VIDEO Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith – if you would believe

The Unsurpassed Intimacy of Tested Faith

Every time you venture out in your life of faith, you will find something in your circumstances that, from a commonsense standpoint, will flatly contradict your faith. But common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense. In fact, they are as different as the natural life and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? Can you venture out with courage on the words of Jesus Christ, while the realities of your commonsense life continue to shout, “It’s all a lie”? When you are on the mountaintop, it’s easy to say, “Oh yes, I believe God can do it,” but you have to come down from the mountain to the demon-possessed valley and face the realities that scoff at your Mount-of-Transfiguration belief (see Luke 9:28-42). Every time my theology becomes clear to my own mind, I encounter something that contradicts it. As soon as I say, “I believe ‘God shall supply all [my] need,’ ” the testing of my faith begins (Philippians 4:19). When my strength runs dry and my vision is blinded, will I endure this trial of my faith victoriously or will I turn back in defeat?

Faith must be tested, because it can only become your intimate possession through conflict. What is challenging your faith right now? The test will either prove your faith right, or it will kill it. Jesus said, “Blessed is he who is not offended because of Me” Matthew 11:6). The ultimate thing is confidence in Jesus. “We have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end…” (Hebrews 3:14). Believe steadfastly on Him and everything that challenges you will strengthen your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith up to the point of our physical death, which is the last great test. Faith is absolute trust in God— trust that could never imagine that He would forsake us (see Hebrews 13:5-6).

WISDOM FROM OSWALD CHAMBERS

The remarkable thing about fearing God is that when you fear God you fear nothing else, whereas if you do not fear God you fear everything else. “Blessed is every one that feareth the Lord”;…  The Highest Good—The Pilgrim’s Song Book, 537 L


Word of the Week: John 11:40

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How Obedience to God’s Law Enables Us to Love Other

Judges Gavel

To some, the concepts of love and law contradict one another. While love conjures images of warmth and family, law conjures images of coldness and isolation. In our contemporary culture, loving others and believing in objective moral standards are often seen as mutually exclusive commitments. But love and law are not opposed to one another. In fact, according to the Bible, love and law fit together by faith.

In the Mobile Ed course Introducing Evangelical Ethics, Dr. Michael Allen turns to Romans 13:8–14 to demonstrate how love and law are connected:

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, ‘You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,’ and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed. The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.

Love fulfills the Law

Dr. Allen points out that this passage reveals an important principle that helps us understand the relationship between love and law. We love our neighbor by acting in ways toward them that not only flow out of faith but flow according to God’s lawful design, God’s objective directives.Whether we demonstrate love by preparing meals for an ill friend or lending a shoulder to cry on, we follow God’s lawful design through our friendships, ministries, and acts of kindness.

Far from ruling out law, love actually fulfills law. We are called to love others through the law of God; our faith in God allows us to demonstrate love while following God’s law. Our love glorifies God andour love fulfills law. We love others to the extent that we understand God’s love for us. By going deeper into astonished trust in Jesus, we go further in loving others and keeping God’s law.

Love is the fulfillment—certainly not the antithesis or undoing—of the law. God’s love comes to us, and then our love flows to others. Through our obedience to God, we are able to love others. Therefore, our obedience to God and our love for others are not antithetical; they are both rooted in God’s love for us.

 

by Liz Roland 

 

Original here

If I Believed Like That

But the end of all things is at hand. 1 Peter 4:7

When D. L. Moody preached in Brooklyn in 1875, thousands were converted. Pastor Henry Ward Beecher struggled to understand this phenomenon until he met Moody personally. “I saw the secret of his working and plans,” wrote Beecher. “He is a believer in the second advent of Christ, and in our own time…. He thinks that Christ may come even to-morrow.”

Beecher added, “I should be a burning fire all the time if I believed like that.”

Peter expected Christ to soon come again too, writing, “The end of all things is at hand…. As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies.”

Time is short, and this may be the year when Christ returns. Prioritize your life with the Second Coming in view. Let’s speak and serve as those who are longing for our Lord’s swift appearing. Let’s be on fire all the time.

He thinks (the world is) a wreck bound to sink—and the only thing that is worth doing is to get as many of the crew off as you can. Henry Ward Beecher, about Moody

The Seeking God

I [Jesus] will deliver you [Paul] from the Jewish people, as well as from the Gentiles, to whom I now send you Acts 26:17

Much theological ink has been used through the ages in an attempt to answer this question: Does man seek God or does God seek man? If Romans 3:11b wasn’t clear enough—“There is none who seeks after God”—examples from Scripture show, at the very least, that it is God who seeks after man even when man is most resistant.

Two examples: When the apostle Paul was at his most hateful state, going to Damascus to persecute Christians, Jesus sought him out and confronted him—and ultimately changed and saved him (Acts 9:1-19). And being a worshiper of the God of the Jews was the last thing on the mind of the prideful king of Babylon, Nebuchadnezzar (Daniel 4:28-33). But God revealed Himself to Nebuchadnezzar, who humbled himself before Him (verses 34-37). God is a seeking God; pride, anger, and unbelief are not obstacles for Him.

If you—or someone you love—find yourself “away” from God today, know this: He knows where you are and wants you to know where He is. He is always as close as a prayer. Even if you find prayer a challenge, know that He is near you, with you, beside you, seeking a closer relationship with you.

As in Paradise, God walks in the Holy Scriptures, seeking man. Ambrose

Recommended Reading: Psalm 139:7-10

One Who Serves

child eating
Yet I am among you as the One who serves. —Luke 22:27

“I’m nobody’s servant!” I cried out. That morning the demands of my family seemed too much as I frantically helped to find my husband’s blue tie, while feeding the crying baby and recovering the lost toy from under the bed for our 2-year-old.

Later on that day, as I was reading the Bible, I came across this verse: “For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves” (Luke 22:27).

Jesus didn’t have to wash His disciples’ feet, yet He did (John 13:5). There were servants who did that job, but Jesus chose to serve them. Today’s society insists that we should aim to “be somebody.” We want the best-paying job, the highest position in the company, the top leadership in church. Yet whatever position we are in, we can learn from our Savior to serve.

We hold different roles as parents, children, friends, workers, leaders, or students. The question is this: Do we carry out those roles with an attitude of service? Even though my everyday routine is sometimes tiring, I’m thankful the Master will help me because I do want to follow His steps and willingly serve others.

May God help us to do this each day.

Dear Lord, I know that You did not come to be served, but to serve. Sometimes I fail to think of others, but I want to be like You. Please give me a heart like Yours.

We need a servant’s attitude to be like Jesus.

By Keila Ochoa

The Problem of Evil, Part 2

Evil
When it comes to God’s greater purposes for suffering, we do not always know His reasons. But not having all the answers doesn’t mean we should fear questions.

Last time in Part One, we talked about using the Bible to encourage and strengthen people who feel dismayed by the sight of “bad things happening to good people.” But there are many who won’t accept that counsel.

After all, it’s one thing to bring Scripture to bear pastorally on the heart needs of believers, and quite another to face the barbs of critics who raise the question of evil rhetorically, as a challenge to the faith.

These folks say that the Christian’s claims of an all-powerful and all-good God are incompatible with each other: God is either bad for not stopping “pointless” evil or weak for failing to do so when He tries. Bible references don’t impress them, so we might try a different approach.

Ways to Answer

Let’s first take a look at the two most popular responses Christians offer:

1. The free-will defense. Autonomy has consequences. When the German people decided to give Hitler power and he encouraged them to persecute Jews, terrible things happened. Likewise, when a fellow decides to get behind the wheel after drinking, he may very well drive into the car of a family headed to church. Examples abound, including the case of Adam and Eve, whose disobedience had catastrophic consequences for us all.

To avoid such problems, God could have made us robots, driven by circuitry instead of values, judgments, and emotions. But He desires fellowship with humans, not animatronic devices.

2. Soul-making theodicy. Essentially, it espouses that ours is precisely the sort of world needed to bring about the development of virtue in people. After all, you can’t grow morally without personal trials. As some put it, you need first-order evils to foster second-order goods, like patience, courage, or charity.

A man I once knew at church ran a towing service and was known to offer kickbacks to police who called from an accident scene. One day, while he was loading a tractor on a trailer, it slid off the ramp. He was pinned underneath and engulfed in flames when the gas cap came off. He now testifies that in his year of recovery from third-degree burns, he found the Lord and thanks God for allowing the event. Through that time of sequestration and suffering, his soul was being “made.”

The Ensuing Conversation

When skeptics hear these responses, they meet them with fresh questions. Here are four common ones:

1. Natural disasters. While the free-will defense covers robberies, murders, and other human offenses, it doesn’t quite so easily account for earthquakes, droughts, and tsunamis. The sea and sky didn’t choose to start them; no free will there. So they argue that God must be culpable. Of course, Adam’s race can take the blame for the discombobulation of the earth, but to answer this charge, we must return to the purpose of the curse: the redemption of creation (Rom. 8:18-23). Remember, everything God allows—every storm and seismic shift—is designed to accomplish that shining purpose.

2. Gratuitous evil. To those who say that it all works out for the good, skeptics might cite the example of a deer caught in a cruel trap in the woods. She dies a tortured death. What possible use could this serve? They ask, How would God diminish His universe in the slightest by freeing the fawn? Skeptics claim that if there is even one instance of wasted suffering, then God—who could have prevented it—is less than perfect. Among the responses is the challenge to construct a better system, one in which the laws of physics—of life and death—are suspended whenever animals are concerned. Besides, who knows what lingering, miserable death the creature would eventually die.

It’s fair here to put the burden of proof back on the critic. Ask why this occurrence is utterly pointless. Just because we can’t specify the exact reason for pain, that doesn’t mean there isn’t one.

3. Hell. While the redeemed may grow through adversity, there is no remediation in hell, where the majority of people on earth—who take the “broad way”—spend eternity. So how could God create a world, knowing that most would suffer forever? After all, the Bible says the road to heaven is narrow, with relatively few taking it, while the one to hell is wide and well traveled (Matt. 7:13-14).

One way I respond is to say that God is making diamonds, not mushrooms, and it takes heat and pressure to do the job, with much of that coming from non-believers as their sin manifests itself in persecution, indifference, and dissipation. Also, we can think of history as a drama, where the splendor of redemption and sanctification is played out in stunning fashion against a backdrop of pervasive and daunting wickedness.

4. The Canaanite Genocide. Some critics know enough of the Bible to try to enlist it in debunking the faith. Faced with accounts of God’s command to kill everyone in Jericho (see Josh. 6), philosophers go in a number of directions. Some simply deny that God would order such a thing, but this dismisses the inerrancy of the Word. Others say that the parents deserved it and the children who were slain were spared judgment. Neither of these assertions is supported in the Bible; God did not see fit to provide us with a clear reason for His command.

While we can never fully understand it this side of eternity, we can know that God has His good purposes. What can be shocking at first can make sense when we have all the background. For instance, some life-saving medical procedures (to prevent breast cancer, for example) can seem overwrought, even horrifying, but we trust the doctors. How much more should we trust the Great Physician?

Yes, skeptics have their arguments, but we have answers. So do not be intimidated. And remember the greatest help in times of trouble is the Lord—His perfection is clear to His people, who see evidence of divine blessing and splendor everywhere.

by Mark Coppenger

The Problem of Evil, Part 1

Evil
Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people? It’s a question we often ask, and thankfully, the Bible isn’t quiet on the subject.

Only a month into my first pastorate, I got a late-night call from our church administrator. The only son of one of our widows had committed suicide, and the police wanted me to tell his mother. So we stepped out into the darkness and headed for her home. As soon as she opened the door, she knew that something terrible had happened, and she started crying her son’s name.

Thirty years later, I learned one of my students and his wife were facing tragedy with their first child. Yet unborn, the baby had been diagnosed with a condition that would kill him within hours of his birth. Convinced that his life was precious, and willing to suffer the pain of losing him, they chose to carry the child to term.

Every pastor—indeed, every Christian—is familiar with such heartrending situations, and when they occur, the question naturally surfaces: “Why, Lord?” After all, God is both all-powerful and all-good, so why doesn’t He just intervene?

Well, what does the Bible say? Actually, a lot of things, including a major insight in Genesis 3. Life was safe and comfortable in Eden, but Adam and Eve couldn’t handle the combination of obedience and blessing. For their sin, they were expelled and condemned to face a difficult, resistant world. That’s why we face treachery and drought and death to this day. But God wasn’t being petulant or vindictive, for we read in Romans 8:20-21 that “the creation was subjected to futility . . . in hope that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God.” There is a glorious point to it.

Indeed, the entire eighth chapter of Romans is full of encouragement, including the assurance that “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (v. 28). It’s why Paul could tell the Philippians that “He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (1:6), and why he could assure the Corinthians that “momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Cor. 4:17). Words of comfort and encouragement are found throughout Scripture, often in the Psalms, where we learn of the riches packed into the reality that “the Lord is my shepherd” (Ps. 23:1). And in Revelation 21, we find a breathtaking view of what awaits the saints.

The Lord could have left it at that, with a word on the “power of positive thinking.” But the Bible is surprisingly dappled with cranky and desperate utterances from God’s people. It’s not all happy talk.

In fact, God’s Word is full of “embarrassing” candor. Consider this lament from Psalm 88: “[Lord] You have put me in the lowest pit . . . You have removed my acquaintances far from me; You have made me an object of loathing to them” (vv. 6, 8). Not the sort of sentiment you’d want to put in the church bulletin, yet it’s right there in Holy Scripture.

Then there’s the complaint to God found in Jeremiah 12:1: “Indeed I would discuss matters of justice with You: Why has the way of the wicked prospered? Why are all those who deal in treachery at ease?” David, too, expresses anger toward God for killing Uzzah, who touched the ark of the covenant to keep it from tumbling to the ground. (See 2 Sam. 6:5-16.) In chapter three of his story, Job wishes he had been miscarried or stillborn, and in chapter 30, he says God has been cruel and aloof. And in Romans 9, Paul gives voice to the dismay one could well feel over the plight of Esau and Pharaoh, whose unhappy fates were somehow preset (vv. 11-17).

All these men were crying out, “What in the world’s going on here, God?”

Here and there, we get a glimmer of an answer. For instance, in John 9, Jesus healed a man blind from birth. Jesus said it wasn’t sin that made him blind, but rather “it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him” (v. 3). Of course, that won’t satisfy the hard skeptic who complains, “You mean God used this poor guy in this way? And what about the ones He didn’t heal?” But it’s a start.

Now, you might think God should say something like, Oops. You’re right. I didn’t see how unfair that was. Let me see if I can explain myself to your satisfaction. No, in Job chapter 38, God asks, Who do you think you are to put Me on trial? And in Romans 9:20-21, He retorts, Excuse Me, but I’m the potter. You humans are the clay, and I can do what I jolly well please.

Gulp!

But does this make God an aloof potentate who simply says, Deal with it! No, He joined us in our suffering through His Son on the cross. Do you need evidence? See Jesus in Gethsemane, sweating profusely and asking if there is any option to the torment of crucifixion. See the Lord humiliated and brutalized on Calvary, crying out to God, Why did You abandon Me? (By the way, contrast God in Christ with the Allah of Islam who, despite the fine talk of his mercy and beneficence, reigns untouched above personal suffering.)

It’s said that misery loves company, and it is comforting to know that the company we keep includes our Creator, who, through Scripture, gives empathetic voice to human dismay but firmly insists that we trust Him to sort it all out for the best. He’s far too gracious to let us stew in bitterness. After all, he knows the sweet wisdom of history, which He authors, and the wonders that are ours—not only in the life beyond, but also in the life before us here.

by Mark Coppenger

In Part Two, Mark Coppenger concludes his series by addressing the misguided belief that suffering proves God is neither all-powerful nor all-good.

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