Good Friday: God’s answer to suffering

Good Friday. This day is a day unlike any other day in the course of human history. This day changed everything. This is the day God demonstrated the depth of His love. This is where God entered into the world of suffering, experienced the depth of what this fallen world has to provide regarding pain. He gave himself to such horrendous suffering so that there may be reconciliation. There are many who use the existence of pain and suffering to dismiss God. Some even consider a God who allows for the varied depth of pain to be a psychopathic despot lacking in love for allowing such. Love is then defined as sparing others from pain. Yet, in such thinking, there is a failure to grasp that God in his actions lead mankind a chance to be truly spared from pain. He took on pain so that in the grand scheme, any can be freed from the pain and suffering. Actions were given to change everything. It required God in the flesh, surrendering self to pain and depth to create a way. So he did meet that flawed definition of love, sparing others from pain. Yet, what God did was not a temporary answer but provide a chance for complete wholeness. Sure, the impact in this life, in this time, in this world of pain is not always immediately observed, but when you look beyond and past the temporary conditions we face, the reality of the depth and restoration provided at the cross is incredible. God gave us an act of love that brings us beyond the pain, beyond the suffering, and makes all things right.

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Passion Week Musing: The Dangerousness of Jesus


Jesus was a dangerous.  Think about it. See he came to change things. His mission was to make things different. He posed risk to those that were in charge. He posed such risk that Herod the Great killed many infant males to try and kill one. He was so dangerous that the crowd tried to kill him on more the one occasion.  Most had hoped that his dangerousness would mean the end of Rome and re-establishment of Israel as a country and kingdom. However, that was not what yes was about. He did not meet those expectations. This also made him dangerous.  It was his dangerousness that led to his death. He lived God’s way. He was concerned for each individual. He loved and demonstrated concern for others over appearances of righteousness. He was so dangerous that they decided that He needed to die for the good of all. They considered Him so dangerous that the tried him at night, examining ultimately if He was one who is leading Israel astray and worthy of death. They decided He was and assured his death. Jesus was dangerous.

Jesus is a dangerous.  Think about it. He changes things.  Following him involves loss of control and submission. There is great risk in following Jesus.  If you truly follow Jesus your life is will be the same.  There is no one in history who unsettles people like even the name of Jesus does. Mention of the name can bring unease and unsettle others. See following Jesus involves trust and faith. It involves a belief without absolute certainty. It involves following a different way and going against the ways of the world. Jesus is dangerous.

Jesus will be dangerous. Think about it. There is a time coming when Jesus returns. It will be a time for those that do not follow him to fear for there will be wrath untold. The twisting on creation due to the impacts of life outside of dependence on God will be undone. All of creation will not go untouched. There will be wrath. There will be judgment. There will be making things right. Never before will there be any greater danger and no greater power unleashed.  Jesus will be dangerous

Now that you have done some thinking. Realize that to some the danger of Jesus is the making of a villan because there is great danger. He does not meet expectation. If you follow Him you are good, if not, an enemy. Either he is Lord and King or not.  See, there are many who want to live their own way. Many who think that they are good enough for they care about and try to look out for others and do other nice deeds.  How dare the creator of the universe be told to show self and come in such a manner? How dare He require complete surrender? Yet, Jesus brings forth life. He sets things right and in all that danger He alone brings true peace. For all the danger that is there, the danger only exists if you reject and turn away. And there are those who have thought about it, recognize it and follow Jesus, this ever so dangerous one. The letting go brings far more than any risk and true life and peace are gained.  So, yes, Jesus is dangerous, but in the end He alone brings about true health and wholeness. So accept the dangerousness and surrender. Once you do you will never be the same and it will be good.

Musings on the Tragic Life and Death of Whitney Houston

Whitney Houston died tragically on February 2nd, 2012. Much has been written and examined related to the life and death of Whitney Houston. Many thoughts and statements have been made regarding Whitney. Some have even commented on her standing with Jesus, easily concluding that she rejected Jesus. Barry McGuire made such statements in an opinion piece: http://www.assistnews.net/Stories/2012/s12020066.htm suggesting that Whitney rejected the judgmental Jesus of the fundamental church. However, personally not really certain that Whitney rejected Jesus as she has given performances singing boldly of Jesus love including the snippet of her short duet with Kelly Price and the performance in Brazil in 1994 that are readily available on YouTube.

She knew of the love of Jesus. She grew up learning of the love of Jesus at New Hope Church pastored by Joe A. Carter. Her first solo performance was at age 11 when she sang “Guide me, O thou great Jehovah.” So she knew and was exposed to the love of Jesus and personally don’t think her story is one of rejecting Jesus, but rather getting lost and distracted by the things of this world and looking for love in places other than Jesus. She was hurt and turned to things that lead to death led by her own desires. While Whitney grew up in the church, she also group up in a family that valued music and entertainment. Her mother was Cissy Houston. Her cousins were Dionne Warwick, Dee Dee Warwick, and Darlene Love. Her honorary Aunt was Aretha Franklin. Music was central to her family and Whitney Houston was created and gifted with a beautiful voice. Her voice opened doors and brought her fame and fortune. However, all that she received did not fulfill her and she was lost and hurting. Yet, at the base level she knew of Jesus love. However, that knowledge appeared to be something that she knew intellectually but did not experience at the core of her being. She knew of the love of Jesus, but did not seem to experience it.

There is a reason that Whitney Houston gravitated toward the simple song, Jesus Loves Me. The words state “Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” And that appears to be the level of Whitney’s knowledge of Jesus love. She was told it was true. She sang of the truth but her experience of it was limited. It is clear that Whitney craved deeply love. Her words deeply touched on the human perspectives of love and longing, yet ever missing the true love. Yet, at core she knew that Jesus was where there was true love, yet couldn’t break from the pain and loss and hurt coming from the wounds caused by others. She got hooked into the poison of alcohol and drugs that give momentary relief of those pains, yet she did not experience the healing of Jesus love in this life. She walked a path that lead to death and fully embraced the poison.

Whitney is really not any different than anyone else, other than being famous. She experienced hurt and pain. She wanted love, but what she experienced didn’t measure up. She lived a life that pursued her desires and she was able to have a lot of her desires fulfilled. However, one desire was not fulfilled, to be able to live free from pain and experience love deeply. She craved, it wanted it, sang beautifully about it, yet she did not let the words of her first solo be her path. She chose her own way and it came easy, for she had “THAT VOICE.” We also readily choose our own way and pursue the things that come easy. We go after our desires and do not surrender to God or look to Him for strength. We also at times only have knowledge that Jesus loves us because of what we are told. There is more. Jesus love is real and can be experienced. Jesus love is beyond measure. It can touch one beyond the deep levels of pain and hurt living in the fallen world brings. We all too often go ways that seem right to us, that give us all we think we want but in reality ensare us and trade the promise of love into pain as the promise turns to a cruel and abusive master.

So there is much to be learned from the life and death of Whitney Houston. We all have a story and paths to choose. We can follow God and surrender or we can walk the path of self. Each path has pain and joy. Each path has difficulties. One path leads to full life, one leads to death. Whitney is one of many who only grasp things at a superficial level and go looking for the answers in ways that seem right but are death. Our natural inclination is to choose paths that do seem right, yet are our own destruction. The choice to follow God is always difficult for it involves given up of what I think I want, for we fear giving of self will result in being denied goodness and pleasure. However, it is only truly in the giving of what we think we want that we can receive all that is of good. Whitney missed out in this life, for she walked the path of self. Walking the path of God brings more than can be imagined but it requires all, but in that is true goodness, pleasure, and life. So please, take time and lament the death of Whitney Houston, then examine own life. Open up to surrender to God and being able to truly experience the love of Jesus so it moves beyond knowing about it because one was told about it, but rather that love is experienced moment by moment.

Musing on the Tragic Death of Amy Winehouse

Well yesterday, 7/23/2011, the pop music artist Amy Winehouse died. Sadly, not one person is truly surprised at her death for she was living on borrowed time, long ensnared by addictions to drugs and alcohol. It was simply a matter of time. She continued to use and ultimately she died. Sadly, her one hit was the song “Rehab” which she essentially wrote and sang about her rejecting a plea for her to go to drug rehabilitation. Her is a fact, while Amy’s life and death was tragic and while many can easily sit in judgment over how sick she was and proclaim if only she would get clean, each of us are really no different. When it comes to making changes, we too often protest “No, no, no.” There are things we like, we enjoy that we really just do not want to give up. We resist calls to repentance with the reply “No, no, no.” It takes brokenness and a realization of the truth to move toward change. We all have choices to make. There are many paths to death and destruction beyond the likes of alcohol and drugs. We are selfish and walk paths even with full knowledge that it is not good. We all have trouble embracing changes and turning from the paths of death. Ultimately there is one choice each person needs to make and sadly the refrain there is too often “no, no, no.” And that choice is surrender to the Creator, to Jesus the King of Kings. All to readily the response is “They told me to submit to Jesus” and “I said no, no, no.” See, for the appeal of self-direction and choosing own life, even if well aware of the pain and emptiness with lack of true peace, is alluring. Any life that dies apart from surrender is tragic. It is the path of many, not just Amy Winehouse. It is a sad day that such a hurt and broken soul reached the death point. It is too late for Amy, it is not too late for you. Please do not cry out “No, no, no” any further. This is true even for those who have submitted to Jesus yet God is stirring you to change and let go of areas of sin in your life. Stop saying “no, no, no” and repent, for the rejection only brings more pain. Surrender, say yes, it is worthwhile!

Musing on Waves of Pain and Grief

 

Well, this morning learned of news that put my dad under a new intense wave of grief.  Janie’s beloved bird Vick died. My dad obviously is under a flood of grief and loss and pain.  Sitting hearing and praying this morning God impressed on me to reflect on the waves of pain and grief.  As praying and reflecting on my father’s pain as well as others in grief including: those spending today mourning the loss of David Wilkerson, those touched by the sudden lose of Darren Boogaard (former forward for the Minnesota Wild), a friend whose mother been informed of having breast cancer that spread, and unspoken others in world of pain; that each of us encounters varied waves of pain and grief.  We live in this fallen world. Many days and seasons are calm. Other times, pain and grief is overwhelming. God knows it all.  Yet, God gave us a picture of dealing with the storms and waves.  The pictures is of Jesus sleeping in the boat, at peace and content.  He is asleep for he knows the reality, the waves come and go. Now the disciples were so distraught they demanded Jesus do something, which He did to demonstrate God’s power. The storm and waves were stilled.  God is in control. 

The truth is we live in a world restricted by pain and loss.  It confines us. We have a lot of emotion around the times of pain and loss. In that storm, Jesus did indicate that it is our faith in who God is, our trust that He will see us through. All to often we easily focus on the waves.  In another picture, Peter walked on intense waves when focused on Jesus, and sunk when focused on waves.  So, God gives us an answer when we are overwhelmed and the waves appear to be that which will overwhelm and flood us. When the waters rise, when things seems to be at a point of drowning us, God is there. Cast our eyes to Him and His victory assured by the open grave.  For He is risen.

Storms are but a moment.  Stand firm in faith and endure. Looking to Jesus and looking ahead, to what is yet to come. These waves of pain and grief are but part of the preparation. We are to stand firm and endure in faith.  Pain and grief come but for a moment.  Embrace what God has before us, not to simply endure but to walking in transforming peace and joy that is found in knowledge of who God is and surrender in faith to his working through the waves of pain and grief. Sure, He could command them to stop, but doing so misses part of what God may have in store, for there is blessings and gifts in the waves of pain and grief. Meditate on God’s creation of the pearl. Something precious born out of one creatures initial irritation and pain. Now with those words said, God placed two Psalms on my heart. If you are in pain, please take time to read and thoughtfully meditate on the words and see what God has to say to you on this day while you are going through waves of pain and grief.

 

 

 

Psalms 42

To the choirmaster. A Maskil of the Sons of Korah. As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God;

for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from thelandofJordanand of Hermon, fromMountMizar.

Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

By day the LORD commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me? Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

 

Psalms 69

To the choirmaster: according to Lilies. Of David. Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck.

I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.

I am weary with my crying out; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.

More in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause; mighty are those who would destroy me, those who attack me with lies. What I did not steal must I now restore?

O God, you know my folly; the wrongs I have done are not hidden from you.

Let not those who hope in you be put to shame through me, O Lord GOD of hosts; let not those who seek you be brought to dishonor through me, O God of Israel.

For it is for your sake that I have borne reproach, that dishonor has covered my face.

I have become a stranger to my brothers, an alien to my mother’s sons.

For zeal for your house has consumed me, and the reproaches of those who reproach you have fallen on me.

When I wept and humbled my soul with fasting, it became my reproach.

When I made sackcloth my clothing, I became a byword to them.

I am the talk of those who sit in the gate, and the drunkards make songs about me.

But as for me, my prayer is to you, O LORD. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness.

Deliver me from sinking in the mire; let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters.

Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me.

Answer me, O LORD, for your steadfast love is good; according to your abundant mercy, turn to me.

Hide not your face from your servant; for I am in distress; make haste to answer me.

Draw near to my soul, redeem me; ransom me because of my enemies!

You know my reproach, and my shame and my dishonor; my foes are all known to you.

Reproaches have broken my heart, so that I am in despair. I looked for pity, but there was none, and for comforters, but I found none.

They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink.

Let their own table before them become a snare; and when they are at peace, let it become a trap.

Let their eyes be darkened, so that they cannot see, and make their loins tremble continually.

Pour out your indignation upon them, and let your burning anger overtake them.

May their camp be a desolation; let no one dwell in their tents.

For they persecute him whom you have struck down, and they recount the pain of those you have wounded.

Add to them punishment upon punishment; may they have no acquittal from you.

Let them be blotted out of the book of the living; let them not be enrolled among the righteous.

But I am afflicted and in pain; let your salvation, O God, set me on high!

I will praise the name of God with a song; I will magnify him with thanksgiving.

This will please the LORD more than an ox or a bull with horns and hoofs.

When the humble see it they will be glad; you who seek God, let your hearts revive.

For the LORD hears the needy and does not despise his own people who are prisoners.

Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves in them.

For God will saveZionand build up the cities of Judah, and people shall dwell there and possess it; the offspring of his servants shall inherit it, and those who love his name shall dwell in it.

Joy Comes in the Mourning

sNews Commentary: Reverend David Wilkerson Dies in Car Accident

 Wow, just learned that David Wilkerson died today in a car accident.  Regardless of what you think of David Wilkerson, He was a man of God and humble servant of our King of Kings.  He no longer faces the suffering of this world and is on to what is ahead, whatever God has for Him.  I remember as a child hearing of the story of Nicky Cruz and the story Cross and Switchblade.   He also was instrumental of the founding of the Christian based alcohol and drug recovery program, Teen Challenge.

Apparently he changed lanes and ran into a trailer truck who tried to move out of his way. His wife apparently is in critical condition, so prayer for her as well. The story of his death can be found http://www.cbn.com/cbnnews/us/2011/April/Rev-David-Wilkerson-Killed-in-TX-Car-Crash/.  For updates from his church home go to: http://www.tscnyc.org/pastor_david_wilkerson.php.  Also according to reports his wife was His last words to the church body as a whole were posted on his blog today entitled: When all means fail.   This death today points us all to the temporariness of this life.  Any one of us could die tomorrow. Life is short and but a vapor. It is interesting that Reverend David Wilkerson was posting and talking about dealing with the storms of life and when things do not go the way we think and coping with difficulty, when God called him home as he was focused on sharing those words.  It appears God through David’s death is continuing and emphasizing the message.  God will and is using this death to further bring Him glory.  Now, I do pray for God’s peace to come upon his family and for the church body.  Doing a search on David Wilkerson found an article of his circa 1979 entitled “The Ultimate Healing” that gives a good treatise on death.  Appropriate words to read as he has shed the mortal coil.

One thing we should all do is stop and think and dwell on the words Reverend David Wilkerson spoke challenging the church. He call for Holiness, Repentance, and looking to God and God alone.  Word all his words and actions perfect, nope, he was flawed as we all are, but He loved God. He pursued righteousness. He called others to go deeper in relationship and surrender. 

It seems fitting to include a few video selections that have been posted that call us to deeper surrender to God Almighty.

A Call to Anguish

Full Sermon: Raised From the Dead

In Remembrance: Sharing of Memories related to Janie Blake

My thoughts have been many since Janie Blake started her new day and left us behind. It has been hard to focus and write anything, yet there is much to write and process. It is though time to start putting down words that are on my heart. The best place to start is sharing a bit of the impact that Janie Blake had on my life and in the life of others. Yet, for me the sharing of the memories that is the story of Janie Blake and how she touched my life is not easy. See, Janie Blake in my life from the start is a mix of pain and hurt along with blessing and healing. The two really go hand in hand and are hard to separate. The elements of pain are not appropriate to write about as there are other people involved and they need to be considered and honored. So, my sharing of memories publicly is limited. However, the limit is on me being able to share the fact that God did use her in people’s lives to build them up and help them grow in love and truth by sharing love and truth.

Ultimately, the core of my relationship with Janie Blake can be summed up as a mutual sharing of love and truth. No matter what was going on with each of us being who we are, there was love and truth in operation. And honestly, most of the time, most of the memories are just us being who we are, together. This was whether sharing meals, playing games, or just having conversation. There are stark differences in our personality despite sharing that core of interacting in truth and love. Her personality was more active. She would find a way to be involved. She had to be part of the “action.” If there was something going on, rest assured Janie wanted to be a part of it. Now, my personality is one that is more observant, watchful. I want to be where action is but will often be at the edge, watching what is going on, always looking to grow and understand. Recently saw a picture from during my sophomore year on college, it was me as always on the edge, watching & observing. My nature is to meet people where they are and come along side.

Janie’s nature is that of going after someone and pulls them in. It is because of Janie that have met and cared for several people that otherwise would not have. It is even in her active pursuit that the healing, blessing, and growth that occurred in time, happened. She actively pursued with love and grace. Part of the healing pertains to my dear wife. We had a period where she ran from God in response to deep pain and disappointment. One related to a young man dying of brain cancer, the other a disappointment over a hope for job situation. Janie loved her, spoke truth, and pursued her with not knowing anything more than my wife was hurting and angry. She provided an accurate reflection of God’s pursuit, for ultimately God pursued my wife through Janie and others until she returned back to God. Janie was consistent in her pursuit and building up of others, reaching out with love and truth. She was faithful to God’s call on her life and produced much fruit. She lived who she was before God and man. She let her light shine in her actions and deeds and brought Glory to God the Father.

I hope folks take the time to share memories of Janie there are many places to do so. There is the comments section here on this blog article. There is here Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=828554733. There is my father’s Facebook page as well: http://www.facebook.com/home.php#!/profile.php?id=1128826601. There is also Janie Blake’s caring bridge site: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/janieblake. There is also the option to share thoughts at the online obituary at: http://www.legacy.com/obituaries/startribune/obituary.aspx?page=lifestory&pid=147504299. You also may have own resources, but please do share. I may add folks thoughts to comment sections as run across, so please subscribe to the comments in this article. I know there are many folks who have prayed for Janie and did not know her, by sharing others can know and the harvest and impact will continue.