#AACC World Conference: (Correction) Celebrating Faith vs Renewing Faith

Just realized that last years conference theme was renewing faith and this years them is actually celebrating faith.  Clearly there are thoughts on renewal that have been stuck at and shows that stuck place been at. So pray that deep down move into renewal and to celebration.  Pray that this is forms the celebration of the basics of my faith as embrace renewal and move toward celebration.  Have not thought much on the celebration part of the equation but that needs to be part of the picture and a question. In the being confident and sure in what God is doing and not yet at that point how do you embrace the celebration.  Somewhere in here is the answer to both renewal and celebration for we are told that the Joy in the Lord is our strength. So how do we celebrate what we don’t yet see and find strength in the Joy of the Lord in the midst.

On Ebbs and Flows: Musing on Seasons of Life Including Grief

Face, this life we live sometimes is very difficult, other times everything seems to work out right.  One minute we can be on top doing well, everything working out as hope. Next minute things are difficult, painful, and filled with pain and loss.  Good or bad, gain or loss, beginning or ending,  and happy or sad are all words used to describe the varied season of life.  The Bible tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:1 (ESV) “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:” So the ebbs and flows are part of the seasons of life. 

Here is the deal, while the seasons of life exist, while there is that which hurts and that which heals, it is all a result of living in a fallen world twisted by sin.  Of course, those at face value are simply words, words that do nothing to ease the difficult season such as when face any number of losses.  Now while sin created the twists that bring on the seasons and the resultant ebbs and flows there is an important note, God is still in control and at work.  Romans 8:28 (ESV)  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”  It is a verse known and quoted whenever facing the difficult life seasons such as one of loss. Sometimes even the sharing of that verse though ends up as just words and not really touching the core.  The impact of these words sometimes can be missed.  

The point and impact is God is not passive.  If we are actively in relationship with the creator, whatever we do, he actively works to bring things in accordance with His purpose. So the question becomes what is God’s purpose that he brings all things into cooperation with? Is it no undoing that which has been twisted?  At the cross the path to being in right relationship with God, to be in a loving relationship with creator has been established.  His purpose is for use then to be more and more refined and cleansed.  As such, whatever happens in our lives, the ebbs and flows, serve the intent of making us grow more toward His intent for our lives in relationship with Him. 

There will be difficult seasons. There will be loss.  There will be ebbs and flows. This is a fact.  The fact is even outlined further in Romans 8 with a list of “negative” things that will happen to people in various seasons.  The fact is bad stuff happens. One way or another, the difficult seasons are related to the twists of sin; be it original  sin, our own sin, or the sins of others around us.  But we have a promise that for those that love God, we bring things inline with His intent. When we are in right relationship God is in the process of untwisting the twist.  And before God it is a finished state, yet we are in the ongoing process of getting to that finished state.  Before the promise just mentioned is the statement in Romans 8:25 (ESV)  “But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.”  See, the God working things out for His intent is not what is always seen or perceived. What we know are the difficult things, the painful things, the things that trigger the ebbs and flows.  Much of what God does is beyond what we can perceive as he working in the midst and what God is doing also does not just resolve around one individual, but all of creation.

And with what God has done, the hope in Jesus as Lord and Saviour,  in the God with us, there is another promise.  Romans 8:37 (ESV)  “No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.”   See, in all the pain, in all the things that can come against and cause pain, in all of which is twisted and horrendous. In all, we are told that no matter what the appearance there is the assured victory, that all these things just are not defeated, but obliterated.  In Christ is all hope and the victory is an overwhelming blow-out.  And again, we can look at that and simply see the words.  But if let the word take effect in heart and life it change how manage the ebbs and flows.  They still come, but when the focus is not on the pain of the moment but in the faithfulness and surety of God’s love and purpose, one can find the joy and peace amidst the ebbs and flows.  So let the words of God sink deeply, beyond words, beyond the fickleness of the emotions in the ebbs and flows, into the peace that passes all understanding with the strength coming from the Joy in the Lord.

Post Thanksgiving Day Musings- Being Truly Thankful

Thanksgiving has come and gone. It is a National Day set aside as a day of gratitude. For most people it is a time for food, fellowship, and football. Some may actually take time to express gratitude; others go about the day enjoying what has brought benefit. Others it is a day of respite from ongoing struggles. If you examine Abraham  Lincoln’s Thanksgiving Day Proclamation you will note that the proclamation came following the Civil War. It followed a time of national suffering and sought to bring honor to God for deliverance and blessing. It also advised the care of those who as a result of the events were not doing well. The celebrated first Thanksgiving was after a time of great suffering with loss of life with aide offered that helped all to survive. There was great hardship and the blessing of a fruitful harvest that was then celebrated. It was a celebration of survival and living life before God.

Somehow today, our view of Thanksgiving seems to be more a celebration of what we have, the good things in our life, the success we have made toward our achievements. We celebrate with those we care about, see to it that our hunger gets addressed, and engage in partaking in entertainment. The pattern is to really feel good and happy and thankful over whatever the gain or progress. Then that day is followed by what is now known as “Black Friday” the biggest day for engaging in consuming more, of purchasing for self and others, ever expanding and meeting varied wants and desires. It is essence a celebration of self.

There are for some a different attitude and approach. Some treat Thanksgiving as a time to give glory to God. Rather than celebrating the kingdom of self, it is moving beyond self. It is a recognizing not only of the good, but of the struggle. It is walking in gratitude. It is easy to be grateful for the good. It is even easy to be grateful when great suffering has been endured and triumphed over. It is very difficult to be grateful in the midst of suffering. The most difficult and painful Thanksgiving Holiday was the one in which my maternal Grandmother was in the hospital with death impending. We spent a lot of time at the hospital. The meal was some nearby restaurant. There was no desire to be entertained. It was simply a day to endure. Yet, each of us to the core had faith in God Almighty, not regarding whether she lived or died, but rather that God was in control and everything has time and purpose. At that time, it was a period of deep mourning, for loss was coming that was not of our will. We each were grateful to God, even if it was not evident at the time, even in the course of great pain.

True Thanksgiving comes from living in gratitude in the midst of whatever suffering we encounter. It is rejoicing in Jesus the Messiah through whom we receive eternal life. We rejoice for the sufferings of this world are but temporary. We rejoice because God is good and all good things flow from Him. We rejoice for without Jesus there is no hope and no light for any. Many miss this opportunity, not only on this National holiday, but in the day to day living of life. Walking in true Thanksgiving and gratitude is daily, moment by moment rejoicing in the King of Kings and Lord of Lords for all that is of self is filth. The concern is not about the blessings or sufferings, but the focus is on God regardless of circumstance for it is in God alone and in right relationship with him that any ability to be truly blessed comes, for it is in God alone that all things are possible.

Seminarian from Duluth Ben Larson died in Haiti

The Star Tribune has reported the probable death of Ben Larson in Hati. He, his wife Renee, and cousin Jonathon were on a mission trip to Haiti and were staying at St. Joseph’s guest house.  The building collapsed.  Renee and Jonathon made it out, Jonathon did not.  This death really emphasizes that for each of us, we do not know what day will be our last.  Ben was serving God and loving others, letting his light shine and reflect God’s love to others.  Personally, I never met the man or his family, but he died following God’s call.   Pray for his family, his friends, and all those who cared for the man as their hearts will be heavy with grief.  Yet, I hope and pray that they are also able to rejoice, for He has gone to be with God. He served God, and it was time to go.  Now the paper did indicate that there is some slight hope that he might still be alive, but if he is alive he is buried in rubble that rescuers cannot clear or get through.  It is a season of pain  and sorrow for many, yet may God’s peace grow in the hearts of those touched by Ben.  May his wife and family receive God’s comfort and peace and may their mourning be turned to dancing as God’s glory is served.  He died serving Jesus and loving others.  We all need to remember that to live is Christ, which is filled with pain and suffering along with loving others in surrender to the Father’s will.  Death is gain, for he is gone to be with Jesus with no more suffering or pain.  It is hardest on those left behind, yet I know God is bottling their tears and has His hand on their hearts. 

Another important word to remember is that God does work all things together for the good for those that love God.  Now that does not mean absence of pain or suffering, rather God brings good that glorifies Him out of all that happens in our lives.  We surrender to God, He works things out to the good.  Important to note that the good is not about things in this life, but rather the life found in Jesus and each step sanctifying us as we grow more  into God’s intent over our own and become a brighter reflection of God’s love.  This is true in each difficulty in our lives, not just tragedies filled with pain, suffering, and death.