Monday, December 28, 2009
Not to gross you out, but a lot of the time the pain starts as electric shock or nerve pain that "lights up" a nerve. Sometimes it is a small shock and sometimes i can trace exactly where the nerve travels from my spine to the nerve ending. For the past couple weeks, i again remember where the nerves in my face run and (here is the potentially gross part) i am very aware of my retinal nerve and all it's little branches.
All that to say, it is hard to do much but listen. Thankfully Sovereign Grace Ministry has a lovely free audio resource page here. I highly recommend taking a gander through... lots of good stuff!
Friday, December 25, 2009
we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
After meditating on this passage for a couple weeks, God has revealed to me my weakness in hoping. It is easy to hope in the coming of Christ and salvation because these things are clearly laid out in scripture. However, i have made a habit of not hoping for anything else. I do not hope or expect that He will fulfill the desires He has put in my heart out of fear of disappointment or doubt that it was He that put them there. Oh me of little faith! I pray for others in expectation of the good God will do for them; however when i pray for myself, i do not wait in expectation. Although thinking i was being practical and rational, i was actually laying out the desires of my heart as confessions of sin. "Here are the desires that You may very well have put in my heart Lord, please take them away." I am not giving God, my Father a chance to disappoint me, but i am missing the fact that He won't!
The greatest answered prayer of my life in Christ thus far was a resounding, no. I am grateful for that answer - in hind sight - as so much blessing and growth has come from it. But now i compare my juvenile 'first prayer as a Christian' to my now 4 years sanctified hopes.
In verse 5 (hope does not put us to shame, hope being an expectation and shame being hope deceived) we are told that our hope, which is the product of character, which is the product of endurance, which is the product of suffering will not be put to shame. This hope that has been purified under the fire of trial will not be put to shame. Now i am not a biblical scholar by any means, but to me this passage is pointing to our hope in Christ in Heaven, possibly leaving room for hope in earthly blessings but not directly; which doesn't really incline me to start hoping in anything more than eternity with Christ which is ultimate.
In overview i see numerous people in the Bible being blessed after God has made them small. I also see disciples suffering to their end. I see promises like,
My conclusion: I don't know... hope that God will fulfill the inconsequential desires of my heart knowing that regardless in the end i get Christ?
Thursday, December 24, 2009
2 But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah,
who are too little to be among the clans of Judah,
from you shall come forth for me
one who is to be ruler in Israel,
whose coming forth is from of old,
from ancient days.
We find a pattern with the Scriptures: Abraham was called out of his established place in his father's household to become a nomad. Once he was outside known territory, God could use him. Moses was required to live in the desert for 40 years before he could lead the Jewish people out of Egypt. It seems that God loves to take mighty things and make them smaller in order to confound the world and it's wisdom. Bethlehem was a border town with the Gentiles. It was considered unclean and totally out of touch with the rest of the Jewish realm. Yet it was Bethlehem that God chose to birth the Savior of mankind, Jesus Christ. Do you feel that God is whittling you down? Rejoice, he's getting ready to use you in a great way! Do you see yourself on the margins and insignificant? Congratulations! You're positioned to do great things for God. He has a record of taking weak and foolish things to confound the strong and wise.
Dave Whitehead, Senior Pastor, Grace NYC
2Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
The Nativity story is not a holiday story, it is the Gospel story of the One who is ruler of the universe, the source of all power and good - the One and Only Savior. It is a story of hope and love but also of sin, punishment and even death. The Nativity story highlights Jesus Christ, Son of God and does not end with his birth.
1The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. Mark 1:1
35And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God. Luke 1:35
29And behold, they (demons) cried out, "What have you to do with us, O Son of God? Have you come here to torment us before the time?" Matthew 8:29
61 bAgain the high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" 62And Jesus said,
9But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9
31 but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name. John 20:31
C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity: " Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. Revelation 21:4 & Isaiah 25:8
There is more to the story than the birth of a child - much more. I beg you, if you feel compelled to tell this story, tell the whole story and add nothing. The Holy Spirit has left this exhortation:
18I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this book: if anyone adds to them, God will add to him the plagues described in this book, 19and if anyone takes away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God will take away his share in the tree of life and in the holy city, which are described in this book.
20He who testifies to these things says,
Wednesday, December 9, 2009
6In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, 7so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. 8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, 9obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
When trials come upon us we have a choice. We can complain, vent, find some other functional savior OR we can bring our requests to God and rejoice. We do not rejoice in the trial but in the result of the trial. As we turn to Christ as our savior in times of trial, He is making us a new person. As Mark Driscoll puts it, trials hurt because we are, "being birthed into new life. Like a mother in the travails of childbirth. In that we rejoice."
Having trouble rejoicing? In 1 Peter 1:3-9 alone, we are given plenty of reasons to rejoice.
- God is great in mercy vv.3
- He has given us new birth vv.3
- the resurrection of Christ gives us a Living Hope vv. 3
- we are heirs and sons of God vv. 4
- that inheritance is kept safe in Heaven vv.4
- we are hedged in and shielded by the power of God! vv.5
- salvation is already prepared to be revealed vv. 5
- your pain is only for a little while vv. 6
- we are being purified vv. 7
- Christ will come for you vv. 7
- you love Him because He loves you vv. 8
- you do not see Him and yet believe (John 20:29) vv. 8
- you are receiving the goal of your faith - salvation vv.
And finally, a word from my friend Charlie:
"This depression comes over me whenever the Lord is preparing a larger blessing for my ministry. The cloud is black before it breaks and overshadows before it yields its deluge of mercy.
Depression has now become to me as a prophet in rough clothing, a John the Baptist heralding the nearer coming of my Lord’s richer benison. So have far better men found it. The scouring of the vessel has fitted it for the Master’s use.
Immersion in suffering has preceded the filling of the Holy Ghost. Fasting gives an appetite for the banquet. The Lord is revealed in the backside of the desert, while His servant keeps the sheep and waits in solitary awe.
The wilderness is the way to Canaan. The low valley leads to the towering mountain. Defeat prepares for victory. The raven is sent forth before the dove. The darkest hour of the night precedes the day-dawn.
The mariners go down to the depths, but the next wave makes them mount to the heaven. Their soul is melted because of trouble before He bringeth them to their desired haven."
-“When a Preacher is Downcast”, Charles H. Spurgeon
Take heart and rejoice my friend, there is far more growth in the valley than on the mountain top. The fog is giving you a spirit of wisdom and revelation that you may know your LORD more.