July 2023

God is the cause and we are His effect

Something in the human heart seems to always ask “Why?” Embedded within our DNA is this compelling desire to understand the reason for things being the way they are. For the most part, this compulsion serves us well and leads humanity to the most amazing and beneficial discoveries. But the opposite is true also. Understanding why the unpleasant things exist can show an ugly or undesirable reason for the reality we experience, which again, is beneficial for us to know.

This is also true in relation to God, just on a much larger scale. For the Christian, God is the ultimate cause of all things (Isaiah 45:7), yet He not only allows His creation to interact with each other, but also with Himself as Creator, LORD, and Saviour. Yes, it’s true that Yahweh knows all things, even the secrets of the heart (Psalm 44:21), whereas we know very little, least of all our own hearts (Jeremiah 17:9). Which highlights the grace of God in wanting us to know Him.

Jeremiah explained God’s promises to Israel before returning them from Babylonian exile to their homeland of Israel. God told His people that you will seek me and find me, when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you, declares the Lord… (Jeremiah 29:13-14). God wants to be found, and He wants us to experience the blessing of knowing Him as the cause of our seeking Him. God desires to be known, and believers now desire to know Him (Psalm 37:4). Our right desires are the effect of God’s gracious desires for us.

We may not understand all the intricate mechanisms the Lord employs to bring this about, but we do know the outcome. We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 5:1). God the Father caused His Son Jesus to bring us peace with Him through the cross, which is the effect we experience, for which we are very thankful. James 1:17 adds, every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights… And there is no gift greater than the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul stretched the gospel application of this truth out for the Corinthian church in this way. Because of Him (God) you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 1:30-31). We Christians can boast of God, who alone caused Jesus Christ to become all the needed things on our behalf that we could not be ourselves. Therefore, wisdom, righteousness,  sanctification, and redemption, are the results we have been gifted with through faith in Jesus Christ. It’s no wonder Paul later wrote to the Ephesian church, it’s by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God (Ephesians 2:8). The extent and complexity of all that God has gifted us with is enormous. The more we think about this, the more we conclude that God is worthy of our boasting, our praise, and our gratitude.

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to His great mercy, He has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

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Rising above disappointment – Part 3

Disappointments come in all shapes and sizes, and they don’t care about the age of their recipients. They can be subtle or aggressive. They can gradually build up over years or dump themselves upon you with no warning. No matter what the delivery method or size, disappointments often scar our hearts.

Rising above life’s disappointments involves acknowledging God and worshipping Him throughout the struggles. Victory over disappointment uses pain to fuel hope in God, hope in heaven, and hope in Jesus’ return to snatch His bride away. The greater our pain, the stronger our yearning for Christ (John 14:1-3).

This mortal life of faith is a unique opportunity to glorify God in ways we will never have in heaven. Our arrival in heaven means we shall never have another opportunity to be sanctified, or to stand faithful for Christ while in a hostile environment. All opportunities to speak well of Christ while in the battles of life will end. Heaven will not present us with an enemy to overcome, it will never permit  struggles for us to conquer, and it will never allow opposition for us to stand firm against. The threats and fears that come from an evil enemy, from pain and weakness, simply will never be experienced in heaven. Never again will we be able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with sinners lost in the darkness of this world. Heaven will never allow the opportunity, or choice, to show loving grace on Jesus’ behalf in the antagonistic world that we presently live.

While many point the finger of criticism at God for the injustices of this sinful world, and mock Him  during our struggles, we do well to remember the privilege and  promise for suffering Christians. After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10). Worship, certainty of hope, and obedience are the killers of disappointment as we trust in the God who promises to personally bring relief. All we need to do is patiently wait for Him.

Remember, as you rub shoulders with those suffering disappointments, gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body (Proverbs 16:24). Christian, in all life’s  circumstances, point the weary person to the Lord Jesus Christ. While disappointment attempts to convince you that faith is useless and hope in Jesus is dead, God’s testimony is the opposite. Listen to Paul’s exhortation to the Thessalonian believers, which ends with a promise. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24, Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.

We have a compassionate God who promises to bring our sanctification, that is, the process of personal development in holiness, to perfect completion. Our entire being shall be presented blameless at Christ’s return. God categorically promises that he will surely do it.  But you may ask, Why? The answer is because He who calls you is faithful. Faith looks to, and depends upon God to do all that He has promised. Faith expects God to sanctify, either now or later, all our failings, our deceptive hearts, our weaknesses, our broken bodies, our destructive thoughts, our damaged relationships, our failed expectations, and our disappointments.

In Christ, we can rise above our disappointments with a victory that carries us today, and promises us a living and perfect eternity with Christ.

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Rising above disappointment – Part 2

From early childhood to old age, disappointments are an inescapable part of life. We usually  process the little ones just fine, but the big ones which involve tragedy, permanent loss, irreparable damage, and lasting pain, they can be the disappointments which grind our lives to a stop. When pain is relentless, when human support changes nothing for the better, and people mock our faith in a God who would allow, or even orchestrate suffering in our lives, how can we experience God in that? Make no mistake Christian, your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8), and he’s happy to devour you or I through personal disappointments. He rejoices in our pains and celebrates every opportunity to feed suffering into our hearts.

As we saw with Moses, the start line for rising above disappointment is to acknowledge God’s loving faithfulness as LORD. This confession is not a magic formula that instantly changes everything for the better. No, but it is a good place to start a healthy discussion with ourselves about the relationship between God and our circumstances. Our circumstances do not change God’s character.

So, from this start line, we need to stack up God’s building blocks of truth so that His truths become the material for a lasting and ruling faith. As we speak to ourselves the incremental confessions of faith, truth upon truth, they increasingly become our enduring thinking in both the good and bad times of life.

Here’s just a few building blocks of truth that the enemy wants us to forget:

  • We have access to, and acceptance with God, through faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 5:2).
  • He is LORD overall, and He listens to our prayers, even when we think He’s not (Psa 66:19-20).
  • He is our only Saviour from the eternal punishment of our sin (Rom 3:23-24).
  • Through Christ, God views the redeemed as perfect for all time (Heb 10:14).
  • We have a Saviour who experienced temptation and suffering just as we do, yet He was without sin. He is approachable and merciful in our struggles (Heb 4:15-16).
  • Both the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ are interceding on our behalf with God the Father (Rom 8:26-27, 34).
  • God continues to provide the essentials of our daily lives (Mat 6:31-33).
  • The Holy Spirit is never going to break His guarantee of security over our lives (2Co 1:22).
  • It is God’s intention to complete His work in our lives, right through to Christ’s return (Php 1:6).
  • According to his (God’s) great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).
  • After you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you (1 Peter 5:10).

God does all this during our time on earth. But there will be a final day when He will liberate us from our very last earthly pain to our eternal rest of heaven. There, we will never experience pain or disappointment again. Therefore, blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him (James 1:12).

To be continued…

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Rising above disappointment

Everyone lives with disappointment at times. Minor setbacks, failed expectations, broken promises, health issues, or whatever life dishes up that causes a broken heart. Disappointment is real, it can seriously hurt, and it occurs in the Christian life just as it does for anyone else.

Moses knew the sting of disappointment, and especially in the early years of service for God. He felt the conflict between his desires for God, of failed expectations, and the disillusionment in his heart when he could not understand what was happening. In Exodus chapter 5, Moses had begun confronting King Pharaoh with God’s instruction to let the enslaved Israelite people go. Pharaoh didn’t like the idea at all, so he increased the Israelites workload and punished them more severely when his unrealistic demands were not met. Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all” (Exodus 5:22-23).

If nothing else, Moses spoke the raw truth of what was in his heart to God, and God graciously listened. Moses’ response to failed expectations of how Pharaoh should have responded backlashed against his love for God. In fact, Moses boldly laid the blame for his inability to rightly process what was unfolding between Pharaoh and Israel at God’s feet, accusing Yahweh of evil. It was all God’s fault, and Moses was seriously ticked off. Moses personalised Pharaoh’s disobedience by taking offence, not at Pharaoh, but at God’s sovereign role in the events. His deceptive heart converted disappointment into defiant challenge of God because Moses didn’t see the results he expected when he expected.

Moses experienced the same abrasive inner rub that we often feel when our expectations do not align with God’s will, God’s methods, or God’s timing. The disappointment we may experience has nothing to do with failure or wrong on God’s part, but it’s due to our heart condition and our wrongly applied knowledge of God. Somewhere along the way, we, like Moses, elevate our requirement for God to perform according to our wills and our desires. Like Moses, when we don’t get our way, our fleshly hearts are lured into becoming defiant.

So, how do we rise above this torturous struggle? Consider for a moment some of God’s response to Moses in Exodus chapter 6. God spoke further to Moses and said to him, “I am Yahweh; and I appeared to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as God Almighty… (Exodus 6:2-3). Moses, take a breath and remember who’s Almighty God in this situation? Remember how I repeatedly proved myself to be the loving and faithful LORD to your ancestors. Moses, you are not God, I AM, and I remember perfectly well the covenant I made with your ancestors (Exodus 6:4-5). Furthermore, I have heard the groaning of the sons of Israel… (Exodus 6:5a).

Moses, listen up! I am Yahweh, and I will bring you out from under the hard labours of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their slavery. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments (Exodus 6:6). You see, Moses needed to put God back in His rightful place within his heart and his thoughts. Which is precisely where we need to start when feeling the deep disappointments of life. God has not lost control, and He has not lost interest in us. Rising above disappointment has a start line, and acknowledging God’s loving faithfulness as LORD is that start line.

To be continued…

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