Paul Madson

THOUGHTS, QUOTES & REFLECTIONS

Quotes to Note

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TO GIVE PERSPECTIVE

“Leadership and pastoral training in America is like opening another restaurant (there are plenty on virtually every corner). In the developing world, leadership and pastoral training is like opening a food pantry in the midst of starving people.”


TO ENCOURAGE

“All that is gold does not glitter
Not all those who wander are lost
The old that is strong does not wither
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.”

– J.R.R. Tolkien


TO CHALLENGE

“If you’re willing to say, ‘Lord, here I am, send me,’
God rubs his hands together and says,
‘Now we can get to work.
I will work in you and through you to reach out to the people around you.’
And that’s why God gets all the glory.”

– Josh McDowell


TO STRENGTHEN YOUR BODY

“If you don’t make time for your wellness,
you will be forced to make time for your illness.”

“Longshoreman philosopher Eric Hoffer wrote, ‘We are warned not to waste time, but we are brought up to waste our lives’… This is evident in the tragedy of many people, who in the first half of their lives, spend their health looking for wealth, and in the last half, spend their wealth looking for health.”

– Ken Boa


TO STRENGTHEN YOUR SOUL

“People do not drift toward holiness. Apart from grace-driven effort, people do not gravitate toward godliness, prayer, obedience to Scripture, faith, and delight in the Lord. We drift toward compromise and call it tolerance; we drift toward disobedience and call it freedom; we drift toward superstition and call it faith. We cherish the indiscipline of lost self-control and call it relaxation; we slouch toward prayerlessness and delude ourselves into thinking we have escaped legalism; we slide toward godlessness and convince ourselves we have been liberated.”

– D.A. Carson


TO MEDITATE ON

“…don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow.
God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”

– Matthew 6:34 (The Message)


TO LEAD MORE EFFECTIVELY

“…one of the principal reasons for the escalating number of clergy members who are experiencing serious depression is the perceived inability to produce success in their ministry. It is vitally important that we as spiritual leaders recognize that we can do our very best and in fact be doing everything right and still not realize the growth and ministry expansion for which we long. When our emotional and spiritual well-being become inordinately dependent on the growth of our ministry rather than on who we are in Christ, the imbalance can create for us serious emotional problems.”

– Samuel Rima
(from Leading from the Inside Out: The Art of Self-Leadership)


“Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.”

– Psalm 62:5-7 (NIV)

 

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Pictured above is a gentleman I met in Ethiopia. #MadeInGodsImage #Dignity

The Importance of a ‘Calmed and Quieted’ Soul

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“I have calmed and quieted and my soul,
like a weaned child with its mother…”
(Psalm 131:2 CSB)


Blaise Pascal, the remarkable scientist, theologian and Christian of the seventeenth century, remarked in his Pensees (section 136) that “all the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their own room.”

“Without solitude it is virtually impossible to live a spiritual life… We do not take the spiritual life seriously if we do not set aside some time to be with God and listen to him.”

(Henri Nouwen)


A daily practice to help us move in this direction
involves two rhythms:

Preparation in the morning and reflection in the evening.


“The practice of reviewing my day with God is rooted in the ancient practices of examen of consciousness (looking back over the day to notice God’s presence) and examen of conscience (noticing my response or lack of response to that presence). It helps me to release the events of this day to God, which then enables me to receive the gift of sleep that night and live in the new mercies that are awaiting me when I wake up the next morning.”

Ruth Haley Barton
(from Invitation to Solitude and Silence, IVP)


“To live a quiet life in a world of noise is a fight, a war of attrition, a calm rebellion against the status quo.”

John Mark Comer
(from The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry, Waterbrook Press)


“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, he [Jesus] got up, went out, and made his way to a deserted place; and there he was praying.”

(Mark 1:35 CSB)


“I’ve reorganized my life around three very simple goals:

1) Slow down.
2) Simplify my life around the practices of Jesus.
3) Live from a center of abiding.

Abiding is the metaphor I keep coming back to. I want so badly to live from a deep place of love, joy, and peace.

Nicholas Herman, the Parisian monk better known as Brother Lawrence, called this way of life ‘the practice of the presence of God’ because it takes practice to live from attention and awareness. Especially in the modern world.

These four practices: silence and solitude, Sabbath, simplicity, and slowing – have helped me tremendously to move toward abiding as my baseline. But to say it yet again, all four of them are a means to an end.

  • The end isn’t silence and solitude; it’s to come back to God and our true selves.
  • It isn’t Sabbath; it’s a restful, grateful life of ease, appreciation, wonder, and worship.
  • It isn’t simplicity; it’s freedom and focus on what matters most.
  • It isn’t even slowing; it’s to be present, to God, to people, to the moment.
And the goal is practice, not perfection. Multiple times a day, I slip back into hurry. The gravitational pull is overwhelming at times.”

John Mark Comer
(from The Ruthless Elimination of HurryWaterbrook Press)


“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am lowly and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

(Matthew 11:28-30 CSB)


4th Quarter Living

Encouragement to live fully for God’s glory, all the way to the end

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“There are no sunset years for the Christian. Until the day you die, you have a race to run and a ministry to finish… So, straighten your back. Open your eyes. Brace your shoulders. And cry out, ‘I will not waste it!’”
(John Piper)


“David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell asleep and was laid with his fathers.”
(Acts 13:36 ESV)


“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.”
(Mark Twain)


“…life is fragile and death is inevitable. We don’t know the number of days we will have, nor can we choose how easy or hard our path. To quote the wisdom of Gandalf:  All you have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to you.’”
(Brett McCracken)


“…one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead. I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.”
(Philippians 3:13-14 ESV)


A few years ago, Senators Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) established unusual benchmarks for deciding whether to run for reelection in 2022, potential six-year terms that would end with Grassley in his mid-90s and Leahy in his late 80s.

“If I can run three miles four times a week, I’ll be running for reelection,” Grassley, now 87, said at the time. His office pointed to an interview with Iowa media in which he explained that he ran 13 straight days during his recent asymptomatic bout of covid-19, although his morning runs are now just 2 miles.


“We know [the Apostle] John, likely in his 80’s or even older, was still serving his brothers and sisters in the Lord. Again, Bible scholars estimate Anna was anywhere from 84 to 105 years old, and yet; she ‘continued to spend every day praying at the temple (Luke 2:36-37).’”
(Dave Maddox)


“Quit living as if the purpose of life is to arrive safely at death.”
(Anonymous)


“All I want now is to preach the gospel, die and be forgotten.”
(Count Zinzendorf)


Reflections on Good Friday and the Cross of Christ

As we reflect on God’s goodness to us through the cross on this Good Friday 2021, here is a collection of Scriptures, quotes and one worship song to encourage and uplift you on this Resurrection weekend.


“…and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross,
that we might die to sin and live to righteousness;
for by His wounds you were healed.”

1 Peter 2:24 NASB


“And when you were dead in your transgressions and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He made you alive together with Him, having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us and which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.”

Colossians 2:13-14 NASB


“The best of men are only men at their very best. Patriarchs, prophets, apostles, martyrs, church fathers, reformers, puritans – all are sinners who need a Savior.”

J.C. Ryle


“But may it never be that I should boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.”

Galatians 6:14 NASB


“For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.”

1 Corinthians 2:2 ESV


Every time we look at the cross, Christ seems to say to us, ‘I am here because of you. It is your sin I am bearing, your curse I am suffering, your debt I am paying, your death I am dying.’ Nothing in history or in the universe cuts us down to size like the cross. All of us have inflated views of ourselves, especially in self-righteousness, until we have visited a place called Calvary. It is there, at the foot of the cross, that we shrink to our true size.”

John R. W. Stott, The Message of Galatians


“I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you. For I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins.”

1 Corinthians 15:1,3 ESV


“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”

Romans 5:8 ESV


Finally, I wanted to share a song that I think can encourage all of us, no matter where we find ourselves on our spiritual journey – “Come As You Are” by Christian recording artist David Crowder (it’s been viewed over 28 million times on YouTube).

Come As You Are
(by David Crowder)

Come out of sadness
From wherever you’ve been
Come broken hearted
Let the rescue begin
Come find your mercy
Oh sinner come kneel

Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

So lay down your burdens
Lay down your shame
All who are broken
Lift up your face

Oh wanderer come home
You’re not too far
So lay down your hurt
Lay down your heart
Come as you are

There’s hope for the hopeless
And all those who’ve strayed
Come sit at the table
Come taste the grace

There’s rest for the weary
Rest that endures
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t cure

There’s joy for the morning
Oh sinner be still

Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal
Earth has no sorrow
That heaven can’t heal

‘All In’ for Jesus… All the Way to the End

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Two weeks ago, Global Training Network held its annual All-Staff Leadership Gathering via Zoom. Even with the virtual constraints, our team enjoyed a rich time of encouragement, thoughtful reflection and biblical challenge. I came away refreshed!

In one of the sessions, I had the privilege of sharing a few thoughts about our values as a ministry. Below is one five-minute segment of my original 35-minute president’s update:


GTN has several core values, but the one I want to highlight today centers on being a team of people who are “spiritually thriving.”

By that, I mean we live our lives “all in for Jesus… all the way to the end.”

A distinct memory from my early twenties is hearing the late Howard Hendricks speak. He would often say that one of his greatest concerns for Christian leaders was that they were “sliding for home” in their fifties and sixties.

Hendricks said, “Just when these leaders have the most to offer the body of Christ (both locally and globally), they are looking to ‘pack it in.’”

They have “the most to offer” because leaders in these particular decades of life have accumulated an abundance of education (both formal and informal) and practical experience (ministry, family, and life in general).

God’s desire for us is that we leverage for His glory the lessons He has built into our lives over the years.

Here at GTN, we all realize that we have a job to do – a mission to accomplish that is transcendent.

Our mission (to equip and encourage pastors and leaders throughout the Majority World) is not some “social construct” that we have simply made up, but rather it is a divine, God-given, biblical mandate to equip the next generation of pastors and leaders globally.

The Apostle Paul articulated this in 2 Timothy 2:2

“…and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men, who will be able to teach others also.”

Central to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) is to “make disciples of all the nations… [by] teaching them…”

If this is our mandate from Scripture, we must begin by properly understanding what “the nations” represents. In his book entitled The Hole in our Gospel, author Richard Stearns painted a helpful picture of our world today:

If the world were a village of 100 people…

60 would be Asian
14 would be African
12 would be European
8 would be Latin American
5 would be American or Canadian
1 would be a Pacific Islander

Add to this image the fact that over 80% of all indigenous pastors and leaders throughout the Majority World have no formal (and very little informal) biblical and theological training.

Now, if you saw 10 people trying to carry a huge, heavy log and wanted to help, and nine were on one end and one on the other, which end would you go to?

Truly, the need is great, and the need is global!

Scripture makes it very clear that
we have been blessed to be a blessing to all nations.
(Genesis 12:1-3; Psalm 67)

Renowned author/theologian John Stott regularly reminded believers of the following truth: “We must be global Christians with a global vision because our God is a global God.”

On a more personal note, I am still praying for God to give me the physical and mental health to keep serving Him until I’m 85, which is 25 years away.

25 years is a long time. I would suggest that God can do an incredible amount in 25 years through a person who is wholly yielded to Him – even if those 25 years are in the latter half of a person’s life.

Having said that, I realize that Jesus never promised that serving Him all the way to the end would be easy.

Someone once said, “The life of faith really begins where your comfort zone ends.”

One of my life verses has always been Acts 20:24. In this passage, the Apostle Paul writes the following to the leaders of the church at Ephesus:

“But I consider my life of no value to myself; my purpose is to finish my course and the ministry I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of God’s grace.” (Acts 20:24 CSB)

When I was in college, one of the quotes that most inspired me – and that I have repeated to myself almost every week since – is this one from Jonathan Edwards:

“Resolved: To follow God with all my heart.
Resolved also: Whether others do or not, I will.”

What does this mean for us? It’s setting our face like ‘flint’ – as Jesus did toward Jerusalem.

It’s continuing with that kind of resolve until our final breath on earth.

Dave Maddox, a fellow GTN staff member, recently shared the following quote that I found particularly fitting for this season of life:

“… History tells us that [the Apostle] John was actively involved in ministry in Ephesus until the very end of his life. In fact, it is striking that the literary corpus traditionally ascribed to him (the fourth gospel, the apocalypse, and three epistles) are generally dated to his ‘retirement’ years.”
(Nicholas Perrin)

Pretty amazing ministry for an “old, retired person.”

Here is my challenge for all of us:
Let’s continue to trust God to do great things through us
in the years and decades to come, as we give our lives fully
(as living sacrifices – Romans 12:1)
to serving Him until our final breath.

Is there really anything more important, more valuable – and ultimately more fulfilling – than living for the glory of God?

“After this I looked, and behold,
a great multitude that no one could number,
from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages,
standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice,
“Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!”
And all the angels were standing around the throne
and around the elders and the four living creatures,
and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God,
saying, “Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God forever and ever! Amen.”

(Revelation 7:9-12 ESV)
Soli Deo Gloria.

Secure in the Everlasting Arms

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Over the years, a book that I have often returned to for encouragement is Elisabeth Elliot’s Secure in the Everlasting Arms.

Below are several of my favorite quotes:

“The eternal God is your refuge,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.”
(Deuteronomy 33:27)


“We have a calming word in Psalm 138:8,
‘The Lord will fulfill his purpose for me; your love, O Lord, endures forever – do not abandon the works of your hands.’

That word stands.
He will fulfill.
His love endures.
He will not abandon.

We are meddling with God’s business when we let all manner of imaginings loose, predicting disaster, contemplating possibilities instead of following, one day at a time, God’s plain and simple pathway. When we try to meet difficulties prematurely we have neither the light nor the strength for them yet.

‘As thy days so shall thy strength be’ was Moses’ blessing for Asher – in other words, your strength will equal your days. God knows how to apportion each one’s strength according to that day’s need, however great or small.”


“Faithfulness today is the best preparation
for the demands of tomorrow.”


“Can we wholeheartedly surrender to God, leaving quietly with Him all the ‘what ifs’ and ‘but what abouts’?

Will we truthfully say to Him,
‘Anything You choose for me, Lord – to have to be, to do, or to suffer. I am at Your orders. I have no agenda of my own’?

It comes down to Trust and Obey, ‘for there’s no other way to be happy in Jesus,’ as the old gospel song goes.

Our future may look fearfully intimidating, yet we can look up to the Engineer of the Universe, confident that nothing escapes His attention or slips out of the control of those strong hands.”


“But I trust in you, O LORD;
I say, ‘You are my God.
My times are in your hand.’”
(Psalm 31:14-15 ESV)


“Thomas Carlyle said,
‘Doubt of any sort cannot be removed except by action.’

There is wonderful therapy in taking oneself by the scruff of the neck, getting up, and doing something. While you are doing, time passes quickly. Time itself will in some measure heal, and ‘light arises in the darkness’ – slowly, it seems, but certainly.

I myself have been hauled out of the Slough of Despond by following the advice of the simple Saxon legend inscribed in an old English parsonage: ‘Doe the nexte thynge.’”


“…and as your days, so shall your strength be.”
(Deuteronomy 33:25b ESV)


“The ancients were commended for a solid faith full of hope and based on a strong certainty. We might take an invaluable lesson from them: Obedience to God is our job. The results of that obedience are God’s.”


“If God were small enough to be understood He would not be big enough to be worshipped.”
(Evelyn Underhill)

God’s great, gracious love for us

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The longer I walk with Christ, the more convinced I become that most Christians do not truly believe that God loves them with an inexhaustible, everlasting, gracious love.

Why?

Because when we do believe that God truly loves us, it will radically revolutionize every relationship in our life.

When we understand, grasp and believe the immensity and magnitude of God’s love for us, here are a few things that happen:

  • We become secure in our relationship with God.
  • We are filled with joy that no one can take away.
  • We are able to forgive the hurts and offenses that others commit against us.
  • We become far more humble, realizing the grace that He has given to us.

In other words, we become so filled up with God’s love for us that it spills over to others.

We are able to give love and kindness and grace and mercy to others out of the overflow of what is in our hearts because of Christ.

We no longer have to operate from a love deficit, but rather out of a love surplus.

Notice what the Apostle Paul says in Ephesians 3:17-19….

“…so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” (ESV)

He prays here for us to “know the love of Christ,” but then immediately says it “surpasses knowledge.”

No matter how hard we try to fully grasp God’s immense love for us, it will always be far greater and grander.

But that shouldn’t stop us from both praying to understand it better and learning more about its breadth and depth.

Sam Storms wrote a book years ago entitled The Singing God. It is based on Zephaniah 3:17.

“The Lord your God is with you; he is mighty to save. He will take great delight in you, he will quiet you with his love, he will rejoice over you with singing.”

Did you ever think about the fact that God “rejoices over you with singing?”

J.I. Packer said this about God’s love for his children:

“There is tremendous relief in knowing [that] his love to me is utterly realistic, based at every point on [his] prior knowledge of the worst about me, so that no discovery can disillusion him about me.”

Think about that for a minute.

God’s love for you includes the fact that He knows everything you have done or thought or imagined – or will ever do or will ever think – and He still says: “I love you! You’re mine!”

The Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:

“For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (vv. 38-39)

“For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” (v. 15)

Brennan Manning, in his well-known book, The Ragamuffin Gospel, wrote:

“Whatever our failings may be, we need not lower our eyes in the presence of Jesus. Unlike Quasimodo, the hunchback of Notre Dame, we need not hide all that is ugly and repulsive in us.  Jesus comes not for the super-spiritual but for the wobbly and weak-kneed who know they don’t have it all together, and who are not too proud to accept the handout of amazing grace.”

We must always remember that the cross of Calvary is the one objective, absolute, irrefutable proof of God’s love for us.

What does the Apostle John say in 1 John 4?

“This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrificed for our sins.” (vv. 9-10)

“But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8)

Jerry Bridges, in his book Trusting God, wrote:

“God’s unfailing love for us is an objective fact affirmed over and over in the Scriptures. It is true whether we believe it or not. Our doubts do not destroy God’s love, nor does our faith create it.  It originates in the very nature of God, who is love, and it flows to us through our union with His beloved Son. But the experience of that love and the comfort it is intended to bring is dependent upon our believing the truth about God’s love as it is revealed to us in the Scriptures.”

Isaiah writes in chapter 62:

“As a bridegroom rejoices over his bride, so will your God rejoice over you.” (v. 5)

And finally, the Apostle John writes in 1 John 3:

“How great a love the Father has lavished on us that we should be called children of God. And that is what we are!” (v. 1)

Your central identity as a believer in Jesus Christ is “a beloved child of God.”

That’s who you are.

No one can take that away from you.

You are loved and you are accepted in Christ never to be rejected.

Now, let Christ’s love so fill your heart that each day you go out and live from a love “surplus” rather than a love “deficit.”

“Whatever God’s love is, it is not exhausted by our concept of it. It transcends our best efforts to describe it. It is higher than our loftiest notions of it.” (R.C. Sproul)

Every day, we are becoming someone…

The question is, who?

Beautiful sunrise over iconic Monument Valley, Arizona, USA

Randy Alcorn writes on the role self-control (or self-discipline) plays in our personal growth…


Every day we’re becoming someone—the question is, who?

Author Jerry Bridges, hearing me address this, told me that Dawson Trotman, founder of The Navigators, used to say, “You are going to be what you are now becoming.”

Who you become will be the cumulative result of the daily choices you make.

“A long obedience in the same direction,” to borrow a Eugene Peterson phrase, is sustained by the small choices we make each day.

Most of us know the difference between eating cottage cheese and donuts, or the difference between a daily workout and spend­ing life on a couch. What I eat and whether I exercise will determine the state of my body.

The same is true of our spiritual lives. Whether I read Scripture and great books, or spend my best hours watching TV and looking at my phone, will make me into the person I will be several years from now. I should discipline myself today, not for discipline’s sake, but for the purpose of godliness (1 Timothy 4:7, 8).

Following Christ isn’t magic. It requires repeated actions on our part, which develop into habits and life disciplines.

Our spirituality hinges on the development of these little habits, such as Bible reading and memorization and prayer. In putting one foot in front of the other day after day, we become the kind of person who grows in Christlikeness.

Once we develop Christ-honoring habits and experience their rewards, we’ll instinctively turn our minds to what makes us happy in Christ.

A decade from now, would you like to look back at your life, knowing you’ve made consistently good decisions about eating right and exercising regularly? Sure. But there’s a huge gap between wishes and reality. The bridge over the gap is self-control, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22–23).

The key to self-control is discipline, which produces a long-term track record of small choices in which we yield to God’s Spirit, resulting in new habits and lifestyles. In fact, Spirit-control and self-control are interrelated in Scripture, because godly self-control is a yielding of self to the Holy Spirit.

It’s true we are creatures of habit—but it’s also true Christ can empower us to form new habits.

So how can you start to make the right small choices?

Ephesians 5:15-16 tells us to “Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time.”

Why not redeem two hours of your day that you would have spent on television, newspa­per, video games, phone, working overtime, or hobbies? Change your habits.

Spend one hour meditating on and/or memorizing Scripture. Spend the other hour reading a great book. Share what you’re learn­ing with your spouse and children, or a friend.

May we call upon Christ’s strength today to make choices that will honor Him, bring us great happiness, and help us become the kind of people we want to be ten years from now!


*Originally posted on the Eternal Perspective Ministries blog under the title “The Cumulative Effect of our Little Choices.”

Lord, let me learn by paradox

 

Lord, let me learn by paradox
that the way down is the way up,
that to be low is to be high,
that the broken heart is the healed heart,
that the contrite spirit is the rejoicing spirit,
that the repenting soul is the victorious soul,
that to have nothing is to possess all,
that to bear the cross is to wear the crown,
that to give is to receive,
that the valley is the place of vision.

Lord, in the daytime stars can be seen from deepest wells,
and the deeper the wells the brighter thy stars shine;
Let me find thy light in my darkness,
thy life in my death,
thy joy in my sorrow,
thy grace in my sin,
thy riches in my poverty,
thy glory in my valley.

– from The Valley of Vision: A Collection of Puritan Prayers and Devotions

“So we do not lose heart.
Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day.
For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen.
For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

2 Corinthians 4:16-18 (ESV)

If the Lord Wills

Last year at this time,
when you pondered the upcoming year,
what were your thoughts?

 
Did you have any idea it would involve a worldwide pandemic, economic upheaval, racial riots not seen since the 1960’s and a political season that divided our nation (and many friends and families) like never before?

My guess is that none of us had any idea what was coming our way as we entered January of 2020.

So, what about 2021?

James reminds us that our lives are ultimately in God’s hands and we have no business boasting about our plans for tomorrow.

“Come now, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit’— yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that.’ As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.”

(James 4:13-16 ESV)

This passage, at the very least, should humble us as we live our lives and look to the future.

Growing up, I remember hearing my mom often say, “If the Lord wills.”

It was a reminder to me that God knows the future, and all of our tomorrows are in his loving, wise and sovereign hands.

“The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps.” (Proverbs 16:9 ESV)

Yes, we still make plans. Yes, we still dream and set new goals.

But we always place those plans, dreams and goals into the hands of our heavenly Father.

God knows the future and is not surprised by what comes our way.

He is on his throne and in control, moving history toward its final culmination of redeeming this broken world back to himself (Psalm 33:10-11).

And because of this, we have no reason to live lives filled with fear and anxiety as we look to 2021.

The Psalmist tells us…

“Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,

I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

your rod and your staff, they comfort me.”

(Psalm 23:4 – ESV)

“God is our refuge and strength,

a very present help in trouble.

Therefore, we will not fear though the earth gives way,

though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea,

though its waters roar and foam,

though the mountains tremble at its swelling.”

(Psalm 46:1-3 – ESV)

Jesus said,

“Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow, because tomorrow will worry about itself.

Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matthew 6:34 CSB)

As we move into 2021 in just a few days, here are a few Scriptures and quotes to encourage and remind us that we serve a God of transcendent hope who can be trusted fully with all of our todays and tomorrows.

 “It’s hard to imagine what life would be

If you weren’t there to share my load.

I’d be so afraid to face another day

Cause I don’t know what’s down the road,

But you know the future and

You’ve met all my days.

You know each season and 

You know all my ways.

You own every hour and

There’s nothing hid from you

You own tomorrow,

So I won’t fear today.”

(Lyrics from: You Know the Future by The Archers)

“Trust the past to God’s mercy, the present to God’s love, and the future to God’s providence.” (St. Augustine)

“The life of faith is lived one day at a time (Matt. 6:34), and it has to be lived this way – not always looked forward as though the ‘real’ living were around the next corner. It is for today we are responsible. God still owns tomorrow.” (Elisabeth Elliot)

“I took you from the ends of the earth,

from its farthest corners I called you.

I said, ‘You are my servant’;

I have chosen you and have not rejected you.

So do not fear, for I am with you;

do not be dismayed, for I am your God.

I will strengthen you and help you;

I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”

(Isaiah 41:9-10 – NIV84)

“Worship is designed to remind you that in the center of all things is a glorious and gracious king, and this king is not you.”

(Paul Tripp)

“The steadfast of mind You will keep in perfect peace, 

because he trusts in You. ‘Trust in the Lord forever…’”

(Isaiah 26:3-4a – NASB)

Lastly, let me leave you with these wise words from Roy Lessin:

“The One who leads you makes no mistakes.

The One who guides you has the right directions.

The One who counsels you has the wisest answers.

The One who provides for you has the greatest resources.

The One who blesses you brings the greatest joys.”

************

“Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely;  and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

(1 Thessalonians 5:23 NASB)

 

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