Why Is There Suffering?

This morning I read a passage which gave a glimpse into the purpose of suffering…

1As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. 2His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”

3“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life. (John 9:1-3)

If you read further in the passage, the blind man’s suffering turns to healing and the religious leaders are in an uproar because they do not understand who Jesus is- who healed the man. They are furious perhaps because they themselves have been unable to have such power. God was glorified when this man showed everyone what happened. The man had been blind from birth and now he could see! He couldn’t help but tell his story to his family and friends of what Jesus had done. They were all amazed and wanted to meet this Jesus.

Suffering and pain and hardship has a greater purpose that we do not see. In this case, the man was healed this side of heaven. Not always does physical healing occur – sometimes that is not in God’s plan. Because we are flesh and blood people, we always want to see a physical miracle- but that’s only the half of it.

I think of my own wilderness experience of pain and suffering and now see that there was a greater purpose. When I tell my story of how God brought me through my own wilderness of depression, often many are brought to tears and want to know Jesus more. They surrender their lives to Him and they too begin a journey of getting to know the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe- who became a man and went to His death in order for us to be restored to our Heavenly Father in a relationship. He gives us a hope and peace but it requires complete surrender on our part. Wishful thinking and motivational speaking can only do so much for our self-esteems. When we recognize that there is something beyond our self-esteems and that being our souls, we come to recognize what Jesus truly came for. He didn’t come so we could live easy and wealthy lives which often come with emptiness and boredom. He came so we could experience what an intimate relationship with the most powerful Being in the universe means.

My prayer today:

“Dear Father, I pray for all those who are calling to you in their pain and suffering. Many are hanging on. I ask that you give them a hope and that people close to them who hear your voice and know you will encourage them in their suffering and lift them up as they need. Let those suffering to be drawn to you, your Word, your hope, your perfect peace and wisdom so that they may press on – knowing you have a greater purpose for them. You are more powerful than our troubles and suffering. Thank you that you refused to leave us in the dark and chose to reach down and shine your light on us. Amen.”

If you are suffering and have not called out to God, I encourage you to do so. Jesus says…

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” – Matthew 11:28

God wants to take your suffering and use it do a mighty thing! He has the most wonderful way of turning ashes into beauty.

People Will Listen to You When…

People only accept discipline or criticism in their lives when they feel loved. Too often we burn people out or even push loved ones away when we neglect filling people’s emotional tanks before we offer a word of advice or criticism (or worse we offer advice but no help). Problem is… this is contagious. So often: if we are criticized by others, we can easily become critical of others. The trick is to stop the madness. It means loving those who are hard to love… and that requires Divine patience.

Stuck In A Rut?

I again read this morning in Numbers 14: where the people failed to completely trust and instead grumbled and complained against God. As a result, they wandered in the desert- unable to enter the land God promised. It’s the age old problem –  we think we know better and if we would only trust in God who promises us abundant life, maybe we would experience the blessings He once promised. “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.” (John 10:10) The alternative of being stuck in the desert is really not that appealing.

The Missional Church… What is it? Simple…

Here’s a simple video which explains what a missional church is as opposed to an attractional church…

YouTube – The Missional Church… simple.

Expecting people to come and experience the hope we have – doesn’t always work – especially when we were actually called to ‘go’. Lives change when we invest in others. Expecting people to come to the big event doesn’t always make an impact.

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Pride Leads to Destruction

I remember once playing a card game with a great Aunt and I was winning and gloating. She said to me: “Pride leads to destruction” and sure enough I lost the game. It was a lesson for me to not count my chickens before they hatched but to also seek humility. It’s a struggle for many of us and I think it can get worse as we get older. I see the pride of former and current leaders getting in their way and slowly they lose their influence and the respect of others. God is a jealous God and if we take credit for our blessings, we are in danger of pride and arrogance and possibly God’s punishment.

This morning I read in 2 Chron 32:24-26…

24 Some time later Hezekiah became deathly sick. He prayed to God and was given a reassuring sign.

25-26 But the sign, instead of making Hezekiah grateful, made him arrogant. This made God angry, and his anger spilled over on Judah and Jerusalem. But then Hezekiah, and Jerusalem with him, repented of his arrogance, and God withdrew his anger while Hezekiah lived.

Proverbs 16:5,18…

5 God can’t stomach arrogance or pretense;
believe me, he’ll put those upstarts in their place.

18 First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.

Just read the life of King Saul and that’s a perfect example of taking credit and trying to take God’s place…

After Samuel anointed Saul as king, Samuel instructed the young ruler to travel to Gilgal where he was to wait seven days for the prophet’s arrival before the offering of sacrifices to God.

Saul went to the appointed place, but he grew impatient when Samuel had not arrived on the seventh day. He then offered the sacrifices himself (1 Samuel 13:8ff), and gave excuses for this sin when the prophet arrived. In disobeying Samuel’s charge, Saul had, in point of fact, disobeyed God (13:13).

James 5:1-3…

1-3 And a final word to you arrogant rich: Take some lessons in lament. You’ll need buckets for the tears when the crash comes upon you. Your money is corrupt and your fine clothes stink. Your greedy luxuries are a cancer in your gut, destroying your life from within. You thought you were piling up wealth. What you’ve piled up is judgment.

What things in your life do you claim all credit for?

Claiming all credit is ridiculous and destructive to yourself and those around you. Offer your pride to God and seek His forgiveness. Pray: “less of me Father and more of you. Help me to be faithful and humble and when others see me succeed that they would praise you and not me! Amen.”

Is Your Church Stuck Or Moving Forward?

I’m researching how churches get stuck and I’m learning… nothing really new. As I suspected, it starts with each of us as individuals.

Are we each transformed? Has God gotten a hold of our life and transformed us with the gospel? Have we let Him transform us? Do people notice there’s something different about us? Or do we blend right into our culture? Are we quite content to live our lives relying on our own strength and seeking fulfillment in things other than God? Do we come to church expecting to be entertained and to feel good, rather than worshiping God and thanking Him for what He has done through us the past week? Once we take our focus off of God and onto ourselves, we slowly die and dwindle. But if we allow God to transform us, every thought and action begins to change, our values and attitudes change. We start to change from living for ourselves to dying to ourselves. Soon, our life focuses solely on the mission of Christ and not on us. Amazing things happen… and not because of us, but because we rely on the Holy Spirit and let Him use us to fill in the cracks.

After we are individually transformed, the church becomes the gathering of transformed people to hear the gospel, worship, and then… scatter… to participate (key word) in God’s mission. We don’t live the rest of the week in selfish survival mode but in seeking how we can scatter and minister to those in our communities. We, the church, are God’s chosen instrument to spread the gospel. We are called to be His people engaged in His mission to carry His message into our culture and every culture.

We must individually be transformed – our thoughts, actions, attitudes, and values. This of course requires us to be open to being transformed. Then we gather together and worship… and then we go and scatter… spreading the Gospel! That’s when a church is moving forward.

(I’m reading “Transformational Church” by Ed Stetzer)

Keep Your Head Up

Growing up I used to play Hockey and we were always told: “Keep your head up and your stick on the ice!” ‘Cause if you didn’t you’d get clocked… or you’d knock a guy’s teeth out with your stick…. Which is what I did. I knocked a guys teeth out. Obviously the guy wasn’t happy that a girl half his size knocked his teeth out. :0

That’s not the ‘goal’ of playing Hockey. Sometimes we do this in life too. We forget about the purpose and we start fighting with each other and so we lose sight of the goal.

Today I read…

“1In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: 2Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. 3For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. 4They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 5But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.” – 2 Tim 4:1-5 NIV

It reminds me of this passage too…

“1-3Do you see what this means—all these pioneers who blazed the way, all these veterans cheering us on? It means we’d better get on with it. Strip down, start running—and never quit! No extra spiritual fat, no parasitic sins. Keep your eyes on Jesus, who both began and finished this race we’re in. Study how he did it. Because he never lost sight of where he was headed—that exhilarating finish in and with God—he could put up with anything along the way: Cross, shame, whatever. And now he’s there, in the place of honor, right alongside God. When you find yourselves flagging in your faith, go over that story again, item by item, that long litany of hostility he plowed through. That will shoot adrenaline into your souls!

4-11In this all-out match against sin, others have suffered far worse than you, to say nothing of what Jesus went through—all that bloodshed! So don’t feel sorry for yourselves.” – Heb 12:1-4 The Message

So, let’s keep our heads up (up to the mountains where our help comes from. Yes, I do mean Father God) and keep our sticks on the ice playing the puck and not hitting others with it. Now get out there and score a goal!

Source of Joy?

What is the true source of joy during both good and bad times?

A tree doesn’t grow without the flowing water beneath the surface. The storms may blow but the water flowing below the ground keeps the tree growing. Digging our roots into Christ and letting the Spirit flow in our lives brings joy. I look back on storms in my life and am reminded of this truth. When I clung to Christ, I got through the storms.

Today I was reminded that joy is not found in positive circumstances. Joy is found in abiding in Christ through all events – both good and bad.

John 15…

4“Live in me. Make your home in me just as I do in you. In the same way that a branch can’t bear grapes by itself but only by being joined to the vine, you can’t bear fruit unless you are joined with me.

5-8“I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you’re joined with me and I with you, the relation intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can’t produce a thing. Anyone who separates from me is deadwood, gathered up and thrown on the bonfire. But if you make yourselves at home with me and my words are at home in you, you can be sure that whatever you ask will be listened to and acted upon. This is how my Father shows who he is—when you produce grapes, when you mature as my disciples.

9-10“I’ve loved you the way my Father has loved me. Make yourselves at home in my love. If you keep my commands, you’ll remain intimately at home in my love. That’s what I’ve done—kept my Father’s commands and made myself at home in his love.

11“I’ve told you these things for a purpose: that my joy might be your joy, and your joy wholly mature.

For Money or For Love?

Chasing after money brings destruction but pursuing righteousness, godliness, love, endurance, and gentleness brings life.

Today I read…

6But godliness with contentment is great gain. 7For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 8But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. 9People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. 10For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.

11But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness. 12Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called when you made your good confession in the presence of many witnesses.

17Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share. 19In this way they will lay up treasure for themselves as a firm foundation for the coming age, so that they may take hold of the life that is truly life.

– 1 Tim 6:6-12, 17-19

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