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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Thanksgiving Day Musing: The Challenge of Gratitude

Here in the United States of America it is Thanksgiving. A legally mandated day set aside to express gratitude and give thanks. Being thankful is the order of the day. It is true that for ordinary day to day things it can be easy to forget to be grateful. We at times have to be reminded to count our blessings. It is important to not take those day to day and important matters for granted and to have and express gratitude. Sure, sometimes that may seem trivial and unnecessary so of is ignored but engaging in being grateful is good for overall wellbeing.
Now gratitude for the blessings is actually the simplest aspect of being grateful. There is a much more difficult challenge in having a grateful attitude. The real challenge of gratitude is not being thankful for our blessings. No, rather it is being thankful for that which is unpleasant. It is being grateful for harm done. It is being grateful for pain and suffering. It is being grateful for loss. None of those areas are where one is able to be naturally grateful. Gratitude in such events is contrary to our own inclination. It is very tough yet that is what the Bible directs of each of us. The Bible directs us to “rejoice in the Lord always”(Philippians 4:4) not just when I feel good about things. The Bible directs us to “Give thanks in all things” (1 Thessalonians 5:18; Ephesians 5:20) not just be thankful about what is good for self. It is not be grateful for good stuff and curse the occurrence of bad stuff. It is in all things be thankful. So why does God gives us such direction? Be thankful about bad things happening, really? Wow! Pretty challenging!
The reason why God directs us to do so is it is taking focus off of self and onto God. No matter what occurs if the focus is being thankful the focus is taken off self. It is important to note that it is not really being thankful about the events, the good or bad things that happen. The thankfulness is something that is beyond what is happening for it is not about such things. Rather, our being thankful is about God and who He is. It is growing in awareness of the goodness and love of God. “Give thanks to the Lord for He is good, His love endures forever.” (Psalms 107:1) Our thankfulness is about God, not about self. True thankfulness in all things takes one away from the ups and downs of life to the constancy of God which is always good. And it is with God’s aid that we are able to enjoy and endure whatever may occur for with God all things are possible. So, today, be Thankful, in all things, and where you cannot turn it over to God and ask Him to help you to be thankful: for God is good and His does endure forever; embrace it; be thankful!

God’s ways are not our ways

In the midst of the quietness of this blog God has been at work including within the life of this writer. The center point of the growth lessons comes down to some simple words that have great depth. 

 God’s ways are not my ways.

God states the fact that His thoughts are not our thoughts and His ways are not our ways in Isaiah 55:8.  He establishes that there are differing perceptions and directions. God says he does what He does with His intent and purpose and that it differs from our own.  We can be convinced of something and pursue a direction. We can do what we think is right. We can have best intentions. Yet, God can have something else going on. In this writer’s life there was a moment where convinced that a small group of post college young adults could be turned into a ministry. It went the other way.  Perceptions differed and God worked as he did in that moment of time but not to create some bigger ministry.  In this writer’s life there have been ideas of going to “Christian graduate school” or work in “Christian environments” that did not happen, or at least not happen as thought. Yet, in it all God had  His ways and His thoughts and His intent.

 Now here is a piece of reality. Our own thoughts and ways are self-focused.  We get  wrapped up in our own thoughts and ways, in how we think things should be.  Even when following God and trusting his promises we get sidetracked by the ways of self.  If you read the Bible you will find countless stories of people going about their own way and having their own thoughts and not trusting God or trying to bring about God’s seemingly too long delayed promises on their own. See we turn to our own ways because we think we know best or think we have the best understanding of what is best for ourselves. We have time frames on when it should be accomplished. We often live in the moment of what is happening now without the full recognition of God doing what He intends.

See God always accomplishes what He intends. In Isaiah 55:11 it is made clear that God’s words, what He puts into being always accomplishes what He desires. God’s words do not return void, ever. What he sets in motion will not be stopped, ever.  Now sometimes it may take a long time. Sometimes it may appear differently than it is. We may not always see or understand how God is accomplishing His word and His way, but what God sets out to accomplish, He accomplishes.

Yet, we often miss those facts as we are focused on what we think is good for self. He have our plans or ideas. Even in following God we can try and achieve what God put forward by our own efforts and ideas.  Our ways and thoughts need to grow each day in aligning with God’s ways and thoughts. We need to trust God always does what He says. Always.  What is best for us in spite our own ways and thoughts and the leanings of our evil hearts is growing ever more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. Now, that is the truly difficult part because it involves giving up of self, of our ways and thoughts. We want to grasp on to what we think we need tightly. God tells us even the result of a grasping.  Luke 9:24 (ESV) For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.  What then is needed is the giving up, the letting go of our preferred directions and thoughts about the way things should go. We needs to simply look to be each day more in line with God’s ways and thoughts. This is ongoing, day to day, letting go of self.

Personal musing: What is going on? Way too much silence!

Yes, I have been quiet. I even neglected to write what would have been important blogs during important times such as my birthday, independence day, father’s day and other moments where I certainly have had thoughts pondering and percolating.  Yet, I have failed and not lived up to this commitment. It is something God has called me to do but I have let self get in the way. For there is always a reason not to write something. It is too late, I am too tired.  Things have kinda spiralled a little down for me since April. Now a lot of the focus was on prayer for Freedom house and there battles. Yet, as that battle went on and things started moving forward in some directions the energy and ability to push through from me was lacking.   Certainly at some point inertia sets in and trouble with motivation. So it may be that slipped into doing just a enough.  It also may be that writing opens me up to others in terms of my thoughts and ideas. There may be factors that were not directly at top of my mind that end up impacting mood and energy. I know something is not quite lined up as it should. I may be learning and discovering what that may be on the surface and the other issues God is working with me on.  So to all those who read and follow and have any care of what I have to say and share I apologize.  I do know I have pains and wounds of some sort that will need healing as when I examine self the pain is there.  So know this I am hurting for reasons not entirely know. The hurts have led to silence. The hurt leads to growth. And strangely it is my giving speech at church which I have yet to publish on the blog that really was a beginning. I promise to get that posted this week. I hope have not lost all who have followed. I know it is hard when you read others thoughts, they go silent and sometimes never return to writing. Well I have been silent but not gone. Do pray for me and for healing as I in turn work to help others in their process.

Valentine’s Day Musing: Some thoughts on love

Today, 2/14/2012 is Valentine’s Day. It is a day where love is celebrated. It is day special attention is giving to doing what we believe will let those around us we care about know how much we care. We express love in a variety of ways through words, deeds, and gifts. Every person wants to love and be loved. It is something deep within each of us. God created us in His image, and thus the giving and receiving of love is part of who we are. The moments we experience of love, the moments we give love reflect God. Sadly, our love is imperfect and clouded in our own wants and desires. We love, not simply to love, but to be loved. When we fail to experience love in the ways we perceive we should be loved, we get hurt. Even when experience a touch of love, it does not satisfy. It is not enough. None of us are capable of loving as God loves, we all falter. None of us love purely or are purely loved by anyone else. We all have a skewed view of love.

God did demonstrate pure love. We find that love at the cross of Calvary where God in human flesh took on all of human suffering and frailty and providing the way that can save all those that accept His love, truly. Yet, some how we do not really grasp that love. Even those who have believed that God expressed love in such a way so as to enable relationship with Him, we fail to grasp. God’s love is far greater than we can comprehend. We get focused on what we experience. God often feels like this great “other” who lives a “way up there” and fails to act. Thoughts come to mind that if God is love, why does he seem so distant? Why is he not active in the world to reduce the pain we experience? Why does he allow bad things to happen. We does he not prevent unloving actions. Why does he not stand in way of all evil? How can God stand in the midst of great pain and sadness without doing anything to relieve it? Wouldn’t real true love always give what is right and never generate or allow pain? We just do not grasp love at all.

What we fail to grasp, is love is not about the momentary, the instantaneous. Love is not about getting what we think we need. Love is not about being flattered and showered with all that is good. No love is the giving fully of all in the midst of where we are. God has given us words to know love is not really about all that feels good. We quote those words often, they are used in weddings and even included in Valentine’s day cards. Take a good read over 1 Corinthians 13 and pay particular attention to verse seven. “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” That verse does not speak to the absence of difficulty or pain. It does not speak to giving others whatever they think they want. The verse speaks of giving a covering, holding firm, building up in the midst of pain, moving forward in the midst of whatever may be happening. Good, bad, or ugly love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. Love is persistent in all times and circumstances.

While our understanding and grasp of love is flawed, what we do grasp and experience reflects God who is love. Not our twisted concept of love based on whatever we think is best for us, but rather love that knows each of us intimately and knows what benefits us, knows even how what we experience will enable us to grow in love. He knows each one, each moment of failed love. He experiences that pain. He knows the depth of the failures in love, yet still what is of love is greater. God has shared that the impact of love in our lives is far greater than any wounding. For in God’s love is all safety, all security, and there is no lack even if we do not experience it in the now. So take time to think about love, think about the people God has brought in your life that touched you for the good and enabled you to experience love, even if you did not get it at the time. Seek to grow in love, for compared to God, our love is but of a child and driven of self but a time is coming when we will mature in love and demonstrate that to others. Our actions of love, however imperfect, always matter.

Christmas Eve Musing: On Christmas Past- Memories & Honor with Joy & Sorrow

Once upon a time a man wrote a story where a person looked at impact of Christmas past, present, a future to the point it changed his life and led to repentance. It is a story that captured the hearts and minds of many. In praying about what to write this season the focus on Christmas past, present, and future is what developed in my mind. See this Holiday; these days have become a very important day for the Church as a whole. Like a certain character in a book if each of us takes time to reflect on the past, present, and future elements of Christmas there will be impact that can lead to change.

Christmas it is a day that is meant to be a celebration and remembrance. It is a season that reminds us and focuses on what God has done and given in the gift of the Incarnation. A reflecting when God came to earth with a plan to reconcile all willing to receive to him, bringing peace on earth, goodwill toward men. Christmas as we know it today developed over time and a variety of stories and actions that have become part and parcel of the day. Now it is noteworthy, that God did not initiate this holiday itself. This celebration does not actually fall on the exact date of Jesus birth. Rather, it has become simply a day set aside where the focus is on what God has done. It is a day to think, learn, and look back on Jesus being born, coming to earth with His mission. It is a day in which Thanksgiving and Honor is given to God almighty. God’s act of love is remembered and acts of love are demonstrated to others. Those acts then create more memories and traditions that ultimately serve to Honor God.

Each family has traditions. Some remain consistent over time. Some fade as life changes. The traditions develop around memories of the ways love was demonstrated. In general we repeat the things that brought present memories to us, so that those we love can have a similar experience to our own. We care and give because we love. Sure, not all that has occurred on this Holiday is pleasant, pleasurable, or joyful. Sometimes there are hard and difficult times. Traditions end. Times change. Death and suffering take their toll. Yet, there are the memories formed and memories created. Even the hard times have moments of significant meaning for each individual. For God is always at work demonstrating His love, showing that He is now accessible and with us, because of the gift He gave of Himself that this Holiday commemorates and gives honor. And how we have been impacted by God and others has lasting impact. Otherwise none of us would have traditions. What we do we do because of what we have received for we act based on what we have received, hoping others receive similar.

Now while we have these traditions that touch us, ultimately each of us has our own personal memories. For ultimately any looking at the past is very personal. We are able to look at the joys and pains; the elation and grief. For in this world there is always good mixed with bad. Even the celebration of Christmas demonstrates that fact for we live with Christ-center thoughts and traditions and the other stuff. Good and bad. Those we love express the love, but they fall short. They may give what they can with good intention or be focused on self; or more often a combination of both. Now here is something that is special. This Holiday focuses on God loving and giving a gift unlike any other. God gave the only good and perfect gift: a gift of both Joy and Sorrow for God came to be with us, be among us to suffer greatly so that we may be reconciled to Him and enter relationship with our Creator. Now just as God’s perfect gift bring mixed emotions. So do our experiences and memories. We are touched in many ways with good and bad; love and pain. Each of our lives and stories are different. Each person has a unique Christmas past; ways that you have been impacted by others. Ways gifts have built you up. Ways actions have results in fears, defenses, and barriers. We all have them.

Initially when started writing this story the though was to perhaps share a memory of joy, disappointment, and even sorrow. Ask me in person and will gladly share stories. This article though is really to encourage personal reflection. Embrace the pleasant and painful memories. Embrace both the Joy and Sorrow and let each impact how you interact with others in this time and season. Identify, recognize, and remember what has gone on and see where God is working. Then give God glory and honor in your actions. Take time this season to grow in relationship to God and others as you remember your Christmas Past for whatever it is, look and you will find God’s love reflected, in both the best and the worst. And as you enter those memories and your Christmas past let “Hosanna’s” spring forth and the refrain of the Angels take root “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, and good will to men.”

Personal Musing: 9-11-2001 to 9-11-2011: Thoughts on ten years of change and choices

Today, 9/11/2011 is the ten-year anniversary of the collapse of the twin towers after airplanes ran into them. Tributes, memories, and stories have been playing on television on varied stations. It is also a time where can reflect on where at on that day emotionally and where are today. God showed both the illusion of perceived peace of the world as well as His sovereignty. Each person in the United States had to face how he or she perceived safety and some took time to examine relationship with God. God also showed that pride does come before a fall. People thought nothing could ever happen; pride was strong. Then towers fell. Things have changed. Ten years have brought a world more insecurity. There have been wars, financial struggles, and everything shaken. There were cries for change and disillusionment. In addition, whether we like it or not, change happened. Ten years ago the world is not the same as it was, this country and the world is a far different place than it was ten years ago.

For me and my wife, we had been married for just over a year. There were lots of hopes and dreams as we were working on growing together and getting started. It was a strange thing waking up and then learning what happened on the internet. The action shattered the perception of “safety” and awareness of pervading darkness was strong, particularly for my wife. Fears were pervasive. In the midst of that, as we sought God, He gave us a lesson and a promise. The story is found at this previous article https://peacebringer7.wordpress.com/2009/09/13/reflections-8-years-after-9-11-2001/. Quickly the lesson was twofold. People are bound in darkness, listening to lies and need the truth. The second is that God is aware of the encroaching darkness and is always simply a request away. He will provide safety in the darkest times if one turns to Him in surrender and calls on Him. The promise was personal to the desires of me and my wife with the promise of two children.

Looking back ten years, the promise still stands awaiting fulfillment. In the past ten years, the calling on God in need at times missed; succumbing to the darkness happens easily. Yet, we have changed and grown. We live each day aware of the fragility of this life. The things that have transpired have worked in our lives to shape and change us. We both have areas of needed growth and moving toward overcoming the own things that bind us. We are free in Jesus but He has us work out the healing and growth. It is easy to lose focus and at times, we certainly have; yet God brings us reminders, draws us back, and urges forward on His path. We know that as we walk through life in this dark world there is joy and pain. We can choose to focus on self, and on pain, or walk the path God sets before us. When we follow God’s way, ultimately there is fruit. When we go our own way, we struggle. It is easy to fall into the path of pride. It is easy to embrace unbelief. It is easy to be selfish. Honestly, there have been moments of each. There also was been moments of great change and repentance. Today, we face a challenge to move forward on God’s path. A challenge to trust in God and move forward on the path with what God puts before us. A challenge to spend more time calling on him and be filled with the light of His love. Each day needs to be a day to move forward. He will renew and uplift but there needs to be responsible forward movement while depending on Him. The choice is ours as it has been each day since that fateful day. Either shrink back and be overwhelmed in the encroaching darkness, or to walk in faith taking the steps as God leads. And these choices are not just for me and my wife but for each us. For tomorrow everything can change in a moment.

Every day each of us need to remember the He who promised is faithful. We live in days of encroaching darkness. Things will continue to change. A time is coming when right is called wrong and wrong right, even more than what is in evidence today. People will lose sight of God’s path and walk their own. People will embrace promises of safety that will crash. Some people will embrace illusion and lies. Other will see and speak truth. As much as things have changed, more change is to come. People will either embrace the darkness of find God’s light. As for me and my household, we are seeking and serving the Lord and His way. Take time and reflect where you have been, where you are, and where going. Are you seeking God or seeking self. Walking in God’s light, or lost in the dark. So here is the challenge, seek, examine, and pray. Ask God to show you where may be bound and what you need to turn over to Him. Seek him and move forward in your relationship with God and touching those in the world around you. Each day is a new day and new choice. Move forward or shrink back. Faith or fear. God’s light or chains of darkness. Truth or lies. God’s love or despair. Resistance or surrender. Self-determined path or God’s way. What do you choose?