Psalm 42:1
As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

God's Providence allows Hard Times

Often we think that God's providence is when we are being blessed or when life seems to be "good" but that is only partially true. God's providence also includes the trials in our lives and when life doesn't seem so "good". I put the word good in quotes because that is subjective, meaning it's our interpretation of how life is going good or bad. There is always a steadfast good in our life and that is our Lord.

The current trial in our life has been losing a job in a hard time economically. This is not what I consider a "good" time in our lives, but God in His providence means it for our good. It's been miserable at times, not fun to say the least. I say that not out of bitterness lest I begin to despise this time that the Lord has ordained to happen for His glory and my good. James 1:2-3 reminds us that trials test our faith to produce steadfastness. Any of us that have suffered a trial know that in the beginning our faith seems weak only to come through with a stronger faith that the Lord graciously produced in us.

The Lord has provided through many of His people to minister to us. Many of these ways unique and quite amazing to us. Only God's kindness working through people have made this happen. I was reminded of the story of the Israelites in Deut. 8 that were starving in the wilderness and God supplied manna only enough for that day. They became dependent upon God for their food. Moses told them God was teaching them that man doesn't live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of Lord. They were humbled to a conscious dependence upon the Lord's daily provision. We have become acutely aware of our utter dependence on Him during this time. Later in the chapter 8, Moses says to remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the ability to produce wealth. This was so the Israelites would not depend on their own farming or hands when the Lord would bring them into a land where they would lack nothing. (vs 9) We are crying out to God for His provision right now during this trial but are we not just as dependent on God when the paychecks are coming in and all seems fine?

God's love for us has been a constant comfort. Psalm 145:8-9; Psalm 103:11 We are His own and His love for us is as high as the heavens. We are united with Christ so we must see our trial through our union with Christ. "God's love to us cannot fail any more than His love to Christ can fail." Jerry Bridges.

Psalm 131....I have calmed and quieted my soul....

I have learned that to trust God you have to know Him. This makes sense when you think of friends, we trust those we know much easier than ones we hardly know. Spurgeon said "Honor God by trusting Him." I believe I have learned more of Him so my trust is even deeper and the more I know, the more I trust. The Bible is our handbook for life, how to live the Christian life. It's also a comfort written for our encouragement to learn from those before us that also struggled and to see how faithful God is to His own.

I recommend the book "Trusting God even when life hurts" by Jerry Bridges. Above are just a few of the things I've learned, the book is full of scripture and truths. I wouldn't wait until life hurts to read it. Read it now and then pick it back up during a trial. You always see something new the second time through a book.

I can't imagine living without God's grace in my life to sustain me. This trial has humbled me in realizing God's care of His own and how I don't deserve it. It reminds me of how all of life points back to the cross and the gospel. There is my hope, He chose me, He died for me, He loves me, and He will take care of me. God is glorified when we trust in Him. Others see this trust and God is glorified. Because He is seen as worthy to be trusted. I am thankful for the grace to trust Him and the grace to see His blessings of provision. It's only by His grace that we don't become hardened or bittered when our faith is tested. Even when we can't see what the Lord is doing, pray for grace to trust Him knowing that it is for your good and His glory.

Trusting in Him,

Saturday, July 5, 2008

My Highlighter in Action

I know what you're thinking, what does a highlighter have to do with anything worth writing about? Well, let me tell you what having one has done for me. A few years ago, my mom gave me a book along with a yellow highlighter as a gift. My first thought was, this is a different gift, an unusual one, but nevertheless I was excited to start using it. I start reading the book with my handy highlighter in my hand looking for something to underline, something catchy to jump off the page at me. Isn't this what you do with a highlighter? After some time, I was amazed at how my reading became more aggressive, how I began looking for certain phrases, meaty sentences, and truths that pulled it all together in my mind. Now that I've used a highlighter on a regular basis, it has become my reading companion. I read differently without it. The words take on a deeper meaning because I am looking for understanding and therefore highlight it to remember or think upon throughout the day. Sometimes just marking a word or two is enough, other times, an entire sentence. All truth is God's truth so we should pursue learning and understanding because it comes from our God. Herein we find His beauty and grace in His truth. Look for truth, and see the handiwork of God.

Psalm 86:11 Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Make a New Year's Resolution a Life Resolution

This time of year you often hear about New Year Resolutions, yes I'm late with this thought, but it's still relevant. And generally New Year Resolutions don't stick for long, they are just a nice idea to try. Well, I began thinking about this and making mental notes about goals for this new year. Tabletalk for the month of January has a wonderful article in the back titled, "The Gospel-Driven Life", which became my spring board of thinking through resolutions for the new year. This is not a one time commitment moment of becoming Gospel-Driven. It's an everyday, every year, life consuming goal that will stick. I found it sticks stronger and stronger the more I understood the gospel. What is the gospel? Please read Ephesians 2:1-10. This passage was familiar, but until it was recently preached in a sermon at church did I understand the complete picture of the gospel. What Christ has done is outlined there in 10 verses. I began adding this reading to my daily walk with the Lord. WOW!!

The Gospel-Driven Life is the thesis of my life. I will spend the rest of my life writing the paper that supports that thesis. To clarify, writing the paper is meant by living my life driven by the gospel. After reading "The Cross Centered Life" by C.J. Mahaney, I knew my heart was changing, my life would be transformed by this gospel.

Pride is so subtle sometimes in our lives that we don't even see it. The opposite of pride is humbleness. So how do I put on humbleness and put off pride or self righteousness? By beginning to see yourself the way God does. Eph 2:1 says "And you were dead in your trespasses and sins in which you once walked....and were by nature children of wrath: vs3 BUT GOD being rich and mercy because of His great love for us even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. Is it not humbling to think God loved you and chose you while you were dead in sin and made you alive unto Christ by salvation. We cannot boast in this vs9, it's completely the grace of God. If it's only by God's grace that we have salvation, then it's only by God's grace that we can live the Christian life. Where does pride fit into this? It doesn't and we can fight pride by hiding this Scripture in our hearts. The gospel shows us how pervasive pride is in our daily life. It's the transforming power of the gospel that replaces pride with humility.

Have I mentioned before how contagious joy is as the result of this power of grace? Because we can only boast in Christ alone, we cannot maintain pride in ourselves. The joy flows from the pursuit of Christ and the resulting transformation of a humbled heart.

Consider making a life resolution to be Gospel-driven and then seek out what this means. The passage mentioned is a good place to start. Get on your hands on books written about the cross, listen to music about what Christ has done. Read the lyrics to hymns. Absorb all you can, saturate your life with Christ, rest in His love for you, pray for grace each day, and know that you didn't deserve to be justified nor sanctified, as God only sanctifies those He loves, BUT GOD chose you anyway. Understanding the gospel is the key to the Christian life. It's humbling, convicting, transforming and it's my heart's desire to stir your heart to thirst for Him, to search for Him, to make Christ real in your life.

I recently came across this song and I read the words nearly every day. It speaks to my heart.

IN CHRIST ALONE my hope is found,
He is my light, my strength, my song;
This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.
What heights of love, what depths of peace,
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!
My Comforter, my All in All,
Here in the love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone! - who took on flesh,
Fullness of God in helpless babe!
This gift of love and righteousness,
Scorned by the ones He came to save:
Till on that cross as Jesus died,
The wrath of God was satisfied –
For every sin on Him was laid;
Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,
Light of the world by darkness slain:
Then bursting forth in glorious Day
Up from the grave He rose again!
And as He stands in victory
Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me,
For I am His and He is mine –
Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,
This is the power of Christ in me;
From life’s first cry to final breath,
Jesus commands my destiny.
No power of hell, no scheme of man,
Can ever pluck me from His hand;
Till He returns or calls me home,
Here in the power of Christ I’ll stand!

Thank you Lord for choosing me, that I am now Yours and You are mine.
Undeserving of His grace, Jen