Martyred for the Gospel

Martyred for the Gospel
The burning of Tharchbishop of Cant. D. Tho. Cranmer in the town dich at Oxford, with his hand first thrust into the fyre, wherwith he subscribed before. [Click on the picture to see Cranmer's last words.]

Collect of the Day

The Second Sunday in Lent.

The Collect

ALMIGHTY God, who seest that we have no power of ourselves to help ourselves; Keep us both outwardly in our bodies, and inwardly in our souls; that we may be defended from all adversities which may happen to the body, and from all evil thoughts which may assault and hurt the soul; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

The Collect from the First Day of Lent is to be read every day in Lent after the Collect appointed for the Day.

Daily Bible Verse

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Trusting God When There Is No Worldly Security

Trusting God When There Is No Worldly Security

As Americans we often take for granted that our need for food, clothing, and housing will be met. We take for granted our jobs and our ability to work and provide for our families. But what do we do when we run out of all resources and it becomes apparent that everything upon which we depend comes from God? What do we do when we are faced with a foreclosure on a mortgage, the loss of a job, or the threat of imminent homelessness?  (Luke 12:27-28).

Those are good questions. Given the current political climate the extremists on both sides seem to prevail. There are the socialistic politicians who want to tax and spend and turn our nation into a welfare state. And on the other side are the pure capitalists who say tough luck if your circumstances turn against you. Some things are beyond our control. A house fire destroys our home or the economy collapses and we find ourselves out of work. Perhaps a health problem comes from out of nowhere and suddenly we are at the end of our resources. Our health insurance is cancelled because we cannot afford the cobra payments anymore. Or perhaps after losing a job we cannot afford our student loan payments?

The moral law of God is summarized in the two tables of the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17). The first four commandments are directed toward God and the other six are directed toward our neighbor. That fact alone ought to show us that we do have a responsibility not just toward the household of faith (Galatians 6:10; 1 Timothy 5:8; Proverbs 3:27) but also to our fellow human beings, including our enemies (Matthew 5:44-47; Luke 6:35). If we say we love God but show no mercy to our brothers and sisters in the church, James says that our faith is dead:

Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts? 7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called? 8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well; 9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. (James 2:5-10 NKJ)

What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, 16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? 17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. (James 2:14-17 NKJ)
I am not saying here that good works are the basis for our salvation or that obedience saves us. On the other hand, if we have been saved by grace our entire view of the world changes. Now out of gratitude to God for saving us by His mercy we want to please Him and we want to bless others. (Ephesians 2:8-10; 2 Samuel 22:50; Romans 15:9). Instead of having a judgmental attitude toward other sinners, especially those who have yet to be regenerated by God's grace and converted, we now have an attitude that except for the grace of God we too could have been left in our spiritual blindness and our slavery to the sinful nature (Ephesians 2:1-5).

I say all this because I have in the past taken for granted God's goodness toward me. I have often complained and I have been ungrateful and unthankful to God for His many blessings. Now I find myself unemployed once again. I cannot say that it is none of my own fault since I am a sinner and often fail (Romans 3:23). When we are down and out our friends and family will judge us and wonder what sin brought this discipline of the Lord upon us:

And the LORD said to Satan, "Behold, he is in your hand, but spare his life." 7 So Satan went out from the presence of the LORD, and struck Job with painful boils from the sole of his foot to the crown of his head. 8 And he took for himself a potsherd with which to scrape himself while he sat in the midst of the ashes. 9 Then his wife said to him, "Do you still hold fast to your integrity? Curse God and die!" 10 But he said to her, "You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God, and shall we not accept adversity?" In all this Job did not sin with his lips. 11 Now when Job's three friends heard of all this adversity that had come upon him, each one came from his own place-- Eliphaz the Temanite, Bildad the Shuhite, and Zophar the Naamathite. For they had made an appointment together to come and mourn with him, and to comfort him. (Job 2:6-11 NKJ)

Then Eliphaz the Temanite answered and said: (Job 4:1 NKJ)

Even as I have seen, Those who plow iniquity And sow trouble reap the same. (Job 4:8 NKJ)

I have had two jobs in the last year and was fired from one after eight months and from the other after only three weeks. The odds of drawing unemployment again are low. Although I have my health and I have a college degree and a master of divinity, I find myself unable to find work. I am not wanted in most denominations because I am divorced and because I preach only the doctrines of grace and that salvation is an absolutely free gift of God apart from our obedience. Obedience is what we do out of gratitude, not obligation. The third use of the moral law is not meant to save ourselves since only the cross can save us. Rather our imperfect obedience testifies to others that we are Christians with a living faith. The assurance and foundation of our faith, however, is in Christ and Christ's obedience alone (Romans 10:4-6; Romans 1:16-17; Romans 3:24-28).

The first temptation when things go south is to fear that God will forsake us and leave us destitute or homeless. While this is certainly a genuine and real possibility, my experience in the past is that God has always provided for me inspite of my lack of faith and my fear. What do we do when all our resources are used up and we have only God to depend upon? The Apostle Paul said,

Of such a one I will boast; yet of myself I will not boast, except in my infirmities. 6 For though I might desire to boast, I will not be a fool; for I will speak the truth. But I refrain, lest anyone should think of me above what he sees me to be or hears from me. 7 And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. 8 Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. 9 And He said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness." Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. 10 Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ's sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Corinthians 12:5-10 NKJ)

I am at that point where I can only trust that God will not leave me nor forsake me (Deuteronomy 31:6; Psalm 27:9; Hebrews 13:5). I can only ask for your prayers. Would you pray with me that God will provide a way for me where there seems to be no way? My heart's desire is to serve God for the rest of my life and that I would be enabled to minister God's grace to others through the preaching and teaching of His Word. If that means planting a church or receiving a call to a church of some kind, I pray that God's will be done. Nothing happens by chance since it is God's secret will that brings everything to pass (Deuteronomy 29:29; Isaiah 46:10; Ephesians 1:11). I can only pray along with the 1662 Book of Common Prayer and the collect for Morning Prayer:

The second Collect, for Peace.
O GOD, who art the author of peace and lover of concord, in knowledge of whom standeth our eternal life, whose service is perfect freedom; Defend us thy humble servants in all assaults of our enemies; that we, surely trusting in thy defence, may not fear the power of any adversaries, through the might of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The third Collect, for Grace.
O LORD, our heavenly Father, Almighty and everlasting God, who hast safely brought us to the beginning of this day; Defend us in the same with thy mighty power; and grant that this day we fall into no sin, neither run into any kind of danger; but that all our doings may be ordered by thy governance, to do always that is righteous in thy sight; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.(See also:  Heidelberg Catechism:  Lord's Day One).
If you are in a similar situation, I pray that God will provide for your needs as well.  Ultimately, however, God will meet all of our needs in eternity.  

Question 1. What is thy only comfort in life and death?

Answer: That I with 1body and soul, both in life and death, 2am not my own, but belong 3unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious 4blood, hath fully 5satisfied for all my sins, and delivered 6me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me 7that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair 8can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be 9subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me 10of eternal life, and makes 11me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

Question 2. How many things are necessary for thee to know, that thou, enjoying this comfort, mayest live and die happily?

Answer: Three; 12the first, how great 13my sins and miseries are; the second, how I may be delivered 14from all my sins and miseries; the third, how I shall express my gratitude 15to God for such deliverance.

1 1 Cor. 6:19-20

2 Rom. 14:7-9

3 1 Cor. 3:23

4 1 Pet. 1:18-19

5 John 1:7

6 1 John 3:8; Heb. 2:14-15

7 John 6:39; John 10:28-29

8 Luke 21:18; Matt. 10:30

9 Rom. 8:28

10 2 Cor. 1:22; 2 Cor. 5:5

11 Rom. 8:14; Rom. 7:22

12 Luke 24:47

13 1 Cor. 6:10-11; John 9:41; Rom. 3:10, 19

14 John 17:3

15 Eph. 5:8-10;


aztexan said...

Boy!, have I ever been there. Many a time, and several in just the past few years. Know that you have my prayers and moral support.

Charlie J. Ray said...

Thanks, Tex! It's God's grace that matters most of all, not our abilities. He keeps His promises!

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