Monday, May 17, 2010

He's There - He Hasn't Left His Sovereign Throne

This week's chapter is all about the sovereignty of God. I loved this chapter - I love that God is in control of my life, my husband's, my children's, my country, my everything. He is not unaware, uninvolved or uncaring about the events in my life. When everything seems chaotic and out of control, I stop and know that my God who loves me enough to send His son to suffer and die for me, is in absolute control. Everything that comes into my life and yours is "filtered through His fingers of love."

I know that for some this is hard to accept or comprehend. Just as Habakkuk could not understand God's ways - many times we also do not understand. You may question, "If God is in control of all things and He loves me then why did He let this happen?" Habakkuk had similar questions. When he focused on the God he knew intimately and His character He was able to rejoice in the God of his salvation. Why? Because the circumstances of his life did not define his relationship with God. Security and hope were not based on the temporal blessings in this life but on the Lord Himself. The Lord Himself is what gives us the reason for rejoicing.

My daughter Melissa would often write notes to herself. I found this one shortly after she died. It was the counsel to herself as she faced cancer - it became the counsel to me as I faced her death.

God is in the heavens and does what He pleases. He is working the best for me eternally. It's not always comfortable or convenient.

You can't fully understand one another's pain unless you have gone throught it. May sorrow but have hope. You can comfort because you've been there and gone through it.

You must understand basic principles so when you don't understand things going on you fall back on what you know of the Lord.

Commit your soul as unto Him your Creator.

Know the Lord has eternal purposes and plans.

Never give up what you know for what you don't!

"My ways are not your ways. My ways are beyond your finding out."

The Lord doesn't owe me any explanations. Can clay say to the potter why have you made me such. Or complain the process hurts?

God wants to bring the greatest value out of your life.

Be wholly, completely open to what God wants you to do. Don't give God limited options.

God knows and understands what you are going through.

Praise the Lord our God who knows and loves us is taking care of us, clothing, feeding and taking care of us.

Melissa - seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things shall be added to you. Seek first is priority #1. What God has called you to do is the Kingdom and the other things are things. Trust God, Seek God, Devote yourself to God. Seek first His Kingdom. You'll be mindful of Heaven and that will be your treasure.

Eternity is where the focus should be. Everything else is things. Set your mind on things above. Think about sitting in the presence of the Lord forever and all other trials and worries seem to be nothing.

I carry this note in my Bible and read it often. It keeps my vision clear. Not only did God have eternal purposes and plans for Melissa's short life, He also has eternal purposes and plans for my life and yours. The tragedies in our life are a big part in that plan. Eternity is where the focus should be - God is working the best for you eternally! Amen!

"For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord. Plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope." Jeremiah 29:11 (NASB)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

He's There - Admit Your Sin & Embrace Him

As I was studying through the second chapter of "Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen?" I was thinking about what Jesus would be saying to us. I imagined you all sitting in my family room, sharing coffee with me and together we are listening to our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ tell us how much He loves us and how precious each one of us is to Him.

"Come to Me, all you who labor (exhausted from burdens or grief) and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Don't you love that? As you work through Habakkuk and Kay Arthur's book I want you to keep in mind who Jesus is. Last week I encouraged you to study the Word of God always in light of the cross where Jesus died, where He took God's wrath and judgment for our sins. Now also study it in light of His character. He is gentle and lowly in heart and gives us rest from our burdens. He doesn't add a heavy yoke, He doesn't increase our burden, He lightens it.

In the second chapter of our study book, Kay poses this question on the first day, "What do you do when you suddenly see sin for what it is - when you suddenly become aware of a holy God who has every right to judge sin in His holy wrath?"

Great question - Let's look at the answer in light of the cross.

Romans 5:8-9 "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him."

I John 2:1 "My little children, these things I write to you so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world."

Jesus is the answer - He is the only answer!
"Propitiation" means appeasement or satisfaction. The sacrifice of Jesus death on the cross satisfied the demands of God's holiness for the punishment of sin. John 3:16 -18; 36 and many other Scriptures make it clear that we must believe and accept what Christ did for us or else we will one day experience God's wrath. But if we Believe - It is finished!!!

What saves me from God's wrath and judgment is simply faith, simple belief, that Christ died for me. "For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast." (Eph.2: 8-9) I can't even boast in my repentance for it is Jesus who found me, cleansed me and made me a new creation. (2Cor. 5:17)

So what do we do about the sins we commit since believing in Christ?

1 John 1:9 "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness."

Colossians 2:6 "As you therefore have received Christ Jesus, so walk in Him."

When we sin, we admit it and by faith we believe that we're forgiven!

The title to chapter two is "He's There - Admit Your Sin and Embrace Him." That is exactly right. So simple really.

I've spent a lot of time on this point because it is crucial in dispelling the teaching that bad things happen to us because of God's judgment and wrath for sins we have committed. That would nullify Christ's work on the cross. My heart just breaks at the thought that a mother might believe that their child died as a punishment.

I pray you will embrace our Lord Jesus and accept His gracious gift of forgiveness. He loves you so much and wants to carry your burdens for you. Just as He did for Habakkuk, He will do for you. He will be your strength, He will make your feet like deer's feet and He will make you walk on your high hills.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen?

Today is May 1st. Ten years ago today marks the beginning of my journey in understanding "Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen?" After 5 grueling hours of waiting the surgeon called my family and I into a special room - I later referred to this room as the "Bad News" room. There he told us that are precious, beautiful, godly 20 year old daughter Melissa had ovarian cancer and that it had spread throughout her abdomen to her colon and liver. My other two daughters began to cry. Heather was crying out, "Lord, No, No, don't do this!" She buried her face in my lap and wept. My son ran out of the room, out of the hospital and began punching walls. My husband Mark questioned the doctor. Me? The Holy Spirit just took over. I kept repeating over and over again as I stroked Heather's hair, "All God's ways are good and kind, All God's ways are good and kind, All God's ways are good and kind."

The doctor told me that Melissa would not wake up until about 4 am - I would be the one to tell her. "O Lord, How do I do this, what should I say? How do I tell my precious child the 'bad news?'"

Remember how the book of Habakkuk begins? He is burdened, confused and does not understand the bad things around him. What does God say to him? "Look, ... watch - Be utterly astounded! For I will work a work in your days which you would not believe, though it were told you." Wow! God was about to utterly astound me.

Melissa was an amazing woman of God. She loved the Lord Jesus more than anyone I have ever met. Her intimacy with Him, her radical commitment to live her life for His glory no matter what the cost rocked me. She challenged my own 30 year walk with the Lord to new levels of knowing my God. But this day, God was going to take us higher, closer, deeper than ever before.

Melissa was just coming into consciousness. "Mom, how's Miles? Is he ok? Mom, are you fasting for Miles?" Our pastor, Miles McPherson had gone in for surgery on his throat the same day. Her first thoughts, her first words were not concerns for herself but for another. I assured her he was fine and then she slipped back into a deep sleep. I quietly wept throughout the night crying out to God to help me help my child. "Mom", she whispered, "I'm not ready to hear the news yet but are you ok? How is everyone else with the news?" Again, her thoughts and concerns were for me, her family and her friends, not herself. Back to sleep. I am in awe of her peace - no worry, no fear, only love and concern for others. 4am arrives, "Mom, I'm ready." Again the Holy Spirit took over. Gently, preciously, Melissa asked me a few yes, and no questions. Then, "So I have cancer." "Yes, Honey." She absolutely glowed - She was a beautiful girl - but she was more beautiful than I had ever seen her. Honestly, she glowed. How is that possible to glow when you come to grips with that news? Then, her response, "O Mom, that is so great, God is going to do amazing things!"

That day I saw the glory of God. That day I experienced the reality that Jesus Christ isn't just there when bad things happen - He invades every space. In Ephesians 3:19 Paul prays for us "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God." That means "to be so strong spiritually, so compelled by divine love that one is totally dominated by the Lord with nothing left of self." (John MacArthur Study Bible) Look at the Scripture again and the following 2 verses. "to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen" Ephesians 3:19-21 That day Melissa and Mom experienced being filled with the fullness of God - He took over completely. He filled us with His Word, His will, His perspective, His love, his peace, His gentleness, His kindness, His strength, His beauty and His abundance.

Yes, God did and continues to do amazing things. He is still showing me His exceeding and abundant plan through it all. Yes, there is lots more to the story but I'm going to stop here. My purpose in telling this is to encourage you in your quest to answer the question "Lord, Where are You When Bad Things Happen?"

After reading the entirety of Kay Arthur's book this week and studying the first chapter I was burdened thinking about the conclusions someone might come to. Habakkuk is overwhelmed by "bad news", he is distraught and cries out to God for answers. God answers him with more "bad news." God's plan is to judge man's sin and the evil they have brought upon their nation. Bad things happen when you turn from God. Very bad things happen when you lose God's Word. Very, very bad things happen because God "has to" judge sin. Bad things happen because of God's judgment even if you repent as Josiah did. O, my beloved, my prayer for us is that we read and study the Word always in light of the cross where Jesus died, where he took our deserved punishment, where God's wrath and judgment for our sins was poured out on our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. He paid our penalty in full. He experienced God's wrath and judgment on our behalf. It is finished. Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." John 5:24
Isaiah 61 tells us that Jesus came to "heal the broken hearted", he came to "comfort all who mourn - 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."
I pray that you are assured of Christ's presence and that you will experience His comfort and His great love for you. Just as Habakkuk had questions of "Why?" and "How Long?" I'm sure you have some tough questions to ask the Lord. ASK. Over the next few weeks we will seek Him and He will answer us and I know He will "utterly astound " us.
I'm praying also "that you will know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen"