Beauty for Ashes

“To console those who mourn in Zion, To give them beauty for ashes, The oil of joy for mourning, The garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; That they may be called trees of righteousness, The planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified.” Isaiah 61:3, NKJV

Yet another “mega-church” pastor has confessed sexual sin. I am not here to judge him. God will do that. But I am here to urge you to pray for his wife. You may or may not know who he is. That doesn’t really matter. The Lord knows and that is enough.

As a former full time pastor, I have seen the results of this type of betrayal. Yet, as a man, I am not equipped emotionally to understand the depth of betrayal a woman feels when her husband commits adultery.

My friend Joe Dallas has a ministry that deals with addictions to pornography and adultery. God has well equipped Joe to minister to those who are hurt and to those who hurt others. His blog is located at http://joedallas.com/blog/.

At times like this the “headlines” focus almost solely on the pastor with his wife just a footnote. Also, almost always, the wife is to blame for not “meeting his needs.” Nothing could be more ridiculous. She has done nothing wrong. Her only fault was not being able to see her husband’s deception. Everybody else “missed” it too.

So, please pray for those who have or are being hurt by sexual sin. And if you are one who has been betrayed, stop in to see Joe.

Grace and peace…

 

 

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It is good to be alive!

Psalms 103:1-5 (NKJV)
“Bless the Lord, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name! 
Bless the Lord, O my soul, And forget not all His benefits: 
Who forgives all your iniquities, Who heals all your diseases, 
Who redeems your life from destruction, Who crowns you with lovingkindness and tender mercies, 
Who satisfies your mouth with good things, So that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.”

Having spent 12 hours vomiting, followed by 4 days in the hospital with a tube down my throat, it is good to be alive!

Suffering is a hard thing for us. We don’t like it. We don’t understand it. A big reason why we don’t like it IMHO, is that we do not understand it. It would be easier for us if we knew why and how long it would last.

If God spoke to us and said, “I got this trial you need to go through. It will make you stronger by reveling your weakness. I need to teach this to you, because in the coming time, there will be a need for you to depend upon Me and My strength like never before. It will last about a week. But remember, I’ll be there right with you and if it gets too hard, just let Me know and I’ll put an end to it.”

Knowing why and how long would be easier for us. But God doesn’t work that way. He, in His wisdom, decides when and how long and asks us to trust Him. In fact, He knows that suffering is sometimes necessary for us. Consider what the Apostle Peter said:

“In this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.”
1 Peter 1:6-7 NKJV

Three words in this verse indicate that sometimes it is necessary for us to suffer. They are, “if need be.” Now, who decides? It certainly isn’t me. I have yet to wake up in the morning and say, “You know Lord, I really haven’t had a time of trial and suffering in a long time. And You know, I could really use a good trial. So, lay one on me.” Honestly, you probably haven’t prayed a prayer like that either.

God decides when and how we are to be “… grieved by various trials…” Like a good Father, He knows what we need. Now no child would ever want to be corrected. My mother used to say when I was young, “How would you like a good spanking?” And I would be thinking, “Is this a trick question?”

And Peter, that knucklehead, goes on to say, “In this you greatly rejoice…” Sorry, but I haven’t reached that level of spiritual growth that would allow me to rejoice in times of trial. I could see me in the emergency room. “Wow! This is so cool. I’m as sick as a dog, I have a blockage in my small intestine that could cause my insides to rot from gangrene, but I am sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo happy!” About the time I said that, they would book a stay for me at the laughing academy.

I believe that God does not like to see us suffer. In the time of the Judges, Israel was (once again) suffering in bondage because they forsook God and started following idols.

“And His soul could no longer endure the misery of Israel.” Judges 10:16, NKJV

In this verse we see a glimpse of the heart of God towards Israel. And, towards us as well. Look at this:

“For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.” Hebrews 12:6, NKJV

Now, laying in my hospital bed, so sick I wanted to die, I knew that I wasn’t going to die. (Rats! I’m ready to go – but, apparently God doesn’t think so, so here I am). And in the midst of all this suffering and pain, I grew closer to my King. And that (I think) was His purpose. To strengthen me and to draw me closer. But, you know, I really don’t know, so for now I will continue to trust Him who is faithful.

Think about it…

(Scripture taken from the New King James Version, Copyright 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, inc., Used by permission. All rights reserved).

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The God Who Forgets…

 

Isaiah 43:25 : “I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for mine own sake, and will not remember thy sins.” KJV

Jeremiah 31:34 34: “And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” KJV

We all have done things we regret. Thinking back upon them, there are (unfortunately) more than I can number. And thusly, we all would love to forget those things. But we don’t. We are reminded everyday by our situation or circumstance, by friends or enemies, by loved ones (seeing how our regrets affected them) and by those who are still angry with us. It is difficult to forget.

Then there is, the enemy of our faith, who constantly accuses us before the Father (Revelation 12:10). He is constantly reminding us of our regrets.

However, I have come to realize (after 41+ years of walking with the LORD), that regret in the life of the genuine believer is unrealized forgiveness. Think about it, would we be assured of our relationship with God if He had something against us? I don’t think so. I believe that if He were not pleased, He would (after giving us space to repent) gently correct us, Hebrews 12:6-8: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens, And scourges every son whom He receives.”  If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons.” NKJV

So if we are continuing in sin and not being corrected, perhaps we should go back to the beginning? Perhaps we are not “Sons” after all? Lets look at a couple of words in these passages of Scripture:

Chasten, paideuo (pahee-dyoo’-o), to train up a child, i.e. educate, or (by implication) discipline (by punishment). The word also is used with the meaning, “to chastise with blows, to scourge” (see Luke 23:16, 22).

Scourges, mastigoo (mas-tig-o’-o), to flog (literally or figuratively). It is used literally and figuratively in the NT. Here in Hebrews, it is used metaphorically of God correcting His Children.

The Mishna, the “Oral Commandments of (interpreting) the Law,” describes flogging as, the use of three leather strips to the chest, and both arms (thirteen each) for a total of 39. One was omitted as a gesture of mercy towards the offender. Paul endured this physically five times (2 Corinthians 11:24).

Not nearly as severe as Roman Flogging (which often left the offender dead before he could be crucified), it still required a great deal of medical care and took quite a while to heal. And most certainly, left scars to remind the offender.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it is difficult (during correction) to believe that the LORD is doing this out of love. Yet, we must remember, that if we do not endure “corrections,” we are not His children.

I don’t pretend to know exactly why I have endured what I have (I just got home from the hospital, having had a blocked small intestine - no, you really do not want to know the details). But what I do know is that God has said to us though His Word: “For whom the Lord loves He chastens…” and that is enough for me.

And knowing that, I believe that He forgives our sins and chooses not to remember them. In doing so He has no regrets; in fact, He delights in doing so, Isaiah 55:7: “Let the wicked forsake his way, And the unrighteous man his thoughts; Let him return to the Lord, And He will have mercy on him; And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon.” NKJV

God has no regrets about pardoning us, so we should not have any regrets about accepting that pardon. A lesson I still am learning. I hope you are too.

Think about it…

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The God who Remembers…

“Then God remembered Noah…” (Genesis 8:1, NKJV)

“God remembered Abraham…” (Genesis 19:29, NKJV)

“Then God remembered Rachel… (Genesis 30:22, NKJV)

“So God heard their groaning, and God remembered…” (Exodus 2:24, NKJV)

“And Elkanah knew Hannah his wife, and the Lord remembered her…” (1 Samuel 1:19, NKJV)

There are times when we feel (although we would never admit it), that God has abandoned us in our situation. We are overwhelmed. We have prayed and prayed, yet we continue in our situation.

We often hear, “If God loved you…”  The voice that challenges the faithfulness of God is not, of course, the Spirit of God. The enemy of our faith seeks to have us question God in our situation. We are not alone in questioning the will of God for our lives. Consider Job and Jeremiah:

“And Job spoke, and said: ‘May the day perish on which I was born…’” (Job 3:2-3, NKJV)

“Cursed be the day in which I was born!…” “Why did I come forth from the womb to see labor and sorrow, That my days should be consumed with shame?” (Jeremiah 20:14, 18, NKJV)

Both these guys reached the point of even questioning why they were born! You may not be there or have ever considered such a thing. I have, many times. Our situations can be difficult, if not overwhelming.

Truth is, God chose both to accomplish His will, whether they knew exactly why they endured what they did. What God wanted to do and the way He chose to do it though them, was really none of their business.

And therein is the rub; we want to know why we are enduring our situation. And yet, God owes us no answer. His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways (Isaiah 55:10). Do not interpret His silence as a lack of concern or care. Do not interpret a lack of action as a lack of His working on or behalf.

The best that we can do is remember the God who remembers. Our situation is not forever. He can be trusted.

“Who remembered us in our lowly state…” (Psalms 136:23, NKJV)

“When my soul fainted within me, I remembered the Lord…” (Jonah 2:7, NKJV)

“Then God remembered (insert your name here)…”

Think about it…

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Sunday Quotes

“God’s love is strong and pure and not sentimental. He sometimes denies what we ask, and appoints what we would evade. He is working for our highest good and not merely for our present pleasure.”  Andrew Murray

“Continue seeking Him with seriousness. Unless he wanted you, you would not be wanting Him.” C.S. Lewis

“Wherever we find ourselves, God has a reason for placing us there. He is working on us His poiema, or masterpiece. Even in our difficult trials, God has His hand upon our lives to develop in us the character we need to fulfill His plan for us.” Chuck Smith

“Faith is believing in advance what can only be understood in reverse.” Chuck Swindoll

“Some knowledge is too heavy…you cannot bear it…your Father will carry it until you are able.” Corrie ten Boom, The Hiding Place

“God never made a promise that was too good to be true.” Dwight L. Moody

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The Prospect of a New Year…

“The Lord bless you and keep you; 
The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”‘ (Numbers 6:24-26, NKJV)

For many (including myself), 2013 has not been a very good year. Some have lost loved ones; some have lost jobs; some have lost confidence in their pastors; some have lost faith. It has not been a good year.

Yet, God is still in control. His love for us, demonstrated by His sending His Son to redeem us from our sins, is as true as ever. No matter how bad things may be, He abides still.

And remember, the best is yet to come, 1 Peter 1:3-5:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His abundant mercy has begotten us again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are kept by the power of God through faith for salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.” (NKJV)

And so, “The Lord bless you and keep you; 
The Lord make His face shine upon you, And be gracious to you; 
The Lord lift up His countenance upon you, And give you peace.”‘

God bless!

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The End of Our Strength

“Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed” John 20:29

How strong is the snare of the things that are seen, and how necessary for God to keep us in the things that are unseen! If Peter is to walk on the water he must walk; if he is going to swim, he must swim, but he cannot do both. If the bird is going to fly it must keep away from fences and the trees, and trust to its buoyant wings. But if it tries to keep within easy reach of the ground, it will make poor work of flying.

God had to bring Abraham to the end of his own strength, and to let him see that in his own body he could do nothing. He had to consider his own body as good as dead, and then take God for the whole work; and when he looked away from himself, and trusted God alone, then he became fully persuaded that what He had promised, He was able to perform. That is what God is teaching us, and He has to keep away encouraging results until we learn to trust without them, and then He loves to make His Word real in fact as well as faith.

A. B. Simpson (December 15, 1843 – October 29, 1919)

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