Learning to Trust God’s Providence

I read this prayer from the Valley of Vision today and thought of some who are going through difficult times right now.  The prayer is entitled “Peril”.

Sovereign Commander of the Universe,
I am sadly harassed by doubts, fears, unbelief,
in a felt spiritual darkness.
My heart is full of evil surmisings and disquietude,
and I cannot act faith at all.
My heavenly Pilot has disappeard,
and I have lost my hold on the Rock of Ages;
I sink in deep mire beneath storms and waves,
in horror and distress unutterable.

Help me, O Lord,
to throw myself absolutely and wholly on thee,
for better, for worse, without comfort,
and all but hopeless.
Give me peace of soul, confidence, enlargement of mind,
morning joy that comes after night heaviness;
Water my soul with divine blessings;
Grant that I may welcome that humbling in private
so that I might enjoy thee in public;
Give me a mountain top as high as the valley is low.
Thy grace can melt the worst sinner, and I am as vile as he;
Yet thou hast made me a monument of mercy,
a trophy of redeeming power;
In my distress let me not forget this.

All-wise God,
Thy never-failing providence orders every event,
sweetens every fear,
reveals evil’s presence lurking in seeming good,
brings real good out of seeming evil,
makes unsatisfactory what I set my heart upon,
to show me what a short-sighted creature I am,
and to teach me to live by faith upon
thy blessed self.

Out of sorrow and night
give me the name Naphtali -
‘satisfied with favour’ -
help me to love thee as thy child,
and to walk worthy of my heavenly pedigree.

God has a good purpose in our trials, fellow Christian.  He will see us through whatever is ahead. Trust Him.

My thanks to Tim Challies for posting this at the link below.

http://www.challies.com/quotes/peril

Memorial Service for Dwight Hill

For those who may be interested, here is the link to the memorial service for Dwight Hill, held on Saturday, April 19, 2014 at Neighborhood Church in Chico, CA.

http://tinyurl.com/pwte4n3

Here is the program of the service:

Welcome- Alec Hill (Dwight’s brother)

Sharing thoughts about Dwight – Ruth Hill (wife), Julie Jones (daughter), Wes Hill (son)

Reading of Psalm 112- Sawyer Jones (grandson)

Solo by Rick Keene “I will praise Him still”

Sharing thoughts about Dwight- Skip Gray, Doug Hignell, Rob Pock, David Ong

Song: It is well with my soul

Final thoughts and closing: Alec Hill

 

 

The Dark Guest

Today’s Bible reading took me to another sad and sordid chapter in the history of God’s people in the Old Testament (I Kings 16-18).  King Elah, comfortable and secure after two years of ruling Israel, is working on getting himself good and drunk. Zimri, his traitorous servant, seeing his chance for power and glory, kills Elah in his stupor.  Zimri installs himself as king and in a bloody, seven-day reign executes every possible heir to the throne.  But the nation rises up against Zimri who seeing imminent defeat, torches his house and dies in the flames  (I Kings 16:8-28).

It’s not a pretty picture, but it is a realistic one. The Bible never paints Man as basically good, not even those who are enlightened by the Word of God and called to be His people.  We still struggle with what one of the Puritans called “the dark guest within whose hidden presence makes my life a hell.”  That same writer called on God to destroy that unwelcome and sinister boarder recognizing that though his sins are  crucified they are not yet mortified.  He confesses:

I am not yet weaned from all created glory, honour, wisdom, and esteem of others, for I have a secret motive to eye my name in all I do. *

Are we not a lot like Zimri, hating all that threatens our own security and glory?  Do we not take whatever steps are most promising to exalt ourselves or  that are least uncomfortable to avoid being diminished before the eyes of others?

Yet in Christ there is hope of progress in our war with sin.  In Him, we find forgiveness and mercy which is new every morning (Lamentations 3:21-24; Ephesians 1:7) .  In Him, we find security because His righteousness is credited to the account of His people (I Corinthians 1:30).  In Him, we find true glory because He has gone to prepare a place for us and has prayed that His own may be with Him in glory (John 14:1-3;17:20-26).

Though there is a dark guest within, we may have confidence to cry out with our anonymous brother:

There is no treasure so wonderful

as that continuous experience of thy grace

toward me which alone can subdue the risings of sin within:

Give me more of it.

My challenge:

Christian brother or sister, do not despair.  Your dark guest is going down. Glory is nearer than ever.

Doubting and skeptical friend, do not take solace in the struggles and failures of professing Christians.  They will ultimately be victorious through Christ.  Repent and believe in the only One God sent who can save doubters and skeptics who turn to Him.

(*The Valley of Vision:A collection of Puritan prayers and devotions,  ed. Arthur Bennett, Edinburgh, Carlisle, Banner of Truth Trust, 1975, p. 126-7)

 

He sent a man named Dwight Hill

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by John Carroll

I wasn’t looking for God when I entered VA Tech in the summer of 1963, only a few days after my High School graduation.   Not at all.  Rather, I was on a fast track to the “good life:” get a degree, land a job, and get married.  By fall of the next year, I had been in school without a break for six quarters (19 months).  I had decent grades, was a corporal in N Squadron in the VA Tech Corps of Cadets, and worked as a disc jockey at WUVT, the campus radio station.  I was about to join Alpha Kappa Psi, a professional business fraternity.

Sure, I was achieving my goals on schedule, but there was a problem. My successes were empty.  My life had no meaning beyond the next social event.  I was living from weekend to weekend and crossing off the days in between. Somehow I was haunted by the thought that my dreams for money, marriage, and lots of stuff would become nightmares when they all came true.

About that time, I met a man named Dwight Hill who had come to the campus with a Christian organization called The Navigators.   That didn’t impress me much.  I was more impressed with Dwight’s new Dodge and beautiful wife, Ruth.

One day, Dwight asked me to show him around the radio station.  After the tour, he invited me for a coke at the Squires Hall snack bar.  No, I had no idea I was being “set up” for a challenge to get serious about following Christ.  Dwight was intense, a no-nonsense ex-Marine from Seattle.  He would later admit that he doubted that spending that hour with me would make any difference in my life.  I struck him as an un-teachable person, committed to my own plans, and unwilling to obey God.  He was right on the second point, but not the first.  That day, Monday, November 9, 1964, would be the turning point in my spiritual life.

In the snack bar, Dwight grabbed a napkin and began to draw what I later learned was the “wheel” illustration, a rim (my life), a hub (Jesus Christ), and four spokes (Word, prayer, fellowship and witnessing).   He, paused after drawing the hub, looked me in the eye and stated flatly,

“John, you will never have happiness in your life until Christ is in the center of it.”

His words hit me like a sucker punch.

How did he know that I was finding no happiness in my life?  The night before, I had dragged back into the dorm after another disappointing weekend.

Maybe he saw that his words were sinking in.

He continued filling in the various parts of the “wheel.”   When he got to the “witnessing” spoke, he leveled with me again,

“I am here on this campus to reach men for Christ.  Listen, I think you need to be doing the same thing.”

Another punch to the gut.

How did he know that one of my biggest hang-ups was unwillingness to identify openly with Christ and risk ridicule and rejection?

I thanked him for the coke and we said goodbye. I staggered out of the snack bar and headed for my dorm room in Major Williams Hall on the upper quad.   It was a short walk, maybe five minutes.  But I walked slowly.  Dusk had fallen.  I was glad to have darkness around me shielding me a little from possible onlookers as I walked and thought.  Somehow, I felt I was being given one final chance to turn to God.  I felt like I was approaching the last off ramp before Hell.  Privately, I had given up on Christianity  out of frustration with my own sin and endless failures to improve myself, combined with my fear of being ridiculed by the cool people in my world.  But the emptiness and the guilt, accentuated by Dwight’s two comments, had caught up with me.  I was in crisis.

I prayed silently.  “God, I have made a mess of my life.  It seems as confused and tangled as a bowl of spaghetti.  I cannot be a Christian.  I have tried so many times.  I know I will fail again, but I am willing for you to change me if you will.”

Back in my dorm room, I sat down and wrote my girl friend telling her something of what had happened.

But I was caught between doubt and desperation.  Did God hear my prayer?  Would He respond to my crisis?  Would anything really change in my life?

Yes.  Something already had changed.  Only it took 24 hours for me to realize it.

On Tuesday afternoon, it dawned on me that suddenly I wasn’t using the vulgar language and profanity that had permeated my speech,  the kind of language used in a men’s dorm that was not fit for the ears of your mom or little sister.  My roommate, Jim, and I had attempted to eliminate it for the sake of our moms and little sisters but with absolutely no success. This time it was different.  The impossible had occurred.  Later I would understand that the Holy Spirit had regenerated me and I had been “born again.”

Over the next months , Dwight spent time with me, teaching me to study the Bible, pray, trust God for my future, and tell others the good news of life in Christ.  He and Ruth invited several of us to live in their home for a summer so we could concentrate on “knowing Christ and making Him known.”

Last week, Dwight went to meet the One who was the center of his life, the One whom he urged me to make the center of my life.  Dwight served Him, loved Him, and proclaimed Him.  Because he did, a formerly guilt-ridden, empty college student also serves and loves and proclaims Him fifty years later.  And so do innumerable others.

I wasn’t looking for God in college.  But I learned that He was looking for me and He sent a man named Dwight Hill.

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Dwight and Ruth Hill with me on February 20, 2014 (photo by Mary Carroll)

 

 

Complete in Thee

Recently, I was honored to be asked by my friend, Derick Dickens,  to contribute articles to his new blog site, “Complete in Thee”.  Today, my post “Stalked by Death” (originally posted here) was published.  Please take a look and consider following Derick’s excellent site.

On another note, my dear friend and mentor, Dwight Hill, mentioned in the “Stalked by Death” article, passed away last night.  This morning when I checked “Care Pages” for the latest on Dwight, I read this:

<<Ruth, Wes and Julie want to share that at 9:10 pm on April 10 (Dwight’s 78th Birthday) he passed from this world on to the next where he is in the presence of His beloved Father.

Last week he shared with us that he was so excited to go to heaven and when he got there he felt he would fall at the feet of Jesus and say “Lord, have mercy on me.” Dad truly understood the wonder and glory of his heavenly Father.  He will be greatly missed by his family, friends and all those he touched.>>

It had only been 8 days since the tumor was discovered. This is a sad day for many of us who will miss a great man of God. “Precious in the sight of the Lord, is the death of His saints.”  Psalm 116:15

Stalked by Death

In the past seven days, I have been bombarded with reminders of the ever-present shadow of death upon us.

Three friends died (one was brutally murdered).  A fourth, we suddenly learned, is dying of a brain tumor.  A close relative escaped with only minor injuries from an automobile collision which totaled her vehicle.

I attended two funerals this week.

Usually, this many sad things do not happen this close together.  When they do, I ponder the question: “why is there so much pain and suffering in this life?”

A thoughtful study of the Bible gives answers.

1. This is a fallen world.  While some seem to suffer more than others, no one escapes suffering completely.  Since sin and death entered creation, all suffer the consequences.  Ultimately, we are delivered from this fallen condition only by death, which, for the believer in Jesus Christ, means entrance into eternal life.  Paul writes:

22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. 23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.  Romans 8:22-23 (ESV)

2 We often contribute to our own suffering.  At least some of our suffering is caused by our own sin and stupidity.  We do bring some of it on ourselves.  Peter addresses that in I Peter 1:20a:

20 For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?

3.  Christians suffer for and with Christ for God’s glory.  Peter goes on:

1 Peter 2:20-25

But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God. 21 For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. 22 He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. 23 When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly. 24 He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

Frankly, most of my suffering comes under categories 1 & 2 above.  But whatever the cause of the suffering, it reminds us that we are not home yet. Let us press on in faith, following the one who suffered for us that we might, through Him, live to righteousness.  Soon our adoption will be complete.  Our bodies will be redeemed.  That hope keeps me going when death stalks me.

 

 

The Value of a Human Life- Johnny Farese

I am currently teaching a class at Grace Church called “Suffering and Contentment”.  Here is an example of suffering and contentment in the life of a man, born with disabilities and expected to die by age 8 who, by God’s grace, used his life for great good.  I am told that he passed away yesterday, at the age of 57.  If you think your life is meaningless or useless, or if you or someone you love is suffering greatly stop now and click on this link.  Keep the Kleenex handy.

http://farese.com/video1.htm

How great is His salvation!

My reading today took me to Leviticus and Matthew.  It’s dramatic to read the laws about Old Testament sacrifices along side the accounts of Jesus’ final days of ministry leading up to His great offering for sin, the once-for-all sacrifice.  How great is His salvation! How wise of God to portray the need for offerings for sin by means of the Old Testament system, but, then, to accept the offering of Jesus Christ, His Son, as sufficient for the cleansing and redemption of all His elect people.

Do you need a reminder of your desperate state apart from Him?  I do.  Today, I read these words from the Puritan prayers found in the Valley of Vision (p. 66):

“Thou Blessed Spirit, Author of all grace and comfort,

Come, work repentance in my soul;

Represent sin to me in its odious colours that I may hate it:

Melt my heart by the majesty and mercy of God…

Give me that faith which is the means of salvation,

and the principle and medium of all godliness;

May I be saved by grace through faith,

live by faith,

feel the joy of faith,

do the work of faith.

Perceiving nothing in myself, may I find in Christ

wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, redemption.

 

 

 

Getting a Divine Perspective on Human History

We are almost at the end of January.  My reading today was in Exodus 22-24 and Matthew 20:17-34.  If you are following the same schedule as I, then you know, in our Old Testament reading, we have passed the events surrounding the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, the momentous crossing of the Red Sea, and the dramatic encounter with God at Mt. Sinai.  In the 30 days of reading, hundreds of years have passed since God made His covenant with Abraham.  Thousands of years pass between the events of Exodus and Jesus’ life and ministry in Matthew.

What are we to make of this timeline?  One thing for sure: God’s schedule for unfolding His plan to redeem Man is not one which may be grasped by observing the events of a single life time.  The span of time between the birth of my grandparents and the death of my grandchildren may be more than 200 years.  Yet, apart from God’s revelation in the Bible, even that time span is far too short to detect the slowly unfolding purposes and works of the Eternal God.

Perhaps we need a bit more humility as we make assumptions based on what we see going on around us.  The Bible gives us a divine view of human history which should teach us that, just as the actors on the stage of history in the past could not understand all the ways God was working out His eternal decrees so, we, too, cannot understand even vaguely what He is doing apart from the wisdom He gives us in His Word.  One bit of that wisdom says,

“Be still, and know that I am God

I will be exalted among the nations,

I will be exalted in  the earth.”  (Psalm 46:10)

As the first month of 2014 draws to a close, let us be unshaken in our trust in Him, our obedience to Him, and let us keep our eyes fixed on the new creation to come.