Beloved, All Things Work Together For Good…

Friday Reflections

“And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

Can sickness, death, homelessness, financial hardship, lost friendships, and traumatic experiences lead to anything good?

As I’m entering into my 5th day of juice fasting Romans 8:28 has come alive for me in a way I had not considered before.

Back in October after some troubling health news, I began to incorporate daily fresh vegetable juices into my diet at a whopping 80 to 100 ounces a day and 5 days ago I decided to consume only vegetable juice for as long as my body can tolerate it. I’m fasting mainly for health reasons but I am also using the time to pray more and hear from the Lord.

During my fast, I’ve had moments of wanting to give up, especially in the first three days. Having to cook meals for everyone including sweet treats has been hard. Working and dealing with the kid’s schooling has also been hard as I am low on energy. All in all, it has been quite the struggle but I know that what I’m enduring right now will only have a good impact on my overall health in the near future.

The idea of suffering in a small way during my fast made me realize that in God’s kingdom our spiritual lives are a bit like my fasting journey.

At times we face what seems like an unbeatable odd, a mountain too high to climb, a problem too big to fix and yet the Lord God Almighty whispers, “All things, yes all things work together for good.”

It is for his Glory that we are often thrown into the furnace so that in our obedience his name may be glorified. God desires that all of his children would learn to trust him even when it doesn’t make sense, even when it is hard and even when we see no end in sight. Because he is the master planner. He sees beyond the pain and frustration and when we seek his kingdom first, all things work together for good.

Although we cannot see through the stormy clouds we are enduring, although the sound of thunder seems threatening and never-ending, the Lord our God is seated above the clouds and he knows when the sun will shine again and when quiet streams will flow near barren valleys.

So let us take courage, for God has not given us a Spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. 2 Timothy 1:7


Uncertanty in Trials – Can I really Stand This Lord?

These last few years especially 2012-2013 have been extremely rough.  But this past year has been almost unbearable.  At times I find myself repeating It is well with my soul over and over again.  The words of this famous classic transcend time and manage to whisper its melody quietly to my soul.

This song was written by Horatio G. Spafford after losing all of his children and his business.
As he rode the waves on a ship to take him to his grieving wife he penned these powerful lyrics When sorrow like sea billows roll; it is well, it is well with my soul.  

And so today as we encounter loss of life, disease, unbearable trails, depression or financial loss, we can look towards heaven amidst the sea of violent waves and proclaim It is well with my soul.

I do not know when trouble will cease or when good health will be restored but I know that my Redeemer lives and He is with me.
I know that like the apostle Paul I must boldly confess “I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.”
The last part is the key to learning to be content in every situation.  It is understanding that we can do all the things the Father has placed before us if we allow His power to make us strong.
That does not mean that I will not break down and cry or feel pain in my illness or suffer.
No beloved friends, it means that while I am in the valley of darkness He is with me.  He walks beside me so I can endure through His strength.

In my strength, I can only be irritable, depressed, angry and fearful.  In His strength, I can find peace, solace, joy, and hope.

The road is not always easy when constant suffering is involved, but we know that God uses greatly those who go through His school of suffering.
When we suffer we are closer to His heart, we are more human and we depend on Him more.

Let us suffer then, with Him beside us and sing:

  1. When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
    When sorrows like sea billows roll;
    Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
    It is well, it is well, with my soul.It is well, with my soul,Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,

    • It is well, it is well, with my soul.
  2. Let this blest assurance control,
    That Christ has regarded my helpless estate,
    And hath shed His own blood for my soul.
  3. My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
    My sin, not in part but the whole,
    Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
    Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
  4. For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:
    If Jordan above me shall roll,
    No pang shall be mine, for in death as in life
    Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.
  5. But, Lord, ’tis for Thee, for Thy coming we wait,
    The sky, not the grave, is our goal;
    Oh, trump of the angel! Oh, voice of the Lord!
    Blessed hope, blessed rest of my soul!
  6. And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
    The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
    The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
    Even so, it is well with my soul.

Shall I not drink the cup the Father has given me? John 18:11

To “drink the cup” was a greater thing than calming the seas or raising the dead.  The prophets and apostles could do amazing miracles, but they did not always do the will of God and thereby suffered as a result.  

Doing Gods will and then experiencing suffering is still the highest form of faith, and the most glorious Christian achievement. 

Having your brightest aspirations as a young person forever crushed; bearing burdens daily that are always difficult, and never seeing relief; finding yourself worn down by poverty while simply desiring to do good for others and provide a comfortable living for those you love; being shackled by an incurable physical disability; being completely alone, separated from all those you love, to face the trauma of life alone,: yet in all these, still being able to say through such a difficult school of discipline, “Shall I not drink the cup the father has given me?” – this is faith at its highest, and spiritual success at its crowning point.  Great faith is exhibited not so much in doing as in suffering. 

In order to have a sympathetic God, we must have a suffering Savior, for true sympathy comes from understanding another persons hurt by suffering the same affliction.  Therefore we cannot help others who suffer without paying a price ourselves, because afflictions are the cost we pay for our ability to sympathize.  Those who wish to help others must first suffer.  If we wish to rescue others, we must be willing to face the cross; experiencing the greatest happiness in life through ministering to others is impossible without drinking the cup Jesus drank and without submitting to the baptism He endured. 

The most comforting of David’s psalms were squeezed from his life by suffering, and if Paul had not been given “a thorn in the flesh” we would have missed much of the heartbeat of tenderness that resonates through so many of his letters. 

If you have surrendered yourself to Christ, your present circumstances that seem to be pressing so hard against you are the perfect tool in the Fathers hand to chisel you into shape for eternity.  So trust Him and never push away the instrument He is using, or you will miss the result of His work in your life. 

The school of suffering graduates exceptional scholars. 

Source: Streams in the Desert


Are you in Moab right now?

I am preparing to teach a class on Ruth next week.  So I have been reading and re-reading the book of Ruth to find hidden treasures I may have missed over the years.  I have got to say that Ruth is one of my favorite women from the Old Testament.  Her faith, commitment, and submission to God fascinate me. 

But after reviewing her life again, one thing that popped out to me unlike the last 20 times I have read the book of Ruth, is that she was in Moab.  Now, I have always known she was born in Moab and lived there.  But – she did not choose to live in Moab, that is where she was born.  Contrary to Naomi, who chose to go to Moab knowing the spiritual implications.

Yet both of these women despite their differences were in Moab, this ungodly place together.  The point I want to highlight is that we all have been in a spiritual, physical or emotional Moab at some point in our life.  Sometimes we are there because of our own bad choices and sin and other times we are there because of injustice or hardship that has come upon us.

But God used Ruth regardless of her Moab life.  And she ends up being the star of the show, used by God in an amazing way.  Naomi despite her bitterness and complaining attitude towards God is also used during this process of redemption.

Not only that but in chapter 4 of Ruth, it says that God opened her womb.  Meaning that she was barren for the years she was married to Naomi’s son in Moab.  Moab was a God forsaken place and its people were known for all kinds of wicked sins.  Yet Ruth being a Moabite developed such a faith in God that even proved to be greater than that of her mother in law.

The point here is that had children been born to them in Moab, Jesus would have never been born.  It’s because Ruth in faith followed her mother in law that she is redeemed by Boaz and from his line comes King David and then Jesus.  But God had purposefully closed her womb because she could not have a child or children in the sinful city of Moab.  God opening her womb towards the end of the book is significant of his new blessing for Ruth after she left the sinful city of Moab and has now been redeemed by Boaz just as Christ redeems us, his bride.

There is so much more I would like to share and say, but for now I will just remind you that you can be used by God and be blessed by His perfect provisions all the days of your life, regardless of your Moab experience.  From the life of Ruth, we learn that there is hope for the weary soul and the one whose burden is heavy.  God can redeem any situation if you trust Him and entrust your life to Him.

So let me end by asking you: What is your Moab?

Are you suffering right now or in a situation that seems unbearable?  If so, call out to God and let Him lead your path and He will take you by the hand, as a dad holds the hand of a little child who is crossing a dangerous intersection.  It may not be easy to pray or ask God for direction at first when you are in Moab, but try reading the word for encouragement and then ease into prayer.  You can also pray the Psalms if your own words don’t flow from within.  This is something I have done in extremely difficult times where the only thing coming out from inside were my tears.  In times of pain, anguish or despair you may find solace in praying the Psalms as if they were your heart’s own words to God.

Here are a few Scriptures I recommend for encouragement and reading during difficult times.

Deuteronomy 33:12  The BELOVED of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell between his shoulders.  – What a beautiful image of Gods beloved resting between the shoulders of Almighty God.  Reminds me of when my little one is crying and upset, he nestles his head on his daddies shoulder. 

Psalm 119:105  Your word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my path.

Psalm 145:18-19  Yahweh is close to all who call on Him—to all who call on Him in truth. He will fulfill the desire of those who fear Him: He will hear their cry and save them.

Psalm 46:1  God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.

Matthew 11:28-30  Come to Me, all you who are weary and weighed down with heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in spirit. Indeed, you will surely find rest in Me! My yoke is easy, and My burden is light.

Isaiah 40:28-31  Have you not known? Have you not heard? The everlasting God (Yahweh), the Creator of the ends of the earth, faints not, neither is weary; His understanding is unsearchable. He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might He increases strength. Even the youths shall faint and be weary, and the young men shall utterly fall, but those who wait for Yahweh shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint.

Psalm 86

Psalm 77

Psalm 18

May you and yours be blessed! 


Thoughts from Suffering

These past few months have been so intense.  We have endured so many trials both in our lives and in the lives of our close friends, it’s been exhausting.  From health to finances, homelessness, and miscarriage.  The rain has beaten down hard on all of our faces and its left us weak.

With all that has been happening its easy to slip into depression, freak out and call it quits.  When life beats us down, its only normal to feel broken, lost and confused.  But as I look up towards heaven through all my tears and sadness, I know that He hears me.  He sees our faith and He knows our pain.  I don’t completely understand why He allows us to suffer so much.  It crushes me to see people that I love go through so much pain.

At times it frustrates me and I struggle to understand why sickness happens to our family and to those around me.  But at the same time, I know that God has a plan in all of this mess, although I don’t understand it right now.

Going through this period of spiritual and physical suffering has reinforced the belief that we suffer so we can carry the crucified Christ in our hearts and be sensitive to a hurting world.  When we suffer we carry Christ and His love with greater intensity.

So if you are going through a difficult time that has sucked up all your energy and faith, don’t lose heart.  Please don’t lose focus on Him, the resurrected Christ who knows your suffering and is walking with you.  He can carry you through the difficult stony paths if you let Him, just like a father carries a tired child.

One of my favorite bible teachers put it this way: “Before God changes our circumstances, He wants to change our hearts.  If our circumstances change for the better, but we remain the same, then we will become worse.  Gods purpose in Providence is not to make us comfortable, but to make us conformable, “conformed to the image of His Son” (Rom 8:29).  Christlike character is the divine goal for each of His children.”  Warren W. Wiersbe

Scripture reminds us in 2 Corinthians chapter 4 that “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our bodies…..So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

Amen – Lots of Love – Mariana  ©