“You long to be free, but you have remained shackled to this world” (quote from reblogged post below). Sound familiar? Are we willing to give up everything (money, possessions, fame, power, whatever is holding us back) to follow Him? He knows our heart. He knows the truth. But we have to let go of whatever it is that we love more than Him.
Are we willing to do that?
Photo credit here
More than likely, when Paul was a young man he had a dream to know God fully. His quest for knowledge led him to study under one of the greatest rabbis of his day.
As he grew in knowledge, he became a Pharisee and then was elected to the Sanhedrin. Only the most noted of Jewish scholars held these positions. Paul was one of them. His heart, though charged with the wrong motivation, longed to worship God. Then one day, God revealed Himself to Paul through the life of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
There is only one way to interpret what happened to Paul on the Damascus Road and that is to say it was life-changing (Acts 9:1-9). Christ did not just appear to Paul; He embraced him. Only the Lord knows what rested deep in Paul’s heart—but like Moses, once he turned aside to study the things…
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There used to be a time in America when almost everyone could quote John 3:16. We still see signs at sports arenas that state, “John 3:16,” and, for the most part, we yawn because we’ve seen it so often. We might think “religious fanatic”–maybe not out loud but in our minds. “What has that got to do with sports?” we may scoff, as we continue down a path that leads to life on our own terms minus God or if not “minus God” we definitely put Him on the sidelines and out of our way, except maybe on Sunday morning if we go to church.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son (Jesus Christ), that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son [emphasis mine]. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”
These are the words of Jesus to a Pharisee and a member of the Jewish ruling council named Nicodemus. “He (Nicodemus) came to Jesus at night and said, ‘Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him’ ” (John 3:2–you can read the rest of the dialogue in John 3). Nicodemus, unlike most of the Pharisees, came to Jesus with an open heart.
The Pharisees were the religious leaders of their day and were great at following rules and demanding that others follow them, too. Unfortunately, the Pharisees were all “show” and while they, themselves, often fell flat when “following the rules,” they loved the outward approval along with the prosperity and prominence that came from being a member of the ruling class. Jesus addressed their hypocrisy in Matthew 23. Let’s look at the opening verses (Matt. 23:1-7):
“Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach. They tie up heavy loads and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them. Everything they do is done for men to see: They make their phylacteries wide and the tassels on their garments long; they love the place of honor at banquets and the most important seats in the synagogues; they love to be greeted in the marketplaces and to have men call them ‘Rabbi.’ ” And it only gets worse from there (there are a total of seven “woes” that Jesus stated about the Scribes and the Pharisees in Matthew 23). It’s not a pretty picture.
Many times in many of our churches today there seems to be two extremes at work–on one side we have the “God loves you and wants the best for you” folks who treat God as if He is a magic genie ready to give us our every request and grant us a happy life; and on the other side there are the folks who tie us up in so many knots that we end up condemning ourselves for not being “good enough” and are always striving to be “better,” or we get a self-righteous attitude that “we” are somehow better than “others” if they don’t live up to our standards. Well, God is neither a magic genie nor a religious killjoy. And both of these “versions” of Christianity in America today are killing us.
Let’s go back to John 3, specifically John 3:17-18: “ For God did not send his Son (Jesus Christ) into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.” Did you get that? God did not send Jesus Christ into the world to condemn the world, but to SAVE the world through Him. However, and it’s a BIG “however,” whoever believes in Him is not condemned but those who don’t believe in Him are condemned. You see, it’s our choice. OURS.
The ultimate expression of real, true, lasting love (and not all the “pseudo love”–mostly self-love–that is so much a part of our culture–both inside and outside of the church–and our world) is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. He died in our place. Our place. And He rose again to give us new life–His life. But the choice is ours and He doesn’t force it on us. We can continue down our own path and live life on our own terms like the rest of our culture and world, or we can follow Him–and the path to real, true, lasting love–and not love for ourselves and what we want, but extending that love out to everyone else on the planet and serving them (being salt and shining our light—Matt. 5:13-16), whether they ever choose to follow Him or not. This life is not about us, folks. It’s about Him.
It’s an oddity that nowadays (at least in the past few decades) we have turned the Gospel of Jesus Christ around to serve us instead of serving Him. We may disguise it to look like we are serving Him (shallow Christianity has a way of doing that), but unless you get into the Word of God on a regular basis and learn what He has to say about life and how to live it, we’ll continue to live just like the rest of the world with a “pseudo” and lifeless form of “Christianity” that’s about an inch deep and wants for our own happiness all the time. If you want to know how to truly live life on God’s terms, start by reading the Gospel of John. And if you want to know how He wants us to live, start with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7).
The choice is yours. You can continue to live life on your own terms, or you can give it over to the One who died for you. Which will you choose? And remember also that no choice is still a choice. There is no middle ground.
“But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
UPDATED: June 27, 2012—decided to add this short devotion for today from Dr. Jack Graham at PowerPoint Ministries that fits in very well with the topic of my blog post:
Are you really committed?
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. ~Proverbs 16:3
I picked up an article years ago with the headline, “Fewer than 10 Percent of Americans are Deeply Committed Christians.” It was from pollster George Gallup Jr., who commented on the findings, “(The 10% who are committed) are more tolerant of people of diverse backgrounds, they are more involved in charitable activities, and they are far happier than the rest of the population.”
But then he went on to observe, “Most Americans who profess Christianity don’t know the basic teachings of the faith and they don’t act significantly different from non-Christians in their daily lives. Overall,” he added, “the Sunday school and religious education system in this country is not working. Not being grounded in the faith, these professing believers are ‘open for anything that comes along,’”
This is a very sad reality that we face in our churches today. It makes me sad about those 90%… and it breaks my heart that they want to identify with Jesus Christ but not to the point they’re truly committed. At the same time, the poll above is correct that, for years, our system for religious education in many churches was not up to par, and in many ways still isn’t.
When it comes to the cause of Christ, I pray that we become a people of God who are sold out to His purposes. Commit yourself to God today, and live your life fully for Him!
COMMIT YOURSELF WHOLLY TO GOD AND BE SOLD OUT TO HIS PURPOSES!
Thank you, Dr. Jack Graham!
YouTube Video: “Use Me” sung by the Brooklyn Tabernacle Choir.
“The apostle Paul did not have a problem with commitment or conviction when it came to his commitment to Jesus Christ. He gave his life to the Lord and in doing so left behind the very things this world deems as both impressive and valuable” (quote from the reblogged post below).
Are we like Paul, or do we conform more to the likes of the rich young ruler (and the issue was not about his money and his possessions, it was about his attachment to his money and his possessions)? Are we tempted to do wrong because our conviction about following Jesus Christ is lacking? Are we more committed to the things of this world and wanting our own way? Scripture makes is crystal clear that we can’t have it both ways. “But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve . . . . But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord” (Joshua 24:15).
Let’s choose wisely . . . .
Photo credit here
Until you develop a strong sense of conviction, you will not have the sure-footedness that is needed to be a follower of Christ. When faced with a crucial decision, you will be tempted to waver between right and wrong—what you know is godly and ungodly.
Those who are soft in their convictions often experience disappointment, doubt, and fear. When we are fully committed to Christ, we have a sure hope. However, when we allow temptations to lure us away from what we know is right, we miss God’s blessing.
The rich young ruler wanted to follow Jesus, yet his emotional attachment to earthly treasures kept him landlocked. He was not free to join those who were a part of Christ’s band of followers (Mark 10:17-23).
The apostle Paul did not have a problem with commitment or conviction. He gave his life to the Lord and in doing so left behind…
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What does freedom in Christ mean? The Apostle Paul had to deal with the whole issue of circumcision (clearly indicating a fallback to legalism) when he wrote to the Christians in Galatia. Legalism had a crippling hold on them and he clearly stated that if they went back to being justified through circumcision (e.g., works) that they would have to obey the entire law, clearly alienating them from Christ (Galatians 5:2-6). Let’s read that passage: “Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” [emphasis mine].
Okay, I can hear some of you saying, “What has that got to do with me?” Many times we as Christians practice our own form of circumcision (legalism) without even realizing it. When we try by our outward actions and appearances to make a “show” of following after Christ, we are trying to be justified by those actions (perhaps a list of “rules” we follow or keeping a laundry list of “sins” we haven’t committed to show our “goodness” as opposed to others we perceive as being more “sinful” then us). And, as Paul clearly stated, that has absolutely no value and that “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” (Gal. 5:6).
Let me ask a question to get us thinking about this topic (e.g., legalism). If we attend church every Sunday, does that make us feel somewhat superior to those who don’t or justified that we have fulfilled our weekly obligation to God and can now spend the rest of the week doing whatever we want? The issue is not about actually attending church on Sunday morning. No–the real issue is our heart attitude and our motive for going in the first place. Our only real motive for going should be to worship God for who He is, and Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, with others who are there to worship God and Jesus Christ, too. Any other reason is peripheral “stuff.” And if we are going in an effort to try to earn points with God or with others, we might as well stay home.
I’m not trying to come down on anyone by asking that question. I’m trying to get us to think about our relationship with Jesus Christ and what He really means to us and how it affects how we live our own life and how we treat others. Are we self-focused, or are we other-focused? Because we are human we can’t be perfect at this but we can’t use that as an excuse either for continuing to live our lives self-consumed and in any manner that we see fit to live.
Paul continues in his classic chapter (Galatians 5) on what freedom in Christ really means with the following, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (Gal. 5:13-14).
It is our own sinful nature that seeks to attain a status of “goodness” in the eyes of God and others through our own “works” while continuing to live life on our own terms. And whenever our sinful nature is in control we look out for ourselves first and foremost, instead of looking out for others. So let me ask a second question. Is what others think of us (e.g., being accepted, being respected, being elevated to a prominent status in the eyes of others, and looking good by all outward appearances to the rest of the world, etc.) more important to us then what God desires for our life and how He wants to use us in this world to bring others to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and helping others grow (including ourselves) in their relationship with Him?
Our sinful nature is in direct conflict with the life in the Spirit of God that comes through our relationship with Jesus Christ. If we allow ourselves to be lead by God’s Spirit we will not be self-consumed. Paul clearly states that “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). Is there anything in this list that is a regular, ongoing part of our life?
Do we want to know what life in the Spirit really looks like? Paul tells us that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other” (Gal. 5:22-26). Yes, those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with it’s passions and desires.
In closing, I want to go back to what Paul stated in Galatians 5:14-15: “The entire law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself ‘ [emphasis mine]. If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” If we clearly understand what those two verses are saying, the consequences of living a selfish, self-consumed lifestyle and NOT loving our neighbors as we love ourselves are staggering, not only to us as individuals but spreading out to our nation as a whole. After all, it is individuals who make up a nation.
The choice is pretty clear . . .
Will we make the right one?
YouTube Video: “Change Me” by Shannon Wexelberg on her CD “Faithful God” (2007):
A great Father’s Day message (see reblogged post below) worthy of much consideration for fathers and families all across America, especially in light of all of the socio-economic upheaval and fractured family relationships that have produced a “lost generation” of young people today. May God grant us mercy and may we turn to Him in repentance and for His help at this extraordinarily critical time in our nation’s history. Happy Father’s Day to all, and thanks, Bryan Daniels, for writing a very insightful blog post for this Father’s Day 2012.
The very last written OT promise to the nation of Israel is found in the book of Malachi. It is followed by roughly 400 years of prophetic silence, until a carpenter’s son shows up on the scene to turn the world upside down. It’s kind of a “Father’s Day” prophecy for us today.
“See, I will send the prophet Elijah to you before that great and dreadful day of the LORD comes. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers; or else I will come and strike the land with total destruction” (Malachi 4:5-6)
In the NT, we learn John the Baptist came as a fulfillment of this prophecy (Luke 1:17). But there are also compelling reasons to believe there is a final “end times” Elijah that will be the complete fulfillment of this prophecy (Revelation 11:3-12).
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Back in March I wrote a post on a book I read that powerfully impacted me regarding the subject of humility from a biblical perspective titled “Gospel-Powered Humility.” The subject of humility–true humility and not it’s false counterpart–is rarely preached in our churches today, yet it is a topic of utmost importance to Christians who desire to serve Jesus Christ from a pure heart. You can find that post by clicking here.
This past week I read another book that powerfully impacted me. The title of this book is “Counterfeit Gospels: Rediscovering the Good News in a World of False Hope” by Trevin Wax (Moody Publishers, 2011). If you’re in my age group (Baby-boomers), we grew up in a time and culture that was still considered to be “Christian” America. That is no longer the case.
Over the past several decades that image of America has eroded significantly. America is rapidly becoming a “post-Christian” nation, and if you don’t believe me, just consider the ramifications of the following quote concerning the younger generation today:
“James Emery White, pastor and former president of Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, tells a story of an Episcopalian priest speaking to some parents who visited him with a notepad filled with questions from their teenage son. One of his questions was: ‘What is that guy doing hanging up there on a plus sign?'” (Counterfeit Gospels, p. 212). I don’t know about you, but that quote shocked me into a realization of hard fact–much of the younger generation doesn’t know anything about the gospel of Jesus Christ. What’s even more shocking is that his parents couldn’t answer his question.
Recently, Franklin Graham published a letter regarding the younger generation in America on The Billy Graham Evangelical Association’s website titled, “Unless God Moves, This Will Be a Lost Generation.” I think part of the problem is parents who never believed or fell away from the faith years ago for a variety of reasons or have grown lukewarm in the faith over the years (starting with the Baby-boomers), and the many “counterfeit gospels” that have sprung up in our churches across the land over the past few decades as well as the lack of emphasis on the true gospel message from the pulpit.
If you want to see what the younger generation is reading, just go into any local bookstore and glance over the sections for teens and young adults. No wonder they have no idea who Jesus Christ is but they know all about witchcraft, or vampires, or whatever else is being published for them to read. And, if they do happen to attend church, they get an earful of “how to be the best that you can be” and other variations on that theme in the sermons that are so prolific in many churches all over America where Jesus Christ is almost a side note (if His name is mentioned at all) in the latest “sermon of the week.”
Trevin Wax’s book, “Counterfeit Gospels,” exposes six common “counterfeit” gospels that saturate our American landscape today, both inside and outside the church. See if you recognize any of them (this information is taken from a chart on p. 210):
- The Therapeutic Gospel: The Fall (of mankind) is seen as the failure of humans to reach our potential. Sin is primarily about us, as it robs us of our sense of fullness. Christ’s death proves our inherent worth as human beings and gives us the power to reach our full potential. The church helps us along in our quest for personal happiness and vocational fulfillment.
- The Judgmentless Gospel: Restoration is more about God’s goodness than His judgment of evil or His response to rebellious humanity. Jesus’ death is more about defeating humanity’s enemies (death, sin, Satan) than the need for God’s wrath to be averted by His sacrifice. The boundaries between the church and the world are blurred in a way that makes personal evangelism less urgent and unnecessary.
- The Moralistic Gospel: Our sinful condition is seen as the individual sins we commit. Redemption comes through the exercise of willpower with God’s help. The good news is spiritual instruction about what we can do to win God’s favor and blessing upon our earthly endeavors.
- The Quietest Gospel: The Grand Narrative of Scripture is personal and applicable primarily to those areas of life that we define as spiritual. Christ’s death and resurrection is a private and personal message that changes individual hearts. It is not concerned with society and politics. The church focuses on self-preservation, maintaining its distinctiveness by resisting the urge to engage prophetically with culture.
- The Activist Gospel: The kingdom is advanced through the efforts of Christians to build a just society. We are the answer to our prayers for a better world. The gospel’s power is demonstrated through political, social, and cultural transformation brought about by involved Christians. The church finds its greatest unity around political causes or social projects.
- The Churchless Gospel: The storyline of Scripture focuses on an individual’s need for salvation and purpose. The community of faith is at the periphery of this narrative. The good news is an announcement solely for the redemption of individuals. The local church is viewed as either an optional aid to personal spirituality, or an obstacle to be discarded in one’s pursuit of God.
This book goes into much more detail on each of the six “counterfeit gospels” listed above, and it also states very clearly the true Gospel message of Jesus Christ in three parts which he describes as a three-legged stool: the Gospel Story; the Gospel Announcement; and the Gospel Community. A brief definition of those three parts is stated below and found on pp. 16-17:
- The Gospel Story: First there is a gospel story, the overarching grand narrative found in the Scriptures. The Bible tells us about God’s creation of a good world that was tainted by the sin of Adam and Eve. God gave the law to reveal His holiness and our need for a perfect sacrifice, which is provided by the death of Jesus Christ. This same Jesus will one day return to this earth to judge the living and the dead, and thus renew all things. The gospel story is the scriptural narrative that takes us from creation to new creation, climaxing with the death and resurrection of Jesus.
- The Gospel Announcement: Second is the gospel announcement, namely that God–in the person of Jesus Christ–lived a perfect life in our place, bore the penalty for our sin through His death on the cross, was raised from the dead to launch God’s new creation, and is now exalted as Lord of the world. The announcement centers upon Jesus and what He has done to reconcile us to God. Our response to this announcement is to repent of our sins and put our trust in the work He has accomplished on our behalf.
- The Gospel Community: Third is the gospel community. Our response to the gospel announcement–repentance and faith–is not a one-time event. It’s a lifelong expression of gratitude that wells up from the bottom of our hearts and overflows into love for God and His beloved community. We are shaped by the gospel into the kind of people who herald the grace of God and spread the news of Jesus Christ. God has commissioned the church to be the community that embodies the message of the gospel. Through our corporate life together, we “obey the gospel” by living according to the truth of the message that Jesus Christ is our Savior and Lord of the world.
This gives you a quick synopsis of what this book is about. It is an excellent source of information on what is taking place in our culture and our churches today and is well worth reading if you care about the deadly effects the “counterfeit gospels” are having across America. At the end of each chapter is a list of “Scriptural Truths” for further consideration and study and this book could easily be used for a group study that I’m sure would create some rousing and seriously thoughtful conversations, discussions, and considerations.
I’ll end this post with a couple of paragraphs from the introduction on p. 13:
“All Christians everywhere must realize that we are at war. Our battle is not “against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers . . . of this [present] age,” Eph. 6:12 (NKJV). Awareness of the battle can help alert us to counterfeit gospels that the Enemy wishes to spread into our churches, counterfeits that will destabilize us, confuse us, and cause us to lose confidence in the biblical gospel.
“Christians and non-Christians are often drawn to counterfeit gospels. Even those of us who have walked with the Lord for many years may be inclined to accept cheap imitations of the truth. Why? Because they are easy. They cost us less. And they make us popular with people whose opinions matter to us [emphasis mine].”
Whether you are a Christian or a non-Christian–get this book and read it. You won’t be disappointed and you will be much better informed about what is infiltrating many of our churches and our belief systems with devastating consequences.
’Nough said . . .
Hello everyone! Hope you’re having a good week!
Just wanted to share this wonderful message.
If you put a buzzard in a pen that is 6 feet by 8 feet and is entirely open at the top, the bird, in spite of its ability to fly, will be an absolute prisoner. The Reason is, that a buzzard always begins a flight from the ground with a run of 10 to 12 feet. Without the space to run, as is its habit, it will not even attempt to fly, but will remain a prisoner for life in a small jail with no top.
The ordinary bat that flies around at night, a remarkable nimble creature in the air, cannot take off from a level place. If it is placed on the floor or flat ground, all it can do is shuffle about helplessly and, no…
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Stay faithful! (See reblogged post below.) “The One who calls you IS faithful and He WILL do it” (I Thess. 5:24). Even though Paul fought discouragement and fear, he knew God was faithful. “Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you . . .” (Acts 18:9-10). Put your faith in our unshakable God. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
Photo credit here
In Athens, the Spirit of God empowered Paul to present the truth of God to an unbelieving audience of Greek philosophers. Standing on Mars Hill in the Areopagus—which was viewed as the seat of worldly wisdom—he brilliantly proclaimed God’s Word.
However, after his proclamation, he became emotionally shaken. He had prayed that the hearts of those who heard his words would be changed, but his message had received only a lukewarm reception. By the time he sailed for Corinth (Acts 18), he was struggling with discouragement, and God knew it. Therefore, He spoke words of encouragement to His servant:
Do not be afraid; keep on speaking, do not be silent. For I am with you, and no one is going to attack and harm you, because I have many people in this city (Acts 18:9-10).
In other words, “Paul, you are not alone. I am aware of your circumstances. I…
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What comes to mind when you think of the word “Providence”? Perhaps a city in Rhode Island? Well, that would be one correct assumption. However, there is another definition for “Providence” that covers a lot more area than a city or even a state. According to Dictionary.com, another definition of “Providence” is “God, especially when conceived as omnisciently directing the affairs of humankind with wise benevolence.” Omniscient means “having complete or unlimited knowledge, awareness, or understanding; perceiving all things.” That certainly describes God. Dr. Charles Swindoll gives us further insight into the providence of God in a short devotion by the same name found in his devotional book, “Day by Day.”
I’ve been giving a lot of thought these days to the subject of God’s will. While engaged in a study of that issue recently, I came across a term we rarely use or read these days: providence.
The root meaning of providence is “foresight . . . to see in advance” or “to provide for.” But those definitions could leave us with too shallow an understanding. Providence contains far more than a passive reference to God’s foreknowledge.
Back in the seventeenth century, the Westminster divines hammered out a much more thorough statement: “God, the great Creator of all things, doth uphold, direct, dispose, and govern all creatures, actions, and things from the greatest event to the least, by His most wise and holy providence, according to His infallible foreknowledge, and the free and immutable counsel of His own will, to the praise of the glory of His wisdom, power, justice, goodness and mercy.”
Make no mistake about it, “He’s got the whole world in His hands.” From the greatest to the least, nothing is beyond the scope of His sovereign power and providential care. He makes the rain fall, the sun shine, the stars twinkle—in this and all other galaxies. He raises up people and kingdoms and He brings down both. He numbers the hairs on our heads and determines the days of our lives. In doing so, He weaves everything together into His design. Ultimately, the tapestry of His handiwork will be something to behold!
“But wait,” I hear someone say, “don’t you and I possess a will? We’re not robots, are we?” R.C. Sproul addresses this well in Essential Truths of the Christian Faith: “We are creatures with a will of our own. We make things happen. Yet the casual power we exert is secondary [emphasis mine]. God’s sovereign providence stands over and above our actions. He works out His will through the actions of human wills, without violating the freedom of those human wills.”
God’s redemptive providence is always at work, even through the most diabolical schemes and actions. Classic illustration? The betrayal of Jesus Christ by Judas. Strange as it may seem, Judas’s worst act of wickedness helped to bring about the best thing that ever happened: the Atonement.
So, take heart, my friend. God is in full control. Nothing is happening on earth that brings a surprise to heaven. Nothing is outside the scope of His divine radar screen as He guides us safely home. Things that seem altogether confusing, without reason, unfair, even wrong, do indeed fit into the Father’s providential plan.
Nothing touches us that has not first passed through His hands.
I don’t know about you, but I find that quite comforting in the midst of wondering if my life will ever get off “hold” and move forward again. Of course, the economy can’t even get off “hold.” But it’s a great comfort to know that God still has everything under control–the good, the bad, and the ugly–and that “nothing is outside the scope of His divine radar screen as He guides us safely home.”
Nothing . . . not even one tiny little thing. And that brings a smile to my face regardless of the circumstances. And I hope it brings encouragement to you, too.
God is in control . . .
YouTube Video: “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands” sung by Tim Hughes:
Photo credit here
Many of the long-term unemployed in our country are in a prison–a financial prison–and while there are no visible bars for others to see, the prison cell is every bit as real and as confining. I know as I’ve been there for over three years now. Yet, I’ve seen how God has provided for me. And I’ve experienced over and over again the power of praise when the frustration of my circumstances feels overwhelming and never-ending.
Praise pulls us out of the pit of despair and turns our focus back on God, who alone knows why the answer hasn’t come yet. It’s hard to see beyond our own immediate circumstances, but God sees the whole picture and all that it encompasses including all of the other lives it affects that we know nothing about. Adversity is a chance to praise God for what He is doing in our lives through the adversity and in the lives of others we come into contact with (e.g., in Paul’s case, the Philippian jailer).
Praise is powerful in taking our focus off of ourselves and our immediate situation and quieting the desperation we feel especially when it feels like our trial will never end. It puts hope back in our hearts knowing that God is quite capable of changing everything in a moment–but it has to be His moment and His timing. As Christians, no matter how dark our circumstances or how long lasting the trial may be, we are instructed to “Be joyful always; pray continually; give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (I Thess. 5:16-18). So let’s praise Him for who He is, and leave our circumstances in His hands even though I personally know how incredibly hard it is to do that when it has gone on for so very, very, very long. He is our faithful God. I say this to myself as much as I say it to you as after over three years of unemployment I need to be reminded to do that, too, on a daily basis.
So let’s praise Him–every single day–and not just on Sunday or only in song but also in our actions and attitudes towards Him and towards others and from the very core of our being. ~Sara’s Musings @ WordPress.com
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Being in prison for something you did not do is not an ideal situation, but Paul found a way to make it a place of praise. Most people would have been questioning why they were there, wondering if living for Christ was really the right decision. Who would want this type of abuse?
However, Paul understood the power that rested within the God he served. He knew that despite the gravity of his circumstances, God could change everything in a moment. So instead of waiting until after God delivered him to sing praises, Paul took the first step. He and Silas began crooning praises to God. Then the foundations of the prison shook.
Praise is powerful because it removes our focus from the circumstances and turns us toward God. Instead of seeing a desperate situation, we see an opportunity for God to reveal His glory to everyone involved. And in…
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