"How, then, did God take an impossible situation, flip it around, and use it for His honor? The story of parted waters shows us that God gains glory when His enemies are defeated, when His children are delivered, when His name is exalted, when His exploits are remembered and when His praises are sounded." —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
“If we could only look upon a difficult crisis as an occasion of bringing out, on our behalf, the sufficiency of divine grace, it would enable us to preserve the balance of our souls and to glorify God, even in the deepest waters.” —C. H. Mackintosh
Glorifying God, even in the deepest waters.
Today, we continue our Summer Book Club-Style Bible Study we began last week based on the book The Red Sea Rules by Robert Morgan. We are so glad you've joined us! We will meet here each Tuesday morning at 9:00, through August 6. If you can’t join us on Tuesday mornings, no worries. Anytime during the week, when it’s convenient for you, read that week’s chapter in the book and the corresponding blog post. Then join the conversation down in the comments section.
Still need to get the book? Click here to order or download your copy (less than $10 for the hardcover and less than $2 for the Kindle version).
"The next time you’re overwhelmed, instead of asking, 'How can I get out of this mess?” try asking, “How can God be glorified in this situation?'" —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
Red Sea Rule #2: Be more concerned for God's glory than for your relief.
“Both we and our fathers have sinned; we have committed iniquity; we have done wickedness. Our fathers, when they were in Egypt, did not consider Your wondrous works; they did not remember the abundance of Your steadfast love, but rebelled by the sea, at the Red Sea.
In other words, they think God wants people to be nice, but most of all He wants them to feel good about themselves. And you can rest assured that God does not want to bother you. He will leave you alone and let you do what you want. But if you really need Him, then He’s glad to step in and help out.
That's a brutally honest, and pretty sad, description of the way a lot of people, even some of those who call themselves Christians, picture God today.
Red Sea Rule #2 strikes right at the heart of that entire mentality! Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief!
What does the Bible say?
Let’s just take a few minutes and think about that rule. Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief. That instruction is not an invention of Robert Morgan, the author of The Red Sea Rules. It’s a principle that we find all through God’s Word. Look at what Jesus says as He contemplates His own death on the cross.
“Now is My soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify Your name.' Then a voice came from heaven: 'I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.'" John 12:27-28
That’s an incredible statement. Jesus knows that He is going to be crucified. His hands and feet are going to be pierced by nails, and He is going to be left hanging from a wooden cross until His death. He knows all this, and what does He say? “Father, glorify Your name!”
"God doesn’t waste suffering. If He leads us into impossible spots, He will deliver us in His own time, in His own way, and for His name’s sake. Our job amid the difficulty is to learn our Lord’s simple but submissive prayer: What shall I say? Save me from this hour? No, Father, glorify Your name." —Robert Morgan, The Red Sea Rules
Think about how Jesus teaches us to pray in the Lord’s Prayer. What is the first request that we are to make of God? “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name” (Matthew 6:9). Most of us have recited those words so often that we don’t give them much thought. But let's think about them today. What is Jesus teaching us to say in that prayer? “God, may You be glorified and honored as You alone deserve. That’s the thing that I am asking of You first. That’s what I want most of all. Hallowed be Thy name.”
Let's look at an Old Testament passage that teaches the same concept. God speaks through His prophet Ezekiel in stark and startling terms. God is making a promise that He is going to rescue His people from Babylon, and He explains why He is going to rescue them. The reason He gives is not what we would expect.
"Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of My holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of My great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate My holiness before their eyes.... It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel." Ezekiel 36:22-23, 32
What is God’s top priority? It is not the good of His people. It is His own honor and glory.
Is God selfish in wanting to be glorified and honored and praised?
The reason we struggle with this question is that we make what is called a category mistake. We put God in the same category that we find ourselves in, and then we apply our human standards to God.
Let's look at an example: One of the keys to mental health is a good night’s sleep. Every person needs a good night’s sleep. Would you agree with that statement? I would hope so. Therefore, it logically follows that God needs a good night’s sleep too, right? But none of us would say that because we know that God is not like us when it comes to sleep and rest. God is not in the same category. That applies to God’s honor and glory as well.
Think about it this way. Who is the most important person in the universe? If you are a believer in Jesus Christ, you will say that God is the most important person in the universe. Do you think that God knows that He is the most important person in the universe? If we know it, then certainly He knows it. Suppose that He decides that He is not going to act as if He is the most important person in the universe. What would that mean? That would mean that God is going to act in a way that He knows is not true. Therefore, God would be acting in a false and deceptive manner. But wait a minute! God does not act that way. He operates according to what He knows is true. Therefore, it follows that to be true and righteous God cannot deny His own worth.
"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever... To Him who alone does great wonders, For His mercy endures forever... To Him who divided the Red Sea in two, For His mercy endures forever... But overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His mercy endures forever." Psalm 136
Here’s what it all comes down to. For you and me to act as if we are the center of the universe is wrong because the world does not revolve us. But for God to act as if He is the ultimate value in the universe is good, because He is truly the ultimate value in the universe.
I know that is heavy theology, but it is worth considering. Let’s think about how that applies to our lives. Would you agree that life is better when you live according to the truth? Living a lie is counterproductive. It will backfire on you.
We’ve seen examples of that in the news. Do you recall the story about the man who called himself Clark Rockefeller? For years he passed himself off as a member of the Rockefeller clan. He even fooled his wife into thinking that he was a part of the rich and elite Rockefellers. But his lie finally caught up with him, and he was exposed as a total fraud.
You can only live a lie for so long. Sooner or later you are going to get into a lot of trouble. Living according to the truth is always better in the long run.
Since it is true that God is the most important person in the universe, you and I are going to find our greatest joy when we live according to that truth. Be more concerned about God’s glory than for your relief. Make the glory and honor of God your primary goal, and the result will be that you will be far more content and happy in life than if you focus only on yourself.
Psalm 115:1 (our memory verse for this week) summarizes the idea:
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory, for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!" Psalm 115:1
Be more concerned for God’s glory than for your relief. That’s Red Sea Rule #2. Note how carefully worded that statement is. It does not say that you should have no concern for your own relief. It is not saying that it's wrong to do anything for yourself. That would be an overreaction to the self-absorption that characterizes our society. It’s just that we are to be more concerned for God’s glory than for our own relief.
The Teaching of Psalm 57
Look at how David communicates what we are calling Red Sea Rule #2. In Psalm 57 David is in trouble. The title that is printed in our Bibles in small print says that David wrote this Psalm “when he had fled from Saul into the cave.” King Saul is out to kill David. David hides out in a cave in order to escape. That’s when he writes this Psalm. He starts by telling God exactly what is on his mind.
"Be merciful to me, O God, be merciful to me, for in You my soul takes refuge; in the shadow of Your wings I will take refuge, till the storms of destruction pass by." Psalm 57:1
David does pray for relief. “God, save me from Saul!” He is concerned about his own relief—and for good reason! Look at how he describes the trouble that he is in:
"My soul is in the midst of lions; I lie down amid fiery beasts— the children of man, whose teeth are spears and arrows, whose tongues are sharp swords." Psalm 57:4
David prays for his own relief. There’s nothing wrong with that. But David doesn’t stop with that request. There is something more on his mind than just his own safety.
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!" Psalm 57:5
David continues in the following verses and writes about his own situation again. Then the Psalm ends with verse 11 repeating what David has already stated in verse 5.
"Be exalted, O God, above the heavens! Let Your glory be over all the earth!" Psalm 57:11
There is Red Sea Rule #2 in the life of David. Be more concerned about God’s glory than your relief.
Living Red Sea Rule #2
Living according to that principle really does make a difference. When you are facing a huge trial, instead of looking for someone to blame or instead of asking, “How can I get out of this mess?” ask instead “How can I honor God in this situation?” By asking that one question, your whole perspective on life can be dramatically transformed.
For a modern day version of someone living Red Sea Rule #2 read Heather's Story. It's a 4-part blog post series that is raw and gripping yet filled with the hope of glorifying God through the circumstances of life.
God doesn’t waste suffering
In The Red Sea Rules, Robert Morgan offers a profound insight with just four words. “God doesn’t waste suffering.” Those four words are really worth thinking about. In our trials we grow and develop into the people that God wants us to be. And it is in our suffering that we are often given the best opportunities to glorify God and bring Him honor.
Suffering Is Never for Nothing
Find out how, in Elisabeth Elliot's bran new book Suffering is Never For Nothing, our suffering does have purpose and can be the gateway to gratitude and joy. "Hard times come for all in life, with no real explanation. When we walk through suffering, it has the potential to devastate and destroy, or to be the gateway to gratitude and joy.
He has walked the ultimate path of suffering, and He has won victory on our behalf.
This truth led Elisabeth to say, “Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I’m willing to take it because I trust Him.”
Because suffering is never for nothing." —goodreads
The year was 1976. It was America's Bicentennial year and I was in junior high. A young woman came to speak in one of our chapel services. She was in a wheelchair. Her name was Joni, "Pronounced Johnny" she said. We know her today as Joni Eareckson Tada, but on that day, she was just Joni.
On July 30, 1967, Joni dove into the Chesapeake Bay. Misjudging the depth of the water, she suffered a fracture between the fourth and fifth cervical levels and instantly became a quadriplegic, paralyzed from the shoulders down.
"I know He tries me only to increase my faith, and that is all in love. Well, if He is glorified, I am content." —J. Hudson Taylor
That quote pretty much sums up Joni's life.
During her two years of rehabilitation, according to her autobiography Joni, she experienced anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and doubts about her faith. However, while undergoing occupational therapy, she learned to paint with a brush between her teeth and began selling her artwork.
Seeing her affliction in the proper light has been key to Joni's life. She is a shining example of someone who has been more concerned with God's glory than her own relief, and that friends is what Red Sea Rule #2 is all about. Be more concerned for God’s glory than your own relief.
“Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to Your name be the glory!” Psalm 115:1
Please join the conversation down in the comments section.
This week's discussion questions:
Can I challenge you to memorize Psalm 115:1 with me this week?
"Not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to Your name give glory,
for the sake of Your steadfast love and Your faithfulness!" Psalm 115:1
portions of this post are quoted from www.efcbemidji.org
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore, I will hope in Him.’ The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, to the soul who seeks Him.” Lamentations 3:21-25
My friend Heather has graciously allowed me to share her story in a four-part blog post series title Heather’s Story: I will hope in Him. As you read the lines of this post you will see that this is really more God’s story than it is Heather’s. It is raw and gripping, and still being written. However, her journal entries are so encouraging for anyone who is in the deep, deep well of grief. This season has just begun for Heather and her sweet family, but they have hope. They live hope. They express hope. They KNOW HOPE! As she shares her journey with you here today, don’t focus on the grief and pain, focus on the eternal hope!
Read part 1 of Heather's Story: I Will Hope in Him here, part 2 here, and part 3 here.
April 9 at 9:55 PM
We find ourselves in a very deep painful grief. Over the weekend, in various ways we each hit an all-time low, physically and emotionally. It feels like the hits just keep coming! Yesterday, I personally just felt angry. So many questions. So many whys. So much pain. I stopped and had an honest conversation with the Lord. I told Him exactly how I felt. It was painful, but healing to finally express the anger, confusion, and pain. However, at the end of the conversation I told the Lord despite how I feel betrayed and let down, I trust You! My mom reminded me of Job 13:15,
“Thou He slay me, yet will I trust in Him.”
We did not choose this journey, rather God chose it for us. We desire to reflect Jesus in our response to this difficult time. Thank you for your love, prayers, and support. Oh, and by the way the warm chocolate chip cookies left on our front porch by our sweet neighbors were consumed in just a few minutes.
April 12 at 8:47 AM
“But thanks be to God! He gives us victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” I Corinthians 15:57
My husband is back at work, Riley's big sister is back at school, and I saw a few patients with a colleague. We are staying busy, crying often, but pushing through none the less.
April 14 at 9:10 PM
If I am being totally honest, up until this morning, I have absolutely been dreading Easter. All my mind has been thinking about is only filling one Easter basket, buying one Easter dress, and only needing to find one pair of white Easter shoes. My heart aches thinking of Easter traditions without Riley.
This morning’s sermon came from Zechariah 9:9. The verse says,
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion! Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem! Behold, your King is coming to you: righteous and having salvation is He, humble and mounted on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.”
This passage is a reminder to rejoice in times of despair and trials. God is faithful and always has and always will keep His promises. Because Jesus died on the cross as a perfect man, He paid the penalty for our sins and death was defeated! Because of His resurrection and through salvation in Him, I will spend eternity with Jesus and I will be reunited with Riley.
Yes, I will cry on Easter because I miss Riley, however, I will also celebrate Easter because the resurrection paved the way to turn from a hopeless person to a person filled with hope. So, I will continue to focus my eyes on Jesus, trust Him when I don’t understand, and praise Him in this storm.
“O taste and see that the Lord is good!” Psalm 34:8
So thankful for this reminder of the HOPE that comes through Jesus’ resurrection!
April 16 at 9:41 PM
Yesterday marked one month since Riley passed away. I must say, as a nurse practitioner, I have spent much time analyzing and playing her final week over and over and over in my mind.
Yesterday, I finally had the courage to investigate Group A Strep Bacteremia which was identified in Riley's blood cultures. The National Institute of Health article that I read pointed to the fact that Group A Strep Bacteremia can cause a very rare toxic shock syndrome. Riley was a classic textbook presentation of Strep Toxic Shock Syndrome. In 2018, there were only 327 documented cases in the US. There are many unanswered questions in the literature about STSS. But early lab work is typically normal and Amoxicillin would not have been strong enough to kill the bacteria. STSS can mimic the flu, is very rapidly progressing, and often fatal.
Please do not let fear grip your heart when your child gets sick as this is extremely rare and much is unknown. Riley is healed and she is safe in the arms of God. We continue to trust Him. We love each of you and are very thankful for your prayers! We will be okay.
I love where Heather writes, "...the resurrection paved the way to turn from a hopeless person to a person filled with hope." If you've read any part of her story you see hope. As written in the intro to each part of Heather's Story, "...they have hope. They live hope. They express hope. They KNOW HOPE! ...focus on the eternal hope!"
In a recent conversation with Heather she wrote, "I am just a broken clay jar and can do nothing in my own strength. But Jesus can use this broken clay jar to carry treasures." That's Heather! That is the truth, and that's the sum of her story. It's what she wants to share with you here today.
If you know someone that is searching for HOPE, a broken clay jar in need of strength, please share this post with them and be their encourager!
“But because I believe God’s plans for me are better than what I could plan for myself, rather than run away from the path He has set before me, I want to run toward it. I don’t want to try to change God’s mind—His thoughts are perfect. I want to think His thoughts. I don’t want to change God’s timing—His timing is perfect. I want the grace to accept His timing. I don’t want to change God’s plan—His plan is perfect. I want to embrace His plan and see how He is glorified through it." —Nancy Guthrie, Holding on to Hope: A Pathway Through Suffering to the Heart of God
“Peace is a gift of God, but we prepare ourselves to receive this gift as we pray about everything, cultivate gratitude, and refuse to surrender to worry. You can emerge from your days of sorrow with a heart that has been softened to the Spirit of God—what a beautiful and profitable experience that will be! Or you can allow your heart to be hardened by bitterness and resentment toward God, and rejection of His peace and grace—what a dark place that will take you to... a place far away from the loving embrace of God. “They are far away from the life of God because they have shut their minds and hardened their hearts against Him” (Ephesians 4:18). Heart Mender, take this broken heart of mine and make it soft and sensitive to your Spirit. I want to stay close to You and soft toward You.” —Nancy Guthrie, The One Year Book of Hope
In short, this book offers:
Suffering is Never for Nothing
Why doesn’t God do something about suffering? He has, He did, He is, and He will.
“Do the next thing.I don’t know any simpler formula for peace, for relief from stress and anxiety than those very practical, very down-to-earth words of wisdom. Do the next thing. That has gotten me through more agonies than anything else I could recommend.” ―Elisabeth Elliot, Suffering Is Never for Nothing
Suffering and love are inexplicably linked, as God’s love for His people is evidenced in His sending Jesus to carry our sins, griefs, and sufferings on the cross, sacrificially taking what was not His on Himself so that we would not be required to carry it. He has walked the ultimate path of suffering, and He has won victory on our behalf.
This truth led Elisabeth to say, “Whatever is in the cup that God is offering to me, whether it be pain and sorrow and suffering and grief along with the many more joys, I’m willing to take it because I trust Him.” Because suffering is never for nothing." --goodreads
“Our God is a God of the unlikely. He uses unlikely people. He redeems unlikely situations. He goes to unlikely lengths for us.” —Caroline Harrington
God Uses Unlikely People
When I think of people, situations and lengths that are unlikely, I am reminded of the story of Rahab, recorded in Joshua 2. If you're unfamiliar with her story, let me fill you in on a few of the more interesting details.
God Redeems Unlikely Situations
When we open the book of Joshua, we find the Hebrews encamped in the Jordan valley opposite the City of Jericho. They are ready to cross over the river Jordan and into the Promised Land. Only Jericho stood in their way. Joshua sends out two spies to investigate the military fortitude of Jericho. While in the city, the spies take refuge in Rahab's inn. Rahab hid them, under bundles of flax on the roof, from the soldiers sent to capture them. It was the time of the barley harvest. Flax and barley are ripe at the same time in the Jordan valley. Bundles of flax stalks would have been expected to be drying at that time, and the roof was a good place for this. So the roof turned out to be a great place to hide a couple of spies. Rahab told the spies:
After escaping the soldier's search, the spies promised to spare the lives of Rahab and her family when the Hebrews took the city. She would need to make her house visible by hanging a scarlet cord out of the window. The scarlet cord made it possible for Rahab to be saved, just as the blood of Jesus makes possible the way of salvation for you and me.
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