Saturday, August 28, 2010

The Sweetness of Affliction

Today I was reading in Psalm 25. I am always a little amazed and challenged when I read the psalms were David is experiencing heavy trials. Today the psalmist used words like "lonely and afflicted" (vs. 16), and "the troubles of my heart are enlarged" (vs. 17). And when he speaks of his foes he says "with violent hatred they hate me" (vs. 19). Pretty strong words. It is very clear that David was going through serious trials. Yet in the very same psalm David says, "Indeed, none who wait for you shall be put to shame, they shall be ashamed who are wantonly treacherous" (vs. 3). He says that the Lord leads the humble (vs. 9), and he asks to know the Lord's ways (vs. 4). He even starts the psalm off with praise! "To you, O LORD, I lift up my soul. O my God, in you I trust" (vs. 1,2).
I know from my own experience that praise is not naturally the first thing out of my mouth when I walk through difficulties (this is done through the strength of the Holy Spirit). But here, David is praising God before he even speaks of his difficulty. How can this be? Well, to me it seems like David knew who is Savior was. And not just knew like in the far off sense of so many today, but he KNEW his God intimately. And, then I asked did David know God intimately? One of the major ways was through his trials. Ironic, right? He had experienced God's strong hand of provision and salvation before, so he had no reason to doubt it now. David knew his savior was strong because God had proved himself through the trails he had allowed David to go through. I am sure that David would not have known many of the characteristics of God had he not gone through those times of difficulty. Is it not the same in our lives? How often have I been angry when I have gone though times of hardships, asking how God can allow this to happen? But, is it not the loving design of a wise Heavenly Father? He knows that he is the answer to all my soul's longings, and he knows the best means to teach me so. I would never know that God is powerful, sustaining, loving, forgiving, if He had not proved it to me. And for us who are bent towards sin, often it takes affliction to teach us these things. So, may I in my next state of affliction turn a heart of trusting hope in my God. Knowing that He is wise and knows what is for my good. And he will see me through to the end. Below is an excerpt from C. H. Spurgeon's Cheque Book of the Bank of Faith (p. 241). He sums up the sweetness of affliction so well.
'I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction' (Isaiah 48:10)
This has long been the motto fixed before our eyes upon the wall of our bed-chamber, and in many ways it has also been written on our heart. It is no mean thing to be chosen of God. God's choice makes chosen men choice men. Better to be the elect of God than the elect of a whole nation. So eminent is this privilege, that whatever drawback may be joined to it we joyfully accept it, even as the Jew ate the bitter herbs for the sake of the Paschal Lamb. We choose the furnace, since God chooses us in it.
We are chosen as an afflicted people, and not as a prosperous people, chosen not in the palace, but in the furnace. In the furnace beauty is marred, fashion is destroyed, strength is melted, glory is consumed, and yet here eternal love reveals its secrets, and declares its choice. So has it been in our case. In times of severest trial God has made to us our calling and election plain, and we have made it sure: then we have chosen the Lord to be our God, and he has shown that we are assuredly his chosen. Therefore, if today the furnace be heated seven times hotter, we will not dread it, for the glorious Son of God will walk with us amid the glowing coals.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Word

For any fellow laborer who may be tired and weary. May we be reminded that the Word of God is everything that we need.

"The law of the LORD is perfect, reviving the soul; the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple; the precepts of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart; the commandment of the LORD is pure, enlightening the eyes; the fear of the Lord is clean, enduring forever; the rules of the LORD are true, and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, even much fine gold; sweeter than honey and drippings from the honeycomb. Moreover, by them is your servant warned; in keeping them is great reward."
Psalm 19:7-11

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Gospel

Recently I have been struck anew by the gospel. This has come about in several different ways. One has been the books I have been reading. I have just finished reading Shepherding a Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. I had read bits of this book before, but nothing has compared to reading it now as I am seeking to shepherd my own little one's heart. Ted Tripp does such an excellent job communicating the great need of the gospel to be central in raising our children. Another book I have been reading is Desiring God by John Piper. I have read parts before, but never accomplished reading the whole thing. Sometimes I feel like this finite brain of mine cannot take in all the truths set forth in this book. But, this time I feel like my heart is more ready to grasp the truth that God delights when I am infinitely satisfied in him--that He desires that I be completely happy in Him. And if I am going to be completely happy in my savior, I must know him better right? So this led me to start reading through the gospel of John. I am striving to know my God as I look at Jesus through new eyes. I have also been meditating on other scriptures as I am reading this gospel. Scriptures like Col. 1: 15-20, "He (Jesus) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might he preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood on the cross." Jesus is central to everything in the universe, and I have felt the desire to KNOW him.

So, as I have been looking more intently at the gospel I believe in, several things have really struck me. One is the power of the gospel. Ephesians 1:19-20 speaks of this power: "and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places". This is not a wimpy God that I serve. He had the power to raise his son from the dead, and what is more, that power he used to raise his son from the dead He works in me! I have seen this power in all Jesus does as I have been reading. He walks on the water in John 6. This is not just so his disciples would be amazed and scared silly. This was to display his sovereign power over all he created. HE IS GOD! This power is also shown in his first miracle of turning the water into wine. Not only does this show his power over creation but it shows that he has the power to provide for all our needs. If he can take a little boy's lunch and feed five thousand men (not counting all the women and children), I certainly feel he has the power to provide for all my needs.

I have also seen how Jesus is all-knowing. He knew what the Pharisees where thinking time and again as he boldly proclaimed the truth that He was the promised messiah. He knew what his disciples were thinking...their doubts, fears, and pride. He knew who were truly his followers and who would desert and betray him. He knows our minds and hearts completely. This is shown with the official who asked Jesus to heal his son. Jesus saw that God had granted this man faith and healed the man's son in an instant. The man received word of his son's healing on his journey home and knew the exact moment Jesus had spoken healing life back into his son's body.

Jesus was also single minded. Even after being weary from traveling, he put his physical needs aside to speak to the Samaritan woman at the well. He saw her sinful heart and knew her soul was ripe unto harvest. When his disciples urged him to eat, he answered that his food was to do the will of his father. The will of his Father was to seek and save the lost. Jesus would not be deterred, even to eat and drink. How thankful I am for this single-mindedness. For it was this single-mindedness that sought and saved me!

And, one of the most precious truths that I have been awed by is that Jesus is all satisfying. He says he is the bread of life and the living water. He knows and understand the deep longings of our souls. We may try to fill this longing with mindless, work, people, shopping, sports, etc. (I understand that these things are not bad in and of themselves. It is when they take the place of Jesus and consume our time, thoughts, energy, and affections that they become evil.) All these things will leave us hungry for more. We all seek to worship something. But Jesus knew that he was the only ONE that is ALL SATISFYING. He fills the longing in our souls with peace, joy, contentment. He is the TRUTH that is all satisfying.

So as I have been seeing more of my savior, my prayer is that I will become more like him. That I will be his imitator and be the sweet aroma of Christ. I pray that I will not walk in doubt and fear, or in weariness of soul, but that I will know and call upon His great power. May I rest in his sovereignty. He knows my past, present, and future. I have nothing to fear. May I be single minded in sharing this gospel for it is life to those who believe. May I be satisfied in Jesus alone. And, may this transform all that I do. May I point my husband and daughter to Jesus as I care for them daily. May I live a bold life before my neighbors so that the light of Jesus may pierce their darkened hearts. May I encourage my brothers and sisters in Christ to endure with joy this fight of faith. And, may I keep my gaze on my eternal reward....Jesus.