Saturday, March 10, 2012

When We Are Excessively Burdened

"For we do not want you to be unaware, brethren, of our affliction which came to us in Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of life; indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves so that we would not trust in ourselves, 
but in God who raises the dead; "
2 Corinthians 3:18

Paul writes of the trials he and his partners in the gospel endured in Asia. Things were so bad that they were "burdened excessively, beyond [their] strength." Imagine being so downtrodden that you would even despair of life. In other words, you wished you could just die. Perhaps you are at that place right now. Things are so bad that you would rather go home to the Lord than stay here. But consider what Paul goes on to write to the Corinthians, that the despair they felt brought them to a place where they would have to trust in God and not trust in themselves. For only God can raise us out of the depths of despair -- take us out of a death sentence and restore our spiritual and emotional life. But even more, if we do suffer to the point of death, we are assured that death has no hold on us. We will rise again by the power of God. It is He who raises the dead. "Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ's sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong." (2 Corinthians 12:10)

Friday, March 9, 2012

Pointing to Jesus

"To You I lift up my eyes, O You who are enthroned in the heavens!" 
Psalm 123:1

Not long after I became a Christian I met a woman who lived and worked in a Northern California Christian camp where my husband and I were vacationing. The camp grounds were covered in pine trees. One day the woman took a break from her work and joined me on the porch of the cabin where we were staying. She talked about her life at the camp, about the beauty around us and, especially, of the magnificent tall pines. "I love the pines," she said, "because they all point to their Maker." I never forgot her comment, nor the joy she took in serving Jesus every day. With her actions and words she pointed people to the Lord -- her Maker -- just as the pines did. Now, years later, I live in the Colorado Rockies with thousands of pine trees around me. When I see them I can't help but remember what that very special woman told me and say to myself, "I love the pines. Because they all point to their Maker." I want to be like that woman and those pines. I want to point others to Jesus. How about you?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Patient Silence

"My soul waits in silence for God only; From Him is my salvation.
Psalm 62:1

The Lord is close to those who are troubled. He will never neglect the one who is in need. But if we are consumed with fretting and worrying about our problems, if we complain to others instead of taking our complaints to the Lord, we will never hear the gentle words of our Savior telling us to cast our burdens upon Him. It is when we wait only on Jesus -- when we remain still and silent -- that we hear Him say, "Come to me. I care for you. My shoulders are broad and I am well-equipped to carry those things that press down upon you like a giant boulder."

"No eloquence in the world is half so full of meaning as the patient silence of a child of God." (Spurgeon)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Blessed are Those Who Endure

"We count those blessed who endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord’s dealings, that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful."
James 5:11

Charles Spurgeon began a sermon on this passage with the words, “We are far too apt to entertain hard thoughts of God."

When health trials and/or financial hardship come our way, it is hard to accept that we are blessed. We look at the wicked and see them living in good health and wealth and we wonder if God has abandoned us. Does He really care? James wrote to the persecuted Christians of his day to encourage them to stand firm in their faith and believe the best about God. That He is "full of compassion and is merciful." He pointed to the "endurance of Job", using him as an example of one who did not turn his back on God, though he lost everything but his life. Job believed in God's sovereignty and submitted to His will. He wasn't perfect and he did challenge God for an audience, for which later he repented, but after a time of suffering, Job's health and wealth were restored and He was given ten more children. 

Steven Cole touches on five lessons from this verse:

1. God’s blessing is on those who endure, not on those who bail out.

2. Endurance does not imply perfection, but it does require submission.

3. The submission required for endurance is bound up with a firm belief in God’s sovereignty over all things.

4. God’s sovereignty over all things implies that He has a purpose that He is accomplishing.

5. No matter how difficult our trials, we must never doubt God’s goodness or love in His sovereign purpose.

"Read the biographies of the faithful saints in church history. If you’re currently suffering, look to the prophets and look to Job as examples of patient endurance. Trust in the compassionate and merciful Lord." (Pastor Steven Cole)

Even if our health and wealth are not restored as Job's was, God's promise that we will live with Him for eternity is irrevocable. And that is our ultimate reward.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

The Morning Star

"So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in your hearts."
2 Peter 1:19

Peter had walked side by side with Christ for three years. He had been on the mount with Him and witnessed the transfiguration. He had seen the miracles Jesus performed and ate breakfast with Him after His resurrection. Yet with all this evidence of the truth, Peter points to scripture -- the "prophetic word" -- as the more sure evidence. All the prophecies -- and there are over 300 of them - are fulfilled in Christ. God's word illumines the darkness of minds and opens them up to receive the truth of who Jesus is: the Son of God, Savior, Master and Lord. The final darkness of the world's sin will be dispelled when Christ the Morning Star returns. "'Rises' comes from two Greek words: through and shine. Thus, 'rises' means to shine through with special reference to the dawn. This is the breaking of daylight upon the darkness of the night. When Jesus comes, He will break into the darkness of the night of this world. This will be a break through in time and space. It will be light when Jesus comes." (Dr. Grant C. Richison)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Reason for Boasting

"Therefore in Christ Jesus I have found reason 
for boasting in things pertaining to God."
Romans 15:17

The Apostle Paul had accomplished great things for God in his life: leading people to Christ, planting churches, writing what would become books of the Bible. In human terms he had much to boast about. But Paul never made his work about Paul. He made it about Christ. The Lord had saved Paul on the Damascus Road and Paul understood the grace He had received. After his conversion, glorifying Christ Jesus was the motivation for all Paul did.  In Christ and Christ alone he boasted. "God says, 'Don’t you ever boast in what you know. Don’t boast in what you can do. And don’t boast in what you have. You boast in Me, what I have given you as far as understanding, what I can do through you, and what I have personally been gracious enough to entrust you with.'" (Dr. Wayne A. Barber)

Sunday, March 4, 2012

A Priority Check

"Why do you spend money for what is not bread, And your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, 
And delight yourself in abundance."
Isaiah 55:2

"Most middle-class Americans tend to worship their work, to work at their play and to play at their worship. As a result, their meanings and values are distorted. Their relationships disintegrate faster than they can keep them in repair, and their lifestyles resemble a cast of characters in search of a plot."  (Gordon Dahl. Work, Play, and Worship in a Leisure-Oriented Society. Minneapolis:  Augsburg-Fortress, 1972.)  

Lord, never let this be said of me. May worship of You always be the priority in my life. Do not let me spend money on things that will never satisfy, but rather live simply and simply let You fulfill my desires. Let me feast on Your word and delight in the abundance I find there.

"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33)

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