God’s Face in Hiding

seek and find

A guest post by Jerry L. Snow

You hide your face and we are troubled…” (Psalm 104:29).

The writer of Psalms often gets our attention by the figures of speech he employs. In Psalm 104:29 he wrote our verse above.

Consider the sun is always there, but it is not always visible. For years the presence of God was manifest to the children of Israel by a pillar of fire or a cloud. Now they complain His face is hidden.

Here we observe, God does not withdraw His presence as an evidence of His divine sovereignty.

Jeremiah wrote, “He does not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men” (Lamentations 3:33).

Isaiah wrote, “Behold the lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save, neither His ear heavy that it cannot heart; but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid His face from you, that He will not hear” (Isaiah 59:1).

If the consolations of the lord seem “small” to us as Eliphaz suggested to Job (15:11), it very well may be because He is trying to prevent some sin, correct some error, or remind us of some duty we have neglected.

We would do well to remember these words:

The dearest idols I have known,

What e’re that idol be,

Help me to tear it from thy throne,

And worship only Thee

So shall my walk be close with God,

Calm and serene my frame,

So purer light shall mark the road,

That leads me to the Lamb.

finish line

Fighting the Good Fight

A guest post by Randy Teller

“I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing” (II Timothy 4:7-8).

finish line

Living the Christian life is the best fight we will be in.

Paul uses metaphors throughout his letters to Timothy, talking about athletes, training, winning, and awards. I’m sure this was a common subject in New Testament times because of Olympic games, just as it is common today.

Our life is a battle against sin and Satan. Everyday we must arm ourselves with the tools of battle (Ephesians 6:13-18). Just as an athlete must train regularly to compete for their gold medal, we, too, must train regularly to compete for our gold medal, Heaven.

As it is with all types of training, you must constantly push yourself to do better than the day before. When we become complacent with our spiritual lives we are no longer growing closer to God.

Do you pray?

Can you pray a little more?

Do you give?

Can you give a little more?

Do you serve others?

Can you serve a little more?

Physical training is important for physical well being and spiritual training is important for spiritual well being (I Timothy 4:8).

As we train and develop our bodies for this contest, it is also normal to train longer and harder than the actual race or contest. A wrestling match is only 6 minutes long. A wrestler will train for hours every day to prepare for those few minutes.

He does it for one reason: to go the distance.

It does no good to be ahead, only to stop short of the finish line. There is little respect for the athlete who is ahead the entire race only to quit just before the end of the race.

We are in that type of event. It is of no value to lead a spiritual life only to fall away just before reaching the finish line…Heaven.

The Christian’s race is different because it doesn’t matter when you start; just make sure you finish the race. There are many runners in a long distance race and while winning it is a special privilege, finishing the race is the mark of true character (Philippians 3:13-14).

Yes, physical and spiritual training are both vitally important. However, as with all contests, there are rules and regulations that must be followed. This ensures that all contestants will be judged fairly.

Personally, I cannot tell the difference between a double toe loop and a double axel. To the judge it is as obvious as night and day.

As Christians, we, too, have a judge, but we have two advantages.

First, our judge is honest and righteous at all times.

Second, if we don’t get it right the first time, we can ask for and receive a second chance; God does give us rules to live by each day (II Timothy 2:5).

The apostle Paul was a spiritual champion. It is not to say he had a perfect, easy life (II Corinthians 11:23-27). He did, however, have a most precious goal in sight: the crown of righteousness, the gift of eternal life in Heaven.

In his last days he was at peace because of three things: he had fought the fight, finished the race, and had kept the faith.

May God bless you with the desire and ability to say the same.

Overcoming Depression

Depression tear

Guest Post by David Johnson

“Overcoming despair, depression and discouragement God’s way” (Job 1-3).

1. Even the strongest believers can be discouraged and depressed.

Depression and despair are tools Satan uses most often. If he can create in us any of these symptoms, then we begin to lose our faith, and “Whatsoever is not of faith is sin” (Romans 14:23).

In II Corinthians 1:8-11, we find that even Paul experienced depression. However, he recognized where his help came from.

2. We may be going through many levels of depression simultaneously!

a. Intellectually (Job 3)

b. Emotionally

c. Spiritually

3. Discouragement can cause us to lose perspective

a. We often forget who God really is. What we may consider as tough, difficult, challenging, and impossible, for God it is nothing.

b. Remember, the power of His Word holds the whole world, and we even sing, “He Has the Whole World in His Hands.”

4. Do not keep your deep pain to yourself. Share it with someone else.

5. Remember that God has a purpose for our suffering (I Peter 1:3-9).

In conclusion: take the proper steps to avoid depression:

a. Memorize and meditate on the Scriptures. Also, remember songs of faith when tried or tempted to sin, such as, “Yield Not to Temptation.”

b. Listen to Christian music.

c. Stay in Christian fellowship.

d. Find someone else to encourage.

e. Find a prayer partner.

f. Remember that God is sovereign.

g. Maintain physical exercise.

Does It Pay to Pray?

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Guest Post by Morgan Bryson

I prayed for a child, and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him” (I Samuel 1:27).

Have you ever prayed and prayed for something or someone and you feel like God hasn’t answered your prayer? I think everyone has been in that situation.

God answers prayer, but not always in the way you might expect.

It is hard for me to sit down and discipline myself to spend a few minutes with God, but when I do I feel like I have accomplished something.

In our Wednesday night Bible class we are studying prayer and how to pray with scripture. I have learned a lot and I am enjoying it very well. God doesn’t care how we pray or where we do it, but He wants us to pray to Him as often as we can.

The Bible says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you” (John 15:7). This tells me that if I only have the faith in God and in what I am asking, God will give it to me.

God wants to hear from us; nothing is too big or small for Him to deal with in our lives.

The verse above from I Samuel was a prayer of Hannah. It was very important to her to have a child. God answered her prayer! Her prayer “paid” off!

What is important to you? Have you prayed about it today? Do you trust God that He will answer your prayer?

One of my favorite songs of our youth group goes, “Trust the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understandings. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your paths.”

When I trust God I will pray to Him. I need His answers and guidance. For me, it pays to pray.

Rejoicing in the Search

Let the heart of them rejoice that seek the Lord (I Chronicles 16:10).

The above verse in I Chronicles contains words taken from the Psalm David taught Israel when religion was enjoying a great revival among the people of God.

It is unfortunate that some feel religion, or spirituality, is joyless. They feel you can’t be a Christian and be happy at the same time. The challenge for Christians is to find how we can always rejoice in seeking the Lord.

Sometimes the joy comes from simply knowing that God can see the larger picture, the future, and how what happens today will ultimately happen in the long run.

The problem is not in the seeker, but in the observer turned critic, whose life has been so geared to the satisfaction of appetites, gratifying senses, and charming imagination that he has lost the thrill of discovery.

In the heart of the true searcher there is little room, now or ever, for the gratification of that which is described by James as, “earthly, sensual, or demonic” (James 3:15).

The prospector finds his reward in finding. So it is with that happy seeker who is carried along with the promise of the Savior, “Seek and you will find…” (Matthew 7:7).

With this promise there is assurance of success. The prophet gives a great starting place when he wrote, “Seek and read from the book of the Lord…” (Isaiah 34:16). This is the beginning place for “rejoicing.”

Are you rejoicing in Christ today? Will you make that simple switch?

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Persecuted

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 5:10).

Jesus ends the beatitudes by saying, “Blessed are those persecuted, reviled, and spoken against.” Would anyone care to get in “the blessed line” after hearing that?

Most of us prefer popularity, praise, and prosperity over persecution. Certainly applause is more appealing than abuse, and we’d much rather have one’s support than be slandered.

From a Christian perspective, persecution isn’t that hard to evade. One needs only to live as the world lives and by default approve of its standards, or lack thereof; simply engage with the world by using its language, adopting its practices, and enjoying its entertainment.

Furthermore, never confront any sin or engage a sinner in a discussion of his eternal destiny. Never, ever suggest that Christ is the only way and any other religious “system” is a lie. If questioned, lie about your convictions (which you don’t have) and never publicly take a stand for God or Biblical truths.

Could it be that we suffer so little persecution because we have don just that?

Truth be told, our lives are just not that different form the world. Surveys repeatedly reveal that professing Christians do not live that differently from the world in that their stated faith has had little impact on how they live their daily lives.

While they profess faith and attend services, most tend to watch the same movies and TV programs, listen to the same music, dress and talk the same, and pursue the same goals.

The divorce rate among Christians is almost as high as that of the world, as are the rates of school cheating, teens lying to parents, alcohol use, and premarital sex.

We want to point to the world and blame it for the change in our own behavior. In our hearts we know that isn’t the problem.

The fact is we have lowered our personal standards for righteous living. While our standards have changed, God’s standards for righteous living have not. Personal holiness is still part of the required curriculum for following Christ.

Followers of Christ have been called t olive righteous lives. In the context of this study, we have been called to live a beatitude kind of life.

Here is the hard reality of such a life: Anyone who lives out the first seven beatitudes is guaranteed at some point to experience the eighth.

The word for “persecuted” (dioko) means to harass or to treat in an evil way. The word for “revile” (oneidizo) means to abuse with vile, vicious, mocking words. It is the word used by the thieves in Matthew 27:44 who “heaped insults” on Jesus. The phrase “falsely say all kinds of evil against you” means to slander by stating things that are not true.

Jesus was clear in that one who chose to follow Him and live by His standards would encounter opposition and persecution.

He spoke of carrying a cross and counting the cost (Luke 14:27-28). He made it clear to His disciples that just as He had been persecuted, they would experience a similar fate (John 15:20).

Paul echoed that same truth often with such words as, “All who live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution” (II Timothy 3:12).

The early Christians were persecuted horribly. Christians were flung to the lions, wrapped in pitch and burned, sewed in animal skins and torn to death by hunting dogs, tortured on racks, burned to death by molten iron being poured over them, body parts cut off and roasted before them, and many other such horrific acts of torture.

They were accused of eating each other, committing immorality, participating in orgies, setting fires to cities, being revolutionaries, inciting political unrest, and breaking up families.

When Paul wrote, “For to you it is given in behalf of Christ, not only to believe on Him, but also to suffer for His sake” (Philippians 1:29), those were far more than words on paper to those maligned and persecuted Christians living in Philippi.

Those called to bring peace had discovered the price for such, and that price was often persecution and death.

It was Dietrich Bonhoeffer who wrote, “When a man encounters Jesus, he will do one of two things. Either he must die, or he must put Christ to death.” The question each must face is which of those two we have done.

A beatitude kind of life s a death wish.

Bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable desire for righteousness, sharing the mercy received, seeking purity in everything they do, and sharing the message of peace, one finds himself totally committed to living a Christ-centered, God-honoring, kingdom-focused, self-denying life.

One also finds himself at odds with a sinful, selfish, self-indulgent world. Every virtue stated in the beatitudes is at odds with the world of which we are a part. A broken spirit stands in stark contrast to the proud, self-promoting world in which we live.

Mourning sin certainly creates issues in our “I’m okay, you’re okay” culture. Submission to and a hunger for God is a foreign concept in our selfish, self-centered world.

One who lives a life of mercy and purity while promoting peace through a relationship with Christ will find himself swimming in unfamiliar, uncomfortable, hostile waters.

I want to tell you that persecution is something you read about in the Bible and something that no longer happens. The reality is there were over a quarter million individuals killed last year because of their faith in Christ throughout the world.

While the vast majority is in other countries, one has to have his head in the sand to fail to see the constant progression of opposition to Christianity in our own country. In 2012 there were 115 incidents of church-related violence reported, 63 of which resulted in death.

When we think about violent opposition to people of faith, we are reminded of Columbine a few years back when Cassie Bernall was asked, “Do you believe in God?” and when she answered “Yes,” she was shot. Rachel Scott, a young lady known for her faith, was also killed.

Where the opposition to and persecution of Christianity is headed is anyone’s guess, but at present things are not getting better but worse.

How is one to respond to persecution?

Biblically, one needs to understand that persecution can serve a good purpose, a sit forces us to look heavenward, take stock of what we believe and are committed to, strengthens our faith, and encourages others who may endure a similar fate.

To handle persecution in a God-honoring way, I would suggest that you:

(1) Recognize the source. Ephesians 6:12 tells us that we will always be in a battle with the “forces of evil.”

(2) Refuse to retaliate. Romasn 12:17-19 tells us that vengeance is not a part of the Christian’s job description. Vengeance belongs to God.

(3) Respond positively. If you are always trying to get even, you will never get ahead. Romans 12:21 tells us to overcome evil with good.

(4) Reflect on God’s will. David in Psalm 37:7-9 reminds us to “rest in the Lord and wait patiently on Him.”

Jesus never preached a prosperity gospel. His final promise in the beatitudes was a promise of persecution for those who lived out those qualities listed before.

God’s greatest were persecuted. That will never change. How are you doing?

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.

Christian, Live Like This! — Happy Are the Peacemakers

Guest Post Author: David Swanger, Outreach and Involvement Minister (Hendersonville church of Christ ~ Hendersonville, Tennessee)

Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons of God (Matthew 5:9). 

One would be hard pressed to find a better description of the peace that God desires for His children than the words of the old song written in 1875 by Edward Henry Bickersteth:

Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin; The blood of Jesus whispers peace within.

Peace, perfect peace, by thronging duties pressed; To do the will of Jesus—this is rest.

Peace, perfect peace, with sorrows surging round: On Jesus’ bosom naught but calm is found.

Peace, perfect peace, with loved ones far away; In Jesus’ keeping we are safe, and they.

Peace, perfect peace, our future all unknown: Jesus we know, and He is on the throne.

Peace, perfect peace, death shadowing us and ours; Jesus has vanquished death and all its powers.

It is enough; earth’s struggles soon shall cease, and Jesus calls us to heaven’s perfect peace.

Only one bankrupt in spirit, broken with grief, submissive to God’s leading, living with an insatiable hunger for righteousness, filled with mercy, and committed to purity can know such peace, a peace that comes from God (James 3:17) and results from our faith in and our relationship with Christ (Romans 5:1; John 16:33).

This peace has been compared to the deepest recesses of the ocean where, regardless of the storms raging on the surface, remains serene and tranquil.

Christians know a peace the world cannot give or take away, a peace that does not depend on the circumstances that surround them or the situation they find themselves in. Christians know that in the best circumstances without God there is no peace, and in the worst circumstances with God one never lacks it.

Peace within is essential, for there will never be peace without.

In the past 4,000 years there have been less than 300 years of world peace. World War II was billed as the war to end all wars. It didn’t.

In 1945 the United Nations set as its motto, “To have succeeding generations free from the scourge of war,” and thus far that has not been true one single day.

Every peace treaty ever brokered has been broken, and peace has proved to be only that brief moment in time when everyone stops to reload.

The problem lies in the fact that we have delegated the job of peacemaking to politicians, statesmen, and diplomats and have failed to realize the only real peace the world will ever know will result when God rules in the hearts of people, a rule that only God’s children are called upon and privileged to promote in our world. Their ultimate calling is to be peacemakers.

In the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, “The followers of Jesus have been called to peace. When He called them they found their peace, for He is their peace. But now they are told that they must not only have peace but make it.”

Peacemakers are those who want others to have the peace they enjoy and actively commit themselves to sharing Christ. While the world thinks peace is the absence of conflict, Christians know peace is the presence of righteousness in the hearts of men and women, a righteousness that can only be experienced through a relationship with Christ (John 14:27).

Don Richardson tells of working with the Sawi tribe in Irian Jaya and the frustration he experienced in trying to help them understand the meaning of Christ and His death on the cross.

At the time, the Sawi’s were in a bitter feud with another tribe, and Don often wondered if there would ever be peace. He learned of a custom among the tribes that if a child was given as a permanent gift to the enemy, peace would prevail as long as that child lived. As the story goes, a father took his only child, ran from the village, and presented him to the enemy. That baby became known as the Peace Child, for as long as he lived, there was peace.

Don had his analogy.

He presented Jesus as the perfect peace child, and as long as He lives, peace can reign in the hearts of His followers.

That is the story of a peacemaker. That is the Christian’s story. Experiencing the peace of God in our own hearts (Colossians 3:5), we “make every effort to live in peace with all men” (Hebrews 12:14) and share the gospel of peace” (Romans 10:15) with those who do not know it.

Practicing peace isn’t always easy as indicated by the following story.

Each night as the lights went out in the barracks, a young soldier would slip out of bed and on his knees spend time in prayer. His sergeant, who had little use for anything “Christian,” saw this one night, picked up his muddy boots, and slung them in the soldier’s direction.

The young man barely flinched as one of the boots hit him in the side of the head and the sergeant, muttering an obscenity, rolled over to sleep. The following morning the sergeant found his boots beside his bed, cleaned and polished to perfection.

Peacemakers in the words of Jesus “love their enemies, pray for their persecutors, turn the other cheek, and go the second mile.” Peacemakers make every effort to live in peace with others.

Ultimately, the enemy of peace is sin.

While mans’ sin in the garden destroyed the relationship man first enjoyed with God, at the cross Jesus made peace a reality again. There He offered all who would seek Him and live under His Lordship the opportunity to experience a life of peace.

Paul, speaking for all Christians, wrote, “Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1).

Long ago God through the prophet Isaiah spoke of the “perfect peace” that belong to that one who trusted in Him (Isaiah 26:3).

Sinful man cannot create peace within or without. God is the only answer and Christians are the ones to bear that message of peace, the only message that offers a righteous solution to a sin-inflicted world.

What a special calling it is to both experience and restore something that has been lost since the fall.

The promise to the peacemaker: They shall be called the sons of God.

What an honor to be my father’s son. What a greater honor to be a child of God. What a privilege to share with others what I have because of that relationship.

Do you have that relationship? Consider making the simple switch.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

This article was written by David Swanger. David currently serves as the Outreach and Involvement Minister at the Hendersonville church of Christ in Hendersonville, Tennessee. If you would like more information about heaven, happiness, or how to be saved, please be sure to check out www.alivewithchrist.com.