Tag Archives: John Piper

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Being Conquered, We Conquer

I was reading Psalm 44 this week, and at verse 22 I noticed the familiar words from Romans 8:36, “Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

In Romans 8, I knew the context was that nothing can separate us from the love of God, and that through Christ we are “more than conquerors through Him who loved us.” It is a section that stands out as victorious and triumphant. It is the kind of text that evokes praise and brings comfort.

So it really stood out to me, to find these words here in Psalm 44. You should read the Psalm, but to give you the basic content I will break it down in sections. I’m not quoting the text here, just doing summaries.

Verse 1-3 “We have seen your faithfulness of old, and how our people conquered through You.”

Verse 4-8 “We also trust God alone to give us victory over our enemies.”

Verse 9-16 “We are slaughtered, disgraced, and ashamed before our enemies.”

Verse 17-22 “We have not turned away from God or forgotten Him, yet we are still killed.”

Verse 23-25 “God please wake up and help us.”

So the context of Psalm 44 is basically being conquered, while innocent, and in addition to that, not understanding why it is happening, or where God has gone off to.

The context of Romans 8 and Psalm 44 are not as different as I thought at first. Paul asks “Shall tribulation, distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword,” be able to separate us from the love of God? That question and context sounds very familiar to Psalm 44, so no wonder it came to Paul quoted it here.

As I read these texts, a phrase came to my mind: “Being conquered, we conquer.” I started to think about how this could be possible. I asked, “So even if I’m killed for my faith, or debt sinks, cancer spreads, natural disaster strikes, or armies attack- the bible says I conquer? We conquer, even when it looks like something, or someone else overtook us and won? How does that work? Continue reading

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God Moves In a Mysterious Way: A Hymn for the Depressed and Confused

I have probably never referenced a hymn more often on this blog, than this one. It is without a doubt my most loved hymn, and so I thought it deserved its own post. Here’s a brief article by Tim Challies about the author William Cowper, and you will find a link to a lengthier audio biography by John Piper here as well if you are interested.

Call it odd, but I love William Cowper as a brother, although he died centuries ago. I can’t wait to meet him in heaven and thank him for how his  hymns have impacted my life.

All I wanted to do here is go through the hymn line by line and share some thoughts to encourage people who are struggling to make sense of God’s plan for their lives. Perhaps tragedy has struck and you are left reeling, or maybe you struggle with depression and have no idea why it does not leave you. Or maybe you look around at this sin cursed earth and wonder how God’s hand is ruling over this at all. This is a song to sing from the pit, a song that moves us from doubt to faith. Maybe God would use it for you as He has so many times for me.

I waited patiently for the LORD;
He inclined to me and heard my cry.
He drew me up from the pit of destruction,
out of the miry bog,
and set my feet upon a rock,
making my steps secure.

He put a new song in my mouth,
a song of praise to our God.
Many will see and fear,
and put their trust in the LORD.
-Psalm 40:1-3

God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants His footsteps in the sea
And rides upon the storm.

Sometimes God moves in a way that we cannot understand, in a way that doesn’t seem to make any sense. But out there in the turbulent seas, where you are not able to go, but can only imagine their fury, God has planted His footsteps firmly in the midst of the waves. He is in full control. He rides upon the storm like One controlling its’ every move and direction; Because He does.

Deep in unfathomable mines
Of never failing skill
He treasures up His bright designs
And works His sovereign will.

We stand as frail humans, confined by time. We have no idea what is ahead for us, or for our loved ones. Although we make our plans and imagine our futures, all can change for better or worse in an instant can’t it?

There is a secret, hidden mine of God’s wisdom and knowledge that we cannot comprehend in this life. The Lord alone knows the beginning from the end. What I love in the above lines is the acknowledgement that God is working all things out with “never failing skill,” foresight, and power. He is stacking the events of history and of your life, one on top of another, and He is building for Himself and for us a perfect and “bright design,” even when we stand blind to it.

Ye fearful saints, fresh courage take;
The clouds ye so much dread
Are big with mercy and shall break
In blessings on your head.

Psalm 31:24 “Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord!”

It is imperative to my faith, to hope in the Lord. We have eternal hope, hope of Heaven and being with the Lord, but we need hope in our circumstances too. It makes a difference during dark and oppressive trials to look for the light. This reminds us not to lose heart and believe that God has nothing good for us, even today. Anticipate that the God who loves you has blessings in store, even when life hurts, and let your eyes search for them. Sometimes your eyes grow weary of searching, but these lines remind us not to quit.

Psalm 27:13 is another verse I quote often: “I believe that I shall look upon the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living!”

God is good when life is bad. And He will, with certainty, break the skies with blessings on your head in time, even if that happens in dying. Christians who hope in God will never be put to shame (Psalm 25:3), God will see to that.

Judge not the Lord by feeble sense,
But trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence
He hides a smiling face.

If you have never been here, you might be some day, and if you are, you need a song like this to sing. When everything in your body, mind, and circumstances screams out at you that God is angry with you, punishing you, and that He has turned His face away from you, then you lose sight of Him. You think of God and you see a frown.

Psalm 88:6-7 says “You have put me in the depths of the pit, in the regions dark and deep. Your wrath lies heavy upon me, and you overwhelm me with all your waves.” Many believers have had times of feeling this way.

It is a horrible place to be friend. You need to sing this to yourself. Judge not the Lord by feeble sense, but trust Him for His grace;
Behind a frowning providence He hides a smiling face.

His purposes will ripen fast,
Unfolding every hour;
The bud may have a bitter taste,
But sweet will be the flower.

I’ve sung this in time’s past, and thought “not fast enough Lord,” but sang it anyway. There is great faith at work here. Life might taste awful now, but one day it’s going to blossom into something beautiful. There’s an eternal weight of glory being stored up in Heaven while I’m down here being weighed down by trials- and it is going to be far weightier in glory than this was in pain (2 Corinthians 4:17). You can’t even imagine the work God is accomplishing through your pain, in this life and the next. That beauty will supersede your grief in such a magnificent way, you can know that one day you’ll say: “It was worth it.”

Blind unbelief is sure to err
And scan His work in vain;
God is His own interpreter,
And He will make it plain.

These are some hard, but kind lines, and they have put me in my place at times. Some trials in this life seem worse than worthless don’t they? They don’t seem to accomplish anything at all other than heartache. Maybe you have gone through something that has made you feel robbed of a very good and pure thing. That’s hard. You say that there is no way God could ever use this for good, because it is bad, very bad.

It’s ok to acknowledge that some seasons and events in life are bad, and sometimes the trials we are in make absolutely no sense to us. We live in a fallen world, full of sins that hurt us, poverty, disease, and death, and God never told us that we had to call those things good. We weren’t meant to be fallen creatures in a fallen world, and the result can be depression and confusion- yes even for Christians. The pain we are going through isn’t good on its own. It wasn’t part of God’s original design, and only through Him can it be redeemed and turned it into something beautiful in time.

You can run freely to God when life hurts and your mind is troubled. He already knows.  This hymn helps me to remember that, and to remember that God is good; He is in control even when life makes no sense, and one day, whether in this life or the next, He is going to make His purposes plain to us. “Blind unbelief is sure to err and scan His work in vain; God is His own interpreter and He will make it plain.”

I’m glad the bible doesn’t shy away from these themes, and I’m glad old hymn writers didn’t either. We need more songs today that doubting and downcast Christians can sing. Here’s a version of God Moves In a Mysterious Way that I enjoy, and I hope this has been encouraging for someone.

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Job’s Dark Response

It’s been awhile since I wrote one of my lengthier poems, Job: A Champion of Faith by Grace. I read it again recently and found myself turning back to this great book of the bible. Once again, I was amazed by Job’s response in chapter three. It is so dark, so utterly sorrowful and desperate. Why am I amazed? I don’t think it is because his response is strange. It isn’t strange. In fact, it is kind of what you might expect from a man whose property, herds, servants, and children were just lost and destroyed to two sets of violent raiders, fire from heaven, and wind strong enough to collapse a house.

And then, as if his pain wasn’t great enough, he was smote with “sore boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head (Job 2:7).”

I mean, this scenario is insane. I would write more about it, but since I already have in the poem and here I will let that suffice. I just wanted to zero in on chapter three.

After seven days and seven nights of silence, and pain which made him unrecognizable to his friends, he finally opens his mouth and starts by cursing the day of his birth. He wishes he had died as a stillborn child, or been miscarried and discarded. The imagery here is graphic and disturbing. He believes that to have died and been at rest would have been better for him than to have lived and suffered this excessive loss.

Then he asks “Why?” as most people who find themselves in suffering do. “Why is light given to him who suffers (Job 3:20)?”

But it was the last three verses of the chapter that stood out to me the most recently.

Job 3:24-26 “For my groaning comes at the sight of my food, and my cries pour out like water. For what I fear comes upon me, and what I dread befalls me. I am not at ease, nor am I quiet, and I am not at rest, but turmoil comes.”

Try that out as a Facebook status.

I’m being cheeky of course, but how comfortable are you with those verses? How would you respond if a friend said this to you? Picture a person too grieved to eat their food, too distraught to sleep, who cannot be quiet, but cries out loud about their woe? Someone who says “there is no rest in me. I have no peace. I am undone.” Continue reading

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New Blog Announcement!

Hello readers! I’ve been blogging here at Come to Christ, since 2009. The Lord has been so good to me, and has done so much work in my heart these past five years through this avenue. I am starting up a new blog that I want to let you know about, at www.PoetryRenascent.com. I want you to know that I intend to keep Come to Christ running, but I want to make this new blog a higher priority, which means I will be posting on here less often.

A few reasons why I’ve started a new blog:

I’ve been writing poetry since I was around twelve years old, and it has played a crucial role in my life. Even as an unbeliever, poetry seemed to force me to be honest with myself about the condition of my soul, and in truth, that process had much to do with my coming to Jesus Christ. When I was saved around the age of eighteen I committed that my writing was to be first, and foremost, for the glory of God.

There are many reasons I’ve started up a poetry blog. I’ve faced many physical difficulties in my twenties, one of them being with my wrists. Pumping out lengthier articles (and attempted novels) doesn’t fare too well with my body most days. A few weeks back I confessed to the Lord I felt like I was constantly being driven into a corner; so I prayed that if I be in a corner, may He blow the roof off of it and let me see more glory and more beauty than I would ever be able to see in open fields.

I don’t know if that makes sense to you, but trust that it makes perfect sense to me.

Also, may it be said, that poetry is the form of writing that brings me the greatest sense of delight and satisfaction. I have long lamented that I was born in the wrong century and that “no one seems to care about poetry anymore.” Well, I feel challenged that perhaps that is not true.

Lastly, I recently read “Seeing Beauty and Saying Beautifully,” by one of my favorite writers and preachers, John Piper. I suggest you read it too as it mightily encouraged me in poetic pursuit.

What I hope (key word being hope) to accomplish with this blog:

1. I want to hone my own writing skills and bless first the Lord, then people with my poetry.

2. I want to read more stuff by poets and hymn writers of old. Then I want to share the best of it with you.

3. Of course I’m also happy to share poems or review poetry books by people far more accomplished then myself who have already published! Feel free to let me know what’s out there!

4. I want to share my love of hymns with you and try to feature modern artists who promote that same aim.

5. I want others to join me! I am hoping to receive and share some excellent, little-known or unknown poetry from other writers. Beyond that how awesome would it be if we could collaborate? I like to dream about musicians, and videographers, and photographers, and actors, and poets all collaborating together- but perhaps I dream too much?

Well, it doesn’t hurt to dream does it? In the meantime I’ll try to stay faithful to my meager efforts, as the Lord allows me to. I hope you will take time to visit my new website and perhaps share, subscribe, or follow on Facebook!

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Blessings,
Charlene Nelson

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Before the Throne of God Above: A Hymn For the Sin-Grieved Soul

Sometimes Christians lose sight of the gospel. I’ve been there. You give yourself over to ruthless self examination and slip into works righteousness thinking that loses sight of hope. You’ve seen that your heart is fickle. One second you worship God and the next you curse men who are made in God’s image (James 3:9). You read Proverbs about fools, and nagging wives, those who are quick to anger, stinginess, pride, and laziness, and you see more of yourself painted than you would like to see. Perhaps you read Matthew 5 and 6 and you’re struck by your own harsh words, love of money, lustful thoughts, or nagging anxieties.

If you lose sight of the cross, then you lose sight of God’s love for you. You think only of His holiness and wrath and start believing He does not want to hear from you. Do you need to grovel? Do you need to be punished? Do you need to just “get right” before you can approach God again? How can He be appeased?

Examining yourself, sorrow over sin, focus on holiness, and a desire to change are all very good things. But to think about these things without remembrance of the gospel, God’s power and promises towards you, your thoughts will not only become burdensome, they will become faithless. The soul in that place, dear friends, whether saved or not, is in desperate need of the gospel of grace. Continue reading

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“A Meaningful Life”

There is an innate desire in human beings for our lives to be meaningful, a God given desire that has all too often gone astray from Him.

One of my best memories from childhood is laying on the grass in our backyard and staring at a baseball. I would hold it above my face, rolling it in my fingertips, and feeling the stitches. Baseball was to me a marvelous sport, one that I loved everything about. I loved the dust that would fly and hover in the air when I slid to home base, I loved the crack of the bat followed by instantaneous sprinting, I loved the comfort and smell of my well broken-in Wilson leather glove, and the ball rolling off my fingertips and striking people out. I just loved it.
And I loved to be good at it. I loved for my talent to be recognized and to be “the” pitcher and feel as if winning a tournament was an honor to be solely bestowed on my shoulders.

The child like delight of playing faded over the years and in grade 11 I found myself on a rep team that had already primed the “it” pitcher. It wasn’t me. I didn’t look forward to the game anymore; I was stuck in the outfield. That was my last year of baseball, one in which I felt unrecognized, unappreciated, and unimportant. My team won tournaments, and had success, but I couldn’t enjoy it. I skipped the end of the year celebration, because well- it wasn’t about me. When it was all said and done my coach phoned and asked why I hadn’t been there. I can’t remember what I said, but I’m sure I had a lame excuse. He told me that the girls had voted for the Most Valuable Player on the team, and they had chosen me. I wasn’t there to accept that award. I was shocked that they had chosen me, proud, but also ashamed. Ashamed because I’d been too proud to imagine I had any value unless I was the star pitcher. I’d let a good year pass by miserably and I had missed the celebration.

As a kid you do the things you do because you love to do it. When you grow up, reality strikes and in a big way life becomes about making money. It’s a natural progression I suppose. In Christian communities, for women, it’s not so much about the money, but about the home making and children raising. Whatever you find yourself doing you wonder, is it enough? Enough for me? Enough for God? Enough in the eyes of others? Important enough? Impressive enough? Worthy? Valuable? Memorable? Continue reading

Praise that Kills the Gospel

I’ve noticed a trend in some of today’s popular Christian music that disturbs me. There’s a song that’s been playing on our local “praise” station, where the artist sings his prayer to God: “Yeah, I want to believe, Jesus help me believe, that I am someone worth dying for.” In the end the artist turns to the listener and exhorts them “You gotta believe, ya you gotta believe, that you are someone worth dying for.” Continue reading

Let Love Be Genuine

Romans 12:9 “Let love be genuine.”

Sincerely Loving Others, Even our Enemies

It would be much easier to walk through this world not caring. There is a certain appeal to being a detached, impenetrable person, avoiding hurt and never feeling the pains of others. Loving others can hurt. Many times I have found myself saying “I wish I didn’t care so much.” Continue reading

Might We Be True Worshipers of God

 

John 4:23-24 “But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him.  God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.”

John Piper: “True worship comes from people who are deeply emotional and who love deep and sound doctrine.”  (see whole quote at end)

My Response-

 

My heart;

Arise!

For Jesus calls,

And yearns for me with jealous love

Grow not weary nor wax dull

All creation tells of his glory above. Continue reading