When Life Troubles You

The wise king, Solomon, in the Proverbs asks these questions –

“Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaining?
Who has wounds without cause?
Who has redness of eyes?”

We understand that he is speaking of one who tarries long at the wine and imbibes in strong drink. The warning is decidedly present to avoid that which causes you to lose your self-control.

But did these questions ever come to Solomon’s heart when he simply lived out his life from day to day? Were there days when he gazed upon his face, like his father before him, and wonder why his pillow was wet with his tears through the night?

Yet, there are days when the struggles are so real that you do not know what to say to another. Your heart is pained and the woe and sorrow seems to multiply to the point where you feel as though you would be overwhelmed like the banks of the Jordan during its peak season.

The words of Solomon reflect that these words must have meant more to him when we find him at the end of life’s battles. Listen to the words of The Preacher found in Ecclesiastes 2:3; 5:18, and in 6:12.

“3 I searched with my heart how to cheer my body with wine–my heart still guiding me with wisdom–and how to lay hold on folly, till I might see what was good for the children of man to do under heaven during the few days of their life.”

“18 Behold, what I have seen to be good and fitting is to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of his life that God has given him, for this is his lot.”

“12 For who knows what is good for man while he lives the few days of his vain life, which he passes like a shadow? For who can tell man what will be after him under the sun?”

Can you feel his pain? Here is a man who had anything and everything a human could need or want in life, but it was all vanity. Life was coming to a close for him and he realized that his struggles were very real. How many days and nights must he have recognized strife or seen the redness in his eyes from weeping? Must he have wondered if such struggles were even necessary? Surely, there could have been no thought in his mind that he was the only one who ever faced struggles. But the struggles he had were peculiar to him and the only person who ever fully understood Solomon was the God who created him.

But, were there days he looked deep within his soul and found, as Martin Luther called it, the black dog of depression staring back at him? He faced, just as we do, the face of reality and sometimes it produces wounds that seem as though they are without cause. Ultimately, we know that the wounds are caused because of sin and having to deal with the remnants of the old nature, but that does not make going through them any easier. Human beings are fickle and we like to know we are loved, cared for, and surrounded by others who can understand our struggles.

What of those times when it seems as though the heart will shatter in pieces? Yes, we can even find ourselves not knowing how or what we should pray. At those times, the apostle Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit intercedes on our behalf when there is nothing but groans coming from the heart.

The daily battles are real though. We are forced to deal with people who do not have God at the center of their lives. This becomes painfully apparent when you take the time to listen to the words and music that pours from their lips and the speakers of your workplace. Brothers and sisters, it is mind-numbing. Then, we must gather the pieces of our soul and go home to find a family that wants to be loved. They want to know that you are there to help protect them, but the task can seem overwhelming and even, at times, impossible.

Words and thoughts that are grieving to the Holy Spirit rise unbidden. It is all you can do to swallow the bile in your throat as you realize again and again and again that if it was not for the grace of God that you would be right where others are. Lost, apart from the tender mercies of God, and even more bereft of hope.

The 21st century is a ponderous time, and this is certainly true for those who are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We face an uncertain future in a world that hates Christ and His followers. The followers of which I speak are those who have been given the ability to be overcomers as we find in 1 John 5.

True Christians struggle to even find hope in their fellowship with other believers for it has been demeaned to match the pop culture so prevalent in America. Scattered among the heathen found in the pews of Sunday worshipers are those whose hearts wonder if there is more. Is there more to life? Is there more to our worship? Must we engage with the forces of evil all through the week only to have to deal with the same mundane fluff that is called worship every Sunday?

Our churches are to be hospitals for the wounded and dying, but we have reduced them to places where we can get our “God” fix for the next week or two. The ears are filled with the praise of man and not the praise of God. Trivial worship has made for trivial lives. Trivial messages have built the self-esteem of man to the point where we think we are invincible and have little need of God. We are thinking of ourselves so highly that when our world crashes down around us that we first turn inward for truth and find nothing but the sad strain of more woes, strife, and contentions.

Life is a journey of battles and as Job stated, “Man who is born of a woman is few of days and full of trouble (14:1).”

Is there any wonder that we who know Christ long for more than what we find? Our eyes are red because the hope we have in what we thought we could produce or find in life has been nothing but vanity of vanities. The corporate ladder we sought to climb is built with straw rungs. The closeness of family has become little more than a dream as disrespect for parents has been the new calling card of the Millennial generation.

Children of the 21st century think they are owed the world on a platter. Sadly, like Solomon, we may find that we have been raising a Rehoboam, or that we have one who is like an Absalom to his parents.

Sometimes, the fellowship of friendships can drift apart through no reason than that life has gotten in the way. For those who are true believers, we can be assured that God brings people into our lives to be a blessing and so that we can be a blessing to them. But what happens when we depend on the friendship more than we seem to depend on the One Who alone will never leave us or forsake us?

All of these things can cause redness of eyes and wounds to the heart because life is troubling. Life deals out blows and they can even cause us to buckle. But is that such a bad thing? When we have finally come to our senses and realize that the only way we can look is up then we are in the right place. Overcoming wounds of the heart will never be easy in this life, but we can grow stronger through those wounds.

When the wounds are deep and the nights are long, those are the times that we must look to the Lord Jesus Christ. It is upon Him that we must cast our burdens because He is the One Who cares for us. The troubles of life will come and they will go like the tides of the ocean, but we must cry to the Master of the Sea when we feel that our ship is sinking.

My prayer is that these words are an encouragement to needy hearts. You are not alone in this world. Other brothers and sisters face their own battles. The contentions of their life may not be what you struggle with, but they are just as real. However, this life will soon be over and only what is done for Christ will last. If you are down, allow your eyes to gaze upon the sweet face of the Savior. Allow your heart and mind to be lost in the wonder that He loves you with an infinite love and there is nothing that can separate you from that love – EVER!

That last paragraph is enough to help me refocus my thoughts, even when I do not understand what is happening or why it is happening. Ultimately, when I regain my focus on that which is eternal, I will remember the joy that will belong to every believer as one day we bow the knee before the King of all the ages on His throne. We will bow with adoration and simply proclaim that these were but light afflictions.

Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment 4

Contentment is an inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit. It is an inward frame of spirit and a gracious frame. Contentment is a soul business.

a. It is a grace that spreads itself through the whole soul. In some, there is a partial contentment. It is not the [whole] frame of the soul, but [only] some part of the soul has some contentment. Many a man may be satisfied in his judgment about a thing, who cannot for his life rule his affections, his thoughts, or his will. I do not doubt that many of you know this in your own experience, if you observe the workings of your own hearts.

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But there is a great deal of hope of attaining contentment, if you can sit down and say, “I see good reason to be contented.” Yet even when you have [gotten this] far, you may still have much to do with your hearts afterwards. There is such unruliness in our thoughts and affections that our judgments are not always able to rule them. That is what makes me say that contentment is an inward frame of spirit. The whole soul—judgment, thoughts, will, affections—all are satisfied and quiet.

b. Spiritual contentment comes from the frame of the soul. The contentment of a man or woman who is rightly content does not come so much from outward arguments or help, as from the disposition of their own hearts. Let me explain myself. Someone is disturbed. If you come and bring some great thing to please him, perhaps it will quiet him, and he will be “contented.” It is the thing you bring that quiets him, not the disposition of his own spirit, but the external thing you bring him. But when a Christian is content in the right way, the quiet comes more from the disposition of his own heart than from any external argument or from the possession of anything in the world. To be content because of some external thing is like warming a man’s clothes by the fire. But to be content through an inward disposition of the soul is like the warmth that a man’s clothes have from the natural heat of the body.

–Jeremiah Burroughs

Bless Them Which Persecute You

Bless them which persecute you: bless, and curse not.  ~Romans 12:14

Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth.

Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled.

Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.

Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you.  ~Matthew 5:5-12

For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if you forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.  ~Matthew 6:14-15

These are some of the verses I’ve been quoting to myself recently. It is not easy to do the right thing when others seem to hate you and want to make your life miserable and yet, in order to truly have peace and joy, one must obey these commands that Christ laid out for us.

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The other night when I was lying in bed upset about the way a person was treating my family, I began to think about the Father and how He must feel by all the people that mock Him, take His name in vain, and do everything imaginable to grieve Him. All of a sudden, my focus changed, as it put things in a new light.

I don’t think there is anything we can go through on earth that Jesus didn’t experience in some form or fashion and yet He prayed for those who crucified Him. He mourned for Jerusalem and the way they would treat His people. He died for a world that He knew would hate Him. That is the posture He wants us to have. We must rid ourselves of all pride, the “need” to be right, even the desire to justify our actions at times, and humbly go to God in the midst of difficult situations. And somehow we must find a way to pray for those who persecute us. I think, many times, they really don’t know what they’re doing. And, even if they do and their goal is to hurt you in every way they can, only God can change a heart. Retaliation will only make it worse.

As I write this, a part of me wonders if anyone else can relate to this or if I should just be writing in my journal. I’ve learned, however, that most of the time, God allows me to go through things because someone else is going through a similar situation and needs to know they’re not alone. They need encouraged to draw near to the Lord and reminded of how they need to walk in various situations. That is my prayer. No matter who is being mean to you right now, God sees and He will take care of it in His time. This is simply a time to keep growing in walking in His ways. Hold tightly to His hand and don’t deal with it in your flesh. Ask God to give you His heart for this person and to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. I’ve no doubt that He will.

Brethren, Pray For Me

Brethren, Pray For Me

2 Thess 3:1-2 Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified, even as it is with you: And that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men: for all men have not faith.

One thing that is hardly addressed these days is the desperate need of prayer for pastors and missionaries. These men are in the forefront of the spiritual battle. We see so many fall to the wayside due to many reasons both physical and spiritual. Sometimes, they give in to the pressure of being told not to stand for the truth, maybe they become afraid in the battle, or grow weary because of the fight. Maybe they have been ill used by the congregation and their very soul is tattered and torn, maybe they struggle against sin or a specific sin, maybe their family is falling apart and they feel overwhelmed by everything going on, or maybe they are in a deep depression at this point.

Yes, we can all feel those things at one point or another yet how few people realize the tremendous pressure these men are under. They are in the front line of fire, spiritually speaking, and there is much they have to endure that most wouldn’t allow. A lot of people in the congregation think that because they pay the pastor or missionary that he has to obey them in everything. Don’t get me wrong as I believe in accountability but the people don’t own the heart and soul of the pastor and missionary. God owns their soul and is the One whose will should be followed completely and wholeheartedly.

Preaching in the right spirit and with all a person’s heart is quite similar to a day’s work. It’s easy to complain that the pastor doesn’t do anything but a person who says that hasn’t watched a true pastor give himself up in his preaching.

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Brothers and sisters, pray for your pastor. Pray that he will stand true to the Word of God and do what’s right regardless of the cost. Pray that his heart will be touched by what he studies and that the Holy Spirit will speak to him, first, then speak through him when he preaches. Pray that his heart will be renewed day by day. If he has a secular job as well as the ministry, buckle down and pray the Lord will give him strength for both positions. It’s not easy on a pastor to work, take time out for his family, and do what he needs to do for the family of God. Pray also for the health of the pastor who works as he will very seldom get time off.

Brothers and sisters, pray for the missionaries. Pray the same thing for the missionaries except they need added encouragement when they live in a different country. There will be culture shock on their parts and will need extra grace to adjust.

One more thing, pray that the Lord will cover both pastors and missionaries with His cloak of protection. May they each stand firm and do the Lord’s will. A strong man of God will mean one who’s ready to follow the Lord and guide his ministry in the way that they should go but a weak man of God means his ministry will fall into apostasy.

Creator and Sustainer of Life

Genesis 1:1 In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

Isaiah 40:25-26 To whom then will ye liken me, or shall I be equal? saith the Holy One. Lift up your eyes on high, and behold who hath created these things,that bringeth out their host by number: he calleth them all by names by the greatness of his might, for that he is strong in power; not one faileth.

Mind boggling! Mind blown! We hear these expressions used often both by people we know as well as movies we see. Sometimes it means amazement over something but other times it’s used as an expression of sarcasm about someone who didn’t get something they should have. We also see it when the hand is used as a means of showing something that blows up along with hearing the sound of an explosion.

The reality is that our mind should be amazed over God and His attributes. Everything He is, is so much more than we could ever hope to be. The phrase “You can be anything you want to be or do anything you want to do” pales for humans in comparison to God. This phrase truly does fit Him but cannot, in its truest sense, fit us. There are many things we can’t be or do no matter how much we might want it.

When God created the world He spoke and it was. That, in itself, is mind boggling. No matter how much I want to speak something into existence I will never be able to do so. God created heaven, earth, everything in it and on it, all the heavenly bodies, and the universe simply by saying it will be and it was.

What blows my mind is how He sustains every bit of life. From the tiniest atom to the biggest star, planet, universe, or whatever it is that is biggest in our domain. He not only sustains life but knows every single detail about every living object and inanimate object. He is personally involved in each person’s life whatever happens because He controls everything.

Every detail that is minutely part of our life is known by God and He isn’t up in heaven wringing His hands saying, “Oh, dear! What am I going to do. Something horrible happened to them and I guess I’ll have to go to plan B, now.” No, God is fully in control and can take care of every little detail necessary.

Now, having explained all that, let’s break it down into a myriad of things all at one time. We see the trees green in the summer, flowers blooming, little children running around screaming with excitement, little bugs scurrying all over the place, animals running to and fro, grass growing, clouds floating in the sky, the mama taking care of the house or out working, the dad at his work, the sick person praying, the goldfish swimming in the tank, etc., etc., etc. Each breath you take is given by God and yet, everything that happens is known by Him always with no exception.

That, my friend, is mind blowing information (with the explosion sound and movement of the hand). What is even more exciting and boggling to the mind is that God cares so much that He could hear your prayer, mine and every person that is alive today, if we were all praying at the same time. Mind blown! Here is a depth that cannot be fathomed and a height that we can only wonder at. In the end we have to say, “Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive glory and honour and power: for thou hast created all things, and for thy pleasure they are and were created.” Rev 4:11.

You Are…

You are my Glory and my Hope
Perfect in all Your ways
You are the One in Whom I rest
You are my Hope and Stay

You are my Wisdom and my Rock
The Blesser of my soul
The Hearer of my painful cries
You’re holy and faithful

You are the One in whom I trust
The Strength’ner of my heart
You are my Shield and Protection
You’ll never more depart

You uphold all your righteous ones
You are my Hiding Place
You are the One Who gives me food
My Light, my Truth, my Grace

You are Alpha and Omega
You are the First and Last
When You come back to take me home
My sin will all be past.

Words by Violet Escalera – January 2017
(Can be sung to the tune of Amazing Grace)

Rare Jewel of Christian Contentment – Quote

What contentment is not opposed to

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1. It is not opposed to a due sense of affliction. God gives His people leave to be sensible of what they suffer. Christ does not say, “Do not count as a cross what is a cross”; He says, “Take up your cross daily” (Luke 9:23).

2. It is not opposed to making in an orderly manner our moan to God and to our friends.

3. It is not opposed to all lawful seeking for help in different circumstances, or to endeavoring simply to be delivered out of present afflictions by the use of lawful means—it is but my duty. God is thus far mercifully indulgent to our weakness, and He will not take it ill at our hands if by earnest and importunate prayer we seek Him for deliverance until we know His good pleasure in the matter. Certainly seeking thus for help with such submission and holy resignation of spirit to be delivered when God wills, as God wills, and how God wills — this is not opposed to the quietness that God requires in a contented spirit.

— Jeremiah Burroughs