Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Everything going wrong days

"When it feels like everything is going wrong you are in the middle of a Kingdom story."  
-Paul Miller, A Praying Life


We always hate it when someone says something like the quote above.  In fact, I posted this quote yesterday on Facebook and the comments were of frustrated responses to these words.  I understand that.  

We ask, "well, I wish I knew what he was doing," and "when will this be over?" and finally, from my friend Stephanie, "I sure would like to know how that story goes because right now, it is very not right."


I get that!  In the 'going wrong' parts of our lives we are completely focused on what is going wrong and not on God!  We live in the midst of the problem, the trial, the temptation and can't see anything or anyone else. And when our eyes are only focused on us and our problems anger and bitterness set in.  We feel trapped, we get mad!


Like a boxer stuck in the corner of the ring we want to fight our way out of the pain, get away from the beating and just get out!  


But, in the times when 'everything goes wrong' would you stop for a moment and simply look up?  Could  you surrender your heart to the God who loves you with this simple prayer, "Lord, even in the midst of everything going wrong I will trust you."


James described it this way,


"When troubles of any kind come your way, consider it an opportunity for great joy. For you know that when your faith is tested, your endurance has a chance to grow. So let it grow, for when your endurance is fully developed, you will be perfect and complete, needing nothing."


and Paul wrote,


"We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation.  And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because he has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with his love."


In the middle of this passage from Romans 5 I am captivated by these words, 'For we know how dearly God loves us.'  


And yet he allows days when everything goes wrong and he does it BECAUSE he loves us!


How does that work?


My problem, honestly, and your problem as well is that we live in time, in pain, in the moments when everything goes wrong and we want it to stop right now!  


But what we can’t see is what God is doing, what he’s working on, what he is trying to accomplish. 


What he's trying to accomplish is not about me having an easy pain free life!  It’s about a Kingdom story where the bride is being prepared to meet the groom.  It’s about the bride being used by God to draw others to the great wedding feast. 


It’s about Jesus and the Kingdom he is creating even now.


It’s about a Kingdom we are part of…..but like that chubby bride who works like crazy to get into the dress for the wedding God is working to get us ready for his coming, to mold us into the image of Christ so that others ask, “Can I come to the wedding too?”


It’s a Kingdom story and it’s not about me and it’s not about you.  


It’s about Christ.  


Your part in it is to consider it joy that in those days when everything is going wrong God is working out an amazing story for his glory in your everything going wrong days!


Just ask those around you who have suffered greatly for their faith.  They will smile and tell you, ‘oh, it is worth it all!’  Or take a moment and read Hebrews 11.  In the later verses of that chapter are the stories of ‘and others….’ When we see their perspective, a focus on the King and the Kingdom and not on their comfort, we can rest in the arms of a Father who loves us.


Consider it all joy my brothers and sisters when you come to an ‘everything is going wrong day’ because you are part of a Kingdom story. 



Tuesday, August 23, 2016

The mountain top


There is nothing more exhilarating than the view from atop a mountain.  The air,  the smells, the coolness, the beauty is beyond description.  

On a mountain top you can see for miles!  The beauty of the experience is one we remember for a lifetime.  There is nothing quite like it.

This morning I climbed one of the most glorious mountain tops in the bible, Romans 8.  The beauty of the view, the rarified air of God's glory and the majesty of what he has done for his children just takes your breath away!  

So many have written about this amazing mountain top that I doubt I can do it justice, but what always thrills me are the little things God gives us to look at as we stand on this mountain.  It begins with no condemnation (how glorious is that?) and ends with no separation (and how wonderful is that for the weary heart?) 

But near the end are these words, it's honestly difficult to not talk about all the amazing views from this mountain top, but the one that always thrills me is this one,


“And I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from God’s love. Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love.  No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

Linger here for a while and dwell on this view....don't rush off to your busy day, but just stop for a moment and read those words again.

NOTHING you will ever go through will affect, change or steal away the love God has for you!  No one, no thing, no sin, no failure, no doubt, nothing will ever separate you from God's love!

When we have trusted Christ as savior he becomes so much more, he does so much more, he wraps us in his love and never lets us go.  In Christ we become God's dearly loved children.  That, dear friend, is the most glorious view I have ever seen as I stand on this wonderful mountain top.  

If I did nothing more than understand that it would change me forever!  God loves me and no matter what I do that will never change!

I think I will linger here and enjoy the view for a bit....


Monday, August 22, 2016

Living in the land of suffering and sorrow


There is no photo that describes suffering today better than this one of a recent air strike in Syria.  The suffering others endure is beyond our imagination.  Families are destroyed, children killed and lives changed forever.

Sadly, we are used to seeing images like this on television and cable and have become a bit hardened to the pain and cruelty that mankind has inflicted on others around them.  'Sin' is not a harsh enough word for all we see happening.  It's wicked, evil and demonic.

But it isn't new.  Last night my wife and I were watching a documentary on the slave trade in past centuries.  Sadly, the slave trade continues even today around the world, but as we watched the program describe the enslavement of millions and the business of slavery it grieved us both.  Lives were destroyed for money.  It was all about money and commerce. It's sad but we will do almost anything for money, even sell one another for a few pieces of gold.

The sorrow, suffering and sin we inflict on one another makes us look more like animals than men and women made in the image of God.  And yet it continues, one man killing another, selling another, stealing from this one, hurting that one all for selfish gain, all because of sin.

But to help us feel better about all of this we blame God.  Funny, isn't it, we always find a way to blame someone else.  We did it even as children, "it's Mary's fault! I didn't do it."  When mom asked, "who spilled the milk?" We point at a sibling as the culprit even though it was our fault.  

And so, today, we point our fingers at God.  It goes something like this- If God is good and all powerful then why do evil, wicked things happen on earth?  


It's because we are NOT good!  

It's because evil men all around us live for themselves, lust after things and use, hurt, kill others to get them.  Here we stand, all of us pointing our fingers at God with the evidence of our sin all around us.

Suffering, sorrow and sin are, for the most part, what we cause to happen in the lives of others.  We do it because we worship the wrong god, the god of this world.  He loves suffering, he thrives on sorrow and death.  It makes him smile when one man hurts or steals from another.  In fact, he encourages it!

James writes, "what's the source of quarrels and strife among you? it's your lusts!  You want and so you kill to get..." (my paraphrase). 

In the middle of all of this a man showed up on planet earth and said, in the midst of the suffering all around him, "the enemy comes to steal, kill and destroy, but I have come to give you life."

And, he continues, "love one another, as I have loved you...."

He lived all of this out while suffering himself the worst kind of death in that day, a painful excruciating death, and did it because of love, because God cares about our sorrow, sin and suffering.  

God suffered for us, with us and he understands, but it doesn't make it ok for us to continue this cycle of suffering and pain.  As children of God we must speak up for the suffering, the sorrowing, the wounded and say, "No more!  No more baby killing, no more slavery, no more war, no more....."  

But even as I write that I know the hearts of men.  It won't stop.  It won't stop until each man gets a new heart.  The old heart we are born with is desperately wicked, we don't mind making others suffer if it helps us.  In fact, the power to cause pain makes us feel important.  We need new hearts, we need to be new men who hunger and thirst for righteousness and love for those around us.  

And that will only come when we each come to God for that new heart that looks like his.  Until then, sorrow, sin and suffering will continue unabated as we worship the god of this world.

One day.....one day soon the King will arrive to take back his kingdom and all of this will stop, suffering will end, sorrow will cease, tears will stop.  We can't imagine such a time, a time when no one will ever suffer again, a time when sorrows will be forgotten. We have never known such a time!  We live in the land of suffering and sorrow!  One day....it will end!

But today, in this day, don't harden your hearts to the pain by saying it's too much to fix, it's too far away, what can I do?  You can pray, you can give, you can care, you can help, you can be Christ in your world to give others a taste of the day when suffering and sorrow will be no more.....you can show them the love of God in the land of suffering and sorrow.




Saturday, August 20, 2016

Overwhelmed


All of humanity cries out, 
"Am I loved? 
Does anyone see me? 
Does anyone care?"

We may not admit it, 
may not know it,
but our hearts cry out for love.

We hunger to be seen, 
to be known,
to be loved.

Each of us search for love, 
a love that tells us we are seen, 
that we matter, 
that we are not alone.

Our dilemma grows as we realize
every human we meet is seeking
the same thing we are!
None of us can meet this need
for love 
in another.

So where do we find the love we seek?
How do we discover the one who sees us?
Where do we go to be known and seen,
loved and accepted unconditionally?

This morning I'm overwhelmed as I read
the answer to these questions in these words,

God showed his great love for us by sending Christ to die for us while we were still sinners. 
And since we have been made right in God’s sight by the blood of Christ, 
he will certainly save us from God’s condemnation. 
For since our friendship with God was restored by the death of his Son while we were still his enemies, 
we will certainly be saved through the life of his Son.  So now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God.” -Romans 5

This morning, as I read these words, I'm once more overwhelmed and thankful for the love of God extended to me when I was God's enemy.  

This is the love I need.  
This is the love we each need 
and it's only found in Christ.  

You will never find what you're looking for 
until you come to Christ.




Thursday, August 18, 2016

Don't give up!


I love this short video!  There is a longer version, I've spared you from that, but this theme of endurance permeates all of scripture.  

Even this morning, as I drove to coffee, the program on the radio spoke of endurance in marriage when things are difficult, even when it seems impossible.

Life is hard at times, there are days when we want to give up, but we need encouragement and endurance to keep at it, to keep walking with God even when it's hard.

Don't give up, the journey may be hard, but the goal is worth the price.

In Revelation the author writes, "This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus."

Don't give up.  Quitting is easy to do...

to take the easy path, 
or take the easy way out, 
to give in to sin, 
or go ahead and get a divorce,

....there are a hundred 'easy roads' that we think will make life better. And, to ease the pain, we simply give up and take the easy road.

Paul's words help as we consider giving up,  he writes,

"No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."

Don't stop, don't give up, God will help you endure and when you come out the other side you will proclaim, "It was worth the pain! I'm so glad I endured."