Friday, April 18, 2014

The hand of the Lord has done this....

The hand of the Lord has done this.
Job 12:9

Once again, Streams in the Desert has been a blessing to me.  Here is yesterday's reading......

"Several years ago there was found in an African mine the most magnificent diamond in the world's history. It was presented to the King of England to blaze in his crown of state. The King sent it to Amsterdam to be cut. It was put into the hands of an expert lapidary. And what do you suppose he did with it?
He took the gem of priceless value, and cut a notch in it. Then he struck it a hard blow with his instrument, and lo! the superb jewel lay in his hand cleft in twain. What recklessness I what wastefulness! what criminal carelessness!
Not so. For days and weeks that blow had been studied and planned. Drawings and models had been made of the gem. Its quality, its defects, its lines of cleavage had all been studied with minutest care. The man to whom it was committed was one of the most skillful lapidaries in the world.
Do you say that blow was a mistake? Nay. It was the climax of the lapidary's skill. When he struck that blow, he did the one thing which would bring that gem to its most perfect shapeliness, radiance, and jewelled splendor. That blow which seemed to ruin the superb precious stone was, in fact, its perfect redemption. For, from those two halves were wrought the two magnificent gems which the skilled eye of the lapidary saw hidden in the rough, uncut stone as it came from the mine.
So, sometimes, God lets a stinging blow fall upon your life. The blood spurts. The nerves wince. The soul cries out in agony. The blow seems to you an apalling mistake. But it is not, for you are the most priceless jewel in the world to God. And He is the most skilled lapidary in the universe.
Some day you are to blaze in the diadem of the King. As you lie in His hand now He knows just how to deal with you. Not a blow will be permitted to fall upon your shrinking soul but that the love of God permits it, and works out from its depths, blessing and spiritual enrichment unseen, and unthought of by you.
--J.H. McC.
In one of George MacDonald's books occurs this fragment of conversation: "I wonder why God made me," said Mrs. Faber bitterly. "I'm sure I don't know what was the use of making me!"
"Perhaps not much yet," said Dorothy, "but then He hasn't done with you yet. He is making you now, and you are quarrelling with the process."
If men would but believe that they are in process of creation, and consent to be made--let the Maker handle them as the potter the clay, yielding themselves in resplendent motion and submissive, hopeful action with the turning of His wheel--they would ere long find themselves able to welcome every pressure of that hand on them, even when it was felt in pain; and sometimes not only to believe but to recognize the Divine end in view, the bringing of a son unto glory."
"Not a single shaft can hit,
Till the God of love sees fit."

Friday, April 11, 2014

Let me know why You contend with me....

"I will say to God, 'Do not condemn me;
Let me know why You contend with me."
Job 10:2
Perhaps, O tried soul, the Lord is doing this to develop your gifts. There are some of your gifts which would never have been discovered if it were not for the trials. Do you not know that your faith never looks so grand in summer weather as it does in winter? Love is too often like a glowworm, showing but little light except it be in the midst of surrounding darkness. Hope itself is like a star--not to be seen in the sunshine of prosperity, and only to be discovered in the night of adversity. Afflictions are often the black folds in which God sets the jewels of His children's gifts, to make them shine the better.
It was but a little while ago that, on your knees, you were saying, "Lord, I fear I have no faith: let me know that I have faith."
Was not this really, though perhaps unconsciously, praying for trials?--for how can you know that you have faith until your faith is exercised? Depend upon it. God often sends us trials that our gifts may be discovered, and that we may be certain of their existence. Besides, it is not merely discovery; real growth in grace is the result of sanctified trials.
God trains His soldiers, not in tents of ease and luxury, but by turning them out and using them to forced marches and hard service. He makes them ford through streams, and swim through rivers and climb mountains, and walk many a weary mile with heavy knapsacks on their backs. Well, Christian, may not this account for the troubles through which you are passing? Is not this the reason why He is contending with you?
--C. H. Spurgeon
To be left unmolested by Satan is no evidence of blessing.

Amen!!!  I guess this is "Spurgeon Week!"  So much wonderful truth here.  I am blessed that God continues to remind me that being tethered to Him is far more important than my circumstances.  Praise Him.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Habakkuk 2:1

I will stand on my guard post
And station myself on the rampart;
And I will keep watch to see what He will speak to me,
And how I may reply when I am reproved.

In my devotional reading yesterday in Streams in the Desert, this entry was a real gem.  As I read through it, I thought, "This is so good.  So good."  And then I got to the end and saw that it was written by Charles Spurgeon, one of my favorite writers/preachers, and said, "Oh, of course!"  And I reread it this morning.  I don't want to be a trifler.  
"I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me (Hab. 2: 1).
There is no waiting on God for help, and there is no help from God, without watchful expectation on our part. If we ever fail to receive strength and defense from Him, it is because we are not on the outlook for it. Many a proffered succour from heaven goes past us, because we are not standing on our watch-tower to catch the far-off indications of its approach, and to fling open the gates of our heart for its entrance. He whose expectation does not lead him to be on the alert for its coming will get but little. Watch for God in the events of your life.
The old homely proverb says: "They that watch for Providence will never want a providence to watch for," and you may turn it the other way and say, "They that do not watch for providences will never have a providence to watch for." Unless you put out your water-jars when it rains you will catch no water.
We want to be more business-like and use common sense with God in pleading promises. If you were to go to one of the banks, and see a man go in and out and lay a piece of paper on the table, and take it up again and nothing more--if he did that several times a day, I think there would soon be orders to keep the man out.
Those men who come to the bank in earnest present their checks, they wait until they receive their gold, and then they go; but not without having transacted real business.
They do not put the paper down, speak about the excellent signature, and discuss the excellent document; but they want their money for it, and they are not content without it. These are the people who are always welcome at the bank, and not triflers. Alas, a great many people play at praying. They do not expect God to give them an answer, and thus they are mere triflers. Our Heavenly Father would have us do real business with Him in our praying.
--C. H. Spurgeon
"Thine expectation shall not be cut off." "

Friday, April 4, 2014

A Diary of Private Prayer


A Diary of Private Prayer ~ A Devotional Classic ~ by John Baillie

This is an absolute gem of a book.  A friend from high school recommended it to me, and I have loved every day I've read in it.  Unlike most devotionals, it is prayer alone for the beginning and end of each day.  Thirty one entries for each, plus a morning and evening for Sundays.  There are no stories, no commentary on Scripture, life and relationships, etc. except as applies to praying for guidance and forgiveness according to the the Word.  It directs my heart and mind to the essentials of a day before I start it, and ends with true examination of what the day past has held.  Wonderful, wonderful book.  It's one I'll be keeping with my Bible and Journal for a long time.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Recovering From Losses in Life

Recovering from Losses in Life, Updated   -     By: H. Norman Wright

The second book I've finished this year is H. Norman Wright's "Recovering From Losses in Life."
I highly recommend it for everybody.  That may sound strange, but after reading it, I now realize that we all deal with losses in life that may not register as true losses.  It seems that most of us think of losses in terms of the death of a loved one, or a divorce.  But the other losses in our lives can have as much of an impact as the more obvious ones.

The loss of a job.  Or a home.  Health issues resulting in the loss of what we are used to doing.  The loss of a dream.  A friendship severed.  The list goes on and on.

While the information stream bounces around a bit, I still gleaned a lot from it that I can practically apply in my own life, and in my understanding of how to be truly helpful to grieving family and friends.  He's really good at offering "do this, don't do that" guidelines that are illuminating.  And sometimes convicting as I recall things I've said to grieving people.

Something that really hit home for me in my current walk, is that nobody can tell me how I "ought" to feel about a loss, and I can't tell anybody else how they "ought" to feel about theirs.  I feel what I feel.  They feel what they feel.  There's no "ought" about it.  We should be free to feel what we feel and work it through with the Lord.

One of the most beneficial aspects of the book is the encouragement it gives in recognizing some key things: the stages of grieving; what "normal" is for most people; and how to track if you're making progress in recovering from your loss.

Highly, highly recommended.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Polishing God's Monuments by Jim Andrews

Polishing God's Monuments: Pillars of Hope for Punishing Times

"A true story so gripping and moving and inspiring that one cannot put the book down.  To enter into this theological reflection on suffering is to accept the challenge to grow deeply in Christ, and to cherish the sure and certain promise of the Gospel."
Bruce A. Ware

This is the first in my self-designed reading list of good books for this year.  And, Wow!

As I have walked the path of infirmity rather intensely for the past 4 years, there have been many sources of input for encouragement and, in some cases, confusion.  In all of it, my desire has been to know what God thinks and hear His voice.  The voice of man can be so loud at times.  My own voice can be so loud at times!  This book has been an absolute and total blessing.  It has reinforced what I know to be true about God.  It has reminded me of truth that had gotten a little foggy in my mind.  It has encouraged me in amazing ways.  Here's just a taste of all that.

The book is written by the father of a young woman who, along with her husband, has experienced intense health issues for 20 years, beyond anything that our "normal" lives could imagine.  In the midst of that infirmity and suffering, this family has learned a great deal.  Jim Andrews does a fabulous job of telling the story, and of interweaving the Biblical and theological principles they have learned along the way.

"Polishing God's Monuments" refers to remembering the times when God's deliverance occurs, taking out those memories when He is silent and "polishing" them, reminding ourselves of His love, grace, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.  It reminds me of Psalm 105, remembering the works of God in the lives of the Israelites.  A memory box, if you will, of His deeds on their behalf.

Some of what I have gleaned:

  • God is God.  I am not.
  • His purposes are paramount.
  • He works in mysteries as well as "knowns" and I need to walk in faith as I deal with "mysteries."
  • God is not at my beck and call.  I am at His.
  • He is totally sovereign and knows the beginning from the end.  I am not and do not.
  • He is weaving a perfect tapestry, and He has no loose ends.  I can't see what He's doing and that is okay.  The dark threads reveal the brilliance of the golden ones on the top side, which only He can see.
  • God's purposes are His own, and I may never know what they are.
  • I am His, and He can do anything He wants with me.  I gave up my rights to myself when I bowed my knee to Christ.
  • I need to trust that He knows better than I what "best" is.
  • God's agenda is not to make me happy (in terms of temporal bliss), but to make me holy.

This is so, so, so worth reading.  I am grateful that He dropped it in my lap, so to speak.  A tremendous blessing.

Polishing God's Monuments in the used section of Amazon Marketplace.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Book List for 2014!

I think this was a really good idea! I posted this on Facebook:

"What books have had the greatest impact on your Christian life? I am making a list for this year. I hope to read one a month that will challenge and deepen my walk with Him. Ready, Set, Go!"

And these are the responses I got!  I can hardly wait to dig in!  The first three were recommended to me by friends apart from Facebook.
  • Polishing God's Monuments by Jim Andrews
  • Recovering from Losses in Life by H. Norman Wright
  • A Shelter in the Time of Storm by Paul David Tripp
  • The Lamb's Supper by Scott Hahn
  • Knowledge of the Holy by A.W. Tozer
  • Forgotten God by Francis Chan
  • Future Grace by John Piper
  • Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis
  • Satan and His Plan of Evil by Keith Blades
  • Life of the Beloved by Henri Nouwen
  • The Wise Women Novella by George MacDonald
  • The Heavenly Man by Brother Yun
  • Secret of the Vine by Bruce Wilkinson
  • One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp
  • We Would See Jesus by Roy and Revel Hession
  • Anything by Jonathan Edwards!
  • New Evidence That Demands a Verdict by Josh McDowell
  • Nestle Don't Wrestle by Corrie ten Boom
  • A Diary of Private Prayer by John Baillie
  • The Promise by Robert Morgan

At the recommendation of a high school classmate, last month I started reading Polishing God's Monuments by Jim Andrews.  Tremendous impact on me.  So, I'm hoping some of the above tomes will also have a positive impact on my walk with Him.

If anyone else has recommendations, please fire away!