The Life of Naomi and How Adversity Disguises God at Work

DEBORAH MCQUILKIN|GUEST My life as a Christian is not what I expected. In fact, at one point I said to God, “Is this worth it? Thirty years I have followed you as closely as possible, and this is how it turns out? Should I just leave you now? What is the point?” Shock and disappointment filled my heart and I wondered what my life meant. Then ever so gently Peter’s words in John 6:68 settled in my mind, “Where would I go? You have the words of life.” I knew God’s word is steadfast, timeless, and relevant, and the decision was made. In fact, that decision was made when I committed my life to Christ. I would not leave my Saviour, for God would never let go of me. However, I would need to work through my resentment toward God about my unmet expectations, for they created a barrier in my relationship with Him. Perhaps not unlike Naomi’s experience in the book of Ruth. On Expectations and the Life of Naomi When I reviewed the story of Naomi from Naomi’s perspective rather than Ruth’s in my study Naomi: Reason to Hope, it was a revelation in God’s truth for me. Don’t call me Naomi (pleasant), call me Mara (bitter) she says in Ruth 1. Her expectations were dashed, and she was bitter. She expected, as one of God’s covenant people, to experience personal peace and affluence. She wanted to be a wife and mother, with resources and an abundant life. Within ten years, all those expectations were crushed, she was left responsible for two daughters-in-law, and she felt she had no assets. “I went out full and I came back empty” she says. Had Naomi really come back empty? Had God abandoned her? Was God insufficient? Naomi’s perspective was not God’s perspective. Naomi looked at her immediate circumstances; God planned eternity and the salvation of all generations. Naomi was concerned with how she felt and what she wanted; God was concerned with the birth of the Saviour. Who would facilitate a godly line? Would Naomi cooperate with God in assuring the descendants of Salmon, Elimelech, and Boaz?  These men are ancestors to King David and in the lineage of the Lord Jesus! A study of Naomi in the book of Ruth demonstrated that life brings financial insecurity, loss, death, transitions, conflict, and drama. These are a part of life we don’t want to expect. We feel surprise or even shock when devastating events come. But there is hope: God is present, and He is good. May I repeat, God is good. In His love and sovereign control, God never fails to do good to and for us...

The Life of Naomi and How Adversity Disguises God at Work2022-05-04T23:30:43+00:00

Delivered from the Tyranny of Emotions

I talk to myself a lot, or rather, preach to myself as the ever-helpful Martin Lloyd-Jones reminds us to do. Recently the preacher in my head has been clearly and loudly reminding me: You don’t have to bow to your feelings. I tend towards being a sponge – soaking in and filling up with the emotions of others and owning them – even though they are not mine to own. I’ve begun to see that as I fill up on anxieties or frustration, all I can do as a sponge is wring it back out all over whomever squeezes me at the wrong moment. Thankfully, God is not like this with us – taking on our emotions, being changed by them, and dripping all over us in kind. Yes, He weeps with those who weep and clearly and vividly displays emotion! Yet, He is not controlled by emotions. His response to the sin and brokenness of this world is always perfect, right, and true. My emotions have a place, and rightly so, as God made us to be feeling creatures, but my emotions shouldn’t have the final say about what is true in a situation. God, in his severe mercy, has given me a number of opportunities to practice this lately. As the waves keep crashing, I keep grabbing the opportunities, though sometimes not very well, to sink into the truth. 1 Peter 5:7 reminds us to cast all our anxieties on Jesus because he cares for us. I imagine wringing out my emotion onto Jesus, knowing He can handle it, and then asking Him to fill me with the truth, bowing in submission to that truth, not bowing to my ever-changing emotion.

Delivered from the Tyranny of Emotions2022-05-04T22:59:58+00:00

How the Bible’s Story Intersects with Our Story

If you know me at all, you know I love talking about the big story of the Bible—the one that starts in the garden and doesn’t end until we see God on his throne in the new heavens and new earth. This big, overarching story—also called the metanarrative—is beautiful, vast, and shows us a God who spans eternity and holds all things in his hands. But does it do more than simply astound us? Are there reasons to understand it other than merely marveling at it? In other words, does understanding the metanarrative of Scripture make any difference in my day-to-day life? The short answer is, it should. Understanding the biblical story helps us read our Bibles well, remember God’s love, and reminds us there’s more going on. Read Our Bibles Well The Bible is God’s self-revelation. We don’t “discover” God; we can’t. He’s completely other-than us. He’s the Creator and we’re the created. Any knowledge we have of him is because he has chosen to reveal himself to us—because he wants us to know him! The way he chose to reveal himself is through a story. In this story, he sometimes tells us who he is (i.e. Ex. 34:6-7), but mostly he shows us who he is. If we’re reading our Bibles well, we’re supposed to know more about God by observing what he does. He creates, protects, rescues, promises, speaks, provides, and engages in real relationship with his people. We are meant to take those actions and ascribe them to God. He is a creator, a protector, a rescuer, a promise maker (and we’ll see promise-keeper, too!), a provider, etc. He doesn’t come right out and tell us most of this, we learn it as we see God act....

How the Bible’s Story Intersects with Our Story2022-05-05T00:13:25+00:00

A Certain God for Uncertain Times

Uncertainty. Just that word can make our stomachs churn, our hearts pound faster, and our minds race. Everyone is dealing with uncertainty right now due to the upheaval of the Coronavirus—whether it be your travel, work, schedule, group meetings, church, school, childcare, etc. It all boils down to our PLANS becoming uncertain. Less fixed. Less known. We are used to booking our schedules weeks or months in advance, always having what we need (or want) in the stores, and rarely inconvenienced in a way that technology or a little willpower won't "fix." The Illusion of Control But it's all an illusion. Your well laid plans, your schedule, your "tap of the iPhone and ___ happens" gives you and me a sense of control. But it’s not actual control. Times like this really drive that home. I don't know about you, but I really like to be in control or to have systems in place that make me feel like I am in control. My planner, schedule, timelines, phone, etc., while all God-given tools that can and should be used to serve Him and others, are often more about my own little kingdom than about His. This really points to the pride of my heart that the Lord graciously peels back in times like this. Scripture speaks to this concept over and over: "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 4:13-17). "The heart of a man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps" (Proverbs 16:9)...

A Certain God for Uncertain Times2022-05-05T00:55:36+00:00

Thanksgiving in all things

On the night before Thanksgiving 2010, I laid next to my sleeping husband and wondered if he’d wake to find that I’d died during the night. My fear may have been exaggerated, but it wasn’t completely unreasonable. My fever was over 102, and the number of white blood cells available to fight infection in my body was dangerously close to the number of hairs on my head: zero. One month earlier, I’d been diagnosed with angiosarcoma. This rare, aggressive cancer threatened my hopes to celebrate my 35th birthday, see my three small children grow up, and reach milestone anniversaries with my husband. I was fighting for more Thanksgivings and determined to enjoy this one to the fullest. But it was hard to be thankful. From the world’s perspective, I didn’t have much to be thankful for. I was stricken with a terrible cancer and facing months of difficult treatment. I was bald, sick, fatigued, and scared. And yet, the truth of God’s Word challenged my thinking: “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (I Thessalonians 5:16-18).

Thanksgiving in all things2022-05-07T22:55:58+00:00

God’s Omniscient Wisdom in Our Wilderness Wanderings

Recently a friend, who became acquainted with some of my life’s story, asked— rather bluntly— “Lori, do you sometimes wonder if God is really good and if He really loves you since He’s allowed so much hard stuff to happen?” It was a bold question— one that momentarily stopped me in my tracks.  But it was an honest question— one that’s bounced about in my brain a time or two because my life has indeed seemed to make a habit out of things that are hard. I was conceived in adultery, nearly aborted, and later adopted— but into a home filled with the strife, struggle, and strain of mental illness. I spent a season as an angry atheist before coming to Christ; endured nearly a decade of being abandoned by my adoptive parents; and have a lived my entire life as a person with autism. I’ve grieved at the graveside of my mom, my dad, my father-in-law, and my precious sister-in-law; and right now, my husband is battling cancer while laboring to plant a new church on the Mississippi coast. So, my friend’s bold question about the character and compassion of God comes out of that context. My life’s been hard — some of your lives have been harder! The truth is, there are times when we struggle with the course God has carved for us and with the intentions and affections He has for us in light of that...

God’s Omniscient Wisdom in Our Wilderness Wanderings2022-05-07T23:24:13+00:00
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