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Posts tagged ‘waiting on God’

7 Suggestions When God Is Silent

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Elijah had been used of God to hold back rain from the people for over three years, because of their sins. Obviously, he was not well liked as a preacher. I can imagine the stress he experienced during those years.

Something strikes me, however, that seems to further complicate Elijah’s situation.

Consider 1 Kings 18:1:

“After a long time, in the third year, the word of the LORD came to Elijah: “Go and present yourself to Ahab, and I will send rain on the land.”

According to a couple New Testament passages, this “After a long time” was actually three and a half years. The famine was three and a half years long. For three and a half years, the people apparently continued to sin, Elijah continued to hold on by faith, but God said nothing. God was apparently inactive…not speaking…even to His great servant Elijah during this time.

Have you ever been there? Has the silence of God in your life ever been eerily strong?

Imagine you had been faithfully serving…God is using you…you are in constant communication with Him…and then suddenly…everything is quiet. You have to wait.

The separation must have seemed unbearable. Elijah is not liked and unpopular. He’s an outcast from the people and the One he trusted most was seemingly absent.

God would soon do a miracle through Elijah…one he couldn’t even imagine…certainly not script, but during this period all Elijah could do was wait.

If you have been follower of Christ very long, you have had periods where it seems God is nowhere to be found. We often call them periods of spiritual dryness. Sometimes I refer to it as being in a spiritual funk.

What should we do during the times of silence, before the miracles of God come through for us?

If you are like me, you can figure out how to celebrate a miracle. You don’t need much help doing that. The tough part of life is figuring out what to do during the years of silence…during the years when miracles are seemingly nowhere to be found.

What do we do during the spiritually dry periods of life when we don’t hear clearly the voice of God?

Here are 7 suggestions for those times:

Don’t ignore the silence… – Some of the biggest moves God has made in my life have come after a period of spiritual dryness…when it seemed like God was doing nothing in my life. Stay very close to God and watch for Him to eventually display His power. He will in the fullness of time.

Confront known sin in your life – This wasn’t the problem of silence for Elijah, but the problem for the Israelites was that they were chasing after other gods and living lives in total disobedience to God. Sin may not be the reason you don’t sense closeness to God right now, but if you have known sin in your life it will affect your intimacy with God.

Go back to what you know – Get back to the basics of the faith that saved you. You’ll do it 100’s of times in your life, but you must remind yourselves of the basis of faith…which is the very character and promises of God. God is in control. He really is…even when it doesn’t seem that He is anywhere to be found.

Make a decision…Choose sides – You can’t adequately serve God and the world. (Consider Joshua 24:15) Something happens in life, often sin, busyness, boredom, or a tragedy…but if we are normal, we have periods where we grow away from our close relationship with God. God hasn’t moved, but if you’ve shifted in your obedience, get back securely on the right side.

Trust More…Not less – Times of silence may be filled with fear, but ironically, these times require more faith. Times come in our spiritual life when our enthusiasm isn’t as real as when we began our walk with God. That’s not an indication to quit…it may be that God is using that time for something bigger than you could have imagined…but whatever is next will most likely require a deeper level of trust.

Listen and Watch Closely – Some day God is going to make His plans known to you. Don’t miss them. He may come to your personally, through His Word, circumstances or another person. You’ll need to be in a position to know that God is moving.

Get ready to receive – God will break the silence some day…and when He does it WILL be good. If you mope around in your sorrows, you’ll be less prepared to receive the good things to come. Not because of your circumstances, but because of your faith, clothe yourself in joy as you wait for God to bless you after the period of silence.

Impossibilities…

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as an impossible situation.” -Chuck Swindoll

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” -Hudson Taylor

“Triumphant prayer is almost impossible where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.” -R. A. Torrey

The impossible…

Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance or situation that seemed impossible? Even for God? Those times where nothing made sense, and even trusting God and His Word was difficult.

Mary faced the impossible – in a double dose. Gabriel came to her and proclaimed,“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31 ESV)

No doubt she thought “no way”. Mary had never known a man. Mary asked the angel,“How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 ESV)

Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”

No doubt she was familiar with the prophecies, but still – the baby would be the promised Messiah? The Holy Son of God?

“Come on…”

What’s interesting is that in several places, the Bible tells us that Mary “pondered” the words she had heard in her heart.

As a young Jewish girl, she would have certainly been very familiar with Hebrew scripture and the stories of “impossibilities”;

  • Abraham believing God when he was called to go out to a place of promise…not knowing where he was going.
  • Sarah conceiving in her old age knowing the God who promised was faithful.
  • Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.
  • Joshua watching the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.
  • Rahab, a prostitute, entering into the lineage of the Messiah.
  • Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. The stories must have flooded her mind and heart.
  • And of course the prophets foretelling that the Son of God would be born of a virgin.

As she pondered the recorded past of God’s power and presence, her heart must have come alive with what the angel Gabriel declared, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 ESV)

Her response reflects the heart attitude imperative for God to work the impossible. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 ESV)

What’s impossible in your life today?

  • Impossible that God can heal your body when the doctors give no hope?
  • Impossible that God can restore a broken marriage devastated with infidelity?
  • Impossible that God can bring the prodigal child back home?
  • Impossible that you will ever see your hearts desires realized?

God takes great pleasure in turning your “impossibilities” into “possibilities”.

Ponder what God has done in the past. “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me…” (Isaiah 46:9 NASB) Reflect on the stories recorded in the Bible. Remember the good things God has done for you. For your family. For your friends.

What God has done before – He will do again.

Watch God turn the impossible into the possible. It may take a miracle. That’s ok – He specializes in those.

And He will turn your life around.

Giving thanks……in the MIDST of ………

SOURCE:  AACC (American Association of Christian Counselors)

Thanksgiving in the Midst

“This way of seeing our Father in everything makes life one long thanksgiving and gives a rest of heart, and, more than that, a gayety of spirit, that is unspeakable.” -Hannah Whitall Smith

“As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.” -David Wilkerson

“In Everything Give Thanks.”

A verse so familiar we recite it almost without thinking as an encouragement to one another in our everyday walk.

However, like a woodman’s axe, the reality of life has a way of splitting “everything” into opposing halves.

Good and bad.

Pleasure and pain.

Joys and sorrow.

The front half of the “everything” is easy. Thankful for the birth of a child. For great health. Family. A good job.

The backside of the “everything” is more difficult. The death of a loved one. Cancer. Divorce. A job lost. The empty chair at the head of the table from which dad said the Thanksgiving prayer just last year.

It’s hard to get our hearts and emotions around thanking God for the dark days, for pain, or overwhelming loss.

What’s interesting is that our Father does not ask us to. He asks us in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 to be thankful “in” the midst of those things.

Consider the life of Jeremiah. His autobiography recorded in Lamentations chapter 3 paints a dismal portrait of his journey.

Affliction. Darkness. Flesh wasting away. Broken bones. Bitterness. Hardship. Chains. Crooked paths. Bears. Lions. Arrows. Mocking. Rejection.

Reflecting on all of this, Jeremiah bemoans, “I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me.” (Lamentations 3:20 NIV)

Too often, the tapestries of our own lives have the same threads woven through them.

But, in the midst of despair — Hope always emerges.

Jeremiah calls to mind an eternal truth upon which all thanksgiving has its foundation… “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end.” (vs. 22 ESV)

Every trial that enters your life comes through the doorway of the steadfast love of the Lord. It involves love that emanates from an eternally wise Father. “It is He who made the earth by His power, who established the world by His wisdom…” (Jeremiah 10:12 ESV).  Isaiah adds that the Lord of Hosts is “wonderful in counsel and excellent in wisdom” (Isaiah 28:29 ESV).

God is infinitely wise. His steadfast love endures forever. Separate truths, which are inseparable.

And they are truths that transform trials into thanksgiving.

When life is not the way it is supposed to be, when the wheels come off…when looking up is the only choice you have, because you are flat on your back…be thankful.

Be thankful that God is infinitely wise. Be thankful that His steadfast love never ceases and endures forever.

In the midst of everything — give thanks. It will turn your life around.

Realizing the Good in the Bad

SOURCE:  Taken from The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Personal Conflict by Ken Sande, Updated Edition (Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 2003) p. 216.

 The Peacemaker’s Harvest

When someone has wronged you, it is also helpful to remember that God is sovereign and loving. Therefore, when you are having a hard time forgiving that person, take time to note how God may be using the offense for good.

  • Is this an unusual opportunity to glorify God?
  • How can you serve others and help them grow in their faith?
  • What sins and weaknesses of yours are being exposed for the sake of your growth?
  • What character qualities are you being challenged to exercise?

When you perceive that the person who has wronged you is being used as an instrument in God’s hand to help you mature, serve others, and glorify him, it may be easier for you to move ahead with forgiveness.

Conflict, along with trials, suffering, loss, and other hardships, can be what God uses to bring the most good in our own lives or in the lives of those around us. It’s often the most painful events of life that bring the biggest harvest.

God brings us through the times of conflict, trial, or suffering that can bring a great harvest. Yes, it’s work; often it involves hours (or months) of tears, heartache, and discipline, but the ultimate reward is one of becoming more like Christ. In these situations, God gives us opportunities to glorify him, to serve others, to be a part of what he is doing, and even to receive personal reward.

Yet in our stubbornness, our refusal to forgive, or our demand to be right or vindicated, we fail to seize those opportunities. We miss the very harvest for which we’ve toiled.

The sowing, the tending, and the harvest all depend on each other–one could not happen without the other. But we are promised that–

“Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness” (James 3:18).

May your harvest be a great one as you sow peace in the midst of the conflicts you face.

Developing Childlike Trust (in God)

SOURCE: Taken from an article by  Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

Do You Have Childlike Trust?

God created us to trust easily, so we would trust Him, just as children trust their parents.

HE knows trust and faith are two essential components of our walk with Him. But Satan takes advantage of our desire to trust and he has devised a system to lead us away from God.

When Satan gets in our head, he magnifies both the natural feelings of inadequacy that we have as parents as well as the guilt that comes when we really do let our kids down, whether intentionally or unintentionally. When kids experience hurts like these, they become jaded and cautious about trusting others. As the letdowns and disappointments accumulate through the years, trusting anything other than ourselves becomes hard for us, even under normal circumstances.

This mistrust breeds loneliness, isolation, and a feeling that no one truly understands me and my path. I begin to feel that no one else is on my team. Self-reliance becomes my main coping strategy. Self-reliance is the opposite of what God wants in His relationship with us. But the Holy Spirit within us can be our resident tutor, helping us untwist every past hurt so we can start to trust again. I’m talking about real, 100% unconditional trust and wide-eyed belief.

Like a small child, we can fully trust all God’s promises, every instruction, and fall into His open arms.

Today, when no one else seems to understand you, simply draw closer to Your Lord and God. Rejoice in Him, the One who understands you and loves you perfectly. Trust His promises and instruction for living life. Apply His principles to an area of trouble today and continue to apply them regularly to that area. Give the principles a chance to affect your life and don’t judge the results prematurely. After all, you’ve given your plan a lot of time to implode. Now give His plan equal time to succeed. Whether you trust yourself or put your trust in God is your decision, so choose well.

Dear Father God, I come to You for understanding because You know me far better than I know myself. You comprehend me in all my complexity. No detail of my life is hidden from You. Help me to understand my hurts more, to forgive those who hurt me, and to trust You and Your promises. Give me the trust of a child when it comes to all that has to do with You. I pray in the name of the rock of my trust, Christ Jesus;  – AMEN!

The Truth
O LORD, my heart is not lifted up; my eyes are not raised too high; I do not occupy myself with things too great and too marvelous for me. But I have calmed and quieted my soul, like a weaned child with its mother; like a weaned child is my soul within me. Psalm 131:1,2

Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 18:3

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.In all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make straight your paths.

Proverbs 3:5,6

 

I Can’t FIX… It…Him…Her………

SOURCE:  Living Free/Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” Psalm 62:5-6 NLT

Some of us—if not all of us—have known the frustration of being caught up in a situation we can’t control and can’t fix.

Are you suffering pressures, stress and pain from dealing with the consequences of a loved one’s problem?

Those pressures are very real, but even in the middle of that frustration and tension, you need to believe that there is hope.

This kind of hope can be described as the confident expectation of something good. It is hope based on our knowledge of God and his willingness to meet us right where we are. He is here now and is ready to work in us and in our difficult circumstances.

If you are not already doing so, determine to begin spending regular time praying and studying the Bible. When feelings of hopelessness fill your mind, go to God in prayer. Ask him for his strength. Ask him to bring to mind the promises you have studied from the Bible. Ask him to work his will and his plan in your life and in the life of your loved one. He loves you and he will meet your need.

Lord, thank you for this reminder that there is always hope if I am willing to trust in you. You alone are my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

Concerned Persons: Because We Need Each Other by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

12 Verses to Battle Your Biggest Problems

SOURCE:   Sandra Clifton, D. Min.

Regardless of what you are going through, God is fully aware of it.

Not only that, He is also with you. He cares deeply about you right now, and His Word offers you hope for victory in every situation, trial and challenge you face.

If you want to see God’s powerful promises manifested in your life, you must seek the guidance of His Spirit through prayer.

His Word, His Spirit and His will are always aligned. Take hold of His promises and learn to walk with Him by faith for life-changing results.

Find victory over your problems in the following Scriptures:

  •  READ: Ps. 119:89; 2 Cor. 1:20; Heb. 10:23; James 4:7; 1 Pet. 5:7; 2 Pet. 1:3-4.

HEART ISSUE: Take time to dwell on God’s assurances for victorious outcomes in every area of your life. Choose to believe they are intended for you.

PRAYER FOCUS: Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank You for Your powerful promises. You always hear and answer me. Regardless of how things have gone in the past, or how they look today, I can overcome any obstacle because You are completely victorious in me. Amen.

  •  READ: Ps. 66:18; Jer. 1:12; Jer. 33:3; 2 Cor. 5:7; 2 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 6:12.

HEART ISSUE: Tell God all about your dreams and desires. Then take time to listen to Him and receive His direction.

PRAYER FOCUS: Father, in the name of Jesus, I thank You for hearing my prayers, spoken and unspoken. Thank You for answering every time and for giving me my heart’s desires. I give You all the glory. Amen.

Fixing Problems or Trusting God

SOURCE:  Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee/Living Free

“Let be and be still, and know (recognize and understand) that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations! I will be exalted in the earth!” Psalm 46:10 AMP

Life-controlling problems are things that master our lives … things like addictions, destructive behaviors and even certain types of relationships.

Is someone you care about struggling with a life-controlling problem? Do you want to help? That’s wonderful … but it’s vital for you to realize what you can—and can’t—do.

In order to help your loved one, you must examine yourself to see if you are experiencing the “Messiah Complex” … and rid yourself of it if you are. The Messiah Complex describes the situation when we want to see a person receive help so much that we take on the role of God. Our goal should be to trust God versus please God by fixing the problem; otherwise, we may find ourselves driven by guilt and hopelessly resigned to making things happen on our own.

God doesn’t want us to take on God-sized problems. He wants us to trust him. We simply need to take a deep breath and realize that he is God.

Are you in a frenzy of confusion? You want to help but nothing you try seems to work? Feeling frustrated, and maybe even a little frantic? Take time out to “Be still and know that I am God.”

He is power … he is all-knowing … he is love … he is able.

Lord, I get in such a frenzy sometimes trying to fix everything myself. And it just doesn’t work. Help me to remember to be still … to be calm … and to know, really know, that you are God. In Jesus’ name …

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These thoughts were drawn from …

Close—But Not Too Close by Dr. Jimmy Ray Lee.

A Prayer for Worshiping God Before, In and After the Fire

SOURCE:  Scotty Smith/The Gospel Coalition

 Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” Dan. 3:16-18

Heavenly Father, I am convicted, stretched and encouraged, by the way Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego honored you in this story. How refreshing to behold such God-centered, non-utilitarian, heart-engaged, authentic and fearless love for you.

These three friends didn’t worship you because of the gifts you give them, but because of the God that you are. They were firmly convinced that you could rescue them from the fiery furnace; but even if you didn’t rescue them, it would have no effect on their love for you, and trust in you. They would rather be delivered into your presence through the fire, than worship some other false god just to escape the fire.

Father, forgive me when my worship of you varies in response to my perceptions of how well and quick you answer my prayers—how fully you “bless” me, protect me, and grant me relief. As cynical as I am about the “name it and claim it” and prosperity theologies, I’m quite capable of doubting your love when life gets complicated and painful—when I have to wait on you and trust you in the dark and silence. I want to worship you beforethere’s a fire, when I’m in the fire, when the fire’s extinguished, or if you should choose to take me home through the fire.

Lord Jesus, you alone can give me such freedom and love; passion and delight; faithfulness and courage. When Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego were thrown into the fire, you were the fourth man King Nebuchadnezzar saw walking around in the fiery furnace—so great is your faithfulness to us. And you were the one who endured the “fiery trial” of the cross—so great is your grace for us. You will never leave us or forsake us—at any time or in any trial. Because of the gospel, “fire” is less about out destruction and more about our purification. You make all things new, including fiery trials

Because of you, Lord Jesus, we don’t have to be afraid to die; and we don’t have to be afraid to live, either. By your grace, stoke the fire of affection in our hearts for you, so that at the very moment we’re tempted to turn to some false god deliverance or relief, we won’t. So very Amen we pray, in your beautiful and strong name.

 

God’s Desire To Communicate With Us

SOURCE:  Dr. Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

2 Samuel 7:18-29

Perhaps the greatest key to spiritual growth is spending time alone with the Lord. This means taking the time to speak with God about whatever is on your heart—and, even more importantly, allowing Him to speak to you.

God called King David “a man after My heart” (Acts 13:22). To win that kind of reputation, David first needed to know the mind and heart of God so that he might be and do what the Lord desired of him. David sought to know God. He frequently “inquired” of the Lord. He spent time in the Lord’s presence, singing to the Lord from the depths of his heart. In 2 Samuel 7:18 we read, “Then David the king went in and sat before the LORD, and he said, ‘Who am I, O Lord GOD, and what is my house, that You have brought me this far?’”

What did it mean for David to sit before the Lord in prayer? It means that he spent time alone in the presence of God, communicating with the Lord from the depths of his heart, asking Him questions, and listening quietly for the His answers.

Jesus frequently sought time apart with His heavenly Father. Time with the Father provided the Savior with a never-ending source of comfort and strength. Jesus also sought time alone with His disciples so that He might teach them and they might find spiritual refreshment (Luke 9:17-24).

We are wise if we choose to spend time alone with God in prayer—in a place without distractions or interruptions, for a period sufficient for us to relax completely and focus our attention fully upon the Father and His Word. We must be willing to wait in the Lord’s presence until we receive God’s directives or His words of comfort.

Why don’t many of us desire to spend time alone with God? The foremost reason is that we don’t feel sure of our relationship with the Lord and, therefore, we feel afraid of Him.

But those who are born again spiritually have a Father-child relationship with the Lord. Our heavenly Father loves us unconditionally and deals with us tenderly and patiently. The more we learn what He’s really like—the more we see Him as He truly is—the more we will long to spend time alone with Him . . . and the more we will know the fullness of His grace.

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Adapted from “The Charles F. Stanley’s Life Principles Bible,” 2008.

God, Have You Forgotten Me?

For Those Feeling Forgotten

SOURCE:  Marshall Segal/Desiring God

Some of the greatest disappointments in our relationships are made in the moments our memories fail us. No one enjoys being forgotten, especially by those we love most.

Your memory is one of the most powerful and fragile things about you. When it’s good, you can surprise the 64-year-old birthday boy or be there to celebrate ten years in with the not-so-newlyweds. When it’s bad, you forget your coffee appointment with a co-worker or your daughter’s dance recital or the last item on your wife’s grocery list.

Forgetfulness hurts. We’ve all been forgotten and know the pain of expecting someone to remember — to show up, call, write, ask, make time — and coming up empty and alone. If they really cared, they would’ve remembered, right?

Someone Who Can Relate

Joseph, the prized son of Jacob and the eventual ruler of Egypt, was forgotten when he needed to be remembered most. He’d been sold into slavery by his brothers, then slandered into prison by Potiphar’s wife.

While in prison, Pharaoh’s cupbearer and baker are arrested and jailed (Genesis 40:1). Both were suspected of crimes against Pharaoh himself and are facing almost certain death. They know no one crosses the most powerful person in Egypt and lives to tell about it.

No Fortune-Cookie Fortunes

One night, they both have nightmares (40:11–19). Joseph hears the two dreams and tells the cupbearer that not only will he live, but he’ll be Pharaoh’s cupbearer again in just three days. In exchange for this amazing news, he makes one request: Please remember me before Pharaoh. One sentence from you might finally free me.

Then he turns to the baker with bad news. He’ll be executed in those same three days. Joseph didn’t give soft, vague, fortune-cookie predictions. They talk about grapes, birds, and buns, and he says you will live, and you will die, all in three days. So what happens?

A Walk to Remember

You can imagine that walk from the prison. Your life hangs in the balance. You know you’ll receive death if convicted. It seems it may all end right here. Was that guy in prison right? Could Pharaoh really pardon me? Will Pharaoh execute me right there on the spot? There’s no way Joseph could have known those things.

Sure enough, Pharaoh preserves the cupbearer and mercifully welcomes him back to his prized place at his side. And the baker is, well, baked.

Forgetting the Unforgettable

So the cupbearer remembered Joseph, mentioned him to Pharaoh, Joseph was released, and they all lived on happily together, only with fewer pastries, right? No, the text says, “Yet the cupbearer did not remember Joseph, but forgot him” (40:23).

It says that he really just forgot. It’s not that he was scared of what Pharaoh might do or worried that he might make Joseph the cupbearer. He just forgot. How?

Where’s God?

Did God forget Joseph? He did not. We know this because of what it says when Joseph was first put in jail: “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison” (39:21). If God was so concerned about making Joseph popular in the prison, we know he didn’t check out now.

This becomes clear in the next chapter when Pharaoh has a dream. He asks all the wise men in Egypt, and none of them can interpret. Finally, the cupbearer remembers Joseph and tells Pharaoh what happened.

Pharaoh calls Joseph, God speaks to Joseph, he rightly interprets Pharaoh’s dream, and he saves Egypt from famine and ruin. So Pharaoh puts Joseph in charge of all of Egypt, second in command. God shows his infinite wisdom and power through Joseph, even when our unnamed cup carrier forgets him. So what do we learn for us?

God Always Remembers You

First, God never forgets his children. When it looked like Joseph had been completely forgotten, even when he was considered to have done the unthinkable, God was with him and working to free him and use him for his glory.

You will experience all kinds of hard things in this life. You might be forgotten or betrayed by the people you love most, but nothing that can happen to you here can deny what God has said about you once and for all because of Jesus’s life, death on the cross, and resurrection from the dead. God never forgets you.

Always Remember Your Redeemer

Second, keep your cup filled with the gospel about this Jesus. The cupbearer forgot his savior. Okay, Joseph didn’t exactly save him, but he did bring the good news. Every minute the cupbearer lived, every luxury he enjoyed at Pharaoh’s right hand, every bit of recognition he received was the fulfillment of Joseph’s words. And he forgot him. How much more awful would it be for us to forget our Christ? How much more awful to take for granted the one who took away our sin?

He didn’t just say that you would live, but he died to make it happen. If we remember one thing, it should be that we were locked away, truly guilty, deserving of death, and God sent his Son so that he, God, could say “innocent,” “righteous,” “trusted,” “free,” “mine.”

So remember you are remembered in Jesus. Though you may feel forgotten today, your Father will never forget you or forsake you.

What to Remember When God is Silent

SOURCE: Nicole Unice

What can you do when all you hear is nothing?

I’ve got a secret—I’m not hearing God’s voice very often.

And by “very often” I mean almost never.

Since I’ve spent much of my life encouraging others in a relationship with God, this can be very disconcerting, and it’s made worse by the Christians I know who appear to have a direct line to God all the time. God is finding them parking spaces, telling them about apartments, practically giving them a “to do” list every week.

So how come I don’t hear Him like that?

True, there have been times when I have a deep sense of God’s presence in my life. There have been times where I have also had a distinct sense of His voice in my soul. But the times I “feel” and “hear” Him are hardly frequent enough to consider us in a relationship.

If I’m only relying on those rare experiences, I find myself pretty confused and disheartened (especially when I’m around those “other people” who apparently have coffee with Jesus every morning!)

Maybe you also have wondered where God is in your life. Perhaps you have found yourself wondering why God doesn’t give you more specific direction, more often. After all, if He’s off finding your grandma a parking spot, maybe He’s too busy to deal with whatever woe is twisting your heart..

There are plenty of stories in the Bible of God being silent.

Job experienced His silence. So did Abraham as he planned to sacrifice Isaac. The Bible doesn’t record God talking to Joseph in prison, nor John the Baptist before his beheading. There are more examples of God’s silence than we may be comfortable exploring.

In my own life, I’ve discovered God’s silence always tempts me to doubt. But sometimes God’s silence can lead us to a richer, more varied experience with Him in surprising ways. Perhaps most of all, God’s silence can create a hunger for Him.

Think about your own appetite for a moment. When you’re full, it’s easy to be choosy in your selection of what you want to eat. Sometimes we come to God and we are already full. We are full of our own ideas and our own plans. We pray to Him not for His presence, but for things we “need” answers for and the specific answers we want. We pray “accomplish MY will, God” not “accomplish your will.” Ask yourself this: do you want God, or do you want God to do something?

Just as physical hunger makes us less picky about what we’re eating, spiritual hunger can make us less picky for what God’s saying. Physical hunger makes me humble and grateful for whatever nourishment is available. If I allow it, spiritual hunger can also make me live less on the emotional high of spiritual experiences and instead be grateful for every opportunity to hear God’s voice—even when I don’t “feel” it.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:6 “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” When God is silent in your life, maybe He’s growing a hunger in you for the “real” Him. And thankfully, God did not just leave us with experiences alone. He made it very clear how we can encounter Him regardless of how we feel.

Here are three ways you can “hear” God today.

In creation.

Psalm 19:1 says “the heavens declare the glory of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands, day after day they pour forth speech … ” Creation is continually speaking on behalf of God. Every inch of an artist’s painting is infused with the essence of the artist. Every inch of the natural world is infused with the essence of God. That beautiful sunset, the tentative promise of the tree’s budding branches, the rhythms of evening and morning—those are words from the heart of God to you. What do you notice in the natural world today? What might that be saying to you?

 In preaching.

The disciples heard Jesus’ words and then responded to them. Commentator and bible scholar Dr. F. Dale Bruner explains that Jesus’ words are the preaching and the disciples conversation with him after is the praying. In modern context, this means when we hear God’s word in preaching, we take it as authority and encouragement for our specific needs. We humble ourselves to believe God does speak and will speak through the preaching we hear.

 In his word.

A few months ago, I suffered through a season of God’s silence. I became tired and discouraged in the waiting. But I realized perseverance is like courage on steroids. It is choosing to believe even when every cell of your body resists. In that season, I turned to the Bible and wrote down every command Jesus gave when He was on earth. The first thing I stopped on was “man lives on every word that comes from God.” (Matthew 4:4)—and he’s certainly left us words to live on:

• Do not put God to the test (Matthew4:7)

• Worship God and serve him only (4:10)

• Repent (4:17)

• Resolve your anger (5:22)

• Be reconciled to anyone who has anything against you (5:23)

• Settle matters quickly (5:25)

• Anything that makes you stumble–anything–get rid of it (5:29)

• Give to the one who asks, do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you (5:42)

• Give anonymously (6:3)

• Pray secretly (6:6)

Turns out, Jesus did give me a to do list for the day.

The list of specific directions from Jesus is enough to keep me busy for the rest of my life!

Bob Goff tweeted recently, “quit waiting for God to give you a plan when you know His intent. Love God, love people, do stuff.” What I perceive as silence from God probably has more to do with my emotions than reality, because the reality is, God is speaking all the time.

C.S. Lewis said “though our feelings come and go, God’s love for us does not.” If you are experiencing God’s silence, start expecting Him in the unexpected. Find God in creation, in the words you hear preached, in scripture. Believe these things do speak, and they are speaking to you today. You may not hear Him directing you to a parking spot, but into the truth of his presence at every turn.

A Lesson from Hezekiah: 7 Steps to More Effective Prayers

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Hezekiah ruled over Judah and was a good and faithful king.

Hezekiah often became the target of warring nations. The king of Assyria, which was a much more powerful nation, decided to attempt a take over of Hezekiah’s kingdom. Throughout the stressful time in leadership, Hezekiah consistently used the same battle plan. He went before the Lord in prayer and followed the Lord’s commands. Hezekiah relied on prayer to rule his life. This king knew how to pray and he prayed in a way that got results.

At one point, the Assyrian king launched a huge smear campaign against Hezekiah with his own people. It scared all Hezekiah’s people to death.

Hezekiah heard about it and went before the Lord. God assured Hezekiah everything would be ok, but the Assyrians wouldn’t let up. They kept taunting and taunting, throwing threats towards Hezekiah. They sent a letter by messenger to Hezekiah, basically which, said, “The Assyrians are tough and they are coming for you next.”

What do you do when you are backed into a corner about to face something bigger than your ability to handle? Well, Hezekiah received the letter with all the threats and began to pray.

We find this account in  2 Kings 19:14-19

What can we learn from listening in as Hezekiah prayed?

Hezekiah got alone with God. There is corporate prayer like we do at church, and there is prayer where a few are gathered, but probably some of the most effective prayer time of your life will be the time you invest alone with God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Immediate. It wasn’t an afterthought. It was prior to making his plans. We are so geared to react that it’s hard for us to go first to God. He may be second or third or when we are backed into a corner and have no choice, but as a habit we need to make God the first place we turn in our lives.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Open and honest. Hezekiah was transparent before the Lord.  I love the imagery here in this prayer story of Hezekiah. He took the letter, went to the house of the Lord, and spread it out before Him. I get this visual image of Hezekiah, and this letter…laying it there on the table, and saying, “Okay, God, what now? What do I do next?”

Are you in a tough spot right now? You may just need to get you some note cards right down all the things you are struggling with….lay them out on a table…then say, “Okay God, here are my struggles…I can’t do anything about them. What now?”

Writing your prayer requests before God is a great idea for 2 reasons.

a. It helps you remember to pray for them.

b. It helps you to watch as God answers. We get more answers than we realize if we only ask.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Honoring, humble and respectful of who God is.  Hezekiah knew his place as king…and he knew God’s place in the Kingdom. Hezekiah was king of a nation and that is an important job, yet Hezekiah willingly humbled himself in prayer, because he knew his place before the King of kings.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Bold. He said, “Give ear, O LORD, and hear; open your eyes, O LORD…” Hezekiah had the kind of relationship with God where it wasn’t a surprise when Hezekiah showed up to pray. They talked frequently; probably throughout the day. Because of that relationship, Hezekiah didn’t wonder if God would be there when he came before Him. He knew he could ask God to act on his behalf.

The more you grow in your relationship with God, the bolder your prayers can become, because the more your heart will begin to line up with God’s heart.

Hezekiah’s prayer was Dependent. In verses 17-18 he prays, “It is true, O LORD, that the Assyrian kings have laid waste these nations and their lands.” Hezekiah knew he was out of his league facing the Assyrians. From the way I see that Hezekiah responded to life, however, I don’t think it mattered the size of the battle Hezekiah was going to depend on God.

Hezekiah’s prayer was certain…Because it was based on his personal faith and trust in God.  In verse 19, Hezekiah prayed, “Now, O LORD our God, deliver us from his hand, so that all kingdoms on earth may know that you alone, O LORD, are God.”

Hezekiah had a faith in God that allowed him to pray with confidence. You need to understand that faith is always based on the promises of God. Some things God has promised to do…some He hasn’t. God has promised to always get glory for Himself and always work things for an ultimate good. He hasn’t promised to rid everyone of cancer or to heal every bad relationship.

(That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t pray for everything. We don’t know His will, but we can’t guarantee God to do that which He hasn’t promised to do.) Sometimes we get upset because God doesn’t do something we asked or wanted Him to do but the fact is He had never promised to do it.

Hezekiah knew God had promised to save His people. He knew God had placed him in the position of authority over them. He had confidence that God would do what He had promised to do. Hezekiah trusted God to be faithful to His word so he was willing to act in faith.

What situations are you dealing with today that you know you are helpless to do on your own and you desperately desire God’s answer?

Get alone with God, spread your problems out before Him honestly, humbly, and boldly; then, allow His will to be done, as you wait for His response.

Why does God allow bad things?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

“Who sinned, this man or his parents?” the disciples asked Jesus when they saw a man who had been blind his entire life (John 9:1). They wanted to know why God allowed this terrible affliction.

This is the same thought Job’s friends had when they saw Job suffering through the loss of his children, his prosperity, and his health. “Job what did you do?” How have you sinned?” You must have angered God in some way,” they echoed.

As a counselor and coach, I find people ask God the why question when they face the big difficulties of life like blindness, a rebellious child or the death of a marriage. But they also ask God why with the minor irritants of daily life like when they burn dinner just before company arrives or they can’t find their car keys or cell phone when they have an important appointment to keep. We want to know why God? Why this? Why now?

We all want to understand why bad, inconvenient, or troublesome things happen to people don’t’ we? If we could know why, then maybe we can change or do something to prevent those bad things from happening to us.

Jesus answered his disciples’ question by telling them it’s not about who sinned. We’re all sinners. Rather, he told his disciples that in this situation, the man was born blind so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

At first glance, Jesus’ answer sounds unfair, harsh. Why was this man singled out for affliction so God could display his power? No one would willingly sign up for that. You’re right, and it’s good God doesn’t ask our permission because most of us would say “No thanks.”

One of the most influential women in my life has been Joni Eareckson Tada, who was paralyzed in a diving accident when she was only 17 years old. I have followed her story, read her books and listened to her speak since I was in college over 30 years ago.

God uses Joni’s life to show me, as well as thousands of others, the reality of Christ’s mercy, love, and grace. It’s not too hard to praise God when everything in your life is going well. It’s another story to continue to praise God and give him thanks when your life falls apart. That gets people’s attention, and they sit up and take notice. What is the secret to this person’s joy and peace? It’s not natural. That’s right. It’s God.

There are only certain individuals whom God trusts with such deep suffering. Joni is one of them. Charles Haddon Spurgeon was another. Spurgeon, a renowned preacher, prolific author and beloved pastor during the 1800s, battled depression throughout his life. He was refreshingly honest with his struggle and never pretended he didn’t feel what he felt. Yet he always found hope in looking for God’s purposes in it. He wrote,

“Any fool can sing in the day. When the cup is full, man draws

inspiration from it; when wealth rolls in abundance around him

any man can sing to the praise of a God who gives a plenteous

harvest…It is not natural to sing in trouble…Songs in the night

come only from God; they are not in the power of man.”

Perhaps you are one like Joni or Spurgeon, whom God trusts with his severe mercy. If so, our world desperately needs to see Jesus in you.

For the rest of us, how might God want his works to be displayed in us in the midst of our inconvenience or daily disappointments? When we’re aggravated waiting in a long line with a clerk who isn’t moving fast enough for us, how might we move beyond thinking only about how we feel or what we’re not able to do and, in that moment, express the fruit of the spirit like love, or patience or self-control?

Do you think that God might also arrange or allow the minor afflictions of life so that the works of God might be displayed in us to a world so desperate to see him?

I Am Afflicted

SOURCE: Taken from a sermon by  Pastor Mark Driscoll

I Am Afflicted: Sermon Recap

1. A third of the Psalms are laments. All of the Old Testament prophets except one include a lament. The Bible doesn’t avoid suffering. You won’t avoid suffering.

2. Don’t believe false teaching that says you won’t suffer if you really love Jesus. Jesus will end all suffering eventually, but on earth he suffered more than anyone.

3. When it comes to suffering, don’t ask “Why” ask “Who am I in Christ?” Your affliction doesn’t establish your identity, but your identity can get you through your affliction, if your identity is in Christ.

4. Suffering will cost you a lot of time and energy, so I encourage you to invest it. If you’ve suffered, you have powerful credibility to lead others to the genuine hope found in Jesus.

5. It’s not wonderful that suffering happens, but it’s wonderful that God can use it to help, bless, and encourage others.

6. How are you suffering? What is God teaching you? How can you use it to bless others?

7. If one of the great goals of your life is to be more like Jesus, the most horrible seasons can also be wonderful opportunities for growth.

8. God can use the most painful parts of our story to be the most encouraging to others.

9. Addiction, self-medication, debt…much of life is spent trying to figure out how to go on after we have lost heart. Jesus says, “Take heart!”

10. Some don’t talk about their suffering because it somehow feels more righteous to bear it quietly and avoid burdening others. But the apostle Paul was open about his suffering, and none of us are more godly than him.

11. God usually doesn’t give us an answer for our suffering, but he provides us with his presence: “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”

12. If you minister to hurting people you will have a growing ministry.

Do you want to be healed?

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

[John 5:1-9]

38 years in a bed.

Next to a pool.

Sounds relaxing doesn’t it?

But as we read on, the story says the man was alone and horribly crippled. Probably twisted feet, pencil thin legs and atrophied muscles barely covered by a thin blanket. Why? Because this was the pool of Bethesda near the Sheep Gate in Jerusalem. There was something miraculous about this pool. Periodically the water stirred, and the first one into it was instantly healed.

Suddenly a commotion just inside the gate caused everyone to turn and look. A Man, followed by a large crowd, walked through one of five alcoves. With humble determination, He moved to the crippled man’s side. Whispers fill the air. “Is it Him?” some ask.

Every ear strains to hear what He might say as He kneels tenderly next to the man. And then, with a quiet strong voice full of power and grace, He asked, “Do you want to be healed?”

The broken man feebly hangs his head and utters an interesting reply, “Sir, when the water is stirred, I don’t have anybody to put me in the pool. By the time I get there, somebody else is already in.” His answer only goes to affirm the depths of his hopelessness. Not “yes” or even “no”. Just discouragement and despair…

Even more interesting is the edict He gives in response. “Get up, take your bedroll, start walking.” The man was healed on the spot. He picked up his bedroll and walked off. (John 5:1-9 MSG)

Jesus asked him — Do you want to be healed?

Each of us, at some point in our lives, have heard Him ask us the same question. Whether it’s physically… emotionally… relationally… or spiritually.

Too often, we answer with the same timidity he did. Our pain is too deep. The hurt has been lodged in our heart for way too long. The doctors have tried everything. Hopelessness fills our souls…

When you really think about it, healing starts with a choice. And it is always for His glory.

Meditate on these words. Treasure them up and ponder them in your heart:

“But He was wounded for our transgressions; He was crushed for our iniquities; upon Him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with His stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah 53:5 ESV)

“O LORD, my God, I cried to you for help, and you have healed me.” (Psalm 30:2 ESV)

“Heal me, O LORD, and I shall be healed; save me, and I shall be saved, for you are my praise.” (Jeremiah 17:14 ESV)

“And many followed Him. And He healed them all.” (Matthew 12:15 ESV)

“He himself bore our sins in His body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By His wounds you have been healed.” (1 Peter 2:24 ESV)

“Do you want to be healed?”

The next time He asks you that heartfelt question, reflect on these verses before you answer.

And yes, He is always waiting and willing to turn our lives around.

Waiting Upon the Lord

SOURCE:  Peter Martyr Vermigli

It especially torments the saints when in their afflictions they are not heard at once.

For their carnal nature taunts them: “Why doesn’t that God of yours hear you now?”

These insults must be blunted by great faith. Let us remember that Christ when he prayed in the garden, also was not heard at once but rather after His resurrection. And when He prayed for those who nailed Him to the cross, they were not saved at once, though many of them were later converted to God after Peter addressed them.

If, therefore, in Christ’s case, vows and prayers were delayed, and if God held back His gifts from Him for a short time, why are we, on our part, so very frustrated that we are not heard sooner?

God does not act cruelly but prudently. As He knows what is useful for us,  in the same way He alone knows the right times, occasions and opportunities to give things to us. So let us not prescribe the hours for Him rashly. If we do not dare to do this with a medical doctor, why with God?

And because we are not heard so quickly, we ought not on that account to desist from what should be the beginning of our praying. We are instructed to “pray without  ceasing.” For prayer may never be without fruitful results for us. And often fruits that are late ripe and long expected are better and more fit than those that are premature, sudden and unseasonable. What is more pleasant than grapes or figs that are nonetheless a year tardier than all the rest? The Lord’s incarnation was long requested by the father’s and it was given late. We too “wait” avidly for the blest hope, that is “the advent of Christ and the great God” which, however, is given last of all. If we can wait in the case of these serious matters, for as long as it should please God, why cannot we wait when it comes to our own longings, often so much less serious?

————————————————————————————————————————————————————-
–Peter Martyr Vermigli “Commentary on Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah” — (1499 – 1562),  was an Italian theologian of the Reformation period.

Just When I Think God Isn’t There — HE IS !!

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors (AACC)

A Low Whisper

Instead of concentrating on your problems and getting discouraged, focus on God and meditate on His promises for you. You may have fallen down, but you don’t have to stay down. God is ready, willing and able to pick you up. — Joyce Meyers

If we will not learn to eat the only food that the universe grows, then we must starve eternally. -C. S. Lewis

Highs and lows.

One minute we experience a victorious spiritual breakthrough and are on the top of the world.

The next minute the raw realities of life assault the very core of our faith.

As if that isn’t enough, the evil one loves to then whisper in our ears… “What a loser”… “You really can’t do anything right can you?”… “God isn’t listening”… “You will never be used”… “You’d better run for your life”… “God isn’t really there for you”…

And too often we believe him.

Elijah understood this.

Under the rule of King Ahab and his wicked wife Jezebel, the children of Israel had turned their back on God and worshipped Baal. In a bold attempt to turn the people’s hearts back to God, Elijah calls the prophets of Baal to a contest. A sacrifice was prepared and Elijah challenges, “And you call upon the name of your god, and I will call upon the name of the Lord, and the God who answers by fire, he is God.” (1 Kings 18:24 ESV)

The deceived prophets cried out to Baal all day and no fire fell. Elijah then takes his turn. He prays to the “God of Abraham, Isaac, and Israel…then the fire of the Lord fell and consumed the burnt offering, and when all of the people saw it, they fell on their faces and said, ‘The Lord He is God; the Lord He is God.’” (18:36-39 ESV)

Elijah experiences a stunning victory.

A short six verses later, Jezebel threatens to kill Elijah “by this time tomorrow” (19:2 ESV). Then “he was afraid, and he arose and ran for his life.” (19:3 ESV) Elijah sits down under a tree and asks to die – “O Lord, take away my life…” (19:4 ESV) and then falls asleep.

His triumph turned to discouragement – discouragement to depression – and depression to despair. What a turn of events

A quick scan of Elijah’s predicament can be best understood as the HALT syndrome. He found himself:

Hungry… he physically stopped eating

Angry… mad at God

Lonely… traveling in the journey alone

Tired… collapsed into sleep

Just when we think God isn’t there — that He has abandoned us – that the whole world would be better off without us – God is ready to meet us at each point of need.

Consider what happens next – – – An angel of the Lord wakes him up, and gives Elijah this simple instruction – “Arise and eat.” Elijah looked and there was “a cake baked on hot stones and a jar of water. And he “arose and ate and drank, and went in the strength of that food forty days and forty nights to Horeb, the mount of God.” (19:5-8 ESV)

If you’re in a pit, it just might be that you need real food and sleep.

Then notice vs. 12 – God lovingly reaches out to His servant. He doesn’t leave him hopeless – He speaks in the “sound of a low whisper”, reassuring him of his presence, power and provision.

The all-powerful God is also intensely personal.

In times of despair we must slow the process and lean into his voice — listening and obeying as He conforms our will to His.

God may perform great miracles; more often, however, He is quietly at work in the hearts and souls of His people, speaking words of truth and comfort.

Listen and follow Him.

It will turn your life around.

When Jesus Makes You Wait in Pain

SOURCE:  Jon Bloom/Desiring God

The reason there was a “Palm Sunday” was because Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead (John 12:17–18). It was perhaps the most powerful, hope-giving miracle Jesus ever performed during his pre-cross ministry; the capstone sign of who he was (John 5:21–25).

That’s why the Apostle John wrote, “Now Jesus loved Martha and her sister and Lazarus. So, when he heard that Lazarus was ill, he stayed two days longer in the place where he was” (John 11:5–6).

The word “so” connecting those two sentences is stunning. The most loving thing Jesus could do at that moment was to let Lazarus die. But it didn’t look or feel like love to Martha.


“Martha, the Teacher has come. He’s near the village.”

Martha’s emotions collided. Just hearing that Jesus was near resuscitated hope in her soul — the same hope she had felt the day she sent word for him to come.

But it was quickly smothered with grief and disappointment. Lazarus had died four days earlier. She had prayed desperately that Jesus would come in time. God had not answered her prayers. What could Jesus do now?

And yet… if anyone could do something, Jesus could. He had the words of eternal life (John 6:68). Martha hurried out.

When she saw Jesus, she could not restrain her grief and love. She collapsed at his feet and sobbed, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Jesus laid his hand on her head.

He had come to Bethany to destroy the devil’s works (1 John 3:8) in Lazarus. He had come to give death a taste of its coming final defeat (1 Corinthians 15:26). He had come to show that now was the time when the dead would hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who heard would live (John 5:25).

Martha did not know all this. Neither did she know that what was about to happen would hasten Jesus’ own death—a death that would purchase her resurrection and both of Lazarus’s. She didn’t know how this weighed on him, how great was his distress until it was accomplished (Luke 12:50).

But Jesus’ wordless kindness soothed her.

When Martha’s sorrowful convulsion had passed she said, “But even now I know that whatever you ask from God, God will give you.”

Jesus gently lifted Martha’s eyes and looked at her with affectionate intensity. “Your brother will rise again.”

His living words revived her hope. Could he mean…? No. She dared not let herself hope in that way. Not after four days.

“I know that he will rise again in the resurrection on the last day.”

Yes. Lazarus would rise again on the last day. Martha had no idea how deeply Jesus longed for that day. But Jesus meant more than that.

He replied, “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?”

The power with which Jesus spoke caused faith to swell in Martha’s soul. She wasn’t sure what this all meant, but as he spoke it was as if death itself was being swallowed up (1 Corinthians 15:54). No one ever spoke like this man (John 7:46).

She answered, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”


We know how this story from John chapter eleven ends. But in the horrible days of Lazarus’s agonizing illness and in the dark misery of the days following his death, Martha did not know what God was doing. He seemed silent and unresponsive. Jesus didn’t come. It’s likely that she knew word had reached him. She was confused, disappointed, and overwhelmed with grief.

And yet, Jesus delayed precisely because he loved Martha and Mary and Lazarus. He knew that Lazarus’s death and resurrection would give maximum glory to God and his friends would all experience maximum joy in that glory. It would make all their suffering seem light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).

When Jesus makes a trusting saint wait in pain, his reasons are only love. God only ordains his child’s deep disappointment and profound suffering in order to give him or her far greater joy in the glory he is preparing to reveal (Romans 8:18).

Before we know what Jesus is doing, circumstances can look all wrong. And we are tempted to interpret God’s apparent inaction as unloving, when in fact God is loving us in the most profound way he possibly can.

So in your anguish of soul, hear Jesus ask with strong affection, “Do you believe this?”


Jon Bloom (@Bloom_Jon) is the author of the forthcoming book Not by Sight: A Fresh Look at Old Stories of Walking by Faith (April 30, 2013)

Five (5) Ways to Stop Discouragement from Getting the Best of You

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

Discouragement and disappointment are normal emotions we all experience, even as Christians.

Peter felt discouraged with himself when he realized that he wasn’t as courageous as he thought he was, even though Jesus had warned him that he would deny him before the rooster crowed (Matthew 26:31 and 74,75). We too can feel discouraged and even depressed when we fail to live up to our own or other’s expectations.

Job felt discouraged and frustrated with his wife and friends. They didn’t get it. Trying to be helpful, they only heaped more shame and blame on Job for his afflictions. We also can feel let down by our friends and family. They don’t understand what we’re going through or don’t offer to help as we wish they would. (Read through the biblical book of Job for the story.)

We can get discouraged with life’s circumstances. Things don’t always turn out the way we’d hoped despite our persistent prayers. Elijah hoped that, after all the miracles the Israelites saw performed on Mount Carmel, they would finally repent and put God first, but they did not. King Ahab and Jezebel were as stubborn and hard hearted as always and Elijah felt discouraged, exhausted and believed his entire ministry was a waste (1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah felt angry and discouraged with God, when he believed God was against him, and temporarily lost hope in God (Lamentations 3). The disciples too felt discouraged after Jesus was crucified, before he rose from the dead. They said “We were hoping that he was the one who was going to redeem Israel.” (Luke 24:21) They couldn’t see the bigger picture and felt that their life’s work was a waste.

Discouragement happens, even to the strongest and best of people. Here are five (5) things you can do when you start to feel the black cloud of discouragement swallow you up.

1.  Be honest.  It does you no good to pretend you don’t feel what you feel. You can’t take action against a negative feeling until you first admit you have it. A strong Christian is not someone who never experiences negative feelings. It’s someone who has learned what to do with them when he or she has them and how to process them biblically.

2.  Take care of your body.  If your body isn’t working, your mind, emotions and will are also weakened. I love how God tended to Elijah’s body first, before addressing anything else, and provided ravens to feed him. Sometimes the circumstances of life drain us dry and we need to press pause, stop doing, and simply rest and refresh.

3.  Pay attention to your thought life.  Maturing as believers means we learn to think truthfully (Philippians 4:8) and to take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5)

All of us attempt to make sense of the things that happen in our lives. We try to figure out why they happen and what it all means. It’s crucial that we pay attention to what stories we are telling ourselves about ourselves, about others, about God, or about a particular situation and whether or not those stories are actually true. For example, if you look at what Elijah was telling himself after he became discouraged, much of it was not true. Yet, because he thought it, it added to his misery (read 1 Kings 19).

Jeremiah was also telling himself things about God that were not true, but because his mind believed his version of reality instead of God’s, he lost his hope. Read through Lamentations 3. Notice in verse 21 that Jeremiah begins to have a change of mind and heart. He says, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” When his thoughts changed, his negative emotions also lifted even though his circumstances stayed the same.

4.  Train yourself to “see” life out of two lenses at the same time.  When the apostle Paul counsels us to be transformed by the renewing of our mind (Romans 12:2), he is telling us that our mind needs to be trained to think differently than we have in the past. Part of this training is to learn to see both the temporal (life is hard) and the eternal (God has a purpose here) at the same time.

Paul speaks honestly of his temporal pain when he says he is hard pressed on every side, perplexed, persecuted and struck down. Yet, he did not become crushed, despairing, abandoned or destroyed. Why not? Because he learned to firmly fix the eternal perspective on his spiritual eyes. He says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, for what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal (2 Corinthians 4:8-18).

Paul never minimized the pain of the temporal, yet discouragement didn’t win because he knew that God’s purposes were at work. (See Philippians 1:12-14 for another example.)

5.  Press close into God.  The truth is life is hard, people do disappoint and hurt us and we don’t always understand God or his ways. The prophet Naham talks about a day of trouble and reminds us “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble, he knows those who trust in him” (Naham 1:7). If we’re not in close trusting relationship with God, life’s troubles can become unbearable. The psalmist cried out, “I would have despaired unless I had believed I would see God in the land of the living” (Psalm 27).

One final tip:  The best way to chase out a negative feeling is with another feeling. The Bible teaches us “In everything give thanks for this is the will of God” (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Gratitude is a powerful antidote for discouragement. We may not be able to give God thanks for the difficult situation that we find ourselves in, but we can learn to look for things we can be thankful for in the midst of it.

“Your prayers are not lost”

SOURCE:  Robert Murray M’Cheyne/Tolle Lege

“God’s children, should pray. You should cry day and night unto God. God hears every one of your cries, in the busy hour of the daytime, and in the lonely watches of the night. He treasures them up from day-to-day; soon the full answer will come down: ‘He will answer speedily.’

Christ never loses one believing prayer.

The prayers of every believer, from Abel to the present day, He heaps upon the altar, from which they are continually ascending before His Father and our Father; and when the altar can hold no more, the full, the eternal answer will come down.

Do not be discouraged, dearly beloved, because God bears long with you—because He does not seem to answer your prayers.

Your prayers are not lost.

When the merchant sends his ships to distant shores, he does not expect them to come back richly laden in a single day: he has long patience.

‘It is good that a man should both hope and quietly wait for the salvation of the Lord.’ Perhaps your prayers will come back, like the ships of the merchant, all the more heavily laden with blessings, because of the delay.”

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–Robert Murray M’Cheyne, “Fourth Pastoral Letter: Edinburgh, February 20, 1839″ in Robert Murray M’Cheyne and Andrew A. Bonar, Memoir and Remains of the Rev. Robert Murray McCheyne (Edinburgh; London: Oliphant Anderson & Ferrier, 1894), 193-194.

WAITING IN DARKNESS: WE ARE NOT LOST AND NOT ALONE

SOURCE:  John Piper/When The Darkness Will Not Lift

With or without medication there are other things that can be done in the midst of prolonged darkness. And I would love to encourage you in some of these. It will be of great advantage to the struggling Christian to remember that seasons of darkness are normal in the Christian life. I don’t mean that we should not try to live above them. I mean that if we do not succeed, we are not lost, and we are not alone, as the fragment of our faith cleaves to Christ.

Consider the experience of David in Psalm 40:1-3:

I waited patiently for the LORD;
he inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.
He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.

The king of Israel is in “the pit of destruction” and “the miry bog”—descriptions of his spiritual condition. The song of praise is coming, he says, but it is not now on his lips. It is as if David had fallen into a deep, dark well and plunged into life-threatening mud. There was one other time when David wrote about this kind of experience. He combined the images of mud and flood: “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me” (Ps. 69:1-2).

In this pit of mud and destruction there is a sense of helplessness and desperation. Suddenly air, just air, is worth a million dollars. Helplessness, desperation, apparent hopelessness, the breaking point for the overworked businessman, the outer limits of exasperation for the mother of three constantly crying children, the impossible expectations of too many classes in school, the grinding stress of a lingering illness, the imminent attack of a powerful enemy. It is good that we don’t know what the experience was. It makes it easier to see ourselves in the pit with the king. Anything that causes a sense of helplessness and desperation and threatens to ruin life or take it away—that is the king’s pit.

HOW LONG, O LORD, HOW LONG!

Then comes the king’s cry: “I waited patiently for the LORD; he inclined to me and heard my cry.” One of the reasons God loved David so much was that he cried so much. “I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping” (Ps. 6:6). “You have kept count of my toss­ings; put my tears in your bottle. Are they not in your book?” (Ps. 56:8). Indeed they are! “Blessed are those who mourn” (Matt. 5:4). It is a beautiful thing when a broken man genuinely cries out to God.

Then after the cry you wait. “I waited patiently for the LORD.” This is crucial to know: saints who cry to the Lord for deliverance from pits of darkness must learn to wait patiently for the Lord. There is no statement about how long David waited. I have known saints who walked through eight years of debilitating depression and came out into glorious light. Only God knows how long we must wait. The prophet Micah experienced prolonged and painful waiting. “I sit in darkness . . . until [the Lord] pleads my cause and . . . will bring me out to the light” (Mic. 7:8-9). We can draw no deadlines for God. He hastens or he delays as he sees fit. And his timing is all-loving toward his children. Oh, that we might learn to be patient in the hour of darkness. I don’t mean that we make peace with darkness. We fight for joy. But we fight as those who are saved by grace and held by Christ. We say with Paul Gerhardt that our night will soon—in God’s good timing—turn to day:

Give to the winds thy fears,
Hope and be undismayed.
God hears thy sighs and counts thy tears,
God shall lift up thy head.

Through waves and clouds and storms,
He gently clears thy way;
Wait thou His time; so shall this night
Soon end in joyous day.

Far, far above thy thought,
His counsel shall appear,
When fully He the work hath wrought,
That caused thy needless fear.

Leave to His sovereign sway
To choose and to command;
So shalt thou, wondering, own that way,
How wise, how strong this hand. 1

THE GROUND OF OUR ASSURANCE WHEN WE CANNOT SEE OUR FAITH2

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

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

All the great doctors of the soul have distinguished between faith and its full assurance. The reason for this is that we are saved by the work of God causing us to be born again and bringing us to faith. “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8). We are not saved by producing faith on our own and then making that the basis of our new birth. It is the other way around, which means that God is at the bottom of my faith; and when it disappears for a season from my own view, God may yet be there sustaining its root in the new birth and protecting the seed from destruction. This was crucial in Richard Baxter’s soul care.

Certainty of our faith and sincerity is not necessary to salvation, but the sincerity of faith itself is necessary. He shall be saved that giveth up himself to Christ, though he know not that he is sincere in doing it. Christ knoweth his own grace, when they that have it know not that it is sound.

An abundance are cast down by ignorance of themselves, not knowing the sincerity which God hath given them. Grace is weak in the best of us here; and little and weak grace is not very easily perceived, for it acteth weakly and unconstantly, and it is known but by its acts; and weak grace is always joined with too strong corruption; and all sin in heart and life is contrary to grace, and doth obscure it. . . . And how can any under all these hindrances, yet keep any full assurance of their own sincerity?3

Baxter’s aim here is not to destroy a Christian’s comfort. On the contrary, he wants to help us in the times of our darkness to know that we can be safe in Jesus, even when we have lost sight of our own sincerity. The witness of the Holy Spirit that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16) may be clear or faint. But the reality is unshakable. “God’s firm foundation stands, bearing this seal: ‘The Lord knows those who are his’” (2 Tim. 2:19). “God is faithful, by whom you were called” (1 Cor. 1:9). “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:6). Baxter’s words are crucial counsel if we are to survive the dark night of the soul. And that night will come for almost every Christian. And when it comes, we must wait for the Lord, cry to him, and know that our own self-indictment, rendered in the darkness, is not as sure as God’s Word spoken in the light.

WHEN A CHILD OF GOD IS PERSUADED THAT HE IS NOT

Christians in the darkness of depression may ask desperately, how can I know that I am truly a child of God? They are not usually asking to be reminded that we are saved by grace through faith. They know that. They are asking how they can know that their faith is real. God must guide us in how we answer, and knowing the person will help us know what to say.4

The first and best thing to say may be, “I love you. And I am not letting you go.” In those words a person may feel God’s keeping presence, which they may not feel in any other way. Or, second, we might say, “Stop looking at your faith, and rivet your attention on Christ. Faith is sustained by looking at Christ, crucified and risen, not by turning from Christ to analyze your faith. Let me help you look to Christ. Let’s read Luke 22 through 24 together.” Paradoxically, if we would experience the joy of faith, we must not focus much on it. We must focus on the greatness of our Savior.

Third, we might call attention to the evidences of grace in their life. We might recount our own sense of their authenticity when we were loved by them, and then remind them of their own strong affirmations of the lordship of Christ. Then say, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor. 12:3). This approach is not usually successful in the short run, because a depressed person is prone to discount all good assessments of his own condition; but it can be valuable in the long run, because it stands as an objective hope and act of love over against his own subjective darkness.

Fourth, we might remind the sufferer that his demand for a kind of absolute, mathematical certainty about his right standing with God is asking for too much. None of us lives with that kind of certainty about any relationships in life, and this need not destroy our comfort. As Baxter says, “No wife or child is certain that the husband or father will not murder them; and yet they may live comfortably, and not fear it.”5 In other words, there is a kind of certainty that we live by, and it is enough. It is, in the end, a gift of God.

One can imagine a wife obsessed with fear that her husband will kill her, or that during the night one of her children will kill another one. No amount of arguing may bring her away from the fear of this possibility. Rationally and mathematically it is possible. But millions of people live in complete peace about these things, even though there is no absolute 2 + 2 = 4 kind of certainty. The certainty is rooted in good experience and the God-given stability of nature. It is a sweet assurance—and a gift of God. So we say to our suffering friend, “Don’t demand the kind of certainty about your own relationship to God that you don’t require about the other relationships in your life.”

It follows from this that we should all fortify ourselves against the dark hours of depression by cultivating a deep distrust of the certainties of despair. Despair is relentless in the certainties of its pessimism. But we have seen again and again, from our own experience and others’, that absolute statements of hopelessness that we make in the dark are notoriously unreliable. Our dark certainties are not sureties. While we have the light, let us cultivate distrust of the certainties of despair.

NOTES:
1 Paul Gerhardt, “Give to the Winds Thy Fears” (1656), trans. John Wesley (1737), http://www.cyberhymnal.org/htm/g/i/givetotw.htm.
2 For a biblical and balanced treatment of assurance, see Donald S. Whitney, How Can I Be Sure I’m a Christian? What the Bible Says About Assurance of Salvation (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1994).
3 Baxter, “The Cure of Melancholy,” 266, 278.
4 For two helpful articles on depression and how to help those who struggle, see Edward T. Welch, “Counseling Those Who Are Depressed” and “Words of Hope for Those Who Struggle with Depression,” Journal of Biblical Counseling 18, no. 2 (2000): 5-31, 40-46.
5 Baxter, “The Cure of Melancholy,” 278.

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Piper, J. (2006). When the darkness will not lift: Doing what we can while we wait for god. Wheaton, IL: Crossway.

Impossibilities

SOURCE:  American Association of Christian Counselors [AACC]

“We are all faced with a series of great opportunities brilliantly disguised as an impossible situation.” -Chuck Swindoll

“I have found that there are three stages in every great work of God: first, it is impossible, then it is difficult, then it is done.” -Hudson Taylor

“Triumphant prayer is almost impossible where there is neglect of the study of the Word of God.” -R. A. Torrey

The impossible…

Have you ever found yourself in a circumstance or situation that seemed impossible? Even for God? Those times where nothing made sense, and even trusting God and His Word was difficult.

Mary faced the impossible – in a double dose.

Gabriel came to her and proclaimed,“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus.” (Luke 1:31 ESV)

No doubt she thought “no way.”  Mary had never known a man. Mary asked the angel,“How will this be since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34 ESV)

Gabriel responded, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy – the Son of God.”

No doubt she was familiar with the prophecies, but still – the baby would be the promised Messiah? The Holy Son of God?  “Come on…”

What’s interesting is that in several places, the Bible tells us that Mary “pondered” the words she had heard in her heart.

As a young Jewish girl, she would have certainly been very familiar with Hebrew scripture and the stories of “impossibilities” —

Abraham believing God when he was called to go out to a place of promise…not knowing where he was going.

Sarah conceiving in her old age knowing the God who promised was faithful.

Moses and the parting of the Red Sea.

Joshua watching the walls of Jericho come tumbling down.

Rahab, a prostitute, entering into the lineage of the Messiah.

Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel. The stories must have flooded her mind and heart.

And of course the prophets foretelling that the Son of God would be born of a virgin.

As she pondered the recorded past of God’s power and presence, her heart must have come alive with what the angel Gabriel declared, “Nothing will be impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37 ESV)

Her response reflects the heart attitude imperative for God to work the impossible. She said, “Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.” (Luke 1:38 ESV)

What’s impossible in your life today?

Impossible that God can heal your body when the doctors give no hope?

Impossible that God can restore a broken marriage devastated with infidelity?

Impossible that God can bring the prodigal child back home?

Impossible that you will ever see your hearts desires realized?

God takes great pleasure in turning your “impossibilities” into “possibilities.”

Ponder what God has done in the past. “Remember the former things long past, For I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is no one like Me…” (Isaiah 46:9 NASB)

Reflect on the stories recorded in the Bible. Remember the good things God has done for you. For your family. For your friends.

What God has done before – He will do again.

Watch God turn the impossible into the possible. It may take a miracle. That’s ok – He specializes in those.

How will I know God’s answer to my prayer?

Source:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

 God often answers prayer in the following ways:

1.  “Yes, you may have it.”
2.  “No, that is not good for you.”
3.  “Wait, I have something better for you.”
4. “My grace is sufficient for you” (2 Cor. 12:9).

When He answers yes, it’s easy to say, “Praise the Lord!”

But when He says otherwise, we have a hard time finding reasons to praise Him.

Sometimes we don’t take “no” for an answer, and we keep praying!  Or we look for a reason why He didn’t answer our request.  But Scripture never says God will give us exactly what we ask for every time.  He is sovereign.  He has the right to say “no” according to His infinite wisdom.  Oftentimes, it’s for our protection.

Sometimes, God wants to answer our prayer, but the timing isn’t right.  As I reflect on my life, I realize that if God had answered certain prayers according to my schedule, I would have missed His best in every single case.  He may have been waiting for me to grow spiritually in some area so that I could more fully experience the blessings He had in store (Eph. 1:3).  Again, He is sovereign, and His timing is perfect.

God also answers “My grace is sufficient.”  We may pray for years, yet our circumstances remain unchanged.  God seems unresponsive and heaven is silent.  In many cases, the problem isn’t the length, intensity, or nature of our prayers. Oftentimes, God is up to something we don’t know about, something much bigger than we were expecting.  Something that may require a different answer than the one we anticipated.

But rest assured that if God isn’t removing your particular “thorn,” His grace is sufficient.  By an act of our will, we can decide to trust that God knows what He’s doing, even when there’s no logical or rational explanation for our circumstances.  The Father is not offended when we ask, “Why?”  But He’s overjoyed when we trust Him, even though He may choose not to explain.

God always answers the prayers of His children.  As we learn to pray, we will learn to discern His methods.

Revenge Is Too Draining

SOURCE:  Dr. Karl Benzio/Stepping Stones/Lighthouse Network

I’ve always been a sensitive person, and that was especially true during my childhood. God placed me in a home where negativity and judgment were common. The frequent emotional manipulation strained my brain. I would get so angry. Much of my energy … physical, emotional, and psychological … was wasted on dealing with these situations. I would fight back in various ways, try to understand why and where all these situations came from, attempt to avoid them, and persist in a “why me” attitude. All of these sucked so much life out of me. Enjoying childhood was actually a difficult task.

Many of us have people in our lives who have hurt us or who want to hurt us. It can range from a few hurtful words or subtle manipulation… to lies, cruelty, and vindictiveness … all the way to physical or sexual abuse. The obvious questions we ask ourselves are “Why me?” “What can I do to make them stop?,” and “Why would someone do that?”

Dealing with such people extracts huge amounts of energy as we try to defend ourselves, recover from the attack, or plot and engage in possible counter attacks and retaliation … efforts to “get even.”

Much of my healing began when I realized a few facts and principles:

1. Don’t take it personally, because it is not about me. It’s their problem and issue.

2. God is sovereign over all, and He is allowing this for a grand purpose, so put on His lenses.

3. Remember, the real enemy is Satan, not the people attacking you. They are just getting used by Satan, as you are at times. Pray for them to know God’s love and healing for their life.

4. Be on guard … put on the armor for the real battle.

You see, I don’t need to retaliate.

Getting even or revenge is just an idol that takes my gaze and heart away from God. I probably need to set some healthy limits and boundaries with the offenders. But the bitterness and revenge efforts are wasted time and energy. God will take care of them as He determines because He knows all.

Today, if you harbor some unresolved forgiveness, let God deal with and determine the consequences for your enemies.

We do have a stewardship role and a responsibility to address our enemies (in our heart or in an actual interaction if it is safe). But we often go overboard in our minds. God promises to help the persecuted and bring judgment on those who treat others with cruelty. So focus your energy on what is going on in your heart and mind regarding your enemy. If you know someone who is being mistreated, slandered or attacked by others, send them this devotional. Spread the Word of God to give hope and peace to those in need. Wasting your energy on revenge or channeling it to compassion is your decision, so choose well.

Dear God, I come to You in need. I have people in my life who are hurting me, trying to harm me. My anger rages at the injustice of this. My natural human reaction is to take revenge … to get even. I know this is wrong and against Your Word. I release my enemies into Your care. I pray as David did to “make my enemies be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the Lord driving them away.” Help me, Lord, to remember that it is not the opinion of others that I must focus on. Give me strength in the battle against the evil one who wants to use this persecution to pull me away from You, to distort my lenses, and sidetrack me with stinky thinking. Help me see myself through Your eyes. I pray in the name of the one who teaches me to love my enemies, Jesus Christ;  – AMEN!

The Truth
Contend, O LORD, with those who contend with me; fight against those who fight against me. Take up shield and buckler; arise and come to my aid. Brandish spear and javelin against those who pursue me. Say to my soul, ”I am your salvation.” May those who seek my life be disgraced and put to shame; may those who plot my ruin be turned back in dismay. May they be like chaff before the wind, with the angel of the LORD driving them away; may their path be dark and slippery, with the angel of the LORD pursuing them.  Psalm 35:1-6

But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,  Matthew 5:44

Getting Gut Honest With Jesus: Don’t You Care?

Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Mark 4:38 NIV

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

I have been told that the stern is the strongest part of the boat.

The Creator of the universe was asleep there.

The One who made the waters and was there when the waters were parted; who led Moses as Moses led the people through on dry ground had His head on a cushion. The One who walked with three guys in the fiery furnace, in all of His current humanity had decided He needed some rest.

The disciples apparently lost sight of the fact that, Jesus was not only human, and He was also fully God.

I am reminded that I forget the same thing at times. Have you ever felt like the disciples felt? Have you ever wondered if Jesus cared? Has the thought crossed your mind that Jesus may not even be aware of your current situation? Have you thought, “Jesus, I see my problems, don’t you?” Or maybe, if you are honest, have felt something like, “Jesus, don’t you care?”

Of course, our spiritual piety would never allow us to admit our weakness in this area fully. Could I as a pastor really admit that I doubted His love? Could you? Yet if I am honest, sometimes from my perspective, it appears that Jesus is nowhere to be found and I am left all alone to wallow in my sorrows. Just saying….

I think the best thing we can possibly do in those situations is to be like the disciples and admit our frailty to God. When we get gut honest with Him about our insufficiencies, perhaps He will be willing to do what only He can do.

Do you need to have an honest conversation with Jesus today?

Turning the Bad into Good

SOURCE:  Living Free

“And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” Romans 8:28 NLT

Once we come to Christ in faith, we begin to walk with God on a daily basis. It is vital that we learn to trust him in every area of our lives—day in and day out.

We can trust him because we are assured that as we love God and commit our lives to him, he works everything—the good and the bad—together for good. We can trust him because he has demonstrated his great unconditional love for us.

We can commit our wayward child to him because we know he loves that child even more than we do.

We can commit our finances to him because we know that he will work all things for good as we follow him and trust him for wisdom.

We can trust our loved one’s health to him because of his mercy and love.

We can trust God to work his plan in our ministry—and his plan is perfect.

Is there an area of your life that you are clinging to—and worrying about—instead of trusting God?

God cares about everything that concerns you. Keep your eyes on him, love him and trust him. He will go before you … He will guide you … He will strengthen you … And he will work all things for good.

Lord, I have been worrying about this situation and trying to fix it myself. My way hasn’t worked. I commit this situation to you and trust you for the answer. No matter how things look now, I trust you to work all things together for good. In Jesus’ name …


These thoughts were drawn from …

 Insight Group: Discover the Path to Christian Character by Jimmy Ray Lee, D.Min.

36 Purposes of God in Our Suffering

SOURCE:  Paul Tautges/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Joni Eareckson Tada has given us many books on the subject of God’s tender care for His children in times of suffering. Joni strikes the chord of authenticity with us so well because suffering is the world she lives in 24/7, literally. My personal favorite is When God Weeps: Why Our Sufferings Matter to the Almighty, co-authored with Steve Estes, a pastor in Pennsylvania. The following list of God’s purposes in our suffering is from one of the appendices in that book.

Take some time to meditate on the wisdom of God as He works out His perfect will through our suffering. No wonder James, the brother of our Lord, commanded us to “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (James 1:2)!

  1. Suffering is used to increase our awareness of the sustaining power of God to whom we owe our sustenance (Ps 68:19).
  2. God uses suffering to refine, perfect, strengthen, and keep us from falling (Ps 66:8-9Heb 2:10).
  3. Suffering allows the life of Christ to be manifested in our mortal flesh (2 Cor 4:7-11).
  4. Suffering bankrupts us, making us dependent upon God (2 Cor 12:9).
  5. Suffering teaches us humility (2 Cor 12:7).
  6. Suffering imparts the mind of Christ (Phil 2:1-11).
  7. Suffering teaches us that God is more concerned about character than comfort (Rom 5:3-4Heb 12:10-11).
  8. Suffering teaches us that the greatest good of the Christian life is not absence of pain, but Christlikeness (2 Cor 4:8-10Rom 8:28-29).
  9. Suffering can be a chastisement from God for sin and rebellion (Ps 107:17).
  10. Obedience and self-control are from suffering (Heb 5:8Ps 119:67Rom 5:1-5;James 1:2-8Phil 3:10).
  11. Voluntary suffering is one way to demonstrate the love of God (2 Cor 8:1-29).
  12. Suffering is part of the struggle against sin (Heb 12:4-13).
  13. Suffering is part of the struggle against evil men (Ps 27:1237:14-15).
  14. Suffering is part of the struggle for the kingdom of God (2 Thess 1:5).
  15. Suffering is part of the struggle for the gospel (2 Tim 2:8-9).
  16. Suffering is part of the struggle against injustice (1 Pet 2:19).
  17. Suffering is part of the struggle for the name of Christ (Acts 5:411 Pet 4:14).
  18. Suffering indicates how the righteous become sharers in Christ’s suffering (2 Cor 1:51 Pet 4:12-13).
  19. Endurance of suffering is given as a cause for reward (2 Cor 4:172 Tim 2:12).
  20. Suffering forces community and the administration of the gifts for the common good (Phil 4:12-15).
  21. Suffering binds Christians together into a common or joint purpose (Rev 1:9).
  22. Suffering produces discernment, knowledge, and teaches us God’s statutes (Ps 119:66-6771).
  23. Through suffering God is able to obtain our broken and contrite spirit which He desires (Ps 51:16-17).
  24. Suffering causes us to discipline our minds by making us focus our hope on the grace to be revealed at the revelation of Jesus Christ (1 Pet 1:613).
  25. God uses suffering to humble us so He can exalt us at the proper time (1 Pet 5:6-7).
  26. Suffering teaches us to number our days so we can present to God a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:7-12).
  27. Suffering is sometimes necessary to win the lost (2 Tim 2:8-104:5-6).
  28. Suffering strengthens and allows us to comfort others who are weak (2 Cor 1:3-11).
  29. Suffering is small compared to the surpassing value of knowing Christ (Phil 3:8).
  30. God desires truth in our innermost being and one way He does it is through suffering (Ps 51:6119:17).
  31. The equity for suffering will be found in the next life (Ps 58:10-11).
  32. Suffering is always coupled with a greater source of grace (2 Tim 1:7-84:16-18).
  33. Suffering teaches us to give thanks in times of sorrow (1 Thess 5:172 Cor 1:11).
  34. Suffering increases faith (Jer 29:11).
  35. Suffering allows God to manifest His care (Ps 56:8).
  36. Suffering stretches our hope (Job 13:14-15).

Out of His deep love for us God is more interested in making His children like Christ than He is in making us comfortable. The glory He receives from redeeming depraved sinners like us and remaking us into His image will be the song that fills the halls of heaven for all eternity (Rev 5:9-10). Since that will be the case in the future, let us pursue joy in the Lord here in the present.

How to Pray When You’re Depressed: A Look at Psalm 13

SOURCE:  Mark Kelly/Biblical Counseling Coalition

Identifying with the Psalmist

Psalm 13 is a special chapter in my Bible. There is a date, March 12, 2012, written next to the chapter heading. That day I identified with the psalmist, and poured out my heart to God like never before. It had been five long years of dealing with chronic pain, two major surgeries, limited physical ability, limited ministry, and horrible side effects of multiple medications that had brought me to this point. I was tired, depressed, worn down and God was silent. That day I “got real” with God.

Since then, I have pointed others in the middle of their own dark days to this psalm. How can the depressed pray? Depression often robs us of our hope. The temptation in thinking that we cannot be honest with God about our situation deepens this hopelessness. Proceeding in prayer using the psalmist’s example in Psalm 13 breathes new hope into our lives.

Be Honest with Your God: Psalm 13:1-2

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me? How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?

Baptist minister, Andrew Fuller, once said of this psalm, “It is not under the sharpest, but the longest trials, that we are most in danger of fainting.” Often when one finds themselves in depression, it is a result of a long duration of trying circumstances with no foreseeable end in sight. During these dark days there is an intense desire to know the duration of the suffering.

Can you identify with the hopelessness of the psalmist? Honestly he cries out to God. He sees no end in sight and so he howls against the perceived neglectfulness of the Lord.

John Calvin said of these verses, “When we are for a long time weighed down by calamities, and when we do not perceive any sign of divine aid, this thought unavoidably forces itself upon us, that God has forgotten us.” Why has he come to this assumption? Because he was assaulted with the reality of his depression which battled against his understanding of who his God was.

So, in an act of faith, he continues to lament. Laying his heart wide open before God the psalmist communicates this battle for his soul. The circumstances dictated that God must have forgotten but his faith drove him to seek the Lord.

The battle continues into verse two. While searching for relief unsuccessfully, the psalmist also has to contend with his fellow man. He has exhausted every avenue of relief. This intrusion from the “enemy” only adds to his hopelessness in a crushing way. Peace escapes him. People are mistreating him.

When prolonged suffering occurs with no relief or answers, even our closest friends become frustrated with our plight. What some have termed “compassion fatigue” seems to take its toll and there is abundant exhortation to just “snap out of it” or to “repent” due to some unseen, forgotten or hidden sin.

My most discouraging moments came upon the insistence of friends that I “must” have sin in my life. Little did they know the hours spent begging God to illuminate the dark recesses of my heart! These comments tempted me to the brink of destruction in my depression. This is the desperate cry of the psalmist in Psalm 13.

Speak honestly with your God. Realize that your cries are statements of faith and belief in who God says He is. Understand that even though those around you may not minister to you well, that they too are finite creatures in need of the grace that has been lavished upon you. Be honest with your God.

Be Moving Toward Your God: Psalm 13:3-4

Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death, lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.

In the middle of darkness, chained to time, the psalmist begins to move toward God in his cries. He does this be focusing on the character of God. When we are without relief or release we often come to think that God must not see us or hear us. We do not believe that God is blind, but in faith we are crying out to him because we believe He does see.

Often the eyes disclose our depression. How many the days when I would say that I was “fine” when my eyes betrayed my speech! During these times there were dear friends that would move through the verbal resistance to enter into my pained state that they saw evident in my eyes. The psalmist is acknowledging that the light of life is reflected in the eye. He continues to speak to the fact that if God does not move on his behalf soon he fears death itself will be victorious.

Repeated is the theme of his enemy. Oh how the world can threaten our very existence! Remember this: the world may threaten, but God can restore.

And so the psalmist cries out to God to move in such a way that his enemies would not have reason to triumph. He understands the character of God to be such that God does not abandon His own. So, in a sense, he reminds God of God’s character.

As we speak honestly with God about our feelings in the circumstances of life, we also need to constantly be moving toward Him. Speaking in faith we can “remind” God of His promises and expect Him to move in accordance with His character. It is also important to see that the psalmist has move beyond trying to solve things in his own strength and is now totally reliant and dependent on God. This is a key stage in our prayer during our depression.

Be Trusting in Your God: Psalm 13:5-6

But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

The psalmist does not know if his prayer is of any profit at all. Yet, he continues. Now hope is beginning to well up within himself. He continues to focus on the character of God and this proves to be beneficial in the temptations of his depression. Deep in his own distress the psalmist declares his resolution to continue firm in his dependence of the grace of his God.

Because God is God, I don’t have to be. I can, in the middle of my distress, trust Him to bring about the good He has lovingly purposed for me.

There is also a sense of expectation at the end of this prayer. His heart will rejoice in the deliverance brought about by God and he will sing praise to God because of his gracious interaction. Even without the circumstances relenting he will continue to hope in the salvation of his God. He has not yet obtained release from the depression, but he promises to praise God for His grace towards him.

As you speak honestly with your God, moving toward Him as you focus on His character, you should prepare to celebrate in praise of the grace of God in your life. Time is a gift of God. We believe that one day we will stand in the presence of our God, removed from all pain, tears, and death.

Time is a gift in this life because we understand it in terms of beginning and ending. We experience our depression in terms of time. We also understand the hope of a time yet to come. If this life is “but a vapor,” how long then is our suffering? Even in the middle of your distress, be preparing to sing praises for the goodness of God in your life.

The final question I have written in my Bible is, “Am I persuaded that my prayers are effective?” God moves through answered prayer. When the depressed pray honestly, focused on the character of God, preparing to celebrate in praise of the grace of God, they can be assured that God hears them and moves toward them, inclining His ear to His children.

Waiting…Waiting…Waiting on God

SOURCE:  Charles Stanley/In Touch Ministries

Requirements of Waiting

Psalm 25:3-5

Waiting for God’s timing is neither passive nor idle–it takes discipline and commitment. I can think of four basic requirements for successful waiting.

Faith. The Lord’s ways and timing are nothing like ours (Isa. 55:8-9). From a human standpoint, He usually does things in a totally different way than we expect. But as we trust Him more, we’ll discover that His approach isn’t so strange after all. And when we live in harmony with God’s will, His timing starts to make sense.

Humility. To wait for the Lord, you must be convinced of your need for Him. Submission to His divine will requires humility–you cannot charge ahead with your own plans and at the same time be fully surrendered to God.

Patience. Are you willing to remain in your current position until you receive clear divine direction? Pausing for clarity from God does not mean that you disengage and allow circumstances to fall apart around you. Waiting upon the Lord is a deliberate decision that requires patience.

Courage. Waiting for God often takes courage, especially when there is pressure to act. If you’re not careful, you might stop listening to the Lord and follow other advice. So keep your ear attuned to the voice of Almighty God, and you won t go wrong.

Waiting upon the Lord is one of the wisest, most important decisions we make in life.

And contrary to popular assumptions, it is an active endeavor that requires faith, humility, patience, and courage. When you rely upon God and wait for His timing, the various facets of life fall into place.

[Copyright 2012 In Touch Ministries, Inc.]

Is God Good?

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

There was a time in my life when I didn’t believe God was good.

Like Jeremiah, in Lamentations 3, I accused him of being deceptive, capricious and unloving. I thought he was going to give me one of the deepest desires of my heart, and then suddenly it was snatched away. My heart fell into a deep pit, and it took a long time to climb back out.

How about you? Have you ever doubted the goodness of God?

We sing it, we say it, we know it, but truth be told, much of the time we don’t really believe it.

Most of us would acknowledge that we struggle trusting in God’s goodness during times of suffering. But it’s equally important to grasp that many times we don’t trust and obey God simply because we think we know better and want to be in charge of our own lives. Eve doubted God’s goodness even in the midst of paradise.

Things in life are not always what they initially appear to be. What looks good to us often turns out to be bad, and what feels bad to us can turn out to be good. As a child, I loved eating candy. It definitely tasted much better than meat or vegetables or even french fries and fruit. I ate so much candy my teeth decayed.

Going to the dentist felt bad, so I never wanted to go nor would I have chosen to. Thankfully my father saw beyond my foolishness and made me eat healthier and get my teeth fixed. It was good. Now that I’m grown up, I can see that, but at the time, I didn’t understand. I just thought my father was being mean.

In the same way, many times we can look back over the worst of times and see that they were also some of the best times of God’s goodness toward us. We see his provisions or experience his presence in deeper ways. From the vantage of history, we see that what we thought was bad, God used for good. In the Old Testament, Joseph was able to keep his peace and hope alive in the mist of circumstantial hardship because he knew that God’s purposes were always good (Genesis 50:20).

King David trusted in the goodness of God so completely that when God gave him a choice of what consequence he wanted for his sin, David told God to pick whatever he deemed best (2 Samuel 24:10-14).

Jesus knows this world is full of temptations, trials and hardships. Throughout the four Gospels, Jesus repeatedly tells people that he is telling them the truth, that God knows best what we need. Yet what they heard from Jesus was so different than their own way of thinking and believing that for many, it wasn’t easy to recognize it as truth even when they wanted to.

The father whose son was demon possessed begged Jesus, “I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief” (Mark 9:24 NLT). Belief and unbelief isn’t either/or, it’s both/and. We believe and we doubt. But the more we believe, the more we can trust. Richard Rohr says, “The opposite of faith isn’t doubt, it’s anxiety.”

What did Jesus tell those who asked what they must do to do the work of God? He said the work of God is to believe (John 6:28-29). Once we believe, trust follows.

To help you get started, slowly meditate on this verse, word by word: “O Lord, you are so good, so ready to forgive, so full of unfailing love for all who ask for you help” (Psalm 86:4,5 NLT).

In closing, take a few moments to ask yourself and answer the following questions:

How have you struggled believing God’s goodness?

Where do you not believe him?

How does your unbelief cause anxiety, guilt, or other happiness-robbers in your life?

How would you live differently if you believed with all of your heart that God is good?

Dear Lord, help my friends believe you in good times and in hard times. Help them trust that you are always good even when they don’t understand or it feels bad. Give them eyes to see that you are full of love and eager to forgive all their sins, all the time. Amen.

 

Adversity in the Center of God’s Will

SOURCE:  Ron Edmondson

Saul told his son Jonathan and all the attendants to kill David. 1 Samuel 19:1 NIV

One day David was minding his own business, tending sheep, when God called him to be a king. He didn’t ask to be king, but God said he was the one. He turned out to be a really good king. Imagine that? God made a good pick! David had a heart modeled after God’s, according to the Bible.

So, since God had chosen to bless David in such a way, why, throughout David’s story, do we continually find Saul trying to kill David? For some time, David was chased by Saul. David hid out, sometimes all alone, which is the setting we find him in during the writings of many of the Psalms. David was God’s choice for king and yet he was often placed in incredible adversity.

What does this tell us about the way God guides His children?

What it says to me is that sometimes God’s will for us places us in the middle of trials.

More importantly, I am learning that I cannot determine whether I am in God’s will based on whether or not my life is peaceful. Just because I have struggles in life, doesn’t mean I am not in God’s will for my life.

Think about Abraham who faced the trial of leaving his homeland; Moses wandered in the wilderness forty years; Joseph was sold into slavery; Nehemiah had to fight off naysayers; Daniel was thrown into a lion’s den. All of these great servants of God faced persecution, heartache, and trials beyond most of our imaginations. Yet, all them, during the adversity, were right where God wanted them to be; in the center of His will.

We all like for life to be peaceful, and we can have inner peace in the middle of the storms of life, but God has not promised us a life free of problems. In fact, we can perfectly within His will and still be facing adversity. He has promised us we can trust Him and that His grace is sufficient. Through it all, God uses the difficult seasons of life to make us more like Jesus.

How has God used adversity to shape you?

You Matter To God

SOURCE:  Leslie Vernick

We’ve all read the story of the woman who had an issue of blood for 12 years.

You know her; she touched the hem of Jesus’ garment, hoping to be healed. Let’s look more closely at her story to understand how deeper healing takes place. (Read Mark 5 and Luke 8 for the story.)

Here is a woman who was an outcast. She was labeled an unclean woman, socially unacceptable, undesirable, and dirty. Jewish law mandated that if someone touched an unclean person, they would need to go through the Jewish purification ritual in order to regain their rights to enter the temple. She was an untouchable woman and people kept their distance. She had spent all her resources to find help, but she only got worse. This woman heard Jesus coming and thought to herself, “if only I can touch his cloak, I will be healed.” And to her surprise, she was!

Immediately she tried to escape the crowd unnoticed. Remember, she touched Jesus and, according to Jewish law, that made him unclean. How embarrassed and scared she must have felt when Jesus turned and said, “Who touched me?” If she identified herself then, everyone would know what she had done.

Let’s step back for a moment and look at the larger story here. Jesus was heading to Jairus’ house. Jairus was a Jewish leader, a ruler of the synagogue. Yet he approached Jesus for help because his young daughter lay dying. Jairus was a daddy before he was a religious leader, and so he fell at Jesus’ feet begging him to heal his daughter.

It was on the way to Jairus’ home with the crowd pressing in that Jesus stopped and asked who touched him? I wonder in that moment what Jairus thought and felt? Did he feel impatient, anxious for Jesus to hurry up and get to his house? His daddy’s heart wanted his daughter healed. I wonder if he also felt a bit angry at this woman for distracting Jesus and taking valuable time away from a more pressing need. I suspect he might have even felt angry at Jesus for not prioritizing his daughter’s life threatening illness over this woman’s chronic bleeding problem.

Jairus was a person of influence and importance. He was a leader: he spoke and people listened. He risked everything to beg for Jesus’ help and now Jesus was wasting time asking who touched him while his daughter lay dying.

Do you ever feel like Jairus? God isn’t moving fast enough for your emergency? Angry and impatient that other people’s prayers are getting answered while you are still waiting?

Jairus was a daddy and wanted to see his daughter healed. But, dear readers, one of the lessons of this story is that this unnamed woman had a daddy too, and her daddy cared about her needs and knew she had no one who begged for her healing. Jesus stopped and called her forth because he wanted her to know something very important. Listen to his words. He said, “Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering.” He wanted her to know that her daddy (the Heavenly Father) saw her suffering and told Jesus to help her too.

Jesus wanted her to know that she mattered to God.

Although her culture rejected her, God did not. Although she was judged to be unclean, Jesus declared her whole. He wanted her to know that she was a person of value and worth. Even in a pressured moment, Jesus took the time to have a conversation with a nameless woman who felt unclean, unloved and unimportant. He wanted her to know who she was. She was a daughter of a daddy who cared.

How about you? Perhaps your mother abused you. Maybe your husband rejects you, or people don’t understand you. You feel like an unclean women, like damaged goods. If only you could touch his cloak, you’d be well. I have good news for you. Daughter, go in peace and be freed from your suffering. God wants to help you. He wants you to know that you matter. You are important to him. He sees you and knows you and he is never too busy with more important people to meet your very personal need. You are not nameless, or worthless, or hopeless. You have a daddy, he’s called Abba (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6). Believing that is the beginning of your healing.

As for Jairus, Jesus didn’t forget about his concern–although Jarius probably felt that way when he got word that his daughter died. Jesus turned to him and said, “Don’t be afraid; just believe, and she will be healed.” What did it take for Jairus to walk those next miles home, heavy with sorrow, still clinging to faith? Perhaps that’s where you are right now. You feel hopeless or angry or disappointed. But Jairus trusted what Jesus said to him and, because he did, he saw a miracle. Jesus took Jairus’ precious daughter’s hand and said, “Honey, wake up.”

What is Jesus saying to you right now, even in the midst of sorrow, heartache, broken dreams and shattered promises? Can you trust what he is saying and continue to walk in faith? That is healing.

He says to you right now, “Honey, wake up”.

When God Pulls the Rug Out

SOURCE:  Ed Welch/CCEF

Has this happened to you?

You read all the signs that were so blatantly from the Lord—“yes, this is the path, go this way, I am with you.”

You have been amazed at the way he opened doors—you were scared but you walked through them.

The Lord confirmed his will for you through other people too—they were excited that God was doing this.

Finally, you were on board. You were excited. You were all in. You had peace about your decision.

And then, splat, he pulled the rug out from under you.

How will you be able to trust God again?

This, I think, is a common experience. Very common. It happens with all kinds of decisions: business, vocational, financial and relationships. You pray earnestly, you see God moving, you are amazed, and then…  it looks as if he simply vanished and left you on your own. You especially see it in broken relationships. That is, you seek the Lord about a marriage or relationship decision, it starts almost too well, and then the relationship takes a sudden and tragic turn, and there is no explanation for it.

You want to know why

Some problems are universal, but this one is for those who are spiritually mature. It happens to people who are earnestly seeking God, and only the mature do such things. And though anger toward God might flash occasionally, it isn’t the real issue. The real problem is that you feel you no longer know him. You want to know why God did this, yet he is silent. It doesn’t make sense: he gives with one hand and takes away with the other.

“Why?”

When no response comes, you start filling in the blanks. Maybe you deserved it. Maybe you have done wrong and you need to figure out what it is. That’s what maturity gets you; you see yourself as the culprit. This approach is understandable and—misguided.

Not a scavenger hunt for sin

“Why, O Lord?” is a recurring question in Scripture. In response, God does not send anyone on a scavenger hunt for sin, and does not fill in all the details that the asker might want to know either. Instead, he reaffirms that he does see trouble and grief (Ps. 10:14), and he will strengthen those who are weak (Is. 40:27-31). With these words he is revealing to us what we really need to know.

Check your assumptions

But there is another matter to consider.

All this started with our assumptions about how God works—we had confidence that we could know the will of God. We could discern the “open doors” and had that “peace.” Even more, we were confident that those open doors would lead to blessing, according to our definition of blessing. Perhaps it is time to re-evaluate.

The Apostle Paul held very different assumptions yet he believed that he knew plenty about God’s will. The King reigns, the Spirit has been poured out, the nations are ripe for the picking—that was enough for him. The times he received specific direction, he was confident that it would mean blessing for the larger church and hardships for him. He knew that if God was in it there would be challenges—challenges that reveal weaknesses and test faith.

God is not playing games when he pulls the rug out from under you. He is up to something, but it is probably not what you think it is.

Going Through Spiritual Confusion

SOURCE: Oswald Chambers

 Jesus answered and said, ’You do not know what you ask’ —Matthew 20:22

There are times in your spiritual life when there is confusion, and the way out of it is not simply to say that you should not be confused. It is not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of God taking you through a way that you temporarily do not understand. And it is only by going through the spiritual confusion that you will come to the understanding of what God wants for you.

The Shrouding of His Friendship (see Luke 11:5-8).  Jesus gave the illustration here of a man who appears not to care for his friend. He was saying, in effect, that is how the heavenly Father will appear to you at times. You will think that He is an unkind friend, but remember?He is not. The time will come when everything will be explained. There seems to be a cloud on the friendship of the heart, and often even love itself has to wait in pain and tears for the blessing of fuller fellowship and oneness. When God appears to be completely shrouded, will you hang on with confidence in Him?

The Shadow on His Fatherhood (see Luke 11:11-13).  Jesus said that there are times when your Father will appear as if He were an unnatural father as if He were callous and indifferent— but remember, He is not. “Everyone who asks receives . . .” (Luke 11:10). If all you see is a shadow on the face of the Father right now, hang on to the fact that He will ultimately give you clear understanding and will fully justify Himself in everything that He has allowed into your life.

The Strangeness of His Faithfulness (see Luke 18:1-8).  “When the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8). Will He find the kind of faith that counts on Him in spite of the confusion? Stand firm in faith, believing that what Jesus said is true, although in the meantime you do not understand what God is doing. He has bigger issues at stake than the particular things you are asking of Him right now.

 

 

 

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