Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Lord will fight for you

The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.” (Exodus 14:14, ESV)

Pursued by Egypt, fearing for their lives, the people of God begin to clamor. But God doesn't intend to abandon his people.

Moses calls them to stand firm and see the salvation of the Lord. They need not fight and they need not cry out to God in case he'd forgotten them, they need only wait and watch the salvation of the Lord.

Isn't this same encouragement ours?

So often we would turn to despair and doubt instead of faith. We despair that our lives possess any hope of change. We doubt that our Lord actually cares what happens to us.

But the God of the Bible is not a God of despair and doubt. No circumstance has ever overwhelmed him. Neither our weakness nor the world's hatred can cause him to falter. No doubt changes the reality that our Savior died for us and God the Holy Spirit now dwells in us.

Fear not, child of God. Stand firm. The Lord will fight for you.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Blessings through affliction

  “The name of the second he called Ephraim, “For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction.”” (Genesis 41:52, ESV)

Returning to Joseph, we might wonder at how much Joseph understood or appreciated the grace of God. He was continually blessed in Egypt, but who said he wanted to be in Egypt? He was far from home and far from family.

I don't know how much Joseph saw grace in his life, but today's passage sheds light on at least one occasion. With the birth of his second son, he said, "For God has made me fruitful in the land of my affliction."

Joseph was receiving blessing amid a situation he might not call "blessed." He was receiving grace amid a life rooted in affliction.

Our own lives are certainly like this. We may live lives full of affliction, when we pray for blessing we do not envision anything like what we have. But does God no longer bless us? Is there no more grace left for us?

The path through our affliction must lie in humility and faith.

In humility, we must submit our desires to those of our Father. His ways are higher than our ways, his thoughts higher than our thoughts. I doubt Joseph wanted to be in Egypt, but that's where his God had him, so that's where he was faithfully living.

In faith, we trust that God truly does work all things according to good for his children. Sometimes, we measure blessing by our wish list and forget that our Father works perfect blessing for us at all times.

How is God blessing you right now? I don't know. Whether God is blessing you right now? He absolutely is. As you trek through affliction and trial, don't be surprised when God blesses you and is gracious to you.

Really, could it be any other way?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Wouldn't a loving God answer my prayers?

   “But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.” (Genesis 39:21, ESV)

When I pray, I usually pray for success, for health, for solutions, for deliveranceI tend to pray for triumph. Whatever the situation is, my prayers are for the best possible outcome as I envision it. I see nothing wrong with that, but I do find it interesting how God responded in Joseph's life.

I don't think it would be too much to assume that young Joseph was praying during these hard times.

I'll bet he prayed for deliverance from the Midianites who bought him, and yet he was sold to Potiphar. I'll bet he prayed for deliverance from Potiphar, but instead God chose to prosper Joseph and keep him in Potiphar's house. When Potiphar's wife falsely accused Joseph, I'm sure he prayed that he would be vindicated, instead he was thrown in prison.

Yet even as his situation seemed to be growing continually worse, Genesis records that the Lord was with Joseph and showing him steadfast love, not by answering his prayers for deliverance (which he was no doubt praying again), but by giving him favor in the eyes of the keeper of the prison.

Would Joseph have counted this as a triumphant answer to prayer? Was Joseph just basking in the steadfast love of the Lord in those circumstances? Maybe. Although, if he was anything like me, likely not. Yet whether Joseph understood it or not, the Lord was pouring out steadfast love upon his child.

The Lord's love for his children is true and unshakable, even if it cannot be measured by the number of times he has said "yes" or by how much we enjoy our present circumstances.

Whether you are in good times or affliction, may you rejoice today in the steadfast love of your heavenly Father.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Carson on God's Love [Quotes]

"God's love is to be admired not because the world is so big but because the world is so bad."
D.A. Carson

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

If only he loved me

   “And Leah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Reuben, for she said, “Because the Lord has looked upon my affliction; for now my husband will love me.”” (Genesis 29:32, ESV)

The story of Leah is heart-wrenching.

From the beginning, she is the one who is overlooked. She is not much to look at and never catches Jacob's eye. Yet, through her father's trickery, she is wed to Jacob all the same. No matter what she does, she is never enough, her accomplishments are never good enough. She remains the overlooked and unworthy one.

In her sorrow, she sees her first sons as God's mercies in light of her poor standing. With her first, she thinks, "Maybe Jacob will finally love me," with her second (the first not accomplishing what she hoped), she thinks, "God gives me children because he sees that I am hated."

What a bitter existence she lived. She barters for love and standing and always comes up empty. This is the love of the world. Always conditional and so often elusive.

But the love of God isn't like that. God doesn't ask us to prove our worth because he knows we couldn't. God doesn't ask us to buy his affections because he knows we have nothing to buy with.

In Christ, God took the unworthy and made them worthy. In Christ, he poured out love on the unlovely.

The overlooked ones no longer, behold the children God has loved.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Loving (all) those who go astray

   “What do you think? If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go in search of the one that went astray? And if he finds it, truly, I say to you, he rejoices over it more than over the ninety-nine that never went astray.” (Matthew 18:12–13, ESV)

How's your heart toward those who have gone astray?

Interestingly (and I think importantly), this passage comes right before Jesus' teaching on what we'd call church discipline. I would describe church discipline as the process whereby Christians seek to restore a sinning brother or sister (c.f. verse 15 "If he listens to you, you have gained your brother").

I think church discipline can be mistaken for the process where by Christians gradually write off "sinners" and dissolve their affections and engagement with the individual as time passes.

Jesus' teaching doesn't allow us to do anything of the sort. Our Savior seeks out and rejoices over sheep that go astray. Their distance almost seems to intensify his affection for them (e.g. Matt 23:37). He longs to see them reconciled.

If you are in a biblical church, you likely know someone under church discipline. They may be growing, they may be languishing. Either way, may our hearts long for the restoration of Christ's sheep. Through love, prayer and persistence may we seek these sheep. May our hearts ache like our Savior's!

And when Christ brings his sheep back (and he will), may we rejoice in the work of our good shepherd and embrace the sheep he has restored.