Posts tagged Featured
Imitating Jonathan Edwards’ Godly Parenting

Words filled with biblical truth spoken into an air of uncertainty must be among the most agonizing parents can deliver to a child. Will children receive the Scriptures as foolishness or as the wisdom of God (1 Corinthians 1:18)? The answer is not always known.

As parents, if closeness with our children were the only aim when they approach us with their fears and pains, we might restrict our replies to: “God is near. He is with you” or “God aches with you.” I find momentous biblical truth about the character of God in each of these replies (Hebrews 13:5; Lamentations 3:32-33). 

Yet, when in self-sacrificial love for our children we prioritize their relationships with God over and above their relationships with us, more biblical counsel emerges. This counsel potentially puts the parent-child relationship at risk for the sake of their good (Matthew 19:29) and sends us in prayer toward a God who draws people to himself.

Jonathan Edwards and His Daughter, Esther

Jonathan Edwards offered this kind of self-sacrificial love to his daughter, Esther. He wrote the following words to her when she was ill. His words meet the reality of the world’s sorrows:

I would not have you think that any strange thing has happened to you in this affliction: ‘Tis according to the course of things in this world, that after the world’s smiles, some great affliction soon comes.[1]  

He counsels her to make the time of illness useful within her spirit:

God has now given you early and seasonable warning not at all to depend on worldly prosperity. 

Having humility before God about her earthly illness would foster contentment in eternal rest. If she cannot improve her circumstance on this earth, Edwards advises she look to the eternal glory God might glean from her difficult season:

Therefore I would advise….if it pleases God to restore you, to lot upon no happiness here. 

Labour while you live, to serve God and do what good you can, and endeavor to improve every dispensation to God’s glory and your own spiritual good, and be content to do and bear all that God calls you to in this wilderness, and never expect to find this world any thing better than a wilderness. 

Lay your account to travel through it in weariness, painfulness, and trouble, and wait for your rest and your prosperity ‘till hereafter where they that die in the Lord rest from their labours, and enter into the joy of their Lord. 

He encourages his daughter to give herself wholly to the Lord in suffering. He can deliver challenging, truth-focused counsel because he has already made the same commitment to the Lord in his life. As a loving parent, being at a distance from his child without hope for future visits would undoubtedly be painful. 

But the exemplary nature of his contented commitment to God is on display when writing to his suffering daughter who is out of his reach, across many miles.  

You are like to spend the rest of your life (if you should get over this illness) at a great distance from your parents, but care not much for that. If you lived near us, yet our breath and yours would soon go forth, and we should return to our dust, whither we are all hastening. 

‘Tis of infinitely more importance to have the presence of an heavenly Father, and to make process towards an heavenly home. Let us all take care that we may meet there at last.[2]

He delivers world-denying hope in courageous words to a hurting child. First, by speaking challenging thoughts he risks that his words might be met with disagreement causing relational distance.

Second, he speaks words for the good of his child, without thought of himself. He advises his daughter to “care not much for” being near or far from him—so long as she remains near to the Lord. Edwards clearly has no greater joy than that his daughter would walk in the truth (3 John 1:4).

My Own Parenting

I do not want any less than what Edwards exemplifies. I would not ultimately want a pleasant-enough relationship with my daughter to the detriment of considering eternity—heaven and hell—together. Truth may be agonizing, at times, to convey—but these kinds of words are good; they are love. Speaking them is the kind of risk God asks me to take for the sake of Christ and the good of my daughter (Romans 10:14).

When my daughter is grown, I want her to see parents like Edwards. I want us to be rightfully content in the Lord so that our only request and hope is that she walk with the Lord to eternity. Edwards’ counsel is compelling, in part, because he is true to maintaining an eternal focus himself. To ask my daughter to follow me in contentment where I have never been would prove challenging! 

Ultimately, Edwards and his daughter are brought closer together through this focus. Esther writes of their relationship:

Last eve I had some free discourse with My Father on the great things that concern my best interest—I opened my difficulties to him very freely and he as freely advised and directed. 

The conversation has removed some distressing doubts that discouraged me much in my Christian warfare—He gave me some excellent directions to be observed in secret that tend to keep the soul near to God, as well as others to be observed in a more publick way—What a mercy that I have such a Father! Such a Guide![3]

Every decision of faith in the Lord is solely each individual’s to make. But, parents can aid their children’s individual decisions by refusing to create a relational dynamic intent on bringing us a sense of happiness and fulfillment. 

Looking to Edwards and his Esther, as a type of Christ-exalting relationship, we can continue to aim higher, with prayerful hope, for the kind of rich comradery that flows when both parties, by God’s grace, love the truth and content themselves in the Lord alone.

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Lianna DavisMothering, Featured
Seven Resolutions for Unfulfilled Longings

To have both longings and peace simultaneously might seem contradictory. While longings might be associated with unrest, I have come to see my unresolved longings filled with peace—and more, I have seen them re-purposed.

First, a clarification: As I see it, good unfulfilled longings are those desires compatible with the holy will of God (i.e. not intrinsically wrong or evil) that are not within his present will for me (i.e. within his wise outworking of my life for his glory and my good). Of this kind of longing, which I am calling good unfulfilled/unresolved longings, I write here.

Because, as believers, we walk “by faith, not by sight” on this earth (2 Cor. 5:7), we are not assumed to understand all that comes (or does not come) into our lives, understand all of the intentions or plans of God (or the seeming silence), or understand all of the reasons some desires remain unresolved at present (while others that feel less important are resolved). 

But knowing we will stand before the Lord one day—seeing at last the one who has dealt wondrously with us—we “make it our aim to please him” (2 Cor. 5:9) in what the apostle Paul calls the “groans” of this life before we are overcome with heavenly glory (2 Cor. 5:2). With this aim, I desire to resist temptations to be pulled away from devotedness to the Lord. To that end, here is a set of proposed resolutions:

(1) I will not draw self-created and assumption-based lines between my desires and any necessary implications in God’s plans for me. God alone is God—and he is not beholden to my feelings. 

I assume that when God says he will give me the desires of my heart (Ps. 37:4b), this means he first guides my desires. The beginning of the verse is indispensable to understanding his guidance: “Delight yourself in the Lord” (Ps. 37:4a). Consequently, my directing desire—or, my desire under which all other desires must fall into compliance—is to be living for his sake. God is not subject to my feelings; my feelings are best directed by my delight in him.

(2) When I come to see or understand that one sketch I had conceived for honoring God through my life is not viable, I will not cause myself to be stuck. 

I intend to willingly lay down my prior path and trust that he can show me a new way to pleasing him—a detour around the plans I previously knew. And I will trust that in the mind of the Lord, a holy longing unfulfilled is not a detour, but my exact path to pleasing him most. 

(3) I will not doubt that his sovereign plan and goodness prevail when the sketch of my life—that I had formed—fades. 

When the trajectory for my life that I had envisioned is not realized, I will assume that occurrence as one more positive reassurance within me that I am not sovereign or all-wise, like God, such that I can plan what will work out for my ultimate good on this earth. I will welcome with gratitude every new assurance that he is God, and I am not. 

(4) I may be groaning with raw longings, but I will not seek an ultimate remedy for them apart from God. I will let them remain raw—if needed—and let them be his. 

When I let my longings be as they are, and let them ache, I find I am exceedingly sensitive to the touch of God’s Word. The suffering Savior alone is comfort; his intercession for me before God alone means peace and perseverance; the skies that will yield to his coming alone promise the display of my hope. I will not numb my longings with sin; I will let myself be open to him.

(5) I will trust that whatever I bypass on my revised life trajectory—even if what I bypass is good in principle—would not have been good in his sovereign plan for me to have.

Not only do I trust that God’s path will best allow me to serve him, I trust that his path will indeed be best for me. And when I peer closer—as I must—I find that the two are not disconnected. For I do not know what is better for me than serving him. 

(6) I will pray that the truth of his sovereign goodness becomes so lifted in my sights that my joy about him outweighs the ache of what I do not have.

I may be required to interact with the joy I know of God’s character differently than how I would have interacted with the joy that my unfulfilled longing would have brought. Meaning, the latter would have been tactile and tangible, and the joy I do know of God’s sovereignty and goodness are often neither of those, but spiritual in nature. The experience is different. But the theological/spiritual command no less direct bearing upon me—but more when considered rightly. Through the Word of God, the voice of God speaks to my spirit, and I trust that the joy I find there can outweigh other possible good. 

(7) I will not so diminish God in my sights as to believe another life sketch to be better than him. 

Another path that I envisioned for my life would have brought joy; my desire was not wrong, and I cannot—in fact, I should not—deny it. Yet, no good path can prevail over and above the goodness of who God is. And so, I compare the two. I determine to compare. Specifically, I find that God himself is my good all the time, in every fulfilled or unfulfilled longing. That this goodness remains when longings go unfulfilled leads me to thankfulness.  

When the disciple Peter started to weigh his life’s difficult trajectory against factors outside of a peace-filled singular commitment to the Lord, Christ pointedly and simply responded, “…what is that to you? You follow me!” (John 21:22b). And when I am called on a groaning earth through the way of unfulfilled longings, I think of the same penetrating words: “You follow me.” 

God has asked me on this “revised” life trajectory; he is the one saying “follow.” Associated with him I perceive these longings to be ennobled; following God through the ache matters to him. In this my unfulfilled longings are filled with divine purpose. 

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Don’t Let Suffering Silence Your Prayers

I called the nurse into the hospital room, “I think I felt her kick. Can we check?”

A shadow passed over her face. Not many minutes prior, the doctor had told me, my husband, and the nurses that my yet-to-be-born, 42-week daughter had no heartbeat.

The nurse gave me the monitor and asked if I wanted to use it. She quietly, kindly excused herself from the room. But I think her face held some pity. Perhaps she thought I was having trouble accepting reality. But I knew my God could undoubtedly answer my prayer for renewed earthly life for my daughter.

Soon, circling my stomach, I understood that my prayer had not been answered with a “yes.” As time went on, that “yes” seemed less and less likely. 

 Home from the hospital daughter-less, I was no longer sure how to pray for new requests. I had not presumed that God owed me a “yes,” and I was not angry at him. But because that particular request had felt urgent and precious, I suddenly felt I had little I wanted to ask of him. I was silenced.

Five years have passed since the fresh grief of losing our daughter, but I was recently impressed by a biblical figure who endures terrible hardship with a far different response to prayer in the midst of his pain—Nehemiah.

God’s people had been justly exiled from their homeland, with only some surviving (Neh. 1:2). But a remnant returns to the homeland, first led by Zerubbabel and second by Ezra to relearn the law of God and to rebuild. 

The book of Ezra records the generous faithfulness of God to allow this return and rebuild:  

Yet our God has not forsaken us in our slavery,but has extended to us his steadfast love before the kings of Persia, to grant us some reviving to set up the house of our God, to repair its ruins, and to give us protection in Judea and Jerusalem. (Ezra 9:9)

With a personal interest in this rebuild for his fellow people and for the sake of God’s name, Nehemiah, an honored cupbearer in Persia to the king, eagerly inquires about the Judean remnant. But unfortunately, he receives news that the walls around the city are broken and destroyed, for progress has been halted (Ezra 4:12, 17-23). Rebuilding efforts are dampened, leaving the remnant without the protection of walls. They receive a “not right now” answer from God that they don’t expect. 

As one who is acquainted with suffering, I wonder if the people felt a measure of finality in this development—God has said “no,” so what more should we pray? Perhaps the remnant thought: I have accepted a “no” from God on this exceedingly dear request. I have accepted it and am even ready to bear another “no.” So, for what else should I pray? This is how I felt concerning my daughter. 

Nehemiah understands what feeling sorrow upon sorrow is like. Upon hearing of the remnant: “I sat down and wept and mourned for days” (Neh. 1:4a). Yet, what directly follows from Nehemiah’s mourning is an invitation for God’s people who are suffering to still see purpose in prayer. Nehemiah offers exemplary words to the Lord amidst his tears (Neh. 1:5-11). He remembers God’s character and covenant with a clear belief that the Word of God unalterably stands. Because of this, he knows that he has a legitimate basis for coming before God. 

In tears and after hearing of opposition, he is remarkably able to pray, “let your ear be attentive and your eyes open, to hear the prayer of your servant” (1:6a). Instead of his suffering stalling him from prayer, he expectantly requests God’s “ear” and “eyes.” One commentator notes, “The superficially curious juxtapositioning of ‘eyes’ and ‘hearing’ provides a fully intelligible metaphor.”[1] With earnestness, Nehemiah requests God’s attuned attention. I admire Nehemiah’s fervor to seek the face of God after his homeland and many of his fellow people had been destroyed, after rebuilding efforts had been stilted, and more—after the fame of his God might have seemed to be discounted among the nations due to the exile. He had faith in God’s Word. And therefore, he trusted that a “not right now” was different than a “never”—and he knew that a “not right now” was only a reason to keep praying.

While my daughter will never have more breath in this life, Nehemiah was granted success for further rebuilding efforts. Though our requests and results are not parallel in that sense, I think about the grander principle of the reputation of the Lord in both. God would allow Nehemiah to rebuild the walls and further pursue restoration after exile for the sake of His covenant name and faithfulness. And God did demonstrate the power of His name through His presence and the strength—spiritual and otherwise—He gave me even in the early hours of birthing a still child. After the sorrowful “no” I received to prayer and after likely seeming illogical to the hospital’s medical staff in my knowledge of God’s capabilities, God was not done.

And He is not done with us who believe. His name is great—all will see it, and we are right to have faith in the silencing moments. We are right to keep praying. That is the hope intrinsic to Nehemiah’s story. And that is the hope intrinsicto the story of all believers. Devastating circumstances and prayers that are met with “no” or “not right now” may introduce the darkest times of life, but even these cannot thwart the holy arc of God’s glorious plans that reign above this earthly existence. 

Soon, God would help me pray again. I would find words before Him. I started with a sentence from the apostle Paul, turning it into a prayer for tear-filled days. May what has happened to me actually serve to advance the gospel (Phil. 1:12). Reminiscent of Nehemiah’s prevailing concern for God’s name and reputation (Neh. 1:9, 11), this kind of prayer can well pour from the suffering soul. For when our anticipated trajectory for life crashes, we know God’s forever-plan still stands. And as long as God’s plan is unfolding, we will have a reason to fold our hands and say, “hear the prayer of your servant” (Neh. 1:6).

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Becoming a Selective Listener—In the Best Sense

Our so-called “information age”—when information has become the going commodity—involves voluminous data, assertions, thoughts, and opinions whizzing both from and toward us online. Within this environment, not only do false teachers exist—as in historical times—but they have now inherited the power to ask for attention through greater reach, even paying for more influence. 

Has ever a time existed when selectivity about whom we follow for spiritual guidance been a more vital skill? 

Unwise Listening

Regardless, this is not a new challenge. Even many years ago, Reformer John Calvin recognized a human propensity toward being unwise listeners. He noted

Men, of their own accord, choose to be deceived rather than to be properly instructed […] the world will have ears so refined, and so excessively desirous of novelty, that it will collect for itself various instructors, and will be incessantly carried away by new inventions.

Following Calvin and his wariness for theological ingenuity, to cultivate biblically-formed, selective listening skills can be considered a duty. In fact, being a passive listener does not appear to be a biblical category—and by “passive listening” here, I mean falsely believing that I am not choosing the messages I am influenced by because they come toward me online, outside my seeking. Instead, being swayed by fancy-sounding, yet sub-biblical teaching is, according to Calvin, a choice.

Selective Listening and Scripture

Psalm 1:1 shows a progression for falling away from the truth of Scripture: walkingwith wicked counsel, standing in the way of this counsel, and then openly sitting in congruence with evil. Again, Calvin writes that Psalm 1:1

…shows how by little and little men are ordinarily induced to turn aside from the right path. They do not, at the first step, advance so far as a proud contempt of God but having once begun to give ear to evil counsel, Satan leads them, step by step, farther astray, till they rush headlong into open transgression.

2 Timothy 4:3-4 reveals a similarly flawed pattern—listening to teachers who are not sound, taking action by turning from truth, and, finally, wandering off altogether. 

Both patterns begin with listening. 

When commenting on Psalm 19 and then on 2 Timothy 3:16, D. A. Carson laments that too often, our selective listening ironically applies to the Scriptures themselves:

Many people choose snippets and themes that soon constitute a grid for eliminating the rest [of Scripture]…Worst of all, Christians invest so little time and energy in learning what they claim to be the Word of God that it falls away by default.

The danger in contemporary evangelicalism is not formal rejection of Scripture, but an unrealistic assumption that we know the Bible while in fact we press “on” (in reality, slouch backwards) toward endless conferences on leadership, techniques, tools, gimmicks, agendas.

Becoming a Selective Listener by Knowing Scripture

Following from Carson’s thoughts, listening well to the full counsel of Scripture (Acts 20:27) grows wise listeners with the ability to select influences well. If you do not know where to begin, here are some thoughts I have collected while learning from others in my family, church, and Bible college/seminary on delving into further study of the fullness of Scripture:

1. Check your assumptions.

Begin your study of Scripture with an assumption that God is perfect and that, therefore, his holy words are always and absolutely best. If you come across a verse or concept that seems “off” to you, assume that your understanding can grow, rather than conjecturing a problem with God’s word choices or character.

2. Be a learner.

Go straight to the passages that are most challenging for you, and be prayerfully willing to engage in a learning process that humbly gleans from the wisdom of those who have already spent their lives in study. Everything changes when we become Christians—we are reborn into new people, and are given spiritual sight and hunger for God’s Word. Becoming Christians does not automatically make us experts on Christ and his Word, but propels us toward learning. So building Scriptural knowledge and wisdom is simply part of walking with Christ. 

3. Look back to different times.

Do not be overwhelmed with the quick, current Christian publishing environment—thinking you need to keep pace. While having present-day books is important (especially for putting theology into today’s language and for responding to current theological challenges that were not historically encountered head-on), not to mention enjoyable, becoming separated from the theological problems of one’s own generation often best comes through historical works. Read classic, doctrinal resources—primary sources. Some ideas of authors are: Irenaeus, John Chrysostom, Augustine of Hippo, John Calvin, Jonathan Edwards, Charles Hodge, or Carl F. H. Henry. 

4. Find a scholarly mentor.

If possible, search for a scholarly mentor who loves the gospel and is versed in the historic tradition of the Christian faith. Pursue this so that (1) you can ask questions about difficult areas of interpretation and viewpoints that differ from yours, and (2) you can be introduced to areas of thought outside of your context of which you would not have known to inquire. 

But first, ask a potential mentor about his or her beliefs. Here are some ideas:

  • Does he or she convey the full gospel message including the unpopular aspects—like repentance, the reality of hell, God’s holiness and wrath, and the necessity of receiving it with the kind of grateful response that leads to growth in righteousness?

  • Can he or she affirm the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy?

  • Is he or she committed to a literal, historical-grammatical hermeneutic?

  • Who are his or her theological influences, and similarly, what does this person believe about the gospel and Scripture?

  • Does he or she see the significance of describing differing viewpoints with accuracy?

If this kind of relationship is not available to you, “mentors” come in various forms; I have been shaped through pages of books, words of sermons, and lectures in the classroom or through recordings. Through these means, mentors can be numerous. For no scholar stands alone; faithful Christian scholars consider themselves part of a wider, conversing community—ideally seeking to challenge, correct, and steer each other collectively into the best possible exegesis. Much can be learned from listening in to these kinds of conversations through multiple sources.

Gladness in Growth

Transferring the plentiful information available to us into wisely-held knowledge almost invariably produces a keen awareness about how much one has yet to learn, and how little is already grasped. Do not take these thoughts as a reason for discouragement, but a cause for gladness that you have a concrete indication you are following those ahead of you. 

Keep following; I will too.

Has ever a time existed when selectivity about whom we follow for spiritual guidance been a more vital skill? 

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Meditations on Dust

The godly are the God-ward—and faced there, they know they are not like what they see. They are not righteous in all their ways; they are not naturally near to the truth; not able to save, able to endure, able to abound in a perfection of goodness and greatness, able to act with self-generated and -sustained power, able to count stars beyond stars, able to reduce rulers to naught or view earth and all therein from on high, with a glance, and weigh it as a piece of dust, a sliver of grass—as nothing.

Turned to Him, how little I like to feel small—to accept small. But that the nations are dust cannot reflect poorly on the Creator, as if finitude were evil. From above, He once called all of this terrestrial ball “good.” If my view to creation were as to the dust, one floating, sailing speck, it would leave my sight as soon as it entered. I might absorb it with the swipe of a rag-holding hand, no misgivings. Who are we that He is mindful of us? This is the kind of mystery in Scripture most perplexing. He decided to love—to set His image upon—miniscule; an amebic sphere contained the incarnation… Yet, not only size is involved—that is not the offense—but small became evil, hateful, proud. Dust acted like it was something. No wonder He laughs (Psalm 2:4). What if my creation were dust? How great is His love for us!

Being small, unable to generate power or increase my own strength, I am weak, fainting, weary, utterly falling, etcetera—list proceeding. And so I wait. I must wait—God-ward. The renewal of His people will certainly come, whether presently or eschatologically—hope will actualize into mounting up, running, and the overall-not-fainting. And we will be saved. But the weak must wait; I must wait. Otherwise, I become a workman who molds an image and realizes a carved abomination. When the weak attempt to generate greatness, we can never alone find a tree unable to rot or a project that is incapable of falling. One breath—one laughing exhale—and He levels the accomplishments of man. I am weak; so, if He does not act—does not heal, does not increase strength, does not give the insight, or the muscles or the words or the voice or the whatever it is I am wanting, I must be the waiting.

Lifted from the finite—waiting toward God sets me at the Word, breathed by inerrant breath. It is standing. And it will forever be—this book that the world contrives is infected with fantasies and tainted [instead of made holy] by hatred. It prevails—this book that I would doubt and despise in spiritual blindness if not for His Spirit. How great His grace! His Word stands; the blade of grass will soon not. What can man say against God’s flawless revelation? Nothing; he can sit beneath, remembering who still measures as you know what on the scales.

Only knowing I am nothing can I see that He upholds my spirit when I fall—preserving me to the end; only when bowed can I see how and in what manner I am raised up to know Him; only when I am hungry can I receive His timely food; only in want can I know the wonder of His Word. I want to be infinitely low,[1] and know His unfathomable grace; my voice to cry for help, and know His kind deliverance; my eyes to look upon Him with love, and see some of the unsearchable greatness and beyond-measure glory. He, He, He—the cause of all being held together, sustained every day. He—righteous in all His ways, gracious in all His words, full of compassion, slow to anger and great in mercy—He is good to all. What is the strength of my soul? His nearness, that I might receive all I can of who He is and what He gives, worshiping Him for both, for always. 

Three words emerge from the dust—wait, Word, and worship. Being one who is nothing before God, I must wait for Him—for His strength in my inner spirit, resting within the hiding place of His peace during temptations, while He unveils one next detail of His mind for me and mine. And before His Word—I receive there—the bread, the high, heavenly bread raining here, as upon the grass for prime collection. And in worship, whatever is done, accomplished, and gained—God alone is great. With that, dust contents itself as such and can move along glorying in God being God—and is now being swept up for all existence in Him.

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70 Prompts for Adoring God

I worship you, my God, because of who you are: 

  1. Eternal, immortal, and invisible, you alone are God (Psalm 90:1-2; 1 Timothy 1:17; Isaiah 45:5).

  2. You are Spirit (John 4:24). 

  3. You are living (Joshua 3:10).

  4. You are one able to create ex nihilo, or out of nothing (Hebrews 11:3), in six days, and resting on the seventh (Genesis 1).

  5. You are independent of all creation, and have life in and of yourself (John 5:24).

  6. You are known to all (Romans 1:19-20).

  7. As self-existent Yahweh, you are self-revealing to your people (Exodus 3:14-15).

  8. You are omnipresent, or everywhere, always (Psalm 139:7-12).

  9. You are omniscient, knowing everything (Proverbs 15:3).

  10. You are omnipotent, or all-powerful (Matthew 19:26; Hebrews 1:3). 

  11. You are omnisapient, or all-wise (Romans 16:27).

  12. You are sovereign (Ephesians 1:11, 20-21).

  13. You are one God in three Persons (Matthew 28:19; 1 Corinthians 8:6).

  14. Each Person of the Trinity is fully and equally God; in appearance and outworking, the Father begets the Son (John 1:18), and the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (John 14:26; 16:7).

  15. Jesus Christ was preexistent before the incarnation (John 6:38; John 17:5).

  16. Jesus Christ humbled himself (Philippians 2:5-7).

  17. Jesus Christ became incarnate in the flesh (John 1:14), conceived by the Holy Spirit without a human father and born from a virgin (Matthew 1:18). 

  18. Jesus Christ, with a human nature, experienced the weakness and growth that are a part of the human experience (Mark 2:15; 14:33; 15:34; Luke 2:40; 7:9). 

  19. Jesus Christ was tempted and overcame (Luke 4:2); with a divine nature, he could not sin. 

  20. Jesus Christ is God—the image of the invisible God (Colossians 1:15) and the one of whom deity is claimed (Luke 1:43; John 1:1; Matthew 22:44; Hebrews 1:10-12).

  21. Jesus Christ’s omnipotence is displayed through his miracles over nature (Matthew 8:26-27; Matthew 14:19; John 2:1-11). 

  22. Jesus Christ’s eternality is known through self-revealing statements (John 8:58; Revelation 22:13).

  23. Jesus Christ’s omniscience is displayed through perceiving hidden thoughts (Mark 2:8; John 1:48), and in knowing all things as attested to by his disciples (John 16:30).

  24. Jesus Christ is omnipresent, as seen in his claim to be with the disciples always (Matthew 28:20).

  25. Jesus Christ is sovereign, as demonstrated in his authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7).

  26. Jesus Christ is worthy to be worshipped and adored (Philippians 2:9-11; Revelation 5:12).

  27. Though not relinquishing any divine attributes, Jesus Christ gave up the outward appearance and radiance of his glory in order to complete the mission of the Father (Philippians 2:7), using his divine attributes only as necessary for his mission and ministry, out of submission to the Father.

  28. Jesus Christ is one Person without separation, including two natures without confusion—human and divine—in hypostatic union (Hebrews 1:3). 

  29. The Person of the Holy Spirit has intellect, emotions, and will. With intelligence, he knows the things of God (1 Corinthians 2:10-11); with emotions he can be grieved (Ephesians 4:30), and according to his will, he distributes spiritual gifts (1 Corinthians 12:11).

  30. The Holy Spirit is deity with omniscience (1 Corinthians 1:11-12), omnipresence (Psalm 139:7), and involvement in creation (Psalm 104:30); blasphemy against the Holy Spirit is blasphemy against God (Matthew 12:31-32).  

  31. Father, Son, and Spirit—one God—you are unity (Deuteronomy 6:4).

  32. You are Elohim, sovereign and transcendent over all the earth (Deuteronomy 2:30; 33; 3:22).

  33. As El-Shaddai, you are God Almighty, powerful and strong (Genesis 17:1). 

  34. As El Elyon, you are God Most High who reigns supreme (Genesis 21:33).

  35. As El Olam, you are God Everlasting and changeless forever (Genesis 21:33).

  36. As Yahweh Jireh, you are “The Lord Will Provide” (Genesis 22:14).

  37. As Yahweh Nissi, you are “The Lord Our Banner,” the victorious (Exodus 17:15).

  38. As Yahweh Shalom, you are “The Lord is Peace” (Judges 6:24). 

  39. As Yahweh Sabbaoth, you are “The Lord of Hosts,” the commander (1 Samuel 1:3). 

  40. As Yahweh Maccaddeshcem, you are “The Lord Thy Sanctifier” (Exodus 31:13). 

  41. As Yahweh Tsidkenu, you are “The Lord Our Righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6).

  42. The way you relate to your creation can be described by many images, like the image of Father (Matthew 6:26; 2 Corinthians 6:18; 1 John 3:1). 

  43. The image of Mother (Isaiah 66:13; Isaiah 49:15; Matthew 23:37; Luke 13:34).

  44. The image of Husband (Isaiah 54:5; Hosea 2:19; Revelation 21:1-7). 

  45. The image of Friend (John 15:12-15). 

  46. The image of Shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10:11)

  47. The image of Teacher (Psalm 32:8; Isaiah 48:17). 

  48. The image of Ruler (Psalm 103:19; 1 Timothy 6:15). 

  49. The image of Judge (Isaiah 33:22; 2 Timothy 4:8). 

  50. The image of Deliverer (Exodus 6:6; Matthew 1:21).

  51. And the image of Justifier (Romans 3:26). 

  52. You are a preserver of all you have made (Nehemiah 9:6; Colossians 1:17).

  53. You are one who gives decrees that are all-encompassing, or inclusive of all creation (Ephesians 1:11).

  54. Your decrees are for your own glory (Psalm 19:1), and they are based upon your sovereign contentment (Daniel 4:35).

  55. Your decrees are best because they are based upon your infinite wisdom (Psalm 147:5; Psalm 104:24). 

  56. You are morally pure and set apart (Leviticus 11:44-45).

  57. You are holy (Revelation 4:8).

  58. You hate sin and are angered by it (Joshua 7:1). 

  59. You are perfectly wrathful (Romans 1:18; Nahum 1:2).

  60. You are compassionate (Psalm 103:13-14).

  61. You are patient (Romans 2:4).

  62. You are love (1 John 4:8, 16).

  63. You are good (Psalm 25:8).

  64. You are just (Genesis 18:25).

  65. You are righteous and gracious (Psalm 145:17).

  66. You are rich in mercy (Ephesians 2:4).

  67. You are immanent, near and active (Jeremiah 23:23-24; Acts 17:27-28). 

  68. You are immutable, or unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8; James 1:17). 

  69. You are true (Isaiah 65:16).

  70. You are the blessed and only King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:15).

Help me to know you, to love you for who you are, and to value what you value, my God. 

Amen.

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MainLianna DavisFeatured, Worship
A Well Lived Life

When the sun turned down for the day and golden light peaked through the edges of my living room blinds throwing glistening shadows onto dim walls, my eyes assumed the same golden gleam with thoughts of recent hours. The sun grew over walls and furniture—and all the swells of the day—for the hour or so of light’s gold: the dining room table where a candle earlier sped and smoked, the distant corner of the kitchen where orange slices were held and bites were taken alongside grins and chats, and the stairs that withheld against pounded motions of every happening, whether languid and clomping or running late with clipping.

My lips met spiced tea and my mind swelled over those waves of the day, freeing the memories that active minutes compress—enumerating the menagerie of surges and stages. Finally, the thought came as the sun yielded to the downward pull and the last spark was gone before night’s scroll was unrolled—Was this one well lived?

The last light fell, and I had all appreciation for that unique sunset slice of the day—it was like the lightning that flares when a person of mystery speaks revealingly and the rarity only adds to gratitude and wonder, leaving a trace of want for when it will happen again. So, a sunset does not grace the every minute, and with the last light, today’s provoked, Can you be content to mirror many other days after today’s strains?

Now, if one can enter near, a late octo- or nonagenarian might musingly review not a day of life for Christ, but a life. The gray hair of the godly, that crown of splendor and honor (Prov. 16:13), affords its own glow for watching eyes—perhaps the brightest and fiercest sparks of belief and holy desire. Chair close, one hears of minds that have worked and worked, and of hearts’ resolve, and eternity’s splendor insight from earliest days. One might hear of children and family, and friendships and ministry while witnessing the effects of prayer’s secret dependency. One will certainly hear of Christ, as the godly gray are naturally nearest, anticipatorily, to see His face in all of glory’s bright.

In these, my elders, I’ve seen steps of resolve, commitment to the path that is straight. Steps that haven’t veered back and away or circled, as with a loose, stray connection—but have traveled steadily, with a resolve that started from the dedication of earliest teenage days (Ecclesiastes 12:1). I’ve heard of consistency in studying, of adeptness with mastering one day’s portion of Scripture at a time to accumulate wealth, a considerable responsibility—without having been shirked or shunned, but received as weighty and worthy duty (Prov. 1:7, 2:2; 2 Tim. 2:15). I’ve noticed the freedom and joy, and sole honor for Christ, in the gray-haired whose finances have long reflected the weight of eternity and Scripture’s guiding hand, for whom money has not directed decisions of value, for the path to heaven is highest (Matt. 6:19, 23).

Pure sparks have graced my sight of love for family, care for husbands and wives while in view of a marriage-honoring God (Heb. 13:4), and for the ministry that began in one’s home—how instruction and love of children has not been seen as secondary but as prized with piles of devoted time (Deut. 6:5-9). With the family of God, I’ve seen the peace of relationships that are deemed successes if giving has been sacrificial—where mutuality has been warmly welcomed, but personal fulfillment has not been given the status of being the aim or goal (Phil. 2:3). I have beheld how the deposit of truth has been regarded—the fountain for unity (2 Tim. 1:14; Rom. 16:17-20) and how speaking its core message of the King has served as compassion for those in the dark (Rom. 10:14).

Gazed fixed, I have gleaned themes of wisdom, that when tutors have been sought for the school of saintly life, selectivity and standards have been welcomed by all. For good mentors have been careful to bow and exegete well the holy Word—pointing to those who have been advanced in maturity and dedication—with thoughtfulness to approve by Scripture every influence, faithfully, no matter the cost (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 1:9-10). Now, when I hunt for their lives of prayer, I scarcely collect in my sight all that’s certainly there—for they are faithful to the Lord’s instruction, to maintain reverent secrecy (Matt. 6:5-6). Yet, in their lives’ humility and given trust, evidence abounds of those who have long ago settled that they can do nothing, would never want to do anything, apart from Him (John 15:5; Phil. 4:11-13).

I’ve traced my hand over a life’s day to follow the sparkling-sun-movement, a sun still graciously lasting by God’s hand to have come this evening after visiting lives of all ages. And as golden hours will double and triple and more in my experience, Lord willing, tomorrow and the next day again, I will have less and less propensity for youthful doubtfulness in the truth that my days are short—just as He has said (Jas. 4:14). My home will travel through sunset again; while I sip that tea and steep in the swells, the lightning spark of want noted in my day-end light—my question—is now seated in Scripture’s witness to imitate those whose whole lives have already been well lived for Him (Heb. 13:7; 2 Thess. 3:9; 1 Cor. 4:16).

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70 Prompts for Praising God

A list of praise-worthy truths—to You, God:

  1. The world changes, but the Christian hope stays the same (Heb. 13:8).

  2. You are present to protect us—guiding us straight through this life to eternal joy (Ps. 16:11).

  3. Even before we fell, You had plans to lift us up in Christ (1 Pet. 1:20; Eph. 2:6).

  4. The sweat of blood, the cross, the bitter cup—You bore sin for us (Lk. 22:14; Matt. 20:22; 1 Pet. 2:24).

  5. Christ is not a shadow, but the true sacrifice (Heb. 10:1-18).

  6. As friends, Christ has let us in on future plans (Jn. 15:15).

  7. Death tears apart our bodies and souls, but You’ll put them together again; we know because of Christ’s resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20).

  8. We will share in His inheritance as glorified sons and daughters (Rom. 8:17).

  9. Satan will be destroyed with a breath (2 Thess. 2:8).

  10. Death itself is going to meet an irrevocable end; You have appointed the day (Rev. 20:14).

  11. You have fulfilled prophecy before and You surely will again (Acts 3:18).

  12. We reach the ends of ourselves and our insights, but your Word never stops pouring riches (Ps. 19:10).

  13. The Bible is true, so we are right to trust it all (2 Timothy 3:16).

  14. Your Word is like nourishing food to us (Matt. 4:4).

  15. When we stand upon Your Word, we stand upon what is forever and cannot be broken (1 Peter 1:25; John 10:35).

  16. You are bigger than our hearts; we do not have to be led by our feelings (1 Jn. 3:20).

  17. We struggle with motives, but You never do. Your plans are always pure (Ps. 18:30).

  18. With You, each day is new. Your forgiveness helps us to forget what’s best forgotten (Lam. 3:22-23).

  19. You will love us for eternity (Ps. 100:5).

  20. Loving You is possible; we were created for this (Phil. 2:13).

  21. One day, we will be sinless like You (Rev. 21:27).

  22. No discipline we receive from You is condemnation; our condemnation is no more (Rom. 8:1).

  23. The discipline we do receive is good; You are good (Prov. 3:12).

  24. We can never run far enough to be away from You, and You do not despise a contrite heart that repents (Ps. 139:8; Ps. 51:17).

  25. You are patient with us and slow to anger (Ps. 145:8).

  26. Even after every failure on this earth, in eternity, you’ll simply welcome us to enjoy (1 Thess. 5:9); You welcome us now (Lk. 7:48).

  27. We can resist temptation and find ourselves loving You more (1 Cor. 10:13).

  28. We never wake to a single day when You are not our Advocate before the Father (1 John 2:1).

  29. While we require an ever-expanding view of You, You knowingly and simply see all we think, feel, and do (Ps. 33:13).

  30. By fearing You, we can hate what is evil and align our hearts with Yours (Prov. 8:13).

  31. Your path is straight; we’ll never be misled (Prov. 3:6).

  32. In Christ, obedience is joy (Lk. 11:28).

  33. The boundaries You give us are just right—pleasant, freeing, and sweet (Ps. 16:6).

  34. You made us; You chose to create. You give us life and hold us together (Gen. 1:27; Col. 1:17).

  35. You are perfectly wise and just, even amidst vast complexities (Job 38-41).

  36. You are everlasting while this world and our lives are but a breath (Isa. 40:28; Ps. 39:5).

  37. We have kings, but You are King—with all power and authority in heaven and on earth (Matt. 28:18).

  38. You are Head of Your church. You direct each one of us (Col. 1:18).

  39. No longer does a human priesthood intermediate; we are all a priesthood with access to Your throne through the God-Man, Christ (1 Pet. 2:5).

  40. You give us membership in the church, the church You love (Eph. 5:32).

  41. We, Your people, are one (Romans 12:5).

  42. Our brothers and sisters have faith that proclaims how good You are (Gal. 3:27; Rom. 1:8).

  43. You have granted us the high, worthy calling to contend for Your truth, given once for all (Jude 1:3).

  44. You give Your children different gifts; yet, You show no favoritism (1 Pet. 4:10; Acts 10:34).

  45. Our brothers’ and sisters’ gifts shine brightly for You (1 Cor. 12:4-5).

  46. Even if poor, Your children are rich (Rev. 2:9).

  47. The redeemed praise You together, with a single voice (Romans 15:6).

  48. You are faithful and able to establish the work we do for You, according to Your will (Ps. 90:17).

  49. We can be successful in Your eyes through faithfulness to keeping Your Word (Ecc. 12:13).

  50. You are our treasure, our great delight (Ps. 43:3).

  51. The Messiah, first promised in Genesis, has come (Gen. 3:14-15); the Spirit He promised does indwell (Jn. 14:15-31). We live in a precious time of history (1 Pet. 1:12).

  52. Your good news truly changes lives (Jn. 1:12).

  53. You know our needs; each need gives our hearts a deeper capacity for You (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

  54. In each one of our breaths and steps—whether taken in joyous celebration or amidst troubling sorrow—You hem us in behind and before (Ps. 139:5).

  55. Prayer matters; we are invited it, to You (Lk. 11:1-4)

  56. When we know You are near, even if we cannot feel You experientially, we cannot be lonely (Ps. 16:8).

  57. We do not mourn as those without hope on this earth (1 Thess. 4:13).  

  58. The depths of Your glory that we will experience in the future will incomparably outweigh the depths of our present sorrows (2 Cor. 4:17); Your glory is wonderful.

  59. You understand (Heb. 4:15).

  60. Today’s perseverance and endurance—even if no one else sees them—are remembered by You (Rev. 2-3).

  61. We are weak, but You are strong (Ps. 147:5).

  62. We worship the same God as Abraham, Esther, Deborah, David, Moses, Paul, and John.

  63. Nothing stretches or reaches beyond You; we cannot take a step outside of Your sovereignty (Ps. 115:3).

  64. All people will bow; Your glory will be fully seen (Phil. 2:10; Rev. 1:7).

  65. You give us permission to crave Your quick coming (Rev. 22:21).

  66. When we delight in You and want You, You never fail to give us what we want (Ps. 37:4).

  67. You are going to dwell with us on a new earth; You Yourself will be with us and be our God (Rev. 21:3).

  68. Your Kingdom will know no end (Lk. 1:33).

  69. You take no pleasure in the deaths of those who die without repenting (1 Tim. 2:4; Ezek. 18:23).

  70. Those who do not know You still have the opportunity to repent and believe (2 Pet. 3:9).

“My mouth is filled with Your praise and with Your glory all day long.” Ps. 71:8

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Nourished by Christ in the Wilderness

About four years ago, I experienced my first full-blown panic attack. Those experiences accumulated, and I grew to have increasing difficulty with leaving my home. I remember willfully dumping myself into the passenger seat to be driven to my parents’ nearby home—only to feel an urgent pull two minutes later for the car to be turned around. I remember my husband and I taking our trotting dog for a walk, yards from our home, and I was unable to carry a simple conversation because of the mental pain. By God’s grace, I was directed to a health cause for this anxiety. 

Yet, in my months without answers, I experienced the temptation to dwell exclusively upon the question, Will my life now always be like this? Yet, it was because I had peace with God through Christ that I did not despair—and I could see beyond it.

Hunger and Thirst in the Wilderness

David writes of his vision on God in Psalm 63. It is a Psalm from the wilderness—David describes his setting as a waterless, vapid, weary place. 

O God, you are my God; earnestly I seek you;

    my soul thirsts for you;

my flesh faints for you,

    as in a dry and weary land where there is no water. (v. 1)

And Scripture speaks of different categories of wildernesses.

We can see John the Baptist in the wilderness before the beginning of his ministry of proclaiming the coming of Christ (Luke 1:80). He was in a place of knowing that God had issued a calling upon his life, while, for years, he was not at a time of fulfilling that calling—he was waiting. 

A wilderness might also be a place of temptation where evil moves—consider Jesus being brought into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1). Christ knows what it is to feel the pressures of being sinned against or to face relentless lies. 

The Wilderness of the Soul

Scripture also speaks of another kind of wilderness; John the Baptist proclaimed it (Matthew 3:3), and this is when the Christian faith starts to get especially personal. Scripture says that without Christ, there is a wilderness within us. As our state without Christ is described further by John the Baptist, we see that it is the kind of wilderness we cannot pull ourselves from, and that time alone will not rectify. 

Now, David, in his wilderness, said, I thirst, I hunger. And we might similarly say, My soul aches.Yet, David adds two sweet words—for you. In every kind of wilderness, he hungered for the Lord. 

The first verse of the Psalm speaks to why he can say these things. First, he says, God; he confesses that God is God, whether or not he and those around him acknowledge it. God.

He goes on to say, You are my God. Now, that is an entirely separate statement—he wanted God to be God of his life and have that exclusive role. And because God was invited to be God of his life, he had formed this habit of praising God in his most barren times. 

In fact, he says that doing so was his rich, hearty, meaty, satisfying meal.

The Everyday, Eternal Bread of Life

Jesus says he is the Bread of Life, and that in him, we will never hunger. As Jesus teaches this truth, the theme of wilderness continues. When the Israelites were in the wilderness, they received manna from heaven—yet, Jesus says, They died(John 6:49). Jesus is saying that the kind of food he comes to give us is in a completely different category.

He comes to us in our direst and deadliest of wildernesses—the one of our souls. He says his food fills us entirely with life even there. So, surely, he can fill us in every other kind of wilderness. 

Strikingly here, Jesus speaks about eternal, spiritual, significant realities—life, the living Father, the resurrection, being alive forever—but in terms of the everyday, basic human reality of eating a piece of bread. 

Jesus expresses what he is to us as the Son of God, telling us, Eat my flesh, drink my blood.This is what he invites us to do! How much more applicable to our everyday lives could this be? 

Three Truths About Christ’s Meal to Nourish You

Here are three truths about Christ’s meal to nourish your soul today: 

1. This is not a meal of ourselves.

This is a hopeful reality. If you feel, like I did with anxiety, that you are in a depleted, weary, empty, starving space, don’t despair. This is an honest human place to be. You weren’t made to be or produce your own food. Before God, we are like children—we receive the meal; we take and eat what is provided. 

2. This is a resurrection meal.

Perhaps you have difficulty connecting with these truths because you cannot see them; they seem abstract. But Jesus says his food and drink are real because they will allow us to live on the last day. And on the last day, we will not need to wait longingly any more; there will be no more lies, temptations, or evil pressures or pain; and there will be no more sorrow of the sin of our souls. Our hearts will be completely clean and cleared—and we will be freed of the wilderness. The food Christ gives is real, for it is the food we need—and the only food we can possibly eat—to allow us to live on that last day, and live forever. 

3. Christ is the food. 

He did not send someone or something else; he came himself to be flesh—to sacrifice his body and pour out his blood to give us peace with God. This is God getting very personal with us. 

With this kind of food in mind, read Psalm 63:3-7:

Because your steadfast love is better than life,

    my lips will praise you.

So I will bless you as long as I live;

    in your name I will lift up my hands.

My soul will be satisfied as with fat and rich food,

    and my mouth will praise you with joyful lips,

when I remember you upon my bed,

    and meditate on you in the watches of the night;

for you have been my help,

    and in the shadow of your wings I will sing for joy.

This is a Christian meal for us today: the daily bread of the surpassing truths of Christ—which is just as personal a help to us as Christ intended—and the rich, satisfying meal of harvesting those truths in our souls to praise him in the wilderness.

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Speak Scripture into Suffering

When my first daughter went to be with the Lord, one friend wrote to me, “There are no words.” There are no words to describe, quantify, or eliminate the pain of child loss—it was a depletion of my person in nearly every possible manner.

There are no words for the kinds of suffering we can endure on this earth. Yet, experiencing that kind of depletion is not a reason to despair with hopelessness, for it can give way to great rejoicing. Through it, the abundance and sufficiency of Scripture become unmistakable. There are divinely-inspired words—that can never be depleted—to speak into intense suffering.

God Speaks through His Word

Many who have not personally experienced intense suffering feel depleted of words the minute they hear about someone else’s deep pain. Perhaps that is you. You feel you cannot relate well to others’ agony. Perhaps you have heard the wide-spread advice that the best approach to someone who is suffering is to be present and only listen. Or, perhaps you have only had occasion to read or learn about what not to say when someone is suffering, so you are at a loss for exactly how to act or be. God’s Word is an abundant, sufficient help for you too.

In The Hiding Place, Corrie ten Boom was familiar with her own suffering and that of others. She recounts that women with her in a Nazi prison camp would encircle her and her sister, pressing in closely and attentively, as they read the Word of God (thanks to a Bible God miraculously provided). Precisely during this level of suffering, they desperately needed and wanted the Word. The God speaking there—through those pages—was their only hope. This remarkable account shows the Word bringing hope and light to a dark and, from an earthly perspective, hopeless circumstance.

So as a Church, as disciplers, as teachers, as leaders, as friends, as one who is suffering intensely—right where you find yourself—let’s do well at speaking Scripture into suffering. In order to do so, we will need to learn the Word itself, not just verses we pluck from the book, but the meaning of passages and, then, the application of passages to our overall theology and the way we view the world. Then, we need to become good listeners. I have learned that there is no substitute for these—learning the Word and listening—and that when they are done well, I have much more to offer someone who is suffering in addition to myself.

Applying Scripture to the Aches of Suffering

Think about your life and heart. What often results in your own spiritual growth? You have an ache. And you bring it to the Lord and his Word. Whether through an article, a conversation with someone else, a lecture, a small group meeting, a sermon, a book, reading the Bible in the quietness of your home, you have a realization about that ache. That is, you learn what the Bible speaks into that ache. When you do, you grow. You are made more whole with the truth of his Word. One experience like this after another, after another is what carried me through grief.

So, if you have a suffering friend, listen for the ache when he or she speaks. If you cannot identify it or if you do not yet know how the Bible speaks into it, then be satisfied with being a good listener—after all, you would only be speaking for the benefit of your friend. Make no assumptions, for a response of biblical perspective to the ache they feel might not be the words you think they need to hear.

If you can indeed identify another’s ache and can grow to interpret and apply the Bible well to the aches you begin to hear around you, then trust that the Word of God is your sufficient and most compassionate resource to share with someone who is suffering.

SCRIPTURE FOR THE ACHE OF SUFFERING’S PRESENCE

When suffering is new, resonate with the ache. A sorrowful reaction to suffering is biblical.

  • When everything in life now feels meaningless, remember that there is reason for this feeling—the world is not as it should be (Ecclesiastes).

  • When the experience of grief is life-consuming, remember how consuming David’s grief was over his baby’s impending death (2 Samuel 12:15-17).

  • When suffering makes you feel lonely, read the Psalms to know you are truly not alone.

  • When you feel angry with the woeful way of the world, think of Jesus’ troubled, even angered, response to death because of death’s impact upon those grieving the loss of Lazarus (John 11:33).

  • When this life feels full of anguish, think of Jesus’ anguish in the garden of Gethsemane. The burden he felt when anticipating the cross demonstrates the miserable state of the world (Luke 22:44).

  • When suffering makes you feel ostracized, take heart that you are in good company when suffering (1 Peter 4:12).

  • When suffering makes you feel misunderstood, look to the account of Job and the mistaken assumptions of his friends (Job 4-31) or to the gospel accounts to see how constantly Jesus was unappreciated, misunderstood, unrecognized for who he is. People are flawed.

SCRIPTURE FOR THE ACHE OF SUFFERING’S PURPOSE

Listen for the aches longing for light, hope, comfort, or purpose amidst suffering.

  • When friends and family members do not meet all of your needs, be encouraged that the comfort we receive—even when given through others—is comfort ultimately from God (2 Corinthians 1:4).

  • When you see debilitating sickness or death overcoming your body or the body of someone you love, remember that we believers will one day have resurrected, glorified, and redeemed bodies just like his heavenly one (1 John 3:2; 1 Corinthians 15:42).

  • When the force of emotion is strong and your words won’t suffice to express your heart, take comfort that the Holy Spirit himself intercedes for you (Romans 8:26).

  • When you feel forgotten in your suffering, remember that God memorializes every tear that falls from your eye (Psalm 56:8), just as he knows the number of hairs on your head (Luke 12:7).

  • When suffering severs a relationship, remember the ultimate relationship forsaking willingly endured within the Godhead for you (Matthew 27:46). God understands.

  • When you do not feel the compassion of others, remember that Jesus’ suffering (Is 53) and overcoming-power makes him a High Priest who relates to us and causes us to overcome with power too (Hebrews 4:14-16)—giving grace for the present and the promise of heaven.

  • When death or the fear of death seems to conquer you, remember that he has ultimately defeated death (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).

  • When you feel distant from God, dwell upon the truth that he has given a love that no suffering, pain, or heartache can pull away from you (Romans 8:38-39).

  • When suffering makes you feel unmoored, haphazardly walking through life while wondering when you will finally be free from earthly concerns, remember that you are truly and solidly anchored through Christ to the world to come (Hebrews 6:19).

  • When suffering makes life feel slow, remember that by God’s definition—in view of the eternal state—this suffering is light and momentary (2 Corinthians 4:17).

  • When you need to be reminded of the treasures that can come alongside of suffering, learn why Jesus said that it is better to go to a house of mourning than to go to a house of feasting (Ecclesiastes 7:2), or why Peter said that faith refined through suffering is gold (1 Peter 1:7). God’s glory can be evident in your faithfulness, giving you purpose and joy.

SCRIPTURE FOR THE ACHE OF SUFFERING’S PAIN

Listen for the ache of being stuck when suffering.

  • When you experience unending bitterness toward God, look to the story of Jeremiah, who also felt bitterness at his intense suffering. Hear how patient and sure were the words of exhortation and restoration that God spoke to him (Jeremiah 15:18-21).

  • When others avoid you or when you are tempted to always avoid others who do not fully understand, think of how you might give someone opportunity to enter into your mourning or suffering with you. Then, take heart that when you can share their joy, it truly becomes your own (Romans 12:15).

  • When you can think of no reason to not blame God for the suffering that has come into your life, look to Genesis 3; the original sin of Adam and Eve is what broke the world. God is One in whom there is no darkness (1 John 1:5), who created the world good (Genesis 1:31), who cannot tempt with evil (James 1:13), and so, cannot be convicted of wickedness, malice, or evil.

  • When you simply cannot understand your suffering within God’s sovereign plan, rest content that his ways are beyond yours (Romans 11:33; Matthew 18:2).

  • When suffering makes you stuck in a cycle of looking only inward, remember that you have gifts that can be employed for others’ good and God’s glory (1 Peter 4:10).

  • When you, Christian, are having difficulty being grateful for what you do have, remember the wrath from which you have been saved (Romans 5:9; 1 Thessalonians 1:10).

  • When escape from suffering has become your focus, remember that Jesus Christ, and his good pleasure, is your reward (Matthew 25:23).

  • When you are tempted to blame yourself for circumstances beyond your control, remember that God has purposed all of the events in your life and the lives of those you love—including birth and death, and every circumstance in between (Psalm 139:16)—just as he planned from the beginning of creation that Jesus would die for us (1 Peter 1:20). Remember his sacrificial love as reason to move forward, and move forward in devotion to him.

  • When you question if your suffering has any meaning or purpose, trust in the sovereignty of God to bring his purposes to fruition through the circumstances of your life, all of which are a part of his plan (Genesis 50:20; Job 42:2).

  • When you question what miracle of goodness God can bring from your suffering, meditate on Romans 5:3-5 and trust that suffering can teach you, give you a depth of knowledge of God like never before, and bring encouragement when the genuineness of your faith becomes evident (1 Peter 1:17).

This list is far from exhaustive. What would you add?

Listen for the Ache

Whatever the circumstance, listen for the underlying yearning or longing. Let’s keep learning how to carefully apply Scripture to all of the aches we experience. The process of teaching and discipleship is God’s to faithfully lead. And our aches are often the impetus and route God uses for our growth in order to increasingly display his glory through changed and faithful lives. The kind of lives that display his glory like this are grown from his Word.

While it’s not ours to invent or assume others’ aches, it is ours to listen well, to acknowledge back to the sufferer what we hear, and trust that for every need of the heart, God has spoken abundantly and sufficiently in his Word. You can learn skillful application of his Word to human aches and be empowered to give others more than yourself—you can speak his Word. Take heart that this is your source of compassion for the sufferer and this is your source of comfort when suffering, for putting his salve of truth skillfully into our aches is always our good.

If or when a circumstance of suffering comes into your life that cannot be described in words, remember, he speaks.

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Comfort from the Uncomfortable Verses in Psalms

The scene in my life is familiar. Something weighs on my heart: a fear, a temptation, or a thought-battle. Seeking comfort, I naturally go to the Psalms.

I want to be on the path that is straight and narrow; Psalm 5 is my pick for prayer against temptation today. This Psalm readjusts my thinking about my position in this world, the heartache I’ve avoided by giving my life to Christ, and who I am before him.

My heart resonates with David’s prayers:

Listen to my words, Lord, consider my lament… (v. 1)

For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness… (v. 4)

But I, by your great love, can come into your house; in reverence I bow down… (v. 7)

But then, I come to this:

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (v. 10)

I either skim past it or take a moment to wonder how it could possibly mesh with what Jesus says in Matthew 5:43 about loving our enemies. It’s uncomfortable.

Remember God’s Old Covenant

Since there seems to be no solution, I usually choose the former—let’s move on?

Wait.

This is a Psalm of David. David was the king chosen by God, the king after God’s own heart. Well, did God’s heart change from the Old Testament to the New Testament regarding how we approach our enemies?

No, not at all.

David was to serve God and do his part to uphold the covenant between God and Israel. That included a unique mission given to Israel that isn’t given to us: Israel was to continue to carve out the Promised Land by warring against the people groups that possessed it.

What? Aren’t we at an even worse place than where we started?

No, remember one of those first verses: “For you are not a God who is pleased with wickedness.” Israel was given the special mission to war against nations who were committed to their wicked ways (Deuteronomy 20:16-18). God is just to judge evil whenever, in his infinite wisdom, he deems it right.

By choosing this mission for the nation of Israel, God sought to prevent the increased evil of Israel’s own disobedience—the disobedience that would threaten their ability to fulfill the conditional aspects of their blessed covenants with God (Exodus 19:5-6; 2 Samuel 7). God was being gracious to Israel with this mission.

Let’s return to the verse that gives some discomfort:

Make them bear their guilt, O God; let them fall by their own counsels; because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you.

David is praying that God would cause to crumble what brought wickedness into the nation of Israel; David prayed in alignment with the specific covenant mission God gave him.[1]

Align Your Prayers with God’s New Covenant

Do you and I have this kind of mission of war today? No, of course not. We don’t have a nation to battle at God’s command; but, like David, we do have a covenant with God. We have a covenant that we participate in through Jesus Christ—a covenant through his blood, binding our hearts to his (Jeremiah 31).

Like David, we can think about what’s present in our daily lives that threatens to lead our hearts away from the depths and joys of this covenant.

I have evil pressing against me from every side. There are lies. There are half-truths posing as truths. There are vanities. There are whispers that tempt me to question the good work God has done in my life. These all threaten my heart; they pose to lead me astray.

With a new perspective on David’s prayer, I return to the reason I first went to the Psalms. Something weighs on my heart: a fear, a temptation, or a thought-battle. Seeking comfort, I naturally go to the Psalms—but now I go through the way of our new covenant. I enter into David’s prayer again:

When I read,

Make them bear their guilt (v. 10),

I pray,

God, bring every evil in my life to light so that I can see it.

When I read,

O God; let them fall by their own counsels (v. 10),

I pray,

God, show every evil in my life for what it is: a path to destruction. 

When I read,

Because of the abundance of their transgressions cast them out, for they have rebelled against you. (v. 10)

I pray,

God, let me hate everything that you hate. Cast it all aside. Defeat it in my life and in the lives of those around me as it is already truly defeated at the Cross.

Rejoice in God’s Promises

The conclusion of Psalm 5 means even more to me now.

But let all who take refuge in you rejoice; let them ever sing for joy, and spread your protection over them, that those who love your name may exult you. For you bless the righteous, O Lord; you cover him with favor as with a shield. (vv. 11-12)

He is our refuge and protection from the temptations, lies, and whispers that threaten our hearts. As David was praying for what threatened his old covenant, so we can equally pray his words against everything that threatens the depths of our joy and participation in our new covenant with God through Jesus Christ.

No longer do I feel uncomfortable with these verses in the Psalms. But, all the more, the Psalms give the comfort I first sought, for I have even more promises to claim and even more of God’s heart to see. We are on the side of Christ—the One victorious over all temptations; he is a shield against them.

As we come to him through the Psalms because we face whispers and lies that might lead us astray, he covers us with his favor and his protection. Let all who take refuge in him rejoice.

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3 Benefits of the Law for Those Under Grace

As Christians, we champion grace. Rightly so. We read, “For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace” (Romans 6:14), responding with an emphatic, Amen! The law is a great burden, one that you and I could not fulfill. Praise God that we are under his grace! Our salvation rests upon this.

In the New Testament (NT), the Old Testament (OT) law is described as something that “proved to be death” to us (Romans 7:10), “came to increase trespass” (Romans 5:20), and held us “captive” and “imprisoned” (Galatians 3:23).

So, in addition to being life-long advocates of the grace we have been given in Christ, we read these verses about the law and perhaps find ample reason to dismiss it. If the law proved to be death, came to increase trespass, and held us captive, are we not given reason to believe that Christianity in the NT has advanced in an alternate direction—away from the law of the OT?

However, we also have to contend with NT expressions. For example, in Matthew 5:17, Christ teaches that he is indeed not progressing away from the law: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” If that is not enough to convince you that Christ did not intend for us to abandon the law, I submit to you Romans 3:31: “Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.”

An important question we may have is of the correct interpretation of the OT law in the NT age—for example, how exactly does all of Leviticus apply to us today? My purpose here is to write about our attitude toward the law, not to answer our questions of interpretation. My hope is that we will be motivated to learn more about interpretation after reading of the benefits of that work.

So, if according to NT teachings, we are not moving away from the law—if God indeed did not push some proverbial re-set button with Christ, nullifying it for us—then we are left with this question: What benefit does the law possibly have for those under grace?

We See Our Need More Clearly

The law serves to inform us of and increase our awareness of our sin.

We need to be taught and instructed, then taught and instructed again. Do you not feel that too? We need definitions and designations about right and wrong—teachings to visit and revisit. We are indeed “prone to wander.” So, God gave the law as a concrete, definitive designation—reflective of his righteous and holy character—about how to honor him in this life he has given. How goodthat we have this gift!

Following the law out of a motivation of love for the Lord and his character is an incredibly life-giving way to live. Think of an area of sin over which you have gained freedom. How much more abundant is life on the other side of every sin! Being freed of sin is not merely the absence of that sinful behavior. Being freed of sin is deeper communion with God and lasting joy from faithfulness to him. That is why Paul could say that law promised life.

The very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. (Romans 7:10)

Yet, the law also proved to be death to those with a sinful nature. The law did not keep sinners from sinning. The law is holy, righteous, and good. But mankind has a propensity toward sin. Commandments plus the sin-nature do not function well together at all.

For sin, seizing the opportunity afforded by the commandment, deceived me, and through the commandment put me to death. So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good. Did that which is good, then, become death to me? By no means! Nevertheless, in order that sin might be recognized as sin, it used what is good to bring about my death, so that through the commandment sin might become utterly sinful. (Romans 7:11-12)

Perhaps you too have heard this oft-cited example:

If you draw “do not write here” on the chalkboard and leave the piece of chalk right underneath, our nature produces in us a desire to defy—to write on that chalkboard. So, whereas the law itself is a good provision for which to be thankful, mankind’s sinful nature becomes revealed clearly for what it is.

Christians can relate as Paul pinpoints the condition of our hearts: “For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out. For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing” (Romans 7:18-19). Later he speaks of himself: “Wretched man that I am” (Romans 7:24)!

Wretched are we! The law is necessary for us. It is not to be neglected because through it we see ourselves more clearly, as Romans 4:15 teaches: “Where there is no law there is no transgression.” Our awareness of our sin is increased. It points us to the true source of our salvation, Christ: “From childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

We Praise Christ as One Who Fulfilled the Law

According to our great need that the law clearly demonstrated, God did something incredibly gracious. He sent Jesus Christ, who could be perfect in righteousness according to the ways of God. He made a way for us to trust him and be credited his righteousness—leading to eternal life.

Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21).

Through the necessary awareness of sin that God gave us through the law, he is able to demonstrate his further grace in Christ. In stark contrast to the capabilities of mere man stands Christ. The more we understand of the law, the more we see his capability and magnificence to fulfill it. Praise him! Grace could only come to us because Christ did not minimize one measure of the law, but instead met it in full.

Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

When Jesus taught that a person’s righteousness must surpass the scribes and Pharisees, that would have been shocking to his audience, who viewed the scribes and Pharisees as the spiritual elite. Ultimately, when he said that righteousness must exceed the Pharisees,’ he was speaking of himself, who alone could do this perfectly.

We Love the Law with Hearts of Flesh

Whereas Christ already had the law in his heart, we have to have it written into ours (Hebrews 8:10).[1] Ezekiel 11:19 foreshadowed what we experience through new life in Christ: “I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh.” The words above from Matthew 5 are followed by Christ’s teaching that hate is murder and lust is adultery. So, the law has not been demolished, but revealed to be all about one’s heart. Those who have hearts of flesh by faith through grace can love the law and have the law written there to stay.

Is the law then contrary to the promises of God? Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. Now before faith came, we were held captive under the law, imprisoned until the coming faith would be revealed. So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Galatians 3:21-26)

God’s requirement of holiness for mankind has never changed from the beginning of time. But we changed; we sinned. Justly, God continued to require his “end of the deal,” that his righteous requirements be truly fulfilled. Grace, that is, being out from under the law of the OT, means that now, we are under the Christ who perfectly fulfilled the law—the one who gives the Holy Spirit to help us obey the law from the heart. Our faith in this Christ produces the desire to know the law of the Lord—to know his righteous ways and to see every possible fulfillment of his righteous ways in our hearts.

For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:3-4)

Grace leads us right back to the law through a different perspective. We can say, “Wretched I am,” “I am forgiven by grace through faith in Christ,” and “I long that God’s righteous requirements be fulfilled in me,” all in one breath.

His grace will always bring us to love the law that Christ embodied. When under grace, Christians are not only free from the law and from the sin that the law increased for those with sinful natures. More, we are freed to the law.

Through grace in Christ, we are freed to return to the law with the knowledge that the burden of it is not ours, but that the grace of finding the freedom of righteousness out of love for him is. How good to have such a God whose justice never sacrifices the righteousness that is our freedom, and whose fulfillment of the law enables us to pursue that righteousness while already having complete peace with him. What a Savior!

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)

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