bible

“God’s Purpose in the Storm” by Dr. Charles Stanley

Believers have a choice about how they will respond to life’s “storms.” Either they can cast blame while becoming resentful and bitter, or they can turn to the Lord and ask, “What is Your purpose?”

Since recognizing God’s purpose and plan is the way that faith grows, Christians have the right to ask “why?” Like a child learning new concepts, we see that when x happens, God does y, just as He promised. If we could choose the number of difficulties we want to face in a month, most of us would pick zero. Yet, God sees value in difficult times.

For instance, in the Old Testament, King David made destructively wrong choices for which God allowed cleansing storms into his life. The leader of the nation had wandered off the right path, but painful experiences drove him back to the center of the Lord’s will. We might consider the divine method cruel, but David would disagree. He wrote, “Before I was afflicted, I went astray, but now I keep Your word. . . . It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I may learn Your statutes” (Ps. 119:67, 71).

When a storm rages into our life, the Lord is already planning how to turn destruction into good. Just like David, we need to seek His objective and learn to work with Him to achieve it. We must believe that “in all things God works for the good of those who love Him” (Rom. 8:28). The promise of that verse is that we will reap blessings from our losses. Through the Lord’s mighty power, He uses trials to accomplish His plans–to grow us from children into mature disciples of Jesus Christ.

1. One purpose God has for us is a growing intimacy in our relationship with Him. But He knows we struggle to put Him first over our interests. Many of us place higher priority on family and friends than on companionship with God. For others, finances, work, or even personal pleasures interfere. When the Lord sees that our attention is drifting away from Him, He might use hardships to draw us back so we’ll refocus.

2. Another reason God allows difficulties is to conform us to the image of Jesus. Pain is a tool that brings areas of ungodliness to the surface. God also uses it to sift, shape, and prune us. The sanctification process, the building of Christlike character into our lives, starts at salvation and ends with our last breath.

3. A third purpose for stressful circumstances is to reveal true convictions. Our faith is tested in tough times. It’s easy to say, “God is good,” when life is peaceful. But when everything goes wrong, what do we believe about Him? Do our words and actions reveal an attitude of trust?

King David endured much heartache: a disintegrating family, personal attacks, and betrayal by close friends. But through his trials, he gained deeper intimacy with God, stronger faith, and more godly character. Won’t you let God accomplish His purposes in your present situation?

Returning believers to right fellowship is only one of God’s purposes for a season of trials. Some difficulties are meant to blow away all distractions so we can focus our attention on the Lord. Other “storms” break our worldly mold so that we can be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ. Our personal pleasure is not the top priority. God’s primary concern is to shape a wise and obedient follower who loves Him.

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“The Blessing of the Rain: Praising God in the Storm or the Gentle Rain” by Randy Kinnick

 

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7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God, 8 Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains.  Psalm 147:7-8

Some people dread a rainy day.  The gray skies and the gloomy weather seem to them to be a downer.  I can understand how the weather will affect one’s state of mind and emotion.  When the winter days get short, the gray skies dominate, the cold is bitter and the darkness comes earlier, I feel that affect.  Not so, however, for a rainy day.

Rainy days are a welcomed thing sometimes.  Granted, when I have outdoor plans and the rain interrupts, I’m not too happy.  But, hey, I don’t get to make those decisions, right?  However, there is actually a comfort that a rainy day brings.  I feel cozy.  I remember, as a kid, when a summer or spring rain would come, I would get the lounge chair and a blanket and sit on our carport watching and listening to it rain.  It was soothing and calming.

Last night, it rained, and lightning and thunder pierced the sky throughout the night.  This morning, from the perch of my Starbucks vantage point, I watch the rain descend on the world around me.  It soaks, drenches, washes and cleans.  Our dry, parched land is drinking it in…a much-needed refreshment.  I’m reminded, as the rains descend to refresh the ground, so I desire to drink in the presence and truth of the God who supplies the rain.  I long to be refreshed in soul and spirit as He rains His love, grace and power in me.

Psalm 147

1 Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful. 2 The Lord builds up Jerusalem; He gathers together the outcasts of Israel. 3 He heals the brokenhearted And binds up their wounds. 4 He counts the number of the stars; He calls them all by name. 5 Great is our Lord, and mighty in power; His understanding is infinite. 6 The Lord lifts up the humble; He casts the wicked down to the ground. 7 Sing to the Lord with thanksgiving; Sing praises on the harp to our God, 8 Who covers the heavens with clouds, Who prepares rain for the earth, Who makes grass to grow on the mountains. 9 He gives to the beast its food, And to the young ravens that cry. 10 He does not delight in the strength of the horse; He takes no pleasure in the legs of a man. 11 The Lord takes pleasure in those who fear Him, In those who hope in His mercy. 12 Praise the Lord, O Jerusalem! Praise your God, O Zion! 13 For He has strengthened the bars of your gates; He has blessed your children within you. 14 He makes peace in your borders, And fills you with the finest wheat. 15 He sends out His command to the earth; His word runs very swiftly. 16 He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes; 17 He casts out His hail like morsels; Who can stand before His cold? 18 He sends out His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow, and the waters flow. 19 He declares His word to Jacob, His statutes and His judgments to Israel. 20 He has not dealt thus with any nation; And as for His judgments, they have not known them. Praise the Lord!

The rain reminds us of the faithfulness of our God.  I am reminded of my dependence upon Him for life and sustenance.  I am reminded of His provision for every need…to fill my parched spirit with His refreshing “rain.”  As Psalm 147 reminds me, there is so much for which to praise the Lord.  Here are a few reminders…

  • He gathers the outcasts to Himself
  • He heals broken and wounded hearts
  • He demonstrates His mighty, infinite power through creation
  • He lifts up the humble
  • He brings judgment upon the wicked
  • He supplies the earth with nourishing rain and growth
  • He provides food for the animals
  • He finds pleasure in those who fear Him and seek His mercy
  • He blesses our habitations and posterity as we follow Him
  • He provides for our needs and security
  • He has given us His powerful Word

There is so much for which we can praise God.  The rain today reminds me of these and many other works of our mighty God.  Let us, as Israel was challenged to do through this Psalm, “Praise the Lord! For it is good to sing praises to our God; For it is pleasant, and praise is beautiful.”

Matthew 18:20

“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”

“The Female Friendship Crisis” by Karen Swallow Prior

Friends are an indispensable part of growing in Christ. So why do many of us have so few?

Women drive me nuts.

Some years ago, following an act of civil disobedience, I spent several days in a makeshift jail with hundreds of women protesters. Before long, a couple of them approached me where I lay on a hard Army cot, trying to get comfortable enough to read the copy of Samuel Richardson’s Clarissa my husband had managed to deliver. What better opportunity than jail time would I ever have to read the longest novel in the English language?

It was not to be. Instead I was asked to step up as a leader to address the squabbles and discontent arising among so many women of diverse personalities in such cramped conditions. Suck it up, ladies! I wanted to scream. But I didn’t. As requested, I played the role of diplomat.

I emerged from jail with greater gratitude for God’s creation of two sexes than I’d ever had before or since. To this day, I avoid to just this side of causing offense nearly any event preceded by the label women’s: conferences, Bible Studies, retreats, Home Interior parties. I was even a bit skeptical at first about writing for a women’s blog.

My difficulties with women go further back than this experience. Because I married young and went directly to graduate school from college, I had a hard time finding real peers. The other women in my graduate program were hostile toward Christianity, something I was ill-equipped to handle gracefully. And while my church included other young women who worked or were going to school, most of the married women did not. I spent a lot of time declining invitations to jewelry and kitchenware parties and softball games, not because I wasn’t interested in those activities, but because I felt stressed and guilty about spending time on anything besides writing papers and reading books and journal articles.

I wanted women friends, badly. I tried to find them. I prayed for God to bring me to them. And, in his time, he did.

Of course, in all fairness to God, I didn’t make it easy for him. I am pretty picky. On the other hand, in making friends, I seem naturally to follow the advice of Socrates: “Be slow to fall into friendship; but when thou art in, continue firm and constant.” I don’t form friendships quickly or often, but when I do, they stick.

Friendships come in many forms, but nothing can replace friendships with true peers. Because we are both physical and spiritual beings, I see as a true peer one with whom we share both of these aspects, physical and spiritual, of our being—in other words, people of the same sex and of the same spiritual identity and belief. While certainly one can be good friends with members of the opposite sex, or of different beliefs and values, such differences tend to be a barrier to the sort of kid-gloves-off treatment necessary for iron to sharpen iron. In fact, I’ve often noticed that those who resist deep friendships with true peers—women who say they simply “connect better” with men (well, duh!) or with people not their age or religion—tend to be avoiding the unique accountability that genuine peers offer.

Alone on an Island of Loneliness

“For my father and my mother have forsaken me, but the LORD will take me in.”  Psalm 27:10

 

It’s a feeling that every human will experience from time to time.  Loneliness.  The feeling that you have no one and can turn to no one and that no one notices how lonely you truly are.  I’m there now.  My head knows I’m not alone; I live with my husband, our three children and a house full of animals.  I belong to a church where the people love me unconditionaly and whole-heartedly.  I just spent the whole holiday weekend with upwards of 150 people; worshipping, testifying, sharing, praying with each other.  And yet I still feel alone and abandoned.  My heart just can’t seem to connect with my head and get on the same page.  

I find myself knowing the answer in my head; I’m not alone, God is always there.  Maybe my feelings of loneliness are God tugging at my heart, telling me He wants more time from me.  God approached Adam in the Garden of Eden and said, ‘It is not good for man to be alone,’ not because Adam was lonely, but because he was making a statement about himself. He was saying, ‘It is not good for man to be alone, because one man cannot glorify me by himself.’ God creates an entire race of people to glorify him. . . . The panoply of gifts is essential if the church is to function as God intended. Image bearers are not lone rangers, and we see the great scriptural truth that God has not given us people to complete us, but to complement us as we seek to glorify him together in community.

So how do I connect my head back to my heart and feel connected with my world again?  That’s the million dollar question.  Let me know when you find the answer!  Maybe taking it to God and offering it to him as a gift in worship?  Saying, ‘I’ve tried everything to fix it, and I can’t. I’ve tried filling it with the world. I’ve tried filling it with people. I’ve tried seeking you. I don’t know what to do with it. So I’m just going to offer it up to you. Can you take this ugly thing and make it something beautiful?’ 

Elizabeth Elliot said

“Loneliness is a wilderness, but through receiving it as a gift, accepting it from the hand of God and offering it back to him with thanksgiving, it may become a pathway to holiness, to glory and to God himself.”  

Loneliness, at its root, is a spiritual issue. We don’t need to merely hang out with more friends. We don’t need to merely learn how to speak love languages. We need help. We need a savior. We need an advocate whose name is Christ Jesus. And our heart cry should not merely be, ‘I do bad things because I’m lonely, so someone come keep me company, make me feel better.’ Our deep heart cry should be, ‘I’m lonely because I’m a sinner in a dark and fallen world. God help me.’

We can say with Romans 8:28, that God uses all things for the good of those who love him, even our loneliness. Because our loneliness leads us to our deepest spiritual need, who is Christ. And we can also say with 1 John 3:20, that even when we feel condemned, God is greater than our hearts, and that loneliness cannot separate us from the love of God. We have a solution to our spiritual problem, and if we will submit to the Lord and accept his solution for our deepest spiritual problem, the atoning work of Christ on the cross, God can attack loneliness at its root and overcome the pain of separation in our lives that leads to separation from him, which leads to separation from other people.

Bottom line:  Feeling lonely?  Plug into God and He’ll plug you into where you need to be.  

xoxo,

A

Proverbs 25:20 (Do More Good Than Harm)

Proverb 25:20

 

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart
is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather
or pouring vinegar in a wound.”

Be careful to do more good than harm. Sometimes putting yourself in their shoes is the best way to be helpful. Telling someone to get over something doesn’t help. God knows when it’s time to move on and usually it’s not days after a major event. Remember that everyone grieves differently and to just being a shoulder can be enough.

“‘Christians’ on Social Media” by A. Miller

“If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless.”  James 1:26

James 1:26

We’ve all seen it; the person who praises God one moment in a post, then a few posts later they’re posting something wildly inappropriate even by non-believer standards.  Don’t be that christian.  You are held to a higher standard.  And if somebody points out that what you’re doing is inappropriate, don’t get defensive.  Stop for a minute, pray about it, and nine times out of ten they were right.  Take it from someone who was one of those christians; denial isn’t the answer, it’s a river that has drowned more people than it’s ever helped!

See also: “Judging Christians by their Facebook status…”

Daily Devotions: January 17th, 2013

“And I looked, and, lo, a Lamb stood on the mount Sion.” — Revelation 14:1

The apostle John was privileged to look within the gates of heaven, and in describing what he saw, he begins by saying, “I looked, and, lo, a Lamb!” This teaches us that the chief object of contemplation in the heavenly state is “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” Nothing else attracted the apostle’s attention so much as the person of that Divine Being, who hath redeemed us by His blood. He is the theme of the songs of all glorified spirits and holy angels. Christian, here is joy for thee; thou hast looked, and thou hast seen the Lamb. Through thy tears thine eyes have seen the Lamb of God taking away thy sins. Rejoice, then. In a little while, when thine eyes shall have been wiped from tears, thou wilt see the same Lamb exalted on His throne. It is the joy of thy heart to hold daily fellowship with Jesus; thou shalt have the same joy to a higher degree in heaven; thou shalt enjoy the constant vision of His presence; thou shalt dwell with Him for ever. “I looked, and, lo, a Lamb!” Why, that Lamb is heaven itself; for as good Rutherford says, “Heaven and Christ are the same thing;” to be with Christ is to be in heaven, and to be in heaven is to be with Christ. That prisoner of the Lord very sweetly writes in one of his glowing letters—“O my Lord Jesus Christ, if I could be in heaven without thee, it would be a hell; and if I could be in hell, and have thee still, it would be a heaven to me, for thou art all the heaven I want.” It is true, is it not, Christian? Does not thy soul say so?

“Not all the harps above
Can make a heavenly place,
If God His residence remove,
Or but conceal His face.”

All thou needest to make thee blessed, supremely blessed, is “to be with Christ.”

“What does it mean to say that the Bible is ‘inspired’?” by C. Poblete

Today, when we use the word “inspire” or “inspiration,” it has the idea of somethingchallenging to the human heart. We speak of a person giving an “inspiring performance” or someone looking for “inspiration” to begin a new project.

Yet when we talk of the Bible being inspired, we are speaking of an entirely different matter. Though millions of books have been written through the ages, and many of them have inspired the human heart, there was only one book that has been written by divineinspiration or with divine authority: the Bible. In this sense of the term, “inspiration” means divinely given or divinely guided.

IT IS A GOD-BREATHED WORK

We use the English word “inspiration” in the since of “divinely given” because of a verse in Second Timothy. The King James Version translates this verse.

All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness .
(2 Timothy 3:16)

“Inspiration” is a translation of the Greek word theopneustos. Theopneustos literally means “God-breathed.” This translation was derived from the Latin Vulgate Bible where the word inspiro is used in 2 Timothy 3:16 to translate the word theopneustos. The emphasis is that Scripture has been breathed out by God.

INSPIRATION MAY NOT BE THE BEST TERM

The term “inspiration” is an unfortunate term to use when talking about the Bible’s authority. The modern meaning of the word does not convey the idea of God’s divine authority.

The problem is that the term inspiration has taken upon itself a specific meaning in Christian circles based upon its continued usage for the last hundred years.

As we have noted, the proper English term is “God-breathed,” not inspiration. Because the word “inspiration” has been used for a long time to refer to the authority of Scripture we will still employ it, when necessary. However, we will put the word “divine” in front of it to emphasize that we are not speaking about inspiration in the normal sense of the term. At the same time we acknowledge that it is not the best term to use. It is much more proper to speak of the Bible’s divine authority the Bible being authoritative, the Bible being “God-breathed, or the Bible being, “God’s Words.”

HOW GOD GUIDED THE WRITING OF SCRIPTURE

God guided the writing of Scripture through the inward working of the Holy Spirit in the lives of people whom He chose to infallibly write the books of the Bible. This guaranteed that the final result would be exactly what God intended. Thus, the Bible is the written Word of God to humanity, and, when originally written, was without error. It is the final authority for all matters of faith and practice.

There are several elements that need to be expanded upon.

1. Divine Inspiration Started With God

The divine inspiration of Scripture starts with God. The words of the Bible were not self-initiated by the writers. Peter wrote:

Concerning this salvation, the prophets, who spoke of the grace that was to come to you, searched intently and with the greatest care, trying to find out the time and circumstances to which the Spirit of Christ in them was pointing when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow
(1 Peter 1:10-11).

Sometimes the writers of Scripture did not understand all that God told them to write.

2. God Guided The Entire Process

God guided with the human authors of Scripture in the various things that they wrote or the sources that they used. The author was guided to go where God wanted him to go, not where he wanted to go. Thus the Spirit of God guaranteed the accuracy of every thing that was written. This process extended until the time the document was written. The divine author of Scripture is God the Holy Spirit. Exactly how this process worked is a mystery. Scripture asserts that this did happen without explaining exactly how it happened.

In addition, the Lord divinely selected the writers of Scripture – there was no volunteering for the job.

3. The Writers Composed The Text

While all Scripture is God-breathed, it is proper to say that the Bible is a book that is both human and divine. Its ultimate source is God the Holy Spirit, yet God used human instruments to compose the books. When one reads the Scriptures, it immediately becomes apparent that the various authors employed different writing styles and different vocabularies. This gives evidence of the human side of Scripture.

The writers of the Old and New Testament were not merely stenographers who mindlessly wrote what God dictated to them. Their own experiences and personalities were involved when the various books were being composed. Ultimately, however, the final result was supernaturally guided by God.

The Bible has all the features of a book written by human beings. However it also has features like no other book.

Therefore, it is proper to say that the divine inspiration of the Bible has its source in God but that human instruments were used in writing and recording God’s Word. This is the biblical teaching on the subject.

4. The Text Is Without Error

The Bible itself claims to be true regarding every thing that it records. Jesus said, “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17).

The psalmist wrote, “The sum of Your word is truth; and every one of your righteous ordinances is everlasting” (Psalm 119:160).

The result of divine inspiration is that the Bible is the very Word of God. This includes the works, the ideas, and the specific vocabulary of Scripture. Therefore everything written in Scripture is correct—there are no errors of any kind since the ultimate source is God. This means that there are no errors of fact.

5. Only The Original Manuscripts Are Error-Free

The authority of Scripture only extends to the original manuscripts of the Old and New Testaments—it does not extend to any translations or any manuscript copies. Having said that, good translations of Scripture are, for all intents and purposes, the authoritative Word of God since they faithfully represent what the text says and means. The point here is that if an error is found in copying, or in some mistranslation in a particular version, it does not mean that the original was in error.

INSPIRATION IS NOW LIMITED TO WRITTEN SCRIPTURE

While divine Inspiration was both written and unwritten, today we only have the written part available to us. Scripture is that portion of divine revelation that God intended to be permanent and authoritative.

SUMMARY

When the word “inspiration” is used in reference to the Bible it means more than “the Bible is inspiring literature.” It has the idea of God-breathed Scripture. This is the claim of Scripture itself; it is not something that humans have invented.

When we speak of the Bible being authoritative, it means that it is God’s accurate revelation of Himself to humanity. Though humans composed the various books of Scripture, the result was an error-free work in the original manuscripts. This is because all Scripture was God-breathed. God had His hand on the production in such a way that we can accept the entire Scripture as being trustworthy. Consequently, the Bible cannot be categorized with other literature that causes the human heart to be challenged or inspired.

It is much more than that. Scripture is God’s divine Word to humanity.

Daily Devotions: October 3rd, 2012

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” — Hebrews 1:14

Angels are the unseen attendants of the saints of God; they bear us up in their hands, lest we dash our foot against a stone. Loyalty to their Lord leads them to take a deep interest in the children of His love; they rejoice over the return of the prodigal to his father’s house below, and they welcome the advent of the believer to the King’s palace above. In olden times the sons of God were favoured with their visible appearance, and at this day, although unseen by us, heaven is still opened, and the angels of God ascend and descend upon the Son of man, that they may visit the heirs of salvation. Seraphim still fly with live coals from off the altar to touch the lips of men greatly beloved. If our eyes could be opened, we should see horses of fire and chariots of fire about the servants of the Lord; for we have come to an innumerable company of angels, who are all watchers and protectors of the seed‐royal. Spenser’s line is no poetic fiction, where he sings—

“How oft do they with golden pinions cleave
The flitting skies, like flying pursuivant
Against foul fiends to aid us militant!”

To what dignity are the chosen elevated when the brilliant courtiers of heaven become their willing servitors! Into what communion are we raised since we have intercourse with spotless celestials! How well are we defended since all the twenty-thousand chariots of God are armed for our deliverance! To whom do we owe all this? Let the Lord Jesus Christ be for ever endeared to us, for through Him we are made to sit in heavenly places far above principalities and powers. He it is whose camp is round about them that fear Him; He is the true Michael whose foot is upon the dragon. All hail, Jesus! Thou Angel of Jehovah’s presence, to Thee this family offers its morning vows.