When Hope Seems to Run Out

Sharing from SetApart.net.

When Hope Seems to Run Out

By Sarah Walton

God is still a God of miracles. Though it may look different than when Jesus walked the earth, we still hear of God’s divine intervention all around us – tumors that miraculously disappear, a hardened criminal surrenders their life to Christ and has a powerful ministry to the unsaved, an unborn child who’s been declared “unfit for life” is born perfectly healthy, and hard to reach cultures are coming to Christ through divine intervention.

Yes, God still reveals His power and supremacy through these miraculous acts. However, it’s likely that many of us haven’t experienced a life-altering miracle in our own lives (other than the miraculous regeneration of our hearts). Although there are times that we can clearly see evidence of God at work in our lives, there are also seasons when it seems as though prayers are being answered in everyone’s lives but ours.

Read the rest here.

Pain’s Absence vs Pain’s Potency

PainsAbsence-PainsPotency

Scripture reminds us that God’s presence does not equal
pain’s absence.
However, because of God’s presence,
pain’s potency
is limited.
Difficult times may certainly lead to dark days,
but dark days need not mean defeat.
Ask God to give you strength to call on Him,
even in the darkest moments of life.

Begin this day crying out to the Lord.
Wait expectantly for His answer and trust His presence.

—Paul Purvis, First Baptist Church Temple Terrace
Temple Terrace, FL

Magnificence from Insignificance

Magnificence from Insignificance

By Patricia Knight

In the early history of mankind, for decades God’s people followed a predictable pattern of disobedience, prompting God to allow their enemies to conquer and enslave them as punishment for their sin. When the people could tolerate servitude no longer, they cried out to God in repentance. God was merciful and raised up judges to deliver them from exile and to lead them back into fellowship with Him. Peace was enjoyed for a time until the people once again adopted the pagan methods of worship. Then the cycle revived and revolved as before.

The judges God selected from among the Israelites had no specific knowledge or talent, but God was aware of their potential.

The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.
Man looks at the outward appearances,
but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

The Lord focuses on a person’s character and desire to submit to His will and instructions.

God called the lowly rather than the mighty to do His work. God used Ehud, the second judge, to deliver peace to Israel. Left-handed and courageous, Ehud was qualified for the gruesome task of killing Eglon, the enemy Moabite king. Because most people of his day were right hand dominant, only Ehud’s right side was searched for a weapon before he entered the king’s quarters. “Ehud made a double-edged sword about a foot and a half long, which he strapped to his right thigh under his clothing” (Judges 3:16). From there he wielded it to kill the king, ensuring peace in Israel for the next eighty years.

Israel had no iron weapons, but for Shamgar, the third judge, an ox goad was the tool of his trade. A crude instrument used for prodding draft animals, it was a long wooden rod, sometimes fashioned with a metal tip. The ox goad doubled as a weapon of war that Shamgar used to kill 600 Philistines who had been terrorizing their main route of travel (Judges 3:31). Shamgar learned that whatever you have, no matter how humble, God will use it for His glory.

Judge Gideon was commissioned to save Israel from the Midianites. As leader of a group of quiet, persistent marchers, Gideon signaled them to blow trumpets and break pitchers at the precise time appointed by God, demolishing the walls of the city of Jericho. The enemy was pursued and subdued by the Israelis, securing peace for forty years.

When God first called Gideon, he was weak, frightened, and timid. Before Gideon could serve, God had to strengthen his wobbly knees and his cowardly heart. It proved to be a long, arduous process. God was patient, always supplying the man He chose with His Spirit of power. Weak vessels are the only kind He will use, not wanting man to boast of his own accomplishments, only those that glorify God.

After judges ruled Israel, the people begged God for a king like those who ruled their neighboring countries. Saul, their first king, had a humble beginning as a donkey wrangler. The people chose Saul based  entirely on his physical attributes. Saul was not God’s choice, but because the people were insistent, God allowed them to learn a difficult lesson. “God changed Saul’s heart; the Spirit of God came upon him in power” (1 Samuel 10:9, 10b). God was patient and instructive with Saul, giving him every opportunity to succeed, but Saul didn’t give himself wholeheartedly to God or to the people’s interests. His monarchy was punctuated with pride, selfishness, personal ambition, disobedience, and jealousy. David eventually replaced Saul as king. Contrast Saul’s performance with that of David, God’s choice for king. David’s heart openly communicated and worshipped his heavenly Father. He was fervent about serving God and his people, whereas King Saul was self-serving.

God typically chose little men in character; mediocre, and feckless, to do His work—to lead and to achieve. They had no obvious talents and often possessed glaring faults, sometimes the very reason God chose them: Moses escaped after murdering an Egyptian; Jesus’ disciple, Matthew, was a despised tax collector; the Apostle Paul sincerely believed he should annihilate all Christians; and Peter, Christ’s disciple, denied knowing his Master on three consecutive occasions. God uses common people to do uncommon jobs; ordinary folk to perform extraordinary feats. He converts His weak children to towers of strength to promote His important tasks, all of them through the Spirit’s power and direction. The weakest and the most unprepared were believers God could mold and make from a previously inadequate person into a useable instrument for His glory. “Does the Potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay something for noble purposes and some for common use?” (Romans 9:21).

Is God using you to your full potential to accomplish His work? If your heart is open to His love and responsive to His leadership, there is no end to the magnificence He will create in your life. You may never be recognized as a person of importance, but God knows that your heart is responsive and prioritizes obedience to Him. “Yet, O Lord, you are our Father. We are the clay, you are the Potter. We are all the work of your hands” (Isaiah 64:8). No one who yields to the molding of God remains commonplace. Our Lord only deals in the extravagant and the splendid, lavishing believers with unique abilities to accomplish His sovereign work. “But each man has his own gift from God” (1 Corinthians 7:7).The more we submit to His will, the greater power with which He equips us.

Believers, exercising their own efforts, are unable to achieve anything for Christ. It is only by the power of the Holy Spirit within us, who provides the strength and grace to please God and makes our lives count for Him. “The Lord… has filled you with the Spirit of God, with wisdom, with understanding, with knowledge and with all kinds of skills” (Exodus 35:30-32).

As a believer, would you be eager and available to respond when God has a job to be done? To be hand-picked for a unique task, as the judges and kings were in ages past, identifies us as outstanding in our faithfulness toward God today. God delights in His servants and endows each one with spiritual gifts. God peers into your heart, looking for your willingness to serve, obey, and submit to his will. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Colossians 3:23).

Let us offer ourselves unreservedly as instruments for God’s work. Mortals cannot submit to the immortal without a major transformation occurring. Insignificance will give way to magnificence under God’s direction!

My Shelter

Ps73-SovereignLord-Pier--AMP

My health may fail, and my spirit grow weak,
but God remains the strength of my heart;
He is mine forever.
But as for me, how good it is to be near God!
I have made the Sovereign LORD my shelter,
and I will tell everyone about the wonderful things You do. 
—Psalm 73:22-26, 28

Holding on to Sustaining #Hope

This is an excellent post about HOPE from the True Woman blog at Revive Our Hearts, and not just because Ava Pennington and I both chose HOPE for our 2017 theme. I’ve been going through a time of multiple physical trials, so I truly appreciate what she wrote. I think it is an encouragement for all of us, no matter what we’re going through.

Holding on to Sustaining Hope

By Ava Pennington

The new year is nearly half over. And the first five months of 2017 were not at all what I expected.

But God knew. And He gave me a clue back in December.

For the past several years, I’ve enjoyed the practice of selecting “one word” for the new year. A word to apply to every area of my life. A word to help me focus on how I believed God wants me to grow and respond to my circumstances.

Joy became my word for 2016. Also a surprise word, but once again, I could see God at work. While joy might not seem to be related to release, I quickly learned ways it complemented and built on the lessons of the previous year. I learned to take joy in present moments even as I released the illusion of control.

I became aware of my one word for 2017 in early December. Like the others, it was not included on my original list of considerations. Still, hope kept coming to mind. And it confused me.

I could see reasons for the words release and joy. But would I really need to focus on hope as a daily activity? Hmmm, since I teach and write, perhaps this was an indication that the Lord would use me to encourage hope in others. To be a vehicle of hope for those struggling against despair.

Read the rest here.

8 Ways God Works Suffering for Our Good

This is an excellent article from Challies.com, published a couple of months ago but something I needed to read right now.

8 Ways God Works Suffering
for Our Good

By Tim Challies

It is a conviction meant to quiet our minds and encourage our hearts: In some way God has a hand in our suffering. Whatever circumstances we experience can no more arise without the hand of God than a saw can cut without the hand of the carpenter. Job in his suffering did not say, “The Lord gave and the devil took away,” but, “The Lord gave and the Lord took away.” Suffering never comes our way apart from the purpose and providence of God and for that reason, suffering is always significant, never meaningless. Here are some ways that God brings good from our suffering.

Suffering is our preacher and teacher. It was Luther who said that he could never properly understand some of the Psalms until he endured suffering. A sick bed often teaches more than a sermon, and suffering first teaches us about our sin and sinfulness. Suffering also teaches us about ourselves, for in times of health and prosperity all seems to be well and we are both humble and grateful, but in suffering we come to see the ingratitude and rebellion of our hearts. We can best see the ugly face of sin and the reality of spiritual childishness in the mirror of suffering.

Read the rest here.

Strengthen your #Faith

There is a great question and answer section on Billy Graham’s site titled Answers. Today’s post is from there and is an excellent reminder for all of us.

Q: I admit my faith is weak, but I know it would be strong if I could only see Jesus with my own eyes, even for just one minute. Why shouldn’t I ask God to do this for me?

A: God has already given you everything you need to make your faith stronger. Instead of praying for Jesus to appear to you somehow (which He never promised to do), you should be praying instead for the discipline to use the means He has given you to strengthen your faith. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed” (John 20:29).

I often think of the similarity between physical strength and spiritual strength. What do we need to stay physically strong and healthy? We need two things: food and exercise. If we don’t eat, we’ll grow weaker, waste away and eventually die. And if we don’t exercise, we’ll also grow weak and won’t be useful or helpful to others.

Read the rest here.