Handling Tests & Trials Biblically 2: Coming Forth as Gold + LINKUP

 

Handling Tests & Trials: Coming Forth as Gold - It's been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through one. Trials expose our hearts. They remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing glory to God as we should. But there are things we need to understand about trials and our responses.It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through one. Trials expose our hearts. They remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing glory to God as we should. But there are things we need to understand about trials and our responses.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: Coming Forth as Gold

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link. You’ll find them all there.

Last week we talked about how God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. We looked at biblical and unbiblical perspectives on tests and trials and God’s purposes in them. I hope you’ll take the time to read it if you haven’t, especially, if you’re going through a challenging time.

Today we’ll talk about our responses to tests and trials, how we can please Him during those difficult times, how we become like Christ as a result, and the resources God has given us.

 

Coming Forth as Gold

 

Nothing exposes our hearts as much as trials do. When trouble hits us, it’s easy to see the areas where we’re not fully committed to and trusting in God. But God doesn’t allow tests and trials to trip us up or so He can point His finger at us. God allows, even designs, trials to strengthen and purify us. Job said, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

But, as I pointed out last week, we sometimes have unbiblical perspectives regarding trials and suffering. We can believe:

  1. That they’re always our fault.
  2. That they’re always the other person’s fault. We can have a “victim” mentality.
  3. That they’re no one’s fault. This is divine fatalism.
  4. That they’re God’s fault. He causes everything, even sin.
  5. Or the Deistic view—that God isn’t involved in it at all. This is the belief that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.

Then we looked at some biblical perspectives on trials and suffering:

  1. That they’re ultimately the result of the Adam’s fall (Gen 3).
  2. That God is the remote cause. In other words, He allows them, but He’s never the cause of our sin.
  3. That God is sovereign and He works all things according to His plan and purpose, including trials and suffering.
  4. That they’re always for God’s glory and our eternal good, even though God may temporarily set aside our happiness to accomplish something greater.

So, since God has allowed whatever we’re experiencing and it’s for our good, how should we respond?

 

Responding to Tests & Trials

 

It’s important to understand that we’re accountable for our responses no matter how we feel. We’re to respond in ways that please God. That should be our goal in life no matter what our circumstances.

Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (2 Cor 5.9-10).

While it may be easy to justify wrong responses, God gives us the grace  to respond rightly.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it (1 Cor. 10.13).

We shouldn’t pray to just “hang in there” or somehow get through trials and suffering. We should ask God to help us grow in the midst of the difficulty and to become more like Christ (Rom 8.28-29; Jas 1.2-4).

2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. 4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing (Jas 1.2-4).

While we may not always rejoice in the suffering itself, we can rejoice in the fact that a sovereign God can work through the trial.

Most of us can look back and see how God has used other trials for our good and how we’ve grown in our faith and trust in Him, not in spite of trials, but because of them.

So, what are some of the specific reasons God allows trials and sufferings?

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: Coming Forth as Gold -


Some of the “Why’s”

 

While we need to be careful of demanding to know “why,” there are some why’s God has revealed in His Word.

  1. Because of unconfessed sin (1 Cor. 11.30; 2 Kings 5.15-27).

In talking about the Lord’s supper in 1 Corinthians 11, Paul said:

28 But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of the bread and drink of the cup. 29 For he who eats and drinks in an unworthy manner eats and drinks judgment to himself, not discerning the Lord’s body. 30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep. 31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged. 32 But when we are judged, we are chastened by the Lord, that we may not be condemned with the world.

30 For this reason many are weak and sick among you, and many sleep.

The Lord’s supper is a time to remember what Christ did and a reminder of the importance of examining ourselves, but self-examination is something we should do on a regular basis.

Because the people had failed to do so and to confess and forsake sin, many were sick, some had died, and some were “weak.”  That word weak means, “having a propensity for sickness.” We might say “sickly.”

Of course, we need to use caution when viewing the suffering of others. We can’t assume they are guilty of sin. That was the problem with Job’s counselorsContinue reading

“Suffering & Sin” August 8

 

Suffering & Sin - While we don’t know another’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, ... can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering?While we don’t know another person’s heart and can’t assume their suffering is the result of sin, … can sin sometimes be the cause of our suffering or, at least, make it worse?

Also, with broken families and the pressures of living in a post Christian world, older believers have a mission that has never been more important. If you are a senior adult, do you know what that mission is and are you being a good steward of it?

And from our New Testament reading … Many people think they are children of God because they belong to a certain church, were raised in a Christian home, have “always believed in God,” have been baptized, taken communion, or are “good people.” But can any of those things save us?

 

Today’s Readings:
Job 7 & 8
Psalm 92.8-15
Proverbs 22.17-21
Romans 9.1-15

 

Suffering & Sin

 

Job 7 & 8:

Soulcare

 

In chapter 7, Job pours out his complaints to his friends and to God and tries to justify his desire to die and bring all this suffering to an end.

Though there are times when we have to exhort, even rebuke, one another because we have gotten into excessive sorrow or self-pity, there are, also, times when we just need to listen and let them pour out their hearts. Bob Kellemen calls it “soulcare.”

In chapter 8, another of Job’s friends, Bildad, responds with the same underlying belief that Job somehow brought this on himself. Though not everything he says is wrong, it is his assumption that Job caused his own suffering, which was wrong. Remember God Himself said Job was, “blameless and upright, and one who feared God and shunned evil” (Job 1.1).

That doesn’t mean our suffering is never the result of sin. Often it is caused, or at least complicated, by our own sin. Mike Wilkerson, in his book Redemption says we are all fellow sinners and fellow sufferers. It may be that we were sinned against, sometimes in grievous ways. But sometimes we respond to the other person’s sin with anger, bitterness, unforgiveness, by turning to drugs or alcohol, by acting out sexually, or in other sinful and self-defeating ways.

confronting comfortingAnd there are times when we must lovingly confront one another, even when we understand that the person was also sinned against:

Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” (Gal. 6.1-2).

How do we keep ourselves from ending up in the ditch because of some sinful response to another person’s sin?

Continue reading

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: the Divine Squeeze + LINKUP

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.Today we’re going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We’ll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God’s purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

Welcome to Mondays @ Soul Survival.

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze

 

We’re in a series on “Handling Emotions Biblically.” In earlier posts we have covered anger, depression, fear, worry, and guilt. If you missed any of them, just click on the link.

Today we’ll look at tests and trials.

 

The Divine Squeeze

 

It’s been said that either you have just come out of a trial, are presently in a trial, or are about to go through a trial. That thought can stop us in our tracks, because we don’t like trials. At least I don’t and I don’t think I’m alone.

But God uses tests, trials, and suffering in our lives as a divine squeeze to let us and others see what’s in our hearts. J.C. Ryle said, “What you are in the day of trial, that you are and nothing more.” Trials show us what we are really made of!

That may be a little discouraging if you didn’t do so well in a trial or aren’t handling one well right now, but God is a God of second and third chances. That’s good news and bad. The good news is He keeps working with us. The bad news is He keeps working with us. That means when we don’t handle a trial well, He’ll give us another chance either by extending the trial we’re in or bringing another one designed to work on the same heart issue.

Many times I’ve seen someone file for an unbiblical divorce only to find themselves a few years down the road married to someone with the same issues. The world has come up with all kinds of psychological explanations for it, but I don’t believe God will set us free from those patterns until we learn to respond in a Christlike way to the present situation.

My husband spoke with a friend of his one day. His friend was complaining about a situation that was stretching his patience. He commented that God was always allowing something in his life to make him more patient.  My husband’s response, “Maybe it’s time to learn what He’s trying to show you!”

Whether it’s loving our spouses biblically, growing in patience, kindness or unselfishness, learning to truly forgive, or some other area of life, our Divine Teacher, the Holy Spirit is well able to design the right teaching opportunity and homework.

But God also uses tests and trials to remove the dross from our lives–those things which keep us from bringing as much glory to God as we should! He wants us to be able to say, like Job, “When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10, NASB).

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit (Jn. 15.1-2).

 

Unbiblical Perspectives about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: The Divine Squeeze - Today we're going to begin talking about how to handle tests and trials. We'll look at both biblical and unbiblical perspectives on them, God's purposes for trials and how we should respond.

 

When we are going through trials and sufferings we can easily develop wrong perspectives about the nature of and reason for them.  Here are some of those unbiblical perspectives:

 

It’s always my fault.

Or it’s always the fault of anyone going through a trial. This was the problem with Job’s comforters.

If you were pure and upright,
Surely now He would awake for you,
And prosper your rightful dwelling place (Job 8.6).

The disciples, mistakenly, believed the same thing:

Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

Jesus answered, “Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him (Jn. 9.1-3).

Sometimes things happen that are not a direct result of personal sin. You could be driving responsibly and be hit by a drunk driver. You could be a faithful employee, yet your company is sold and you lose your job.

 

It’s always someone else’s fault.

Other people have a “victim” mentality about our tests and trials. As we’ve talked about in some of the earlier posts in this series, we’re good at blame-shifting. It’s my spouse’s fault, my boss’ fault …” No matter how irresponsible we have been, we blame someone else.

 

It’s no one’s fault.

We’ve all seen the bumper sticker: “S_ _ _ happens!” This is fatalism.

We’re not just the victim of some random cosmic joke! God is the author and originator of everything in our lives. He is either the proximate or immediate cause or He is the remote or distant cause, that is He allowed it to happen for our good and His glory. Nothing happens by accident.

 

A deistic view of God’s involvement in our tests and trials.

This is the idea that God created everything, but now He just stands back and watches without getting involved.

 

So what does the Bible teach about tests and trials?

 

10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

Handling Tests & Trials Biblically: 10 Biblical Facts about Tests & Trials

 

1. We all experience trials and sufferings.

These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (Jn. 16.33).

 

2. Ultimately, trials are the result of the fall.

I’m glad for Adam and Eve that there are no guilt trips in heaven, because everything goes back to the fall (Gen. 3).

 

3. God is always the remote (distant) cause of trials and suffering.

He allows us to make choices, but only when those choices are in keeping with His sovereign will.

 

4. God is never the author of sin.

Even though He allows us to make choices, He never causes or tempts us to sin.

13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. 15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures (Jas. 1.13-18).

Continue reading

“The Heartbreak of Abortion” July 16

 

The Heartbreak of Abortion - Ahaz was one of Judah’s wicked kings. Can you imagine a king so evil he would sacrifice his children as burnt offerings to false gods?

Yet … children are still being sacrificed to the false gods of fear, inconvenience, and greed in abortion clinics today.

The idea that abortion solves “a problem” is a lie. It doesn’t solve a “problem;” it creates a much bigger one. Abortion, not only ends the life of a pre-born human being created in the image of God, it also leave scars on the heart and soul (and sometimes the body) of the mother, and often the father, as well.

Conception is more than an “unplanned pregnancy,” more than an inconvenience, more than an accident. It is the beginning of a new life and ordained by God no matter what the circumstances. But what should those of us who believe it’s wrong do?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 28 & 29
Psalm 84.8-12
Proverbs 21.6-8
Acts 19.21-41

 

The Heartbreak of Abortion

 

2 Chronicles 28 & 29:

Increasing Unfaithfulness

 

In chapter 28 we read about another of Judah’s ungodly kings, a man by the name of Ahaz.

Ahaz was twenty years old when he became king, and he reigned sixteen years in Jerusalem; and he did not do what was right in the sight of the Lord, as his father David had done. For he walked in the ways of the kings of Israel, and made molded images for the Baals. He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire, according to the abominations of the nations whom the Lord had cast out before the children of Israel. And he sacrificed and burned incense on the high places, on the hills, and under every green tree.

Because of his evil behavior, God allowed them to be defeated on every side. We should always keep in mind that while God held Israel’s and Judah’s leaders responsible for their leadership, the people followed their wicked leaders into sin and idolatry. So God’s judgment was neither unfair nor indiscriminate.

Sadly, instead of turning around, Ahaz went farther into sin and idolatry.

22 Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord. This is that King Ahaz. 23 For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel. 24 So Ahaz gathered the articles of the house of God, cut in pieces the articles of the house of God, shut up the doors of the house of the Lord, and made for himself altars in every corner of Jerusalem. 25 And in every single city of Judah he made high places to burn incense to other gods, and provoked to anger the Lord God of his fathers.

 

Child Sacrifice & Abortion

 

Verse 3 said, “He burned incense in the Valley of the Son of Hinnom, and burned his children in the fire …” Can you imagine a king so evil that he would sacrifice his own children to false gods! And yet, it still goes on today! Children are sacrificed at the abortion clinic to the gods of inconvenience, selfishness, fear and greed.

Some are sacrificed to cover up another sin as David tried to do about his sin with Bathsheba. Some are sacrificed because their conception is inconvenient or simply unwanted. Sometimes young girls and their babies are preyed upon by greedy abortion purveyors.

Suffering, Crime & Child Sacrifice - What if you were called to endure suffering or hardship for the cause of Christ? Would you be willing to risk it all? Does crime sometimes pay? And what about child sacrifice? Is it something that only happens in pagan societies?You may think that I bring up abortion too often. I do so NOT to put condemnation on anyone who has had an abortion in the past:

“There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit” (Rom. 8.1).

The blood of Christ covers ALL our sins when we come to Him in saving faith. But I do believe abortion is possibly the greatest evil of our day and we must be willing to stand up against it no matter how unpopular it makes us!

The lie that abortion solves “a problem” permeates our society. But conception is more than an “unplanned pregnancy,” more than an inconvenience, more than an accident. It is the beginning of a new life and ordained by God no matter what the circumstances (Gen. 29.31, 30.22).

Abortion doesn’t solve a “problem;” it creates a much bigger one. Abortion, not only ends the life of a pre-born human being created in the image of God, it also leave scars on the heart and soul (and sometimes the body) of the mother, and often the father, as well.

Suffering, Crime & Child Sacrifice - What if you were called to endure suffering or hardship for the cause of Christ? Would you be willing to risk it all? Does crime sometimes pay? And what about child sacrifice? Is it something that only happens in pagan societies?If you or someone you know is contemplating an abortion or has had one in the past, I want to encourage you to contact a crisis pregnancy center in your area. They offer help and counseling to those who are pregnant and post-abortive counseling to those who have had an abortion in the past. Many offer counseling to fathers, too. If you live in El Paso you can contact Pregnancy and Fatherhood Solutions.

If you are being pressured to have an abortion, you have rights, no matter what your age. LIFECALL can tell you how to protect your baby and your rights. They can even provide an attorney free of charge. God loves YOU and YOUR BABY.  Continue reading

“Mistreated? Fight Back!” July 11

 

When You're Mistreated or Falsely Accused, Fight Back! - How should we respond when we're falsely accused or mistreated? How should we respond to the ordinary, every day hurts that come from living life with other sinners? How can we fight back without sinning?How should we respond when we’re falsely accused or mistreated? How should we respond to the ordinary, every day hurts that come from living life with other sinners? How can we fight back without sinning?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Chronicles 17 & 18
Psalm 81.11-16
Proverbs 20.26-28
Acts 16.22-40

 

Mistreated? Fight Back!

 

Acts 16.22-40:

Falsely Accused & Praising God

 

What a great story! Here are Paul and Silas in pain, mistreated, falsely accused and still praising God!

And as they did, God opened the prison doors with an earthquake. Fearing his prisoners had escaped the jailer prepared to commit suicide, but Paul and Silas cried out to stop him! Romans 2.4 says that it is the goodness of God which leads men to repentance. The goodness of God working through Paul and Silas led the jailer to repentance and he and his whole family were saved!

 

What If We’re Mistreated or Falsely Accused? How Should We Respond? 

 

Why am I suffering? Why me?We live in a fallen world and there will be times when we suffer. Sometimes we suffer as a result of our own sinful choices and sometimes because of the sins of others. Sometimes we complicate our unfair suffering by our sinful responses.

Other times we suffer because we are doing good and because of the light in us.

1 Peter 3.13-17:

13 And who is he who will harm you if you become followers of what is good? 14 But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you are blessed. “And do not be afraid of their threats, nor be troubled.” 15 But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; 16 having a good conscience, that when they defame you as evildoers, those who revile your good conduct in Christ may be ashamed. 17 For it is better, if it is the will of God, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

So, how should we respond to suffering or mistreatment? And how should we respond to the ordinary, every day hurts that come from living life with other sinners?  Continue reading

“Cure for the Curse on Our Cities” June 7

 

Cure for the Curse on Our CitiesIf your city or town is like mine, there are probably things about it you don’t like. Maybe it’s too hot in the summer or too humid. Maybe it rains too much or too little. Maybe it’s too big or too small or there’s not enough to do.

But, probably like my city, there are many things about it that make it pleasant, things about which we should be thankful.  No matter if we love where we live or not, your city and mine suffer from a curse. If that’s true, what is the cure?

 

Today’s Readings:
2 Kings 1 & 2
Psalm 71.9-16
Proverbs 18.6-8
John 16.1-33

 

A Cure for the Curse

 

2 Kings 1 & 2:

Send Me!

 

Don’t you love Elisha’s boldness in asking for “a double portion” of the Lord’s Spirit in his life! I wonder how much more we could do for the Lord, if we just ASKED Him to do something through us! It made me think of Isaiah when He really saw God for Who He was:

“Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying: ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.'”

Do we, maybe out of a false sense of humility, neglect to say “Send me!” or “Please give me a double portion, Lord!”

 

A Cure for the Curse

 

Chapter 2.19-21 points out another great truth. It says:

“Then the men of the city said to Elisha, ‘Please notice, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad, and the ground barren.’ And he said, ‘Bring me a new bowl, and put salt in it.’ So they brought it to him. Then he went out to the source of the water, and cast in the salt there, and said, Thus says the LORD. ‘I have healed this water; from it there shall be no more death or barrenness.'”

In John MacArthur’s Study Bible, he says, “The healing of Jericho’s water, through Elisha, freed the city from Joshua’s curse, making it habitable for humans once again (Josh. 6.26; 1 Ki. 16.34).

I thought about our city. It, too, is a pleasant city in so many ways. Even though we often complain about our dust, our hot summers, and our laid back attitude, there are so many things for which we should be thankful—first and foremost—our people. I believe we have some of the most wonderful people in the world! And wherever you live, there are things about your city or town that make it “pleasant.” But we, also, suffer from a curse, the curse of sin, just as every city and all of mankind does.

The answer to our problems is also the same—applying salt, God’s cleansing and purifying, to the source, the hearts of the people. Jesus told us that we are to be salt to those around us (Matt. 5.13). Let’s ask God to “send us” and “use us” to be His agents of grace, sharing the Gospel with those who need His cleansing power and loving them with His love!

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Psalm 71.9-16:

When Suffering

 

When others attack you, instead of defending yourself, keep your eyes on Him. Verses 14-16:  Continue reading

“Trusting God in Suffering” November 16

 

Trusting God in SufferingWhen God asks you to trust Him in the difficult things: when He doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, when your child isn’t getting better, when the finances still seem impossible, when the doctor hands you a bad report … where will you go? Where will you find hope? What will you believe about God?

Trusting God makes all the difference in times of suffering. What can we learn about God that will steady us in tough times?

 

Today’s Readings:
Ezekiel 23 & 24
Psalm 127.1-5
Proverbs 28.24
Hebrews 11.1-16

 

Trusting God in Suffering

 

Ezekiel 23 & 24:

Understanding Suffering

 

What if God called you to make the sacrifice that Ezekiel had to make—losing his wife and not even being allowed to grieve (24.15-18)? Could you trust God to give you the strength to do it? Or would you fall into self-pity or a “why me” attitude?

How would you respond if the child you raised to love God becomes a prodigal, throwing aside everything you believe? Would you still trust God?

What if the doctor handed you a bad report? Or your child didn’t get better? Would you still believe that God is good?

What if you or your spouse lost a job or your savings or your retirement plan? Would you still be able to trust Him to meet your needs?

I know for some of you these questions aren’t hypothetical, they are reality. The truth is suffering is a part of life in this fallen world. Someone has said that we’re either in the midst of trial, coming out of one, or getting ready to go into one.

They may vary in degree and some may be easier to handle than others, but we all suffer.

When God asks you to trust Him in the difficult things: when He doesn’t seem to be answering your prayers, when your child isn’t getting better, when the finances still seem impossible, when the doctor hands you a bad report … where will you go? Where will you find hope? What will you believe about God?

Could you say with the psalmist, “I know, O LORD, that Your judgments are right, and that in faithfulness You have afflicted me” (Ps. 119.75)?

 

How to Grow in Trust

 

It’s hard to trust someone you don’t know.

When your toddler jumps into your arms in the swimming pool for the first time, he doesn’t trust his ability to swim, he trusts you because he knows you. When your doctor says she needs to do surgery, you’ll either trust her diagnosis, or you’ll get another opinion.

A toddler learns to trust his parents because of his experience with them. You may come to trust your doctor because of her care and knowledge in other situations or because someone you know recommended her. But somehow we must have knowledge of a person if we’re to trust in them.

We trust God first by faith. We make the choice to believe His Word and to respond to His wooing, but we walk it out by coming to know Him through His Word.

 

What can we know about God that will steady us in trials and suffering? 

Continue reading

“How much do you really want to know Jesus?” October 8

 

How much do you really want to know Jesus? How much we value knowing Him reveals a great deal about our hearts. The Apostle Paul who had all the Jewish credentials: education, a great family pedigree, and his own achievements, said he counted it all as garbage, literally “dung,” in comparison to knowing Him.How much do you really want to know Jesus? How much we value knowing Him reveals a great deal about our hearts. The Apostle Paul who had all the Jewish credentials: education, a great family pedigree, and his own achievements, said he counted it all as garbage, literally “dung,” in comparison to knowing Him.

 

Today’s Readings:
Jeremiah 1 & 2
Psalm 116.5-14
Proverbs 27.1
Philippians 3.1-21

 

How much do you really want to know Jesus?

 

Philippians 3.1-21:

Knowing Him

Several years ago I started listening to a worship song entitled All I Once Held Dear (Knowing Him). You may be familiar with it.

I believe when it comes to worship, it’s not about the style of music, but about the words. It’s the words that we are offering up to God in our worship. It’s the words that really matter.

I was greatly moved by the lyrics that come right out of this passage in Philippians.

But as I was singing and worshiping two lines toward the end grabbed my heart with a holy fear. The lines were, “Oh, to know the power of your risen life and to know You in Your sufferings.”

The thought occurred to me that this isn’t generic. I was saying to the Lord, “I want to know You in Your sufferings.” And that would most likely happen through suffering on my part.

We have all suffered in various ways. I have and I’m sure you have, but there was something that gave me pause about singing and saying I wanted to know Christ in that way. I had to ask myself, “How much do I really want to know Him?”

As I went to my Bible to read the entire passage, I thought about the Apostle who had all the Jewish credentials: education, a great family pedigree, and his own achievements, and how he said he counted it all as garbage, literally “dung,” in comparison to knowing Christ (3.8). Not just knowing Him in His resurrection power, but in the fellowship of His sufferings.

Verse 10, “that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection, and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death.”

bibleI don’t know about you, but I like the part about knowing Him in the “power of His resurrection,” but the “fellowship of His sufferings,” is another thing. But I’ve, also, come to believe we can’t have one without the other.

There will be times when we will suffer simply because we live in a sin-cursed world. There will be times when we will suffer because of the sins of others. And there will be times when we suffer because we are His and His light is in us. And darkness doesn’t like the light.

“And this is the condemnation, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For everyone practicing evil hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed” (Jn. 3.19-20).

The Christian walk is not without tests and trials, but ultimately God takes care of His own. As the Prophet Jeremiah said:

“‘They will fight against you, but they shall not prevail against you. For I am with you,’ says the LORD, ‘to deliver you’” (Jer. 1.19).

And in the process of that suffering, we come to know Him in increasingly greater ways as we learn to depend on Him and cling to His promises.

 

 

Here are the lyrics to the song:

All I once held dear, built my life upon
All this world reveres, and wars to own
All I once thought gain I have counted loss
Spent and worthless now, compared to this

Knowing you, Jesus
Knowing you, there is no greater thing
You’re my all, you’re the best
You’re my joy, my righteousness
And I love you, Lord

Now my heart’s desire is to know you more
To be found in you and known as yours
To possess by faith what I could not earn
All-surpassing gift of righteousness

Oh, to know the power of your risen life
And to know You in Your sufferings
To become like you in your death, my Lord
So with you to live and never die

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Jeremiah 1 & 2:

Our All-Knowing, Sovereign God

Jeremiah is often called “the weeping prophet.” He also wrote the book of Lamentations. Its name refers to a funeral dirge. Jeremiah grieved over the judgment of his people and the destruction of the once flourishing and beautiful city of Jerusalem by the Babylonians. The destruction was God’s judgment on a people who had repeatedly turned their backs on Him. But before doing so, God through Jeremiah called the people to repentance and warned of the judgment that would come if they did not repent. Continue reading

“Jellyfish, Pain and Heartache” October 6

 

Jellyfish, Pain & Heartache - God says He’ll complete the work He has begun in us (Phil. 1.6), but we often suffer unnecessarily in the process. Like Nemo and Dorie in the movie Finding Nemo, we ignore God’s instructions and end up "swimming through schools of jellyfish." Like the fishy pair, we survive, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain and heartache!God says He’ll complete the work He has begun in us (Phil. 1.6), but we often suffer unnecessarily in the process. Like Nemo and Dorie in the movie Finding Nemo, we ignore God’s instructions and end up “swimming through schools of jellyfish.” Like the fishy pair, we survive, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain and heartache!

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 63 & 64
Psalm 115.14-18
Proverbs 26.27
Philippians 1.1-30

 

Jellyfish, Pain and Heartache

 

Philippians 1.1-30:

Ignoring His counsel

stop gesture

Verse 1.6 is one of my favorite verses. It gives me great hope when it says, “being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ.”

Isn’t it good to know that He is the one who will complete His work in us? And … He never gives up! But I wonder how often we make His work harder … on us!

Someone gave me a great illustration of this. I was explaining this passage and she told me it reminded her of the scene in Finding Nemo where Nemo and Dorie have been told not to try to go around or over the gap, but through it. When they get there, that just doesn’t seem right to them; so they decide to swim over it. They end up running into a huge school of jellyfish! They survive it, but not without getting stung and suffering a great deal of pain! How like our attempts to figure things out for ourselves, often ignoring what God says, and doing what seems right to us! (Prov. 14:12)

 

Today’s Other Readings:

 

Isaiah 63 & 64:

Filthy Rags

Human hand in glove holding dirty rag, isolated on whiteChapter 64 contains the following passage:

4 For since the beginning of the world
Men have not heard nor perceived by the ear,
Nor has the eye seen any God besides You,
Who acts for the one who waits for Him.
5 You meet him who rejoices and does righteousness,
Who remembers You in Your ways.
You are indeed angry, for we have sinned—
In these ways we continue;
And we need to be saved.
6 But we are all like an unclean thing,
And all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags;
We all fade as a leaf,
And our iniquities, like the wind,
Have taken us away.

This passage speaks of the greatness of our God and our universal need for salvation. We are like an “unclean thing.” All our righteousness, all our good deeds, all our attempts at trying to save ourselves or earn God’s approval are like filthy rags. We are unclean by nature, sinners from the womb.

But God …

Do you realize that the Bible is all one big “but God”? But God who is rich in mercy, who knows what we are, chose to die in our place!  Continue reading

“Good Doctrine Matters” September 12

 

Good Doctrine Matters - Good doctrine ... there I said it ... the "D" word. It seems like, in many churches, we're afraid of the word and of calling other biblical concepts by their traditional or biblical names. I understand the value of making preaching and teaching relevant. But have we gone to such lengths to avoid using biblical terminology that we're at risk of producing a generation of biblical illiterates?Good doctrine … there I said it … the “D” word. It seems like, in many churches, we’re afraid of the word and of calling other biblical concepts by their traditional or biblical names. I understand the value of making preaching and teaching relevant. But have we gone to such lengths to avoid using biblical terminology that we’re at risk of producing a generation of biblical illiterates?

According to Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary, doctrine is, “a set of ideas or beliefs that are taught or believed to be true.” Biblical doctrine is made up of the ideas and beliefs that the Bible teaches to be true. It’s the Bible carefully studied and understood.

Good doctrine matters because what we believe about God, His sovereignty, and His dealings with those He loves, determines how we’ll respond to the tests and trials of life among other things. It also determines whether or not we witness, how we interact with others, especially our spouses and children, and whether or not we have peace at the end of our lives. Good doctrine matters more than we know.

 

Today’s Readings:
Isaiah 15 & 16
Psalm 106.24-31
Proverbs 25.8-10
2 Corinthians 4.1-18

 

Good doctrine matters!

 

2 Corinthians 4.1-18:

Good Doctrine Concerning Tests & Trials

 

One area where good doctrine is vitally important concerns the tests and trials we experience in life. Look at what Paul had to say about his own:

Verses 1, 7-10:

1 Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart:

7 But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence of the power may be of God and not of us. 8 We are hard-pressed on every side, yet not crushed; we are perplexed, but not in despair; 9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed— 10 always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body.

Many today come to God with a “what can He do for me” attitude. That attitude is fed by the popular “health and prosperity doctrine.” It’s a doctrine with great appeal, but it has a nasty downside.

What if you believe God will give you whatever you desire if you just have enough faith?

What if you believe God always wants His children healed physically, guarantees that our children will grow up to serve Him, and gives us freedom from all hardship?

Then … what if … God doesn’t make you rich or heal your body? What if your child gets sick? What if you continue to struggle financially? What if your husband doesn’t get saved or come back home or never changes? What if the man of your dreams doesn’t appear? What if you suffer physically? What if your children rebel?  Continue reading