Jesus Doeth All Things Well

This past week, I struggled with the sin of worry. Disability forces me to be dependent on government programs (never a good thing) and one of those programs didn’t seem to be operating properly. Thankfully everything got sorted out Friday, but until then I battled to trust God’s sovereignty.

In the midst of the struggle, I came across a lesser known Fanny Crosby hymn that the Lord used to both convict me of my sinful anxiety and assure me of the Father’s care for me. I share it here as a reminder to myself, but also as an encouragement to you. Whatever befalls us, we need to trust that Jesus really does all things well.

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Saturday Sampler: March 11 — March 17

Extruded CrossesI admire Albert Mohler’s grasp on church history and his practical way of applying it to our present-day Christian experience. So I appreciate Ligonier for featuring Why Controversy Is Sometimes Necessary in their blog this week. Mohler reasons from insights that wouldn’t have occurred to me, making it a fascinating article.

Check out Six Significant Things I’ve Learned from John MacArthur by Leslie A of Growing 4 Life. She makes several interesting points, even beyond the six that comprise the body of her blog post.

Evaluating the rise of the NAR movement in Berean Research, Amy Spreeman demonstrates How abandoning Sola Scriptura shipwrecks your faith. I recommend this piece to anyone who believes that God supplements His Word by speaking to them directly.

Evangelism requires a balanced attitude, as Jordan Standridge shows us in Facts Don’t Care About Your Feelings, But Christians Should in The Cripplegate. His words particularly encourage me, since I often struggle with guilt that my mom evidently never came to saving faith before she died. Yes, my tone in witnessing to her was sinful, and I need to declare the Gospel with much greater gentleness and humility, but I must remember Who ultimately determines salvation.

Are You a Contender? asks Rebecca Stark in an essay for Out of the Ordinary. I especially love her point drawing a correlation between contending for the faith and knowing God’s Word. Ladies, contending for the faith is a responsibility that each of us must take seriously.

The End Time by Elizabeth Prata looks at The entertainment-driven church that’s so prevalent in evangelical culture these days.  Heed her wise words.

In a guest post for Midwest Christian Outreach, Inc, Marcia Montenegro describes The Basic Spirituality of Yoga to show us why Christians must avoid this practice. Marcia practiced Hatha Yoga for 20 years prior to her conversion to Christ, and therefore handles the topic with authority. If you’re at all considering yoga as a means of exercise, I beg you to read this article and seriously think about the points she raises.

Tim Challies suggests a few reasons Why Some People Aren’t Christians. His insights appear simple, but they are also profound. If you feel discouraged regarding your evangelism efforts, this blog post might give you some helpful perspective.

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If We Love Those In Heaven

Spotlight on God

This past Wednesday I introduced the topic of whether or not our deceased loved ones look down on us from heaven. This topic touches everyone; we’ve all lost at least one special person, and consequently we feel the powerful desire to cling to the relationship. We crave assurance that that person still loves us. That we matter to them.

Please understand that I really do understand that craving. When my friend Bob succumbed to his battle with AIDS, I found myself believing that he watched me from heaven, perhaps even more attentive to me in death than he’d been in life. In a sense, his death allowed me to feel closer to him. In my mind, he was now always with  me, focusing his love on me.

Dear sisters, do you see my self-centered attitude here? I wanted Bob’s attention to center on me rather than on the Lord.  I disregarded the truth that he now beholds Christ in all His glory — a wondrous sight that will consume him (and me) for all eternity!

As mortals still locked in sinful bodies, we tend to forget Christ’s preeminence in His creation. I realize I quote Colossians 1:15-20 often, but this passage has so profoundly transformed my understanding of heaven that I want to again draw your attention to it.

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16 For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. 17 And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. 18 And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. 19 For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (ESV)

Although Paul didn’t write Colossians 1:15-20 specifically in reference to heaven, the concept of Christ’s centrality in His creation should clue us in to the fact that creation revolves exclusively around Him. That being the case, it seems to me that heaven strips away everything that distracts from Him. Therefore, those in heaven with Him must be consumed with adoration of Him.

Doesn’t it seem selfish, then, to expect our loved ones in heaven to divide their attention between the Lord and us? Wouldn’t we want them to delight wholly in Him, completely liberated from all other concerns?

And do we seriously want to compete with the Lord for their attention?

I challenge you to think carefully about that last question. As harsh as it sounds, I believe it brings us to the heart of the matter. In repenting of my fantasies about Bob watching over me from heaven, I’ve had to confront my tendency to rival the Lord for Bob’s attention. Not a pretty admission, but a true one.

We continue to love those who go to heaven ahead of us, as well we should. But let’s love them enough to rejoice that they behold the beautiful face of the Savior. And let’s love our Savior enough to rejoice that our loved ones can worship Him without distraction. One day, we will join them in that glorious devotion to Christ.

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Who Our Departed Loved Ones In Heaven Watch

Spring in Boston May 9 2011 001The night John survived his cancer surgery, a family member attributed his survival to his sister, who had lost her own battle with cancer nine years earlier.

I had just been through one of the most emotional days of my life, and I was too exhausted for a theological conversation on the state of the dead, so I swallowed my annoyance and mumbled something about God’s faithfulness. But the remark troubled me then and it troubles me still.

It troubles me even more when evangelicals (who claim to know Scripture) talk about their departed loved ones looking down on them from heaven and perhaps even intervening in their circumstances. A nominal Catholic understandably makes such fanciful assumptions, as my family member did, but people who say they read and believe the Bible really should know better.

Before I go on, let me acknowledge that when someone close dies, it’s natural to want to continue the relationship. I occasionally catch myself trying to talk to my mom, almost four years after her death (and I have no evidence that she ever turned to Christ). So I really do understand why people want to believe that their loved ones still hear  and observe us. It’s painful to accept that our loved ones no longer participate in our lives.

But even leaving aside the issue of those who die without Christ, I see nothing in Scripture to indicate that those in heaven maintain any concern for us. Since they behold the Lord in all His glory, wouldn’t He be the singular focus of their attention? Consider this passage from Revelation.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” ~~Revelation 7:9-10 (ESV)

As much as we’d like to think that our loved ones gaze lovingly down on us from heaven, I believe we miss  the whole point. Our loved ones in heaven behold the face of the resurrected Savior, Who captivates all their attention simply by being Who He is! Would we even want to distract them from such a magnificent preoccupation?

John’s sister had nothing to do with him making it through a surgery that, because of his disability, should have ended his earthly life. But make no mistake: there was most definitely heavenly intervention. God the Father Himself watched over John, guiding the surgical team. Like our loved ones in heaven, I can glorify and praise God for mercifully granting me a few more years with my husband. The Lord deserves all the glory, as John’s sister surely would tell us.

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Pavilioned In Splendor

As a writer, I love hymns with expressive lyrics. The Lord deserves to be praised with the best language that hymn writers can possibly employ because He is so glorious.

But can human writers, with our many limitations, really describe the Lord with any degree of adequacy? Probably not. This side of heaven, none of us can begin to conceive of His glory in its fullness. Yet Sir Robert Grant, a member of English Parliament in the 19th Century, came wonderfully close to capturing it in the magnificent hymn that I want to feature today.

Please listen to Grant’s majestic hymn with an attitude of worship, allowing the words to direct your attention to the Lord’s incredible splendor. May the Holy Spirit use these powerful words to enhance your awe of our King.

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And Yes, My Heart Got Overwhelmed This Past Week

One of the difficulties inherent in embracing Reformed Theology lies in the tension between knowing the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and maintaining a trusting attitude when serious trials assault you. And if you blog about His sovereignty, you know people are watching to see whether or not you really believe what you so loudly profess.

Well, I’ve been tested quite a bit lately, starting with wheelchair problems that began over two weeks ago. Other issues, in varying degrees of intensity and severity, ensued, and I found myself struggling to trust the Lord to take care of me and John.

To God’s glory, the most threatening matters got resolved yesterday, thanks to a very alert pharmacist who took time to investigate and to my husband’s determination to fiddle with our printer. Other issues remain, including my temperamental wheelchair. New problems seem ready to pounce. And yes, I’ve been feeling quite overwhelmed amid it all.

By God’s providence, my reading plan had me in Psalms during the thickest part of these trials. So many songs my church sang back in the 80s came directly from Psalms, including one from Psalm 61 that resonates with my struggle to trust God’s sovereignty in my circumstances.  This ancient hymn of David set to 20th Century music reminds me that when my heart is overwhelmed, He will be the Rock that is higher than I.

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It’s Not About Why A Good Man Suffers

God Answers

Of course I’d read the book of Job many times throughout my 47 years of being a Christian, so its story hardly surprised me as I read it this week. Yet this time I noticed Job’s attitude. During the course of his trial, it degenerates from trusting God to questioning Him to flat-out anger against Him.

Job knew that He’d initially done nothing to warrant the severe suffering that God allowed Satan to heap on him. When his three “comforters” asserted that God was punishing him for sin, he vehemently denied their analysis. Sadly, as they persisted in their accusations, Job slid into the sin of self-righteousness, eventually demanding that God answer to him!

As we know, God finally puts a halt to Job’s temper tantrum by reminding Job that He created heaven and earth. Therefore He has authority to act however He pleases, and His creatures really don’t have any right to call Him into account. Thankfully, Job then repents of his self-righteousness and receives a restoration of God’s blessings.

Let’s talk about Job’s self-righteous anger against the Lord for a bit. I’d never really noticed it until this week, but I believe it holds a key to understanding the whole message of the book.

In college, a classmate who categorized herself as an agnostic summarized the book of Job as an exploration of the question, “Why does a good man suffer?” I thought of her assessment this week as I read Job’s self-righteous protests of his innocence, and I realized the glaring fallacy of her statement.

God used Job’s suffering to reveal Job’s heart. For all his attempts at piety and obedience, deep down Job ultimately trusted in himself rather than God for his justification. God used the trial to confront Job with his arrogance. Although he’d done nothing to provoke God’s judgment when the trials began, his reaction to the unfair remarks of his “comforters” led him to express his deep-seated self-righteousness. And it was ugly.

God, in His grace, allowed Job to recognize his need for a Savior. He graciously brought Job to repentance, and then rewarded Job for that repentance. The book isn’t about a good man who suffered as much as it’s about a good God Who uses suffering to show us both our sin and His wonderful grace.

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