080: Struggles and trials may be better than expected.

I have been reading through 1 Peter as of the last couple days, and the thing I’ve been coming across over and over is suffering. It’s not an uncommon thing for me or for any human being for that matter. Suffering is part of life for every human being on the this planet. And to be honest, one of my greatest stuggles with God, or with Christianity as a whole is this very subject, struggles. Why doesn’t our awesome God just fix it? He can do anything. When we read about Jesus’ ministry, He heals hundreds of people, feeds thousands, saves billions with his death and resurrection. So, “let’s do some of that now,” is my thought. However, I’ve yet to see me healed miraculously or fed miraculously. I guess what I’m getting at is this: why doesn’t God do miracles now? Why doesn’t He overcome struggles in our lives with miracles? Is that a selfish desire? I feel like it’s legitimate to some degree.

As I read 1 Peter, however, I cam across something interesting. “Therefore let those who suffer according to the will of God commit their souls to Him in doing good as to a faithful Creator” (1 Peter 4:19, NKJV). When I first read this, it didn’t mean anything. But, the second time I read this, I was perplexed: “let those who suffer according to the will of God.” What the heck? Suffering is part of God’s will? I’ve never heard this before. Peter says it fairly clear here in 1 Peter 4. We do suffer according to the will of God.

I meditated on this for a while. I wrestled with this. The church doesn’t teach anything about suffering as being part of God’s will. Yet, it says it here in 1 Peter. Thus, either I am wrongfully interpreting this verse and scripture or the church is missing something in its teaching.

I re-read the chapter over and over, and I got fixed on verses 12-14. I think they give us some insight into the mystery of verse 19.

Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed. If you are insulted because of the name of Christ, you are blessed, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests on you. – 1 Peter 4:12-14, NIV84

I have been taught all my life that happiness and health and psychological wellness and comfort are God’s design. I like the thought of that, don’t get me wrong. However, looking across the world, outside my quasi-middle-class life, I see a lot of suffering. I see a lot of war, death, poverty, disease. And this world I live in is God’s design. Thus, the happiness, health, and comfort that I have been taught is God’s will for my life cannot be the paramount purpose of God’s will.

This is where verse 12-14 come into play. Peter says in verse 12, “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.” Why am I surprised when trial comes my way? He says, “do not be surprised.” Clearly, he is implying, “it’s normal to go through suffering. Don’t be surprised by it. You will have suffering in your life.” Then, moving to the next sentence, verse 13, “But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.” He says, “do not be surprised…but rejoice.” Interesting. I feel like we are so quick to fix the suffering. Sometimes, we fix it with drugs, or we fix it with food, or with sex, or with blame. The fact is we immediately try to alleviate and put an end to suffering. However, Peter challenges us to “rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ.” I can’t say I was happy to read this verse. I do not want to be happy about suffering. I do not want to participate in Christ’s suffering. However, to be honest, I do want the benefit of His suffering. I believe that Peter is telling us to be glad and thankful when we suffer; remember Christ’s suffering, what He gave up, what He did for us. As we participate in His suffering, the benefit becomes all the more amazing. And when the benefit becomes more amazing, the benefactor is so much more appreciated. As a result, our appreciation and admiration for the Lord is increased.

One final word, just a thought about suffering “according to the will of God.” If it was God’s will that His Son (who, in fact, is God in the flesh) would suffer, for it was according to God’s will that Christ suffered. Then, we (who are not God) are called as well to suffer “according to the will of God.”


079: On Going…

There has been so many different things going on in life lately. However, at times, I feel as if it is all a little foggy, like I don’t see the finish line. This seems to be happening at home, at work, and in my inner-life (the things that go on in my mind).

When it comes to home, it is projects–like my shed. When am I going to find time to finish it? It just needs two coats of paint and a few trim boards. But, I’ve been dealing with a few things outside the regular routine that have been quite disruptive to normal project deadlines. Thus, I projects that are intended to be 2 week projects become 4 week projects. And, frankly, that’s frustrating. But, if that is all that bugs me about home life, then I am okay to deal with it.

Speaking of home life, on another note, I had a wonderful date with my wife the other day. We had such a great time. We talked. We ate. We asked questions, laughed, drank, and spent time being married. It was great. I am so blessed to have such a fantastic wife. She is so special to me. I wouldn’t want to live a day without her by my side.

Now, work-life. It’s great. It has its challenges, mainly relational sort of things, but, overall, I love it. CFL Wesley is a joy for me. I enjoy going to work. I love to see students growing in their faith or opening up to one another or discovering rich things of God’s character. It makes me want more of Jesus and more prayer for continued growth in every student who comes through Wesley. God has really blessed me with this opportunity.

Finally, inner-life. This has been troubling. I have been craving creativity. However, there’s been a lot of distractions, from work stuff to home stuff, from relationships to marriage. Not that the distractions are bad. I just want to be creative. I want to be growing as a creative, as someone who takes time expressing my love for Christ through the creative gifts He has given me. I know I’ll get to it. I have just had a lot of distractions. I think being creative, flexing the ol’ creative muscles, is something I should do every day, or I would at least like to commit to that.

I read something cool today: Mark 12. It is an exceptional chapter in the Gospel of Mark. Jesus’ parable of the wicked vine-dressers was so convicting. They worked and toiled over the Lord’s vineyard, and, in the end, they wanted to the fruit, the riches, and the inheritance all to themselves. They felt their labor deserved a reward of the fruit, rather than the wages that the Lord and they had agreed on. I am the same way. I see my labor, my toiling, and I expect some fruit. I don’t want to give the Lord any of His fruit. I worked for it. Then, I realize that my Christian faith is not about what I get, but what I “lose”. Jesus expresses like this: “Those who lose their life will find it…” Thus, my work and labor is lost–I reap no material or monetary gain–but I do gain the joy of the Lord. The Lord delighted in the vineyard in Mark 12. He put up walls to protect it, even before it produced fruit. He created a wine press and a tower. This all happens before the fruit comes. He expects it to be great. He puts all the investment in upfront. And when the season is ready for harvest, He comes back to it ready to delight in the wine. Wouldn’t it be a delight to present the Lord with great fruit? To give him a cup of wine from the vineyard He asked me and you to tend? What’s awesome is that I have this opportunity every day, but I seldom take the opportunity to let Him partake. I say, “It’s mine. I worked for this. I’ve sweat over this. I’ve spent my life on this.” And, for me, in my life, that’s so wrong. I lose to find, and die to live. That’s where my growth needs to start or restart or something like that.

078: Big changes need more God

So my life has taken a big turn. There’s been tons of change. The number one biggest thing is that I am now the Interim Director at CFL Wesley. It’s exciting and new, something I would have never imagined doing, but I am glad the Lord has given me this opportunity. I feel like the Lord has me here for a reason, preparing me for something, giving me this chance to grow as a leader.

I’ve been trying to read more stuff. I’m not much of a reader. I grow tired of reading. Nevertheless, I was reading Psalm 69 today, and I found it to have some encouraging things.

First off, Jesus was so dedicated to the Lord. He was so zealous for the Lord, for the Lord’s house even. It says that, “for zeal for your house consumes me, and the insults of those who insult you fall on me.” Jesus had such a passion even for God’s house. The house of God is not actual the person of God. It’s like me being overwhelmed with passion for my house. I’m not. If I was, I would probably be adding more beauty to it. But Jesus is consumed with zeal for His Father’s house. He knows that His Father’s presence dwells there. And what is cool about this is that the Lord’s Spirit dwells in us, in our hearts. Huh? If Jesus is zealous for the place that God’s spirit dwells, then zeal for our hearts (where the Holy Spirit dwells) consumes Him. What an awesome picture! He is zealous for our hearts. He longs to see our hearts made right. The corrupt things of our inner-man made new and clean. Thank you, Lord.

So, I also am working on a hymn based on Psalm 69. Here’s what I got:

I am broken and in need
Where can I find my peace?
The Lord is my salvation
A rock that is high, all my fears will cease

Jesus, your name be praised
My God, I magnify your hand of love
With thanks and melody
You will not despise my song

The Broken hear your praise and smile
Those who long for you shall breathe your life
For your mercy, it is great
And you restore the captive dwelling in great strife

077: Sometimes I’m not in the mood to write

It has been ages since I’ve written anything significant, other than journal entries–prayers, really. But, I felt an urgency from the Lord to start writing, to expose truths in my life, to exclaim discoveries about the Lord, to explore the life God has given me, which, to be honest, has been pretty good lately. I often tell my friends that it’s too good; something is bound to go wrong soon enough. However, I’ve been saying it for a while, and God has been helping me stay connected to Him, by no power of my own. When I look at how far the Lord has brought through struggles, sin, attitudes, and desires, I’m amazed at His faithfulness. If it weren’t for Him, I would be hopeless. Much of His faithfulness has been shown through my wife: she’s always there for me, keeping me to the man I want to be. She’s the greatest blessing in my life.

I was reading today in Psalm 53 and Mark 1. I’ve been going through Psalms, 53 was up next, and I felt like I should read through Mark, because it has been 10 years or more since I read through Mark. Some interesting things I discovered that really showed me some things about God, the Father, and Jesus, the Son of God.

In Psalm 53, it says, “God looks down from heaven on all mankind to see if there are any who understand, any who seek God” (Ps. 53:2; NIV). God, the Father, is looking at us, looking at everyone to see if we are looking for him. He wants–no, desperately desires–to find someone who is seeking Him. If you look at it this way, what good father does not want his children to seek him for wisdom, affection, or provision? God is “Our Father” and “Hallowed be [His] name.” But what we see in verse 3 tells us that God did not find anyone who sought after Him: “Everyone has turned away, all have become corrupt; there is no one who does good, not even one.” What the heck? Not a single person is good; myself included.

However, the story doesn’t end here in Psalm 53. When we look forward to Mark 1, we see that God’s search is over. He looks everywhere across the whole earth, and what does He find? Himself, as a man–Jesus. Jesus is the one whom God had been searching for all along. Jesus was the only one “who [understood]” and “who [sought] God.” We know this, because God says this to Jesus: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11; NIV). God makes His claim, “I love You, Son. I am so pleased with You.” (That’s my translation.)

As we continue in Mark 1, Jesus jumps right into the thick of things. (Or so it feels that way, because of Mark’s writing style.) Anyway, Jesus does perform miracles: casts out an evil spirit, heals a sick woman, and cleanses a leper. Furthermore, when He is teaching in the synagogues, the people realize that preaches differently: He preaches with authority. I believe that Jesus was living in the full belief, full trust, and full faith that He was, indeed, the Son of God. When He heard the Father say, “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased,” He believed one hundred percent, not a doubt in His mind. He believed the Father when the Father said that He was loved, that He was the Father’s son, and that the Father was pleased with Him. By holding to the character and title claimed on Him by the Father, Jesus gained authority as the “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). That is why whatever He does from the point of baptism and later, He does with authority as “the Holy One of God,” a pretty awesome title.

So what this means for me, I have been given authority as well. God has called me good, righteous by the blood of Jesus, his adopted son. If I live in these titles, with faith, then I will gain authority over many things, not for my own good, but for the good of the Kingdom. Thus, I need an attitude change, really. I lose focus, lose sight of the titles God has given me. God is the one who gives us the titles and the authority. It’s our job to trust in His word and have faith in the character He has claimed over us.

076: Purity, Faithfulness, and the Word

I have been trying to memorize the book of Psalms this year.  Let’s just say I am off to a slow start.  With 150 Psalms total and 2 memorized, I have got my work cut out for me, seeing that it’s already the second week of February.  Memorizing a Psalm provided to be a bit harder than I had expected.  I was hoping to fly through three Psalms a week.  No chance for that to succeed.  Life just got so busy so fast.  And as it gets busier, the Psalms, or even the Scripture, become more important for life.  I like how Psalm 1 says “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly…but his delight is in the Law of the Lord, and in His Law he meditates day and night.”  It is the Law that is important to the blessed man, not all the other distractions of life: money, houses, pleasure, fun, adventure.  Not that life’s earthly joys are bad.  But if I were to delight in the Word of God, I would “not wither,” but would “bear fruit in…season.”  It’s simple to read the Bible.  I know that to be very true for my life.  But how can I delight in something. It’s not easy to delight in something that points out my faults, that calls me to be humble instead of powerful, that challenges who I am.  Yet, that very thing has also given me hope, peace, and love.  It’s hard to hold on to those times when Scripture has given me something great to delight in, because life has so many hurdles and obstacles to maneuver.  I guess what I am getting is I want to delight in the Word of God, but I don’t know how.  I can see how Scripture points to a joyful life for those who delight in the Word.  (Look at Ps. 1, 119.)

075: The Word of God is to be the breath of my existence

I think one thing that struck me today is that the Lord speaks to me more than just when I am praying, worshiping, or reading my bible.  It’s easy to just expect him to speak to me when I have a quiet time, but today I was reading 2 Kings 6:1-23.  (Thanks to this site I found, which gives the lectionary readings from the Book of Common Prayer and scripture to go with the readings. It’s much easier than getting out the Book of Common prayer and flipping through the back to find the right reading for the day.)  Anyway, enough about the website and back to 2 Kings 6.  In the passage, Elisha prays that his servants eyes would be opened to see the angelic army protecting Elisha.  And when the servants eyes are opened, he sees “horses and chariots of fire.”  Now, when it comes to my faith and my relationship with Jesus, I don’t need to see chariots of fire or whole armies becoming blind; however, I do want see the hand of God in the things around me.  I want to see His motives, His actions, and His ways.  For without seeing Him around me, I am easily inclined to go it on my own, just as the Psalmist says in Psalm 119:109, “I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your law.”  It’s hard to say that that simple statement is true for my life; in fact, the first part of it is true: “I hold my life in my hand continually.”  I continually go at life my way, by my hand, by my desires. However, I forget His law, because if I did remember it, I would meditating on it all day. Or how I like to look at it, I see His law, or Word, evident, consistent, and persistent in all areas of life, guiding me (“lamp to my feet”) and protecting me (“uphold me according to your promise, that I may live”).  To put all things in terms that I can understand and, hopefully, all people can understand, the Word of God is to be the breath of my existence.  Just as I need breath to survive, I need the Word to live.  I think one way to aid this is memorizing the Scripture and having the mind set that the Lord speaks all day long, because He is always with us.

074: Dodging the bullets of my own desires to spend time with the Lord

I have been lacking, as a result of my own complacency and apathy.  A man, Tom Tanner, I know him only through other people, said this once, “If you don’t intentionally increase, you will unintentionally decrease.”  He spoke these things pertaining to our relationship with Jesus.  And, to be honest, I have not been increasing.  Thus, well…you can fill in the rest from the quote above.  I have been declining.  And I know it.  I read my bible and pray every other day.  I used to read my bible once week in high school and felt fine, felt like life was at a high point.  However, now, I skip a day and I feel like my life is tearing at the seams.  That might be a bit of an exaggeration, but I do feel a significant difference in my life, just the way I feel about things, about what’s happening around me, about where life is going.

So, I want to commit myself to truly seeking out the Lord, always!  Not letting up one day, to pick up another.  But, as anyone knows, it’s hard to keep up.  All the distractions of life–work, school, family, spouse, pleasure, recreation, entertainment, insecurities–take their aim at all your vulnerable time slots–Jesus time, small groups, church.  Thus, I am dodging the bullets of my own desires to spend time with the Lord.  I know this sounds dramatic and all, that’s because it is, on paper (or on the screen, in the internet’s case.)  Nevertheless, I have to be committed to something more than passions an desires, because, as it is clear to all, they fade and falter just as the flesh does, but the Spirit is willing.

I spent time today meditating on the Lord’s prayer.  It is not something I have never done before.  However, I made it a point to be very intentional about listening to the Spirit while meditating.  I guess, I should always do that, really.

First off, I was reminded of the scripture, “Thus you are to be holy to Me, for I the LORD am holy; and I have set you apart from the peoples to be Mine” (Lev. 20:26 NASB).  If I want to dwell with the Lord, if I want to speak with Him, if I want to call upon His holy Name, then I must be holy as well.  In fact, in this Leviticus passage, God is commanding me to be holy, because He is.  And, in all reality, I am aware that true holiness is unattainable, because I am human.  (You could ask my wife that: she’s seen how human I can be.)  I think the part about being holy that grabbed my focus the most is that I expect the Lord to come be with me whenever I please.  And probably nine hundred ninety-nine times out of a thousand, I am asking Him to rest with me while I am an unholy devil.  However, God, in his great mercy, still sits beside the ragged, sinful, selfish man I am.  And from that, from the multitude of His mercies, I am thankful for His holiness.  (For as high as the heavens are above the earth, So great is His lovingkindness toward those who fear Him. — Ps. 103:11 NASB.)

And the other cool thing I got when meditating on the Lord’s prayer is this: Pray expectantly everyday for the Lord to provide “the daily bread” for all parts of life.  I found that “daily bread” is all kinds of life giving substances, whether it is physical bread for the day to nourish my body, or the Word of God to nourish my soul, or spiritual questions for my wife and I to discuss to nourish our marriage.  I guess, ultimately, I can expect that God will provide for all parts of life, for He has come to bring “abundant life.”