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And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose. (Rom 8:28 KJV)
How often have you thought about this verse? It is often quoted by Christians, particularly in bad or difficult situations. But it is a weak salve for most people because we do not meditate on its meaning. Quoting it, to self or to others, is apt to provoke a response of indignation, “HOW CAN YOU SAY THAT THIS IS GOOD?” And they are probably right, as far as they go.
This verse requires several acts of faith: 1. God is omnipotent; 2. God is omniscient; 3. God is good; 4. God is actively seeking both temporal and eternal good for His people. The point of this verse is not that everything that happens in our lives is good, we know that many things, maybe even most, are not. It is that in God’s will the effects of all that we do and experience will combine together for good to us. This good being most fully expressed in our salvation by Christ and our sanctification in Christ. Thus, we evaluate everything in terms of the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ our Lord.
What does this mean? When we suffer we remember that Christ suffered on our behalf. We know that although our suffering may be grievous and overbearing it has a purpose that ultimately is for our good. Although we may not know what purposes God has, we do know Him as Savior and Friend, Healer and Comforter. We also know that our suffering has an end, it is finite and temporal, not infinite and unending, we have been saved from that. We know that our suffering gives an opportunity for Christ to be glorified in us. He will strengthen us. He will come alongside us. He will not forsake us. Even when we feel alone we know that we are not alone. He knows all our infirmities and weaknesses. He knows the limit of what we can bear. He will not let us be taken beyond that limit. He will not break us, nor will He allow anyone or anything to break us. He endured the infinite wrath of God against sin so that we would never see wrath but would with our own eyes see the good He has for us.
Likewise, when we enjoy good things we remember that every good gift comes from our Father in heaven, who delights in His children. The most mundane things are wonderful when seen in the light of the Father’s love. Sunsets, thunderstorms, a cool breeze in summer bring joy and songs when seen in His love. The very act of eating our food is worthy of praise: have you ever considered what a delight it is that food is delicious? God could have made food such that, while necessary, it was no more pleasant to us than filling a gas tank is to a car! Social media is filled with pictures of delectable food, recipes that make mouths water in anticipation. It is so simple and yet such a wonderful gift! It is our Father’s love!
Regardless of the situation you are in, seek God’s face. Lean on Him when you need strength, rest in Him when you are exhausted, praise and sing songs in every situation, proclaim His great love, and thank Him every day. If you do so, your joy will never fail!
He is waiting to hear from you.
To look at the state of America today is to despair if you put your trust in man. The unrelenting assault on righteous foundations is breathtaking in its zeal. The blatant disregard for the law is matched by the malevolent use of the law to destroy those who disagree with the political-media elites. Goodness is declared evil and the vilest evil is declared good and all who demur are slandered into bankruptcy and silence.
We are in a civil war where one side is avowedly pagan in its outlook: it looks to Man, most particularly Collective Man in the form of the national government as its god. It gives this god many names: The People, Science, Social Justice, Socialism; but it is the old Moloch worship and Baalism.
The other side is effectively pagan as well. Its god is Tradition, Law & Order, Individualism, Conservatism; but it too is Man-centered and is thus just a different version of the same thing. It is, in fact, a weaker version of the first because its highest form is the power of the individual or family. And since the power of Collective Man in the form of the state is far greater than that of the individual or family, the proponents of Collective Man inexorably drive back their opponents. So-called conservatives, contrary to their view of themselves as principled, define themselves in relation to progressives. As such, conservatism is constantly changing to be the progressivism of a previous generation.
There is no hope in this war except for repentance and submission to Christ. This should be the prayer and proclamation of the Church, but far too many have buried their coins. In the parables, a servant buries the coin/talent he is given because he considers his master to be a jerk. He accuses his master of being a hard man–one who requires far too much of his servants and does nothing for them. He sees no point in engaging in the most minor work with what he is entrusted with because of his contempt for his lord. At the same time, you can easily imagine the boasting of this servant about how much his master had entrusted him with in the right company.
This servant exemplifies the church today. There is much work to be done with what has been given us. We are given so many things to do: teaching, convicting, correcting, training, worshipping, comforting, visiting, and much, much more. All of this to be done to glorify Christ and build in His kingdom. Yet we reduce our efforts to the absolute minimum, while loudly proclaiming the tasks we have been given. We give lip-service to evangelism, loudly, but only 2% every year will evangelize even one person. Even when evangelism is done, it is generally so twisted and watered down that it simply confirms people of their own self-righteousness. There is no call to repentance. There is no call to faith in Christ. There is no call to die to self. There is no call to sacrifice, much less obedience. We see churches filled for a time by man-centered methods and yet no change in lives, no change in families, no change in communities, and no change in the nation. And we wonder at it all.
I hesitate to even mention 2nd Chronicles 7:14, but it bears looking at again. God says, “If my people”, His people–the ones called by His Name–Christians. If they will humble themselves. If they will pray. Pray and do what? Seek His face. Why? So that they, the people of God–Christians, can turn from their wicked ways. Then, and only then, will He hear from heaven. Then, and only then, will He forgive us and heal our land. Until then our prayers condemn us just as the Pharisee who thanked God was condemned for his prayer.
We must fall on our faces before the Lord and confess our sin, as individuals, as families, as deacons, as teachers, as pastors, as churches. And we must forsake our sin, begging the Lord for forgiveness and cleansing. We must beg the Holy Spirit to examine us thoroughly and show us our sin in order that we may repent. We must have godly sorrow that leads to repentance. And we must cast it all upon Christ and then arise in newness of life. A life that is full of faith, hope, and love. One that is shown in steadfast love and devotion to Christ.
Then God will hear and heal our land. Maranatha!
God is always speaking. How often are we listening?Read More »
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The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge: but fools despise wisdom and instruction. My son, hear the instruction of thy father, and forsake not the law of thy mother: For they shall be an ornament of grace unto thy head, and chains about thy neck. (Pro 1:7-9 KJV)
Men as fathers play a strong role in their children’s view of God. Read More »
Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered;
(Heb 5:8 KJV)
This verse has provoked me to think a lot over the years. What does it mean that Christ learned obedience? How would suffering teach him obedience?
Jesus did not need to learn to obey, as though he was disobedient. As such, suffering could not teach him to obey. Jesus learned experentially what it was to obey and to suffer because of that obedience. We complain, often and loud, when our disobedience leads to our suffering. Jesus did not complain when our disobedience led to his suffering. This puts him in direct contrast to Adam.
Scripture makes clear that Adam was not deceived by the lies of the serpent. He knew that God had not lied or withheld anything from them. He knew they would not become gods. He knew they would die. Yet he went ahead and ate from the fruit. Why? I think Adam looked at Eve and loved her more than he loved God. He chose to sin and join Eve in judgment, rather than obey and trust God. He learned suffering through disobedience, rather than obedience through suffering. Seeing no hope of saving Eve, Adam despaired and joined her in sin. Ironically, his love for Eve failed immediately, and he ‘threw her under the bus’, blaming her (and God) for his own sin.
The contrast goes further. Adam attacked his wife, the one he had pledged to love. By contrast Jesus suffered betrayal by Judas. Judas is often shown in movies as a loner, always slinking somewhat outside the circle of the apostles. This is mistaken in my view. David prophesied of Judas’ betrayal in the psalms, speaking of the one who went arm in arm with Christ to worship. The new testament makes clear that James, John, and Peter were Jesus’ innermost circle of trusted disciples. I think David shows Judas to be Jesus’ best friend among the disciples. He is a countertype to the type of David’s great friend Jonathan. Jesus suffered betrayal by His friend in contrast to Adam’s betrayal of Eve. He chose Judas as a disciple even though He knew that Judas was going to betray Him.
What is the point of all this?
Are we willing to learn obedience through suffering? Are we willing to obey the Lord knowing that doing so means that we will be betrayed? That we will be scorned? Are we willing to love those who spit on us? Who viscerally hate us and want to kill us? Are we willing to lose everything we have, everyone we love, in order to have Christ?
Because if we are not, then we will have just the nation that we have today.