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Archive for November, 2010

A helpful word from Randy Alcorn:

When suffering and evil come, they exert a force that either pushes us away from God or pulls us toward him.  For those whose faith endures suffering, the devastation feels just as real.  But knowing that others who suffer have learned to trust God helps them trust in him as they face their own disasters.  Because their deepest hope is in the eternal life to come – instead of in health and abundance and secure relationships in this life – their hope remains firm even when life is at its hardest.

Randy Alcorn, If God is Good, Why Do We Hurt?, p. 71.

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Pastor Sam is one of the giants at Bethlehem. He doesn’t preach much, but his influence is everywhere – from his role as Executive Pastor to frequently leading the communion table to his endless work on multiple internal and external committees.

One of those committees is the Desiring God Board of Directors, where he shared this devotional several weeks ago:

Christ keeps us.

John 16:1 I have said all these things to you to keep you from falling away.

John 17:11 And I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me, that they may be one, even as we are one.

Jude 1:24-25 Now to him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you blameless before the presence of his glory with great joy, 25 to the only God, our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion, and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen.

Christ keeps his own, but how? How does Christ keep us?  One answer is: by being beautiful to us.  By allowing us to behold him, to see his surpassing beauty and superior value, other competing idols drop dead.  They don’t compete well.  Who wants a soggy rat-chewed hot dog bun found in the dumpster with yesterday’s ketchup and mustard on it, when he is offered a fresh, steamy hot meal at the buffet?

2 Corinthians 3:10 Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it.

Philippians 3:8 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.

Ephesian 3:19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

Living an easier life, free of the suffering and complications and difficulties and expense related to disability, frequently feels like a very competitive idol to Jesus.  But that’s only when I take my eyes off him.

Thank you, Sam, for this good word from the Word on the extraordinary beauty and majesty of Jesus.

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Yes, I know, the new year is still more than a month away.  But I’d like to encourage you to give yourself some momentum before the new year begins.

God has helped me throughout this year through a plan to read through the Bible in a year.  There have been some amazing days when God let me see something new from his word that I had never seen before, frequently drawing together two or more of the four readings for the day.

And I would encourage you start now.  I had every desire to start this journey on January 1 this past year – because that’s when we’re ‘supposed’ to get into better habits!  I think I actually started about January 10 or 15, feeling both sheepish and guilty that I had not followed through on my good intentions.  Two weeks into the year and I was ready to give up on this plan!

I didn’t bother to try to catch up; I just started on that day.

It hasn’t been perfect – I have gotten behind several times during the year.  But it has been very good for my study and my soul.

So why not start now?  By January 1 you’ll already start seeing the benefits, you’ll have developed a new habit, and if the plan you’ve been using just hasn’t seemed to fit your needs, you can start a different one.

I’ve used the free One Year Tract Bible Reading Plan this year with the English Standard Version of the Bible.  This website also renders beautifully on mobile devices like the iPhone, so I have it with me almost anywhere I go.  Dianne listens to the daily reading, also freely available at that website.

There are other one year plans available here.

I would highly recommend a good study bible to go with it, like the ESV Study Bible available from Crossway.  It is a worthwhile investment in your own life, and a great present for somebody else.

Do you have a suggestion for a reading plan that’s been helpful?

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Psalm 69:29-36

29 But I am afflicted and in pain;
let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

30 I will praise the name of God with a song;
I will magnify him with thanksgiving.
31 This will please the Lord more than an ox
or a bull with horns and hoofs.
32 When the humble see it they will be glad;
you who seek God, let your hearts revive.
33 For the Lord hears the needy
and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

34 Let heaven and earth praise him,
the seas and everything that moves in them.
35 For God will save Zion
and build up the cities of Judah,
and people shall dwell there and possess it;
36 the offspring of his servants shall inherit it,
and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

 

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2 Corinthians 4:7-18

7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. 8 We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair;9 persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; 10 always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. 11 For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death is at work in us, but life in you.

13 Since we have the same spirit of faith according to what has been written, “I believed, and so I spoke,” we also believe, and so we also speak, 14 knowing that he who raised the Lord Jesus will raise us also with Jesus and bring us with you into his presence. 15 For it is all for your sake, so that as grace extends to more and more people it may increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

16 So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. 17 For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, 18 as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.

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Do you ever wonder how to let someone know you are praying for them or with them?  I certainly do.

And God provided a helpful example, this time through one of the great women in my life: my oldest sister.

I’m deeply grateful that God has given me sisters who love me and my wife and my children with the deepest of affections and respect.  And both of them are unashamed to take the needs of their nephew to their networks of friends and prayers.

One of those precious people emailed my sister with this encouragement, which my sister forwarded to Dianne, and which I present with permission from the writer to you:

Dear Arlene,

So sorry to hear about Paulie’s ongoing diagnostic dilemma. Only the Lord can sustain them and Paulie through this period of trial and suffering. The bi-monthly devotional I am using now has the theme “soaring above the storm” and it really is daily devotionals on the “theology of adversity”.

Today’s topic was on the power of God – in a nutshell, Is God powerful (enough to prevent suffering) or if He is powerful, then is He good enough (to prevent suffering)? The Scripture strongly tells us that He is powerful (sovereign, omnipotent) and He is good (grace, mercy and love embodied) yet He still allows suffering and adversity ….so the question is how do we, and can we, keep our perspective straight, especially with someone as innocent and special as Paulie.

I think we can, and I know that John and Dianne and all of you can because we affirm what St. Paul says in 2 Cor. 4: 7-18.

Jer 32: 17-27,

Job: 42: 1-6

Isaiah 40: 31 and

Hab. 3:2, Hab. 3:16-19.

Will remember Paulie, John and Dianne in my prayers for grace abounding to endure and in God’s mercy for deliverance and healing to be provided.

Much love, R

What are the elements I found so encouraging?

  • Acknowledgement of pain and suffering
  • Confidence that God will sustain
  • Scripture on the nature and character of God that demonstrates he is both powerful and good
  • Persistence in prayer

It isn’t flowery or fancy – it wasn’t even written to us! – but it went straight to my heart as encouragement directly from God through this dear saint.

Is there someone you could email today, for their encouragement, making much of God as you trust him for the words you will send?

You might make them cry, like this email did for both Dianne and me, with tears of sorrow at continuing suffering mingled with joy at the goodness and kindness of God.

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Psalm 100:

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
Serve the Lord with gladness!
Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
It is he who made us, and we are his;
we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
and his courts with praise!
Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
his steadfast love endures forever,
and his faithfulness to all generations.

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