Saturday, 29 June 2013

Why Bad Things Happen to Good People

Hi all,

Saw this on YouTube the other day, and while I might not agree with everything (or at least, some of the other videos the author has made!) but it certianly raises food for thought! What do you think?



God bless! Hope to have more posts for the blog series coming soon!


Friday, 28 June 2013

Sunshine Behind the Storm #1: Testimony by Megan and Abby

Hello everyone! 

I am really excited to present to you the first guest post in the blog series Sunshine Behind the Storm! Megan and Abby are two sister bloggers from the US whose posts have really inspired me to serve Christ more! You should check out their blogs More Than Conquerors and Divine Design! :) Thank you so much Megan and Abby for being willing to share your amazing testimony with us. I hope it challenges and encourages you to see the Lord's hands in great trials as much as it did for me.


Hi, I'm Abby, writing on behalf of both myself and Megan, my sister. It's really amazing that Violet asked us to do a guest post- it's a new experience! Much of what I'm going to say, Megan said in her post here--

http://his-divine-design.blogspot.com/2012/07/testimony-by-megan.html

As long as both of us have been alive, our Dad has been a pastor; and as PKs we knew "everything" about God and the Bible (or so we thought). Nothing really ever changed for us; that is, we always knew what to expect day to day, every week, month by month... for about nine years it was this way. Oh, sure, we moved three times within that timeframe, but we were always in the same city; just a new neighborhood. Our Grandpa on our Mom's side died of heart disease, then my Dad's mom also passed away; but we were unfortunately not very close to either of them. We hardly even noticed when Mom began getting really sick. Her immune system had been a mess since her childhood, and we just dismissed the whole thing. Nothing ever rocked our worlds.

On top of that, we were both so proud of ourselves. We were homeschooled, and were therefore "better" than all those other kids who went to public or private school. Oh my, how self-centered we were. Proverbs 16:18 says, "Pride goes before destruction, And a haughty spirit before stumbling." (NASV) God hates pride so much. And so He sent us some tribulation.

I know He had more reasons than this, but I think one of the purposes for doing what He did was to get our attention. To wake us up and get us to realize that the world didn't revolve around us. No, far from it.

It was a normal summer day that Dad and Mom came back from a doctor's visit. They sat us all down in the living room and told us that Mom had cancer. I was only 15 and Megan 13, and neither of us really understood; but we knew some other people who had cancer and became very ill, and even died many times. I suppose those memories caused us both to cry at that time. Finally, we were thinking of someone other than ourselves. I remember specifically that day listening to the song "Blue Skies" by the group Point of Grace; in it, they sing about God being our hope, even when trials come on us. I prayed a lot more after that day than I ever had in my young life.


In April of my sophomore year, we moved. After ten long years of the same friends, the same town, the same way of life, we moved. From Kindergarten to 10th grade, I lived in that town, and now we were leaving. But we weren't bitter-- no, quite the contrary! Our only friends were the kids in our youth group, and they were such an immature group. Trying to grow in Christ in that group was such an incredible challenge, and I think God knew what He was doing when He moved us. Now we live about 1500 miles away, in a new climate, with new people, in a new way of life. We've grown to love our new town so much. It was so exciting to be in a new place. Megan was a little more hesitant about the move, but it didn't take her long to change her mind. The weather was better for Mom, and she got stronger; the doctor even stopped her chemotherapy for a while. Everything was perfect about our new lives.

October, 2011. Dad and Mom returned from a doctors visit with horrifying news: the doctor predicted that Mom had 3 months left, at best. Just when things were looking great, our perfect world was shattered.

It was terrible; but Mom through all of this was the strongest. Everyone with the type of cancer our Mom had- which was ovarian cancer- cannot ever be fully cured from it, and she knew that; yet, she gave her doctor permission to try all these different treatments on her. Her reason? All the signs pointed to her cancer being hereditary, and she said if a cure could be found while testing her, she might have saved her three daughters' lives, not to mention her nieces and any other women with this cancer. It was a very selfless attitude, and we learned more about our Mom in those three months that the past fifteen plus years.

December 30th, Mom's mother passed away. It's a long story, but she refused to admit that she had the same cancer as our Mom. Eight days later, Mom also passed away.

It was a Friday, and we were looking forward to the weekend. I was in Spanish class, the second-to-last class in the school day. I was told that my Dad had called that we need to go home. I admit that I knew then, though I didn't want to believe it. I met with Megan and Paul in the back of the school, and I could see in their eyes that they shared my fear with me. Paul's coach drove us the 8 miles to our house- and somehow, it seemed much longer than 8 miles. Seeing the sheriff's car in our driveway, our fears were confirmed. Upon walking into the house, we were each greeted by Dad's tight hug. He was crying, and it didn't take much for us to join. Mom had already arranged for her body to be taken to the state university for further research, so we didn't have a normal funeral and burial for her. We had a wonderful memorial service for her, though; and in that, we learned more about our Mom that we knew about her in life.

Even at this, we weren't bitter. We knew God had a plan, and nothing we could do would bring her back to us. And now, a-year-and-a-half later, we've learned more about her than we ever knew before. And God has not failed to bless us through all of this. He used our family to show Himself, and used Mom's death to bless us. I know it sounds strange, but He truly did. I can't say that I understand it myself, but I thank God for His blessing.

What would Megan and I be if Mom had lived? I don't know. I do know that if she'd never had cancer, we would have been selfish, vain creatures even to this day. A song that we have both found much comfort in is Blessings by Laura Story. I think it perfectly describes our story. "What if Your blessings come through raindrops?" Please take some time to listen to it, and we pray that it touches you. (I cry every time I hear it!)



Thank you, Violet, for giving us this opportunity to use the testimony God has given us for His glory.

Thank you both so much for sharing your amazing testimony with us! Wow - it is amazing the way God works, and how He helps us through the trials, no matter how great they are! I hardly know how I would cope if He had called me to endure what you had to. God bless you both and may He be with you always!

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Some Encouragements! :)

I have amazing friends! :D I just wanted to share with you all briefly some encouragements that some of them gave me a while back in the hope that it will cheer your heart as much as it did mine!


My friends gave me this lovely little verse which stands on my desk now as a daily reminder. It has helped me so much already to be reminded that whatever happens throughout the day, I can rest in the knowledge that I "can do all things through Him who strengthens me" and that as He is completely in control, I can wait for Him to work and trust that He is doing just that. A very special little gift - thank you so much my friends!


I love this and it's so true! Whenever you are tempted to feel down, it is good to "count your blessings" - especially thanking the Lord for all the wonderful people and friends He has placed in your life. Love the little illustration too! :) 


A lovely card from a friend who also reminded me of this verse. What an amazing verse and one I must always have in my mind as I need to remember to go to the Lord first and foremost when times are difficult.

Aren't they all so sweet? :D Oh, and I promise to start the blog series as soon as those who I've asked to do a guest post have got back to me, and once I've finished asking others if they can do a post.

Thank you my friends! I consider myself so blessed by the Lord to have you as my friends!




Sunday, 23 June 2013

Two Lenses

Okay, so I know that this isn't a post for the new blog series, but these book excerpts helped me so much today that I couldn't help but pot it! I've been enjoying starting to read John Piper's Desiring God, and in the first chapter he talks about God's soverignty. I love what he says!
How can God be happy and decree calamity?
Consider that He has the capacity to view the world through two lenses.
Through the narrow one He is grieved and angered at sin and pain.
Through the wide one He sees evil in relation to its eternal purposes.
Reality is like a mosaic.
The parts may be ugly in themselves,
But the whole is beautiful.

What an amazing and beautiful way of viewing God's soverignty and explaining a reason for why God allows suffering in our lives. He has an eternal perspective in mind - such that we cannot comprehend. We may not understand all the "whys" but we can rest assured that He has a much bigger picture in mind, and is perfectly in control.

And what better place to demonstrate this than the cross?
God willed the crucifixition of His Son.
The sin and pain He abhorred (through the narrow lens). 
The sin-covering, death-conquering obedience He delighted in (through the wide lens). 
So it is with all pain and sin:
Grevious in itself, it does not thwart His plans, or diminish His deepest delight.
John Piper goes on to say that,
People lift their hand to rebel against the Most High only to find that their rebellion is unwitting service in the wonderful designs of God...The hardened disobedience of men's hearts leads not to the frustration of God's plans, but to their fruition...In the end, one must finally come to see that if there is a God in heaven, there is no such thing as a mere coincidence, not even in the smallest affairs of life...[God] has designed from all enternity, and is infalliably forming with every event, a maganificent mosaic of redemptive history. The contemplation of this mosaic (with both its dark and bright tiles) fills His heart with joy.
Wow, isn't it incredible how God works? We see countless examples with this throughout scripture, where men intend things for evil, but God intends it for good (just think of Joseph)! Truly, we can and must trust in the Lord and see that all things ultimately come from His hand and His plans will be accomplished. What an encouraging thought! This means that no matter how many attempts appear to be being made to thwart His purposes, they will never succeed! In the end, He WILL return to judge and I believe that through that, we will see how all things work out for His glory! Amazing!

The Lord was very gracious to me today, in allowing me to read this as He really used it to prepare my heart for the trials that awaited me throughout the day. It's incredible how we can read something and then the Lord hands us a sitution as if to say, "Here, now apply what you have learned about Me!":) Truly, it is an amazing God that we serve! He knows just the preparation we need for each and every day and the problems we will face. Keep looking to Him dear readers!



Thursday, 20 June 2013

Blog Series: Sunshine behind the Storm!



Hello everyone! :D

I am really excited to announce that I will be starting a blog series on this blog! It is called Sunshine Behind the Storm and is aimed at helping encourage Christians who encounter trials in their lives. Over the next wee while I will be asking a lot of Christians I know personally to share what has helped them overcome the trials in their lives, such as particular Bible verses and so on. I will also be asking some fellow bloggers to share as well - and I invite you, dear reader, to be a part of this too! If you have something like a verse that really encouraged you during a difficult time that you feel would help others who are suffering, please write a comment and I can post it as a blog post. I am happy to publish anonymous comments too if I do feel they will be helpful to others. :)

I really want this series to be a way of us all building each other up in our faith and encouraging those who may be struggling through various trials at the moment. So please do not shy away from contributing.

God bless, and my prayer is that this blog series would really help and encourage you!

Your sister in Christ,


Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Lamentations 3: Great is Your Faithfulness

Hi all!

Well, my exams are finally behind me and I'm on holiday, so I look forward to posting many more articles, and perhaps fixing up the design of this blog, Lord willing! 

Before I launch into the amazing passage that sparked this particular blog post, I want to add another note in. I'm slowly learning that while God often calls us to go through trials in this life, of one kind or another, He is also a loving and gracious God who also gives us periods of grace. Please don't take this as a universal rule: but it is something I have observed in my life so far. We may go through really unpleasant times and then, suddenly, experience some "sunshine behind the storm" so to speak, or alternatively "the calm before another storm"! At the moment, this is where I am, praise the Lord! :D 

However, when we are going through pleasant times, we must always be aware that no doubt trials await us just around the corner - the Lord will always be refining us until we go to be with Him, and we are always battling with our sinful natures which means that trials are an inevitable part of the Christian's walk. This means that we cannot afford to waste the periods of grace that are given to us, rather we need to be using it constructively to grow in our knowledge of the Lord by searching the scriptures. Sure, we do need to rest and re-energize but we also need to be careful not to slip into bad habits of laziness, something that I really struggle with (prayer for that would be great)! It is vital that we learn to cling to our Saviour regardless of our circumstances. Food for thought, anyway! 

And now, to Lamentations 3....

I was reading this book of the Bible all last week, and this passage really stood out to me. To really get its full impact, it helps to read it in context of the book as a whole (and it is only a short book, 5 chapters long, so I highly recommend you read it)! Here is the third chapter:

Lamentations 3: Great is Your Faithfulness
1 I am the man who has seen affliction
under the rod of his wrath;
he has driven and brought me
into darkness without any light;
surely against me he turns his hand
again and again the whole day long.

He has made my flesh and my skin waste away;
he has broken my bones;
he has besieged and enveloped me
with bitterness and tribulation;
he has made me dwell in darkness
like the dead of long ago.

He has walled me about so that I cannot escape;
he has made my chains heavy;
though I call and cry for help,
he shuts out my prayer;
he has blocked my ways with blocks of stones;
he has made my paths crooked.

10 He is a bear lying in wait for me,
a lion in hiding;
11 he turned aside my steps and tore me to pieces;
he has made me desolate;
12 he bent his bow and set me
as a target for his arrow.

13 He drove into my kidneys
the arrows of his quiver;
14 I have become the laughingstock of all peoples,
the object of their taunts all day long.
15 He has filled me with bitterness;
he has sated me with wormwood.

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

25 The Lord is good to those who wait for him,
to the soul who seeks him.
26 It is good that one should wait quietly
for the salvation of the Lord.
27 It is good for a man that he bear
the yoke in his youth.

28 Let him sit alone in silence
when it is laid on him;
29 let him put his mouth in the dust—
there may yet be hope;
30 let him give his cheek to the one who strikes,
and let him be filled with insults.

31 For the Lord will not
cast off forever,
32 but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion
according to the abundance of his steadfast love;
33 for he does not afflict from his heart
or grieve the children of men.

34 To crush underfoot
all the prisoners of the earth,
35 to deny a man justice
in the presence of the Most High,
36 to subvert a man in his lawsuit,
the Lord does not approve.

37 Who has spoken and it came to pass,
unless the Lord has commanded it?
38 Is it not from the mouth of the Most High
that good and bad come?
39 Why should a living man complain,
a man, about the punishment of his sins?

40 Let us test and examine our ways,
and return to the Lord!
41 Let us lift up our hearts and hands
to God in heaven:
42 “We have transgressed and rebelled,
and you have not forgiven.

43 “You have wrapped yourself with anger and pursued us,
killing without pity;
44 you have wrapped yourself with a cloud
so that no prayer can pass through.
45 You have made us scum and garbage
among the peoples.

46 “All our enemies
open their mouths against us;
47 panic and pitfall have come upon us,
devastation and destruction;
48 my eyes flow with rivers of tears
because of the destruction of the daughter of my people.

49 “My eyes will flow without ceasing,
without respite,
50 until the Lord from heaven
looks down and sees;
51 my eyes cause me grief
at the fate of all the daughters of my city.

52 “I have been hunted like a bird
by those who were my enemies without cause;
53 they flung me alive into the pit
and cast stones on me;
54 water closed over my head;
I said, ‘I am lost.’

55 “I called on your name, O Lord,
from the depths of the pit;
56 you heard my plea, ‘Do not close
your ear to my cry for help!’
57 You came near when I called on you;
you said, ‘Do not fear!’

58 “You have taken up my cause, O Lord;
you have redeemed my life.
59 You have seen the wrong done to me, O Lord;
judge my cause.
60 You have seen all their vengeance,
all their plots against me.

61 “You have heard their taunts, O Lord,
all their plots against me.
62 The lips and thoughts of my assailants
are against me all the day long.
63 Behold their sitting and their rising;
I am the object of their taunts.

64 “You will repay them, O Lord,
according to the work of their hands.
65 You will give them dullness of heart;
your curse will be on them.
66 You will pursue them in anger and destroy them
from under your heavens, O Lord.”
The reason this passage stood out to me so much is that right throughout this book there were really harsh words focussing on God's wrath and judgement. And then, right in the middle of it is this passage, like a ray of sunshine, full of hope!

Seriously, how many of us have felt like Jeremiah (who was the prophet writing this lament)? I'm sure that if you are still reading this, you, like me, have gone through dark corridors in your life where you can echo what he says from verses 1 to 20. There are times in our lives where like Jeremiah, we cry out to God in the depth of our despair and sorrow and yet it seems to us that He doesn't listen and so we feel like a God of mercy and love simply cannot exist. We feel like saying with Jeremiah that we "have forgotten what happiness is" and that our "endurance has perished and so has [our] hope from the Lord".

BUT ... then there are verses 21 to 41, and praise the Lord that Jeremiah wrote those too! He recalls God's faithfulness and remembers that the Lord uses our trials for good - indeed, that He is more patient with us than we really deserve. He demonstrates to us that we need to be using our suffering to look at ourselves in light of God's standards, and to return to Him again.

To conclude this passage, Jeremiah acknowledges from verses 42 through to the end of the chapter that truly, it is the Lord who saves and delivers and that He does hear the cries of His people, and that one day He will judge those who have turned against Him. Jeremiah turns his lament from one of frustration towards God, to a heart attitude of repentence - and I think that this is what we need to do. Rather than simply looking at our circumstances and growing angry towards God, we need to look at what He has done, and all that He has saved us from by sending His Son to die on the cross in our place. We really need a 180 degree shift in our thinking!

I think this is one of those incredible passages of scripture that I wish was preached on more or at least cited more frequently when someone is going through a troublesome time. It is certianly a passage I hope to remember to return to the next time things are not going well, and my prayer is that you will turn to it often too.

As a little side note, it's amazing how the Lord will give us little reminders of His word throughout the week! I was feeling so built up through this scripture last week and then it just "so happened" (no such thing as coincidences when God is in control!) that the fictional book I was reading this week quoted extensively from Lamentations, with a verse at the top of each chapter. What can I say but amazing!  

 

Great post: the Cave

Just read a great post today - why don't you check it out?

http://papermachepatrizia.blogspot.co.nz/2013/06/the-cave.html

It's so true that you grow so much through the trials! Always go to the Lord when things are getting tough. 

Exams are over, and I'm in the process of writing up some articles, so watch this space! :)

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Human Suffering and the Love of God

Hi all,

Just wanted to post an amazing sermon I heard that talks about suffering - while I may not agree with everything, it certianly raises many good points and I highly recommend that you listen to it.


Thank you Pastor Andrew Lim for this sermon, it really helped me and my prayer is that the Lord may use it to challenge and encourage you too, dear readers!


I Talked to Him Today!

I heard this song today and loved the chorus so much that I couldn't wait to share it with you all! Thanks to Jewels of Jesus for posting it and letting me know about it. :)


Here is the chorus which I really hope will build you up today as it did me:

I talked to Him today, and my cares all fell away
He made me feel like life had just begun.
He said all of my trials can be turned into triumph
Through the victory that He's already won.
And I talked to Him today, and the comfort that He gave
Filled me with desire to tell the world,
That on Calvary He died
But right now He is alive,
I know because I talked to Him today.

It's so true that our trials can be turned into triumph and that we don't need to fear because Jesus has already accomplished our salvation through the Cross and is alive! So if you are a believer going through a tough time, be strengthened by the hope and reassurance that gives, and talk to Him!

God bless!

Sunday, 2 June 2013

When you are feeling down, read Psalm 42!

Just heard a sermon preached on this Psalm, and it tied in so well with the themes of this blog that I couldn't help but post it along with some notes from the sermon (the link to the actual sermon can be found here: http://christsanctuary.buzzsprout.com/4016/97002-abandoned-by-god.mp3). I pray that reading this psalm and pondering upon it will help you to know how to respond when times become difficult as much as it helped me! (I apologise in advance for the rather stinted explanations of the text: it is derived purely from my church notes which as you can imagine was written in a rather haphazard, disjointed manner!)

Psalm 42 (ESV) ~ Why Are You Cast Down, O My Soul?

As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.  
My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
My tears have been my food day and night, 
while they say to me all the day long,

“Where is your God?”
These things I remember, as I pour out my soul:
how I would go with the throng 
and lead them in procession to the house of God
with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.


How can you endure hard times? The psalmist gives us four ways as to how we can respond when going through difficult periods in our lives:
1. The psalmist calls/cries out to God (vs 1-2)
The psalmist longs for relief (vs 9-10) - he is enduring intense trials and wants relief. Crying out to God is hard, especilaly when we feel that He has turned against us. Sometimes God appears silent, but we must cry out to Him.
2. The psalmist goes on trusting God despite the fact that everything seems to be going wrong (vs 8) 

 He chooses to believe that God can be trusted. For example, the greatness of Job lies in the fact that even though God is silent, Job does not stop trusting God.

3. The psalmist preaches to himself (vs 11)

He doesn't sit idle or wait for God to deliver him. He talks hope back into himself by reminding himself of God's character - His goodness, faithfulness, trustworthiness etc. We, too, need to recall the character of God and combat our issue of "self" by reminding ourselves truths about Him as revealed through His word, the Bible.

4. The psalmist recalls the past - he looks back (vs 4)

Think of the prodigal son! He looked back and remembered - this is the kind of remembering that we need to be doing and which the psalmist does. Part of the psalmist's depression may come from isolating himself from other believers (vs 4). He is away from people who are worshipping God - we need other people around us. 
To finish up, whenever I read this psalm it reminds me of this beautiful song, based on the same psalm:


Oh, and I also read this article today: <http://therebelution.com/blog/2013/05/why-do-bad-things-happen/> which is well worth checking out! :) 

God is so good!!! Always remember that my dear brothers and sisters in Christ!

God bless!