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Posts Tagged ‘God’

life-is-not-fair

 

“Here’s something that happens all the time and makes no sense at all: Good people get what’s coming to the wicked, and bad people get what’s coming to the good. I tell you, this makes no sense.”

Haven’t we all said or at least heard comments such as these? We know it’s true: life is not fair. But knowing the fact and accepting it are two different responses.

That quote up above came from a guy who had it all—fame, wealth, and power. If anyone could claim that life had been fair to him, it was this guy. Yet in spite of the veneer of an enchanted life, he, too, experienced disappointment and confusion.

What was his name? King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived. Those sentiments of his at the beginning of the post come from Ecclesiastes 8:14, as interpreted in The Message.

No doubt you’ve experienced your share of disappointment and confusion, too. Perhaps you’re floundering right now, desperately in need of a handhold to keep you from falling.

Selwyn Hughes, that wise, Welsh pastor from a generation ago, recommends we fight uncertainty with certainties.

Certainties would include truths from scripture that apply to our situations. Truths that we can hold tightly in our hearts, such as:

  1. God is in control over the difficulties as well as the blessings. Yes, he could rescue us from trouble in an instant. But in his infinite, all-knowing wisdom, he has chosen not to. The reasons why may never be revealed. What we do know is this: God never acts or (withholds action) without purpose.

 Think of Joseph, a poster-child for unfair treatment. Yet, to the brothers who sold him into slavery, he said, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives” (Genesis 50:20).

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God brings good out of all things—even the problems, hurts, and pain (Romans 8:28).

  1. God has you in his mighty hand—mighty in power (Psalm 89:13), mighty to save (Zephaniah 3:17), mighty in deed (Jeremiah 32:19).
  1. Out of his infinite might, God will provide strength to get us through. “God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble” (Psalm 46:1).
  1. Even as we plod through adversity, “The Lord is good to those whose hope is in him, to the one who seeks him” (Lamentations 3:25). That goodness includes his comforting presence, his provision, his blessings in the midst of difficulty, and more.

King Solomon also observed:

“The good life is reserved to the person who fears God, who lives reverently in his presence,…the evil person will not experience a “good” life. No matter how many days he lives, they’ll all be as flat and colorless as a shadow—because he doesn’t fear God” (Ecclesiastes 8:12-13, The Message).

 In other words, life with God is far superior to life without God–no matter what.

These certainties are just a few God has graciously provided in his Word that can be applied when uncertainty threatens. But if you’re like me, simply reading them doesn’t help for very long. “Out of sight, out of mind” happens frequently.

Perhaps we can make the most of God’s promises by:

  • Keeping a list, particularly those that apply specifically to our situations. As the list grows, so will our faith.
  • Copy especially meaningful promises on Post-Its and tuck them in unlikely places. When we spot them they’ll provide a pleasant surprise and uplift. Possibilities include: inside a cabinet door, on the coffee container, on the dashboard. Move them every week to keep the surprise (and uplift) fresh.
  • Memorize promises while doing mindless tasks like washing the dishes, waiting at red lights, taking a walk. Soon you’ll be able to pray the promises back to God—anytime, anyplace–to bolster your spirit and strengthen your faith.

 

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Let’s stand on the certainties of scripture and God’s promises because:

 

“To stand is more important than to understand”

(Selwyn Hughes, Every Day Light, Broadman and Holman, p. 215).

 

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Thank you, Heavenly Father, for the handholds in scripture, the truths and promises that help us keep our balance, so we can stand in the midst of adversity. Although I do not understand why troubles and heartache sometimes attack, I do understand that you are unequivocally reliable and you will see us through. I praise you, for you are the strength of my heart (Psalm 73:26b).

(Photo & art credits:  www.mygratitudelife.wordpress.com; http://www.ncbv.org; http://www.sjeciowa.org.)

   

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 QE2-South_Queensferry

Pretend you’re on an ocean liner that has embarked from New York City and is sailing to England.   You and several thousand other passengers enjoy your days at sea, free to choose from dozens of activities—games, shopping, shows, sports, crafts, and more. You can eat anytime you like, sleep whenever you feel drowsy, make friends among the other passengers, or remain solitary. In other words, you make many choices during the voyage, but all the while the ship is headed towards its predetermined destination.

A.W. Tozer gave us this illustration in his classic, The Knowledge of the Holy (Harper & Brothers, 1961), to help us understand God’s sovereignty: 1) Our all-powerful God has total authority in the universe, just as the shipping authorities exercise sovereignty over the course of a ship. 2) We have been given much freedom, within the confines of God’s sovereignty, to move about and make choices.

Now some folks take issue with God’s control. They want to direct the course of their life-ships.  I, for one, find great comfort in the numerous, reassuring scriptures about God’s sovereignty.

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For example, everything in heaven and earth belongs to Him. He is the glorious head over all, the ruler of all things (1 Chronicles 29:11-12). That includes us–those who know Jesus and belong to the family of God. As our Heavenly Father, he provides for our needs, guides us through decisions, bestows many blessings, and more. What encouraging truth! The Almighty God of the universe is in charge of our lives, as we submit to him. We don’t have to navigate alone.

The key, however, is submission. God is a gentleman and will not force himself upon us. He has chosen to limit his sovereignty, to allow man free choice.

Another reassuring truth: God is totally competent. We’ve all known inept leaders who could not fulfill their responsibilities. But our Ruler is supremely capable.  Nothing is too hard for him (Jeremiah 32:17).  As we focus on his complete sufficiency, our worries shrink in significance.

In addition, no plan of God’s can be thwarted (Job 42:2).   What God says, happens.

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His sovereign plan is efficient and goal-oriented. He works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his perfect plan (Ephesians 1:11).

God’s sovereignty is also employed with infinite wisdom (Job 12:13).  No foolish decisions come from God’s throne!

And contrary to appearances, he does maintain over-arching rule on mankind (Jeremiah 32:27). That would include the barbaric Babylonians of Jeremiah’s day, who destroyed Jerusalem, murdered the nobles of Judah, and took thousands of Jewish captives to Babylon.  God’s over-arching rule also applies to the wicked forces creating havoc in our day.

Good people are often hurt in the process, and it breaks our hearts.   Every century has had its martyrs for the faith. And our questions of why God allows bad things to happen to good people don’t always get answered. We’re not privy to everything God knows or to all the reasons behind his decisions (Romans 11:33-36).

What we do know is this: Evil never wins in the end. Every evil empire of history that rose in prominence and power eventually fell in ruin. Our sovereign God knows what he is doing. He will have the last word.

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So when the squeaky wheels of worry, doubt, or fear begin to spin in your head, and you wonder, Is God in control?, apply the oil of gladness in who God is—our all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise, and yes, in-control God!

Take joy in the knowledge that “If God is for us, who can be against us” (Romans 8:31)?

And rest in the affirmation that “from him and through him and to him are all things” (Romans 11:36, emphasis added).

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Sovereign Lord of the universe, we bow in worshipful wonder of your magnificence. Your greatness shatters all boundaries! We stand in awe of your vast power and infinite wisdom, always at work in the world.

“And when I cannot understand” [your plan or your ways], “help me just to stand” (Selwyn Hughes).

(Art & photo credits:  www.en.wikipedia.org; http://www.verseoftheday.com; http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.spiritualinpsiration.tumblr.com.)

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Have you ever heard statements like these?

  • “Oh, yes.  God wants me to be happy. He’s promised to give me the desires of my heart.”
  • “If you have enough faith, anything you ask of God can be yours.”
  • “God will take care of me. I don’t need to budget or plan ahead.”
  • “I can’t help it if I’m moody; that’s the way God made me. He understands.”

Any person who holds such beliefs can point to a verse or two in scripture, proving their points.

The problem is, the Bible was not written in brief, stand-alone statements. Bible truths are based on the context of the whole. Historical and literary understanding are also important.

Another problem? We wish for God to conduct himself in a certain way.  We even find scriptures that seem to back up our desires. But the truth is, we must know God as he is.

If we don’t, we’re living in confusion.

“The sooner we accept God as he is, and do not imagine him as we would like him to be, the sooner we will move from the path of confusion to confidence” (Selwyn Hughes, 1928-2006, Welsh pastor and author).

However, so much of God is beyond our understanding.

 

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“Just as [we’ll] never understand

the mystery of life forming in a pregnant woman,

so [we’ll] never understand

the mystery at work in all that God does.”

Ecclesiastes 11:5, The Message.

Our finite brains cannot fully comprehend our infinite God. But that shouldn’t stop us from learning and experiencing all we can.

Learning comes from the Bible. In its pages we find a glorious treasure trove of wisdom, encouragement, and guidance.

Experience comes through exercising our faith.

“If we begin to worship and come to God again and again by meditating, by reading, by prayer, and by obedience, little by little God becomes known to us through experience” (Saint Bernard of Clairvaux, twelfth century monk).

It is impossible to fully explain this life of faith, just as you can’t fully explain what it’s like falling in love, getting married, or becoming a parent. Words fail to describe such beautiful and strong emotions.

We had to trust those who told us:

  • “You’ll know you’re in love when it happens to you.”
  • “Your wedding day will be the best day of your life to that point.”
  • “Perhaps the only ‘high’ better than falling in love or getting married is holding your newborn baby in your arms for the first time.”

 

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Similarly, we have to trust what God tells us through his spokesmen in the Bible. For example:

“He is the Rock, his works are perfect,

and all his ways are just.

A faithful God who does no wrong,

upright and just is he.”

Deuteronomy 32:4

You might want to read that third line again. Our God is faithful—reliable, loyal, and completely trustworthy. HE. DOES. NO. WRONG.  Now that’s Someone in whom we can place our confidence!

Here is another example of scripture-truth about him:

 

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 “Righteousness and justice

are the foundation of [God’s] throne;

love and faithfulness go before [him].”

Psalm 89:14

Those four characteristics—right-doing, justice, love, and faithfulness—are the bedrock of who our God is. Everything he does flows from those attributes, including difficult circumstances and painful events that make no sense to us.

“Our inability to discern why bad things sometimes happen to us does not disprove God’s benevolence; it merely exposes our ignorance” (Ravi Zacharias and Norman Geisler, Who Made God? And Answers to Over 100 Other Tough Questions of Faith, p. 46).

Someday we will understand why such events occur. For now we must trust.

But our trust is not blind. We can be confident in our God because:

“True faith rests in the character of God” (A.W. Tozer).

 

(Art & photo credits:  www.whatmykidsread.com; http://www.photobucket.com; http://www.huffingtonpost.com, http://www.pinterest.com.)

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Several weeks ago, in a post entitled, “Autumn Blaze,” I wrote about the glorious colors of fall foliage. The title was borrowed from a line of poetry by Helen Hunt Jackson (1830-1885): “The land is lit with autumn blaze.”

As most of you know, Steve and I lived in Florida for forty years. We retired in June to Ohio, so we could be near two of our three children and their families. In many ways our transition has been a homecoming because both of us grew up in the Midwest.

One of the things we missed most while living in the south was “autumn blaze.”  All through last summer I waited expectantly for October and the display of God’s rich tapestry among the trees.

But those of you who live in four-season states know only too well: the blaze is quickly snuffed out by northerly winds and chilly temperatures. By mid-November, many trees have already been stripped of every leaf.

And now those bare, bleak branches stand pitifully exposed, reaching uselessly toward the sun for warmth. The splendorous color is gone; dingy gray-brown bark is all we see. The trees stand lifeless. Hopeless.

If I’m not careful, such sad thoughts will lead me into the doldrums.

A better train of thought to follow? Reasons to appreciate this dormant stage of the trees. For example: When the leaves are gone, I can appreciate the delicate lace work of branches, hidden from view except in winter.   They too demonstrate the creative genius of our God.

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However, when numerous bare trees huddle together on a hillside, the individual branches are indistinguishable. Our younger son and daughter-in-law enjoy a hillside view from their kitchen window–in spring, summer, and early fall, that is. Indeed, just a few weeks ago, the trees were ablaze, dressed in autumn finery.

Now the scene is much different. Look out that window today and you’d be underwhelmed by the great swath of drab dullness. Time to close the curtains.

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But wait. What if we look at that sad scene and think HOPE. Because we know what’s in store.

“No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn” (Hal Borland).

Winter is a time of rest, recuperation, and preparation. When warmth and light return in the spring, new life will burst forth in all creation. Guaranteed.

Those lifeless branches can remind us of another HOPE. Because we know that the God who brings life to dead trees can redeem any situation. Guaranteed.

“Oh? What basis is there for such grand HOPE?” someone might ask.

  1. We base our HOPE on God’s love.

 Absolutely nothing can separate us from his love (Romans 8:39). And if he loves us, he will care for us. “With God on our side, how can we lose?” (v. 32, MSG).

HOPE in our loving God is not misguided.

  1. We base our HOPE on God’s character.

I love Psalm 145, the only one called “a psalm of praise,” in which David extols God’s character. Our Lord is great (v.3), gracious, good, and compassionate (vs. 8-9), glorious and mighty (v. 11), righteous and kind (v. 17).

These are not descriptors of a distant god who takes no interest in his creatures. Our God is a hands-on Heavenly Father who demonstrates all these glorious attributes–in our day-to-day lives. The Lord is always watching over us (v. 20).

HOPE in our powerful God is not just wishful thinking.

  1. We base our HOPE in God’s promises.

“The Lord is faithful to all his promises and loving toward all he has made” (Psalm 145:13).

HOPE in our reliable God is not blind optimism.

Christian HOPE is the trusting expectation that God will keep his Word.

This may sound strange, but let’s look to the bare trees for encouragement. See them as glorious HOPE on display! And let’s live in cheerful expectation of God’s plan, purpose, and blessing for the future.

(Photo credits:  www.staticweb.maine.edu; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org; http://www.terragalleria.com.)

 

 

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While skimming through my grandmother’s Bible, I came across a notation she made next to Jeremiah 31:33.

First, the verse:

 “I will put my law in their minds

And write it on their hearts.

I will be their God,

And they will be my people.”

 

Perhaps a bit of context would be helpful.

Jeremiah was a prophet of Judah for over forty years. He was instructed by God to speak strong judgment against the people because of their sin. They were following worthless idols and had become worthless themselves (2:5). God promised disaster from the north, even terrible destruction (4:6).

Babylon, the empire from the north, did attack in 586 B.C. and Jerusalem was destroyed.

But Jeremiah offered great hope, recorded in chapters thirty and thirty-one. The verse in bold print above makes clear two glorious assurances.

Assurance #1

“It is God’s work.” (That’s what my grandmother wrote in the margin of her Bible next to Jeremiah 31:33.)

See the phrase “I will” used twice in the verse?  It is our Heavenly Father who initiates the work of transformation in our minds and hearts. We couldn’t make ourselves godly no matter how hard we tried. It is his Spirit who enlivens the instruction of God’s Word to our hearts.

A friend of mine accepted Jesus into her life as an adult. M. once told me that before becoming a Christian, she had tried to read the Bible, but it didn’t hold her attention and didn’t make much sense. But after coming to Jesus? Oh, my! What a difference! Suddenly M. became a ravenous reader of God’s Word. Every word spoke wisdom and encouragement to her heart.

You see, what God provided for my friend (and for all of us who seek him) is a miraculous, spiritual heart transplant.

“I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you,” God says.  “I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws” (Ezekiel 36:26-27).

God is not saying he will force us into surgery.   We can accept or reject his offer of a new heart and spirit.

When you receive an appealing offer, how do you decide whether to accept or not? Do you consider the reliability of the person or company making the offer? Probably so.

And when you are given advice to follow, do you consider the source? No doubt.

So let’s consider the One making the offer of a new heart and a new spirit–God Almighty himself.   His love for us is limitless.  He is the all-knowing, all-wise God of the universe. We can trust that his instructions are for our good, that following them will bring peace, contentment, joy, and more.

(Tell me again why we rebel?!)

Assurance #2

He will be our God.

 “When this is fulfilled, you are the possessor of all things,” Spurgeon said.

Think of it: innumerable blessings are ours, beginning with a precious, personal relationship with the King of the universe.

His comforting presence, 24/7.

His guidance and provision for every day of our earthly lives.

And the glory of heaven assured.

 

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We praise you, holy God, the One who has informed us through your Word, who transforms us by your Spirit, and conforms us, day by day, to be like Jesus. Praise you for the privilege to be yours, guided and cared for by an all-wise, all-powerful God!

(Photo credit:  www.wallpaper4god.com.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Back in the 1970s somebody came up with the idea of worry stones—small, smooth pebbles that people could rub between their fingers to release their worries. (What a great money-maker, huh?  Collect some free pebbles, clean ’em up and sell for 100% profit.  Genius.)

According to enthusiasts, the constant rubbing activates the nerves at the base of the thumb, releasing endorphins. As a result, a sense of calmness purportedly settles in the user’s mind.

Even if that’s true, what happens when the person stops rubbing? Since the worry has not been resolved; isn’t it likely to return? I can’t see myself rubbing a stone until I fall asleep at night, can you?

Here’s a better idea.  Instead of going to a small pebble for worry-relief, go to the Rock.

What Rock, you ask?

“There is no one holy like the Lord; there is no one besides you; there is no Rock like our God” (1 Samuel 2:2).

Next question:  Why go to the Rock?

1.  God our Rock is more stable and reliable than Gibraltar.

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The Rock of Gibraltar has become a symbol for stability, having stood sentry on the southern coast of Spain for centuries. Some say it dates back to the Jurassic Period.

But our God is older still, isn’t he.

“Trust in the Lord forever, for the Lord is the Rock eternal” (Isaiah 26:4).

And he is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8).  Now that’s reliable.

2.  God our Rock is more sheltering than a deep cave.

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(Verteba Cave, Ukraine)

During World War II, a small group of Ukrainian Jews found a way to escape the Nazis. They lived underground in caves for a year and a half.

At night they foraged for food. They even built showers and latrines deep inside.

But imagine living every day in pitch blackness and in fear of being discovered.

One day it happened. Nazi soldiers stumbled upon their hiding place. A courageous woman spoke for the group, as German guns pointed straight at her.

“What are you afraid of here?” she said. “Is the Furhrer going to lose the war because we live here?” Miraculously the soldiers left without doing anyone harm.

The band of Jewish villagers found relative safety in those caves,  and in April, 1944, the cave dwellers were liberated, able to return to the light.

But God our Rock offers guaranteed eternal safety for our souls. His Son, Jesus “became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey Him” (Hebrews 5:9)

3.  God our Rock is more protective than Masada.

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Perhaps you’re familiar with the mountaintop fortress, towering 1500 ft. above the Dead Sea.   The refuge was built by Herod the Great, from 37 to 31 B.C., to showcase his power.

Infamous for his brutality, Herod had good cause to be paranoid. He spared no expense to make sure this desert fortress could withstand attack and provide long-term refuge. His plan included protective casement walls, an ingenious water-collection system and cisterns for storage, storehouses, barracks, palaces, an armory and more.

Impregnable? Almost.

When Herod died, Jewish rebels were able to overtake the Roman guard remaining at the fortress. A thousand Jewish zealots lived atop Masada for three years.

Yet nothing or no one on earth can compare to God our Rock.

“Lead me to the Rock that is higher than I,” cried David. “For you have been my refuge, a strong tower against the foe” (Psalm 61:2-3).

And how do we avail ourselves of God’s refuge?  Through gratitude, praise, and prayer.  We can:

  • Thank him for his promises, for the times he has protected and provided in the past.  We must feed our confidence in God rather than our fear.
  • Praise him for his glorious attributes that he is bringing to bear upon our situations–attributes such as power, wisdom, trustworthiness, and love.
  • Affirm our faith. If we occupy our minds with expressions of trust, there won’t be room for thoughts of worry.

“My soul finds rest in God alone;

my salvation comes from him.  

He alone is my rock and my salvation;

he is my fortress, I will never be shaken…

Find rest, O my soul, in God alone;

my hope comes from him”

(Psalm 62:1-2, 5).

(Photo credits:  www.ehow.com; http://www.kids.brittanica.com; http://www.noplaceonearthfilm.com; http://www.masada.org.il.)

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(As most of you know, Steve will soon be retiring from the pastorate, after serving forty years in Florida. Mid-June we move to the Midwest, to be close to our sons and their families. Now if our daughter and her family would just move east from Washington State, life would be near-perfect!

No doubt you’re also aware that packing and unpacking are time-consuming tasks, so I’m putting the blog on hold for a few weeks.  But please continue to visit! I’ll re-blog some previous posts, and hopefully you’ll find them meaningful again, or perhaps for the first time.

The following post was first published 12-3-12.)

 

When I was a little girl, my parents kept a large garden in the backyard. They grew corn, beans, tomatoes, strawberries, lettuce, and more.

Among all that produce grew something else: garter snakes. I was petrified of those snakes, in spite of assurances from Mom and Dad that they could do me no harm.

 

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So what was my reaction if, while playing in the yard, I noticed the slightest bit of slithering? I RAN while emitting eardrum-splitting shrieks. No doubt those snakes took off just as rapidly in the opposite direction, but I never looked back to find out.

Those experiences make a good word-picture of what my response should be when snakes of negativity, worry, or hurt feelings invade my mind. RUN!

James recommended exactly that: “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (4:7b).

But where should I run to? As a child, when seeking escape from the garter snakes, I often ran into the house, a safe and secure refuge. (Although I did have the occasional nightmare about smart snakes, who knew how to slither under doors and up stairs, so even the house wasn’t safe!)

As an adult, facing “snakes” of a different nature, where should I run?

“God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble (Psalm 46:1).

That means, when my thoughts begin to turn to the negative, I need to run to God, my refuge of hope and help (Psalm 119:114).

When people speak or act unkindly and my emotions are bruised, I need to run to God, my refuge of comfort (Psalm 31:19-20).

When worry overtakes me, I need to run to God, my refuge of peace (Psalm 9:9).

Once my attention is focused on him, I must:

  • Look into his eyes and see the great everlasting love he has for me (Jeremiah 31:3).
  • Sense his strong arms around me, holding me close to his heart (Isaiah 40:11).
  • Hear him reminding me of all his promises and all the times he has blessed me in the past (Psalm 77:11-12).
  • Taste his goodness (Psalm 34:8) in all the flavors of his attributes: power, wisdom, holiness, loving-kindness, grace, and more.

And what will be the end result? “Let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy” (Psalm 5:11a). That sure beats cowering, fretting, and flustering, doesn’t it?

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Thank you, Father, for availing yourself to us as a refuge, a person-place we can run to for help, protection, and peace. We love you, O Lord, our strength, because you are our rock, our fortress, and our deliverer (Psalm 18:1).

Thank you for caring for us, those who seek to trust in you (Nahum 1:7). May we avail ourselves of your gladness and joy rather than let the snakes of negativity, worry, or emotional hurt get the best of us!

(Photo credit:  www.wikimedia.org.)

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