Monday, July 6, 2009

Words of Encouragement

The LORD rewarded me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands hath he recompensed me. For I have kept the ways of the LORD, and have not wickedly departed from my God. For all his judgments were before me, and I did not put away his statutes from me. I was also upright before him, and I kept myself from mine iniquity. Therefore hath the LORD recompensed me according to the cleanness of my hands in his eyesight. With the merciful thou wilt show thyself merciful; with an upright man thou wilt show thyself upright; With the pure thou wilt show thyself pure; and with the froward thou wilt show thyself froward. For thou wilt save the afflicted people; but wilt bring down high looks. For thou wilt light my candle: the LORD my God will enlighten my darkness. For by thee I have run through a troop; and by my God have I leaped over a wall. As for God, his way is perfect: the word of the LORD is tried: he is a buckler to all those that trust in him. Psalm 18:20-30

As believers in Christ, we have some days were we feel low in our spirits or we are feeling defeated. And there are times when we feel our situations are getting the best of us or that we just can't go on. There are times when the enemy is beating you up and you really feel like you are going to lose this battle. That's the time when God's word is there to encourage us and to give us the strength that we need to keep going.

This scripture reminds me that yes, even as I continue to do all that God would have me to do, that I can still feel burdened. But since I am being obedient to God, He will uphold me. God will care for the afflictions of His people. God will light your candle, so that your darkness will be illuminated.

Think about coming into a dark room. You can't see anything, and you don't know where to go, to keep from getting hurt by running into furniture or obstacles in the path. When you turn on the light, or light a candle, you are able to see better the situation before you. That's how God is to His people. He will guide you and He will never leave you alone. He will help you to see clearly what's ahead of you, so that you can side step the pitfalls.

So how do we take advantage of these promises? We have to do as the Psalmist said, we must make sure that we are keeping God's ways. We must not depart from Him to do wickedness. We have the assurance that God's word is tried, it is true. His world will never end, and it will never let us down. He is more than able to handle whatever the situation is.

Family situations, work situations, physical situations. What ever you are facing, God is able to keep you and bring you through the situation. Just as He brought the Psalmist through the troop, He can bring you through the battle. And He can bring you over the wall to safety.

So I'm praying today for our encouragement, joy and peace in the Lord.

The Week in Review

Opposing Viewpoints
Jewel D. Williams

“But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear:” (1 Peter 3:15). This is what Josh McDowell does when asked questions regarding God. The question, “Why Does God allow evil to exist?” is one such opportunity for Josh to give an answer of the hope he has inside.

Josh McDowell states that the question regarding evil is sometimes given in a complex question to the Christian (1). People ask if God is good, why does he allow evil? Others question God’s power and think maybe he is not powerful enough to stop wrongdoing. The scriptures however, make it plain that God is not the creator of evil. This is a result of man’s selfishness.

McDowell goes on to state that the word of God tells of God’s goodness and of his love for man (1). God created man and gave him freedom of choice. McDowell states that true love cannot exist unless it is freely given (1). When Adam and Even disobeyed God, they brought evil into the world. Nick Pollard, the writer of Evangelism Made Slightly Less Difficult, states it this way, “The Bible is explicit that suffering is not God’s original will for us…I believe that what the Bible says is this: Suffering has come into the world because the world and everything in it has become mucked up” (133). McDowell is also stating that the world became mucked up when man sinned. The world is now abnormal because of sin.

Although evil is in the world, it is temporary. Evil will be destroyed in God’s time. God will right every wrong and put away evil. Christians have to stand in this time for what is right. McDowell states, that believers do not condone what is wrong and stand up for the right (1). This is because God is righteous and he hates evil. When the believer identifies with Jesus he has a duty to bring truth to things that are wrong and speak out when evil is trying to overtake good.

Pollard states, “The good news of Jesus is that he provides us a complete solution to our suffering. We can’t. My appeal to people is not to put off accepting God’s solution until they have a full explanation – because they never will” (132). McDowell also states that people are still bothered that God even allows evil in the first place (1). People question the wisdom of God in giving man a choice in matters. This is when one has to realize that God’s purposes are sometimes above man’s understanding. This is the reason God tells man not to lean to his own understanding.

The Bible informs man how and why evil came about, it does not tell why God allowed it to happen. One must trust that God is all wise and all knowing and his reasons for allowing things is beyond one’s comprehension. Pollard adds this encouragement with this statement, “God doesn’t provide a complete explanation of suffering, but he does provide a complete solution for it” (131).

What is the solution God provides? Pollard gives two such solutions: an ultimate one and a meanwhile one. The ultimate solution is as mentioned by McDowell, God will conquer all evil. There will be no more suffering or evil. God is delaying the time of this for his purpose of allowing others to come to a saving relationship with him.
The other solution to suffering “in the meanwhile” states, God gives his people the strength to go through. Prayer is one tool that believers have that helps them. When one prays for others, the belief is God will answer. We do not know if he will answer now or in that ultimate time, yet we can have hope in his answer.

How can evil or suffering bring about any benefits? I believe this may also be a question on the minds of people when they ask why God allows evil. One cannot always see evil or suffering bringing anything but pain and hardship. Pollard however states differently when he tells the story of a seventeen year old that said her life was falling apart. “How could anything good ever come out of this? I was tempted to answer her question by suggesting possible ways. But that wouldn’t have been right. I could listen, but only God could answer that for her. Two days later she became a Christian, and God began that transformation process” (140).

That is the one addition that I would make to Josh McDowell’s answer. One may not understand the evil and suffering that goes on in the world, but God does. He did not create it, but he is allowing it until the time he has appointed to bring it to an end. In the meantime, in his wisdom he is using it to draw people. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28). One may not understand how God does it, but if an individual puts their trust in God, he is able to keep them. Suffering and evil will not disappear, but God is sufficient through it. There are times when suffering or evil happens in the world and draws one to question, God are you there? It is in those times that if one allows, God can use that time of suffering or evil, to show himself real to the seeker.

The Week in Review

A Preaching Plan –
What are the Benefits?

It was discussed that the preacher needs to have disciplines in his or her life. One discipline that can be beneficial to the preacher is having a preaching plan. What is a preaching plan and what are the benefits? The author, Donald E. Demaray (2006) in the book, Introduction to Homiletics gives the benefits as well as what a preaching plan entails.

A preaching plan is basically the preacher mapping out what he will preach for a given amount of time. The plan may be three months or what works best for the minister, thus saving him time. However, Demaray says that it does much more when he states, “But mapping a preaching program does more: It relieves the mind of the burden – a big burden – of deciding on text and theme every week.” (p. 86). The first benefit of a preaching plan is to help the minister to be a better steward of her time. If she is preparing a preaching program she not only saves time but also the stress of trying to find the many themes needed each week.
The second benefit of a preaching program is that it becomes a guide to the parishioners. Demaray adds his insight on this one point when he states:
“Preaching through a book of the Bible, or part of a book, feeds both pastor and people with food prepared by a special chef – Paul in the case of Ephesians, Luke in Acts, John in 1 John, etc., each coming up with their own recipes” (p. 87)
The preacher or pastor that uses the preaching program is able to plan a well-rounded meal for his parishioners. He is able to plan messages around a theme or what he feels is needed for the people. This way the people are able to eat the meal as Demaray states.
Presenting to the church a balance of the scriptures helps to prevent the body of believers from becoming prey to cults because of lack of teaching.
“A preaching diet accounts in no small measure for communicating truth or error, moral integrity or laissez faire behavior, spiritual health or inadequate health maintenance. God’s people receive thorough grounding and nurture if they hear the full scope of Bible truth. Programmed preaching helps the pastor set an adequate table Sunday after Sunday. Do you suppose cults come on the scene in part because preachers ignore certain Bible teachings?” (Demaray, p. 87-88)
In summary, the preaching plan or program helps the pastor to prepare what he will present to his congregation. In doing so, he is able to save time as well as ensure that a balanced program is presented to the people. One benefit is people are helped, encouraged and fed a complete “diet” as well as a pastor that is strengthened as well. The example of being fed is a good analogy. If a mother were to plan a meal for her family, she would not serve the same foods for seven days. She would balance the meal out between different foods. She would do this to make sure her family has received the nutrients they need and can only receive from different foods. She would do this also to help keep her family interested in what is being presented to them. This is what the preacher does when he prepares his preaching program. The preacher is presenting to his family a different meal at each sitting so they will receive the nutrients they need that will come from the different dishes presented to them. This is how the preacher protects and cares for the family. He uses the tools available to keep the family safe.