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The Gospel Cordial

An excerpt from a sermon entitled “The Gospel Cordial,” delivered by C.H. Spurgeon at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington on Lord’s Day Evening, September 20th, 1863. Available for free from the Christians Classics Etheral Library: https://www.ccel.org/ccel/spurgeon/proverbs.xlv.html

Give strong drink unto him that is ready to perish, and wine unto those that be of heavy hearts. Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more. —Proverbs 31:6, 7.

[T]here is most comforting cordial in the Gospel. Dr. Watts truly sings—

Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.

I will take first, the case of a true believer in Jesus who is sorely tried with cares and losses and crosses. I will suppose that you have come in here to-night dreading what may happen to you to-morrow. Perhaps your trouble my brother, is that your business is failing and that want is staring you in the face. Possibly you, my sister, are sorrowing over that dear child who lies in her little coffin in the quiet room upstairs at home. Or it may be that you, my friend, have a sick wife, and day by day you see fresh signs and tokens of the great loss that is surely awaiting you. I cannot mention all the causes of sad heart in the believing members of this great assembly, but my Master has sent me here with his own blessed cordial, which is more than sufficient to comfort every sorrowing saint here.

Remember beloved, that all that happens to you comes in the course of divine providence. Your loving heavenly Father has foreseen, foreknown, and I venture to say, foreordained it all. The medicine you have to drink is very bitter, but the unerring Physician measured all the ingredients drop by drop, and then mixed them in the very way in which they could best work for your highest good. Nothing in this world happens by chance. That great God – who sitteth upon the circle of the heavens, to whom all things that he hath made are but as the small dust of the balance, who maketh the clouds his chariot, and rideth upon the wings of the wind – that same God careth for you with such special care that he has even numbered the very hairs of your head and put your tears in his bottle. You may therefore rest assured that even those experiences which are causing you so much sorrow are all in accordance with his eternal counsel and decree. Doth not this divine cordial make you forget your poverty and remember your misery no more?

I might keep on all night trying thus to comfort tried saints, but I must content myself by giving them just one more sip of this divine cordial, and that shall be this – remember how soon all these trials will be over. Be of good courage, weary pilgrim; the heavenly mansion where thou art to rest for ever is almost in sight; and thou mayest well sing—

My Father’s house on high,
Home of my soul! how near,
At times, to faith’s foreseeing eye,
Thy golden gates appear!

How fast the years fly by, and our trials and troubles are flying just as fast. Beloved, Paul truly wrote concerning “our light affliction which is but for a moment;” for after all, our afflictions are only like a troubled dream, a little starting in the sleep of life, and then we wake to sleep no more for ever. This world is, to the believer, like a country inn by the wayside, where there are many constantly coming and going, and there are such disturbing noises that no one can rest. Well, never mind, thou art only tarrying there for one short night, and then thou shalt be up and away to thine eternal home, to go no more out for ever. Will not this divine cordial make thee forget thy poverty and remember thy misery no more?

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Three “No, but…” answers to our “Are we there, yet?” Questions

Now approaching his 97th birthday, my grandfather reminisces a lot. Many years ago, he built a lake house with his own hands. Lately, he’s been reminiscing about all the summertime trips he made with my sister and I. I think only God could keep track of the number of times we made that drive. As a kid, the dreadful length of the trip weighted on me every time. My sister and I alternated our pesky questions on an infinite loop: “Are we there yet?” “How much longer?” “Are we there yet?” …. (I will spare you. You get the picture.)

I recently found myself in the driver’s seat hearing those indicators of anxious impatience from someone else for the first time. My nephew piped up on a ten-hour drive: “This is why I hate driving to Michigan. It takes forever! Why can’t we fly?” As he said this, each word got longer than one before it. He intuitively used every vocal resource he had to indicate how the trip seemed to keep stretching on and on. He’s four.

A few moments of impatience notwithstanding, my nephew handled our trip very well. (So well, in fact, he’s decided I should play chauffeur on the next long family adventure!) But he reminded me how hard waiting on the Lord in our sojourning can be, especially when: 1) We know the Lord could move faster if He wanted to and 2) We don’t know how long or how hard (or how good, for that matter!) the journey will be. If the hardest part about waiting is waiting without answers we know the Lord could give, then the second hardest part about waiting must be receiving a different answer than the one we were hoping for. This was familiar ground for Christ’s disciples just before His ascension in Acts 1:6-9:

6 Then they gathered around him and asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?”

7 He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. 8 But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

9 After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.

I can almost hear my nephew’s tone (even my own!) in the disciples’ voices when they ask Jesus, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” What did the disciples want to know? Quite simply, “Are we there now? Are You ready yet? Will you restore the Kingdom now, Lord?” I love Christ’s answer. At first blush, it seems he says something like, “No, and it’s none of your business…” But Jesus didn’t say, “No.” He told them the details of the timing were not for them to know, but then He answered a question they weren’t asking. He told them how He would restore the Kingdom. But first they would have to…. (You guessed it!)… wait on the Holy Spirit. They would be waiting for the Spirit to give them power to bring about the very thing they want to see accomplished, albeit at a much different pace and without a violent overthrow to Caesar’s government. Their view of the restoration was simply incomplete and short-sighted. God’s plan was far more glorious. By God’s design, the restoration would essentially happen one gospel conversation at a time.

Taking this as my first cue, here are three hope-filled “No, but…” answers we can glean from Scripture that speak to our spiritual “Are we there yet?” questions.

  1. No, but we have a commission while we wait (Matthew 28:16-20). I don’t know about you, but often my desire for the Lord to act more quickly is based on selfish desires that seem to multiply anytime I take my eyes off Him. When we keep our eyes fixed on Christ, the Great Commission is ever before us, ever occupying our minds and even our hands. This doesn’t mean we never plead with the Lord to quickly answer us in our need. It does mean that we are, by His grace, able to be found faithful when He does grant that long-awaited answer. “It will be good for those servants whose master finds them ready…” (Luke 12:35-48).
  2. No, but God hears our “Are we there yet,” prayers as a gracious and patient Heavenly Father. Although grumbling and complaining is something we need to repent of, the Lord has flung His door wide open to receive earnest prayer along the lines of “How long, O Lord?” He’s flung it so wide, in fact, that we have prayers in the Psalms we can pray when the wait is too much for us. See Psalm 13 for just one example.
  3. No, but we can worship while we wait. See one example of an eager wait turning to worship here in  Psalm 130:5-7. Even when we face the bleakest of circumstances, the greatness of our God is not diminished (Habakkuk 3:16-19). His nature is not tarnished. His goodness has not run out. What would happen if we fought our temptations to mumble in impatience with worship? Here’s a small sample worship resources available to help get us started worshipping the God of perfect timing in our waiting seasons:

 

I pray the Lord will answer you quickly when you call to Him. But if, in His providence, you find yourself lingering in the middle of a long, hard, wait, I pray He’ll bring to your mind scriptural truths that strengthen and comfort you. May we wait on the Lord “more than watchmen for the morning,” and more than four-year-olds who are ready to go swimming on vacation!

 

  BJ Rathbun works as an analyst. Her liberal arts education has given her an eclectic work background and a multitude of stories. She most enjoys spending time with her family, church family, and friends.

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Old and New

If you were asked to compile a list of things that are old, what would be on your list?  Perhaps an old friend, an old book, or an old memory come to mind.  On the flipside, what if your list needed to have things that are new upon it?  A new job, a crisp new dollar bill, or a new baby?  (Clearly, these are not in any order of importance!)

It is safe to say to that things that are old can be precious, and things that are new can be precious.  A couple that has grown old together throughout the years is a wonder.  A fresh new start can be exciting and adventurous.  Both “old” and “new” in a variety of contexts can be appreciated for their uniqueness.

Lamentations 3:22-23 states, “The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness.”  These verses struck me with the thought that God’s “new mercies” are evidence of His “old faithfulness.”

Each and every day God pours new mercies into my life.  Sometimes those mercies look like a well-timed encouraging email or text from a friend or the unexpected kindness and generosity of a stranger; other times those mercies can be painful, like removing something from our lives that we are very certain we truly need.  Years ago, I was in a situation where I found it hard to believe that God had taken something away from me.  When I would share even small slices of the story with others, the overwhelming counsel that I received time and time again was that I had “dodged a bullet.”  Dodging that bullet was not in my plans and was not something I considered mercy at the time.  Rather, I felt like God was giving me the opposite of mercy.  However (to use a hospital analogy) in the operating room sometimes the most merciful action a surgeon can take is to cut away the illness or disease, and so it was in my case.  God’s mercies are purposeful even when they are painful.

God is good at being merciful to us.  Sometimes his mercies come in unexpected packages; sometimes we want the same mercies from yesterday to be His mercies for today.  Today, as you go throughout your day, try to look for those “new mercies” in your life.  And then tomorrow, when you wake up, do the same thing.  And the day after that, do the same thing.   May we be encouraged that His ever-changing new mercies in our lives are ever present evidence of His old faithfulness.

 

Meagan Cargill is an educator for surgical and anesthesia staff at a local hospital in Kansas City. She previously worked as a nurse in the Neurosurgical ICU.

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One Small Butterfly, Two Big Lessons

by BJ Rathburn

I don’t know about you, but I love God’s creatures, especially those in the animal kingdom. I like to look for spiritual analogies and Scriptural truths illustrated in the creature before me and how God made it. As I’ve reflected on what I might share with you, I remember a certain encounter with one of God’s small creatures and two important lessons it taught me. I share them here in hopes it will encourage you in some way.

It was late in the afternoon on a late Spring day. I had been walking through some hard things for a while that would eventually result in marital separation. In the moment, things seemed to be piling up on me. Can you relate? The Psalmist knew this well when he cried out to the Lord in Ps. 25:17, “The troubles of my heart are enlarged; bring me out of my distresses.” Well, the troubles of my heart were most certainly enlarged that day. Something had happened and I didn’t have anyone to share it with but the Lord. I was overwhelmed, confused, frightened, anxious, hurt, angry, lonely, and had no earthly idea of what to do. I walked the short walk to a little clearing at a nearby trailhead, sheltered from public view, with an arbor and some benches on the edge of a scrubby mesquite forest. No sooner did I sit down when the tears just flooded out.

I was trying to mentally articulate a prayer of some kind to ask God for help By Wikipedia: User: Umbris (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commonswith the turmoil in my heart when through my tears I saw something move at my feet. Scorpions, tarantulas, colonies of fire ants, and other nasty things inhabited my neck of the woods in Dallas, so the first thing I did was instinctively yank my feet up onto the bench. But when I looked more carefully, I saw a beautiful butterfly, (probably a Cassius Blue), blending in perfectly with the background beneath me. It appeared to be sunning itself, but periodically closed its wings so I got a good view of its defense mechanism patterning. For a fleeting moment, the beauty of the winged thing at my feet displaced my self-pity.

Lesson One: When You Need God to Change the Course of History, He did.

My initial reaction of gratitude (that the creature at my feet was not venomous) quickly morphed into a spirit that questioned the Lord. “Lord! I wish you would come down and straighten this out! I wish you would come down and make your presence known! I wish you would come down and interrupt all this and fix it forever! I wish you would come down and show me what to do! I want to be able to see You as clearly as the butterfly at my feet. I wish You would do something! Anything!”

The Lord used the tenor of my impetuous grumbling to take me to Isiah 64-65, which opens, “Oh that You would rend the heavens and come down…” And no sooner did I read that, when I knew God was using His Word to tell me that He did. He did rend the Heavens and the curtain to the Holy of Holies, too! He did come down. He sent His Son into the world to live an obscure life full of hardship, to suffer at the hands of the persecutors He came to save, and to die that I, among many, could receive forgiveness for my sins and an eternity in Heaven free of all the pain and sorrow and death that sin delivers on earth. In my selfishness, I had been whining to God that my momentary troubles were bigger than His solution. But I was wrong. And in my selfishness, I didn’t really want this reminder at first. It seemed that God was minimizing my pain with the “good” news. But God chastened me and then encouraged me that when His incarnate Son came down, His solution to sin and sin sickness, His solution to brokenness, His solution to pain – was a once-and-forever, bigger than all evil solution that couldn’t be revoked, overturned, repealed, undone, or even diminished. It didn’t minimize evil or heartache (though I have sometimes blown things out of proportion). Rather, Jesus on the cross and Jesus in His glory simply dwarfs the most monumental suffering.

I don’t know about you, but as a woman, I sometimes unwittingly use my emotions as an excuse to ignore truth. I give myself an emotional hardship pass as though getting out of sound doctrine were the same as a “get out of jail free” card in Monopoly. But this path only exacerbates the problems underlying raw and unruly emotions. When I follow God’s way of dealing with the underlying problems, I am on the path to peace and healing even when the trouble doesn’t go away – even when the trouble gets worse for a while. And so it was that day.

Lesson Two: Most vulnerable with God is safest.

As God gently but firmly corrected my upside-down theology, I was free to see a second lesson in the butterfly. When its wings were up, it could launch into flight a fraction of a second faster. And the “eyes” on the underside of its wings, meant to scare off or confuse predators, were in plain view. So when its wings were up, its guard was up. Its defenses were at the ready. But where it rested at my feet, it was better camouflaged with its wings down, sunning itself. In that setting, at that time, being more vulnerable offered it more protection.

By leppyone (Cassius Blue) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia CommonsWhen I saw that, I marveled, and the Lord reminded me that “…whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matt. 16:25). So here’s my second confession: I know God wants me to guard my heart. But sometimes I use the language of biblically guarding my heart to cover up a selfish desire to protect my heart from pain. I can quickly erect an invisible shrine to all things that help me avoid pain, sprinkle some Bible verses on it and tell myself I’m doing well, when all I’m really doing is trying to save my life my way, apart from Christ, and losing it in the process. When I let God protect me from pain, I’m not passively subjecting myself to evil or going around hunting for pain by any means! But I’m able to follow Jesus into difficult, even painful situations and simultaneously experience joy, freedom, and peace because I’m following Him and He is protecting me. God used the butterfly that day to show me that my heart only wanted to follow God if He led me out of trouble, away from pain, towards momentary happiness. And that in the process, I was forfeiting the blessings of following Him where He leads, experiencing the peace that surpasses all understanding, and watching Him provide protection for me in ways that added no sorrow.

I pray that if you’re going through something hard right now, God will gently but inescapably show you that when you need Him to change the course of your life, He did. And when you most need protection, resting at His feet in vulnerable submission to and humble dependence on Him is the safest place you can ever be.

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Suffering and Dying for the Glory of God

by Deanna Hanson

I recently lost my dad and my mother-in-law to Stage 4 illnesses. My dad was diagnosed with Stage 4 Liver Disease and died within 3 weeks. My mother-in-law’s diagnosis came and allowed us to enjoy 2 great years with her before her body was overcome by Stage 4 Lung Cancer. Both of my parents experienced death and suffering so differently. Our human nature does not want to endure hardship like a good soldier (2 Timothy 2:3), follow Christ’s example (1 Peter 2:21), or rejoice in suffering (Romans 5:3). But it is at Calvary, at the cross, where we meet suffering on God’s terms. My mother-in-law, Sue Hanson, achieved this for most of her life, but it was most evident during her last 2 years here on earth.

John and I attended the 2005 Desiring God’s National Conference in Minneapolis entitled “Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.” We were deeply affected by the messages. We heard testimonies from Joni Eareckson Tada, Steve Saint, and John Piper about the hope and joy that can come from immense heartache and affliction. Steve Saint explained how suffering is relative and different for each person. “My definition of suffering is our expectation divided by our experience.” He goes on to say that “people who suffer want people who have suffered to tell them there is hope.

William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

William Blake, “Pestilence”

They are justifiably suspicious of people who appear to have lived lives of ease. There is no doubt in my mind that this is the reason that Jesus suffered in every way that we do, while he was here. First Peter 2:21 says, ‘[Your] suffering is all part of what God has called you to. Christ, who suffered for you, is your example. Follow in his steps’ (NLT).” Sue understood that this was God’s sovereign plan for her life and followed Christ’s example. She lived her last two years demonstrating His love for others while she was sick, continuously serving and encouraging those around her. She radiated joy and hopefulness when she shared about the cancer that was spreading through her body. While she was suffering and dying, Sue did just as Philippians 2:3 says: “in humility count others more significant than yourselves.” Her example reminded me of what Joni said at this 2005 conference:

“To this you were called because Christ suffered for you, leaving you this kind of example that you should follow. He endured the cross for the joy that was set before him (Heb 12:2). Should we expect to do less? So then, join me; boast in your afflictions. Delight in your infirmities. Glory in your weaknesses, for then you know that Christ’s power rests in you (2 Corinthians 12:9). You might [have cancer] on all sides, but you’re not crushed. You might be perplexed, but you’re not in despair. You might be knocked down, but you’re not knocked out. Because it says in 2 Corinthians 4:7-12 that every day we experience something of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, so that in turn we might experience the power of the life of Jesus in these bodies of ours.”

Let us learn from Sue and Joni and die to ourselves each morning and live in Christ for the glory of our great God!

If you would like to listen to the 2005 conference messages from this Series, the video and audio are available for free by clicking here: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God.

Deanna Hanson is a member of FCC.

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Two Book Reviews: Biographies of Paul and Margaret Brand

The Gift of Pain: Why We Hurt and What We Can Do About It

Dr. Paul Brand and Philip Yancey, Zondervan, 1997

Paul Brand was a medical missionary in India, and the son of missionaries. He specialized in treating people who suffered from leprosy and is credited with being the first to discover that leprosy did not cause rotting of the flesh, as previous generations has supposed. Brand observed instead that the disease deadened the nerves that brought messages of pain to the brain. Without these messages, his patients repeatedly injured themselves. These injuries became infected and caused the loss if fingers and toes, and often the loss of ability to earn a wage. Brand fought this progression with surgical and practical means—surgically rerouting healthy tendons to replace deadened ones, for example, and sending each patient home with a cat, so rats didn’t chew off numbed digits while the patients slept. He set up a school to teach those with leprous hands how to safely use them to earn a living as a carpenter or plumber, and set up a cobbler’s shop, where customized shoes were made to protect the deformed feet of his patients. Brand spent decades treating patients who could not feel physical pain, and though it sounds odd to our sensibilities, he said, “If I could give any one gift to my patients, it would be the gift of pain.” The Gift of Pain is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

If you prefer to watch the Brand’s story on video, here’s a link to a three-part series by Day of Discovery http://www.dod.org/Products/DOD1982.aspx . (It does graphically show the effects of leprosy on the hands and eyes, and may not be suitable for tender-hearted children.)

Vision for God: The Story of Dr. Margaret Brand

by Dr. Margaret Brand and Dr. James Jost, Discovery House, 2006

“We always believed that the Lord who took us in would take us through, adventure by adventure.”-Dr. Margaret Brand

Her baby was just two weeks old when the note came, asking Dr. Margaret Brand to go to work part time, without salary, in the mission hospital where her husband was on staff. The note arrived by messenger and said, “We must have help in the eye department.” It couldn’t have been a worse fit. Margaret had actually missed the ophthalmology rotation in her medical school training and had no experience in the field. She wrote back, “I know nothing about eyes. You’ll have to look for someone else. Sorry.” One hour later there was another knock on the door. The messenger once again handed Margaret a note. “You’ll learn,” it said. “Please start on Monday.”

To say that she learned is an understatement. That first day, the small eye clinic saw nearly 400 patients. Within a few weeks, she had learned to remove cataracts, a major cause of blindness in sun-drenched India. In eye camps held in remote villages, the team might perform 100 surgeries in a day, literally saving the lives of those who could no longer work to support themselves because of their blindness. Over the years, Margaret would also learn much about how the disease of leprosy affects the eye, and became the world’s foremost expert in the field. She pioneered surgical techniques to restore the ability to blink to her patients’ paralyzed eyelids and, still without becoming board certified in ophthalmology, became the Chief of Ophthalmology at the National Hansen’s Disease Center in Carville, LA.

But this biography is much more than a medical journal. Margaret tells us what it was like to raise six energetic youngsters in a foreign and sometimes dangerous country. Someone always seemed to be having an adventure—like the time the pet leopard punctured their daughter’s jugular, the time Margaret locked herself and some friends in a padded cell in an abandoned mental hospital, the time the gibbon grabbed her daughter’s hair and Margaret played tug-of-war with her screaming child, the time marmalade exploded inside all their trunks on a sea voyage, the day they were presented to the Queen and Margaret twisted her ankle when she curtsied, and the many times one or another of the family succumbed to a tropical disease. All this happened as Margaret and her husband Paul homeschooled six children, became world-class authorities on the treatment of leprosy and, most importantly, shined the light of the gospel into the spiritual darkness of India.  Vision for God is available through Amazon.com and CBD.com.

 

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PUSHING AGAINST A ROCK

By Matt Greco

Some years ago I heard a story about a man who prayed and prayed as he asked God to show him what He wanted the man to do.  The man was very specific in his prayer and he asked the Lord to be very specific in His answer.  The man wanted to be sure that he was doing God’s will.

Lo and behold the Lord answered the man.  The Lord told the man in answer to his prayers to go to this certain cabin on this certain mountain and out back of the cabin the man would find a very, very large rock.  God told the man to go push against that rock.

The man could barely contain himself as he thought what this might mean.  Maybe the Lord wanted him to push this rock and find a treasure under the rock.  Maybe he would push this rock over and it would roll down the mountain and cause some great and wonderful chain of events to happen.  Maybe he would push this rock and it would stop on a road and would keep a bus full of children from driving over a dangerous bridge.  Maybe this rock was meant to cut an important path down the mountain, or to scare off a dangerous bear, or…, or…, it seemed that the possibilities were endless.

The climb up the mountain was not easy, but he found the cabin and out back he saw the very, very large rock and he decided to start right away.  He walked up to the rock, set his feet, bent his knees, squared his shoulders, rolled up his sleeves and he pushed…hard!  Nothing happened!  He tried again; his feet set a little farther apart, his knees bent a little lower, his shoulders extra square and PPUUSSHH!  Nothing!  He tried different angles, different techniques, pushing long and hard, pushing in short bursts, but the rock did not move.

“I must be tired from the climb”, the man told himself.  “I will start again in the morning”.  The next morning dawned bright and beautiful and the man, with renewed vigor, set out to push this rock wherever he wanted it to go.  Only one problem; the rock would not budge.  No matter how hard or what angel he tried, the rock was immovable.  He spent hours trying to move this rock, but nothing.  After several hours he questioned the Lord, “This is what you want me to do?  This rock is not moving Lord.”  The answer was quick and clear, “Keep pushing.”

That day turned into a week, that week into weeks, and weeks turned in months.  The rock would not budge.  Daily the man would read from the Word and ask the Lord for direction.  He kept getting the same message, keep pushing!  Every day he pushed, as soon as the sun came out he was pushing.  It seemed that his whole life he had done nothing but push against this rock.

Finally, the man had had enough.  He had pushed on this rock for months with no result and he was ready to have a serious meeting with the Lord.  “Lord, I am done.  I have pushed, and pushed, and pushed against this rock, with no result and I am done, finished!  It hasn’t moved a single inch and I am done pushing!  I wonder if this is really what You wanted me to do at all!  You need to get someone else to move the rook.”

The Lord answered, “I did not ask you to move the rock, I asked you to push against it.  Look at your hands; they were soft, and not used to hard work.  They are now calloused and useful for the difficult labor I have for you. Look at your arms; they are now muscled and tan and able to perform the difficult labor I have for you.  Look at your legs, now strong and flexible; feel your back, your neck.  They are all ready for the difficult labor I have for you.  But more important than all the physical benefits, is the fact that you have been obedient.  You have learned to listen to My Word and because of that obedience, you are ready for the difficult labor I have for you.”

“Forgive me Lord”, the man said.  “You are my Lord and my God and no purpose of Yours can be thwarted.  I am Your servant and I ask that You use me as You desire.”

Whenever I think about this story, I realize that I would have probably done a whole lot more complaining and a whole lot less pushing.  Sometimes it is hard for me to not be in control or at least feel like I have a pretty good understanding of the Lord’s will.  But, He is God, He is sovereign, and He does not require my approval of either His plans or His providence.

You may have found yourself pushing against a rock lately, or maybe you have been pushing against the rock for some time.  Perhaps the Lord is preparing you for something special.  Ask Him, read His Word, and in the meantime, keep on pushing!

Matt Greco is on the missions committee at FCC and serves as the headmaster of Fatih Christian Academy.

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“Let the bones you have broken rejoice.” Psalm 51:8

By Julie Ganschow

As humans, we are all born with an inherent, evil that plagues our bodies and souls, referred to in believing circles as our “sin nature.” Because of this ingrained sin nature, we have wicked and self-righteous tendencies toward wrong doing. We often justify that wrong doing by excusing our sins and calling them something other than what they are. We assign them different names, diagnoses’, or designations to avoid taking responsibility for ourselves. But we can take heart – in that God has provided us a Helper, in the Holy Spirit who’s work is the conviction of sin. Paul David Tripp refers to this conviction of sin as “violent grace” in his book, “Whiter Than Snow.” Violent grace is God’s way of crushing our sin out of us. It’s His way of refining us – as the potter does the clay, in molding it to the perfect shape. This perfect shape is that of Christ-likeness.

This is consistent with God’s overall character throughout the canon of Scripture. We must remember Deut 28:63a – which discusses God’s action and thoughts toward Israel when they chose to rebel in sin: “And as the LORD took delight in doing you good and multiplying you, so the LORD will take delight in bringing ruin upon you and destroying you.” God loves all His people enough to chastise and chase us (Hebrews 12). He is willing to crush our pride, and leave us in the wilderness in order that we might desire Him and run to Him. He does this, not to cause us harm, but truly, because He loves us dearly. Because King Jesus desires to instill biblical character (Gal 5:22-25) within us, this in turn, conforms us to look more and more like the image of Christ – which is the calling of the Christian life!

Let’s ask ourselves some hard questions: are you experiencing the violent grace of Jesus Christ in your life? Do you see Him working in and around you? Do you see Him forming and reforming you—breaking down the walls of sin that we all build around us? Are you fighting back, or submitting humbly?

Please allow me to encourage you—embrace this grace! Ask the Lord to give you the desire, and from desire, willingness to conform and grow in the direction He’s taking you. Ask Him to instill within you, and then choose to embrace a steadfast spirit as the Lord makes you more and more like Him.

Pray. Ask the Lord to encourage you to embrace heart change, and not just behavior change. Ask Him to instill in you the desire to embrace grace – violent or not, as the means of growth He’s striving to cause.

Julie Ganschow is the founder and Director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center (ACBC, IABC, AABC Certified Training Center) and Biblical Counseling for Women.

 

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Living with Chronic Pain

By Julie Ganschow

But I am afflicted and in pain; may Your salvation, O God, set me securely on high.
Psalm 69:29 (NASB)

This is a topic for which people commonly seek counseling.

No one wants to live in pain. Our society spends billions of dollars annually on methods of avoiding pain of all kinds. We refuse to have emotional or physical pain continue for more than an hour if we can help it! At the first sign of a headache many will run for the over-the-counter pain reliever and expect that ingesting 2 or 3 pills will make it stop. When their pain persists for another hour they become cranky and out of sorts and will sometimes take more pain reliever in an attempt to rid themselves of the pain.

When over-the-counter pain relievers fail or only serve to dull the pain, people turn to their physician for help. They ask for something stronger, longer lasting, or more effective than what they have been taking. If that does not take away the pain, they are referred to a Pain Specialist, a doctor who specializes in managing chronic pain of all kinds. Often, a visit to another kind of clinician is also arranged to help the patient “deal with their depression” or other emotional response living this way has brought about.

In short order, many patients become medicated zombies whose lives are ruled by what time the next pill is to be taken, and the management of the multiple side effects of all the medications being ingested. In some cases there seems to be no option except to take many medications to lower the pain to a manageable level for working or functioning in daily life.

While the medical profession is making gains in many areas, the causes of chronic pain are still often elusive. It is not as easy to understand as it looks! There are multiple systems of the body in play when a person has pain. The feelings of pain are realized when the sensory nerves in the various parts of the body send a message to your brain that you are hurt. If I am hit on the hand with a stick, the sensory nerves in my hand would send a message into my spine and my spine would relay that message to my brain. My brain would get the message, “OUCH!” and tell me to move away from the source of the pain.

The realization of pain is not only physical, it is also realized emotionally. You and I could both be hit by the same stick in an identical manner and we would feel it differently; we would respond differently.

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it; another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

What is not elusive is the effects of pain on the lives of the people who suffer.

Why has my pain been perpetual and my wound incurable, refusing to be healed? Will You indeed be to me like a deceptive stream with water that is unreliable? Jeremiah 15:18 (NASB)

Your thoughts about pain as well as your personal history of pain will also factor into how you respond and react to it. One person who has lived with pain for a period of time will be emotionally worn down from it; another will view it as a challenge to be overcome. Some will respond with depressive thoughts, and still others will remain upbeat and optimistic throughout.

I am often asked to counsel women who are in chronic pain, and I see the effects of it on lives every day.

Like everything else, pain will reveal what is going on in the heart of a person. If the heart of the sufferer is on themselves rather than on God, how they respond to the affliction will be very different than when the heart is focused on glorifying God in spite of the pain.

The heart that is fixed on “self” will make relief from pain its focus. The person’s whole identity can become wrapped up in their pain and seeking relief. They live life through the perspective of being a victim. It would be common to hear them utter phrases like:

  • I must have relief from my pain
  • I must feel better
  • I deserve to feel better
  • I don’t deserve to be hurting like this
  • I will spare no expense to be pain-free
  • No one understands my pain
  • I can’t do (blank) because of my pain

As difficult as it is to understand, a person who is focused on relief from pain has become an idolater. It is idolatry because there is no room for anything in the heart other than “relief” and seeking relief becomes the object of worship. There is little to no room for worship of God in their heart.

It would be highly unusual for a person to knowingly seek out this type of idolatry, but remember, the heart is deceptive and wicked (Jer. 17:9) and often we deceive ourselves. A person’s thoughts, beliefs, and desires will reveal what the heart is focusing on.

If you are a chronic pain sufferer, I would challenge you to prayerfully examine your heart in light of Scripture. What thoughts do you think with respect to the pain you live with? Do you believe that God does not know how much you hurt? Do you desire relief more than you desire to glorify God in spite of your pain?

If you now understand that you have become an idolater there is hope for change! Jesus has come to forgive sin, and your release from the sin of idolatry begins with confession and repentance.

Jesus experienced every human suffering you and I do, and more. He suffered because we suffer; He hurt because we hurt; He grieved because we grieve; He has gone before us in suffering and pain that we might be encouraged in suffering and pain. He is also the answer to our suffering and pain.

The suffering and death of Jesus Christ on the cross have made it possible for our miserable pain and suffering to one day end. It has also made it possible for us to endure pain and suffering in the present. You see, the joy that was set before Christ (Heb 12:2) was our freedom from the curses of Genesis 3! Freedom from pain for all eternity in our future life!

This reality must become the lens through which we endure our present sufferings. Our pain today while not pleasant is purposeful. God is working in the midst of every painful episode you have today. Sadly, we disbelieve these truths because our experiences tend to dictate our reality. We believe that if something feels bad, it must be bad. If something hurts me, it cannot be good!

This is entirely backward from how the Christian is to respond as it is unbiblical. Regardless of how something looks or feels to us, God’s Word always trumps our feelings, thoughts, and beliefs. Scripture must become our measuring stick; we must search the Word and allow those truths to reframe our painful experiences.

The unbelievable reality is: pain has a purpose in your life and its purpose is good.
Julie Ganschow is the director of Reigning Grace Counseling Center and a member of FCC.

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A Few Things Learned Through Trial

By Elizabeth New

A few things I’ve learned since my life changed unexpectedly two years ago…
• Trials in life force us to face countless tough decisions and realities. Though most trials are not easy or enjoyable, God can use them to refine us, as if removing impurities. Having experienced hardship of any kind makes you more sensitive to the needs of others.
• Suffering creates stark contrast between what is important and what is not.elizabeth-jimnew
• It is possible (and biblically commanded) to experience great heartbreak simultaneously with immeasurable joy. “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.” James 1:2-3
• Frequently I have been humbled by the generosity, thoughtfulness, selflessness and support of innumerable people. I am so grateful my girls have witnessed friends offering to walk alongside us to share our journey. “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” Galatians 6:2
• Grief is intensely exhausting–emotionally, physically and mentally. The brain fog, memory lapses and time warp are very real. Be gentle and forgiving with people experiencing grief.
• Triggers for grief can be unpredictable, unwanted and unmanageable. Tears are an expression of love for someone you miss…unspent love that escapes from the corners of your eyes.
• Never underestimate the smallest kindnesses you can extend to others. It is appreciated by recipients and can be encouragement needed to get through that day. Love for and service to others requires sacrifice. “…let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth.” 1 John 3:18
• I am convinced that, as I walked through the darkest valleys, I was sustained by the Lord’s provision of strength, wisdom and comfort, and by the prayers of His saints. Even the days I did not “feel” the Lord’s presence, I knew the Bible’s promise that He would never leave or forsake me. (Deuteronomy 31:6) And at the end of each of the worst days, I knew I always had something to hope for and to be thankful for. “…but the LORD takes pleasure in those who fear him, in those who hope in his steadfast love.” Psalms 147:11
• Life is beautifully fragile and precious. Choose carefully how and with whom you will spend your time. Regrets can be painful consequences of unwise decisions.

 

Elizabeth New is a widow and mother of three beautiful little girls. She is a member of FCC.

Posted in: Biblical Counseling, Christian Living, Guest Writer

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