Month: August 2023

Why, Lord? – Conclusion

With every trial or test, our faithful Heavenly Father will not permit us to be tempted above what we are able to endure when we rely on His strength. God will provide, create, and make available a way to bear up under and be delivered from danger.

Yet, as we have already noted in the last post, this way of escape may not be as easy and comfortable as we had hoped it would be. The well-known missionary, Jim Elliot, noted:

Nevertheless, when we realize our only hope is in accepting and following the way God provides for us, our feet will be as sure as those of a deer who can navigate the narrowest, most perilous of paths. A hind, or deer can traverse what appears to be a vertical cliff without stumbling or falling—unafraid and undeterred—in a manner similar to this mountain goat:

The words “way of escape” have the idea of an army being totally surrounded by the enemy, and then suddenly spying a mountain pass—an escape route to safety. When we find ourselves hemmed in by the enemy or dire circumstances where we are tempted to give up, give in to fear, or become hopelessly frustrated, we can remember the Lord’s promise of a way out. And, although it may seem there are no good choices, we must actively look for and faithfully pray for the deliverance He will provide; then we will inevitably discover that God’s way truly is the right/best choice to resolve our trial. We will be able to declare with the Prophet Habakkuk, “The Lord God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk on mine high places.” (Habakkuk 3:19)

Why, Lord?- Part 2

There are two verses that will help develop a right perspective regarding our seemingly unanswered question, “Why, Lord”, when trials threaten to overwhelm us:

Because these verses are true, we can probably count on the fact that we may not fully understand the course God is leading us through in many of our trials; in fact, the reality of our situation may completely escape us because of our limited earthly perspective. It is during these times we can humbly choose to obey and trust the Lord, as we cling to His promises:

The “way of escape” that the Lord will provide may not necessarily be an easy one; that is, not the means or the answer we had hoped for. The fact is, God uses our trials to deepen and strengthen our relationship and reliance on Him—this kind of unwavering trust is not easily developed. Acts 14:22 teaches that it is through much tribulation we learn the ways of his Kingdom and how to function as a child of our King of Kings. Our questions are best asked from a posture of dependence and respect before the Lord; and—with the help of the Holy Spirit—we will be able to accept God’s will.

Additionally, a second promise offers assurance and encouragement regarding the frequently challenging path we must take—our steps will be sure despite the rocky way:

“The Lord my God is my strength, and He will make my feet like hind’s feet, and He will make me to walk upon mine high places” (Habakkuk 3:19).

In the next post, we will explore the concept of the” way of escape” in more detail.

Why, Lord?

King David asked, “Why do you stand afar off, Lord? Why do you hide in times of trouble?” (Psalm 10:1)

Moses inquired, “Why have You afflicted Your servant? And why have I not found favor in Your sight?” (Numbers 11:11)

Habakkuk questioned, “Why do You show me iniquity and cause me to see trouble?” (Habakkuk 1:3)

Job entreated God to answer: “What have I done to You, O watcher of men? Why have You set me as your target…?” (Job 7:20)

It is not inherently wrong to ask God questions: Even Jesus Himself asked, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46); and, we know that Jesus never sinned (1 Peter 2:22). I have found that I often want God to explain, when it would be more helpful for me to focus on how He will sustain me through my situation. I confess that at times—when I have diligently prayed through a long season of trial—the Lord has seemed silent to me, or His apparent answer was not what I had desperately wanted. It is during these kinds of trials I could chose to put up a fight to get my way, or run away and withdraw; or, I could wholeheartedly seek divine help to face the situation God’s way. The last option is almost never the easy path during my greatest trials; it takes effort and trust to resist the temptation to focus primarily on the things I want and believe I need.

The next post will explore ways to seek help and walk in peace when the answers to our “why questions” are beyond our understanding.

The Power of a Word

When studying the Bible, it is essential to use good hermeneuticsthe branch of knowledge that deals with interpretation, especially of the Bible.

2 Peter 1:20 states that, “But know first of all, that no prophesy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation.” In other words, we need to read the Bible using and applying good rules of interpretation in order to know the author’s intended meaning. One of the most basic tools of hermeneutics is to ascertain the literal meaning of words; usually this involves using a concordance to learn the Hebrew word (Old Testament) or Greek word (New Testament) in order to determine the actual meaning. The importance of taking the time to do this was demonstrated very powerfully to me in the following incident:

A famous tv personality stated in a video that the turning point in her “Christian faith” was when she heard a pastor declare in a sermon that God was a jealous God. She said that she was in the moment with the other listeners until she heard the word “jealous.” Then she proceeded to recount the attributes of God such as being all-knowing, powerful, etc.; yet, she began to immediately dispute these attributes by asking the question, “You mean God is jealous of ME?” The fact that God was jealous did “not feel right in her spirit”—she subsequently embraced false doctrine and used her influence to further those beliefs.

It seems incredible that a misunderstanding of one word could so powerfully contribute to such a major departure from a professed faith, when a simple investigation of the Hebrew word for jealous would have most likely moved her into truth.

Jealous= quanna (Hebrew)

Ardor; zeal; jealousy only of God

The Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Bible Words defines quanna as “the term [that] refers only to God as being jealous, indicating the divine determination to tolerate from his people no respect for, or worship of, any other deity besides Himself.” In other words, God prohibits worship of idols because of his passion and zeal for his people. He is not jealous of anyone; God is jealous for his people and desires nothing to stand in the way of the loving, protective, and—yes—possessive relationship between himself and those who belong to him in Jesus.

How Long Must I Cry?

The prophet Habakkuk was distressed and frustrated about the sinful condition of his homeland. The question, “how long,” indicates that he had been faithfully crying out to the Lord for an extended period of time regarding the spiritual condition of Judah.

Habakkuk cried out and petitioned the Lord concerning the nation of Judah.

Job petitioned the Lord concerning himself: “I cry unto thee, and thou doest not hear me” (Job 30:20).

Jonah was frustrated concerning the spiritual condition of the world, which was represented by the pagan city of Nineveh. However, Jonah was not lamenting over their sin, he was upset that God was sending him to Nineveh in order to save them and call them to repentance: “But Jonah rose up to flee” [from God’s call]; “it displeased Jonah exceedingly” (Jonah 1:3 & Jonah 4:1).

Throughout the Old Testament, we witness that God was concerned about sin and moved in the lives of people to bring them to repentance. In the New Covenant of Grace, God is the same. working through his people to bring the world to him and his salvation:

Our part as followers of Jesus Christ is to (as Habakkuk did), “pray without ceasing” (1 Thessalonians 5:17); and (unlike Jonah), willingly obey His command to spread the good news of the gospel to everyone at every opportunity.

Our Sure Confidence

Faith (Greek, peitho)= To have confidence in; to be persuaded by what is trustworthy

Substance= confident assurance; given reality to

Hope(ed)= expected; trusted for

Evidence= Conviction; proof

Hebrews 11:1 assures us that when our faith is such that we are fully confident in the trustworthiness of our God, we will become convicted that what we expect and trust for will (although we may not presently see it), become as if a proven reality.

Examine Yourselves

We understand from God’s word that we are commanded to test ourselves to make sure we are true believers who are closely and continually following Christ our Lord. It follows that we must examine our lives and fruit so that we are assured that we “pass the test.”

Years ago when we began the process of restoring our old farmhouse, there was a faint smell that we attributed to the inevitable aging of a house. We knew our water heater needed replacing, so we decided the first step of renovation would be to remove it from the closet where it was located. However, while removing the water heater, we noticed the smell was no longer faint, but growing in intensity—behind the heater, we discovered a small patch of mold. It appeared to be a simple task: cut out the affected area and replace the section with new sheetrock. Nevertheless, as we continued to cut out the decay, more and more mold came to light—the corrupting rot extended all the way to the outer siding and along the entirety of the back wall! Our task was no longer minor; it was going to be expensive and formidable. If only we had paid more attention to the odor; because, although it was only slightly unpleasant, it was indicating a much deeper problem.

Perhaps it is already becoming apparent that the mold in the wall can be representative of the “rot” of sinful desires that originate within our own selves…the sinful corruption that leads to more serious consequences if left unchecked. Just as my husband and I needed to regard the first faint odor as a sign of a possibly deeper problem; so believers need to heed even the smallest promptings from the Holy Spirit that they are straying, and pay attention to the faintest pricks of conscience. The truth is, it is much easier to address a sin on the front end, before it takes hold and progresses into a besetting sin—a stronghold. The “tearing out” process of overcoming and forsaking the sin will be much quicker and less painful if we address it early on; and we will be able to do that, if we take to heart the command to faithfully and continually examine ourselves.

Food For Thought

Faith is not so much about getting what you want from God as it is accepting from God the tests He gives or the trials He allows, while maintaining unwavering trust in his love and goodness.

Where is Your Treasure?

Throughout my early childhood, Christmas was an exciting time that I eagerly awaited each year. Christmas decorations, music, presents, and Santa’s visit gave me butterflies in my stomach and I could barely wait until his arrival. Having a lively imagination, I could almost hear the sleigh bells and his boots boldly walking across our roof. And so on Christmas Eve night, I barely slept…all during the night I would gingerly peek into our living room in hopes that he had left our presents. If indeed he had, I would approach each of my siblings to beg them to get up and survey our goodies, regardless of the fact that it might be 4:00 or 5:00 o’clock in the morning!

By the time my siblings all agreed to get up, I was utterly exhausted. Although my adrenalin enabled me to momentarily tear open gifts and play with toys, I was soon too tired to play and the “magic” faded. Even the sugar rush from the ever-present sweets proved inadequate to sustain my energy.

But before all of this Santa hoopla set in, while we were decorating our modest home for the big day, I developed a very special ritual:

I would vie with my siblings for the privilege of placing the baby Jesus in the manger of the nativity, which was carefully preserved from season to season.

My little heart was torn between my excited preoccupation with Santa and my warm love for Jesus. When I thought of Santa, my heart was uneasy and questioning…would he remember to bring me all the things I desired? Would I somehow feel let down again even if I did get all I had wanted? Would my siblings get better things than me?

However, after I “won” the right to place baby Jesus in the manger—with his mom and dad, animals, and all the others who adored him—I was inexplicably at peace as I laid him in his cradle. I can recall my joy as I gazed at the the nativity…not because the nativity figures before me held any power; but, because the peaceful love that came into my heart was from Jesus Himself.

What greater peace I could have experienced as a child if I had been able to understand and practice Mt. 6: 19-21: laying up heavenly treasures, instead of burdening my heart with earthly desires.

My prayerful hope today is that all of us who know Jesus will anticipate His second coming with exponentially greater excitement and anticipation than I had for Santa. We are to “watch therefore, for we know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh” (Mt. 25:13) so that we can rejoice and hope in that day when our Savior returns.

1 Corinthians 15:51-52, “Behold, I show you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed. In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.”

Is Bigger Always Better?- Conclusion

The Lord can use the mighty of the world; but He very often chooses the weak instead. It is the Lord, by his Holy Spirit, that accomplishes his purposes in a way that points to Him.

The familiar story of David and Goliath found in 1 Samuel 17 is a powerful account that attests to the fact that God delights in using foolish and/or weak things to shame the strong. God used David, who was much weaker than the giant Goliath, to deliver his people from the Philistine army. It is important to note that Goliath had a mighty sword and was clad with heavy armor; he was a seasoned soldier with much experience. Yet David, because he placed his trust in the Lord’s strength, was able to defeat Goliath with a simple “foolish” slingshot and a single rock…giving all the glory for the deliverance to the Lord.

In another account found in Judges 7, it is made clear that God desired to humble Israel by using lesser numbers of soldiers to defeat their enemy. In this way, Israel would recognize that any victory was most certainly due to the Lord’s power, not theirs.

The Apostle Paul effectively conveyed that because of God’s desire to use weak vessels, believers today—who might feel small and inadequate—can be assured and encouraged:

Is Bigger Always Better?

The world appreciates might—“the bigger, the better.” Here, the world’s largest furniture store displays the world’s largest piece of furniture; and, it is impressive. Yet, one cannot use this piece of furniture; it is for show, merely representing similar, smaller pieces that can actually be used to store clothing.

On the other hand, the Bonsai tree is a miniature version of larger—sometimes impressively mighty—trees and shrubs. Even the world can appreciate how these Bonsai plants accurately mirror, on a much lesser scale, the might and strength of their counterparts.

In the Bible, smaller, weaker, less impressive things of the world are clearly valued:

While the world in general is impressed by strength and size; God often uses insignificant and weak vessels to carry out his plans. In this way, the Lord is glorified—He gets the credit because it is obvious that the wisdom and power comes from the Lord Himself, rather than from the agent He uses. Furthermore, when God employs the weak and foolish, others who are proud can be humbled, which makes them more suitable for God’s purposes.

Biblical examples of the principle found in 1 Corinthians 1:27 to follow…

Prepare Your Work- Conclusion

“Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established.” Proverbs 16:3

As I look back to the time we moved to our present home, it becomes clear that a longtime friend of mine demonstrated the kind of inspired preparation that has been discussed in the last two posts. After closing out my antique business fifteen years ago, I continued to hold on to the pieces that I hoped to use in our new home; however, it was uncertain as to which among them would suit our new residence, which was not nearly as rustic as our restored farmhouse. Furthermore, I couldn’t ascertain if particular antiques would physically fit into the smaller space we were going to occupy.

At this point, my friend, Brenda—who has always formulated detailed preparations for her various projects—offered valuable help in preparing for the work of moving into our new home. She meticulously cut to scale the particular antiques and furniture I hoped to keep in order to lay them out on a remarkably accurate graph of our house. All of the tedious groundwork she did suddenly made proper selection of furnishings possible, as well as how to place them. When moving day arrived, the furniture was situated exactly as she had grafted; the benefit from her planning was immeasurable for me. The Lord had indeed used Brenda’s God-given gifts; and just as Proverbs 16:3 promised, my decisions were grounded in well-laid plans—my thoughts were established.