Thursday, June 28, 2012

Person and Choices, Part 2

I'm preaching through the book of Luke and have gotten to the passage in Luke where Jesus tells a story of a Samaritan who reaches out to be a "neighbor" - literally, "one near to you" - while the others who happen to be Jewish religious leaders ignore the robbed and beaten man's plight.  It had got me thinking about the way in which we view persons and the choices we make in relation to them.

Here's the issue:  We know that our position before God is not a matter of "working for our salvation".  Christ Jesus has come to pay the penalty for our sin(s) - I say "Sin" overall...that we are infected by the disease called "Sin"; and "sins", because in fact the outworking of our Sin nature is the individual acts of sin that we do in life.
So, what do we do with that?  We know that the grace of God brings the mercy of God to bear on our sins even before our need is realized.  But, let's not be deceived by the assurance of mercy as if we have no responsibility to act on it.

The Apostle Paul writing to the Corinthians said it this way:
2 Corinthians 4:1-11 (NIV)
1 Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
2 Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.
3 And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing.
4 The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.
5 For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
8 We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;
9 persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
10 We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body.
11 For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so that his life may be revealed in our mortal body.


Starting from the beginning...God's mercy is what gives us hope...
What we do is cooperate with it in getting rid of "ways" that are unhealthy - he calls them secret, shameful, deceiving, distorting...
Instead, we embrace the truth of God's word over all other objections in life.  This truth leads to a life with a clear conscience in living before God.  We don't live in the guilt-laden world of self-deception, nor do we succumb to blinding lies of the enemy who's main role is to destroy our truth needs.
Still...in Jesus Christ we have truth that leads to freedom, and a freedom that leads to godliness apart from trying to "look" religious or good.  We have God's treasure of mercy and grace in "jars of clay"...pots.  We're not that great looking...we're ordinary in our position as humans without great virture.
In fact, Paul goes on to say, our "pottedness" is not too wonderful at all...we're hard pressed...we're often perplexed...we can even end up suffering for trying to live by faith in Christ...but none of these things can destroy us.  We don't end up crushed, or despairing, or being abandoned, or destroyed.

We recognize that the life we live here is the not the end of life.  We carry about a sense of our own mortality so that we might display the life of Jesus and not our own efforts.

That's a short exposition of Paul's statements to the Corinthians, and it bears in on the theme of "Person and Choices".

What if we saw in our life together as "church", not a bunch of religious activity trying to make us all appear to be better persons, but rather a group who saw their primary occupation in life to put the "neighbor", the one nearest to them at any point in time, in touch with God?

As you can tell from Paul's letter above, this goal, activity, vocation of being a person of the church is not a means of escaping our neighbors, but rather of knowing that we are together to engage in truth about ourselves, while also recognizing that we are commissioned by God for this very purpose of revealing (together) the glory of God in normal humanity.
Think about this...or rather allow me to think outloud and then you think about it...
We live in a society that is at once deeply "individualistic" and "consumeristic" at the same time.

In reading the Desert Fathers I realize that they were neither.  The community of Church that they lived in and through created in them a discipline of seeing community as a place of togetherness, so that as they lived out their faith and life apart from community they lived it to serve and not consume.
Much of my experience with Church...and I've been leading in church life for almost 40 years now...is that Church does little to transform the life of the believer from their individualism and consumerism...and in fact, we thrive on it.
Think some more...individualism and conformity.  Most of our modern world is caught up in engaging the individualism and the consumer interests that go with that.  Google has a new tablet coming out that will track all of your choices, including your calendar appointments, and constantly give recommendations to you on what might be of interest to you, based on all of these individual things you do.  Sounds nifty huh?
But wait a minute.
Consumerism by nature is self-centered.  It's what I want...what's in it for me...what I prefer is what rules.
I see that in church a lot...even again, in Pastors too.
So church by extension becomes  another consumer choice.  The church and the Mall are not dissimilar.  They both end up being a place where the individual enters and says:  "I have chosen you, so that I might have the life that I desire".

Let's not be naive about choices.  The world we live in is heavily managed and our choices are manipulated to us at all times.  People want to be individuals, but advertisers, managers of businesses like car manufacturers, or computers, or tv, or coffee and wine, all try to convince us that our choices will allow us to stand out as different...all the while selling this to millions of people in hopes that they will conform their choices to what is in front of them.
"Don't be like the crowd" says the advertiser...all the while persuading you and I to do the same thing all the rest of the millions watching or reading what they have written are suppose to do.

How can we live then in a world that is constantly manipulated and managed to live this way?
First, recognize that all of us are "Persons"...not individuals.  Persons are unique, not reduced to a formula or an advertisement, and theologically, Persons are image-bearers of God.  We are created for relationships and not for independence and taking.  We are as Paul said:  2 Corinthians 4:6-7 (NIV) 
6 For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.
7 But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us.
Let us not allow our life, our church, our faith, to be reduced to a consumer commodity.

Secondly, recognize that choices is not what constitutes us a persons.  We might like to think that the coffee we drink, or the tv programs we watch, the car we drive, or the any number of consumer things we engage in are what makes us unique.  It is not those things that make our uniqueness.
Jesus was unique in so many ways...and his choices involved almost nothing consumer driven.
Persons make decisions, and when we choose on the basis of an identity that is truly centered around who we are in God, first, then our choices...no matter how small they might be, or how large they might be...are never done in a vacuum of our individuality, but rather in the context of our real relationship and identity as a child of God...an image bearer who lives to discover God in everything.

Is it possible?  Is it hard?  Yes, Yes...but the issue isn't rolling up the sleeves to religiously try harder...the issue is "we have this treasure in pots of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us."
What we cannot do, God is perfectly able to do in us, as long as we are willing to allow our person and choices to go through Him.

Peace

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Person(al) Choices

Let me start this blog out with a thought:
"The Church is a community of persons...it exists to make the entire process of self-justification irrelevant".   Not an exact quote, but the idea comes from a book I'm reading on the Desert Fathers.  The point is scriptural.  Paul said it this way.

2 Corinthians 5:12-21 (NIV)
12 We are not trying to commend ourselves to you again, but are giving you an opportunity to take pride in us, so that you can answer those who take pride in what is seen rather than in what is in the heart.
13 If we are out of our mind, it is for the sake of God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you.
14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died.
15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again.
16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.
17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!
18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:
19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
20 We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God.
21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.


God's truth and his mercy have appeared to us in concrete ways - the Person of Jesus.  In His death and resurrection a transformation has occurred.  Death is not the final end, and Sin will not rule over creation.

THEREFORE, we do not need to labor anxiously to save ourselves, or to put ourselves right with God.

The Church is a community of Persons who exist to make the entire process of self-justification irrelevant.

Paul says we do not have to compare, nor compete; but instead know that Christ's love compels us to live for something other than ourselves (individualism)...because we are not merely individuals, but persons, people who have made a new creation, and we are made reconciled already.

The Church is a community of Persons who exist to make the entire process of self-justification irrelevant. 

NOW, it does not mean I have confidence in myself.  I have no confidence in my own nature.  I am convinced that there is a certain fragile quality to my own will and the choices I make are not typically Godly...in fact they can be quite selfish.  What is hard for us to grasp at times is how clearly in repentance we also know with certainty that we do not need to make up our debt with God.  That debt has been paid in Christ on the cross, and the resurrection is the "paid in full" stamp on our indebtedness.  Tomorrow that debt will be paid again, and the day after that.

So, what is our posture in terms of living, personal choices?
I live with a sense of effort in growing in the grace that I've received.  I do not expend the effort to gain salvation, but rather I expend the effort because I have received that mercy and grace in salvation.

I have learned - and I might add, in Community - that the nature of Christ Jesus' mercy does not leave me stuck in my sin, trying to be released through my own efforts, but rather that as a person, a redeemed person, God has chosen me and therefore I can chose him.  I am not a finished saint, but a person who is being transformed by the renewing of the mind, and the presentation of the will (choices) to him day by day.

Peace

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Mystery, Pt 2

I started some thinking out-loud about mystery after having some conversations with a young man who was struggling in his faith and ministry.  If you need to, I'd suggest you go back to the previous blog and read that so that this one might have more context.

Mystery is the recognition that while not all things can be explained, or even comprehended, they are not therefore untrue, or contradictory.  What's important about that is that each of us needs to learn how to live in the "TENSION" of our faith in Christ that requires nothing more from us, and our faith in Christ that calls us to live out the gospel in faithfulness and obedience.
I call it tension because it is somewhat unresolvable - it is not like the faith in Christ ends at one spot and our faith in obedience and faithfulness carries on.

Paul said it like this to the Philippians:
Philippians 2:1-13 (NIV)
1 If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion,
2 then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.
3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.
4 Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.
5 Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
7 but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death-- even death on a cross!
9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,
10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
12 Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed--not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence--continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling,
13 for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.


Let me unpack this a bit to point out how these are not contradictions to "work out our salvation" while knowing that "God is at work in us".
The beginning part of this passage is Paul's appeal to the Philippians to stay together in community with a Spirit-led love, and purpose, and care for one another that should describe a Christ like community of believers.  The church should reflect the character of Christ, and the warning of vs 3 is that selfish ambition,(in the greek, eritheia,  which means to act of out a sense of rivalry...one-up-man-ship), or vain conceit (literally to be seeking ones own glory).  Both of these actions are deterrents to the admonitions before., so Paul sums it up and says our behavior should be marked by humility - which is defined as "serving under".

This humility goes so far as to consider others needs more important than one's own needs...and it emulates the character of Christ Jesus.  He considered the needs of a fallen race - us in our sin - and he (vs 7) "made himself nothing" (the greek word is "kenosis" and it means an "emptying".  Jesus "humbled himself"...he came to serve under, to set aside his own divine glory and take on the same human condition that we find ourselves in.  All of this for the purpose of dying as a human for us as humans...this is how much servanthood goes into humbling...it's even a willingness to sacrifice all for the sake of the other.

What God did in Jesus is recognize the supreme act of his sacrifice and he rewarded it by exalting him in heaven.
NOW...vs 12, "therefore..."
Because of who Jesus is, and what he has done, Paul is encouraging us, admonishing us, appealing to us, to recognize that our obedience is cooperative with God's working in us.  Our humility, our compassion towards others, our serving, and loving, seeking agreement and working on differences, dealing with our selfishness and posturing to work as one for the Lord and not ourselves...ALL of this is not impossible, and in fact is the out-working of God in us.  It is his will being done in and through us and it is the natural result of a believer having a posture of "God do what you have to do to make me into what you want me to be."

It is a mystery, but it is not contradictory.  It makes sense on all levels, if we are willing to see how all the negative things work against all of the positive things God is at work in us to do.

Here's the mystery in real time:  "Kill the flesh and let the Spirit live"

Peace

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mystery

I have been having a series of exchanges with a young man in ministry.  He came to me upon recommendation, and although I'm not reaching out to individuals, I could feel the "angst" of ministry in his heart and mind.  Like most disciples (remember disciples are learners) of Jesus, he's looking for answers to some difficult problems of life in ministry.  What I don't do, and won't do, is answer his questions for him.  That would be unvaluable to his own needs.  He needs to wrestle with MYSTERY.

Now when a lot of believers think about mystery they think of something that can't be known.  That is only partially true.  The nature of mystery is that there is something that can't be completely comprehensible; but it does not mean that it is unintelligible.  An example is the Trinity.  Yesterday I spent some time in teaching on the nature of the Trinity.  The Trinity is not completely comprehensible; but it is intelligible.  Mystery doesn't mean something is a contradiction, or a paradox of understanding.  It just means that we are coming to an ocean of something with something quite limited in it's ability to see it all.

God is Mystery.

We can know him, but we will never totally comprehend him.

Ephesians 1:3-9 (NIV)
3 Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.
4 For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. In love
5 he predestined us to be adopted as his sons through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will--
6 to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.
7 In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace
8 that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding.
9 And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ,


Paul says that we would never have known what God was up to in terms of salvation history without his making it known to us in Christ Jesus' coming.  The average Jewish believer thought that salvation was limited to ethnic Jews who would faithfully seek to do the law.  God's salvation history was to move beyond the Jews to the Gentiles also.  Later in this letter to the Ephesians Paul makes this clear:

Ephesians 3:1-12 (NIV)
1 For this reason I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for the sake of you Gentiles--
2 Surely you have heard about the administration of God's grace that was given to me for you,
3 that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly.
4 In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ,
5 which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God's holy apostles and prophets.
6 This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
7 I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God's grace given me through the working of his power.
8 Although I am less than the least of all God's people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,
9 and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things.
10 His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms,
11 according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord.
12 In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.


Here is Mystery...something that is intelligible - Salvation through God's work, is not totally comprehensible until God makes it clear what is happening.

NOW...apply this same logic to life situations, to the seeming contradictions we are often faced with as people of faith in relation to life difficulties.  That which is intelligible - God's goodness, his mercy, his grace, his protection...is not necessarily comprehensible when we're in the middle of difficult things.

The task of believing, having faith in God, is to trust completely...not explain everything.  It is not a matter of blind trust because there is enough of God's revelation to know that He is true to his word.  It is a trust that expresses faith...even in the lack of evidences not seen.

Peace


Sunday, June 17, 2012

To All Dads: Happy Father's Day

This morning I sat down to write a note to each of my "dads" in the family.  Chris is my oldest son and dad to Jack and Leo;  Peter is married to Lindsay and dad to Raewyn and Theo; and Greg is married to Kelly and dad to Iris.  Their families are young...Jack will be five this next week, but three are 2 and 1/2, and Iris is just 7 months.
What to say to dads?  Here's what hit me and I pass it along for all you dad's out there:

Happy Father's Day to you all.  As one with you I celebrate you in one of the most important roles of life - being a husband and dad.
I have great memories of kids growing up, even if at the time it didn't always seem to be great.
There are a lot of things on your mind as a Dad.  I know, and that is why I commend you to trust God and seek him for all that needs to be done.

I think I was about 25 or 26, Kelly was a baby, Chris was inside of Linda's womb and I ran across a verse from Genesis that stuck with me - has stuck with me all these years.

It is a story from the Joseph and his brothers narrative, where Joseph is now the Prime Minister, his brothers come seeking food and at this point he is still hidden from their sight.  Joseph has just managed to trick them by putting a gold cup in his brother's Benjamin's sack, and he has been "caught" supposedly trying to steal it.  Joseph, of course, is setting him up, in hopes that he can get him to stay.

It is here that a dialogue happens, and it hit me then, and still does today, what Judah, one of the oldest brothers ends up pleading to the yet unknown Joseph...I'll let you read it here:

Genesis 44:21-34 (NIV) 
21 "Then you said to your servants, 'Bring him down to me so I can see him for myself.'
22 And we said to my lord, 'The boy cannot leave his father; if he leaves him, his father will die.'
23 But you told your servants, 'Unless your youngest brother comes down with you, you will not see my face again.'
24 When we went back to your servant my father, we told him what my lord had said.
25 "Then our father said, 'Go back and buy a little more food.'
26 But we said, 'We cannot go down. Only if our youngest brother is with us will we go. We cannot see the man's face unless our youngest brother is with us.'
27 "Your servant my father said to us, 'You know that my wife bore me two sons.
28 One of them went away from me, and I said, "He has surely been torn to pieces." And I have not seen him since.
29 If you take this one from me too and harm comes to him, you will bring my gray head down to the grave in misery.'
30 "So now, if the boy is not with us when I go back to your servant my father and if my father, whose life is closely bound up with the boy's life,
31 sees that the boy isn't there, he will die. Your servants will bring the gray head of our father down to the grave in sorrow.
32 Your servant guaranteed the boy's safety to my father. I said, 'If I do not bring him back to you, I will bear the blame before you, my father, all my life!'
33 "Now then, please let your servant remain here as my lord's slave in place of the boy, and let the boy return with his brothers.
34 How can I go back to my father if the boy is not with me? No! Do not let me see the misery that would come upon my father." 


It is that last line in vs 34 that made me seek God for my children...  I do not want to go to the Father if my children are not with me...and it would make God even sadder than me.

The most important thing you are, and will be, is a husband and a father...

The rest of what I wrote was personal to them...but there it is.
My greatest desire in life was to live in such a way that my children knew God...that I loved God with all of my heart, and that I wanted them to know him and to love him too.

To ALL of you Dads:  Happy Father's Day.

Peace

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

In Honor of Encouragers


Today in the church calendar is the day set aside to recognize Barnabas.  Do you remember him?
Acts 4:36
36 "Joseph, a Levite from Cyprus, whom the apostles called Barnabas (which means “son of encouragement”),"
When the early church in Acts was first being established, all who came to Christ had a big decision to make.  "Coming out" to say Jesus is the Christ, the Messiah, usually meant being kicked out of the synagogue.  Those who did choose to make that decision began the nucleus of the early church.  

The church grew as more and more found the truth of life in Christ.  Barnabas was named Joseph at birth, a common Jewish name, but along the way became known as "Barnabas" which mean the "son of encouragement", and that is what he was.  What made him an encourager was his generosity...on many levels.

For example, vs 37, immediately after the verse above, says:  37"(he) sold a field he owned and brought the money and put it at the apostles’ feet."
The church was not made up of the well-to-do, so his gift of the money from the sale was a great encouragement to the church's financial needs.

Later on his generosity was towards a person, Saul, who would become Paul.  When Saul was saved on the road to Damascus, he became a follower of Jesus, but the early church was suspicious.  They only knew of him as one who arrested and sought to destroy the church...so they stayed clear of him.  But not Barnabas.
Acts 9:27
27 But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus.
He was the kind of person who saw in people possibilities...not their past, but their future, and he wanted them to know acceptance and grace...that's a generous spirit, and an encourager.  

When the early church began to grow outside of Jerusalem, one of the early growth centers was in the north of Syria, in Antioch.  It was in Antioch that the name "Christian" was first applied to the early church believers.  In chapter 11 of Acts, the scripture describes what he did. 

19 Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews. 20 Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. 21 The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
22 News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch23 When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts. 24 He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
25 Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, 26 and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

I love those verses as they describe how Barnabas saw - first, what God was doing, and secondly, what needed to be done.  
Encouragers are like that.  
They are cup-half-full people.  
They see possibilities, not problems.  
They see people, not things.  
They see "grace" not organization.  
They have glad hearts...because they see God.

In honor of Barnabas' day, I want to be a Barnabas...

Peace

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Journey through Perseverance

James 1:2-8 (NIV)
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds,
3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance.
4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.
6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.


I was talking to an individual yesterday about the difficult place in life this person finds them-self in.  We've all heard the old saying:  "When life hands you lemons, make lemonade".  It's a lot easier to say it than do it.
Most of us "hate" bad situations.  We want to get out of them as fast as we can.  The longer it continues to go on, a couple of possibilities begin to emerge.  Sometimes people get bitter...blame God and in their anger withdraw from the very things the Bible says will help - prayer, the word of God, community of other believers, even Christ himself.  Sometimes people resign themselves to a fatalistic "this must be the will of God"...a kind of divine resignation that excepts the problem but doesn't seek to grow through it.  I've seen those...more than that, I've lived those.

About five years into our marriage, with one of our kids born, Linda got very sick.  We didn't know what was happening?  They couldn't diagnose what was wrong.  She went to multiple doctors, had more tests done on her than we could keep track of.  They talked about the possibility of a tumor, of MS, of some sort of cancer, of other diseases with long names, or scary initials...and it went on for about nine months.  During that time our life as a couple in marriage seem to disappear.  We functioned to survive, and we wondered, and prayed, and wondered some more.

I went through a lot of doubts.  Did I sin somehow? Was this God's judgement for something I had done wrong?  Is it God's will that we lose each other?  I had a laundry list of things I didn't have answers for.
Linda's illness was eventually discovered and the medicine she took brought the long nine months to end...but it made me stop and think about what kind of faith I had.

Over the years other incidents came along and my doubts and lack of faith emerged all too clearly again.
NOW...after all of those years I've come to learn something about dark times.

EMBRACE THE PAIN

I don't mean accept it.  I mean see the painful difficult times as a means for growth, for deepening our faith in Christ, of learning what it means to truly trust him.

That's why James says "consider it joy whenever you face trials...this testing of faith develops perseverance, and this perseverance brings us to a deeper level of maturity and faith...believe God is at work, don't doubt."

Embrace the journey through the difficulties...through the suffering...through the loss.  I don't say this because it's easy, but because God has a way of showing us much more in our pain than in our pleasure.

Peace

Monday, June 4, 2012

Our Journey in Life

Here's some verses from Psalm 90, about life...beginning to end:

Psalm 90:1-17 (NIV)
1 Lord, you have been our dwelling place throughout all generations.
2 Before the mountains were born or you brought forth the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.
3 You turn men back to dust, saying, "Return to dust, O sons of men."
4 For a thousand years in your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.

10 The length of our days is seventy years-- or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

12 Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of wisdom.

14 Satisfy us in the morning with your unfailing love, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days. 


And, here's another perspective from Ecclesiastes...
Ecclesiastes 12:1-14 (NIV)
1 Remember your Creator in the days of your youth, before the days of trouble come and the years approach when you will say, "I find no pleasure in them"--

13 Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole [duty] of man.
14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.


 I'm reading through the Gospels in harmony...that is reading all four at the same time skipping back and forth between them,  to try to understand the record of Jesus' ministry as it unfolded in time.
I couldn't help but notice that Jesus is often hard on those who "should know better"...the Pharisees, Jewish leaders, even the disciples at time..., but he seems to be much more lenient with those who are weak, without privilege, and seemingly on the "outside" of life.

His overall perspective is constantly on where people are in relation to the Kingdom of God.  He made no bones about it...this is why he was preaching/teaching/ministering.  His desire was to show the power of God at work in everyday life...day after day...month after month...year after year.

Faith isn't lived out on Sundays, it's lived out in day by day things.  Here's a quote I ran across in doing some reading on the life of George Washington Carver...a truly amazing faith-filled individual.

Read it, then go back and read those passages at the beginning of this blog.

"How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving and tolerant of the weak and strong. Because someday in your life you will have been all of these."

Peace