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Worthless Idols- Part I

Over the past several weeks I have been wrestling with the concept of what it truly means to live as a follower of Jesus.  I find myself thinking that it does not look anything like the life of the average American-Labled-Christian.  I’m afraid, at times, that it does not even look like the lives of my friends.  And then I realize it does not look like my life either.

I truly believe that we have redefined the Christian life to be whatever is better than the average.  If I am a Christian who “actually reads my Bible”, or if I am a Christian who attends church regularly, or if I am Christian who is in seminary, or reads spiritual books, or talks about faith, then somehow that is enough.  It seems we take society, throw in a little Scripture, and call it the Christian life.  It seems we should take Scripture, find the model of the Christian life, and live like we really believe in the Jesus who asks us to deny ourselves and take up our cross.

I do not believe denying ourselves means filling our free time with whatever is convenient.  I do not believe taking up our cross includes countless hours in front of a television screen.  I believe it is a hard, challenging, daily decision.  And I believe it is worth it.

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Thoughts on Suffering: Part III

suffering

In Part I and Part II of Thoughts on Suffering, I have discussed some of the reasons why God allows us to suffer.  Of course, the details vary, but the primary concept is that suffering can bring glory to God.  Nothing else matters.

I would like to go over some ideas on dealing with suffering.  This is meant to be a simple and yet practical post on how we cope when times are tough.

  • Search Scripture.  Find comfort in the words of Jesus and understand that He was a man and acquainted with sorrow.  Search through the countless Biblical stories of those that suffered: Ruth, Job, and Paul are amongst others.
  • Pray.  Depression can make us feel like drawing back from the Lord, but it can also be a springboard towards closer fellowship with Him.  Use it as a time to draw near to the throne of grace.
  • Seek counsel.  Talk to a trusted friend, family member, or church leader.  Be selective in seeking counsel- it is not always wise to pour out your heart to every person that will listen.  Seek the wisdom of one or two Godly counselors who can provide a listening ear and Biblical direction.
  • Journal.  Document the seasons in life that are trying in order to reflect on them in the future.  Getting thoughts on paper can be very healing and also provide a reminder of God’s faithfulness in the storm.
  • Preach the truth to yourself.  Suffering is for a purpose- and it is an eternal purpose.  Let it have its work in you.  Do not run from it, but allow yourself to be molded by challenges.  Remind yourself of truth about God and His nature.
  • Repeat steps one through four.
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Thoughts on Suffering: Part II

suffering

I firmly believe that though suffering can be beneficial to our lives here on earth, so much of the purpose of suffering will not be seen until we get to heaven.  The dear woman who I mentioned in Thoughts on Suffering: Part I has gone on to glory.  Rachel B. from Death is Not Dying is also resting in her Savior’s arms.  No longer are these dear women bound to pain of their earthly bodies.  They are finally home.

Even if your suffering is not in the physical- it is very real.  Sometimes the deepest pain does not show up on an M.R.I. or an X-ray.  Sometimes the deepest hurt is in the heart.  It may come at the hands of a friend, family member, or even a church.  I personally have experienced pain at the hands of all three.  Even as I sit here and remember some of my past pain, tears come to my eyes.  Wounds- especially when they are often unjust- leave a stinging that remains long past the blow.

But as I look back, I know that it was never God’s purpose for me to live an easy life.  A pain free life would never have given God the same opportunity to show me His amazing faithfulness.  It would never have allowed me to grow, clinging more to my Father in heaven than any person He has given me on earth.

In addition, there are joys that come through pain.  Sometimes God takes something away for the purpose of something better.  Sometimes the taking away is an end in itself.  Most importantly, it provides an opportunity for God to be glorified.

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Stop by next week for Part III!

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Thoughts on Suffering: Part I

suffering

I was talking to my mom yesterday about a dear woman who is on her death bed with cancer.  She has two young children and one amazing husband.  This woman is right here in my city.  It makes it feel very real.  My mom asked the question, “Why would God allow her to be taken away!”  And it hit me, “For His glory!”

We do not understand what brings glory to God.  The suffering of Jesus brought glory to God.

For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one sorrows while suffering unjustly.  For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure?  But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.  For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.  He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.  When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.  He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.  1 Peter 2:19-24 ESV

In my flesh, I cry out with those who say, “Why?”  Why does a young mother get snatched from her family?  Why do innocent unborn children die at the hands of doctors?  Why did God’s perfect Son get nailed to a cross taking on the wrath of God for me?  It does not seem fair.  But GOD…

God knows just what will bring Him the most glory.  He knows when taking away a wife will create a warrior man for His kingdom.  He knows when taking away a mother will raise up two children who will lead many to righteousness.  I do not know the end result, but I do know that God does.  Even in my small sufferings- loss of a friendship, death of a dream, etc.- God is in control and is working to bring glory to Himself.

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Though I feel under equipped to talk about this subject, I do want to share some practical thoughts  on dealing with times of suffering as a Christian.  Stop by next week for Part II!

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Creating A Tract

Tract1

I am in the process of creating a gospel tract.  My goal is something that is streamlined, attractive, easy to read, and most importantly communicates the essential elements of the gospel.  (In case you are wondering, the tract will be available here once it is printed.)

As I have searched through various sources, I have to laugh at some of the tracts that are being produced these days. If I was a non-Christian and was handed a tract the length of a novel, I would not read it.  If I was handed a tract that was chocolate-scented, I would throw it away.  (Yes, I really did find a chocolate scented tract in my browsing through various tracts.)  I would want something that seemed to match the media quality of other mainstream material I receive if I was to take it seriously.

Now I am thankful that there are all kinds of tracts and more importantly that there are people handing out tracts.  I know that if God can speak through a donkey, He can certainly speak through a tract that does not meet my personal preferences.

The most important thing is that we are to put forth our best effort when doing something for the Lord.  If I am going to hand a tract to someone, I want it to reflect my desire to to do things for the glory of God.

I have a friend that tosses tracts when they get crumpled.  He does not want to hand someone something that is of poor quality or condition.  I respect that.  Jesus did not give us His second best on the cross.  He gave His all, and when we share the gospel, we need to give our best.  Now this is not to make us look good but rather to make Him look great.  He is worthy!

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Open Your Mouth… With Wisdom

One of my dear little dance students has such a way with words.  She is the child that will talk to everyone… and then talk, and talk, and talk some more.  She is the one that is sure to let me know she is being a good listener- by talking.  As I sat down in the waiting area with some of the dance moms, she asked, “Would you please pray for my mom?”  “Of course,” was my reply.  “What’s wrong?”  In her typical projecting voice she said, “Oh, it’s kind of private!”  

You see, word travels quickly with this little girl.  She means well, but she hasn’t quite learned the art of bridling her tongue.  I wonder how many of us are just as quick to speak when given the chance.  We look forward to getting the latest news and quickly e-mailing, texting, or blogging it for the world to see.  We take lightly the confidence others place in us.  We guise gossip with sharing information for the purpose of prayer.  We betray confidence even in the small things.  

I think of the Proverbs 31 woman who, “opens her mouth with wisdom.”  (Proverbs 31:26a).  How convicting to think of the number of times I have opened my mouth in foolishness.  But it is no mistake that godly speech is addressed in the picture of Proverbs 31.  Using wisdom in our words is an area where we can all grow in grace.  Let us not be like little girls, quick to speak and share others’ secrets.  Let us be slow to speak so that when we open our mouths, it is with wisdom.

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Reasons: Part III

Reasons

If you are just joining, please see Reasons: Part I and Reason: Part II.

If God loves us and wants us to know and believe in him, why be so completely invisible? What is the purpose of being so illusive to those who believe and worship him?

This is an interesting reason for rejecting Christianity.  First, it can be argued that God is not invisible.  He came to earth as a man, Jesus, and revealed Himself in human form to hundreds of eye witnesses who recorded the account in Scripture.  Second, anyone that has seen a glimpse of God has hardly been able to handle it.  Think about Moses when he came off the mountain after meeting with God.  His face shone and the people could hardly look at him.  And they were only seeing the effect of God, not God Himself.  We could not handle seeing the glory of God in the infinite form.

However, we do see glimpses of God all around us.  Creation evidences God.  Our very existence is evidence of God.  The design around us indicates a Designer.

For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own parts have said, For we are also his offspringActs 17:28 KJV

So my restatement of the reason would be:

God’s glory is so great that we cannot see Him and live.  In His goodness, we see evidences of Him through the creation, through the eyewitness accounts of His Son recorded in Scripture, and through our very existence.  He is invisible only to those who choose not to see the evidences He has given.

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The Wilderness

The past month of my life has been a difficult season.  I have felt very much alone with silence from God.  I have prayed, sought wise counsel, searched, and still had no clear answers to some very pressing questions.  I was feeling especially discouraged last night, and wrestled with God about opening His word.  I must admit that I do not always feel like reading my Bible.  (Side note- I’ve used the word feel several times in the past few sentences.  That is key- my knowledge of God does not always connect with my heart.  I KNOW He is still there when He is silent.)  I finally opened my Bible and turned to where I am reading in Deuteronomy.  Now, when I am feeling down, Deuteronomy is not my first choice for verses of comfort.  But God saw fit to let me land on a chapter about the wilderness.

For the LORD your God has blessed you in all the work of your hands.  He knows your going through this great wilderness.  These forty years the LORD your God has been with you.   You have lacked nothing.  Deuteronomy 2:7 ESV

The Lord does not forget His people: the Israelites in the wilderness or His daughter in her own wilderness.  Does that mean I will not wander around a bit longer?  Not necessarily.  I may wander around much longer.  I may never see an earthly Canaan.  But my hope is not in what this life holds but rather what I know is on the other side.  Heaven is my home, and I can trust the One who cares for me to do so even in the bleak desert.  So I wait, and I do what I do not feel like doing all the time- I trust in My God even in the wilderness.

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Reasons: Part II

Reasons

If you are just joining, please start with Reasons: Part I.

Point two from the Losing My Religion post:

The act of throwing people into infinite torture and punishment for not believing a Jewish guy from 2,000 years ago was God’s son, or unknowingly worshiping the wrong god, is extremely cruel and sadistic.

Again- there is an assumption with this point that man is somehow good and deserving of good things and that God has created a hardly believable and narrow way if anyone does not want to experience eternal judgment.  The problem with this thought process is that the author is presupposing the good of human nature.  But it is impossible for a finite being to have infinite knowledge in order to determine that human nature is good.  The author is also assuming that God’s judgment is unjust.

For example, let us assume that a person is coming out of a building and is attacked, bound, and thrown in the back of a car by a man.  Instantly, it seems like an injustice and a horrible story.  The abductor is deemed cruel.  However, if the person coming out of the building has taken the lives of half a dozen innocent people inside and the attack is by a police officer, the act does not seem unjust.  The police officer had knowledge that warranted his actions in the circumstances.

God is the only omniscient one.  Who are we to question the justice of God?  The Bible is clear:

God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day.  Psalm 7:11 ESV

So my contra-statement is this:

We have broken God’s law and deserve punishment.  Because of God’s mercy, 2,000 years ago, God sent His Son Jesus to earth, to die, be buried, and rise again in order to make a way for fallen man to spend eternity in heaven.  Jesus was the perfect atonement for imperfect man- an act of pure sacrifice, redeeming love, and undeserved mercy.