the perfect church.

the perfect church.

There is no perfect church, they say.

But don’t you see? They expect it to be perfect.

Isn’t the Church the light in the darkness that leads us to safety?

Isn’t the Church the place we go to see God’s love? Even if we don’t think there is a God?

There is no perfect church, they say.

But don’t you hear? They expect you to hear.

Isn’t the Church the ears in the darkness that loves through our pain?

Isn’t the Church where we go to hear God’s love? Even when we don’t say the right words?

There is no perfect church, they say.

Gifts. Purpose. Destiny.

Carry the torch and advance the kingdom for God. They heard.

Some were not chosen. Where is your tenacity?

He had tenacity. But he was not chosen.

Hear the cries of sorrow and suffering. God does.

There is no perfect church, they say.

God sees. God hears. God is perfect.

But you are to be perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect, God says.

Why don’t you love what you don’t like? Why don’t you turn the other cheek?

Why do you expect conditions when you say God is unconditional?

There is no perfect church, they say.

There is persecution.

All who wants to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted.

There is judgement.

For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God.

Which one?

That is why scripture says: God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.

Choose perfect. Choose humility.

Choose love because it is patient and kind.

Choose love because it is not proud.

Choose because you watch for our souls.

Do you see?

Do you hear?

God does.

trying to understand.

trying to understand.

Today, the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and returned it to the states.

The Supreme Court on Friday overruled the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision, which gave women a national right to an abortion up until viability, which was determined to be around 28 weeks.

The 6-to-3 ruling sends the issue of abortion back to the states. It does not outlaw abortion entirely. Washington Times.

My thoughts today are not about the states who will ban or allow abortions. I’ve already heard, “A woman will have to travel out of her state!”

My thoughts today are not about the quarreling and division between our government representatives and American citizens (although I am aware of the call for riots by some pro-choice groups).

My thoughts are this: I am trying to understand.

<> How is it that a woman should have a personal choice, but others don’t have a personal choice to decline an immunization like the experimental Covid shot? Don’t people have a right to wait and see the data before injecting themselves with something?

<> How is it that I should trust the science with an experimental immunization, but pro-choice individuals don’t trust the science with what we now see on an ulstrasound? And the science that tells us babies feel pain in the womb?

<> How is that we cannot clearly separate rape and incest with women who don’t want the baby for various reasons, e.g., a method of birth control, “just because”, or emotional and mental health?

<> How is it that emotional or mental health is not valid when it comes to being injected with something not wanted? How is it that these people are told they don’t care about others?

<> How is it that our culture seems to vilify the victim and support the one who does the act to cause there to be a victim? We say a woman is a victim of rape or incest but we don’t tell women who have sex .. they might get pregnant.

<> How is it that those who wish to have a gun or carry a gun shouldn’t be allowed to protect themselves? Meanwhile, the loudest are our government officials who have a security detail?

According to pbs.org, The report from the Guttmacher Institute, a research group that supports abortion rights, counted more than 930,000 abortions in the U.S. in 2020 … About one in five pregnancies ended in abortion in 2020.

Surely these numbers don’t reflect only rape and incest. Nor do they only represent a woman who is hindered because of clinical emotional or mental issues.

Trying to understand.

the event.

the event.

Today, an event is celebrated around the world that knowingly or unknowingly affects every single person.

An event that knows no limitation no matter who you are or where you live. An event so momentus and of such magnitude, it caused an earthquake, yet unknown by so many.

The event is not deterred by race, life style, or belief system.

The event, believed or not, accepted or not, does not affect it.

The event was mocked, scorned, and rejected and still is today.

The event stands despite unbelief. It stands as sure as the physical laws we live by.

The Resurrection.

The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the cornerstone of our Christian faith. This event, which occurred almost two thousand years ago, is the best attested fact in human history and experience. The resurrection of Christ was predicted in the Old Testament and by Christ Himself. During the forty days following His resurrection, Jesus showed Himself to be alive from the dead by “many infallible proofs”. He appeared at various times and places to many people who told others what they had seen.

– Moody Bible Institute

Other religious leaders have a grave.

Not Jesus.

But first:

God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.

The key word is love.

We understand love. We talk about how important it is to love people and how much we want to be loved.

In my lifetime, I have seen humanity doing better in loving through listening, understanding, and accepting more than ever. Yet, we don’t always love the way God tells us.

God says this about love:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs …

God, the Creator of the universe, the Creator of humanity and all things, created love and defines what love is.

Because of love, God rescued the us from our sinful condition through sacrificing His life. It was the only way to be reconciled to God.

What does God ask of us? To love Him with all our heart, our soul, our strength.

That’s it.

It’s not about doing good things or being a good person. It’s not enough. How could it be?

The sinful condition of humanity is deeper and darker than we can possibly comprehend. Like a broken bone or cancer needs more than an aspirin or a band-aid, we have to be willing to look deeply into our human condition.

Shouldn’t our love be reciprocated as equally as possible? Aren’t we grateful for something someone does for us? Or gives us? How much more should our response be to God?

We can only do that when we willingly look at our hearts. God says he has written eternity on our hearts. That means we know there is something beyond living our lives here. He also says the commandments are written on our hearts. We know the difference between right and wrong.

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—not as a result of [good] works, so that no one may boast.

We don’t earn our way to salvation. It is a gift.

The gift can only be opened when we admit we are sinners in need of saving.

Jesus suffered and died a gruesome death to rescue us.

But today, we remember that Jesus defied the finality of death through the empty tomb.

No other religious leader makes that claim.

Those who believe will also be resurrected and with God for eternity.

I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live.

Hallelujah!

the end of the story.

the end of the story.

When you are a Christian, when you have invited the Lord and his word to be a living, breathing, part of your life, you not only experience the peace and comfort He promises during suffering, but you know the end of the story.

The end of the story is important. But first, the beginning of the story.

The world is enslaved to sin.

When Adam sinned, sin entered the world. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.

We can see the affects all around us. Rust, corrosion, moth eaten, disease, pain, death.

Yet, Emmanuel – God with us. God reveals His presence all around us. In the midst of disatrous and destructive life experiences, we still smile at breath-taking sunsets and the fresh, green buds of spring.

The world is not detached from God. He is with us in our suffering. He promises never to leave us.

We won’t understand everything in the Bible but we understand enough. I don’t know why some suffer more than others. In my own suffering, I said, “How can I hurt so bad but love God even more?”

It was because I had experienced his closeness to me. No earthly power or distraction would have sufficed. Suffering allows us to feel God’s presence and connects us with Him in ways we wouldn’t have known otherwise. Could this be part of why we suffer?

For now, we don’t understand suffering. It seems at odds with a loving God.

But we do know the end of the story.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.  I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband.  And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Look! God’s dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God.  ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

He who was seated on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”

 He said to me: “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost from the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this, and I will be their God and they will be my children.

For centuries, the end the story has brought comfort to those who have suffered.

The Apostle Paul, who suffered in ways foreign to many of us, said this:

For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.

The world offers numerous ways to bring happiness and comfort. Some good. Some bad. But all is temporary.

Only God gives us exactly what we need. And He gives us the patience to endure

… until the end of the story.

contentment.

contentment.

... for I have learned to be content regardless of my circumstances.

Contentment isn’t happiness. Happiness comes and goes depending on the circumstances.

Contentment is learned through accepting circumstances we cannot change, producing a steady, peaceful mind and heart.

God knows we are human and understands how we feel.

But, He gave us a way to not let our feelings (happiness or the lack thereof) dictate everything we think or do.

Because Jesus loves, it doesn’t mean He loves everything we think or do. There is a trend happening these days that says because Jesus is so loving, He understands and accepts xyz.

He understands. It doesn’t mean he accepts.

Jesus said, “Go and sin no more” for a reason.

It goes like this: “Trust Me. Do “these things” and it will hurt you. Do these things and you will be able to not only endure in a broken, suffering, world, but I will give you contentment, peace, and joy in the midst of it.

Contentment is just one of those promises given to us when we do it God’s way. His presence increases in our life, and we grow stronger in our spirit instead of in ourselves.

The Apostle Paul said this to the Galatians:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives.

To crucify your passions and sinful desires means to reject them; to not let them determine, dictate, or decide; to reject anything that interferes with what God says. It is a choice, a decision; not a feeling.

We can be a Christian, love God, go to church, and live out our lives being weak in our spirit because time after time we have carved out our own path in life in our own way. When things go wrong, when our circumstances are not ideal, it is very telling how much of us is in our lives and how much of God.

If God tells us we can have contentment no matter our circumstances, we can.

For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

when a nation hurts.

when a nation hurts.

I have always loved American history.

I’m not sure why (whether my personality or experiences), but the courage and sacrifice of so many has always inspired me in a very deeply, honoring way.

Yet, since I’m a Christian, I’ve been careful not to put patriotism over my faith.

Recently, I’ve discovered Christians are being divided about how much involvement or concern we should have in politics. They refer to Jesus not being concerned with such things. And the Apostle Paul tells us to pray for those in authority, including kings.

We don’t see too much, if any, political involvment in the New Testament. The Gospel and establishments of churches was front and center, as it should be.

In the Old Testament, Joseph was Pharoah’s right hand man and Daniel was entrusted with interpreting King Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams.

I think we can have both.

So why dispute about it?

What’s the point?

Going too far either way, with anything, is not good. And frankly, I am getting weary of current events with all the criticizing and judgement with the either/or camps. This Christian/Politics thing is just another one and all it’s doing is bringing division in the Church.

That said, I honor the Founding Fathers and value our founding documents. I honor those who died in wars throughout our history.

We can debate the Founders had slaves. We can debate whether a war was necessary.

But I will take those opinions with a grain of salt until I know you cared enough to learn more about those time periods; until you put yourself in their shoes.

Today, movements like the 1619 Project and the popularity of Marxism and Democratic Socialism, is a dishonor to those who sacrificed for us and future generations.

God is the creator of order, laws, and ordinances. He knows our need for these things in order to survive in our communities. I wholeheartedly believe God is invloved in our human governments (if we want him) and the nations. The Bible is full of references about the nations of the earth.

America is not a “Christian nation”, nor do we want a theocracy. Yet, America was built on Judeo-Christian principles.

Consider Benjamin Franklin and his appeal at the Constitutional Convention in 1787:

… In this situation of this Assembly groping as it were in the dark to find political truth, and scarce able to distinguish it when presented to us, how has it happened, Sir, that we have not hitherto once thought of humbly applying to the Father of lights to illuminate our understandings? In the beginning of the contest with G. Britain, when we were sensible of danger we had daily prayer in this room for the Divine Protection. — Our prayers, Sir, were heard, and they were graciously answered. All of us who were engaged in the struggle must have observed frequent instances of a Superintending providence in our favor. To that kind providence we owe this happy opportunity of consulting in peace on the means of establishing our future national felicity. And have we now forgotten that powerful friend? Or do we imagine that we no longer need His assistance.

I have lived, Sir, a long time and the longer I live, the more convincing proofs I see of this truth — that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without his notice, is it probable that an empire can rise without his aid? We have been assured, Sir, in the sacred writings that “except the Lord build they labor in vain that build it.” I firmly believe this; and I also believe that without his concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the Builders of Babel: We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded, and we ourselves shall be become a reproach and a bye word down to future age. And what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance, despair of establishing Governments by Human Wisdom, and leave it to chance, war, and conquest …”

This is how our country began, despite those who want to reject it. Like pruning a tree, change and progress is necessary and healthy even if it feels uncomfortable.

But destroying a tree’s roots will kill it.

books.

books.

Books.

So many books have been written about how to live the Christian life.

I’m not opposed to the offering of knowledge, understanding, or personal experiences.

Yet, over the years, I have been very selective only because there is this thing about me – not wanting to jump on bandwagons – expecially when it’s a book everyone is reading.

I’m cautious about trendy things. I think about this scripture found in 2 Timothy:

For the time will come when people will not tolerate sound doctrine, but according to their own desires, will multiply teachers for themselves because they have an itch to hear what they want to hear.

If we’re honest, it’s human nature to gravitate to an easier way. Sometimes I think many contemporary Christian books do this unknowingly through appealing to our soul (intellect, will, emotions) first which will then hopefully affect our spirit second. This isn’t necessarily bad but I wonder if authors can appeal to our spirit first?

Many Christians understand the “natural” or “carnal” man which is our soul. They know being a Christian means to “crucify the flesh” with all it’s worldly desires which are in direct opposition to the scripture. I think many are weary of what they have defined as a continual battle.

Instead of thinking about winning a battle, how about focusing on strengthening the spirit?

We don’t have to live a life of suffering in order to mature as a Christian. There are times of suffering but there is also this truth found in Proverbs:

The blessing of the LORD enriches, and He adds no sorrow to it.

I’m saying the Christian faith requires some serious thought. It challenges us. It confronts us. And the soul (intellect, will, emotions) may feel some suffering to turn away from sin and choose God’s ways.

The Spiritual Man by Watchman Nee, written 92 years ago, explains the three components of every human being: spirit, soul, and body.

According to Nee, our soul (intellect, will, emotions) joins the spirit and body. The soul makes it possible for the spirit and the body to communicate and cooperate.

Spirit: The spirit part of us is awakened when it connects through being reconciled with God through Jesus Christ. The spirit part can also connect with Satan wherein we find witchcraft, et al.

Soul: The soul is our intellect, will, and emotions. We use these everyday. Nee says, “ … he [man] is still powerless to uncover the Word of life by his much thinking and theorizing. How untrustworthy are human reasonings! … without the guidance of the Holy Spirit intellect not only is undependable but also extremely dangerous because it often confuses the issue of right and wrong.”

Body: Our actions seen by everyone communicated through either our spirit or our soul (intellect, will, emotions).

Which one dictates the most in our daily lives? Is our soul determining more than it should and is it what causes our continual daily struggles? Always learning but never coming to the knowledge of the truth?

I have learned about our spirit, soul, and body in a church setting. One sermon might deal with our emotions or another about being led by the spirit and not the flesh. I don’t remember learning about all three together in the way Nee presents it.

Learning, and most importantly, wanting to yield to the spirit instead of the soul is life changing. Christians understand “obeying God” or “submitting to God” but too many of us have viewed it as a life long struggle. We view it as the old cartoons with the angel on one shoulder and the devil on the other shoulder. Everyday we are presented with choices (gossip, lying, gluttony, etc.) and we should listen to the angel, right? But if we listen to the devil, well, God loves us and forgives.

Yes, He does forgive. But we are delaying the work in our spirit maturing us.

God wants us to be free from everything that entangles us. Instead of living with daily battles of the soul, we learn to draw from our spirit. As our spirit matures, the stronger we become as we face life with all its challenges. We experience peace, joy, contentment, and more.

It becomes a lifestyle of abiding in the vine.

We may soon forget what we read in the newest book, but when we allow God to mature our spirit through yielding our intellect, will and emotions, we will have all we need on this side of eternity.

look up.

look up.

” … we are preoccupied with the present.

The solution is to look up to the Lord and look ahead in hope.”

-Timothy Keller

for Amanda.

suffering; part 2

suffering; part 2

I don’t believe we can endure suffering without resting our hope and faith in eternity with God.

At one time or another, all of us have questioned how a good God who is supposed to love us would allow suffering.

Thing is, we won’t get a satisfying answer. That’s because as advanced as we have become in areas such as technology, science, and medicine, we don’t understand everything.

Yet, we still seem to want and even demand to understand this. Even people who don’t believe in God are really recognizing his existence through rejecting him.

That’s because the Creator of the universe has written eternity on our hearts. In other words, whether you accept it or not, you can’t change it. It’s there.

When we accept suffering as a part of life, we learn to co-exist with it. We don’t accept it to the point of self deprivation or thinking embracing pain makes us more holier or acceptable to God.

Through faith, we trust God with it all, and find comfort in all his promises of being near us when we are in pain.

A child runs to a mother or father or any trusted caretaker for help and comfort. A picture of our Heavenly Father being there for us, too.

We’ve had our own personal experiences of suffering which can make us bitter and miserable if we cannot see beyond our life on earth. And often, when we get angry with God, we are only responding humanly to injustice. We don’t like to see people suffering.

God understand this. He created us to respond with compassion. We know how to help in many ways whether helping a neighbor who is suffering (from illness to the inability to shovel snow) or volunteering/contributing monetarily to a charity.

Yet, we are limited. In our own lives and the lives of others.

Consider this scripture found in the Bible:

How do you know what your life will be like tomorrow?

Your life is like the morning fog—it’s here a little while, then it’s gone.

Thankfully, most of us are not always thinking about this (I respectfully realize some suffer with fear). This is God’s design, too. We live life each day, our routines, and doing the next thing.

Even people who do not live as freely in some countries will tell you they have happiness. It may not look like yours or mine.

Throughout the centuries, people have looked ahead. I think suffering makes us do this. Like the adage says, “things will look better in the morning”, we are designed to hope in tomorrow. This is from God, too: Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.

I think one of the most inspiring times of suffering in American history is listening to the richness of the spiritual songs sung by plantation slaves of the Old South. Their suffering was immeasurable. Yet, I have read about an immeasurable strength in the midst of their pain.

Then, other times in American history of mothers and babies dying during childbirth, loved ones dying with illnesses and diseases we now have medicine for, young men as young as 16 going off to war and never experiencing a future.

Then, the Holocaust. I recently finished a book based on a true story, The Girl from the Channel Islands, about a Jewish girl trapped on the island of Jersey occupied by the Germans during WWII.

Consider this passage:

No fat reserves, she’d recenlty discovered, meant that sitting for long periods, even with a cushion, was a painful experience. She had spent the afternoon wandering aimlessly from room to empty room, searching for the balance between warming up and burning calories, but last night even climbing the stairs to the attic, had left her panting and dizzy, Her weakness frightened her …

… for seven days, they had between them two ounces of margarine, seven ounces of flour, three ounces of sugar, four ounces of meat … for a few moments they rejoiced as they devoured an acceptable lunch – perhaps a slice of tongue to go with a crust of tasteless Occupation bread.

Lastly, Hebrews 11, found in the Bible, records the heroes of faith. It begins with this:

Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for.

People of faith who had amazing victories:

who through faith conquered kingdoms, administered justice, and gained what was promised; who shut the mouths of lions, quenched the fury of the flames, and escaped the edge of the sword; whose weakness was turned to strength; and who became powerful in battle and routed foreign armies. Women received back their dead, raised to life again.

Yet, at the end of the chapter:

There were others who were tortured, refusing to be released so that they might gain an even better resurrection. Some faced jeers and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment. They were put to death by stoning; they were sawed in two; they were killed by the sword. They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted and mistreated— the world was not worthy of them. They wandered in deserts and mountains, living in caves and in holes in the ground.

Not so victorious, were they? At least not our definition of victorious.

But God commends all of these people:

These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised, since God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.

I have determined, only this satisifes the questions we have about suffering. We might call our perseverance the human spirit, but even that comes from God.

We don’t have all of the story now. We don’t have a complete explanation now.

But through faith, through trust, we believe.

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more,

neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

suffering.

suffering.

There are many views within churches about suffering.

Over the years, I have found it is human nature to gravitate to a particular view found in the scripture and stay there.

Naturally, those who have faced difficult situations and needed a miracle – whether physical healing, a financial breakthrough, or a relationship restored – tend to see what prayer and faith have done for them. This is their message and they, with good intentions, tell others through encouraging, teaching, or preaching.

My church background wasn’t word-of-faith (Kenneth Copeland, et al) but we did see the healing and restoration Jesus displayed and therefore this was presented with confidence.

In my personal suffering of trying to make ends meet financially, loss of a business, loss of relationships, and more, I often sat wondering at those in my church who stood and testified of what God did for them. I suffered more when I wondered why I was left out of these wonderful answers to prayer. But it didn’t stop with me. I wondered about many others, too.

When we stand up in church and say God healed me, or God spared my loved one from death, the next question is: what about me? Doesn’t God care?

These aren’t only church goers who think this. More importantly, these are people we want to reach with the gospel. People who don’t go to church.

Is our message to them that through faith, every sickness will be healed? Every one we love will be protected? Spared from death? We know this isn’t true so why aren’t we addressing this honestly?

A biblical principal that worked for us can make us inadequate in helping people who are suffering. We think it’s a simple solution to stand on the word of God and have that ever important quality of faith.

Yes, the Bible says much about the importance of faith. But it also says much about suffering.

Problem is, those who have had good outcomes with their faith preach it, as if it is all that is needed. It is an injustice to people to not address the other side of things. Whether it is a small church or a big name preacher on television, people are being misled.

I get it. The Jesus movement of the 70’s ushered in a fresh, vibrant faith in a personal God who is not sitting on a throne somewhere watching the world go by. The Bible came alive, no longer rote prayers or passages that didn’t touch our hearts and minds. Worship took a new expression and one could feel the presence of God. Church wasn’t just for Sundays or Easter. Faith became a life style; a real connection with God.

Denominational churches were felt to be lacking and non-denominational churches sprung up in living rooms across the country. Of course, the denominational churches, if they preached Jesus Christ and him crucified, were our brothers and sisters, too, and not to be dismissed. Yet, I wonder, if in our desire for “God doing a new thing” which is always exciting, some threw the baby out with the bath water; forgot the richness of those hymns and the value of liturgy and ceremony.

Fortunately, there are churches that have learned to combine both. That is because the Church is an ongoing masterpiece referred to as the Bride of Christ. Over the centuries, with each church age, we walk in more light as our eyes are opened to wonderous truths from the scripture.

Yet, there are certainly some, and perhaps there will always be, remnants of pushing faith and exluding suffering, as if it is something God never allows. Hearing that Jesus took our infirmities on the cross and by his stripes we are healed is one scripture often quoted in prayer.

This is a truth. Thing is, I think far too many are left without an explanation when they or their loved one was not healed. There is silence. Then they continue on with their sword of the spirit and the shield of faith because God wants us to be victorious.

Have we thought about how God wants us to be victorious in our pain and suffering? When we didn’t have a good outcome?

The fact that we trust him, find comfort in him, and are able to endure is victorious.

If we are not telling both, we are setting people up for disappointment, disallusionment, and more suffering.

Up next: suffering part 2.