I prayed. I believed. I trusted. I hoped. And in the end, I was disappointed.
This December, like many before it, God’s response to my prayers is no. No, your son will not be home by Christmas. No, that baby in your womb will not live. No, that marriage will not survive. Dashed hopes and unfulfilled longings are familiar companions to my holiday celebrations. I know I am not alone. For many, this month will be as full of heartache as it is of joy. Deferred hope feels like coal under the tree, a confirmation that God has passed over you to shower His blessings on someone else this Christmas. But disappointment in December may actually be due to God’s kindness.
Are we giving food too much glory?
The Bible gives us the overarching concept that food is a symbol of a greater reality. Our need for daily sustenance, all the delightful flavors, the satisfaction of a full stomach after hunger are all pointing to Jesus, our Bread of Life, our Living Water, our New Wine, our fullness of joy and complete satisfaction.
There are two ways we can elevate the symbol above the Substance: celebrating the pleasure of food above Christ or celebrating the power of food above Christ. The former sees food as the ultimate satisfier and the latter sees food as the ultimate healer.
As [Jesus] passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” John 9:1-2
Suffering produces an insatiable desire to blame. Surely there must be some reason why this poor man must suffer all his life without sight. We hunger and thirst for some impetus for it all.
Why are we so bent on finding fault? Partly because we hope to prevent future suffering by finding the cause. Just like you may avoid spicy food if it once gave you heartburn. Partly because if the sufferer is to blame, we can accept the hardship as a legitimate recompense to sin: “She deserved that,” or “I had it coming.” If someone else is to blame, we at least have someone to take our anger out on.
So how does Jesus answer the disciples inquiry about the cause of the blind man’s life of suffering?
Jesus doesn’t tell us of a world of needless suffering. There is a reason, but it is one that we have had no category for at all: suffering for the sake of the glory of God.
To choose a knowledge of food over a knowledge of the Word of God is a catastrophic mistake. It is tempting in a world full of the threat of cancer and new diseases or ailments to look to right eating choices to sustain us, but the Bible is very clear that is not the answer. God alone gives and sustains life. Knowing and obeying His word is far better for our health than the most researched, healthy and natural diet plan.
Whole Foods, a high end grocery store, printed this on their brown paper bags: “Buy Goods, Not Bads.” A follow up design stated: “Feed your better nature.” Whole Foods isn’t the first company to jump on the concept of food morality, of good and bad foods. Plenty of people are seeking to eradicate the bad foods and produce more of the good. Here’s the question: is the food bad or are we bad? Does bad food corrupt our bodies, or has our sin corrupt the food?
How can you know if you are using the Bible to avoid Jesus? When it becomes a self-help manual instead of a platform to showcase your Redeemer. When the Bible produces to-do lists and not worship. When your Bible reading is devoid of prayer. Proper Bible reading first exposes sin, then offers a Savior. The Bible is a witness to the need for a Savior and the presentation of Jesus as that Savior.
Faith is not a warm and fuzzy feeling. Rather it is a willful choice to believe in the reliability of God even when that belief is lacking in physical evidence.
It’s easy to believe the promise that God works things for my good when good things have come to fruition; it’s easy to believe that God is near when He feels near. But when my feelings and experiences tell a different story than the Word of God, faith isn’t so fun anymore.
The test of faith comes when my feelings veer off to the left and God’s Word goes to the right. Here I must make a willful choice to place my faith in what I deem most reliable—my feelings or God’s Word.
When I consider the last decade of my life, I see a series of deaths:
Death of my pride through living in the shadow of my husband’s giftedness. Death of my fear of conflict through divorces in my family and among friends. Death of my fear of confrontation through difficult friendships. Death of my desires through multiple miscarriages. Death of my fear of failure through situations where I could not win. Death of my hope in myself through seeing my exposed sin in high-definition focus.
Each season of dying has felt just like that—dying. The choking out of something I have loved, desired, and clung to for hope, peace, and safety. The choking out of things in me, writhing, gasping for breath and praying, “Does it have to be this way? Can’t I follow You and also keep this with me? Does it really need to die?”
In God’s kingdom, pruning is caring. Jesus is the true vine, His Father the vinedresser. Every branch in Jesus that bears fruit, the Father prunes that it may bear more fruit (John 15:1–2).
God’s answer to my question is yes. Yes, it does need to die. It must be pruned. Without pruning, my life will become something even I don’t want—an overgrown, thorny bush with no fruit to offer.
We are too often overly impressed with the “big” ministries of “famous” Christians and give too little weight to the “average, small and unseen” ministry of faithful saints. So in the wake of Toni’s death, I beg you to consider the humble faithfulness of one of your sisters in the faith. She did not set out the change the world, but rather to serve God with joy all the days of her life.
If you have been impacted at all by what I’ve written, then you should know she is partly responsible. Toni Peeler saw in me a small spark of passion for God’s Word, and she took the time to fan it into a flame.
Before the moving truck arrived at our house in Dallas, I had already been asking God to provide at least 1 friend who would want to study the Bible with me. I knew that thriving in a new city meant finding a community who would join me in exalting Jesus together in the Word.
Living in German-occupied Holland in 1944, Corrie ten Boom was leading an underground network protecting hundreds of Jews all over the country. This work earned her a ticket to Ravensbruck, a despicable Nazi concentration camp, where unspeakable suffering became the backdrop to a new ministry of prayer meetings in flea-infested barracks and ministering the Word of God to anyone in need.
Miscarriage is the membership card to a club you never asked to be in; a union of women sporting badges of infertility, stillbirth, miscarriage, and even abortion. Women who share your emotions, questions, crisis of faith, and isolation, women whose desire to be a parent has been abruptly interrupted by suffering. This post is an effort to encourage those who are grieving and to help friends and family members trying to help.
At the first snow of manna in Exodus 16, God introduces His people to a Sabbath day. Two-and-a-half months after leaving their former slave drivers, God’s people hear an odd command from their new Master—rest.
Though we might not be slaves, our present culture prizes productivity so highly that taking a day off also sounds absurd. “Maybe God meant take a rest from my normal work and do a different kind of work. I can’t just waste time.”
To be honest, this is exactly how I think. If making to-do lists was a viable hobby, it would be mine. I treat productivity like a sport, seeing if I can beat my previous record of tasks completed in one day. Sad but true.
Do you feel distant from God? Do you feel at odds with Him? Do you desire to draw closer to Him? There is one mediator between you and God. It’s not your favorite author. It’s not a book or Bible study. It’s not your pastor, your counselor, your friend, or your parents. For there is only one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave Himself as a ransom for all. Your pastor or friend or favorite blogger have not given themselves as a ransom for you. Only One person has done that… the man Jesus Christ.
Do you have loved ones who are far from God and hope to see them reconciled to Him? Does it seem like it’s all up to you? Like you’re the only one in their life speaking truth and pushing them to God? Remember, there is one mediator between God and men, and it’s not you. You have no power to reconcile others to God. The best you can do is point to the man Jesus Christ who gave Himself as a ransom for all.
Being left out will always be a litmus test for pride. As soon as you realize you didn’t get the invite, you aren’t in the inner circle, or you are on the outside, one of two responses happen.
The first is the most common: hurt, disappointment, and/or anger. Under those surface feelings are deep roots of entitlement (a.k.a. pride). A feeling that you deserve to be included or that you have merited inclusion. Or that you are owed the opportunity to be included, assuming that it’s the fair thing to do. But our God isn’t fair, mercifully so (read more about that here). We live under grace and that changes the game.
To boil it down, being included is about being honored. Like the kids picked first for the kickball team, being chosen for any group is position of honor. No one wants to be last on the team, or worst of all, not picked at all. We want the places of honor.
God is unfair.
Matthew 20 forces us to deal with this hard reality. Though an equitable God who treats everyone with the same favor would be easier to handle, that’s not our God. Jesus makes this clear as He tells this parable.
The truth is, our sin is so vile, so wicked, so wretched, so full of anti-God-self-love, that God’s forgiveness of us at the expense of His One and Only Beloved Son should put us into a state of utter shock and disbelief. But if you don’t think your sin is that bad, then God’s grace toward you won’t be that good. And I think this is where other good things (like marriage) creep in and start to look a little more appealing than a right relationship with God.
If you are not shocked that God has offered you a right relationship with Him, then you likely don’t think you’re a very bad sinner. Does the above description of sin sound extreme to you? Then you likely have too low a view of your sin. Or you have excused your sin because of circumstances or by comparing yourself to others. And so long as knowing God is not that impressive to you, you’ll always be looking to something else for deep and abiding joy.
We have been looking at Biblical womanhood, and specifically what our attitude toward children should be. So far in this last section on children, we’ve covered the following: This is not just for moms, but all of us should have a correct attitude toward these little ones, modeled after that of Christ’s. How do we…
In the last post, Biblical Womanhood, I introduced what will be a several part series on what the Bible has to say about womanhood. I briefly described the influence of feminism as well. And on that note, it is the influence of feminism that makes this topic such a touchy one. There are a lot of books,…
(This post inspired by the song “Prepare Him Room” by Paul Baloche. Check it out here.) Joy to the world! The Lord is come; Let earth receive her king; Let every heart prepare him room, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven and nature sing, And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing. The birth of…