A Season of Thankfulness: Day 6 – Our Sovereign God

Photo Credits: bluecollargospel.com

Photo Credits:
bluecollargospel.com

Job 42:2

““I know that you can do all things, and that no purpose of yours can be thwarted.”

Isaiah 46:9-10

” Remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose.’”

Proverbs 19:21

“Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.”

People want to be around people of power … if they are in good favor with them.  It is also impressive to be around someone who is extremely knowledgeable, but no one likes a know-it-all.

But being in the presence of God, the only truly sovereign being, is at once humbling and comforting.  He knows us completely, yet He chooses us.  Nothing is Hidden from Him, yet He accepts us.  The plans of this world seem out of control, but He is in complete control of it all.

This is perhaps one of the attributes of God that I am most thankful for.  A King Who rules over all takes time to notice each one of His former subjects who have become His children.  His promises are always kept and His plans are foolproof.

His rule is perfectly righteous and He never wonders whether His decision is the right one, for He knows the end fully.  He is never surprised nor anxious, for He set the world into motion and holds it all together.

In Him coincidences are truly divine appointments and circumstances are designed and orchestrated by Him.  When evil makes its way into our lives, He is sovereign over that, too.  Using all things together for our good and His glory.  What an amazing God!

Lord, thank You for being Sovereign, Holy, Righteous.  You amaze me, God, and are too great for me to fully comprehend.  

A Season of Thankfulness, Day one – An Unopened Gift

2 Peter 1:3

“I can pray this because his divine power has bestowed on us everything necessary for life and godliness through the rich knowledge of the one who called us by his own glory and excellence.”

Hopping on the thankfulness bandwagon a day late.  Figures.  So this is yesterday’s post.  🙂  Thanksgiving is one cultural holiday worth celebrating!  November is an opportunity to cultivate a heart of gratitude.  For the month of November, I hope to inspire thoughts of sincere gratitude for what we have in Christ.

This scripture makes me think of how silly it would be to be given a gift and have it sit right in front of us, but to doubt that it exists.  Its presence would be undeniable, because it is tangible to us and we would see it with our own eyes.  Denying the gift would be ridiculous, and yet spiritual gifts are often neglected and unseen.  Why?

Surrounding the gift are trials distracting us and people offering different answers that appear to hold promise, yet these other paths do not give us the same peace.

Our enemy is busy trying to undo the greatest gift of all.  Filling our mind with doubts and casting stumbling blocks haphazardly across our paths, the physical seems greater than the spiritual.  Sometimes it seems insurmountable and hopeless.  The answer we long for tarries and we wonder what God’s purpose could be in it all.

Still the gift still sits there, untapped, until we reach for it and apply it to our circumstances and life.  The Holy Spirit within us urges us on to open the gift!  Reaching for God’s promises and crying out to our ever-present God who sees and knows all, He is our strength, our hope, our answer in all situations.  He might not remove the pain or trouble, but He and His Word truly are the answer to everything we face in this life.

Are any of us lonely?  Hurting?  Desperate for a touch of God’s grace and faith?  We have all we need in Christ – for everything we face in this life!  What promise and encouragement we find in God’s word.  Even when our feelings betray us, God’s Word does not.  Open the gift today – get into His Word and let Him speak to You and your situation.  He is able and He loves you!

Lord, help us to access all that You have for us in Your Word.  Knowing You is the greatest treasure we could ever have. Thank You for giving us Your Word.  You are forever faithful!

Worshipful Wednesday: The Context of God’s Purposes

Abundantblessings

Abundantblessings

Jeremiah 29:10 – 14

10 “For the LORD says, ‘Only when the seventy years of Babylonian rule are over will I again take up consideration for you. Then I will fulfill my gracious promise to you and restore you to your homeland. 11 For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the LORD. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope. 12 When you call out to me and come to me in prayer, I will hear your prayers. 13 When you seek me in prayer and worship, you will find me available to you. If you seek me with all your heart and soul, 14 I will make myself available to you,’ says the LORD. ‘Then I will reverse your plight and will regather you from all the nations and all the places where I have exiled you,’ says the LORD. ‘I will bring you back to the place from which I exiled you.’

Jeremiah 30:11, 15-17, 24

11 “For I, the LORD, affirm that I will be with you and will rescue you. I will completely destroy all the nations where I scattered you. But I will not completely destroy you. I will indeed discipline you, but only in due measure. I will not allow you to go entirely unpunished. 15 Why do you complain about your injuries, that your pain is incurable? I have done all this to you because your wickedness is so great and your sin is so much 16 But all who destroyed you will be destroyed. All your enemies will go into exile. Those who plundered you will be plundered. I will cause those who pillaged you to be pillaged. 17 Yes, I will restore you to health. I will heal your wounds. I, the LORD, affirm it! For you have been called an outcast, Zion, whom no one cares for. 24 The anger of the LORD will not turn back until he has fully carried out his intended purposes. In days to come you will come to understand this.”

 

Possibly one of the most well-known promises of God is found in Jeremiah 29:11.  This promise is perhaps popular because we want to believe that our good is God’s goal.  But there is a higher purpose than our comfort and blessing.  God’s glory and a right relationship with Him far exceeds the value of our lives being perfect on this earth.

Rarely have I heard this precious promise considered in the context in which it was made.  It was a promise of restoration and healing in the midst of impending doom being spoken to Jeremiah for God’s people.  God was preparing to discipline His children in captivity to Babylon for seventy years, but gave them hope that He was going to use that captivity to ultimately set them free.   God’s purposes are always good, but the processes we go through in those purposes are not often valued in the eyes of man.

If relief from suffering is our goal, we miss the jewel in the midst of suffering and what it can produce.  From a place of suffering some of the most sincere worship is found.  It is in the dark places that we finally cease to rely on self and cry out to our heavenly Father.  Our eyes are opened to our need for God’s cleansing in our lives and suddenly our focus becomes clearer.  We see Him as our life; nothing in this life could ever satisfy us more than Himself.

We are easily deceived during times of blessing and of trial.  Blessing lulls us into a state of being lukewarm and God loves us enough to wake us up and show us what really matters.  The enemy uses hardship as an opportunity to create doubt in our hearts about God’s character.  

Within our Christian culture there can be lies of prosperity being all that God has planned for His people.  But we do not want to be guilty of what the false prophets were in Jeremiah’s day.  They counseled rebellion against the LORD by insisting that the hardship Jeremiah prophesied was not from God.  If we ascribe to the philosophy of only blessings for God’s people, we become spoiled children only wanting what we perceive as good gifts from our God. 

Accepting hardship as discipline from our loving God and praising Him in the midst is where our greatest gift really lies.  His purposes truly are only good, all the time.  How truly marvelous that our God would go to such lengths to convey His plan and hope to us.  In His mercy, God exposes our hearts and reveals that we have worshiped at the god of comfort and of self.  We are set free when we trust God in all seasons and worship Him in the fire as well as in the times off peace.

Even though it can be difficult to understand why God allows suffering in, God promises we will understand His purposes when we seek Him with all our heart.  His purposes are often hidden deep within our circumstances, a gift to be discovered by those who are willing to lay down their own agenda and seek His will.  It is in our fervent worship that we begin to see His purposes far surpass our understanding.  It is in laying down our desire for a problem-free life and yielding to His plan rather than fighting it or merely surviving that we begin to see through the eyes of eternity.

What a good God to inject hope when His people were under siege.  God knows we are fragile and tend to see only what is right in front of us.  His promises are amazing, but not meant to be our joy – He is our ultimate joy and satisfaction in this life.

Lord, help us to find our real purpose and joy in this life – You.  Help us to worship You through every purpose and plan You have for this life.

Thoughtful Thursday: Exalted Expectations

Jeremiah 29:11

For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.

Proverbs 23:18

Surely there is a future, and your hope will not be cut off.

Proverbs 10:28

The hope of the righteous brings joy, but the expectation of the wicked will perish.

Psalm 62:5

For God alone, O my soul, wait in silence, for my hope is from him. 

Philippians 4:6

Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

Philippians 1:20

As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

At the root of every heartbreak and every discouragement was once a hope or an expectation.  Sometimes life feels like one big carrot thrust in front of us, full of promise.  Then the carrot is taken away, like a big tease.  What do we do then?  Look for the next carrot, maybe?  That next carrot might be even worse than the former one.  What then?

God placed eternity in our hearts and placed us in this time and space, knowing our complete story.  That brings comfort to my soul, but I sure wish at times that I could know what is coming up ahead.  Well, at least I think I do. But in all honesty, if I had known some of the sorrows I was to face ahead of time, I do not know that I would have operated in the same grace as when those things unfolded.  Fear would have likely gripped my heart and I would have tried to impede the suffering ahead of time.  Probably would have complicated matters worse, instead of simply trusting God in all circumstances.  Ironically, I would have potentially missed an even greater blessing that God had planned – I just could not see it in the middle of the carnage of fallen expectations.

If our hope is in some relief or escape from the pain of our expectations being crashed, that is a shallow hope compared to waiting to see what God is going to do with our mess.  Instead of expecting everything to go our way, despite the fact that we are obviously impacted by every turn of this wild ride called life, what if we were, instead, to look eagerly to the LORD to see what He brings about?

Manipulating circumstances to avoid something terrible is attempting to operate as a god, and last I checked, that does not work out too well.  Surrendering the idol of our expectations to God in submission to His will and plan is placing our lives in the hands of the one true living God – a much safer place than in the hands of fallible man.

I like to know where I am going and am not terribly fond of surprises.  Bottom line – I think most of us probably prefer life to be problem-free, but that is not a likely scenario in a fallen world.  What is known and certain is that God knows it all, and He is in control, even when everything seems out of control.  Praise His Name!

Lord, thank You that You never abandon us.  I am amazed at how You can take every situation, every circumstance and turn it around for your glory and our ultimate good.  Help us to trust You while we wait on You.  Thank You, Father, for not granting expectations that You know would ultimately harm us.  You are good all the time and You are Sovereign – even when our expectations are unfulfilled.  

Real Hope and Deliverance

Shelter

2 Timothy 4:16-17

“At my first defense no one appeared in my support; instead they all deserted me – may they not be held accountable for it.  17 But the LORD stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message would be fully proclaimed for all the gentiles to hear.  And so I was delivered from the lion’s mouth.”

Isaiah 54:17

“No weapon forged to be used against you will succeed; you will refute everyone who tries to accuse you. This is what the LORD will do for his servants–I will vindicate them,” says the LORD.”

Lamentations 3:58

“You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.”

Today’s blog is one that brings me some pain to think upon.  Even though I stand on the other side of great angst and suffering and have seen God’s amazing deliverance, reflecting on the horror of being dragged to court relentlessly is something I would rather not do.  Guess there is still some need for healing there.  But in my heart, I am driven by a passion that maybe these words today might offer up some hope to someone in a similar circumstance, or bring healing and confidence that God is indeed our Savior and will never fail us in our time of need.  So may this blog be an offering to my God and a healing balm to those who need it.

The pain of being falsely accused and the terror of my children being harmed is still very real to me.  The truth did not seem to matter and twisted words seared my soul.  Disbelief that one who once was my partner would manipulate and cajole to get his way still is difficult to fathom.  Betrayal by one who professed to be a believer.  How?  Why?  Where was God in all of this?  Right by my side.  How could He allow even a moment of this horror into my life?  Why would He allow the innocent to be condemned in place of the guilty?  So many questions, terror on every side, and yet my soul still hoped in God.  It seemed that the court system was in favor of the violator, but I knew God’s word was true and every man a liar.  Perplexed and crushed, but not destroyed.

Joseph probably wondered how God was going to achieve the promise and prophesy etched in his mind, yet he, too, trusted in God’s sovereignty.  At times when it seems all of life is against you and friends dissipate to avoid your drama, it feels like your life will be ruined forever.  But God.  He is using even the hideous things that we want to avoid to both bring Him glory and to transform our character. Why must such a painful tool be used?  Sometimes we cannot be truly changed with gentle persuasion.  A harsher tool can accomplish beautiful things despite the potential harm it seemingly brings.  More importantly, Why is it painful?

No one would say it was a pleasurable experience to discover betrayal and then have the tables turned on you, but why?  Because at the very heart of that experience is the death of what we knew.  The death of comfort, too.  Innocence is gone and replaced with disillusionment, heartache and shock.  Not pleasurable feelings or emotions at all.  Our very nature craves pleasure and peace.  But can the soul be steadied and at rest when all around it is turbulence and pain?  Yes.  The amazing revelation that pleasure and comfort are not to be worshiped, not to be pursued as an end in and of themselves is liberation.  The lesson is not that we want to become a masochist and crave discomfort, but that we learn to be content and wade out the storm in Christ.  Bathing in His word and looking to Him for deliverance, we discover that our goal was never supposed to be the American dream or our definition of utopia, but obedience and glory for Christ through our lives.

Perhaps a painful trial delivered us from clinging to a person or a circumstance instead of to Christ, as our salvation.  Or maybe it opened up our eyes to see the pain all around us that before we had thought of as things “that happened to other people”.  Ironically, the hated scorn and stigma in our lives can become the very thing the LORD wants to use in our lives to bring others as well as ourselves closer to Him.  It still hurts to recall the former suffering, but I can now see what beauty it has formed in my life and in others.  Although God delivered me mightily, the hurt from the experience is a scar that reminds me what is really important – being completely absorbed in Christ in whatever path He has me to travel.

If you are suffering now, I know no words can remove that pain, except the word of God, and strength is given to those who run to the living God for shelter.  Sometimes it is not until we have been shaken to the very core of your being that we can understand the purpose of its presence.  If we worship Him only for the good things He gives, we miss some of the greatest moments of fellowship with Christ – identifying with Him in suffering.  We cannot outrun the pain, but we can run to Him and His grace is sufficient for those found in Him.  This is what real hope and deliverance are – not avoidance, but strength and grace to walk through whatever this life brings.  My deliverance wasn’t when I finally had the victory in court, but rather when I was broken and desperate and had nothing else to hope in but Him.  Amen.

Thank You, Lord, for the pain and the joys You have allowed into my life.  You are truly good all the time and I worship You for your sovereignty and faithfulness!  I love You, LORD!