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Posts Tagged ‘Hope’

The Crucible of Love

 

Love is easy when it blesses.  

 

But what happens to you when love lacks benefit, becomes a cross to bear, or a curse upon you?

 

Oswald Chambers asks a question which causes me to pause: 

Have you come to the place where God can withdraw His blessings and it does not affect your trust in Him? (1)

 

I would be lying if I claimed that a withdrawal of God’s blessing would not affect my trust in Him.  

 

This is why I cling to these verses:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for God is with me; His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

 

Nothing in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

 

Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (2)

 

In those times when doubt has crept into my heart and mind these verses remind me that God never withdraws His blessing from me.  

 

I may perceive God has withdrawn His blessing, but He does not.  

 

God sends His blessings in comforts and in difficulties, in joy and in sorrow, in praise and in discipline, in gain and in loss. 

 

Knowing this sustains me when His love is greater than a warm fuzzy for the day.

 

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest: Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Oswald Chambers Publications; Marshall Pickering, 1986).
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 23:4, Romans 8:39, and Hebrews 4:16.

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We rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance,  

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope. (1)

 

Christiaan Beker, the Dutch theologian and one of the most respected Pauline scholars of the 20th century, advised his students to never quote this passage when ministering to the suffering unless you want the sufferer to spit in your face.

 

Dr. Beker suffered through the Nazi destruction of Europe during the reign of Hitler.  He had zero tolerance for anyone who thought we should welcome suffering into our lives as a gift from God.

 

As a passionate believer who clung to God through his own difficulties in life, Dr. Beker was never able to justify human suffering with a loving God.

 

If nothing else, Dr. Beker taught me to walk through the valley of the shadow of death with others with tender compassion and with my lips sealed.  He was an advocate of silent compassion as opposed to know-it-all comfort.  Your presence is more helpful than pitter-patter.

 

Why does a loving God permit suffering?  

 

My stock answer is, “I do not know, but I do know that God loves you! I know that God is hurting with you!”

 

Today I read a quote of Frederick William Robertson, which looks at suffering, not from it’s cause or purpose, but from what it does for us.  He speaks about how suffering makes us a better and more compassionate person.  He writes:

 

If you aspire to be a person of consolation, if you want to share the priestly gift of sympathy, if you desire to go beyond giving commonplace comfort to a heart that is tempted, and if you long to go through the daily exchanges of life with the kind of tact that never inflicts pain, then you must be prepared to pay the price for a costly education, for like Christ, you must suffer. (2)

 

While Robertson avoids answering our why questions about suffering, like Paul, he points us to one of the hidden blessings of suffering.  

 

The most compassionate people I know are those who have personally experienced the horror of unexplained and undeserved suffering.

 

Perhaps we will never find comfort in suffering, until it allows us to compassionately comfort those who suffer.

 

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  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Romans 5:3–4.
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 313). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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“Isn’t it glorious to know that no matter how unjust something may be, even when it seems to have come from Satan himself, by the time it reaches us it is God’s will for us and will ultimately work to our good?” (1)

 

How would your life change if you assumed everything that happened to you was God’s will for you?

 

Everything?  

 

Yes, everything!

 

It’s a question that gives me long pause and few words.

 

Anytime someone glibly says, “It is God’s will” in the face of tragedy or disaster, I cringe.  

 

When bad things happen, questions flood my heart: 

Would God? 

Could God? 

Did God? 

Why God?

 

If it was God’s will and He would, could, and did, how would your life change?

 

I’d turn to God.

 

I’d cry out to Him?  

 

I’d stand with Habakkuk and wait for God to answer me. (See Habakkuk 1:1-2:4)

 

I’d cling to these scriptures:

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.” 

 

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” 

 

“We know that for those who love God all things work together for good.” 

 

“For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (2)

 

On the other hand, how would your life change if you assumed everything that happened to you was NOT God’s will for you?

 

In the center of the circle of the will of God I stand: 

There can come no second causes, all must come from His dear hand.

God is Love, and God is faithful, so in perfect Peace I rest. (1)

 

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 311). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Psalm 23:4, John 3:16, Romans 8:28, and Romans 8:38-39.

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Faith grows during storms (1)

Why is it that some people’s faith only grows during storms and crisis?

Can’t faith grow in quiet daylight?  Grass does!

Rarely does anyone call me and say:

“Pastor, life is good!  Do you have guidance for scripture I should study or books I can read during these good ol’days, so I can grow in faith?” 

When life is good we are convinced we do not need God.  Since there are no pressing afflictions or infections that need supernatural healing, why bother God.  Isn’t He busy with others?

I learned to sail in calm seas, when the wind was gentle and the water waved gracefully below the hull of my boat.  If I had not learned to sail in calm seas, I would have never been able to sail through storms.

Perhaps this is why we panic and are afraid when the storms of life come our way.  We cannot hear God in the storm, if we have not dwelt with Him during the day.

While we draw on our faith during difficulty, we fail to build up our faith during prosperity.  You only have money to withdraw on a rainy day, if you made deposits before.

David’s guidance “be still and know that I am God” (2) is spoken when life is in an upheaval.  Yet his wisdom should be heeded when we are wandering in green pastures and drinking from still waters.

Lois Cheney asks:

Does anyone ever meander with God, sharing fun, thoughts, and silences?  (3)

Our best friendships are built on lazy days, when we simply spend time with others, chatting, talking, listening, and loving each other, letting time pass in the quiet breeze

Friendships built during days of leisure are the friendships which sustain us during seasons of difficulty.

Your fair-weather-friendship with Jesus, will sustain you during a gale.

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  1. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, L. B. E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 269). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.
  2. Psalm 46:10.
  3. Cheney, Lois A. (2005-03-01). God is No Fool (pp. 185-186). Midpoint Trade Books – A. Kindle Edition.

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Life is a Battle!

A friend told me recently, “I avoid conflict! I’ll do anything to get out of conflict!”

I was tempted to add to his last sentence, “… except kill yourself.”

Can you live life and avoid conflict or battles?

In my devotional reading today I read these two quotes:

Life is not victory, but battle. (1)

Combat comes before victory. (2)

The sum of the two could read: 

Life is a battle which precedes victory!

The presence of evil and the reality of sin assure us that life is a battle between good and evil.  This is the story of life … Good and Evil are in a battle to the finish.  Only one can win the battle.    

People often complain that the Bible, especially the Old Testament and The Book of Revelation, is a gruesome battlefield which does not seem befitting for the people of God. 

It’s a valid complaint because the battle of Good and Evil is the story of The Bible.  We often forget that the cosmic battle between Good and Evil is fought everyday on earth, as well as in the heavens.

Thus, the ultimate question of life is,

“Which will be the victor? Good or evil?”

I believe both will win.  

Evil will win the battle of the flesh and Good will win the battle of the cosmos.  

However, since the Eternal will always outlive the Temporal, I am casting my lot with the God, the Eternal Good! 

Martin Luther wrote in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress is Our God:

Though this world, with devils filled, should threaten to undo us, 

we will not fear, for God hath willed his truth to triumph through us.  

The Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him; 

his rage we can endure, for lo, his doom is sure; 

one little word shall fell him.

– – –

That word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them, abideth; 

the Spirit and the gifts are ours, thru him who with us sideth.  

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; 

the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; 

his kingdom is forever.

Yes, life is a battle!  This is the bad news.

The Good News is: Jesus wins!

It’s good to know who will win!  

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  1. Samuel G. Hardman and Dwight Lyman Moody, Thoughts for the Quiet Hour (Willow Grove, PA: Woodlawn Electronic Publishing, 1998).
  2. Reimann, Jim; Cowman, Mrs. Charles E. (2008-09-02). Streams in the Desert: 366 Daily Devotional Readings (p. 239). Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

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The great enemy of the life of faith in God is not sin,

but the good which is not good enough.  (1)

 

Last evening I told a group of friends, “Today may go down as the most significant day in my journey of faith!”

They asked for more information.  I told them it was too much to try to explain in a minute or two, much less in an hour or two.

For years I have been wrestling with a good which was not good enough.  For years I had been longing for this good to quench my thirst and to satisfy my heart.  It always left me wanting.  It never brought me to The Promised Land which it promised.

Yesterday I finally let go of this good.  I did not free it as much as I freed myself.

My grasping to the good, my longing for it to satisfy and become great, perfect, and true has been the enemy of my faith for decades.

Today I am free.  Today I am at peace.

The good was a false hope in something to satisfy all the hopes and dreams of my heart.  

Even though you are longing to know what the good was, it does not matter.  

It was the good to which I clung and in which I hoped.  It was the good which kept me from grabbing onto God with both hands.  It was the good which prevented me from loving the Lord my God with all of my heart, and soul, and strength. (2)

Martin Luther in his great hymn, A Mighty Fortress, (a favorite since my childhood) wrote:

Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also; the body they may kill; God’s truth abideth still; his kingdom is forever.

A few years ago I began to recognize the bruise, the rotten spot of the good to which I had clung.  But I kept to the hope that with TLC, with effort, and with some buff and polish I could help remove the bruise, the spoiled rotten mark which infected this good.

Yesterday, I realized that the spoiled rotten bruise is here to stay, much like a birthmark.  I can cover it with beautiful clothing, with the best beauty cream and make-up, and with denial, but the birthmark will remain.

I am grateful I finally accepted this reality because I am free from the good which was never going to be good enough.  

My soul is no longer troubled.  

My faith in God is no longer divided between Him and this good.

Jesus said:

“Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (3)

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  1. Oswald Chambers, My Utmost for His Highest : Selections for the Year (Grand Rapids, MI: Discovery House Publishers, 1993).
  2. Deuteronomy 6:5
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), John 4:14.

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Careless Faithfulness

A few weeks ago I was at a fundraising dinner for a community ministry which is near and dear to my heart.  At the end of the evening I felt led by God to give a gift to the ministry.  I joyfully placed my gift into the offering.  I was grateful that I could make the gift.

The next day I received my annual property tax bill.  My property taxes had gone up by 7.5%.  Ouch!  My first thought was in regards to the gift I had given the evening before.  That extra cash would have come in handy.

God was rejoicing while I was fretting.

God loves it when we live with careless faithfulness.

God prefers this over calculated faithfulness or as Oswald Chambers calls it careful infidelity.

In contrast to the generous mercy and grace which God has freely extended to us, most Christians weigh the cost of being faithful.  We are careful not to overextend our time, finances, energy, or selves as we exercise our faith.

While we affirm God’s providence most of us hedge our bets and keep extra grain on the side, just in case God’s providence does not arrive as expected.

When God gave manna to Moses and the freed Hebrew slaves in the wilderness God only gave them enough manna for the day.  If the Hebrews carefully set aside some manna for the next day it spoiled and was not fit for consumption.

Quickly, the Hebrews learned that God would only provide for their daily needs one day at a time.

In America we are hounded to be wise and to save for the rainy day.  I understand this wisdom.  I  continually set aside money for retirement.  However, this wisdom runs contrary to God’s desire that I live with careless faithfulness.

God has covered me on rainy days, yet I still fret and worry.

Careless faithfulness does not come easy for me.

A few days after making my gift and getting my tax bill, I received a gift equal to the gift I had given.

God had everything covered.  I never saw it coming.

Abraham called the place,

the Lord will provide. 

Genesis 22:14

 

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