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Archive for the ‘providence’ Category

charlesspurgeon1

It’s sometimes said that pain and suffering have no purpose or meaning, even (sadly) by those who profess to be Christians. But if the God who is both sovereign and good is involved (and He most definitely is), there is meaning and purpose in everything.

In Psalm 119:71, the psalmist says, “It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes.” That sounds strange when we hear it. We have a strong tendency to avoid affliction, or try to get out of it, because it hurts and we don’t like it. If we don’t see an obvious purpose, we think none exists.

Contrary to our limited understanding, one of the reasons for affliction (trials, trouble, and tribulation, if you will) is learning God’s Word (“statutes” is another way of referring to God’s Word and Law). Notice the flow of thought from the psalmist: At some point, he was afflicted (we don’t know the details). He went to God’s Word/Law in order to find comfort, meaning, the promises of God, the character of God, and the truth about himself. In the process, he gained more knowledge and appreciation of God, not to mention a closer relationship with Him. Therefore, he says that affliction was good for him. It drove him deep into God’s Word – the Scriptures – and deeper into God. Without those afflictions, he may not have learned God’s statutes, and neither will we.

There is meaning in suffering and affliction. God has many purposes for it – one of them being a greater knowledge and understanding of God and His Word.

Can we say that it was good for us that we were afflicted because it caused us to learn God’s Word? I pray we can.

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elijah

The prophet Elijah had just experienced a gigantic “mountaintop” experience (literally – and I mean that literally). God had shown Himself to the people of Israel in great power and glory on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:20-40). The prophets of Baal – false prophets all – had come up woefully short in a contest set up by Elijah.

Israel’s wicked King Ahab quickly reported the news to his pagan wife Jezebel, who sent a “watch your back” note to Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-2). She promised to do to him what he’d done to the prophets of Baal – kill him, in other words. The prophet’s mountaintop high turned into a “valley” experience as soon as he heard the note read to him. “And he was afraid and arose and ran for his life and came to Beersheba, which belongs to Judah, and left his servant there” (1 Kings 19:3).

From Beersheba, he continued on to Horeb and hid in a cave. All this time, by the way, God provided everything He needed. At one point, Elijah said to Yahweh, “I have been very zealous for the Lord, the God of hosts; for the sons of Israel have forsaken Your covenant, torn down Your altars and killed Your prophets with the sword. And I alone am left; and they seek my life, to take it away” (1 Kings 19:10). He thought he was the only one left in Israel who was obedient to God and zealous for Him. He wasn’t, of course, but that’s how he felt.

Elijah needed some fact-checking, which is exactly what God did. In verse 18, the Lord told Elijah that, in fact, there were 7000 prophets in Israel who hadn’t bowed the knee to Baal. Therefore, even though Jezebel was after him, he wasn’t alone in his devotion to God.

It isn’t hard for us to fall into the Elijah Syndrome, especially when we’ve been on the mountaintop but now find ourselves in the valley. We can think we’re the only person who’s really interested in following the Lord, but He says otherwise.

No, you’re not the only pastor in your town who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, you’re not the only teacher in your district who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, you’re not the only student in your school who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, you’re not the only one in your vocation who’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

No, your church isn’t the only one that’s faithful to the Lord. God has others.

The list could go on and on, but the point is straightforward: You’re not alone in your faithfulness and devotion to the Lord. He has His people everywhere, and that should be encouraging to us whether we find ourselves on the mountaintop or in the valley.

 

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weary

“Encourage one another daily” (Hebrews 3:13)

Sometimes it’s tough to keep going, especially when you don’t see results. That’s true in life and ministry. We feel like we’re banging our head against a wall and we want to quit. Besides that, it hurts!

Listen to Paul’s encouragement in Galatians 6:9: “Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.” We should keep doing what’s good and right even if we fell like giving up because we’re not seeing any results. If we maintain our faithfulness the results – God’s results, not ours necessarily – will come at some time.

William Carey, called “the Father of Modern Missions,” labored for seven years in India before baptizing his first convert. Mary Drewery, in her biography of Carey, said, “The actual number of conversions directly attributable to him is pathetically small; the number indirectly attributable to him must be legion.”

Adinoram Judson, America’s first missionary, labored for seven years in Burma before seeing his first convert.

Mr. and Mrs. Henry Nott spent twenty-two years laboring on the island of Tahiti as missionaries before Pomare II was baptized on May 16th, 1819.

Don’t lose heart and don’t grow weary as you continue to do good – as you plant, water, and tend. In God’s time you’ll reap.

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psalm29

I had the privilege of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 29. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life receives power, comfort, and strength, from the all-powerful God.

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1211260242455808-forgetting-the-past-pressing-on-philippians-3-13

I had the privilege this morning of hearing Dr. Nicolas Ellen preach on Philippians 3:12-14 (“How to Deal with the Past”). Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: Put your past in the hands of God and rely on His grace to function in the present and move forward in the future.

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Psalm-3

I had the privilege this morning of hearing Pastor Rick Elzinga preach on Psalm 3. Here is a summary of his sermon in one sentence: A God-centered life means doing what you can do, then leaving the rest in God’s hands.

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Steinberg New Yorker

Politicians have a way of disrespecting much of the American voting public. They sometimes refer to everything outside of the New York-Washington, D.C.-Boston-Los Angeles bubble as “flyover country.” In other words, the parts of the country you fly over when you’re going to the “important” places. They don’t realize what they’re missing.

As bad as that is, those of us who love God’s Word can do the same thing by the way we treat books of the Bible. If we’re not paying attention, we can look at the very beginning of a number of books – the greeting – as flyover country. We skip it in order to get to “the good stuff.” If we do that, though, we miss out on some very important truths.

Philippians 1:1-2 should not be ignored or rushed over in our haste. Paul writes, “Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons: grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.” 

Much could be written about these two verses, but I’ll limit myself to a thought from verse 1. Paul says that as Christians, we are simultaneously “in Christ Jesus” and “in Philippi.” 

Through faith in Christ alone for our salvation, we are united with Christ. We are in Him and He is in us. By God’s grace and mercy, we’ve been brought into a living and legal relationship with Jesus and we share in the redemption He accomplished and all of His blessings. Union with Christ is the basis from which our election, calling, regeneration, repentance, faith, justification, adoption, sanctification, and glorification take place. We are “tied” to Christ in such a way that we’ll never be untied.

At the same time, we are in the world – “in Philippi,” so to speak. God didn’t remove us from this world the moment we repented and believed the gospel, did He? If He did, you wouldn’t be reading this and I wouldn’t be writing it, either! We’re “in Christ,” but we’re not yet in heaven. God has given us a job to do as long as we’re living in this world – to glorify Him and to enjoy Him forever (1 Cor. 10:31 and Question and Answer #1 of the Westminster Shorter Catechism). We’ve been called to make Him visible, put Him on display, and reflect Him wherever He’s placed us. He has set us apart (the meaning of “saint”) to serve Him.

The Lord determines who we are (united with Christ), where we live (our particular place in this world), and what we’re supposed to do (glorify Him in all things). It was true for the Christians in Philippi and it’s true for us, too.

There is no “flyover country.” If only we, and the politicians, would realize it. We don’t know what we’re missing!

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