Amazon
Apple Books
Barnes & Noble
Xulon

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

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

Is It Possible to Be Happy in Christ Despite Suffering?

By Randy Alcorn

God never guarantees that the Christian life will be smooth or easy. In fact, he promises the opposite: “All who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12, NKJV). We’re not to be surprised when we face great difficulties (see 1 Peter 4:12).

All the psalms of lament, the book of Lamentations, and many other Scripture passages reveal the importance of realism and sorrow in the Christian life. No treatment of joy and happiness should deny or minimize such texts.

Indeed, a truly biblical worldview and an authentic doctrine of joy and happiness fully recognize and embrace the realities of suffering in this present age.

The happiness described in Scripture is all the richer because it doesn’t involve denial or pretense and can be experienced amid severe difficulty. Christ-followers don’t preach the flimsy kind of happiness that’s built on wishful thinking. Instead, our basis for happiness remains true—and sometimes becomes clearer—in suffering.

Rejoicing Is Rooted in Our God, Not Our Circumstances

Rejoicing always in the Lord (see Philippians 4:4) may seem unrealistic at times. But we must remember that this rejoicing is centered not in a passing circumstance but in a constant reality—God Himself, and His Son, Jesus, who died for us and rose again.

On the one hand, we might suppose that Scripture doesn’t command us to rejoice in our nation’s condition, our culture’s trajectory, our spouse’s attitude, our child’s struggle, our church’s conflicts, our job loss, or our poor health. On the other hand, we’re told to “always [give] thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (Ephesians 5:20, NIV). Likewise, Scripture tells us to “give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:18, NIV).

I don’t think this means that we are to rejoice in evil, per se, since God hates evil (Zechariah 8:17Proverbs 6:16-19) and commands us to hate it (Psalm 97:10Proverbs 8:13Romans 12:9). I do think it means that we should believe Romans 8:28, which tells us God will work all things together for our good, including evil things that happen to us.

Believing this frees us to thank God in the middle of difficult and even evil circumstances, knowing that in His sovereign grace, He is accomplishing great, eternal purposes in us through these things.

We’re told to rejoice in the Lord and to “consider it all joy” when we face hardship (James 1:2, NASB). Choosing to rejoice, by rehearsing reasons to be happy and grateful while suffering, affirms trust in God. We walk by faith, believing in what God has done, is doing, and will do to bring a good end to all that troubles us.

This response requires faith that God lovingly superintends our challenges. Viewing our sufferings as random or obsessing over someone else’s bad choices that caused our sufferings robs us of happiness. A weak, small, or faulty view of God always poisons the well of our contentment.

The more we grow in our understanding of God’s attributes, the happier we become.

We Have a Sovereign and Loving God

The deeper our knowledge of God’s character, the deeper our reservoir of strength, perspective, and happiness in hard times. Who is this God we are to trust? What is He really like?

As we have dealt with her cancer over the past two years, Nanci and I have spent time meditating on the attributes of God, rereading and listening to audiobooks such as The Knowledge of the Holy by A. W. Tozer and Knowing God by J. I. Packer and Trusting God by Jerry Bridges. Our hearts are lifted in praise as we contemplate His holiness, grace, justice, mercy, and every facet of His being revealed to us in Scripture.

Scripture teaches that we have a God who loves us and is sovereign over the universe, including all evil. We can’t be happy, and remain happy, without believing in the sovereignty of a loving God. The beauty of the Christian worldview is that while we’re encouraged to take initiative and control what’s within our power, we also know that the enormous part of life we can’t control is under God’s governance.

Scripture tells us, “Our God is in the heavens; he does all that he pleases” (Psalm 115:3). It assures us, “The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps” (Proverbs 16:9). And since God is eternally wise and good and happy, and we’re not, we’re far better off with Him, not us, in control.

Read the rest here.

To Those Hurting This Christmas

I have shared this one here before during the Christmas season but it is such a good piece that I have decided to share this as a Christmas post each year.

To Those Hurting This Christmas

by John Knight

I know some of you are praying you’ll make it through Christmas—just make it through—not anticipating anything good will come from gathering with extended family and friends. It has become a cliche—right next to the article on what second-graders are excited about for Christmas is the article on the rise in depression during this last month of the year.

You know the sadness is real. While you change the diaper of a teenager, or administer complicated medications, or prevent your non-verbal ten-year-old from hurting himself again, or explain yet again the complicated life of your five-year-old without a diagnosis for her disability, your nieces and nephews and young friends are playing and running and eating, happily talking about the toys they want or travel they’re excited about or things they are doing in school. They easily do things your child will never do, no matter how many therapies or medications or prayers are offered.

Or maybe the disability in your family member means you can’t gather with other loved ones, and the heartache is almost more than you can stand.

Jesus knows.

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15, italics added)

More than that, he endured and is victorious!

Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:1–2, italics added)

And there are some of you who can’t see it. There is still hope!

From Pastor John’s book, When I Don’t Desire God: How to Fight for Joy,

It is utterly crucial that in our darkness we affirm the wise, strong hand of God to hold us, even when we have no strength to hold him. This is the way Paul thought of his own strivings. He said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own” (Philippians 3:12). The key thing to see in this verse is that all Paul’s efforts to grasp the fullness of joy in Christ are secured by Christ’s grasp of him. Never forget that your security rests on Christ’s faithfulness first.

Our faith rises and falls. It has degrees. But our security does not rise and fall. It has no degrees. We must persevere in faith. That’s true. But there are times when our faith is the size of a mustard seed and barely visible. In fact, the darkest experience for the child of God is when his faith sinks out of his own sight. Not out of God’s sight, but his. Yes, it is possible to be so overwhelmed with darkness that you do not know if you are a Christian — and yet still be one. (216, italics added)

Jesus understands. Jesus is victorious. Jesus is the answer. May you find him, and in finding him, find hope and peace in these hard days.

And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)


John Knight is Director of Development at Desiring God. He is married to Dianne and together they parent their four children: Paul, Hannah, Daniel, and Johnny. Paul lives with multiple disabilities including blindness, autism, cognitive impairments and a seizure disorder. John blogs on issues of disability, the Bible, and the church at The Works of God.