Encouragement for the Afflicted

Encouragement for the Afflicted

“Make us glad according to the days wherein thou hast afflicted us, and the years wherein we have seen evil.” (Psalm 90:15)

The ninetieth Psalm begins with an exposition on the greatness of God, addressed to God Himself in a prayer. The prayer continues as the Psalmist recounts to the Lord His actions toward the children of men. We are then confronted with the reality of the brevity of life in the ninth and tenth verses. Before these verses and then through them and after them, we can see that the troubles to which Moses refers are caused by God’s anger, which was justly incurred by the sin of mankind. But then comes a change. There is a plea for God’s mercy: His chesed, His steadfast, unchanging love. Moses sets an example for us here in his prayer.

We know that through the death of Christ, Who acted as both High Priest and sacrificial Lamb, God’s righteous wrath was pacified and mercy to sinful man was made possible. We also know from the twelfth chapter of the book of Hebrews that God’s chastening is sent to us not only as correction for wrong-doing, but sometimes as instruction for our souls, much like a parent’s education of their children. In either case, we can follow the example Moses has set by praying to God for mercy (vs. 14). To take it a step further, Moses prays for gladness (vs. 15). How encouraging this is when we are in seasons of difficulty and heartache, whether they are self-inflicted by sin or brought to us to strengthen our faith! We may plead with the Lord for gladness to follow the days of affliction, and not only that, but for the gladness to be given in measure according to the affliction we have suffered. 

This sort of prayer is sanctioned by precious promises given in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 4:17 reads, “For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory;”  We are guaranteed eternal rewards when we endure trials. We may not ever know extensive seasons of earthly happiness; many of God’s chosen ones do not. But we can firmly expect -hope for- the joys that are being laid up for us in heaven. This causes us to rejoice greatly, though now for a season we are in heaviness through manifold temptation (1 Peter 1:4-6). These promises give us solid ground on which to build our prayers, for God cannot deny His own Word. This is a glorious hope for the believer, and shines before us as a light incomprehensible.

The encouragement for afflicted children of God in Psalm 90:15 is, then, to follow Moses’ example: pray for gladness.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

As we are all gathering with those we love, may our hearts swell with gratitude and praise to the Lord for his never failing faithfulness and everlasting love. This is what Thanksgiving is all about.

Thankfulness: Gratitude to God for what He does.
Praise: Gratitude to God for Who He Is.

Admit it. Beneath the comfort of smiling faces, warm hugs, delectable smells, and cozy coffee cups swarming around plates of pumpkin pie, are hearts with needs. In some cases, hearts that are aching badly with hurts and pain unseen and unknown. The flip side of the rejoicing we are enjoying is still there and is, in some cases, very dark.

But there is a Light that can pierce through the most difficult situation, warming and illuminating the darkest, coldest heart, resulting in growth and eventually, fruit.

This Light is Jesus. He is Emmanuel. God with us. God with us. God with us.

We have so much to be grateful for. Yes, family, friends, food, warm houses, soft lights, soothing atmospheres, sweet relationships, are all gifts for which we ought to return thanks to our Lord everyday. But there’s more, so much more that we are prone to overlook in the dazzling delights of temporal pleasures.

We who have trusted in Christ as our Savior are assured a perfect standing before the God of Heaven (Romans 8:1). If this were not enough, when we come to the Father in Jesus’ Name, we receive the spirit of adoption whereby we cry “Abba, Father” (Romans 8:15). He is Christ’s Father, and our Father, Christ’s God, and our God (John 20:17). There are unspeakable gifts laid up in store for those who love God (1 Corinthians 2:9). For those who are faithful unto death in the midst of crisis, persecution, or even just “ordinary” trials, are reserved crowns of life (Revelation 2:10, James 1:12). Time would fail us to speak of grace sufficient for every need (2 Corinthians 12:9), guaranteed rewards for perseverance (Galatians 6:9), comforts found only in the never-ending presence of God (Hebrews 13:5), life and peace that comes from spiritual-mindedness (Romans 8:6), the assurance that those who ask, will receive (Matthew 7:8), the truth that all of God’s promises are true (2 Corinthians 1:20), and the list could go on for pages. These are things God does for us through Christ. Let us now consider some of who God Is.

He is, first of all, the I AM God (Exodus 3:14). He is our Shepherd (Psalm 23, John 10:11). He is our Sun and Shield (Psalm 84:11). He is our Strength (Psalm 28:8). He is our Song (Exodus 15:2). He is our Father (Galatians 4:6). He is our Blesser (Ephesians 1:3). He is our Director (Proverbs 16:9). He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). He is our Refuge (Psalm 9:9). He is our Fortress (Psalm 91:2). He is the Creator (Genesis 1:1). He is the Alpha and Omega (Revelation 22:13). Here again, the list is endless, for God is infinite (Psalm 145:3).

It doesn’t matter where you find yourself this holiday season, whether on the mountain tops of rejoicing or struggling to keep the tears from spilling over into the mashed potatoes you are about to serve: God is enough for your need. He makes all the riches of glory available to you through Christ (Ephesians 1:3), and whoever comes to Christ will in no wise be cast out (John 6:37).

This Thanksgiving, let us all focus our hearts to seek those things which are above, where Christ sits on the right hand of God (Colossians 3:1). We have so much for which to be grateful. May we raise continually a voice of Thanksgiving for what God has done for us, and a voice of Praise for Who God Is.

Praise ye the LORD. Praise the LORD, O my soul.
While I live will I praise the LORD: I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.
Put not your trust in princes, nor in the son of man, in whom there is no help.
His breath goeth forth, he returneth to his earth; in that very day his thoughts perish.
Happy is he that hath the God of Jacob for his help, whose hope is in the LORD his God:
Which made heaven, and earth, the sea, and all that therein is: which keepeth truth for ever:
Which executeth judgement for the oppressed: which giveth food to the hungry. The LORD looseth the prisoners:
The LORD openeth the eyes of the blind: the LORD raiseth them that are bowed down: the LORD loveth the righteous:
The LORD preserveth the strangers; he relieveth the fatherless and wido: but the way of the wicked he turneth upside down.
The LORD shall reign for ever, even thy God, O Zion, unto all generations. Praise ye the LORD.

~Psalm 146

Nothing to Pay

Nothing to pay! Ah, nothing to pay!

Never a word of excuse to say!

Year after year thou hast filled the score,

Owing thy LORD still more and more.

Hear the voice of Jesus say,

“Verily thou hast nothing to pay!

Ruined, lost art thou, and yet

I forgave thee all that debt.”

 

Nothing to pay! the debt is so great;

What will you do with the awful weight?

How shall the way of escape be made?

Nothing to pay! yet it must be paid!

Hear the voice of Jesus say,

“Verily thou hast nothing to pay!

All has been put to my account,

I have paid the full amount.”

 

Nothing to pay; yes, nothing to pay!

Jesus has cleared all the debt away;

Blotted it out with His bleeding hand!

Free and forgiven and loved you stand.

Hear the voice of Jesus say,

“Verily thou hast nothing to pay!

Paid is the debt, and the debtor free!

Now I ask thee, lovest thou ME?

 

-Francis Ridley Havergal-

Special thanks to dear friends for the gift of the book Valuable Selections From the Writings of Francis Ridley Havergal. It is such a treasure!

Prayer, A Mercy

Prayer, A Mercy

To enter the presence of God behind the closed doors of the prayer closet is one of the greatest mercies ever received by the descendants of Adam. Though we may not feel the warmth of emotion in our prayers, still the knowledge of God’s love can thaw our frozen hearts. We love Him because He first loved us. Though we may not receive the exact earthly answer to the petitions we offer, we can rest in the perfection of His plan. For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord. Though we may be lost for the words to utter our cries, we can take comfort in the fact that we are being prayed for. I pray for them.

When we are ready to stop asking because we do not receive any reply, we can remember the woman of Canaan. First ignored, then insulted, but at last answered. And we see the heart of the Lord Jesus here. He wanted her to come close; to find her answer in His presence, not just in His actions. Ask, seek, knock, for everyone that asketh receiveth. Oh, to be sure, it is difficult to persist in the asking, but you will never regret that you did. When the answer comes, even if it is a “no” to the thing you thought you desired, there is incomparable delight in acknowledging that the Lord’s good gifts are exceeding abundantly above all you could ask or think.

So I encourage you, and much more myself, to ask and to continue in asking. Men ought always to pray, and not to faint. When your prayers are greeted by naught but silence, ask again. Seek the presence of the Lord Jesus above all else. Thy face, Lord, will I seek. There is nothing more rewarding than the sunshine of His face. You shall seek Me and find Me when you shall search for Me with all your heart. Pour out your heart to Him, plead your cause before the Throne of Grace, and when He is silent, enjoy the wait.

The Will of God for You

The Will of God for You

Then said they unto Him, What shall we do, that we might work the works of God? Jesus answered and said unto them, This is the work of God, that ye believe on Him whom He hath sent. -John 6:28-29

Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you. – 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

Who is a God Like unto Thee?

“Who is a God like unto thee, that pardoneth iniquity and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of his heritage? He retaineth not his anger for ever, because he delighteth in mercy. He will turn again, he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea.” (Micah 7:18-19)

“Who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doest wonders: thou hast declared thy strength among the people.” (Psalm 77:13b-14)

“O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee?”  (Psalm 89:8a)

Those who are following God truly are serving the greatest King of all. Everywhere you look in Scripture, you can see that there is no one comparable to Him. He is the Alpha and Omega. He is the Creator of All. He is the King of kings and LORD of lords. He is the Refuge for the oppressed. He is the Strength of the weak. He is the Good Shepherd of the sheep. He is the Giver of grace to the humble. He is the healer of the sick. He is the Savior. He is the Friend for sinners. He is the Comforter Who abides with and teaches His children. He is the way, the truth, and the life. The list can go on and on.

In the words of hymn writers, He is “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise”. He is our “Abba, Father”. He is “Always the Same”. He is “Jesus, Lover of My Soul”. He is our “Blessed Redeemer”.  He is “Constantly Abiding” with His children. “A Mighty Fortress is Our God”; “Fairest LORD Jesus”; “Holy, Holy, Holy”; “Rock of Ages”; “Lamb of Glory”; “The Church’s One Foundation”.

Time forbids the continuation of the lists which I have written, yet I hope and pray that you will go through today looking for attributes of “Our Great Savior”. Look in His written word, the Bible. Look in nature. Look in history. Trust that He is Who He says He is. May God bless you with a deeper understanding of Himself.

Life and Peace

Life and Peace

We are beset round about with trials and troubles in this life on earth. The struggles that overtake us seem multitudinous and overwhelming, and it is difficult to discern the good from the best, and likewise the will of men from the will of God. But in it all, there is a shining light that comes to shed its warmth on the coldest difficulty we face.

We do not exist to live for this world and the things in it. We exist to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Our ultimate destination is glory, and we reach glory, in God’s providence, by walking an earthly path. On this path are so many distractions from our real destination. There are things for which we must take responsibility pertaining to the physical realm, but we ought not to become absorbed in caring for the things of this world. “Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” -Matthew 6:31-34

It’s difficult and often painful, this severing of our thinking from the things that we can see, yet we know that we are chosen “to an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away, reserved in heaven for you.”  -1 Peter 1:4  The life of Moses offers us an almost incomparable example of faith in God, who esteemed the reproach of Christ to be of greater value than all the riches of Egypt. There is great treasure to be had in glory for those who persevere in the face of faith-defying troubles. We can rest in the knowledge that this world is not our home, and there is unspeakable joy in living for the end of the journey and the King who has laid out our life’s course.

At the end of our pilgrimage, it will not matter how many earthly sorrows we endured, how many burdens we carried, or how great was our suffering. What will matter is that we have been conformed to the image of Christ, that we ran our race with endurance, that we looked unto Jesus who is the Author and Finisher of our Faith. When the sum of all things is taken, it will be glory to have borne our crosses well, to have maintained our steadfast gaze on the things of God, and to have pursued those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. “To be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.” -Romans 8:6

Consider

A few days ago while reading through Haggai, I noticed that the word “consider” occurs four times in this little book of two chapters.  Twice when the word is used, it says “consider your ways.” God doesn’t want us to walk aimlessly through life, but rather He wants us to live with purpose and intentionality. I think taking time to “be still” (Psalm 46:10) and “consider” is an important part of this. When we hurriedly run through life, it’s easy to lose focus and track of where we’re going. But if we’re taking time to “consider,” we can hear and know the voice of God, receiving counsel, courage, and direction from Him.

So when thinking about the word “consider,” three areas I need to consider immediately came to mind.

(1). Consider who your God is. “Who is so great a God as our God? Thou art the God that doeth wonders” (Psalm 77:13b-14a). “The people that do know their God shall be strong and do exploits” (Daniel 11:32b). The more I ponder the wonders of knowing God, the more impressed I am with the need to know Him. Knowing Who He is will transform my thinking, my responses, and my life.

(2) Consider where you have come from. “That the generations to come might know them… that they might set their hope in God, and not forget the works of God, but keep His commandments” (Psalm 78:6a, 7). We see this on a large scale, especially in our family, because we’ve been blessed to be 3rd-4th generation Christians. But what about the 5th generation? Will they know the works of God, or will my generation forget where we’ve come from and what we’ve been given and fail in passing on the faith? And then on a “small” scale, there are so many examples of God’s mercy toward us in day-to-day life, yet we miss so many of them in our busyness. These “little” things (like safety in working with lawn equipment, or protection for us and the van in the two close-calls we had last week traveling home from VA, or the number of guests that God has sent to the park this season…) are so important to remember, too.

(3) Consider where you are going. “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18a). What are my goals, and why are they my goals? Am I spending time in selfish pursuits or investing it into eternity? What are the motives what I’m doing?

I think taking time to consider helps to fill our hearts with expectation for what the Lord wants to work in our lives. Today, even in the midst of your packed schedule and rushed busyness, take a few moments to consider, and praise the Lord for His daily mercies upon you.

The Lord God is a Sun

The Lord God is a sun. That is a statement I have often read and, to my own loss, passed over in a hurry to get to the end of the verse. The end of the verse is striking in its own right, but so is the beginning.

The Lord God is a sun. The sun, put simply for those of us who are not scientifically inclined by nature, is our ultimate source of physical light and warmth. Without it, we would starve and freeze to death. It is essential to life on planet earth. Other planets are either too close to or too far from the sun, and thus cannot sustain life.

I was walking out of doors in the middle of the morning – definitely one of my favorite times for being out. Everything seems  have an undercurrent vibration of freshness and life; the world is fully awake yet has neither reached the heat of the day nor drawn near to the darkened end. It was one of those days in which you don’t have to be outside for long in order to feel the sunshine penetrate every fiber of your being. As I became aware of the delicious warmth seeping through me, I was struck by the beauty of the phrase: The Lord God is a sun. 

There are many, many days on which I am discouraged by an absence of emotions in my spiritual walk. To be sure, I still read God’s Word, memorize and meditate on it, spend time in prayer – but all of these things seem like mere duties. Duties I enjoy, but just duties nonetheless. It’s on days like this that I am aware of the Lord’s presence, just as you are aware of the sun shining on many average days. It’s there; beautifully, gloriously there. You can see the effects of it all around you, but you cannot feel its nature piercing you. But it is still there and it is up to you to believe that it is working in the nature around you for your good. So it is with the presence of Christ.

There are also times of trial in our walk when our Sun has completely disappeared and our sense of our Lord’s love is obscured in the blackness of night. These times of great darkness come frequently in the lives of believers, and sometimes it seems with rhythmic precision, just like the day and night of the created realm. And just like in the created realm, both elements are necessary.

Finally, there are the days about which I wrote at the beginning: when the presence of the Lord feels real to our hearts. These days are not absolutely necessary, as our spiritual walks are not based on feelings, but they are delightful. By far more delightful to the soul than even penetrating warmth is to the body.

Yes, our Lord is a Sun. A bright, glorious sun to brighten our lives, warm us with His love, fill our very beings with His presence until we simply cannot absorb anymore. And as the created sun, He sometimes withdraws His face from our lives, but also in keeping with analogy, is working all things for the good of His own from the opposite side of the world, or, of our situation.

What a wonderful, marvelous, awe-inspiring statement: The Lord God is a Sun (Psalm 84:11).

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