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 to Seek the Holy Spirit

Today’s great post is from the Desiring God blog.

How to Seek the Holy Spirit

Bethlehem 2018 Conference for Pastors + Church Leaders | Minneapolis

By John Piper

Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial
when it comes upon you to test you,
as though something strange were happening to you.

But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings,
that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed.

If you are insulted for the name of Christ,
you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you.

1 Peter 4:12–14

December 6 last year at 6:45 in the morning, I was sitting in my chair in our living room. It was still dark outside, and my one reading light was on beside the chair. My iPad was open to my daily Bible reading portion. I had just spent my 36 minutes on the treadmill in the attic, showered, made myself a cup of hot tea, and settled in to enjoy a time of fellowship with the Lord Jesus over his word.

Read the rest here.

#Resurrection HOPE in Jesus

Happy Resurrection Day! What a HOPE we have in Jesus Christ our Savior, who rose from the dead so that those who trust in His saving grace can enjoy life everlasting in heaven with Him. Hallelujah!

This was originally published at Today in the Word.

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HOPE in Jesus

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10

  His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—
Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 
1 Thessalonians 1:9–10

 

One biblical scholar describes HOPE this way: “From a biblical perspective, HOPE may be best imaged as a line suspended between past experience of God’s reliability and a future that is still open, a line stretched taut between the reliability and the freedom of Israel’s God.” The greatest demonstration of God’s reliability is Jesus: the Son of God who willingly became fully man, who suffered an unjust death by crucifixion, and who was vindicated by God in the resurrection. What a wonderful example for our own HOPE!

Our reading today is from the introduction of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. Throughout these verses Paul unpacks the multiplying nature of HOPE in Jesus. The Thessalonians had been persecuted since they had accepted Jesus (v. 6). But despite their suffering, they were enduring “inspired by HOPE in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When the Thessalonians looked at Jesus, they saw that He had suffered and been resurrected, and with Him as their model they too could continue to HOPE.

The HOPE of the Thessalonians was inspired by the example of Jesus, and then their own lives and HOPE became encouraging examples for others (v. 7). This is the power of HOPE in Jesus: not only does it strengthen our own endurance in the spiritual life, it also provides a witness of God’s power for others to see.

Finally, notice the specific HOPE in Jesus that produced faithful obedience. The Thessalonians had embraced faith in the living God, and the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of His return and ultimate deliverance to live with Him kept them motivated to love and serve the Lord. Jesus endured suffering—and so did they. Jesus had been resurrected to eternal life—and so would they. What a basis for HOPE!

Apply the Word

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for our HOPE—not just the theology we believe but also the HOPE that inspires our daily lives and sustains us in difficult days. Without the resurrection of Jesus, we Christians should be pitied (see 1 Cor. 15:19). But because our HOPE is in Jesus’ victory over death, we know that our work for God is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).


All emphasis on the word HOPE is mine.

Riding Lessons

Another great devotional by Joni Eareckson Tada.

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For physical training is of some value,
but godliness has value for all things,
holding promise for both the present life and the life to come.
—1 Timothy 4:8

Riding Lessons

By Joni Eareckson Tada

A friend and I were once joking about what kind of horses we’d like to be.  He mused, “I’d like to be a wild stallion, racing free across the plains, my mane and tail whipping in the wind.”  I smiled and countered, “Maybe, but a horse like that will never win any honors.  I would rather have the confines of a pasture and stall and be trained for dressage under bridle and bit.”

An unbridled, untrained horse lacks the restraints that guide and direct. The bit, martingale, tie-down, spur, and crop appear at first to the horse as irritants and hardships.  But such inconvenience and suffering school the horse to listen to the rider’s commands.  How hard it would be for an animal, without the aid of his master and his crop, to train himself up in the way he should go.  What’s more, the horse would be useless in the ring, without a hope of ever winning honors for his master.

It’s the same for humans.  Our natural bent is to enjoy what we think is freedom out there without constraints.  But as someone has said, freedom is not the right to do what we want to do, it is the power to do what we ought.  Hardship is our bit and bridle.  What’s more, our Master is an expert with the reins and the crop. Godliness involves training… without it, no honor can be given to our Master.

One of the key elements in good animal training is to break the will, but not the spirit.  In the same manner, we are never more “ourselves,” never more spiritually free than when our will is bent to God’s will.  Our spirit thrives on this kind of submission; what’s more, we are then well on our way to godliness.

God, thank You for seeing fit to saddle me with certain hardships.  You know what’s best.  You know how to train me for godliness.  I yield and obey…  I want to win You honors!


Copyright © 1998. More Precious Than Silver, by Joni Eareckson Tada. Published in Print by Zondervan, Grand Rapids. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible: New International Version.

Whom shall I fear?

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Psalm 27

A Psalm of Fearless Trust in God.

A Psalm of David.

The Lord is my light and my salvation;
Whom shall I fear?
The Lord is the defense of my life;
Whom shall I dread?
When evildoers came upon me to devour my flesh,
My adversaries and my enemies, they stumbled and fell.
Though a host encamp against me,
My heart will not fear;
Though war arise against me,
In spite of this I shall be confident.

One thing I have asked from the Lord, that I shall seek:
That I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life,
To behold the beauty of the Lord
And to meditate in His temple.
For in the day of trouble He will conceal me in His tabernacle;
In the secret place of His tent He will hide me;
He will lift me up on a rock.
And now my head will be lifted up above my enemies around me,
And I will offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy;
I will sing, yes, I will sing praises to the Lord.

Hear, O Lord, when I cry with my voice,
And be gracious to me and answer me.
When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O Lord, I shall seek.”
Do not hide Your face from me,
Do not turn Your servant away in anger;
You have been my help;
Do not abandon me nor forsake me,
O God of my salvation!
10 For my father and my mother have forsaken me,
But the Lord will take me up.

11 Teach me Your way, O Lord,
And lead me in a level path
Because of my foes.
12 Do not deliver me over to the desire of my adversaries,
For false witnesses have risen against me,
And such as breathe out violence.
13 I would have despaired unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord
In the land of the living.
14 Wait for the Lord;
Be strong and let your heart take courage;
Yes, wait for the Lord.

If for any reason you cannot view this video, please go here to read the lyrics.


New American Standard Bible (NASB). Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation

God’s Final Verdict and Vindication of Job

I receive Moody Bible Institute’s “Today in the Word” daily devotional booklets every month. This month’s booklet was titled “Job: Faith, Humility, and Worship.” Although I’ve studied the Book of Job several times, this devotional study has been by far the best. Please visit Today in the Word to subscribe to the email version of their daily devotionals, or to the booklet version which is delivered by snail mail.

God’s Final Verdict and Vindication of Job

Read Job 42:7–9

You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has.
Job 42:8

Christian musician and author Michael Card wrote a series of songs entitled the “Job Suite.” In one song, Job laments, “These friends of mine are no comfort to me / So deafly they listen, so blindly they see / Their words and their doctrine, they all sound so true / The problem is, Lord, they’re all wrong about You!” 

In today’s verses, God emphatically agreed with Job. Two verses in a row, He said to the friends, “You have not spoken the truth about me, as my servant Job has” (vv. 7–8). Job had believed God would vindicate him, and He did! God as Judge rendered His verdict, finding in favor of Job, who was indeed innocent, and against the three friends. They had behaved so badly, in fact, that they were required to offer substantial sacrifices publicly confessing the sinfulness of their speeches. In addition, in a perfect example of poetic justice, their former target Job offered intercessory prayer for them in order to obtain God’s forgiveness. 

Though Job and his foolish friends were unaware of the behind-the-scenes drama in the heavenly throne room, God’s verdict also sealed the case against Satan. Job had passed Satan’s test, as God knew he would. He had held onto faith in God, despite personal suffering and the stripping away of his secondary blessings. By contrast, the upside-down theology of the friends valued God’s blessings above God Himself. They were thus guilty of Satan’s accusation (1:9–11); ironically, given their claims to speak for God, they had often represented Satan’s perspective during the debate. 

Job had spoken rightly about God. The Lord is no clockwork mechanism of retributive justice, as envisioned by the friends. He is personally involved, He cares about us, and His plans reflect these truths despite our failure to understand. Even for the friends—who by their own rules deserved punishment—God made a way for them to be reconciled to Himself.

Apply the Word

Listening to Michael Card’s “Job Suite” would be an excellent way to review and meditate on the book of Job and our month’s study. This 10-minute biblically focused composition was originally on his album The Way of Wisdom, which itself was the second in a trilogy of albums about the Old Testament. It has since also appeared on another album, An Invitation to Awe.


Beloved, this is one of the songs on Michael Card’s “Job Suite” album mentioned above, a video (with lyrics). It is definitely worth the 10 minutes to watch and listen.

 

 

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Resurrection Hope

Originally published at Today in the Word.

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Hope in Jesus

Read 1 Thessalonians 1:2–10

 His Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—
Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath. 
1 Thessalonians 1:9–10

 

One biblical scholar describes hope this way: “From a biblical perspective, hope may be best imaged as a line suspended between past experience of God’s reliability and a future that is still open, a line stretched taut between the reliability and the freedom of Israel’s God.” The greatest demonstration of God’s reliability is Jesus: the Son of God who willingly became fully man, who suffered an unjust death by crucifixion, and who was vindicated by God in the resurrection. What a wonderful example for our own hope!

Our reading today is from the introduction of Paul’s letter to the church in Thessalonica. Throughout these verses Paul unpacks the multiplying nature of hope in Jesus. The Thessalonians had been persecuted since they had accepted Jesus (v. 6). But despite their suffering, they were enduring “inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 3). When the Thessalonians looked at Jesus, they saw that He had suffered and been resurrected, and with Him as their model they too could continue to hope.

The hope of the Thessalonians was inspired by the example of Jesus, and then their own lives and hope became encouraging examples for others (v. 7). This is the power of hope in Jesus: not only does it strengthen our own endurance in the spiritual life, it also provides a witness of God’s power for others to see.

Finally, notice the specific hope in Jesus that produced faithful obedience. The Thessalonians had embraced faith in the living God, and the resurrection of Jesus and the promise of His return and ultimate deliverance to live with Him kept them motivated to love and serve the Lord. Jesus endured suffering—and so did they. Jesus had been resurrected to eternal life—and so would they. What a basis for hope!

Apply the Word

The resurrection of Jesus is the foundation for our hope—not just the theology we believe but also the hope that inspires our daily lives and sustains us in difficult days. Without the resurrection of Jesus, we Christians should be pitied (see 1 Cor. 15:19). But because our hope is in Jesus’ victory over death, we know that our work for God is not in vain (1 Cor. 15:58).

 

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