Pain as a gift from God

Chronic pain can be a wonderful teacher. It has taught me many things over the years, the most important of which is the faithfulness of God to be my “all-in-all” for the truly needful & necessary in life and living. And for that, I am most grateful. Thank YOU, Lord!

The simple, familiar lyrics below express my sentiment better than anything I could say, write… or even think. Read on ~

You are my strength when I am weak

You are the treasure that I seek

You are my all in all

Seeking You as a precious jewel

Lord, to give up I’d be a fool

You are my all in all

Jesus, Lamb of God

Worthy is Your name! 

(Dennis Jernigan)

Heavenly Minded…but Earthly Active

Earlier this week I learned that the mother of a high school friend had departed this life and had entered eternity. This news caused me to reflect on the close family members that I have “lost” – (my brother, my parents, my father-in-law, my brother-in-law) all having left this world and crossed the threshold into eternity. The result of all of this is that I found my thoughts drifting in the general direction of Heaven. As a born again, spirit-indwelt follower of Jesus, Heaven is my home. I’m a citizen of heaven, currently living on earth. That said, I am not merely biding my time waiting for the ‘glory train’ which will transport me (and all true believers) home. In actuality, I am currently involved in a diplomatic mission – serving as an ‘Ambassador of Heaven’ here upon the earth; serving my King and representing His Kingdom; declaring to all men (without distinction or discrimination) His invitation to come to Him [by faith and in repentance] and be saved.

This is my hope; the Bible calls it a blessed hope! And He desires that my hope, would be their hope. A hope that I greatly anticipate because of the words of Jesus that follow ~

“In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.” (John 14:2-3)

Contrary to the opinion of many – including some who are very close to me – Heaven is not the invention of an over active imagination. It is as sure and certain as the promise of Jesus recorded above: “I am going to prepare a place for you… that where I am, you might also be.”  Interestingly, the Bible does not tell us a great deal about the specifics of heaven and what it will be like. I have often wondered about this and I’ve concluded it’s because our finite minds are unable to comprehend heaven’s riches and wonders and glory. I have also discovered this: The principal concern of the scriptures is not to acquaint us with the treasures and the wonders of heaven, as much as it is to acquaint us with the One who makes our entrance into heaven possible. Because of what Jesus accomplished upon the cross for an unworthy sinner like me, I’m headed to heaven… and I am certainly looking forward to it! But let me make something clear: I am not looking forward to heaven to see ‘streets paved with gold’;  I’m looking forward to heaven to see Jesus – the Lamb of God, my Saviour – face to face!

I’m sure you have heard the expression: “They’re so heavenly minded, that they’re no earthly good!”  I have discovered that there is a much greater concern for most Christians – that of being so consumed with the pleasures and enjoyments of this life, that they lose sight of the glories that await them in heaven – not the least of which is beholding the face of our Saviour.

Our hope in Christ for the future should be the real source of joy and strength for our daily lives. It should also serve as our motive for pure and holy living – “…to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope – the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12-13, free translation)

Something to think about, indeed!

The “Amazing” Aspect of God’s Grace

While doing some devotional reading this morning, I encountered a simple thought by Randy Alcorn that focused upon the “amazing” aspect of God’s grace — something that I have been pondering since. Among many other things, he observed that… “Grace is not about God lowering His standards. It’s about God fulfilling those standards through the substitutionary suffering and sacrifice of Jesus upon the cross.”

The following are my some of my “musings” ~ Grace never ignores or violates this “truth” – the truth that God is perfectly righteous and as such, He cannot tolerate any unrighteousness (read “sin”) in His presence. Consequently, grace (the unmerited and undeserved favor of God) gave what “truth” demanded: the ultimate sacrifice of Jesus for our/my sin.

At this point, it’s important to define sin. The most common word used in the NT Scriptures for “sin” is the Greek word Hamartía, which being defined means “to miss the mark [think ‘the bullseye’] and thus forfeit the prize.” As a result/consequence, whenever we attempt to excuse or otherwise explain away our sin in terms of “I’m not the one at fault here” or “I wouldn’t have done this if you/they had not done that” or “I’m not perfect, but I’m certainly not as bad as that person/those people…” etcetera, ad infinitum, we minimize the magnitude of our sin before God and thereby minimize the greatness of God’s grace in atoning for it.

One of the cardinal elements of the gospel message is the fact that God’s grace is greater than my sin – whatever my sin might be. And yet, my ability to measure the greatness of His grace [the “amazing” aspect of His grace] depends upon my willingness to – in honesty and true humility before Him – recognize the greatness of my sin.

As Randy Alcorn concluded, “A profound awareness of the awfulness of my sin in the eyes of our perfectly holy and righteous God should move my heart to praise Him for the wonders of His truly ‘amazing’ grace.” 

Something to ponder, for sure…

“And you has He made alive who were formerly dead in trespasses and sins, in which you once lived – living according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now working in the children of disobedience. Among them we all formerly lived: in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were – by our very nature – children deserving of wrath, even as the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our sin, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and has raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the ages to come He (the Father) might show forth the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved, through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the free gift of God – His undeserved favor against the just merit of our sin…” (Ephesians 2:1-8, free translation)

 

Amazing grace how sweet the sound
That saved a wretch like me!
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind but now I see.

Through many dangers, toils, and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis grace hath brought me safe thus far,
And grace will lead me home.  (John Newton)

Place of Refuge

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This chair was located in a busy stairwell at University College, Cork. Note the sign: “Place of Refuge” – not so much today. Nevertheless, it communicated a great truth: in the midst of the hustle and bustle and busyness of life, people need a refuge… and they can find one in Jesus, who invites all who are weak and heavy-laden and burdened down with the cares of life to “come unto Him, and find rest for their souls” (cf. Matthew 11:28-30)

Now is the time…

The following is an excerpt from my devotional reading this morning. Enjoy ~

“Now is the time for the soul to seek communion with her Beloved; now must she rise from her native sordidness, and come away from her old associations. If we do not hoist the sail when the breeze is favourable, we shall be blameworthy: times of refreshing ought not to pass over us unimproved. When Jesus Himself visits us in tenderness, and entreats us to arise, can we be so base as to refuse His request? He has Himself risen that He may draw us after Him: He now by the Holy Spirit has revived us, that we may, in newness of life, ascend into the heavenlies, and hold communion with Himself.” (Spurgeon)

“My beloved spoke, and said to me: ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away. For lo, the winter is past, the rain is over and gone. The flowers appear on the earth; The time of singing has come, and the voice of the turtledove is heard in our land. The fig tree puts forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes give a good smell. Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away’!” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13)

A Question for Parents

My devotional reading over the last 2 weeks has me reading through 1st & 2nd Kings. This has made for some sober reading as, once again, I have  been reminded of the importance of our examples (as parents) in our children’s lives. I’ve been struck by the recurring phrase “…he walked in the ways of his father” realizing that this epitaph could be (and indeed might be) penned over almost any one of our children’s lives.

Children are not always great listeners, but they do tend to be great imitators – following our “footsteps” more quickly than they follow our instruction, counsel or advisement. With that being the case, I would like to ask every parent reading this a pointed question: “If your child walks in your ways, will you be happy… or horrified?” Something to prayerfully and honestly consider, indeed!

May we be determined to live confident enough in our own walk and relationship with the Lord, that we might say to our children (echoing the words of the Apostle Paul) “Put into practice the things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me – and model your way of living after it, and the God of peace [of untroubled, undisturbed well-being] will be with you.” (Philippians 4:9, amplified)

Seeking and Finding Forgiveness

My devotions this morning had me “musing” over the importance of confession, repentance and forgiveness; both seeking forgiveness and finding it. It began with Proverbs 28:13 ~ “He that covereth his transgressions shall not prosper: But whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall obtain mercy.”

This immediately reminded me of 1John1:9 ~ “If we confess our sins, He is faithful, just and right to forgive us… and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

At this point I thought of the words of David found in Psalm 32 (listen to them from the CEV) ~ “The one whose wrongdoing is forgiven, whose sin is covered over, is truly happy! The one the LORD doesn’t consider guilty… that one is truly happy! (For) when I kept silent about my sin, my bones wore out; I was groaning all day long — every day, every night… because Your hand was heavy upon me! My energy was sapped as if in a summer drought. So I admitted my sin to you; I didn’t conceal my guilt any longer. “I’ll confess my sins to the LORD” is what I said. Then You forgave my sin and removed the guilt.”

What a great and glorious God we serve – gracious & compassionate, abounding with mercy and rich in love!

 

I found the following quote by Sir Thomas Moore which tied my “musings” together perfectly: “God’s delight is to comfort wounded spirits…and to forgive repentant souls.”

 

Come, Ye Disconsolate

Come, ye disconsolate, where’er ye languish,

Come to the mercy seat, fervently kneel.

Here bring your wounded hearts, here tell your anguish;

Earth has no sorrow that heaven cannot heal.

 

Joy of the desolate, light of the straying,

Hope of the penitent, fadeless and pure!

Here speaks the Comforter, tenderly saying,

“Earth has no sorrow that Heaven cannot cure.”

(Sir Thomas Moore)

 

 

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Grace upon Grace upon Grace…

This morning in my devotional reading, I came across some familiar verses – favorites of mine – in John Ch.1; more specifically, those dealing with the incarnation: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made (created) by Him, and apart from Him was not any thing made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have beheld His glory, the glory of the only Son from the Father – full of grace and truth… [and] from His fullness we have all received – grace upon grace upon grace.” (John. 1:1-3,14,16, free translation)

It was while “musing” upon the aspect of His ‘fullness’ that I remembered something from my archives; something written by the the wonderful wordsmith C.H. Spurgeon, expounding (as only he can) upon this matter of Christ’s fullness – His grace, heaped on top of grace, and much more grace ( the unmerited favor of God) still.

Read on, and enjoy ~ “In Christ, there is a fullness of blessings of every sort and shape; a fullness of grace to pardon, of grace to regenerate, of grace to sanctify, of grace to preserve, and of grace to perfect. There is a fullness at all times; a fullness of comfort in affliction; a fullness of guidance in prosperity. A fullness of every divine attribute, of wisdom, of power, of love; a fullness which it were impossible to survey, much less to explore. Oh, what a fullness must this be of which all receive! Fullness, indeed, must there be when the stream is always flowing, and yet the well springs up as free, as rich, as full as ever. Come, believer, and get all thy need supplied; ask largely, and thou shalt receive largely, for this “fullness” is inexhaustible and is treasured up where all the needy may reach it: even in Jesus, Immanuel – God with us.”

Whatever Sin has Tainted, Redemption Restores

According to the scriptures, there is not a person alive who has not sinned. There never has been and there never shall be (cf. Romans 3:10, 23). Nevertheless, there is another fact to place alongside the above fact. It is the fact that the Lord, Jesus Christ, has provided the necessary means to redeem the world. His redemption stretches just as far as sin has reached, encompassing the entire human race. In other words, wherever sin has ventured (leaving behind its awful consequences) redemption reaches – providing the perfect remedy for each individual. It is a remedy that provides for our forgiveness; a remedy that cancels our guilt; a remedy that provides us with the assurance of our salvation and the promise of eternal life; a remedy that results in our receiving the ‘Spirit of adoption’ whereby we call God in heaven our Father.

This is the gospel. This is the ‘Good News’ for all those who are feeling the weight of sin in the lives; for all those who have tried (in their own strength and by their own efforts) to rise above their sense of guilt and wrong doing, but have found it to be as allusive as the proverbial ‘carrot on the end of the stick.’ The reason? It is not something we can lay hold of through ‘religious deed doing’ or for that matter, by personal sacrifice or by considerate living or by our concern for others. We lay hold of salvation and secure our redemption by a work of God’s grace, through faith. But faith in what or faith in who? It is certainly not by faith in a religious institution, nor faith in a particular philosophy of life & living, nor faith in a belief system of religious writ, ritual, ceremony, sacrifice or sacrament. It is the result of our faith, placed in the person of Jesus Christ and the work of redemption & reconciliation He secured at the cross.

He gave His life for ours – paying a debt He did not owe… because we owed a debt we could not pay.

In light of such ‘good news’, will you join me today in praying that I / we might have an opportunity to share it with someone who desperately needs to hear it?

How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear apart from a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written: ‘How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the gospel of peace, of those preaching the gospel of good things’!” (Romans 10:14-15,  emtv)

WISDOM

“Blessed is the man who finds wisdom, the man who gains understanding, for she is more profitable than silver and yields better returns than gold. She is more precious than rubies; nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are pleasant ways, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who embrace her; those who lay hold of her will be blessed.” (Prov. 3:13-18, NIV)

‎”I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. The fear of the LORD is to hate evil; Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate. Counsel is mine and sound wisdom; I am understanding, power is mine. By me, kings reign and rulers decree justice. By me, princes rule; and nobles, all who judge rightly. I love those who love me; And those who diligently seek me will find me. Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness. My fruit is better than gold, even pure gold, and my yield than choicest silver. I walk in the way of righteousness, in the midst of the paths of justice, to endow those who love me with wealth, that I may fill their treasuries.” (Prov. 8:12-21, NASV)

Wisdom has built a palace supported on seven pillars, and has prepared a great banquet, and mixed the wines, and sent out her maidens inviting all to come. She calls from the busiest intersections in the city: ‘Come, you simple ones without good judgment; come to wisdom’s banquet and drink the wines that I have mixed. Leave behind your foolishness and begin to live; learn how to be wise’…

“Teach a wise man, and he will be the wiser; teach a good man, and he will learn more. For the reverence and fear of God are basic to all wisdom. Knowing God results in every other kind of understanding. ‘I, Wisdom, will make the hours of your day more profitable and the years of your life more fruitful’.” (Prov. 9:1-6; 9-11, Living Bible)