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Archive for the ‘God's Sovereignty’ Category

There may be circumstances in your earthly lot which at this moment are peculiarly trying. You look around and wonder how this or that circumstance will terminate. At present it looks very dark–clouds and mists hang over it, and you fear lest these clouds may break, not in showers upon your head, but burst forth in the lightning flash and the thunder stroke! But all things are put in subjection under Christ’s feet! That which you dread cannot take place except by His sovereign will–nor can it move any further except by His supreme disposal. Then make yourself quiet. He will not allow you to be harmed. That frowning providence shall only execute His sovereign purposes, and it shall be among those all things which, according to His promise, shall work together for your good. None of our trials come upon us by chance! They are all appointed in weight and measure–are all designed to fulfill a certain end. And however painful they may at present be, yet they are intended for your good. When the trial comes upon you, what a help it would be for you if you could view it thus, “This trial is sent for my good. It does not spring out of the dust. The Lord Himself is the supreme disposer of it. It is very painful to bear; but let me believe that He has appointed me this peculiar trial, along with every other circumstance. He will bring about His own will therein, and either remove the trial, or give me patience under it, and submission to it.”

Source: J.C. Philpot

(The Subjection of All Things Under the Feet of Jesus)

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effective

 

It’s tragic how easily we can miss the main ingredient in effective prayer.

In our sin, we’ve been rewired to focus on us — on the steps we should take for our prayers to be heard. We have this bent toward believing that every result is born from method. If something works for somebody we want to know what that somebody is doing.

We’ve developed the assumption that if we can just strip it all down to a reproducible process to put into action, then the results will multiply. While this applies to certain things, it doesn’t apply to prayer — or at least that’s not the vision the apostle James gives us. The main ingredient in effective prayer is emphatically not us.

Often Misunderstood

Many of us find James 5:16 to be a familiar verse: “The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working” — which is also translated, as an ESV footnote spells out, “The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.”

This is one of those coffee-mug verses. It’s commonly understood like this: Be righteous and your prayers will work. It’s what I used to think. But that’s the skim-milk meaning. It’s what happens when we fly by the text without questions. Our broken bent is to make the burden of this passage something to do with us. We simply settle to think that if we want our prayers to be effective then we need to be righteous.

But this reading doesn’t hold up.

Reading in Context

First, look at the context surrounding verse 16. James’s whole point is that prayer is effective. He asks in verse 13, “Is anyone among you suffering?” Then he replies, “Let him pray.” What about cheerfulness? Or sickness? Or sin? In each case, James encourages his readers to pray. Why? Because prayer is effective, which means, God hears his people and acts on their behalf.

Then in the beginning of verse 16, because prayer is effective (verses 13–15), he says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed” (James 5:16). To make it even clearer, he follows this with, “The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.” That line is the second portion in a double dose of support for our praying. James’s point is to repeat his theme to pray because prayer is effective. His concern is not how prayer is made effective, but that prayer is effective. And then verse 17 comes to ground that point.

What About Elijah?

Verse 17 then brings in Elijah. “Elijah was a man with a nature like ours and he prayed fervently . . .” (James 5:17).

What does Elijah have to do with our praying? Does it mean that Elijah was righteous and his prayers worked so we should be like Elijah for our prayers to work too? Is that what he is saying?

No way.

Look at the Book. James says that Elijah was a man with a nature like ours. He was just a man. He was like us. He had a nature like ours. And being just a man, being like us, having a nature likes ours, he prayed fervently and God heard. The point is not that we should be righteous at the extraordinary level of an Elijah, but that he was normal like you and me. James doesn’t say for us to be like Elijah for our prayers to be answered but that Elijah was like us and his prayers were answered — therefore pray.

Don’t Miss What’s Main

This means that the locus of effective prayer is not us, but God. Prayer has less to do with the specifics of how we say what we say, and more to do with the one to whom we are saying it.

We pray as ordinary people who have an extraordinary God. We’re just normal, you and I. We’re just normal like Elijah. Prayer is effective, not because of great men who pray, but because of a great God who in Christ graciously hears his people.

He’s the main ingredient. So pray.

 

Source: Jonathan Parnell (Desiring God)

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If I did not believe in the absolute sovereignty of God:

  1. I would despair of my eternal destiny. I would have no assurance of salvation. Knowing the depravity of my soul, I would most certainly apostatize were it not for God’s sovereign preservation of me (cf. Rom. 8).
  2. I would be terrified of all suffering, with no confidence that God can turn evil for good and bring me safely through (cf. Rom. 8:28 and relation to vv. 29-30).
  3. I would become manipulative and pragmatic in evangelism, believing that conversion is altogether a matter of my will/skill vs. will/skill of unbeliever.
  4. I would cease praying for God to convert and save the lost. If the ultimate causal factor in human conversion is the self-determined human will, not the divine will, it is futile and useless to ask God to work or touch or move upon the human will so as to assuredly bring them to faith.
  5. I would despair of the political process and live in fear/anxiety/resentment of those elected officials who oppose the kingdom of God. See Daniel 2:21; 4:17,25,32; 5:18-31.
  6. I would live in fear of nature: tornadoes, earthquakes, volcanoes, wind and hail and rain (cf. Psm. 147-148).
  7. I would despair of ever doing anything of a spiritual nature that God requires and commands of me. Phil. 2:12-13.

Sam Storms
Excepted from: If I did not believe in the absolute sovereignty of God, Nov. 8, 2006 (www.thegracetabernacle.org)

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10

We will all suffer, of that there is no doubt. It is strange, then, that we are often unprepared for it. With that in mind, a useful exercise is to summarize Scripture and identify what words of God can guide us when things are hard.

Here is my current list of ten things to do while suffering (it is always subject to ongoing refinement).

  1. Don’t be surprised by suffering (1 Pet. 4:12). The Son suffered, so do those who follow the Son. You will not be spared the sufferings that the world experiences, but you will participate in them, both for the world’s benefit and your own.
  2. Live by faith, see the unseen (Heb. 2:2). Normal eyesight is not enough. Your eyes will tell you that God is far away and silent. The truth is that he is close—invisible—but close. He has a unique affection for fellow sufferers. So get help to build up your spiritual vision. Search Scripture. Enlist others to help, to pray, to remind you of the Truth. Ask the God of comfort to comfort you.
  3. Suffering will reveal what is really in your heart. It will test you (Jam. 1:2). Where do you turn when tested? Do you turn toward Jesus or turn inward?
  4. God is God, you are not (Job 38-42). This is important. Humility and submission before the King can quiet some of your questions.
  5. Confess sin. There is nothing new here; it is a regular feature of daily life. Yet it always helps you to see the cross of Jesus more clearly. It is the quickest way to see the persistent and lavish love of God (Heb. 12).
  6. Keep an eye out in Scripture for the Suffering Servant. He has entered into your suffering, and you can enter into his. (Isaiah 39-53, John 10-21)
  7. Speak honestly and often to the Lord. This is critical. Just speak, groan, have someone read you a psalm and say a weak, “Amen.”
  8. Expect to get to know God better while in this wilderness. That is how he usually works with his people (Phil. 3:10-11).
  9. Talk to those who have suffered, read their books, listen to them. You are not alone. Insist on being moved with compassion as you hear other stories of suffering.
  10. Look ahead. We need spiritual vision for what is happening now and for where the universe is heading. We are on a pilgrimage that ends at the temple of God (Ps. 84).

I have noticed that, during dire times, we can hear our own words repeated back to us more easily than we can hear words from other people. So I hereby authorize my wife, children, and anyone else, to speak these things to me when my hardships are oppressive

 

Source: Ed Welch (www.ccef.org)

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creation

 

God has filled his world with beauty.

There’s the beauty of:

the delicate orchid

the spotted leopard

the multi-hued sunset

the pillowy cloud

the golden sun

the delicious meal

the giant oak

the iridescent snake

the white-capped wave

the ribbony grain of wood

the song of a bird

the endless variety of music

the flash of lightning

the shimmering scales of a fish

the new white snow

the rugged rocks of

the mountain

the tender kiss

the whisper of the breeze

the green curtain of the leaves

the security of a father’s voice

the tender touch of a mother’s hand

the crystal display of a starry night

the percussive song of a rainy day

the green of the pasture

the blue of the sky

the black of the night

the brown of the soil

the yellow of the bee

the red of the rose

the white of the cloud.

All of these things have been painted with beauty, but it’s not ultimate beauty. The beauty of the created world was never meant to be the beauty that would fill the eyes of our hearts. It was never meant to be the beauty to which we’d look for satisfaction and peace. It was never meant to be the beauty that we’d give ourselves to search for, live for, cry for, and die for. No, the physical glories of this created world are meant to be sign glories. The amazing beauty that surrounds us every day was designed to be sign beauty. All the beautiful things that we see, touch, taste and hear every day, were designed to be signs that would point to the ultimate beauty that can only be found in the One who created them.

So when you’re looking at the beauty that surrounds you in the physical world that’s your present home, require yourself to look beyond the signs to the stunning beauty of the God to whom each sign points. Only his beauty can give you hope, strength, and peace. Only his beauty can give you life. Don’t be like the family that saved for a year to experience the glories of Disney World, packed the car in anticipation, drove hundreds of miles, and stopped at the first Disney World sign and had their vacation.

Perhaps our hearts feel empty and our souls are dissatisfied because we’ve tried to get from sign beauty what only ultimate beauty can give us. Look beyond the orchid, the lightning, the bird, and the leaf and see the Lord. In him you’ll find true beauty, the kind that really does satisfy.

 

Source: Paul Tripp

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a praying life

If God is sovereign, then he is control of all the details of my life.  If he is loving, then he is going to be shaping the details of my life for my good.  If he is all-wise, then he’s not going to do everything I want because I don’t know what I need.  If he is patient, then he is going to take time to do all this.  When we put these all together–God’s sovereignty, love, wisdom, and patience–we have a divine story.

People often talk about prayer as if it is disconnected from what God is doing in their lives. But we are actors in his drama, listening for our lines, quieting our hearts so we can hear the voice of the Playwright.

You can’t have a good story without tension and conflict, without things going wrong.  Unanswered prayers create some of the tensions in the story God is weaving in our lives. When we realize this, we want to know what God is doing.  What pattern is God weaving?

If God is composing a story with our lives, then our lives are no longer static.  We aren’t paralyzed by life; we can hope.

~ Paul Miller, A Praying Life, page 22

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I write this on the eve of prostate surgery. I believe in God’s power to heal—by miracle and by medicine. I believe it is right and good to pray for both kinds of healing. Cancer is not wasted when it is healed by God. He gets the glory and that is why cancer exists. So not to pray for healing may waste your cancer. But healing is not God’s plan for everyone. And there are many other ways to waste your cancer. I am praying for myself and for you that we will not waste this pain.

1. You will waste your cancer if you do not believe it is designed for you by God.

It will not do to say that God only uses our cancer but does not design it. What God permits, he permits for a reason. And that reason is his design. If God foresees molecular developments becoming cancer, he can stop it or not. If he does not, he has a purpose. Since he is infinitely wise, it is right to call this purpose a design. Satan is real and causes many pleasures and pains. But he is not ultimate. So when he strikes Job with boils (Job 2:7), Job attributes it ultimately to God (2:10) and the inspired writer agrees: “They . . . comforted him for all the evil that the LORD had brought upon him” (Job 42:11). If you don’t believe your cancer is designed for you by God, you will waste it.

2. You will waste your cancer if you believe it is a curse and not a gift.

“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Romans 8:1). “Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us” (Galatians 3:13). “There is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel” (Numbers 23:23). “The LORD God is a sun and shield; the LORD bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly” (Psalm 84:11).

3. You will waste your cancer if you seek comfort from your odds rather than from God.

The design of God in your cancer is not to train you in the rationalistic, human calculation of odds. The world gets comfort from their odds. Not Christians. Some count their chariots (percentages of survival) and some count their horses (side effects of treatment), but we trust in the name of the LORD our God (Psalm 20:7). God’s design is clear from 2 Corinthians 1:9, “We felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” The aim of God in your cancer (among a thousand other good things) is to knock props out from under our hearts so that we rely utterly on him.

4. You will waste your cancer if you refuse to think about death.

We will all die, if Jesus postpones his return. Not to think about what it will be like to leave this life and meet God is folly. Ecclesiastes 7:2 says, “It is better to go to the house of mourning [a funeral] than to go to the house of feasting, for this is the end of all mankind, and the living will lay it to heart.” How can you lay it to heart if you won’t think about it? Psalm 90:12 says, “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” Numbering your days means thinking about how few there are and that they will end. How will you get a heart of wisdom if you refuse to think about this? What a waste, if we do not think about death.

 5. You will waste your cancer if you think that “beating” cancer means staying alive rather than cherishing Christ.

Satan’s and God’s designs in your cancer are not the same. Satan designs to destroy your love for Christ. God designs to deepen your love for Christ. Cancer does not win if you die. It wins if you fail to cherish Christ. God’s design is to wean you off the breast of the world and feast you on the sufficiency of Christ. It is meant to help you say and feel, “I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” And to know that therefore, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain” (Philippians 3:8; 1:21).

6. You will waste your cancer if you spend too much time reading about cancer and not enough time reading about God.

It is not wrong to know about cancer. Ignorance is not a virtue. But the lure to know more and more and the lack of zeal to know God more and more is symptomatic of unbelief. Cancer is meant to waken us to the reality of God. It is meant to put feeling and force behind the command, “Let us know; let us press on to know the LORD” (Hosea 6:3). It is meant to waken us to the truth of Daniel 11:32, “The people who know their God shall stand firm and take action.” It is meant to make unshakable, indestructible oak trees out of us: “His delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers” (Psalm 1:2). What a waste of cancer if we read day and night about cancer and not about God.

7. You will waste your cancer if you let it drive you into solitude instead of deepen your relationships with manifest affection.

When Epaphroditus brought the gifts to Paul sent by the Philippian church he became ill and almost died. Paul tells the Philippians, “He has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill” (Philippians 2:26-27). What an amazing response! It does not say they were distressed that he was ill, but that he was distressed because they heard he was ill. That is the kind of heart God is aiming to create with cancer: a deeply affectionate, caring heart for people. Don’t waste your cancer by retreating into yourself.

8. You will waste your cancer if you grieve as those who have no hope.

Paul used this phrase in relation to those whose loved ones had died: “We do not want you to be uninformed, brothers, about those who are asleep, that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope” (1 Thessalonians 4:13). There is a grief at death. Even for the believer who dies, there is temporary loss—loss of body, and loss of loved ones here, and loss of earthly ministry. But the grief is different—it is permeated with hope. “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” (2 Corinthians 5:8). Don’t waste your cancer grieving as those who don’t have this hope.

9. You will waste your cancer if you treat sin as casually as before.

Are your besetting sins as attractive as they were before you had cancer? If so you are wasting your cancer. Cancer is designed to destroy the appetite for sin. Pride, greed, lust, hatred, unforgiveness, impatience, laziness, procrastination—all these are the adversaries that cancer is meant to attack. Don’t just think of battling against cancer. Also think of battling with cancer. All these things are worse enemies than cancer. Don’t waste the power of cancer to crush these foes. Let the presence of eternity make the sins of time look as futile as they really are. “What does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?” (Luke 9:25).

10. You will waste your cancer if you fail to use it as a means of witness to the truth and glory of Christ.

Christians are never anywhere by divine accident. There are reasons for why we wind up where we do. Consider what Jesus said about painful, unplanned circumstances: “They will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and governors for my name’s sake. This will be your opportunity to bear witness” (Luke 21:12 -13). So it is with cancer. This will be an opportunity to bear witness. Christ is infinitely worthy. Here is a golden opportunity to show that he is worth more than life. Don’t waste it.

Remember you are not left alone. You will have the help you need. “My God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:19).

-John Piper (www.desiringgod.org) “Dont Waste Your Cancer”

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