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!

Thankful for God’s Goodness

This is another of my devotionals published in an anthology titled Anytime Prayers for Everyday PeopleIt is included in the section titled Prayers of Praise and Thanksgiving.

When I want to thank God
for His goodness . . .

The LORD is good to all,
and His mercies are over all His works.

—Psalm145:9 NASB

I am still confident of this:
I will see the goodness of the LORD
In the land of the living.
—James 1:18 NLT 

How great is your goodness,
which you have stored up for those who fear you,
which you bestow in the sight of men
on those who take refuge in you.
—Psalm 31:19

In his goodness he chose to make us his own children by
giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became
his choice possession.
—Acts 10:43

. . . I will pray.

Loving Father,

I used to think of myself as a good person. I felt great about that, but now I know that the goodness in my soul is little more than a faint reflection of the goodness I see in You everyday. You are good in every way—without exception. I am good only as I keep my heart tuned in and submitted to You.

That’s easy to say, but not always so easy to do. I mean to be listening every minute, letting You oversee my motives, my actions, my words. But somehow the not-so-good part of me keeps getting through.

Lord, I know I’ll never be as good as You are—not in this life. But I know that You, Lord, can help me to be a much better person than I am right now. Work with me. Keep me on my toes. Let Your goodness flow through me to everyone I know.

You are so excellent, Lord. It’s an honor to be Your child, an honor to be able to learn from You and draw from Your utter perfection. Thank You, Lord, for Your goodness.

Amen.

The Lord’s goodness surrounds us at every moment.
I walk through it almost with difficulty,
as through thick grass and flowers.

—R. W. Barbour


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

I Bring You Great News!

I Bring You Great News! 

By Pat Knight

On a wintry, star-studded night, the only sound piercing the crisp air was the occasional, familiar bleating of sheep. Located just a few miles outside the village of Bethlehem, the little band of shepherds spread their bedrolls on the cold, hard earth around a crackling fire, prepared to settle in for sleep. The shepherds divided the night hours into watches in case a marauding animal attacked a lamb or robbers slithered into their camp, but usually the nighttime was fairly quiet. The shepherds had no reason to expect this night’s activities to be any different than others before it. Then suddenly, “An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified” (Luke 2:9).

The shepherds were paralyzed by their intense terror, initiating the angel’s first words to them, “Fear not.” Their fears allayed, the angels continued: “I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-12).

The skies then exploded in praise, revealing a large group of angels who joined the original heavenly messenger, proclaiming, “Glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2:14). The heavenly hosts could be contained no longer, appearing en masse on earth in a blaze of God’s glory and light. The shepherds were singled out to receive a private birth announcement, a celebration that originated in heaven and embraced earth, appropriate acclaim for the birth of a King, the promised Messiah, the Anointed One!

God orchestrated a dynamic duo of heaven and earth to celebrate Jesus’ birth. It was a heavenly response from the angels announcing proclamations, an earthly reaction from the praise of the shepherds, and the marvel of all who hear of these events throughout time.

As the shepherds hurriedly followed the angel’s directions to seek the newborn King in Bethlehem, wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger, they must have recalled the stories handed down to them via the written and spoken word through the centuries, promising the Messiah who would save the people from their sins. With God’s help, the shepherds found the baby in the manger, just as they had been told. It is probable that they exchanged stories of what had just happened to them with Mary and Joseph, augmenting the parents’ understanding of God’s promises that had transpired in their recent lives.

The shepherds sensed that their involvement in the heavenly celebration of Jesus’ birth was not intended to be kept private. Bursting with thanksgiving, they understood that this occasion was significant in history and they must share the Good News. Ultimately, the shepherds glorified and praised God, just as the angels had done in their presence. “They spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them” (Luke 2:17-18).

Let us acknowledge the greatest gifts of love and grace the world has ever known in the fashion the angels and shepherds first expressed, with exhilaration, peace, and joy permeating each of our days!

20 Years of Precious Memories

I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.
—Song of Solomon 6:3

Just look at the memories of the past twenty years! Yes, twenty years ago today Rick and I were married in a covenant ceremony. In front of family and friends, we pledged to love and care for each other for the rest of our lives. How these 20 years have flown by!

Much has happened over the years. We’ve experienced both good and not-so-good seasons, but one thing has always sustained us:

God is at the center of our marriage.

The path God has chosen for us as a couple has not always been easy but it is always the best for us because it is His plan for our marriage. I have spent many years enduring chronic pain while Rick has been battling leukemia.  All of this has served to bring us closer together as we take care of each other. And how can we not praise and glorify God through all of it? He is the one who brought us together!

Rick gave me a special ring years ago. It has two intertwining bands that read: “I am my beloved’s and my beloved is mine.” And isn’t that the very essence of marriage? We belong to each other through the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ.

This image is included in the collage of memories above. We call it the Marriage Triangle and you’ll note that Jesus sits at the top. Rick is on one side and I am on the other side. That symbolizes the fact that Jesus is the head of our marriage. We look to Him for guidance each day and through every situation. And we can vouch for how much closer we have become to each other as we have learned how to walk more in step with Jesus every day.

I am always thankful that God chose Rick to be the other half of my orange. I know that sounds strange but here’s how that phrase came to be a part of our marriage. 

When Rick and I were in premarital counseling, our pastor used an illustration of the orange to show how God created husbands and wives to complete each other. If you take an orange and rip it in half with your hands (instead of cutting it), you have two pieces with very jagged edges. That orange can only fit back together one way—by fitting those uneven edges together exactly. That’s the way husbands and wives work together within marriage. The strengths of one may be the weaknesses of the other, but fitted together—in other words, by working together—they can solve a problem or complete a task that one of them may not have been able to do alone. 

This also applies to illness. For example, many days Rick is my caretaker, making sure I do not overdo and going out of his way to drive me on errands that need doing. There are also times when Rick isn’t feeling too well and I make sure he gets enough rest and takes the medications that help when he has a flare-up of his symptoms. 

And let’s not forget about the power of prayer in marriage. Rick and I regularly pray for each other. We pray for our family and friends. We pray together for people we know are in need of prayer. And we also pray before we travel—whether by vehicle or motorcycle—asking God to protect us and our home while we are away. 

Contrary to the belief that marriage is a 50/50 partnership, it needs to be 100/100. Both husband and wife need to give 100 percent all the time. I read this great quote a while back:

Marriage is not 50-50; divorce is 50-50. Marriage has to be 100-100. It isn’t dividing everything in half, but giving everything you’ve got! —Dave Willis

To my Rick: Happy 20 years together and may there be at least another 20!!! 💞

Thanking God for Everything

Today I’m sharing from Lifeway Voices.

Thanking God for Everything

by 

Nestled among a long list of exhortations and blessings in 1 Thessalonians is a line we’ll see in plenty this month. Distressed on barn wood at your local craft store, printed on banners hung in the dining room, embossed on the ceramic plate the turkey is served on, and rife in sermons everywhere, “Give thanks in everything,” is the rally cry of November. But, like Aunt Jane’s consistently overcooked turkey, the truncated statement can also leave a dry taste in our mouths.

Gratitude will be on the rise for the next two months, followed by a sharp decline on January first when we resolve to change all the things our mere gratitude couldn’t change: love-handles, schedules, relationships, the project we’ve been putting off. There’s nothing like a full serving of gratitude to show us just how many things exist for which we’re still not thankful. We will give thanks for everything except all the things for which we’re still bent on changing.

I have a stack on my desk of books to read and review, menu-plans to make, a driver’s license to renew, and a book contract to fulfill within the first month of 2019. As grateful as I am for a job I love, the freedom to eat and cook whole, healthy food, and a license to drive, I’m decidedly unthankful for the work they all will require of me. I can trick myself into being grateful, topping my cake of grumbling with the frosting of thanksgiving, but it’s still a dismal cake beneath. I need the words with which Paul follows up his exhortation: “For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

For what is God’s will for me? This.

Read the rest here.