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True Piety Is Not Self-Centered (via Hywel Jones)

The experience of Job recounts a faithful and human expression of trust in God through a time of great suffering and confusion.
Hywel Jones points out that we should be encouraged to know that God was not an inactive party throughout Satan’s assault on Job, and that after Job’s vindication there is a touching example of true graciousness toward those who had been part of Job’s affliction by their error:

…it might seem as if Job is left unaided in his struggle with the powers of darkness. That is not the case. The Lord boasts of him to Satan and has his eye on him all the time. Throughout his struggle Job is graciously, though unconsciously, supported by God, and occasionally he is given some glimmers of light as he pioneers his way toward God. His very persistence in addressing God by way of appeal and accusation and also arguing with his friends and rejecting their counsel is a manifestation of his being upheld by God. It is not only dark thoughts that spring up in the mind unbidden, but also thoughts that inspire hope, even if it is only faint hope. Finally and climactically, when he is sure that he is about to die, he is given to know that his “kinsman-redeemer lives,” who will ensure that Job will see God again on his side. This is a sovereign intervention in a situation where Satan seems dominant. It is, as James says, great compassion.
Job has found solid ground under his feet. His outlook clears and he sees that the argument of his friends—that suffering is always traceable to sin—is a paper tiger, for the wicked do not always suffer (chapter 24). He gains the ascendancy in the argument and reduces his friends, and with them Satan the accuser, to silence. Job triumphs over Satan for God and godliness.
God therefore had his own purpose in allowing Satan to test Job. This is what James calls “the end of the Lord.” It is to show great compassion and mercy and to bless Job more than he had previously done. When the Lord appears, it is to judge and to save as James declares (5:9 and 11). He humbles Job for his outspokenness but still owns him as he did before the trials began, calling him “my servant.” Surprisingly, God says that Job had spoken what is right about him, whereas the friends had not.
This probably refers to the issue that is at the center of the debate between Job and his friends, namely whether God is punishing Job on account of his sin or not. God says that Job is not a hypocrite, and God further exalts Job by telling the friends to go to him as to a priest and that he will accept Job’s prayer for them. It is striking that Job prays for them before he is restored, and that it is as he prays for them that he himself is restored. True piety is not self-centered.

Read the whole post at Core Christianity.


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Looking At Problems From Heaven’s Perspective (via Joni Eareckson Tada)

Joni Eareckson Tada is well known as a Christian how ministers from a life experience as a paraplegic.
In an article taken from her book Heaven she recounts a situation where, after another painful physical therapy situation, she hears a question, and responds:

“I bet you can’t wait for heaven. You know, like Paul said, ‘We groan, longing to be clothed instead with our heavenly dwelling’” (2 Cor. 5:2).
My eyes dampened again, but this time they were tears of relief. “Yeah, it’ll be great.”
In that moment, I sat and dreamed what I’ve dreamed of a thousand times: the hope of heaven. I recited 1 Corinthians 15 (“The perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable”), mentally rehearsed a flood of other promises, and fixed the eyes of my heart on future divine fulfillments. That was all I needed. I opened my eyes and said out loud, “Come quickly, Lord Jesus.”
This experience often occurs two or three times a week. Physical affliction and emotional pain are, frankly, part of my daily routine. But these hardships are God’s way of helping me to get my mind on the hereafter. And I don’t mean the hereafter as a death wish, psychological crutch, or escape from reality—I mean it as the true reality.
Looking down on my problems from heaven’s perspective, trials looked extraordinarily different. When viewed from below, my paralysis seems like a huge, impassable wall, but when viewed from above, the wall appears as a thin line, something that can be overcome. It is, I’ve discovered with delight, the bird’s-eye view found in Isaiah 40:31: “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Read the whole post at Christianity Today.


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God’s Grace In Your Suffering

God’s Grace In Your Suffering is newly released from the reliable David Powlison.

It is a short read, with eight chapters representing daily reading material.


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There Is No Future In Frustration (via Don Carson)

Don Carson recalls a difficult conversation with a senior Christian in Sydney Australia.
Not difficult because of its content, but difficult because of the physical condition of the person to whom he was speaking.
The content of the conversation was saturated in glory.
An excerpt:

Here, then, is a philosophy of suffering, a perspective that ties it both to the salvation we now enjoy and to the consummation of that salvation when the glory of God is fully revealed. Like the discipline of physical training, suffering produces perseverance.
This is not a universal rule, for suffering can evoke muttering and unbelief. But when suffering is mingled with the faith of verses 1–2, and with delight in being reconciled to God, it then produces perseverance. The staying power of our faith is neither demonstrated nor developed until it is tested by suffering.
But as perseverance mushrooms, “character” is formed. The word character suggests “provedness,” the kind of maturity that is attained by being “proved” or “tested,” like a metal refined by fire. And as character or “provedness” is formed, hope blossoms: our anticipation of the glory of God (verse 2) is nurtured and strengthened.

Read the whole post at Desiring God.


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Learning To Endure (via David Powlison)

David Powlison on the fact that learning some spiritual disciplines can only happen by going through a protracted painful pathway.
A couple of quotes:

There’s no way you’re ever going to learn endurance without having to keep on going through something hard that doesn’t go away. There’s no way you’re ever going to learn forbearance without having to face something that you really wish you didn’t have to, and you need to somehow come to grips with it.
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It is actually the way that we learn the most profound and the best lessons that we could ever learn. It’s where faith, love, and joy are most profoundly formed.

read the whole transcript (or watch the video) here.


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Christians Suffer, But They Don’t Suffer Alone (via David Powlison)

David Powlison writes about lessons he learned as a Christian who went through a prolonged season of intense suffering.
He avoids glib and sentimental expressions and also stays clear of wrongly placed triumphalism.
From the post:

…yes, we do learn from suffering, but it’s not a simple lesson. What’s most important is this: God shows up in our lives and hearts. He walks with us through fire. He directly communicates His love. He purifies our faith. He anchors our hope. He deepens our love for other strugglers. God is teaching us something. He is revealing Himself to us.
A misconception about the image of Christ often goes hand-in-hand with this misconception about suffering. We imagine that the image of Christ is all the things that are good and strong and noble and generous. We can forget that His image includes the heartfelt way in which Jesus lived out Scriptures such as Psalms 22, 25, and 31.
His faith honestly expressed affliction. He wrestled with God. He agonized. He trusted. He sought His God. He walks with God on difficult roads, not immune to the heartache and grief that come with our plight as human beings. We are being conformed to the image of Christ.
Read the whole article at Crossway blog.


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The Coventry Carol – Christmas Songs 2017 Day 30

Close to the end of Christmas Songs 2017.
Here’s Sufjan Steven’s version of The Coventry Carol, a song derived from the biblical text dealing with Herod’s slaughter of the innocents. The vocal on this features Marla Hanson.

1.
Lully, lullay, Thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
Lullay, thou little tiny Child,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
2.
O sisters too, how may we do,
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling for whom we do sing
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.
3.
Herod, the king, in his raging,
Charged he hath this day
His men of might, in his own sight,
All young children to slay.
4.
That woe is me, poor Child for Thee!
And ever mourn and sigh,
For thy parting neither say nor sing,
Bye, bye, lully, lullay.