The God of Wonders Will Bring You Peace

Have you ever cried out to God in sadness or frustration? Have there been times in your life where you were troubled and felt overwhelmed? I know I have <insert COVID19 virus here.> Certainly, given the worldwide pandemic, we can all relate to feeling troubled and being filled with uncertainty.

The 77th chapter of Psalm begins with with author talking about “crying out to God” because his “spirit was overwhelmed.”

“I cried out to God with my voice— To God with my voice; And He gave ear to me. In the day of my trouble I sought the Lord; My hand was stretched out in the night without ceasing; My soul refused to be comforted. I remembered God, and was troubled; I complained, and my spirit was overwhelmed.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭77:1-3‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

There are many people right now feeling not so great about their lives. Their lives have been disrupted and will never be the same. Major life events have been altered, graduations and school cancelled for the year, sports discontinued, jobs lost, as the entire world has been shut down. Could God have a greater purpose for our lives with this pandemic? Is God trying to send us a message?

I was inspired by a message this past week from Max Lucado. Mr. Lucado referenced the book of Lamentations, in which Jeremiah cried out to God in frustration. Lamentations chapter 3 begins with Jeremiah expressing his frustration as the Jewish people had been overtaken by the Babylonians and Jerusalem was destroyed. Is it ok to cry out to God and express our frustration? Yes. Jeremiah cried out to God in Jeremiah 3:1-20 and spoke to his frustration and sadness related to the state of his life. Jeremiah then rallies in verse 21 and 22 and refers to “his hope” and that “God’s mercies are new every morning.”

Back to Psalms. The Psalmist evolves later in chapter 77 to recognize God for His wonders.

“You are the God who does wonders; You have declared Your strength among the peoples.”
‭‭Psalms‬ ‭77:14‬ ‭NKJV

In the midst of frustration, turmoil, or disappointment, we can cry out to God to express our sadness and vulnerability. Prophets in the Bible did this frequently. God loves us and wants to know our pains and disappointments. He wants us to recognize that through Him, we can find peace and fulfillment in every situation. Even though our current circumstances may seem insurmountable or impossible, through Christ, we can find hope. Christ wants us to turn to Him and rely on His love and mercy to fulfill us. We will not gain hope through our focus and desire for fulfillment in this world. Only in Christ, will we find peace and purpose.

“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ.”
‭‭Philippians‬ ‭4:6-7‬ ‭NKJV‬‬

“The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding” is the verse that keeps coming to my mind. People change, lives are improved, and sinners become clean through Jesus Christ. Jesus wants a relationship with you. Talk to Him. Tell Him about your happy times, your frustrations, and your doubts. Every good relationship revolves around communication. Tell Christ what troubles you, acknowledge His presence in your life, and He will bring you peace.

Where is God?

Here we sit in 2020 in a very fragile world.  Just when we think we are in control, we are reminded that we are not in control. Most of the world is under quarantine due to COVID-19.  Unprecedented times can create pivotal moments to impact our lives.

Wait.  Where is God in all of this?  Shouldn’t God fix all of this?  I mean, if there is a God, why would he create a world with sickness, tragedies, and death?  Why do I want to believe in God that lets bad things happen?

If you are doubting God right now, maybe as a non-believer that there is a God, please keep reading. I hope to reach you in this message.

God created the earth, and everything on it, including us.  Start in Genesis and read about the creation of the world.  God created us as “sovereign” beings who choose whether to believe in Him, or not.  The word “sovereign” is important.  The definition of sovereign is “acting or done independently and without outside interference.”  God created us to have the ability to make our own choices.  This is very important to recognize as it relates to how our world exists today.

Did God create the sin and sadness in the world or did we?

Man has rebelled against God time and time again. Man was given a choice by God.  We can be devout to Him or choose to sin against Him.  The Bible tells us of murder, famine, plagues, war, and lots of death. The world has always been filled with sin, plagues, sadness.  God created man and man introduced sin into the world.

Jesus tells us that “he is the door of the sheep,” in John 10:7.  He states throughout the book of John that the only way to get to God, in heaven, is to believe in Jesus as our Christ and Savior.

The book of John in the New Testament is packed with great evidence of Jesus proclaiming who he is and why we should follow him.  The book outlines seven “I am” statements from Jesus where he directs to us that the only way “to the Father” is through Him.

I would encourage you to read the book of John to confirm the great works Jesus did while he was on earth.  John outlines Christ’s many miracles like healing the sick and lame, feeding five thousand people with little to no food, and walking on water.  Jesus said in John 4:48 “Unless you people see signs and wonders, you will by no means believe.”  This was at a stage in His ministry when Jesus was boldly proclaiming Himself as the Son of God.  He was defying the religious leaders of that time and knowingly contributing toward his ultimate crucifixion on the cross.

What courage and conviction it takes to stand up in the face of doubt and remain steadfast.  What courage it takes to speak to what some may not believe or understand.  At at a time when our nation is on lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I am here as a believer to proclaim that the only thing that can save all of us from sadness, tragedy, despair, worry, and death is Jesus.  Times like we are living in today test our resolve.  Should we question God in times of trouble or do we run to him?

My prayer is that perhaps someone who does not know Jesus is reading this. Perhaps you are questioning the purpose for your life and trying to understand how to interpret what is going on in our world.  Where is God in all this death and tragedy? If God is so good, why doesn’t he fix or prevent these problems?

Through sin, tragedy and death, God wants us to turn to Him and seek Him.  We should be thankful for our opportunity to spend eternity with Him in heaven, knowing that the sadness and hurt that we know on earth will not exist in Heaven.  Heaven is a perfect place with no sickness or death.   That is what Jesus did for us.  Jesus came into a sinful world and He proclaimed His majesty as God’s son, and died on a cross for us, to save our sins.

As most of us want to know what it takes to be saved and live eternally with Christ, read the book of John.  Jesus makes seven “I am” statements in the book of John that I would encourage you to read.

  • John 6:35, 41, 48, 51 – “I am the bread of life”
  • John 8:12 – “I am the light of the world”
  • John 10:7, 9 – “I am the door of the sheep”
  • John 10:11, 14 – “I am the resurrection and the life”
  • John 11:25 – “I am the good shepherd”
  • John 14:6 – “I am the way, the truth, and the life”
  • John 15:1, 5 – “I am the true vine”

I pray daily for those inflicted with COVID-19 but I cannot help but think how events like this can “get our attention.”  God is always in control and we should recognize and glorify Him.  The stress and uncertainty created by this event can be overwhelming but the only way to cleanse ourselves of fear and worry is to give it to Christ.

Isaiah 41:10 tells us “Fear not, for I am with you; Be not dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, yes, I will help you, I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.”

So, in the face of a worldwide pandemic, what is our response?  I pray that we turn to Jesus.  I pray that during this period of quietness and reflection, we study God’s word and grow closer to Him.  There are awesome resources to learn more about God’s word if you are not sure where to go.  Start with the Bible.com app to read the Bible and subscribe to the reading plans on the app. The reading plans are a great way to walk through chapters of the Bible and get help understanding scripture.  You can find great church teachings at cornerstonechapel.net or eastview.church/.  Use your free time and learn about the Bible through sermons which provide great explanations of the Bible.  Set aside time each day to seek answers to the questions you have.  If you cannot find them, find a local church that uses the Bible to preach the gospel and proclaim God’s word and meaning for our lives.

Although we may not always understand God’s plan for us or the world, especially when tragedy impacts us, I pray that we “focus our eyes” on the One who can save us.  Focus on the words throughout the book of John professing Jesus’ love for us and His ability to save us from sin and death.

I encourage you to pray this prayer.  “Lord Jesus, I know that we don’t always understand why things happen in our world. I admit that I am a sinner and I need to know Jesus. I know that I am not capable of seeing the purpose and meaning of bad things.  I know that I have a lot of work to do because I question You.  I need to study scripture, absolve my thoughts from what I know of this world, and put my trust in You.  I must devote myself to learn your purpose for my life and how to glorify you in the process. Lord, please show me how I can come closer to you, in the face of tragedy and adversity, and put my faith in You. Lord God, I believe that Jesus died on the cross for my sins.  Thank you for that free gift to me. Please fill my heart with your Spirit and help me deal with the burdens of this world.  Amen”

Overthinking and Doubt

God created us as sovereign beings.  We have a choice.  We can believe that Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior and that he died on the cross to forgive our sins.  Or, we can doubt, question, and not believe.  It is our choice.

I have been challenged to understand how we have the opportunity to make our own choices and wonder how God’s “intervention” leads to His will being fulfilled.  When can we know God’s intentions for our lives and how do we make sure we follow His guidance?

Our world can be a sad and depressing place.  If there is a God, then why are bad things allowed to happen (natural disasters, diseases, pain and tragedies, death, etc.)?

At the beginning of chapter 11 verse 16, Jesus said “What shall I liken this generation?  It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying, ‘We played the flute for you, And you did not dance; We mourned to you, And you did not lament.’”

Jesus affirms in Matthew the rejection of Him during His time on earth.  He rebuked several cities and their people for their lack of trust and belief that He was the Messiah. He showed His presence in the form of healing the sick and deaf, raising people from the dead, and preaching the gospel to the poor. Even after all of these acts and documented eye witness accounts of His miracles and works, people of His time still doubted that he was the Messiah.

If we do not see something with our own eyes, do we believe what we are told?  Do we question and wonder why? Are we influenced positively or negatively by the people and voices around us and what we believe?

This verse speaks to me and says, stop overthinking and allowing doubt and uncertainty in our minds and trust in Christ. The world we live in is filled with unhappiness, focused on material possessions, is full of failed marriages and relationships, and is filled with sin and death.  Yes, it is easy to question God’s presence in our sinful world.  The doubting person in us can question the presence of Christ and pull us away from His word.  We are not able to comprehend and understand God’s will, all the time, based on our understanding of what we see on Earth. God’s purpose is so much greater than we are capable of understanding. Our minds are not built to comprehend how what we see and know can be of benefit to us, and trust that in all times.

Matthew 11:25 speaks to me in this way. Stop doubting and overthinking God’s existence and presence with our Earthly minds. God is present always, in charge always, and fulfilling His purpose for our lives to bring about His perfect goals. Even when we don’t like what is happening to us or around us, we must trust in Him. 

Scripture tells us over and over that God is in control and He “works in all things according to the counsel of His will.” (Ephesians 1:11) We also learn that His “dominion is over all things (Proverbs 21:1, Daniel 4:25), and the times and places where we live (Acts 17:26).

Our minds push us to focus on self-preservation and survival.  We think thoughts that prevent us from pain or hurt.  We prevent ourselves from believing so we won’t be disappointed.  We overthink it. We self-sabotage relationships or situations so when it doesn’t work out, we won’t experience sadness. Our thoughts create our feelings, and our feelings create the results in our lifeMy prayer is that we guard our thoughts.  Guard our thoughts against overthinking what God’s will is for us, study scripture and patiently evaluate what He intends for our lives.

Jesus, Please help us to focus on your goodness, your presence in our lives, and be thankful for the blessings you have provided us.  I thank you for loving us, even when we don’t deserve it.  Thank you for your goodness and your forgiveness of our sins.  Amen.

Are We Quick to Judge? I Know I Am

My Testimony

Here’s my story. I was invited to write for this Bible Journal, and I was nervous. Self doubt took over. I was scared that I did not know enough about the Bible, nervous that I might look silly, and afraid that I would not know what to write.

I prayed about it and relented. I agreed to be a contributor. I received my first assigned verse and it was Haggai 2:7. Ok. This is a book in the Bible I had never read, could barely find, and honestly, had never heard of.

Fast forward three days later and my family goes to worship at Cornerstone Chapel in Leesburg, VA led by Senior Pastor Gary Hamrick. (Cornerstonechapel.net). The sermon and Bible study for the day…Haggai. What are the chances? There are 66 books in the Bible and 52 Sunday’s to attend church, and today’s lesson was Haggai. God dispelled my worry and provided Pastor Gary’s teaching on a book I had never read, and candidly, was unsure what I should write. God’s got this.

Why Did God Want the Temple Rebuilt?

In 538 BC, God freed the Jews after 70 years of slavery in Babylon. In 536 BC, the Jews began to reconstruct the Temple, which has not existed since the days of Solomon. Two years after starting construction, the Jewish people stopped building the Temple. The book of Haggai talks about when God came to Haggai and encouraged him to preach to the Jewish people about beginning again to rebuild the Temple.

God told the Jews in first chapter of Haggai, verse 9, “You looked for much, but indeed it came to little; and when you brought it home, I blew it away. Why?” Says the Lord of hosts. “Because of My house that is in ruins, while every one of you runs to his own house.”

God was calling his people to rebuild the Temple to sacrifice their time, resources, and lives to commit to worshipping Him. God was trying to get their attention. He had freed the Jews from years of slavery but they were focused on their own well-being and not praising and thanking God for his grace and mercy to them. I learned today from Pastor Gary that the Jews started building the foundation for the new Temple and then stopped. In fact, the Temple sat unconstructed for sixteen years before God spoke to Haggai to encourage the Jews to rebuild.

I began writing this journal focused on how the Jewish people should have made sacrifices and praised God for His mercy. They should have wanted to rebuild the Temple. My writing was going to be judgmental about the Jewish people and their lack of willingness to follow God’s wishes and rebuild the Temple, especially after he delivered them from their bondage. Why should they be focused on their own well-being and not praising God to fulfill His wishes? There are some lessons for my life in that question for sure.

Here is where today’s lesson from Pastor Gary became awesome. I learned that the book of Ezra provides context and understanding to the book of Haggai as to why the Jewish people stopped building the Temple. Ezra 4:23-24 tells us that King Artaxerxes, ruler of Persia, wrote a cease and desist to the Jews regarding the reconstruction of the Temple. King Artaxerxes did not want the Jews worshipping and loving God more than him. The Jews were intimated and directed to stop construction of the Temple. They were threatened. So they stopped. They were afraid for their well-being, especially after coming out of 70 years of slavery. They likely did not want to cause a problem with the king and risk being returned to slavery. I would not have learned this without learning about the explanation in the book of Ezra.

What‘s the Lesson?

I was judging the Jews for not following God’s wishes. My message was going to be about honoring and glorifying God with our time, resources, and sacrifices. Certainly a lesson I need to follow as well. There was much more to the story that I did not know.

Pastor Gary led my heart to the best part of this lesson. It’s not just about following God’s wishes. It is about judgement and having an opinion about others. I am guilty to rush to judgement or have an opinion about someone, and many times, I fail to ask more about their story. What I did not know was why the Jews stopped building the Temple and the threats by King Artaxerxes. I rushed to judge.

So, it could be the terribly negative co-worker, the annoying neighbor who always turns everyone into the HOA, or maybe your own family member who constantly creates drama. We might resent people in our lives for the issues they create and judge them for the problems they cause. The simple question is, what is their story? Why are they so unhappy? Why do they cause problems? I was reminded today, I need to ask why. Try to understand. Seek more information. There is always more to someone’s story.

I know this, of course, that there is always more to someone’s story. But, in a fast-paced world of fly by news, and sometimes brutal social media, we can quickly skewer someone with a harsh comment, negative judgement, or squash a person because they are a irritant in our lives. The message today was simple. Do not rush to judge anyone until you learn more about them.

My prayer is that we stop, seek understanding, and treat others like Jesus did. Invite the nasty neighbor to church. Get that negative co-worker a gift for their birthday. Or, make sure to get your difficult family member something for the holidays. No, this is not easy. But, without knowing someone’s story, let’s not rush to judge them. This is certainly a goal of mine this year.