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God is still turning sorrow into joy!

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We all know that sometimes bad things happen to good people. Hardly any of us could say that we don’t know someone who has had to endure hardships not of their own choosing. Some of us are afflicted with incurable diseases that we wouldn’t wish on anyone. Still others of us have had to endure the hellish torment of abuse.

Oftentimes it is people we know and trust, people we are close to that will inflict the greatest hurt, leaving the victim shell shocked and asking “why?” or “how”?

Living as we do in a fallen world, a world seemingly dominated by evil, it is inevitable that hurt and pain will come to us. This, however, is not a new thing but merely a repeat of past human performances.

In the Bible there is a story of a young man named Joseph who was the apple of his father’s eye. His older brothers were so jealous of him that they found an occasion to sell Joseph to a caravan of slave traders, thinking they had finally rid themselves of their father’s “pet”.

Unbeknownst to the older siblings however, God had another plan. You see, God knew that a great famine was coming upon the land and many people would starve unless He intervened. Aren’t you glad that God intervenes in the affairs of man?

As impossible as it sounds, it was God who had orchestrated the selling of Joseph into slavery. In the years to come God gave Joseph favor in the house of Pharaoh to the point that he was second in power over all the land. Because of this divine intervention, Joseph was able to provide food and sustenance to the children of Israel, including his own father and brothers.

The wonderful story of Joseph ends with him telling his brothers…

“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.”     Genesis 50:20

Many of us have a similar story of God’s deliverance to tell, and I am no exception. I have experienced firsthand how that God can take a horrible situation and turn it into something beautiful.

There are few things a Christian would rather avoid than divorce, especially a divorce that you not only did not want, but one in which there are no biblical grounds for. I was forced into just such a situation many years ago, and the impact to me was completely devastating.

The mental anguish, the heartbreak that seemed to never go away, the catastrophic impact upon a once very promising ministry, all of these and much more were the result of a decision made by another person. A person I trusted.

When you are living a nightmare such as this, you feel as though your life is over. Everything you believed in, trusted in, and longed for is now gone. What remains is a void, a vacuum that cannot be filled. Life becomes a painful, daily chore of going through the motions, somehow detached from the living but existing nonetheless.

Each day of this zombie like existence becomes a test of your will to survive, because you don’t dare think beyond your present circumstances. To do so would be too risky, and at such a vulnerable state you cannot permit yourself to have even the slightest hope.

Thirty years ago I could never have permitted myself to have hope for a future. I was convinced that my life was destined to be one of failure, hurt, and misery. After all, how could I expect anything but that? When you have sunk so low that you have to reach up just to touch the bottom, what hope is there?

To be sure, evil can and does interrupt our lives with often devastating results, but I have learned that God always has another plan! Even though others might devise evil and hurt to inflict us with, God will take that and turn it into something beautiful if we will allow Him to take us through the refining process.

Yet God, the merciful and loving Father, had a different plan. A plan I could not see for the hurt and the tears, but a plan nonetheless. His plan included a hope for a future, one without hurt, pain, and resentment.

As I write this today, I am mindful of where I have come from. God not only delivered me, but He restored my life back to me, and in fact gave me a better life than I ever would have had! Who but God could do such things?

If today you find yourself in despair, the victim of someone’s evil intentions, you really can hope for a better life. In the shelter of our Fathers arms there is comfort and warmth, a respite from the fiery darts of the wicked.

May I encourage you to run into those arms today? I know that if you will do so, He will begin to reveal to you a better plan and a better life. It may not come over night, but there is a peace that passes all understanding in knowing that He is working on your behalf.

Be blessed,

Ron

 

Man shall live by what?

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Most of us have a code, or creed that we live by. A set of principles, they guide us each day through this life. They can come from family, church, the military, even the streets.

What may come as a surprise to many is that God also has a set of principles. It’s called the Bible. For example:

But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.’ ”.  Matthew 4:4

The verse above comes from a very hungry and tired Jesus, who, after being tempted for 40 days, is responding to Satan’s temptation to turn stones into bread.

He is repeating something stated in the distant past of Israel’s history by Moses, who was reminding Israel of God’s providence during their trek through the wilderness.

So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.”     Deuteronomy 8:3

I find it interesting that the interpretation of both Jesus and Moses is the phrase” every word”. What’s so interesting about that? Well for starters, the phrase “every word” disallows the selective application of God’s Word to our lives.

In other words, every word means none may be excluded!

Lots of things today are thought of as being selective. Husbands may have been told that they have selective hearing, for example. Or those of us who tend to be forgetful at times may have been told that we have a selective memory.

For the child of God however, there can be no selective application of the Word if we are going to walk in obedience to it. In other words, we cannot selectively pick and choose those verses we wish to live by. It doesn’t work that way.

If Jesus stated that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God, are we to argue that we don’t like or accept certain parts of it?

I first became aware of this selective application of the Word many years ago when having a discussion with a neighbor about the Millennial Reign mentioned in the book of Revelation.

This neighbor, who was also a deacon in his church, told me that he didn’t believe in the thousand year reign of Christ. When I asked him how he could not believe in something that was obviously written in the Word, he simply said “I just don’t believe in that”. Not knowing how to respond to that, I just walked away.

Really? You can read it for yourself. You know it’s there. Yet you arbitrarily reject it just because? Like I said, that was my first exposure to the selective Word mindset. Unfortunately, it’s far from an isolated incident.

There is a very simple, logical reason as to why God says we are to live by every Word that comes from him. The Word of God offers us instructions for living according to His plan, not our own.

And therein lies the problem, doesn’t it?

His plan vs. our plan. His Words vs. our words. His way vs. our way. The age old battle of the human will vs. the will of God.

Paul reminds us that “All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:”   II Tim. 3:16    emphasis mine

Could it be that part of the problem is that we think we “have arrived” and are above being taught?

Peter addressed this attitude in his first epistle. He tells us that our hearts need to be pure so that we can desire the word that will encourage growth.

“Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word that you may grow thereby.”   1 Peter 2: 1,2      emphasis mine

It is obvious then that we are to live not just by the Word, but by every Word that comes from God if we are to be nurtured and strengthened in our faith.

None of us “have arrived” to the point of no longer needing to learn of Him. To think that we have is to be in deception.

My prayer is that every one of us will take heed to the words of Jesus, who when rebuking Satan said that we must live by every Word from God.

After all, He’s still working on each of us.

Ron

Continue in the things we have learned

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Unlike so many of you,I had little in the way of church,or religious training while growing up. I could count on both hands the number of times I went to church during those years,so to say I got a late start would be an understatement! Quite the contrast to my wife,the pastor’s daughter, whose earliest memories are of being in church!

During those early years I could never have imagined that one day God’s Word would become the bedrock of my life. Indeed,had God never drawn me to Him and instilled in me a deep hunger to know His Word,my life would have been unimaginably different.

As I gaze upon the events unfolding in the world I can’t help but pause to give God thanks that I am no longer the person I used to be,or the person I could have easily become. At this stage of my life,I now know more assuredly than I ever have before,that He and He alone has kept me from reverting back to that person I once was.

He has a plan for my life. And He has one for you too.

Listening to current events can be disturbing to even the most well grounded among us. For those not familiar with God’s Word,some of these events are actually frightening when you realize their potential implications.To those people,it must seem overwhelming watching the evening news.

The Apostle Paul knew something about this as well and even prophesied about it. In 2nd Timothy 3:2 he described the condition of the world in the latter days as a time when men would be lovers of themselves,boastful,proud,and a whole host of other not too pleasant things,most of which we are seeing unfold right before our eyes.

Yet this great Apostle knew something else about this,which was that irregardless of what was going on around us,we were to continue walking with Christ as though nothing was happening. He explained it this way:

10 But you have carefully followed my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, love, perseverance,
11 persecutions, afflictions, which happened to me at Antioch, at Iconium, at Lystra—what persecutions I endured. And out of them all the Lord delivered me.
12 Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution.
13 But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
14 But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them,
15 and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.    II Tim 3:10-15   NKJV   (emphasis mine)

Paul tells us we must continue in the things we have learned,which brings me to the central point of this post. All of us must remind ourselves from time to time that our hope is sealed in Jesus Christ. The things we have learned through our studies of the scriptures have made us wise for salvation,meaning the Word of God will instruct us in all things necessary for our salvation.

Events taking place now in the world,and events to come in the future all have the ability to divert our attention away from the “things we have learned”. Our responsibility is to make certain that does not happen,which we can accomplish by following Paul’s advice to Timothy.

Have a blessed Wednesday,

Ron