Posts Tagged ‘God’

Money

Keep yourselves free from the love of money, being content with what you have for He himself has said, ‘I will never leave you, nor will I ever forsake you.’ – Hebrews 13:5

For the past year or so I’ve struggled with worry over my financial future.  My fears have been based largely around concern for having enough money into the future to put a roof over my head and food on the table, should I never be well enough to return to some kind of work.

In response to these fears I spent quite a bit of time studying the stock market  and very cautiously put a small amount of money there and promptly watched it go down in value.  I then looked at the housing market and quickly discovered that the only place I could afford would be in the most crime laden suburbs of the poorest parts of Tasmania where I don’t really know anyone.  (Not that this wouldn’t be a good place to live in some respects.  Such places need a christian presence and the good news of the gospel with it). Of course it’s not wrong to make plans so as to try to ensure as much as possible that one is not an unnecessary burden to others but it is wrong to trust in our money rather than God and the truth is I’ve been trusting in money rather than God in many instances and not once has such trust made me feel more secure.  In fact the more I learn about finance and investment, about asset bubbles, about fiat money, about inflation and deflation, about private and government debt, about bank  capital adequacy ratios, about the history of booms and busts, recessions and depressions, about all things monetary and economic, the more I realise that God was right when he said, ‘Do not weary yourself to gain wealth, cease from your consideration of it.  When you set your eyes on it, it is gone.  For it certainly makes itself wings, like an eagle that flies toward the heavens.’   There is no security in money.

I think in the past I have thought that the love of money is more of a problem when you are rich, because the more you have the more you are tempted to think that it is your money and not your God who looks after you.  However when we become poorer (and I know by world standards I’m still not really poor), there is an equally dangerous temptation.  That temptation is not just the temptation to believe that the money you have will look after you but the temptation to believe that the money you don’t have will ruin you, that only money and your ability to acquire it can deliver you from future or current distress.  This is a very great danger to our souls.  In the parable of the sower Jesus describes the seed that is choked by thorns as a picture of the person who hears God’s word but becomes unfruitful ‘because of the worries of the world and the deceitfulness of riches.’  This is a danger for those of us that see ourselves as poorer just as much as for those who are richer.  There is a connection between worry and the deceitfulness of riches.  When worry arises we need to learn to take our worries to God instead of thinking that wealth and money will solve our problems.

I think I also need to learn to live more day to day and less for tomorrow.  I need to just pray and give thanks for today’s bread instead of incessantly worrying about tomorrow’s.  I need God’s grace for this. No doubt we all do.  Grace to believe that he cares for us and that he really will never leave us nor forsake us, that we don’t need more money, but rather faith in God, the provider of all things, the one who owns the cattle on a thousand hills.  How silly we are to trust in our own little hobby farms that are only ever a drought or a flood away from destruction instead of our good and powerful God who spared not his own Son but gave him up for us all and who says, ‘how will he not also with him freely give us all things.’  I am sick and I am weak.  I have no earning power but ultimately I don’t need more earning power, I need the God who gives all things to weak and undeserving sinners.

Lord help me believe what I know to be true and help others like me to believe it too.

Christian love

We live in a society in which love and lust are often regarded to be more or less synonymous.  Love is often defined primarily in terms of a feeling or desire for someone or something.  In reaction to this I have sometimes found myself trying to define love more in terms of actions than feelings.  I would argue that it is something that acts in others interests rather than one’s own.  John 3:16 provides one of a number of biblical examples of such love.  ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son.’   I have been tempted to go further and argue that this on its own is the sum and substance of love – that it is a sacrificial giving to others rather than any feeling or desire.

1 Corinthians 13 however gives short shrift to such a reductionistic view of christian love.  ‘If I give all I possess to feed the poor but do not have love it profits me nothing.’  If it’s possible to give in a sacrificial way without love then it is clear that sacrificial giving as a definition of love is rather inadequate.

Christian love it seems is much more than just a desire or feeling but it is also more than sacrificial service.  When it says in Genesis that Jacob loved Rachael it seems that he desired her and found her very attractive.  However the text also says that ‘because’ he loved her he didn’t mind giving up 14 years of his life working for her father to obtain her hand in marriage.  Love desires its object and willingly sacrifices for it.

In a sense the relationship between love and sacrifice is a bit like the relationship between faith and works.  A person can have works without faith but they can’t have a living faith without works (James 2).  Likewise a person may act sacrificially without love but they cannot love without acting sacrificially.

So what should we do if we’re having trouble loving someone, say a family member or someone at work or church?  Once upon a time I would have said we should serve the other person no matter how we feel and in time our feelings will come into line.  But unless our hearts are changing as we repent and look to Jesus our feelings may not change.  We love, not by a sheer act of the will against our feelings, but in response to God’s love for us in Jesus.  As we meditate on what Christ has done for us while we were still his enemies and we ask for him to change us, it becomes harder and harder to maintain bitter feelings towards others.

Joni – by Joni Eareckson Tada

I want to give a plug here for Joni Eareckson Tada’s well-known autobiography for anyone who may not have read it. Many Christian biographies paint unrealistic portraits of Christian lives that can actually leave one discouraged.  So many are about great preachers or church leaders – something few of us will ever be.  They tell us about their Sunday nights but rarely their monday mornings.  The beauty of this biography, outlining the spiritual journey of a young quadriplegic, is that it provides a profound testimony to the way  God’s power is made known through weakness.

Joni is refreshingly honest in the way she shares her story.   She humbly describes her pain, despair and struggles with sin.  Consequently she testifies to the glory of God, who has ‘put this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not of ourselves.’

Here is a little appetiser from the preface in Joni’s own words:

What happened on July 30, 1967, was the beginning of an incredible adventure that I feel compelled to share because of  what I have learned.

Oscar Wilde wrote:  “In this world there  are only two tragedies.   One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it.”  To rephrase his thought I suggest there are only two joys.  One is having God answer all our prayers; the other is not receiving the answer to all your prayers.  I believe this because I have found that God knows my needs infinitely better than I know them.  And He is utterly dependable no matter which direction our circumstances take us.



We want a miracle but God wants a meeting

Mark 5:25-34

Sufferers of chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, dysautonomia and many other chronic illnesses will no doubt readily identify with the woman in Mark’s gospel who was sick for twelve years.  She is said to have ‘endured much at the hands of many physicians, and had spent all that she had and was not helped at all but rather grew worse.’  Furthermore, if those suffering from such illnesses believe in God, they will most probably have turned to him many times asking that he would heal them and give them relief from their sufferings.  They would no doubt love to be able to do as this woman did, simply reaching out and touching Jesus’ cloak, and finding that in that moment twelve long years of pain and humiliation were over.   She found a physician that cost nothing and healed her entirely.

What is particularly  interesting however about this story is that Jesus does not allow her to come to him for healing alone.  As D.A. Carson puts it, ‘she wants a miracle but Jesus wants a meeting.’  When she reaches out in the crowd to touch him, Jesus turns around immediately saying, ‘Who touched me?’  No doubt he knew who had touched him but he asked the question because he desired that this woman would not only know his power but also his love.  He wanted her not simply to know healing but to know him.  And so they meet face to face and I wonder as the years passed, what she came to value most – being free of her illness or meeting her Lord face to face and receiving his blessing.

When I first became unwell two years ago I begged God to heal me.  There was little I wanted from him more than this.  Of course, I would still like to be healed and God in his mercy may yet grant this but  I am slowly learning that God wants something much more wonderful than my healing – he wants me.  We may want a miracle but God wants a meeting.  He wants us to know him and love him and trust him.  Any healing from chronic illness will only ever be temporary in this life, but to know Christ, to meet with him, is eternal life.

Fear and Hope

“When I am afraid I will put my trust in you.”  – Psalm 56:3

When I am afraid I am often dismayed by my lack of faith and trust in God.  I conclude that if I were really trusting in God I would not be fearful in the first place.  The psalmist sees these things  as coexisting, or perhaps more precisely, he sees hope rising in the midst of fear.  Calvin points out that hope lies idle unless it is in the presence of some fear, danger or discouragement.  Therefore trusting God doesn’t mean we will never be afraid, it means putting our hope in him when we are afraid.

I am  afraid of many things.  Sometimes I am afraid of being lonely but I hope in God who promises never to leave or forsake me.  Other times I am afraid that my  suffering will just keep getting worse but I hope in God who says that ‘if he causes grief he will have compassion for he does not willingly afflict the sons of men.’  Still other times I fear that people may get tired of looking after me  but I hope in God who says ‘if your mother and father forsake you the Lord will take you up.’  And then there is my greatest fear.  There are times when I am afraid of dying  but I hope in God who raises the dead.  I hope in the God and father of our Lord Jesus Christ who was dead and now he is alive forever.  When I am afraid, by God’s grace, I will trust in him.  And you know what? I find that when I do this, when I look to God in this way, recalling and believing his promises, I am not so afraid anymore.

“In God, whose word I praise,
In God I have put my trust;
I shall not be afraid.” – Psalm 56:4

It’s Friday but Sunday’s Coming

I heard a great sermon by David Jones the other day and he quoted some black American preacher who preached a sermon with the refrain ‘It’s Friday, but Sunday’s coming.’  I found it helpful to consider how hopeless the disciples felt on the day Christ died and how little they realised that in just a few days Christ would rise.  It struck me as a good description of what our lives are often like here.  We die with Christ and often things seem hopeless….but ‘It’s Friday, it’s only Friday and Sunday’s coming.’

It’s Friday
Jesus is praying
Peter’s a sleeping
Judas is betraying
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
Pilate’s struggling
The council is conspiring
The crowd is vilifying
They don’t even know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are running
Like sheep without a shepherd
Mary’s crying
Peter is denying
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s a comin’

It’s Friday
The Romans beat my Jesus
They robe him in scarlet
They crown him with thorns
But they don’t know
That Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
See Jesus walking to Calvary
His blood dripping
His body stumbling
And his spirit’s burdened
But you see, it’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The world’s winning
People are sinning
And evil’s grinning

It’s Friday
The soldiers nail my Savior’s hands
To the cross
They nail my Savior’s feet
To the cross
And then they raise him up
Next to criminals

It’s Friday
But let me tell you something
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The disciples are questioning
What has happened to their King
And the Pharisees are celebrating
That their scheming
Has been achieved
But they don’t know
It’s only Friday
Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
He’s hanging on the cross
Feeling forsaken by his Father
Left alone and dying
Can nobody save him?
Ooooh
It’s Friday
But Sunday’s comin’

It’s Friday
The earth trembles
The sky grows dark
My King yields his spirit

It’s Friday
Hope is lost
Death has won
Sin has conquered
and Satan’s just a laughin’

It’s Friday
Jesus is buried
A soldier stands guard
And a rock is rolled into place

But it’s Friday
It is only Friday
Sunday is a comin’!

S. M. Lockbridge

Crying out to God – Suffering Well

It’s not uncommon for Christians who are under severe trials to find themselves experiencing doubts and concerns about their relationship to God.  They cry out to him for help but it may seem like he is far away.  They may be bewildered by God’s dealings with them.  This spiritual depression that they experience may further alarm them and others around them.  It is thought perhaps that as Christians they should have peace and joy at all times and hence the absence of such peace is alarming.  However things are not always as they seem.  A Christian may lack a sense of peace and assurance of God’s love, yet the fact that they continue to look to him and  cry out to him in their pain is a good sign that it is well with their soul.   In Luke 18 the elect are described as those who ‘cry to him day and night.’  Isaiah 50 speaks of people who ‘fear the Lord’ yet ‘walk in darkness and have no light.’   Furthermore we ought to remember that Jesus himself was ‘a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief’ (Isaiah 53).  In the garden of Gethsemane he was not calm and peaceful but deeply troubled.  As we are conformed to his likeness we ought not to be surprised if we find ourselves  also deeply troubled.  What matters most at such times is not how we feel but where we look.

Joni Erickson Tada has been a quadriplegic ever since she was a teenager.  Speaking at a conference not long ago she said, ‘don’t think that after all these years I’ve worked out how to handle quadriplegia.   I still can’t handle quadriplegia.  I wake up every morning, so tired and I cry out to God saying, “God, I can’t do quadriplegia.  Help me.”  She said, ‘I wake up knowing my girlfriend is about to come through the door and help me out of bed and I just can’t summon up the strength to greet her with a smile, so I cry out to God and only then do I find that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’  You see it is not that our trials become easier as we grow in godliness, it is that we learn to cry out more to God and depend more upon his strength.  This is what it means to suffer well.