The Old Preacher

Viewing the World through God's Word

Category: Faith (page 1 of 2)

The Silence of God

The silence of God.
Deafening.
Devastating.
All my life I’ve prayed.
Answers never came dramatically.
But I always had the sense that  God was there and in control,
through circumstances providing,
answering.

But now, silence.

Not me alone, I learn.

Joseph.
Sold by his brothers to traders,
who caravaned him to Egypt.
Camel clopping hoofs,
traders laughing.
Though the narrative says nothing,
surely in those frightening hours,
torn from home,
Joseph surely prayed.
But God’s response was .  .  . silence.

David.
The Psalms give glimpses
of 
his struggles with God’s silence,
as 1 & 2 Samuel tell the history–
a fugitive in the wilderness from Saul’s fury,
a dethroned king running for his life from his son.
” O my God, I cry out by day,
but you do not answer” (Psalm 22:2a).

“To you I call, O LORD my Rock;
do not turn a deaf ear to me.
For if you remain silent,
I will be like those who have gone down to the pit”
(Psalm 28:1).

“O LORD, you have seen this;
be not silent.
Do not be far from me, O Lord”
(Psalm 35:22).

“O God, whom I praise, do not remain silent . . . ” (Psalm 109:1).

So David prayed repeatedly to a silent God.
And all Israel chanted his prayers in worship.
Israel, God’s chosen, often heard God’s silence.

Asaph, of whom we know little:
“O God, do not keep silent;
be not quiet, O God,
be not still” (Psalm 83:1).

Of course, Job–
his suffering most heart-wrenching.
Family crushed
wealth robbed,
health gone,
helplessly dying in the dirt,
surrounded by three friends,
who searched for sin that caused such suffering.
From them an endless chain of words.
From God, silence.
” , , ,there was a time when God answered my prayers” (Job 12:4).
Not now.

And me.
The silence of God surrounds me.
I cup my ear to hear a word.
Squint my eyes to see his hand.
With David I pray,
“O God, whom I praise,
do not remain silent.”

What am I to do?
Not be silent.
Pray.
Trust.
Both are hard,
when God stays silent,
when he remains hidden,
when I feel he’s a father,
giving a stone, not bread.

But, listen,
I hear Joseph whisper,
“It was God who sent me to Egypt,
to save many lives.”
But Joseph knew only much later
that God’s silence was not for suffering,
but salvation.

And David:
“Blessed be the Lord,
for he has head the sound of my pleading . . .
So I am helped,
and my heart rejoices.”

I hold Asapah’s words,
and hear him as he writes in faith,
“Our God comes and will not be silent;
a fire devours before him
and around him a tempest rages” (Psalm 50:3).

And Job, whom the Lord reproved
out of the whirlwind:
“Who is this
that darkens counsel without knowledge?” (Job 38:2).

When I don’t humbly pray,
when I don’t persevere in trust through silence,
when I don’t credit God with being at work,
I’m a presumptuous fool.
The end will show the good of God.
His triumphant voice will shatter the silence.
‘Til then, I must seek to hear his voice
In creation, in the Gospel, in his Son.

Despite my deafness,
Francis Schaeffer’s words
are always wise and true:

“He is There,
and He Is Not Silent”.

 

 

 

 

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Me? Job?

I dismissed any comparison  with Job.
His sufferings dwarf mine.
But over time my condition’s worsened.
Now I dare compare.
Not with the whole of his sufferings
or his encounter with the sovereign God.
Just the scene Job didn’t see.

Satan proposes a cosmic contest to God.
“Does Job  fear you for nothing?
Stretch out your hand,
strike his bone and flesh
and he’ll curse you to your face.”
“You’re on, ” God replies.

I wonder:
Did Satan offer that deal to God over me?
“Does Allan fear you for nothing?
Stretch out your hand,
take away his health
and he’ll curse you to your face.”
Am I presumptuous to think
Satan singles me out as a target?
And that God risks his honor over me?

I dare think it possible,
because over 150,000 people in the world
die each day–
a great mass of humanity
swept away in death.
Psalm 90 echoes its depression .

“You [Lord] sweep men away in the sleep of death;
they are like the new grass of the morning–
though in the morning it springs up new,
by evening it is dry and withered.
We are consumed by your anger and
terrified by your indignation.
You have set our iniquities before you,
our secret sins in the light of your presence.
All our days pass away under your wrath;
we finish our years with a moan” (Psalm 90:5-9).

Such death is “normal”.
A man ages, gets ill,
and becomes a faceless statistic,
part of the moaners.
I know Jesus has turned the psalm on its head.
But that’s not my point here.
My point is this:
I don’t want to see
my PLS and melanoma
as just a normal part of growing old,
making me  part of the mob that dies daily.

I don’t want to merely be that mob’s member.
But I fear I’m becoming one.
Ten years–surgeries, tests, another illness,
new symptoms added to the old.
I fear I’m finishing like all the rest–
with a moan.

I want to play a role
in that cosmic contest.
Satan has gone to God:
“Does Allan fear you for nothing?
Stretch out your hand,
take away his health
and he’ll curse you to your face.”
God says, “You’re on.”

If so, how I deal with disease and dying
matters in the heavenly realms.
Trusting God, praising God
upholds God’s honor.
Loving God for who he is,
not only for what he gives,
proves God’s worth–
and leaves my heel marks on Satan’s neck.

Dare I believe
that I’m part of this?
Ephesians 3:10,Paul wrote,
“[God’s] intent was now through the church,
the manifold wisdom of God should be made known
to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms . . . “

I’m part of Christ’s church,
one through whom God makes known
his wisdom to the rulers in the heavenly realms.
A cosmic contest rages, a war–
I’m a warrior in it.
My faith, my praise, my love for God
turns the tide,
makes Satan a loser
and God exalted.

What I really want?
To wake up tomorrow,
put my feet on the floor,
and walk.
To look in the mirror
and see my head clear,
baby skin instead of an ugly patch
of melanoma.
If that can’t be, let me fight the fight of faith.

One thing hardest to bear in old age
is insignificance,
life passing by
while you sit and watch.
Is that pride?
Is Jesus teaching me humility?
That only he is truly significant?

Maybe.
But my bearing old-age insignificance
isn’t a longing for the praise of people.
It’s assurance that my life counts
for the sake of Christ’s kingdom.

It counts if I trust him even without understanding.
It counts if I worship him even in suffering.
It counts if I pray even without answers.
It counts if I stand on his Word’s promises,
even if sight makes his promises foolish.
It counts if I love, even when I’m hurting.

And if it counts, Satan loses.
And if Satan loses,
God wins.
And if God wins . . .

with my little frail life,
in the heavenly realms,
I’ve exalted the name of the Lord.

Ken Gire (The North Face of God) writes,
“We can sheath our swords in retreat.
We can lay down our swords in surrender.
We can fall on our swords in despair.
Or we can, with the brave who’ve gone before us,
draw our swords and ride with full fury into the enemies’ ranks.
A day may come when our courage will fail.
But it will not be
this day.
This day we fight.”

Satan and God are watching.

 

 

 

 

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How Shall We Live With No Answer?

At some time or another
each of us will stand at the same crevasse
where the Psalm 119 psalmist stood.
Shriveled like a wine skin,  exhausted,
and waiting for an answer from God.
He may answer dramatically, out of a whirlwind,
as he did Job.
Or he may answer demurely, in a still small voice,
as he did Elijah.
Or he might not answer at all,
as David apparently experienced
in Psalm 119.

In that case we must wait
for the day the answer comes.
But even if the answer doesn’t come,
we must still live today.
The question is how?
“How shall we live today?”
Will we live by faith,
trusting God’s Word that he’ll not forsake us?
Or will we live by sight,
trusting the appearance that God has forsaken us?

I took the above from The North Face of God,
by Ken Gire.

The questions confront me.
Not because I feel God has forsaken me.
But because they paint the conflict
in stark black and white.
With no answer for healing yet,
the question is, “How will I live today?”

I look like God has forsaken me.
It feels that way.
But how will I live under heaven’s silence?
By sight?  By what appears to be?
Or by faith in God’s promises?

I question God . . .
Why have you allowed these illnesses?
Why no answer when so many pray for my healing?
Then I remember Jesus’ parable in Luke 18.
A poor widow repeatedly begs a judge for justice.
Finally, worn down the judge rules in her favor.
The lesson Jesus draws is not persist in prayer.
The lesson is a question:
When the Son returns,
how many will he find who have faith?

I’m so busy asking him my questions,
I don’t hear what he’s asking me.
And his question
paints my predicament
in stark black and white.
Under heaven’s silence,
will I live today by what appears to be?
Or will I live today
by faith, trusting his Word?

I don’t understand what God is doing.
I don’t like what God is doing.
But my battle is part of a bigger war,
a war against unbelief,
a war in which warriors are called to live by faith,
and thereby glorify Christ.
Who knows what God is doing?
Who knows how my part plays in the whole?
But my little part is important.
I either add to Christ’s honor in the heavenly realms,
or diminish it.

Under heaven’s silence,
how will I live today.
Not by what appears to be,
though appearance is weighty,
and I’m tempted to “wisely” live by it.
Of course, God has forsaken little me.
Of course, the answer will never come.
Of course, I should curse God and die.
NO!

By God’s grace, I will live today by faith
trusting his promises,
even though I can’t see them kept.
I will win the battle,
and I will pray that when the Son comes,
he will find my faith on earth.

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Hospital

I spent three days in the hospital last week.

It all started when coughing woke me 4:45 a.m. I fought to breathe.  Lois phoned 911.  Paramedics, despite my misgivings, loaded me onto a gurney and slid me in an ambulance.  What followed was the roughest ride I’ve ever had.  Don’t they put shocks on these things?

At Bayonet Point Hospital, I was rolled to the ER where they put a huge oxygen mask on me.  I sounded like Darth Vader.  My great primary doctor appeared with assuring words.  They probably did tests; but I don’t remember.  I do remember being wheeled to a room.  Admitted.

So started a series of tests and treatments that continued all hours day and night—blood tests, breathing treatments, temperature, blood pressure, oxygen tests.  The first night (Tuesday) I didn’t get to sleep until 3:30 a.m.  I was given a “better” bed (it was) at about 2:30 a.m.—which meant four nurses dumping me from the less-good to the “better” bed.  I woke weary about 6 a.m.  Pill time.

The second night was slightly better.  I slept five hours, interrupted by more tests.  I again woke weary at 6.  By now, I was crazy to go home.

But the staff was wonderful.  Genuinely caring.  Personable. Professional.  Friendly.  Warm.  I give them an A+.  My primary doctor too.  He visited every day, and took charge of my care.  In my book, he’s one in a million.  Knowledgeable.  Professional.  Putting the patient’s needs above traditional protocol. His diagnosis:  pneumonia.  Even though an x-ray showed little improvement after three days of IV antibiotics, he recognized hospitalization was counter-productive, surrendered to my nagging, and released me.

A muscular CNA shifted me to a wheelchair and bear-hugged me into our daughter Missy’s car.  Free at last!  I dropped from her car into my wheelchair for the ride into the house.  How happy I was to see our dog Scooby Girl!  I think she was happy to have me home too.

I’m still weak.  Need oxygen.  And Lois uses a Hoyer Lift to transfer me from bed to wheelchair.  A big sack of potatoes being hauled around!

What does the future hold?  Hopefully I’ll regain some strength.  My legs are like wet noodles.  Hopefully, too, antibiotic pills will break up congestion in my lungs.

That’s my health report.  Not good.  Now, my God report.  I thank him I’m back home. I thank him for my constant-companion wife and supportive family. I thank him for my caring and pro-active primary doctor. I thank him for every one who prays for me.  And I thank him for the wonderful hospital staff.

But I wonder what God is doing.  I’ve prayed repeatedly for healing.  But the Lord’s been silent.  Should I keep asking, because those who keep asking receive? Or is the Lord saying no–“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness”? Instead of taking my weakness away, does he want to give me power to endure with faith and joy and praise for his honor? I haven’t “heard” a no yet, but there it is in 2 Corinthians.  Maybe I just can’t accept that these closing months/years of my life here must be lived this way. Am I believing or just stubborn?

Almost daily I recall Jesus’ promise . . .

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.  For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened. Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:7-11)!

Honestly?  It feels like the Father is giving me a stone, not bread.

Then I remember God is sovereign . . .

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11,12).

He “works all things according to the counsel of his will . . . that we should be to the praise of his glory”.

And he works all things for our good . . .

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).

I guess that all means the “good gifts” he promises to give may not look or feel good, but ultimately are.  So I’m left hanging by finger nails onto his promises, trusting this is all good and, that if I fall, underneath are the everlasting arms (Deuteronomy 33:27).

Thank you for praying.

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But If Not

“The Lord is strong enough to rescue me
if he chooses.
But if not, I will not give in to sin.
My God is able to heal me
if he decides it best.
But if not, I will not forsake my confession of faith.
My God can undo this disability
if he but speaks the word.
But if not, I will trust in the God
who will raise me from the dead.”

Those faith-defiant words
belong to Greg Morse
in a desiringgod.org blog
(https://www.facebook.com/1595029729/posts/
10214939297667998/)

my younger daughter sent me.

They’re easier said than said.

“I will pray, oh, will I pray,
‘Lord, deliver me from evil.’
I will pray, ‘Father, let this cup pass from me.’
I will pray, ‘O my God, let me not be put to shame;
let not my enemies exult over me.’
I also will pray,
‘But not my will, but yours, be done’.”

Easier said than said.

(Morse asks) “Do you see him sympathizing with you?
Do you see him suffer for you? As all else fails,
is he enough for you?
Do you believe his promise
that soon you will suffer no more?
Do you see him with you?
Do you know the depths of his love for you?
Do you know he is strengthening you,
even in this, even now?
Are his scarred hands holding yours
as he whispers of glory to come?”

I’m fighting the biggest faith-fight of my life.
But I’m not forsaking my confession of faith.
I’m still trusting God—who else do I have?
I believe I will “wake to see his face in glory”.

But that’s just it.
(Dare I publish this?)
My desire is not
to depart and be with Christ.
I believe as Paul wrote
that it’s better by far.
But I want to stay here longer.
I don’t want this cancer to kill me.
Don’t want this PLS to deaden my legs.
I want to help carry Lois’s burdens.
Want to celebrate my children and grandchildren.
Want to serve through this blog.
Want to walk again.
O Lord, make it so!
But if this cancer spreads and PLS persists, what then?

I will take courageous faith
from Morse’s blog.
I will pray for power
to hold to my confession of faith
and trust my Lord.

And to the very end I will pray,
“Lord, stop this cancer-spread.
Reverse my PLS symptoms.
Just a word from you,
and it will be done.
Then I will enjoy great good,
and from me you will receive great glory.”

O, but I’m bargaining.
Trying to convince him
it’s in his best interests to heal me.
A fox-hole “Christian”:
“God, get me out of this
and I’ll serve you forever.”

No, I’m not above bargaining.
But, only briefly.
Again and again I come back to:
“If you’re willing,
you can make me well”.

But that’s too little, isn’t it.

I have to end with this defiance:
But if not, I will cling to my faith-confession
and trust you, my Lord.”

Easier said than said.

So, also, in my sinfulness,
I will pray for sufficient grace.
And in my weakness,
I will pray for his power
to be perfected in my weakness
that even “if not”
he will be glorified in me.

 

 

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Satan Has Asked to Sift You As Wheat

“‘Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.  But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.’  But he replied, ‘Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death.’ Jesus answered, ‘I tell you, Peter, before the rooster crows today, you will deny three times that you know me.'” (Luke 22:31-34).

Arrest night, crucifixion eve.
Disciples shape oil lamp shadows on the walls
of the secret upper room.
The betrayer’s been uncovered.
Messiah has foretold his death.
The air hangs dark, ominous, foreboding.

Peter the Rock’s mind races
and rage in his gut roils.
Fist-clenched ready to defend his Lord he stands.
Jesus knows.  Knows Peter’s heart.
And knows this “rock” will soon meet
an enemy darker than Judas,
a foe more evil-bent than Pharisees.

Jesus’ words warn, but kindly:
“Simon, Simon, Satan has asked to sift you as wheat.
But I have prayed for you, Simon, that your faith may not fail.
And when you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.”

To a man, they would be Satan-sifted that night.
They would run, hide, afraid, confused.
Peter would deny Him, despite Jesus’ prayer;
but he would, after tears of shame, turn back.

Faith is vaporous, is it not?
Not solid,
to hold like rock,
to store like gold.
Keeping faith, thus, is tenuous.
It can slip like sand through fingers,
be blown like chaff from wheat.

It is faith Satan seeks to destroy.
When Peter stands fearful,
Satan doesn’t want him arrested and killed.
Satan wants his faith to fail.
Satan craves Peter’s Christ-denial.
Let faith, then, fly like wheat’s chaff!

This is Satan’s game:
To sift us as wheat
That our faith be chaff
blown by the wind.

So Satan sifts me.
His weapons are illnesses,
with accusations:
“How can you trust a silent Savior?
Loving?  No!  He cannot be!
Sovereign?  No!  Else his power would prevail!
Left to your fate, then! To suffer, to die!”

But an enemy darker than disease,
a foe deadlier than cancer,
is Satan in his lies.
He aims not to end my life,
but to end my faith.

I have a Savior, though,
a Mediator who intercedes :
“But I have prayed for you
that your faith fail not.”
It is Christ Jesus, who died,
Yes, who was raised,
who is at he right hand of God,
who indeed intercedes for us.

“And when you have turned back,
strengthen your brothers.”
Jesus knows the sifting will come.
Even now in the room’s foreboding darkness,
he can hear Peter’s cursing, denying words,
see Peter’s shame-filled eyes,
feel Peter’s grieving, broken heart.
But Peter’s faith, though sifted thin,
will not fail.
He will turn back
and then must strengthen his brothers,
who, too, have run and doubted and feared.

So I am called,
to think not of myself alone,
but of others Satan-sifted, too.
Christ has prayed for me.
So I have words of faith to write,
prayers of faith to pray,
deeds of faith to do.
I have purpose, mission, calling
despite–no, because of–my weakness.

Pray, Jesus, that my faith fail not.
You are my hope, my plea, my saving grace.
You, arisen, ascended, appear before the Father
on my behalf.
You defanged the devil at the cross
and now stand and pray for my faith,
that it may withstand evil assaults
and triumph in the fight,
until the day of healing when You make me well
or until the day of eternal peace when all battles cease,
when the evil one is hell-bound,
and we are  triumphantly home with You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Resisting Naturalism’s Spell

In his comprehensive book, Heaven, Randy Alcorn  quotes a Barna survey:  “An overwhelming majority of Americans continue to believe that there is life after death and that heaven and hell exist” (p. 9).  But what people actually believe about heaven and hell varies widely.  And I would suggest that the majority view heaven and hell, and the spiritual realm in general, as less “real” than the natural.

Naturalism, I think, is the culprit.  Without using the word, we’re “naturalism” thinkers.  And naturalism insists we understand the world in scientific terms.   And science, even unintentionally, undercuts faith.  That’s because faith calls us to believe in what we can’t see, while science operates in the seen realm.  Consequently, “Scientists say . . . ” carries great authority and leaves the believer with his own private faith that “works” for him but carries no weight in the “real” world.

Randy Alcorn makes a compelling response . . .

“In The Silver Chair, C.S. Lewis tells how Puddleglum, Jill and Eustace are captured in a sunless underground world by an evil witch who calls herself the queen of the underworld.  The witch claims that her prisoners’ memories of the overworld, Narnia, are but figments of their imagination.  She laughs condescendingly at that child’s game of ‘pretending’ that there’s a world above and a great ruler of that world.

When they speak of the sun that’s visible in the world above, she asks them what a sun is.  Groping for words, they compare it to a giant lamp.  She replies, ‘When you try to think out clearly what this sun must be, you cannot tell me.  You can only tell me it is like the lamp.  Your sun is a dream, and there is nothing in that dream that was not copied from the lamp.’

When they speak of Aslan the lion, king of Narnia, she says they have seen cats and have merely projected those images into the make-believe notion of a giant cat. They begin to waver.

The queen, who hates Aslan and wishes to conquer Narnia, tries to deceive them into thinking that whatever they cannot perceive with their senses must be imaginary—which is the essence of naturalism.  The longer they are unable to see the world they remember, the more they lose sight of it.

She says to them, hypnotically, ‘There never was any world but mine,’ and they repeat after her, abandoning reason, parroting her deceptions.  Then she coos softly, ‘There is no Narnia, no overworld, no sky, no sun, no Aslan.’  This illustrates Satan’s power to mold our weak minds as we are trapped in a dark, fallen world.  We’re prone to deny the great realities of God and Heaven, which we can no longer see because of the Curse.

Finally, when it appears they’ve succumbed to the queen’s lies, Puddleglum breaks the spell and says to the enraged queen, ‘Suppose we have only dreamed, or made up, all those things—trees and grass and sun and moon and stars and Aslan himself.  Suppose we have.  Then all that I can say is that . . . the made-up things seem a good deal more important than the real ones.  Suppose this black pit of a kingdom of yours is the only world.  Well, it strikes me as a pretty poor one.  And that’s a funny thing, when you come to think of it.  We’re just babies making up a game, if you’re right.  But four babies playing a game can make a play-world which licks your real world hollow.’

The truth is exactly the opposite of naturalism’s premise—in fact, the dark world’s lamps are copies of the sun, and its cats are copies of Aslan.  Heaven isn’t an extrapolation of earthly thinking; Earth is an extension of Heaven, made by the Creator King.  The realm Puddleglum and the children believe in, Narnia and its sun and its universe, is real, and the witch’s world—which she tempts them to believe is the only real world—is in fact a lesser realm, corrupted and in bondage.

When the queen’s lies are exposed, she metamorphoses into the serpent she really is, whereupon Rilian, the human king and Aslan’s appointed ruler of Narnia, slays her.  The despondent slaves who’ve lived in darkness are delivered.  Light floods in, and their home below becomes a joyous place again because they realize that there is indeed a bright world above and Aslan truly rules the universe.  They laugh and celebrate, turning cartwheels and popping firecrackers.

Sometimes we’re like Lewis’s characters.  We succumb to naturalistic assumptions that what we see is real and what we don’t see isn’t . . . But we must recognize our blindness.  The blind must take by faith that there are stars in the sky.  If they depend on their ability to see, they will conclude that there are no stars . . .

We’ll one day be delivered from the blindness that separates us from the real world. We’ll realize then the stupefying bewitchment we’ve lived under.”

* * *

I don’t want to get into a science vs. faith debate.  Suffice it to say that a true interpretation of Scripture and an accurate scientific discovery will coincide.  But my point here is that “science” can subconsciously make us doubt the spiritual realm.  Or it can leave us assuming we have to reject science if we’re to have faith in what we can’t see.

This problem arises especially for students.  At any grade, how should they harmonize their science-learning with their faith?  Or should they regard science and faith as forever separate realms, thus considering faith as anti-scientific and private?

C.S. Lewis creatively reminds us that instead of naturalism reigning supreme, naturalism (the only realm science can study) offers us only “copies” of what exists in the spiritual realm.  And when all is said and done, the trinitarian God, whom we can’t see but whom we follow by faith, will have the last word.  And his new creation will be immeasurably superior to anything naturalism provides.  Puddleglum’s right.

 

 

Product Details

https://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Alcorn-Randy-ebook/dp/B000FCKCJC/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1504471192&sr=8-1&keywords=heaven+randy+alcorn

 

 

 

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What Good Is Private Faith?

Last Tuesday Democrat Vice-President nominee Senator Tim  Kaine debated Republican Vice-President nominee Governor Mike Pence.  It turned out more combative than the pundits led us to believe.  Pence won hands-down and should be the presidential nominee.

Senator Kaine showed up as Hillary Clinton’s attack dog.  It wasn’t his irritating 70 interruptions of Governor Pence that got to me though.  What bothered me most was his abortion position.  He claims to hold to the traditional Roman Catholic position of the sanctity of life.  Privately he’s “pro-life”, claiming to be “personally opposed” to abortion.

Yet when it comes to politics and public policy he is ardently “pro-choice”.  “I strongly support the right of women to make their own health and reproductive decisions and, for that reason, will oppose efforts to weaken or subvert the basic holding of Roe v. Wade.”  Kaine has “a 100% pro-choice voting record for his time in the Senate from both NARAL and Planned Parenthood.”  He argues he doesn’t want to “mandate” his personal faith on anyone.

Agreed that the Senator must uphold the laws of the land.  But, if his faith is central to everything he does (as he claims), why not vote against pro-choice positions?  Why stand so ardently for pro-choice?  If he truly believes in “life” for the unborn, why not work within the system for “life”?  The only answer is:  politics takes precedence over the sanctity of life.  The argument that women have the right to make their own reproductive decisions is like saying humans have the right to murder.  Both result in the death of an “innocent”.

I’m reminded of the apostle James’ jolting question:  What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him (James 2:14)?

James expects the answers “no good” and “no”.  Faith that doesn’t evidence itself in works is worthless.  It cannot save.  Private faith—faith that does not inform one’s living and show itself in one’s actions—is not true faith at all.

Senator Kaine is not alone.  Who doesn’t struggle to translate his faith into action?  Such a battle is part-and-parcel of the Christian life.  But when one argues that he can hold to faith while insisting outward action isn’t necessary—indeed contrary action is permissible—that man is deceiving himself.

Lord, give us leaders who believe the truth as you have revealed it in your Word and who devote themselves to obeying that truth even when politically unpopular!

 

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Forgotten Forever

If you want to peer into a man’s soul, read Psalms.  They are unique in Scripture, because, instead of God talking to a man, they record man talking to God.

A smorgasbord of thoughts and emotions, there are lament and thanksgiving and praise and salvation history and affirming celebration and wisdom and trust psalms.  Interestingly, the largest group is lament.  Again and again the psalmists honestly and fervently express discouragement, disappointment, discontent and distress to the Lord.

Perhaps the most familiar are these heartrending questions from David, which eventually Jesus echoed from the cross . . .

“My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?
Why are you so far from saving me,
from the words of my groaning?”
(Psalm 22:1, ESV).

Here’s an especially poignant cry, again from David . . .

How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you
hide your face from me?
(Psalm 13:1, ESV)

Today’s English Version’s  translation packs a bit more passion . . .

“How much longer will you forget me, Lord?
Forever?
How much longer will you hide your face from me?”
(Psalm 13:1, TEV).

Such psalms destroy the foolish notion to be careful not to “confess anything negative with our mouth”.  And, even, I would add the idea that we may tread on thin ice if we complain or get angry with the Lord.  In fact, if we can’t be honest with our Father in heaven about how we really feel, with whom can we be brutally honest? He’s not a prideful monarch whose ego will be crushed and demand satisfaction if we complain to him!

Look at more of Psalm 13.  Ever felt this way?

How much longer will you forget me, Lord?
Forever?
How much longer will you hide yourself from me?

How long must I endure trouble?
How long will sorrow fill my heart day and night?
How long will my enemies triumph over me?
(Psalm 13:1,2, TEV)

For some, “enemies” are violent persecutors.  For others, they are prolonged illness, disability, the physical wasting-away for aging and dying, an abusive husband, an unjust employer, an addiction, a particular sin, Satan.  The list is long; “enemies” come in many forms.  And turning to follow Jesus in faith doesn’t magically remove them.

When “enemies triumph” and “sorrow fill[s] my heart” and “I endure trouble” with no respite, I hit bottom where I feel forgotten.  “How much longer will you forget me Lord?  Forever?”   Can’t be much worse than feeling that my Lord has forgotten me.

But, with one exception (Psalm 88), the psalmist doesn’t stay there.  Though “forgotten”, he prays yet again—the prayer of a desperate, drowning man . . .

Look at me, O Lord my God, and answer me.
Restore my strength; don’t let me die.
Don’t let my enemies say, “We have defeated him.”
Don’t let them gloat over my downfall.
(Psalm 13:3,4, TEV)
“Look at me”—the opposite of the Lord “hiding [him]self”.  Do I hear anger in “Look at me”?  Or just desperation?  David’s need is critical.  Begging for strength, because he’s weak.  Afraid the Lord may let him die.  His enemies are readying a celebration over his downfall.
But, again, David doesn’t stay there.  He moves on, on to envision coming rescue.  I marvel.  I’m prone to camp in verses 1 and 2.  Or maybe barely (angrily?) crawl in verses 3 and 4.  How do I reach the height of David’s faith in these last two verses?
I rely on your constant love; I will be glad,
because you will rescue me.
I will sing to you, O Lord,
because you have been good to me.
(Psalm 13:5.6, TEV)
“Constant love” comes from the Hebrew chesed, the word used of the steadfast, covenant love of the Lord.  He has made a covenant with us who trust him.  And he cannot not be faithful to his covenant.  Jesus himself is the guarantee of this better (than Old) covenant (Hebrews 7:22).  It’s this that Paul echoes in this assuring promise . . .
If God is for us, who can be against us?
Certainly not God, who did not even keep back his own Son,
but offered him for us all! He gave us his Son –
will he not also freely give us all things?
Who will accuse God’s chosen people?
God himself declares them not guilty!
Who, then, will condemn them?
Not Christ Jesus, who died, or rather, who was raised to life
and is at the right side of God, pleading with him for us!
Who, then, can separate us from the love of Christ?
Can trouble do it, or hardship or persecution or hunger
or poverty or danger or death?
As the scripture says, “For your sake we are in danger of death at all times;
we are treated like sheep that are going to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we have complete victory
through him who loved us!
For I am certain that nothing can separate us from his love:
neither death nor life, neither angels nor other heavenly rulers or powers,
neither the present nor the future,
neither the world above
nor the world below –
there is nothing in all creation
that will ever be able to separate us from the love of God
which is ours through Christ Jesus our Lord.
(Romans 8:31b-39, TEV)
On this love we can rely.  Because of this love we will be rescued.  He has been good to lavish his love on us in Christ Jesus.

Feeling forgotten?  We will be glad!  Feeling forsaken?  We will sing!

 

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NOTE:  Break from blogging the rest of this week.  Back early next week.  Appreciate all you readers—all 700 subscribers!  May the Lord grant us our heart’s desires, as we delight ourselves in him!

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Does God Really Exist?

P.AllanI mean God as revealed in the Bible.  The Triune God.  God the Father.  God the Son.  God the Holy Spirit.  Occasionally (thankfully not often!), especially when I’m hurting and he seems silent, I wonder if all this God-talk is just that—talk.  A creation of humans ages ago passed on from generation to generation until we have a “sacred book” all about him.  (Please tell me I’m not the only one who sometimes wonders if God is really there!)

On those occasions I return to three realities—two objective, one subjective.

First, the universe.

Random?  Chance?  When I see photos of the galaxies and read the intricacies of the human body, I shake my head and marvel at the naturalist.  I realize then that naturalism is an ideology, not science.  So much complexity, so much power, so much beauty.  The universe screams, “INTELLIGENT DESIGN!”.   And when I look at humans, when I listen to us communicate and love and, yes, even hate, I scream “PERSONAL INTELLIGENT DESIGNER!”  The jump from there to God is a mere step.  If God doesn’t exist, how then does the universe?  Because the universe exists, God does.  What I see, taste, touch, hear and smell isn’t just universe, it’s creation at the word of the Creator God the Father through the Son by means of the Spirit.  Yes, God really exists!

Second, Jesus’ resurrection.

He never really died?  Disciples stole the body?  Come on.  All such  theories on their face are laughable.  Twelve disciples suffered martyrdom (and God alone knows how many other believers) refusing to recant their testimony that crucified Jesus the Christ ROSE FROM THE DEAD.  As prophesied.  According to hundreds.  They laid down their lives rather than deny what they had seen with their own eyes and heard with their own ears.  Chuck Colson, now with Jesus, pointed out how hard it is to keep a conspiracy quiet.  Had the disciples stolen the body, somebody eventually would have snitched.  Besides, what happened to the body?  If Jesus did rise from the dead, he’s all he claimed to be.  The resurrection joyfully shouts, “God really exists”.

Third, the Holy Spirit in my spirit.

This is the subjective reality, a sense, a feeling, an inward witness.  John Piper talks about the Bible being self-authenticating.  That is, when I seriously read it, it authenticates itself.   Something tells my mind and heart that it’s truth.  I would call that “self-authenticating” power GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT.  He makes the written word “come alive” so I know it reveals reality.  The same is true when I quiet down to pray and deeply think.  There’s an inner sense that God is there.  He really exists.  I just know that I know.  The Bible and the Spirit tell me so.

I could mention more, but these are my three bottom-line realities when painful circumstances whisper to my rational mind, “Maybe God isn’t there after all.”  When I hit those bottom-line realities, I bounce back up.  All things, then, become possible.  Nothing is random or chance.  I’m not alone.  And no matter the circumstance, he wins in the end—and I do too, because I am his through faith in Jesus his Son, indwelt by his Spirit.

Francis Schaeffer memorably titled one of his books, He Is There and He Is Not Silent.  Yes, he is!

 

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