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.

leaving Christianity.

leaving Christianity.

I watched a news program today about the Christian baker who will not bake a cake for a transgender. He was the baker who was in the news some time ago who did not want to bake a cake for a gay couple getting married. He said it went against his Christian faith.

During the program, a woman who was part of a panel said she used to be a Christian. She left Christianity because of this very thing and she did not “find Christ among the Christians”. She brought up the women who was accused by the Pharisees of sexual sin and how Jesus defended her. He who is without sin cast the first stone. That was loving your neighbor and clearly, the baker was not loving his neighbor.

It’s a shame, isn’t it? And I completely understand.

Without Jesus there is no Christianity. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all our heart, soul, and strength; and the second commandment is love your neighbor as yourself.

There are no excuses. I have grown to dislike the statement, “well, there is no perfect church”. It sounds too “get-over-it” when, in the name of love (1 Corinthians 13 – love is patient and kind) people who are angry or hurt at an injustice they see deserve care.

Love is supposed to be the core of Christianity. It is the essence of who God is. He loved the world, knowing our desperation without atonement for sin, that he came down to earth in the form of a man and took the bullet for the rest of us.

It’s sad when people leave Christianity having “not found Christ in Christians” because it’s not God’s fault.

I know what it’s like to feel the disappointment, betrayal, and pain of being hurt in a faith that should be loving.

Yet, God tells us to forgive.

When we don’t forgive, then aren’t we not loving our neighbor?

The Church has been advancing throughout the centuries. The Bible refers to the Church as the Bride of Christ and says that Jesus cleanses with the washing of his word, to present her to himself as a glorious church without a spot or wrinkle or any other blemish … she will be holy and without fault.

We are not there yet.

After seeing many Jews stop following him, Jesus asked his twelve disciples: Are you also going to leave?

Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.

Is there any other place to go? If so, where will it ultimatley lead you?

If you did not see Christ in Christians, then see Christ in the Bible.

the red words.

the red words.

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.”

“But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment.”

“But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

“If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. If you are kind only to your friends how are you different from anyone else? Even pagans do that.”

“Give to those who ask, and don’t turn away from those who want to borrow.”

“If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.”

“The most important one is, Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

“The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no commandment greater than these.”

a light for our path.

a light for our path.

When I was a young adult, I had no problem stepping up and jumping in when I saw an injustice.

I remember boycotting General Mills and other brands who donated to pro-choice organizations. I remember going to a pro-life rally 70 miles from my home.

But it wasn’t only big causes. Plenty of times I found myself protecting anyone who I thought was being treated unkind or unjustly. This included someone I knew and someone I did not know.

And sometimes, I had to swallow hard, because I couldn’t protect the kids who were being yelled at by their mother in the store.

Growing up, for various reasons, I was not able to cultivate my strengths of leadership, perseverance, and productivity.  I was not confident whatsoever and typically deferred and trusted what others thought. I retreated, content to be quiet and do what I was told.

Throughout the years, I have been allowed to mature in what had been dormant; who I was and how I was wired. Not with be-true-to-yourself memes or singing Everybody is a Star. with Sly and the Family Stone.

But finding worthiness in the strengths I had through knowing what God thought about me.  When life threw some serious curve balls, and I said, “this is how you love me God?” – I still knew I had to trust him.  Just like the disciples  who once said, where else could I go?  You have the words of eternal life.

We all grow and mature apart from God. But will we allow sanctification? It is a process one has to want. Our strength can be our weakness. Books and such are great tools, but God’s ways are not our ways. He uses life to not just tweak our strengths but clean them up and make them solid.

While this sanctification process is occurring (which ebbs and flows throughout life; some seasons more challenging than others), it’s the loving hand of God our father who is guiding us.

Just like a child who wants his/her own way, a loving parent will set up the boundaries.

Why? Because of love. Because of protection. Because it is ultimately for the child’s good.

The Bible is not a list of do’s and don’ts. It is crafted by the Creator of the universe, a loving God, who left us, for now, with his presence and guidance. If you see it only as commandments and rules, you miss the love God has for you.

The Bible is parental guidance to help us in this frustrating, painful, confusing, difficult world.

Your word is a lamp to guide my feet and a light for my path.

When I was a young Christian, book smart and knowledgeable, I had misplaced zeal.

Don’t misunderstand. God never, ever forgets our labor of love. A toddler who picks a bouquet of long awaited perennial flowers from your garden and hands them to you is rewarded with a smile.

But that doesn’t mean you don’t teach your child what is allowable and what is not.

Peter resonates with me when he cut off the centurion’s ear prior to Jesus’ arrest in the garden. He thought he was protecting Jesus when in fact, he did not understand.

It took Peter three situations to bring him face to face with what he really thought: “Even if I have to die with you, I will never deny you!”

Jesus did not rebuke Peter. He did not disown him. He did not reject him.

God loves us and is patient with us.

Yet, he will teach us what is allowable and what is not.

God’s heart is not to harm you but to give you hope and a future. It will not always look the way you thought or the way you want.

We all have a light we depend on guiding us through life.

What is your light?

woman on a boat holding gas lantern
Photo by Anatolii Kiriak on Pexels.com

life interrupted.

life interrupted.

I’m not going to say we will get through this together. Although we will.

I’m not going to say just trust God. Although we should.

I’m not going to give you tips, memes, or anything else to distract you from the truth.

Truth is a principle. In other words, whether you believe in a certain truth about a certain something, it doesn’t change the fact that it is true.

Truth is as sure as the law of gravity. Try to defy it, and maybe you can, but ultimately, like the law of gravity, truth will prevail.

Truth sets us free from wrong or misdirected thinking.

The reason we often get either angry at God or become completely disillusioned is because we are not accepting the truth.

Lead me by your truth and teach me, for you are the God who saves me. All day long I put my hope in you.

Our lives are interrupted by the pandemic of Covid-19.

We are all affected. Some worse than others.

The truth is: it hurts.

It is not enough to be positive.

It is not enough to be optimistic.

That may suffice for a day or two. But then you are back to square 1 of feeling the pain.

Whatever emotions you are experiencing, there is only one way to anchor yourself.

Think of a tree. In fact, Psalm 1 uses a tree as an example in terms of those who trust God:

 …but whose delight is in the law of the Lord,
    and who meditates on his law day and night.

That person is like a tree planted by streams of water,
    which yields its fruit in season
and whose leaf does not wither and
    whatever they do prospers.

Some Christians would define “prosper” as monetary. That a miracle is waiting for you.

That happens sometimes.

Yet, I have discovered the times I was waiting for something tangible to get me out of the problem and make me feel better, make me “prosper” the way I wanted, God was developing something unseen inside of me that would prosper me.

I had to  accept it.

I had to trust him.

Or not.

Just like the roots of a tree which are unseen, we can become anchored to something unseen. No matter the wind, the blight, the drought, or any storm, you can stand strong.

That doesn’t mean you aren’t going to feel the effects of the wind, the blight, the drought, or the storm.

It just won’t consume you. That is prospering.

God doesn’t always remedy a situation the way we want.

Difficult situations often do not turn out the way we thought, planned, or prayed.

For every person who receives an answer to prayer, perhaps there are 50+ people who do not.

But he will give us peace, comfort, and strength to manage.

Truth exists from a source beyond our human capabilities.

Truth, and where we find it, is what will sustain us.

nature forest trees park
Photo by veeterzy on Pexels.com

 

 

 

 

no feeling is final.

no feeling is final.

“Let everything happen to you

Beauty and terror

Just keep going

No feeling is final”

-Rilke

No feeling is final.

Our lives are filled with beauty and terror, joy and sorrow.

Some of us have more joy. Some of us have more sorrow.

Yet, those feelings are not final.

We can be sure that when we breathe our last breath, there is more.

Christianity gives us the promise of eternity with God. God created eternity. God put it in our hearts.

He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

We have emotions. Those feelings can overtake us and hide the truth from us. When you are ready, when you are able, step away from feelings, even for just a moment, and the truth will be illuminated.

Truth is what holds us up. It is the foundation of all things.

Jesus had emotions. He felt what we feel.

Joy at pleasing his Father.

Exhaustion through ministering to people.

Anger at the prideful, religious leaders and the money changers and merchants selling livestock and doves in the temple.

Peace through accepting God’s will.

Love for the rich, young ruler, his disciples, Mary, Martha, Lazarus, and the whole world.

Sorrow, grief, and agony of the impending suffering he would experience on the cross.

Yet, the Bible says He endured the cross because of the joy waiting for Him: the promise of what is true, the promise of eternity, and the promise of making a way for eternity to be ours, too.

Truth says, the last feeling is this: everlasting joy. The joy Jesus felt when he accepted beauty and terror.

The joy Jesus felt because He knew – no feeling here on earth is final.

path

 

carry the light.

carry the light.

Slowly, her eyes open as she lays silently, watching the light slip through the window, turning the night darkness into shadows of gray.

Another day to face. Another day to be thankful. Another day to trust the Lord.

Reaching for her phone, she sighs softly. She is familiar with facing the day with disappointments.

No texts. Check the weather. Open Facebook.

Inspiring memes, adorable animal videos, current events, and everyone’s opinions.

But it’s the “perfect” children and “perfect” marriages her eyes are drawn to.

And then the familiar heaviness in the pit of her stomach.

Being left out, being left behind, being different.

~~~

Those among us, especially Christians, who often post their happy lives on social media, should remember those who are in difficult situations.

We know who they are.

With good intentions, we celebrate our lives. Pictures speak a thousand words. Words have power. In our sharing, we should remember those we know who are suffering.

Since God says he is near to those who have broken hearts, shouldn’t they be close to our hearts, too?

Just about everyone has some form of social media. As Christians, we should check our heart when we share something.  We could become prideful in our accomplishments and project our way of doing things as being the right way.

Sometimes, we should say your life might be different. Be you.

Everyone should celebrate with you, be encouraged and inspired by you, and most of all, be happy for you.

But we should also, always keep others close in our hearts and minds when we share our lives.

~~~

And you, who are not experiencing the preconceived perfect life, take heart.

Be happy for those who are enjoying good. Rejoice with them.

Don’t compare.

Don’t get bitter.

If it’s too hard to see, limit your friends’ list through unfollowing or create a smaller social media platform with limited friends during this time in your life.

It’s not all on you. You are protecting yourself.

More than anything, trust in the Lord with all of your heart, don’t interpret your life through your own understanding of it, acknowledge God’s understanding of it all, and trust that He knows all things and will guide and direct your life.

When you trust God, He trusts you, too. He knows who can and who will carry the light through the darkness of disappointments you face each day …

… to show others the way.

silhouette photo of person holding a lantern
Photo by Erika Cristina on Pexels.com

 

the problem with faith.

the problem with faith.

For years, years, I have been troubled with people who prayed and “believed God” for a miracle, got healed, and proclaimed their experience for others to believe, too.

Don’t misunderstand. I was happy for them. I understood their thankfulness and desire to make known what prayer can do.

I was not troubled with them.

I was troubled with the people who believed God, too, and did not get healed.

In my 40 years of being surrounded and involved with understanding faith and prayer, I can count on one hand how many people have been healed.

We have to do something with this. Because there are a whole lot of people who are confused and discouraged. And I think God cares about this.

I believe in prayer simply because the scriptures are clear.

Yet, I think we should be careful about isolating a scripture and building so much upon it that we have created inaccuracy. Because God cares about those people who were not healed and are broken-hearted.

It only poses questions such as, “Doesn’t God love me?”, “Didn’t I have enough faith?”

I don’t believe God wants that for anyone.

I have struck a balance in my life of praying for good but accepting the bad. Too much either way causes problems.

Many contemporary churches emphasize Bible believing Christians doing greater works than Jesus.  

Hmm. If that were the case, where are all the miracles, healing, and deliverance?

If some can proclaim what they see, some should be able to proclaim what they don’t see. This is not a lack of faith. In fact, I think it reflects a very deep kind of faith which is not based on personal experience, but acknowledges that we do not see and understand everything.

Faith isn’t always visible. Faith can weather many disappointments and still rest firmly on God’s promises, and ultimately, the last chapter of the book when everything concludes:

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.

I often think about the people who endured suffering throughout the centuries. Read their biographies. Sing their hymns. They still speak to us today, “the great cloud of witnesses”. What truths did they build their life on that contemporary Christian thinking has all but ignored?

What ever you are facing, let your faith find its place. And while I cannot promise a miracle, I can promise wherever you plant yourself, your roots will go deep and sustain you for the rest of your life…

until God fixes everything in eternity.

stars 222

 

 

 

 

grieving.

grieving.

We’re all familiar with grieving when someone dies.

But we can be grieving over other things and not realize it.

Working really hard at something, only to watch it slip through your fingers. This is grieving, too.

Disappointments, unfairness, betrayal, and more.

We are aware of the unhappiness playing in the background. Not enough to plunge you into despair, but you feel it swirling around your heart, wanting to remind you of what wasn’t.

So what do we do?

We often turn to temporary comforts to help. Everything from “me time” – a day at the spa, a vacation, shopping – to alcohol, sex, and illegal drugs.

There’s nothing wrong with some practical (healthy) comforts. But that unhappiness is still there, isn’t it?

I have been well versed with the God-is-doing-a-new-thing in contemporary Christian circles. While I would never limit God’s ability to do new things, I have found it can play with our emotions.

Mostly, it does nothing for the unhappiness every one of us feel.

When you go home after a contemporary worship service with lots of exhortations and edification, that unhappiness is waiting for you at home.

How are you on Monday morning? When none of that is around?

Recently, I heard a preacher on the radio say something about being careful not to trade the old hymns for contemporary music; lyrics which often reflect how we feel.

The hymns are rich with truth and honestly, when I have suffered, when I have grieved, it was the hymns I wanted.

I found out a long time ago, the way to manage unhappiness is to accept it. Yes, there are things we can do to change our situation. But if there is nothing we can do, we have to accept it. But we do not accept it without hope. We have the hope of eternity.

If we are filling ourselves with the kind of faith these days that require energy to “name and claim”, “stake our claim”, or the like – consider it may be much to do about nothing if it does not sustain your soul day and night.

That mindset did not get me through my oldest son’s death and it doesn’t get me through grieving over other personal disappointments.

What gets me through is the awareness of being anchored to the Lord. No bells. No whistles. A quiet, presence of God’s promises to be near the brokenhearted. And the reminder of our home in eternity as promised by God.

Shouldn’t Christians be about living with eternity in our view instead of God-wants-to-fix-this? Yes, we should ask and pray.  But we also keep eternity in our view. It should be a very present thought and common in conversation.

We are supposed to encourage each other with these words. These words will carry you through anything.

For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a loud command, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will be the first to rise. After that, we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the lord in the air. And so we will always be with the Lord.

Therefore encourage one another with these words.

1 Thessalonians 4

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measurements.

measurements.

Everyday we use measurements.

We rely on the accuracy of measurements.

We trust measurements.

Buildings, medicine, travel, food, time .. life requires a standard of measurement.

The Bible is a standard of measurement, too.

It is accurate. It is to be trusted.

The scripture is not a measurement to hurt us. It is for our good.

We may not understand the Bible 100%, but we understand enough.

When we are suffering, it provides the standard of measurement to help us.

All too often, we turn to other things.

I think God understands this.

So he waits.

We were made to reach out to Him. He wrote His words on our hearts.

We choose the measurement. Ours or God’s.

God uses the natural, physical world to explain the spiritual. They are parallel. Jesus spoke in parables to explain the spiritual.

Give us this day our daily bread. 

Bread that mysteriously anchors us, comforts us, guides us, frees us, strengthens us …

Bread that changes how we think, how we feel, how we act …

Are you grieving?

Do you know what God says about eternity? How he will wipe away every tear? And there will be no more sorrow or death?

This is a measurement for grief.

Without it, we will feel stuck in a place not meant for us. Unsettled. Asking the same questions over and over.

Until we apply the correct measurement.

measure

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