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When I used to ride horses, I had a special relationship with my thoroughbred named Auggie. Because I fed him, brushed him, and exercised him, he knew me and trusted my judgment when I guided him through fences in the show ring. It was the joy of his heart to do my will because he trusted my wisdom.

Well, First Peter chapter 4 says, “…those who suffer according to God’s will should commit themselves to their faithful Creator and continue to do good.” To commit ourselves to our Creator is to trust Him; to do good is to obey Him.

Trust and obey! Oh, that we would be like a simple horse and trust the wisdom of the one holding the reins in our lives. If we’d only take the time to really know our Master (like my horse knew me), we’d trust Him and obey Him more easily, more faithfully.

Join me in yielding to the One who holds the reins. 

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “Trust and Obey

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There’s a wonderful truth that’s sometimes hard for us to grasp. That is that God doesn’t make any mistakes.

Other people sometimes may make serious mistakes that affect our lives. But God is always fulfilling His eternal purposes, and they can’t be stopped by any human failure. If we’re in Christ, our lives are in His hands, and nothing can touch us that hasn’t first been filtered through His fingers of love.

Someone has said, “God’s will is exactly what we would choose if we knew what God knows.” When we stand in eternity, we’ll see clearly what we now know only by faith: He truly has done all things well.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Filtered through His Hand

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Embracing the Opportunity to Wait

“Wait on the LORD: be of good courage, and he shall strengthen
thine heart: wait, I say, on the LORD.”

Psalm 27:14

Given the current circumstances of our adoption, I’ve been thinking a lot about waiting lately. Based on what I’ve learned thus far in my 34 years on earth, it seems to me that life is a constant cycle of learning and re-learning how to wait on the Lord. When we look at Scripture (and at all of the practice God gives us), it’s clear that waiting plays a vital role in our sanctification. 

In his new article for The Gospel Coalition, “5 Signs Waiting Has Weakened Your Faith,” biblical counselor Paul Tripp warns of the dangers of growing spiritually cold when you struggle to see how God is at work in your wait… 

When God asks you to wait, what happens to your spiritual muscles? While you wait, do your spiritual muscles grow bigger and stronger, or do they become flaccid and atrophied? Waiting for the Lord isn’t about God forgetting you, forsaking you, abandoning the ministry he’s called you to, or being unfaithful to his promises. It’s actually God giving you time to consider his glory, grow stronger in faith, and grow in courage for ministry. Remember, waiting isn’t just about what you’re hoping for at the end of the wait, but also about what you’ll become as you wait.

So waiting always presents us with a spiritual choice-point. Will I allow myself to question God’s goodness and progressively grow weaker in faith, or will I embrace the opportunity of faith that God is giving me and build my spiritual…muscles?

Tripp then shares 5 hints that you are allowing the waiting process to weaken rather than strengthen you:

  1. Giving way to doubt
  2. Giving way to anger
  3. Giving way to discouragement
  4. Giving way to envy
  5. Giving way to inactivity

Do you see any of these in your own life? If so, then Tripp’s biblical advice will be an encouragement to you. 

You can read the entire article HERE.

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The One Person Who Never Deserves Your Forgiveness

“You are good and do good; teach me your statutes.”

Psalm 119:6

If you seek out a definition for the word forgive, here is an example of what you’ll find:

  1. Stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake
  2. To excuse for a fault or an offense; pardon

Keep those definitions in mind as you read this important counsel from Joni Eareckson Tada on the One Person who will never require your forgiveness… 

Believe it or not, there is a strange teaching around these days that says we need to forgive God when awful things happen, not only earthquakes and tsunamis, tornadoes and hurricanes (the big stuff), but little things. When people have gone through deep pain or hurt, an abusive situation at home, some Christian counselors advised that in order for emotional healing to take place, one begins by first forgiving God for allowing the abuse to happen…

Forgive God? Don’t those counselors have it backward?! The Bible never directs us to do such a thing. To “forgive” God implies that he has done something wrong, but has he? 

Listen to this story from the Bible. It’s from the book of Job, right in the first chapter and right after all those happy things began happening to Job. Starting with the 18th verse, it says, “…another messenger came and said, ‘Your sons and daughters were feasting and drinking wine at the oldest brother’s house, when suddenly a mighty wind…struck the four corners of the house. It collapsed on them and they are dead…’ At this, Job got up and tore his robe and shaved his head. (Now listen to this part). Then he fell to the ground in worship…In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.”

The Bible says that nothing—not cancer, blindness or eviction from our homes; not even abuse from others—nothing can separate us from the love of God. So are we to forgive Him for loving us too hard? Our human inclination or, at worse, our darkest emotions may want to charge God with wrongdoing, but God’s dealings with us are always motivated by love and concern for our souls. 

So what is the right thing to do when we are faced with suffering that seems so bizarre and twisted and unwarranted? Listen to this great counsel from Hebrews 12:3. It tells us what to do; it says: “Consider him (that is Jesus) who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart.”

Amy Carmichael once said that we should never forget that the way of the Cross leads to the Cross; it doesn’t lead to a bank of flowers. And if we do think that the way of the cross leads us to comfortable things, all easy and bright, then no wonder we become surprised when the way is rough; no wonder we consider it strange when fiery ordeals come. Amy Carmichael said that if we’re looking for a bank of flowers, then we know nothing of Calvary’s love.  

So do we forgive God? No, rather it’s asking God to forgive us. And that’s why we preach the gospel to ourselves every morning; we need reminding when it comes to the way of the cross…

Please let’s not allow our emotions to deceive us into thinking God needs to be set straight. When it comes to suffering let’s ask God to set us straight.

May we never be so foolish as to think that we as thoroughly sinful human beings would ever have reason to forgive our perfectly holy God. He is good, and He does good—at all times. 

Photo: S Braswell

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Psalm 84 says, “The Lord bestows favor and honor; no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.” I learned that verse back in high school and the way I figured it, I just needed to do my homework, finish my chores, and say my prayers to receive good things from God. But I’ve lived long enough in this wheelchair to know that sometimes our idea of good is very different from God’s.

We think that God’s idea of good means great health, fair treatment, or a comfortable living situation. But this wheelchair has taught me that God’s idea of good is to pour out upon us peace, faith, or grace when our walk is blameless. Hey, there are plenty of people around you who need to understand what God’s definition of good really is. So today, reflect to them His joy and peace in your life—and direct them right back to Psalm 84.  

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “Psalm 84” 

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Does God Give Us More Than We Can Bear?

“Just remember…God will never give us more than we can bear.” 

Have you ever had someone attempt to comfort you in the midst of suffering with those words? If something about that statement didn’t seem quite right to you, you may appreciate the following clarification on 1 Corinthians 10:13 from Joni Eareckson Tada…

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. —I Corinthians 10:13

“Oh Joni, isn’t it wonderful that God will never test us beyond what we can endure? That’s a promise from God!”

I knew my friend Sue was looking for an affirmation, a confirmation that God would never “bend the bruised reed.” As I nodded slowly, relief flooded her features. Sue had never faced the kind of mind-bending, soul-obliterating pain that now loomed on her horizon. But with the recent medical report and the looming prospect of a morphine-drip pump in her future, she was scared. Surely the Lord won’t give me more than I can bear, she was thinking.

First Corinthians 10:13 is certainly a promise… but it isn’t talking about trials. It’s talking about temptation. The promise is that God will always, always give you the power to say no to sin. But when it comes to heartaches, physical problems, and disappointments—things out of your control, difficult circumstances suddenly thrust upon you—you may very well be overwhelmed beyond what you can bear. There is a kind of suffering that rips your world apart and leaves you bewildered and wounded. There are trials that overwhelm.

I drew a deep breath, showing my friend the context of the promise-and her brow furrowed. “But take heart,” I told her. “It’s when we are at the end of our strength…that’s when we fall helplessly into the everlasting arms of God. That’s when God floods our hearts with sustaining grace.”

You and I may indeed find ourselves overwhelmed at times—at the end of our rope and beyond. But we will never fall farther than the palm of his hand. And where he has called us, his grace will
sustain us.

[Joni and Friends Daily DevotionalJanuary 31, 2012]

Paul himself knew what it was like to be overwhelmed by suffering, but he also understood the purpose behind the pain: “For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead” (2 Corinthians 1:8-9).

Photo: Shirley B

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One of my favorite phrases in the Bible are two simple little words:  “But God.”  Take a look through the letters of the apostle Paul and he often puts those two little words right after he finishes describing shipwrecks, imprisonment, beatings, rejection, you name it… Paul faced a lot of physical, emotional and spiritual challenges.  And how does he start his next sentence?  But God!  It may be a small thought, but, oh, is it a powerful one! 

As I learned in high school English class, a conjunctive phrase like that cancels everything that has gone before and overwhelms it with what follows.  The point being?  The next time you struggle with headaches and hardships, don’t forget to follow it with those preeminently supreme words, but God!  Because Jesus overwhelms the pain of those trials with His overwhelming grace and goodness.

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “But God

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God’s grace is illustrated and magnified in the poverty and trials of believers. Saints bear up under every discouragement, believing that all things work together for their good, and that out of apparent evils a real blessing shall ultimately spring—that their God will either work a deliverance for them speedily, or most assuredly support them in the trouble, as long as He is pleased to keep them in it. This patience of the saints proves the power of divine grace

He who would glorify his God must set his account upon meeting with many trials. No man can be illustrious before the Lord unless his conflicts be many. If then, yours be a much-tried path, rejoice in it, because you will the better show forth the all-sufficient grace of God. As for His failing you, never dream of it—hate the thought. The God who has been sufficient until now, should be trusted to the end. 

~Charles Spurgeon in Morning and Evening

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He allowed no one to oppress [his anointed]…The Lord made his people very fruitful…He brought out Israel, laden with silver and gold…He spread out a cloud as a covering, and a fire to give light at night…He satisfied them with the bread of heaven. He opened the rock and water gushed out…He remembered his holy promise given to his servant Abraham…Praise the Lord. —Psalm 105:14,24,37,39,40-42,45 

Emotions are one of the least reliable, yet influential forces in our lives. One day, we are hopeful, the next, we hate. Despair at one time, delight, the other. Emotions are the surging, restless tides that keep ebbing and flowing, drawing us up, then pushing us down. 

The Psalms are a gyroscope, keeping moving things level, like a ship held steady in turbulent seas. This is why the Psalms often repeat the admonition to “Remember the wonders he has done, his miracles and the judgments he pronounced” (Psalm 105:5). 

My friend used to say, “Never doubt in the darkness what you once believed in the light.” When hardship settles in, dark and brooding emotions can surge over us in a tide of doubt and fear. The only sure dike against a flood of glum feelings is to remember. We must recall sunnier times when we drove the pilings of God’s goodness deep in our hearts. Happier times when we felt our moorings of trust hold ground. When we lived on his blessings, knew his favor, were grateful for his gifts, and felt the flesh and blood of his everlasting arms underneath us. This is what all 45 verses of Psalm 105 call us to do. 

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “Remember,” November 20 Daily Devotional

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For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord gives grace and glory; no good thing does He withhold from those who walk uprightly. O Lord of hosts, how blessed is the man who trusts in You! —Psalm 84:11-12, NASB 

I learned those verses from Psalm 84 when I was a teenager. I relished the thought, No good thing does he withhold… The way I figured it, I just needed to do my homework, finish my chores, keep myself from spats with my sisters, be nice to Aunt Kitty, go to church, say my prayers…and…I assumed that if I kept my nose clean, God would give me good grades, good friends, a good college to attend, and good knees to last me through field hockey season. We think that if we are obedient, God will give us financial blessings or trials that can be easily managed. If we do our part, God will dole out the good. Won’t he? 

I’ve lived long enough in this wheelchair to know that sometimes our idea of “good” is very different from God’s. So how do we read Psalm 84? If our walk is blameless, God will not withhold peace. He will not withhold virtue or faith or courage. He will not withhold grace when we come to him in need. We will be able to run spiritually and not grow weary; we’ll be able to walk in faith and not faint. He will not withhold opportunities to sow his seed, to shine his light. He will not withhold patience or endurance or the favor of his nearness and sweetness. He will not withhold the gift of heaven-sent joy. None of these things will he withhold from those who walk uprightly. 

Some of God’s best gifts must be unwrapped in the darkness. Think of your last major trial. What “good thing” did the Lord slip into your hands in those difficult days? 

Lord, lift my gaze to see life from your perspective. Help me to understand-and treasure-every good thing you send from heaven.

~Joni Eareckson Tada in “God’s Idea of Good,” November 18 Daily Devotional

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When turbulence comes into our lives: disappointment, pain, when we lose people we love, when things don’t go as we had hoped or planned–Satan tempts us to wonder, Is God really good? If He were, how could He have let this happen?

…I hear from many unmarried women doubting in their hearts the goodness of God because God has not brought them the husband that they’re longing for. It’s not just true, by the way, on a personal level, it’s true in our world. This is one of the things that people really challenge about God. When you look in this fallen world at the wars, famine, the natural disasters, these things are a reality. And Satan uses these realities to try to put God in a negative light….

Once we doubt the goodness of God, we’re going to find it hard to trust God. You can’t trust a God that’s not good. Now, how do we counter that lie in our minds and in our hearts? …Well, we always counter lies with the truth. We replace the lies, we displace the lies with the truth. The truth is that God is good, He is good.

I was looking over the weekend through the Psalms, and I found 13 references that said God is good. Over and over again in the songbook of Israel they affirm God is good. The Lord is good. It also says His name is good, His lovingkindness is good, His mercies are good, His judgments are good and His spirit is good. He is good whether or not His choices seem right to us, whether or not we feel it, whether or not it seems true, and whether or not He gives us everything that we want.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Lies Women Believe About God, Part 1

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Depression tries to tell us what is true and what isn’t. For example, it says that you will never feel any different, and you can’t continue to live in such a condition. It says that God doesn’t care, and no one loves you. It tries to persuade you that nothing matters. Know, however, that depression lies! You have to tell it the truth, rather than listen to its interpretation of life…

Turn toward God, and instead of listening to your depression, listen to what he says about himself. The center of his message to you is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Jesus, the Son of God, became the Son of Man. He obeyed the Father perfectly, emptied himself, and became your servant. He died to give you life. Now he is the King, and through his death he brings you into his kingdom. Here on earth the kingdom of heaven is riddled with suffering, but we know the King is with us and our suffering is only for a short while. We also know that the King takes our suffering, which seems senseless, and makes it profitable in his kingdom. Read all of Romans 8 and pay special attention to these words, “We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers” (Romans 8:28–29).

This is God’s message to you. Beg for grace and mercy so you can hear it over the din of your depression.

~Ed Welch in “Hope for the Depressed

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The sun of God’s glory was made to shine at the center of the solar system of our soul. And when it does, all the planets of our life are held in their proper orbit. But when the sun is displaced, everything flies apart. The healing of the soul begins by restoring the glory of God to its flaming, all-attracting place at the center.

We are all starved for the glory of God, not self. No one goes to the Grand Canyon to increase self-esteem. Why do we go? Because there is greater healing for the soul in beholding splendor than there is in beholding self. Indeed, what could be more ludicrous in a vast and glorious universe like this than a human being, on the speck called earth, standing in front of  a mirror trying to find significance in his own self-image? It is a great sadness that this is the gospel of the modern world.

But it is not the Christian Gospel. Into the darkness of petty self-preoccupation has shone “the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God” (2 Corinthians 4:4). The Christian Gospel is about “the glory of Christ,” not about me. And when it is–in some measure–about me, it is not about my being made much of by God, but about God mercifully enabling me to enjoy making much of him forever.

~John Piper in Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ

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Our blessings consist of more than the money we earn and the material possessions we own. We can enjoy those things and share them with others, but their presence guarantees neither success nor fulfillment. And despite what television and magazine ads want us to believe, they cannot provide security. One moment, they’re there; the next moment, they’re gone. Poof!

Still, we struggle with the issue of stuff. Of Christ’s 38 parables, 17 refer to possessions. And Scripture refers to them 2,172 times!

Basing our security in things that can vanish in a flash leads only to hardship. Their disappearance leaves us wrestling with anger, bitterness, and fear. But if we hold our belongings loosely and base our security in God, trusting in His promised presence and help, we experience freedom that cannot be shaken regardless of what happens. And that confidence is a blessing no one can steal…

Let me ask you a personal question. When faced with financial insecurity or the loss of your belongings, how do you respond? Do you let fear cause sleepless nights? Do you throw up your hands in frustration? Speak some not-so-nice words to nearby family members? (Been there, done that.) Or do you respond by saying, “God knows my situation, and He is with me”?

The latter response should be our goal. I know, I know—you may be thinking, Yeah, right. That’s for the super-spiritual club, of which I’m not a member because I can’t afford to pay the dues. But wait! Maintaining an attitude of trust and rest is easier said than done, but it is possible. How? By understanding the character of God and how it relates to the nitty-gritty of everyday life…

[God’s] names describe His nature. One of these names is Jehovah Jireh, meaning roughly, “God will see to it.” It carries the connotation of provision—He will see to it that our needs are met.

Providing for His children is a responsibility that flows from who God is. In other words, seeing to it that our needs are met isn’t simply something He does when He feels like it. He does so because doing otherwise would be contrary to His nature.

~Grace Fox in “Don’t Touch My Stuff!

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In the last paragraph [of Psalm 34], we see two kinds of people: the righteous and the wicked. Now we’re all wicked apart from Christ, but through faith in Christ, we are made righteous. Verse 19: “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.” That’s a phrase we kind of wish wasn’t in the Bible. Listen, both the righteous and the wicked experience afflictions. You see it in this last paragraph. The righteous don’t get a free pass from pain. “Many are the afflictions of the righteous.”

The difference between the righteous and the wicked is not whether afflictions come their way. It’s in their perspective on those afflictions and the ultimate outcome that those afflictions work in their lives.

[So] many are the afflictions of the righteous, but the LORD delivers him out of them all. He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken. Affliction will slay the wicked [the wicked will be destroyed by their afflictions], and those who hate the righteous will be condemned, but [here we come back to where we started] the LORD redeems the life of his servants; none of those who take refuge in Him will be condemned (verses 19-22).

We want immediate relief from our temporal, earthly aches and pains and problems and frustrations, but God wants to use our circumstances, our afflictions to give us ultimate, eternal deliverance, deliverance from Satan, deliverance from sin, deliverance from ourselves.  Oh, how I want to be delivered from myself. In the midst of those meltdowns, when I’m having a pity party, and I’m self focused; I want to be delivered from that. And what does God use to deliver me? Afflictions.

Which is more important: To have the temporal, immediate deliverance? Or to have that ultimate, eternal deliverance? Sometimes God chooses not to deliver us from our immediate problems so that He can give us a greater deliverance that we need even more greatly. So the psalmist says, “Take refuge.” “None of those who take refuge in him will be condemned” (verse 22). 

David is still hiding in a cave when he writes this psalm, as far as we know. But in the midst of that cave, running from Saul with those 400 men who were so needy, David takes refuge in God.

Ladies, there is no place on the face of this earth, there is no circumstance that could ever come into your life where you cannot find refuge and safety and protection in Him.

~Nancy Leigh DeMoss in “Who Meets Your Deepest Needs?

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