Tag Archives: hardships

September 26; It’s Sin

Nehemiah 13; Joel 1-2

Sometimes when we read God’s Word we tend to think, “this account was written to people long ago,” or “this one is about things in the future,” and we neglect to realize God is able to speak to us concerning our lives in 2019 through every word He inspired men to write in Scripture.

I have to confess I was reading Joel this morning trying to put the prophet’s words into either the past category, or the future category. It was a bit frustrating. Now, I’m not saying Joel wasn’t speaking about historical events, or events that had not yet happened when the prophet allowed God to use his pen to write His words. But my prayer every day is that God would speak to me, too, through His Word about my walk with Him. And He always answers that prayer.

So I started to read it again, and in verse 2 God seemed to ask me, “Has anything like this happened to you?”

“Like what?” I thought. “Locusts?” God prompted me to think again.

Verse 4 stood out as a picture of devastation. One bad thing happened, then another, and another. Has anything like that ever happened to me? Have I felt at a loss with nowhere to turn, crushed by life’s hardships?

Yes. Who hasn’t at one time or another? “Then read on,” God seemed to say. “Wake up and weep, you sinner. Sin has invaded your life.”

“Now wait a minute,” I argued. “I’ve repented of sin. You promised to forgive me. I am wearing Jesus’ righteousness. What sin are you talking about?”

As I continued to read I saw that sin has invaded God’s creation. At prayer meeting last night, someone prayed that God would shatter the teeth of Satan, and here in verse 6 God reenforces that idea by saying the enemy, sin, has the teeth of a lion, the fangs of a lioness. It is sin that has destroyed what God created as good. It is sin that brings the heartache and loss. Sometimes we experience the consequences for our own sin, but sometimes we are hurt as a result of living in a fallen, sinful world. It’s my sin, your sin, the sins of the world.

God seems to be saying, “Wake up! Call sin sin. Identify the enemy. Don’t pretend it isn’t there.”

“So,” I think, “Social reform isn’t the answer? Tolerance isn’t going to bring peace?”

“Exactly,” He seemed to say. “Sin has taken the joy of mankind.”

“So, what is the answer, Lord? Where do we find that joy again?”

I read words like mourn, grieve, despair, wail. And I ask myself if I am truly broken over sin in the world, and in my own life. Am I truly grieving the state of hearts that are dried up, withered, ruined because of sin?

Then in verse 13 God says, “Come.” He asks us to fast and pray, go to church and cry out to God. To turn to Him to come and heal our land, which is really the lives of people in our families, and communities, and the world.

“Heal our parched and worthless lives God, when we turn to You according to Your Word,” I pray. “To you, O Lord, I call, for sin has devoured our hearts, sin has burned up all the good You created. We, Your creation, pant for you. You alone are the answer.”

It’s not about luck, or Karma, or positive thinking, or tolerance. It’s sin that is the problem, and the repenting of sin that is the answer. It is sin that causes all the bad, and only through the blood of Jesus can there be any hope of anything good.

We have got to stop playing around with sin. It is the enemy. It is the cause of all the bad that happens in this world. And God, through Jesus, has destroyed sin’s hold over us. We just need to turn to Him according to His Word.

So today, God has brought some personal sins to mind, and I have repented. I want my heart to be fed and nourished by the living water that is Jesus. And God has challenged me to stand up for what I know is true according to His Word. I don’t want to take lightly the very thing that is destroying the people I love and the world God created.

It’s not God that is causing bad things to happen. It’s sin. It’s not God that is to blame for hardship and loss. It’s sin. My sin. And yours. What are we going to do about that?

 

June 9; Good, Bad, and Trust

Ecclesiastes 7-10

Bad things happen. Good things happen, too. We have successes, and we have failures. Some days the sun shines, and some days the sun hides behind clouds. Let’s face it. There are just some things that are out of our control.

Solomon says, “When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other.” (Ecc 7:14)

We who have placed our faith in the Lord know that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. We count on that with assurance.

Some people question why God allows sin, or tragedy, or hardship. Honestly, I don’t see how He could have done it any other way. If it wasn’t for the night, would we even notice the day? If it wasn’t for sickness, would we appreciate health? If it wasn’t for bad times, we’d take good times for granted. If it wasn’t for sin, how could we understand grace?

Solomon seems to be saying, let God be God. “Who can straighten what he has made crooked?” Quit fighting against God, or wasting your time being mad at Him. He is God. And He’s got this.

King Solomon has a dismal view of life. I don’t. And you don’t have to, either. Do you trust God? He absolutely can be trusted with every detail of your life. You can rest assured that, whether the sun is shining, or if you are in the middle of a storm, God wants to show you what He can do, He wants to draw you to Himself.

Good things happen and bad things happen. Trust God in every circumstance. He can be trusted.

Colossians; Chains and Open Doors

Paul is in prison. Although he is afforded some privileges, he is still chained to a wall, guarded 24/7. This letter to Colossi was written from that prison.

Paul speaks of Jesus, and points to the fact that our salvation, our redemption comes through Jesus only. He warns about mystical thinking, legalism, and the very real temptation to fall for religious sounding teaching that, in reality, is false religion. He encourages us to stand firm. I love 2:6-7:

So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.

We need not only to know Christ, but to grow in Him through reading His Word and in prayer. Our roots need to grow deep in the Truth.

Colossians is a quick read. But I hope you’ll read it twice, let the words sink in, let your roots grow deep.

Something struck me today. I guess I’m still thinking about this season of year that can be so hard for some. Family drama, financial woes, a fearful diagnosis has some people wanting a fast-forward button. Just get me through the next few weeks, Lord.

But here Paul, in chains, asks the Colossians to pray for him. And how does he ask them to pray?

And pray for us, too, that God may open a door for our message, so that we may proclaim the mystery of Christ, for which I am in chains. Pray that I may proclaim it clearly, as I should. (4:3-4)

He doesn’t ask them to pray that he’d get out of jail. He didn’t ask them to pray that his troubles would cease. He asked them to pray that God would give him an open door for ministry – not an open door to the outside.

I wonder if that couldn’t be our prayer this Christmas, too. Instead of asking God to fix our circumstances, what if we asked Him to open a door to share the true meaning of the season while our circumstances are holding us captive? What if we asked God to help us look for ways to serve Him in spite of what is going on in our lives at the moment? What if we asked God to change our sorrow to joy so that people will see the supernatural power of God in us?

Christmas holds such an amazing truth I don’t want us to forget. God Himself became a human, a baby born about as poor as a church mouse. God Himself left heaven, and chained Himself to a flesh and blood body so that He could die for sinners. God so loved the world that He came, He grew up and shared His heart with us, He died, and rose again so that we can know Him now and in eternity.

Let’s pray that God will give us opportunities to share this wonderful truth with people during the next few weeks. Instead of focusing on our chains, let’s pray for open doors.

Psalms 40-44; Snap Out Of It

Have you ever felt blue (as my mom would say) or depressed, and then scolded yourself because you don’t have any reason to feel that way? You’re healthy, you have a job, a home, food on the table, your kids are ok, and the sun is shining? I have. David did.

In Psalm 42 David asks several times: “Why are you downcast, O my soul?” In other words, “What’s wrong with you, David?”

Often, when my own soul is downcast, I begin to remind myself of all the ways I’m blessed, as though remembering those things should snap me out of it. Then I end up feeling worse when it doesn’t. I tell myself, “What’s wrong with you, Connie? Shame on you. You shouldn’t be down. Look at all the reasons you have to be happy.”

Yeah. That helps.

In fact, it often pulls me further down. Because now I’m not only downcast, I feel guilty about feeling downcast.

A couple of things came to mind as I read these psalms today. First, I need to search my heart to see if these feelings are coming from unconfessed sin. Is this God’s gentle hand of conviction on my life? Is my sorrow a result of my putting distance between my Savior and me? If that’s the case, what I need is repentance. I need to confess my sin and allow God to wash me clean.

Oh, what joy!

Secondly, constantly reminding myself of all the things in my life that should make me happy is destructive on a couple levels. It implies that people who struggle financially, or who are sick, or whose children are troubled don’t deserve to be happy. Do we really think we are only blessed if we have “things”?

I think the beginning of Psalm 42 contains the key for upcasting a downcast soul. It’s that thirst for God Himself, it’s that hope that we have in Him, it’s the trust we have in His unfailing love, the Presence of the Comforter. It’s not what makes me happy, but Who.

I really don’t even like to use the word “happy” because we aren’t promised happiness, are we? I have a friend who is dying of cancer. She’s not happy about it. But you can’t spend ten minutes in her presence without recognizing her joy. You would not describe her soul as downcast. Does she shed tears for her husband and kids? Yes. Does she pray for physical healing so that some day she can enjoy being a grandma? Yes. But those things, as precious as they are, are not her source of joy. Her relationship with Jesus is.

I hope you will read Psalm 40 today if you read nothing else. Listen to some of what David wrote:

I waited patiently for the Lord; he turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God… Blessed is the man who makes the Lord his trust… may all who seek you rejoice and be glad in you; may those who love your salvation always say, “The Lord be exalted!”

Are you living with a downcast spirit? I won’t tell you to snap out of it. But I will tell you to turn your focus, you thoughts, your energy toward God. Praise Him. Love Him. Let Him snap you out of it.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.
Look full in his glorious face
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim
In the light of His glory and grace.
(H. H. Lemmel)

 

2 Chronicles 11-13; Not Blessed

There is a repeated theme in Scripture: Obey God and be blessed. Disobey God and He will remove His blessing.

Rehoboam’s life demonstrates this truth. He and the Jews over which he ruled enjoyed three years of peace and prosperity when they were following God.

But I can almost hear you. “I am a Chrstian. I live for God. I pray. Yet I struggle. Where’s my blessing?”

I’m going to say something you might not want to hear, something you probably already know: God never promised we wouldn’t struggle. In fact, He told us to expect hardship. They hated Him. They persecuted Him. And Jesus said we can expect the same.

Remember our enemy is not flesh and blood. It’s not the landlord who is threatening eviction because you don’t have rent money. It’s not the thug who sells drugs to your daughter, or the boss who refuses to give you the promotion you deserve. Our enemy is Satan who delights in making us miserable.

Satan loves to get our eyes off Jesus, and focused on that person who hurt us, or that difficult situation we are facing. He loves to hear us questioning God, or considering chucking it all and living like the world when the world seems to have it all.

When we read things like Rehoboam’s story we might be tempted to believe a right relationship with God equals easy living. It worked for Rehoboam. Why not me?

Because God wants to give you more than just temporary comfort. What comes out of a right relationship with God? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-control.

You can’t buy that stuff.

When you have that precious relationship with God, you have encouragement like what we find in Romans 8:31: If God is for us, who can be against us?

What about Hebrews 13:5? Keep your lives free from the love of money, and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you.”

Paul tells us in Philippians 4:19, But my God will supply all your needs according to his riches in glory.

The Bible is filled with promises like these for those of us who have confessed our sin, and accepted Jesus as our Savior and Lord. However, you might be tempted to say, “It’s easy for you to say, Connie. You had money to pay the bills this month.” And I did.

I know many of you are going through unspeakable hardships. Health issues. Money problems. Family heartache. Persecution. And more. I will not promise you that a right relationship with God will erase the troubles in your life.

But I am suggesting that, even in the midst of the darkest days, you are blessed if you know Jesus. Don’t miss it. Don’t allow Satan to steal your joy, or your peace, or your confidence in the One who loves you and gave Himself for you. Don’t let Satan blind you from seeing the ways in which God, who does all things well, is working in your life and is standing with you in your troubles.

And I believe that God will open doors that can bring about a solution to your problem, maybe even perform a miracle on your behalf. You might get an unexpected check in the mail.

Or not. Obedience is not the ticket to getting what you want. It is the ticket to getting what God wants for us.

God delights in blessing us. But He can’t if we hold on to sin. Whether it’s during the days of Rehoboam or today in 2017, obedience = blessed. Disobedience = not blessed.

May we confess our sins, and be blessed.

 

 

2 Samuel 22-24; Blessed

I wrestled a bit with 22:21-25 this morning, because David is indicating God has rewarded him for good behavior. Clean hands, David? I seem to remember something about a girl named Bathsheba. Check under your fingernails, my friend. I’m not so sure they’re as clean as you’d like to think.

But there are other places in Scripture that equate righteous living with blessing: I Samuel 26:23, I Kings 8:32, Psalm 24, Proverbs 11 are just a few.

Then you have Psalm 14:3, Romans 3:10, 23 that tell us none of us can claim righteousness. Besides, life itself tells us good things don’t always happen just to good people.

I just watched a YouTube video from Nabeel Qureshi, a young man dying of cancer. If you don’t know him, I encourage you to check him out. A former Muslim, he gave his heart to the Lord and has had a fruitful ministry sharing Jesus. It would seem he should have many more years to talk about his Savior, yet unless God performs a miracle, Nabeel’s life on this earth is at an end.

The recent hurricanes that have and are causing destruction in this part of the world are not just picking out criminals and atheists to hit. And I’m sure you could come up with examples in your own life when good Christian people are hit with hardships. So where does David get off talking about how God has blessed him for following the rules?

He was forgiven.

David was not delusional. How did God reward him for obedience? I found the answer when I read on.

God had shown Himself as faithful, blameless, pure, shrewd, saving. “You are my lamp, O Lord; the Lord turns my darkness into light.”

Those are the real blessings of a right relationship with God. God may choose to miraculously heal Nabeel at the eleventh hour. He may choose to spare my home from Hurricane Irma. But the reality is Nabeel will die some day. My house will crumble and fall some day. Neither are going to last forever.

I have the same assurance David had in that I know God blesses His people with Himself. We can stand before him righteous, blameless, pure, holy when we allow Jesus to clothe us with His own. So, with David, I can say:

The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield and the horn of my salvation. He is my stronghold, my refuge and my savior, from violent men (and storms) you save me. I call to the Lord, who is worthy of praise, and I am saved from my enemies. (even Irma regardless of the outcome)

Yes, I am blessed.

 

 

October 14 – Calming The Sea

Matthew 13; Luke 8

Jesus calmed the sea. In the middle of a violent storm, Jesus spoke a word and calm came over the water. A boat full of frightened people, tossed by waves and in danger of dying were saved.

I can’t help but think of Hurricane Matthew as I read these verses, and I certainly reminded God of them when I was praying during that storm. But God seems to be asking me to look beyond calming waters.

The real miracle is when Jesus calms individuals in the midst of the storms of life. When the death of a loved one doesn’t steal our joy. When a devastating medical prognosis doesn’t shake our faith. When the loss of a job or a relationship doesn’t shatter our hope. When a hurricane is pounding your house, and you can still trust God with the outcome. When “worry” isn’t part of your vocabulary.

The real miracle is the peace that is beyond understanding even in the darkest moments, in the roughest waters of our lives.